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PFT’s Week One picks

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With the start of the NFL regular season comes the start of a new picks competition.  This year, MDS will pit his prognostication skills against the proprietor of this portal.  At least I can proudly say I’m currently tied for the lead at 0-0.

And given that we disagree on only one game, I’m guaranteed to be no more than one game back after one week.

Cowboys at Giants

Florio’s take:  That Dallas playoff win by the Giants in 2007 not only fueled a Super Bowl run but also sparked the first of seven wins by New York in nine games against their NFC East rivals.  Underestimated by many (not me) as they try to become the first team to repeat in nearly a decade, the Giants should be able to continue the string of eight straight defending champs who launch the ensuing season with a win.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 30, Cowboys 24.

MDS’s take: I’m tempted to pick the upset in an attempt to put some distance between myself and Florio right off the bat, but this looks like a tough game for the Cowboys to win. The Giants’ pass rush is going to give Tony Romo fits, and Romo likely won’t have his favorite target, tight end Jason Witten. The Super Bowl champions will begin the 2012 regular season the way they ended the 2011 regular season, by beating the Cowboys.

MDS’s pick: Giants 24, Cowboys 14.

Colts at Bears

Florio’s take:  In 1961, a far less heralded rookie quarterback who would become a Hall of Famer launched his career with the Vikings (and the life of an expansion team) with a win over the Bears.  Though the Colts in many ways feel like a first-year franchise, lightning likely won’t be striking again, 51 years later.  Andrew Luck looks to be the real thing, but he’ll have to wait for a Week Two visit from the Vikings to get his first NFL win.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 27, Colts 13.

MDS’s take: Andrew Luck has looked outstanding in the preseason, but I’m not falling into the trap of thinking a new franchise quarterback means the Colts are going to pick up right where they left off when Peyton Manning was healthy. Even if Luck is outstanding when the games count for real, the Colts have all kinds of problems on defense, and I like Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Matt Forte to have big games on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Bears 31, Colts 17.

Eagles at Browns

Florio’s take:  A reunion of the Green Bay mafia will be conducted on Sunday, with various branches of the Mike Holmgren tree coming together in Cleveland.  But the Factory of Sadness will likely continue to churn out chagrin for the denizens of the Dawg Pound.  Though Mike Vick may not be able to stay healthy all season, he’ll be ready go to in Week One.  And so will the rest of his teammates.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 35, Browns 20.

MDS’s take: I’m not sold on the Eagles, but I am sold on the Browns — sold on the idea that they’re the worst team in the league this year. It’s going to be a rough season in Cleveland.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 17, Browns 7.

Rams at Lions

Florio’s take:  Even when the Rams won the Super Bowl, they couldn’t win in Detroit.  Now that the Lions are moving closer to a Super Bowl berth of their own, this one could get ugly.  Quickly.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Rams 10.

MDS’s take: Jeff Fisher is going to turn the Rams around, and they’re going to be a much better team this season than they were last season. An upset over the team coached by Fisher’s old protege Jim Schwartz wouldn’t surprise me, but I’ll pick Detroit in a nail-biter.

MDS’s pick: Lions 21, Rams 20.

Dolphins at Texans

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins won’t truly experience Hard Knocks until they get a look at the Texans’ defense.  I rarely predict a shutout.  It’s not really all that much of a stretch on this one.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 20, Dolphins 0.

MDS’s take: This looks like Week One’s biggest mismatch. Ryan Tannehill will have a steep learning curve adjusting to the NFL, while Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and the Texans’ offense will be in midseason form. This is a beatdown.

MDS’s pick: Texans 34, Dolphins 7.

Falcons at Chiefs

Florio’s take:  Last year, I had a feeling that the much-hyped Falcons wouldn’t fare well on a Week One trip to the Midwest, against the Bears.  This year, the Falcons are on the road to the Heartland again, against the Chiefs.  But they’ve got too much firepower, notwithstanding the firewater-influenced fanatics at Arrowhead.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 28, Chiefs 24.

MDS’s take: Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel has expressed disappointment with his team’s performance in the preseason, and with good reason.  The Chiefs have looked shaky on both sides of the ball. Kansas City
got off to a very rough start last season and never recovered, and the start of this season could be rough as well.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 28, Chiefs 10.

Jaguars at Vikings

Florio’s take:  The battle for Matt Barkley would have been a hell of a lot more compelling in Week 17.  When the talent level is equally suspect, the home team gets the edge.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 20, Jaguars 17.

MDS’s take: Who’s more likely to play and play well in this one, Maurice Jones-Drew or Adrian Peterson? Jones-Drew is healthy and says he’s been staying in shape, but one week isn’t enough to completely learn an offense after a lengthy holdout, and I see Jones-Drew struggling early this season in much the same way Chris Johnson did last season. Peterson didn’t play at all in the preseason, but from all accounts he has recovered from last year’s season-ending torn ACL, and I like him to have a big game in Week One.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 23, Jaguars 16.

Redskins at Saints

Florio’s take:  In a May appearance on PFT Live, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan joked that he hoped Saints quarterback Drew Brees would be suspended for Week One.  That would have been Washington’s only chance to steal a win in a Superdome that will be rocking almost as loud as it was the night they reopened the place in 2006.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 38, Redskins 22.

MDS’s take: The Saints feel like they have a point to prove, and they’ll be motivated, and the Superdome will be a hostile environment for Robert Griffin III. I think the Redskins’ offense is going to be better than most people expect, and they’ll put some points on the board against the Saints, but Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense will score more.

MDS’s pick: Saints 27, Redskins 24.

Bills at Jets

Florio’s take:  Lost in the hand-wringing regarding the Jets’ offense is the fact that the defense is still pretty good.  Good enough to outscore a Bills team that, while improving, isn’t ready to steal one on the road to start the season.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 15, Bills 10.

MDS’s take: This looks to me like one of the most interesting matchups of Week One, because the Jets are desperate to show that their terrible offensive showing in the preseason didn’t mean anything. Unfortunately for the Jets, I think the Bills, bolstered by the addition of Mario Williams, have exactly the kind of defense that can pressure Mark Sanchez and force him into a multiple-turnover game. The
chants for Tim Tebow be deafening by the end of this game.

MDS’s pick: Bills 10, Jets 3.

Patriots at Titans

Florio’s take:  The last time these two teams got together, the Patriots scored 59, and the Titans scored nothing.  While much has changed in Tennessee since 2009, enough players are still there to remind the teammates and the coaches of that day.  And it would matter if the Titans had the horses of defense to keep up with New England’s offense.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 35, Titans 26.

MDS’s take: The consistency of the Patriots in the salary-cap era in the NFL is nothing short of remarkable. The Patriots look, once again, like one of the best teams in the NFL, and Bill Belichick’s defense will give fits to Titans quarterback Jake Locker, making his first NFL start.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 31, Titans 17.

Seahawks at Cardinals

Florio’s take:  The Cardinals didn’t have a shot at quarterback Russell Wilson, given that they sent their second-round pick to Philadelphia for a quarterback who is now second string.  But coach Ken Whisenhunt may be wishing that the team had traded up six spots to get the Seahawks’ new starter; Wilson looks to be better than anything the Cardinals have at the position, which may be enough to pull off a Week One division road win.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 24, Cardinals 21.

MDS’s take: Russell Wilson emerged as the starter in Seattle after one of the most impressive performances in the NFL preseason, while John Skelton became the starter by default in Arizona because Kevin Kolb was one of the least impressive players in the NFL preseason. Advantage: Seattle.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Cardinals 20.

49ers at Packers

Florio’s take:  When one of the best offenses meets one of the best defenses, the game will turn on how the other offense fares against the other defense.  The Packers defense has improved just enough to hold serve at Lambeau Field in the season opener.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 30, 49ers 27.

MDS’s take: The NFL schedule makers gave us a potential NFC Championship Game preview in Week One, and I see the Packers’ offense picking right up where they left off last year — and the Packers’ defense looking better.

MDS’s pick: Packers 27, 49ers 14.

Panthers at Buccaneers

Florio’s take:  The Bucs are laying the foundation for a very good team.  The Panthers are on the brink of being a very good team.  Cam Newton will be out to prove last year was no fluke, and an improved defense will keep it from turning into a shootout.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 31, Buccaneers 21.

MDS’s take: Cam Newton won’t have a sophomore slump — he’ll be every bit the player this year that he as a rookie, and the Panthers will have a better team around him. Greg Schiano will turn the Bucs around, but there are going to be growing pains along the way, and they’ll struggle against the Panthers’ offense. This will be the Panthers’ first statement that they’re a team to be reckoned with in the NFC.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 30, Buccaneers 14.

Steelers at Broncos

Florio’s take:  Some say this could be the highest-rated regular-season game in NFL history.  Though the 1985 Bears-Dolphins game ultimately may keep the crown, the return of Peyton Manning could set the high-water mark for the entire 2012 season.  He wouldn’t have come back if he couldn’t get it done, and the Steelers have too many issues to come out of the gates with a road win.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 24, Steelers 17.

MDS’s take: This is a rematch of last year’s playoff meeting, but it’s a very different game with Peyton Manning at the helm in Denver and Tim Tebow off running the wildcat with the Jets. The result, however, will be similar: In a close, competitive game, the Broncos’ offense will get a late score to win it.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 24, Steelers 17.

Bengals at Ravens

Florio’s take:  Cincinnati gets its first chance in 2012 to win a game that it shouldn’t.  Though in time those wins will come, the Ravens have too much talent on both sides of the ball.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 31, Bengals 24.

MDS’s take: The Bengals took a big step forward last year with the emergence of a young offense led by Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. This is an opportunity for them to make a very big statement about re-ordering the AFC North, but I see the Ravens’ defense making a big statement that they’re not going to let their young rivals get the best of them just yet.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 16, Bengals 13.

Chargers at Raiders

Florio’s take:  Oakland is taking a step back in the hopes of eventually taking a giant leap forward.  The Chargers are trying to finally put the pieces together.  For now, advantage Chargers.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 27, Raiders 21.

MDS’s take: In the game that will have those in the Eastern time zone drinking coffee late into Monday night and showing up to work bleary-eyed on Tuesday morning, the Chargers will get a big game from Philip Rivers and get a leg up on the Raiders in the AFC West.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 27, Raiders 21.

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Raiders claim kicker Giorgio Tavecchio off waivers from Detroit

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With Sebastian Janikowski currently dealing with a strained quadriceps that will keep him out of Thursday’s preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks, the Oakland Raiders announced Tuesday they have claimed kicker Giorgio Tavecchio off waivers from the Detroit Lions.

Tavecchio, who played college football just a few miles away in Berkeley at the University of California, was waived by the Lions Monday as they trimmed their roster to the maximum 75 players.

Tavecchio has also spent time with the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers in training camp the prior two seasons. He was 1-for-2 on field goal attempts this preseason and converted both extra points he attempted.

To make room for Tavecchio, the Raiders released kicker Kevin Goessling. Tavecchio could be a hedge option for the Raiders in case Janikowski isn’t ready for the start of the season as well.

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Seahawks claim center Patrick Lewis off waivers from Jacksonville

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There has seemingly been a pipeline connecting the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks since Gus Bradley left to become the head coach of the Jaguars last year.

However, that pipeline has predominantly flowed in one direction – from Seattle to Jacksonville – when it comes to picking up the cast-offs from the other team.

Seattle reversed the flow on Tuesday by claiming center Patrick Lewis off waivers from the Jaguars.

Lewis was an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2013 that initially signed with the Green Bay Packers. After being released, he was signed by the Cleveland Browns to their practice squad. He was then signed off the practice squad to Jacksonville’s active roster last December.

Lewis likely won’t find a way onto Seattle’s roster either as they appear set at center with starter Max Unger and backup Lemuel Jeanpierre. He could be a practice squad candidate following final cuts this weekend.

To make room on their roster, Seattle released linebacker Marcus Dowtin.

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CBA makes coaches, teams jointly responsible for offseason violations

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Some of you have asked why the NFL fined both the Seahawks and coach Pete Carroll for violating the rules prohibiting contact during offseason workouts.  It’s a new twist to the 2011 labor deal, which contains enhanced penalties for the team and the coach if/when offseason workouts result in contact.

Prior to 2011, the labor deal prohibited offseason contact, and a certain amount of it routinely was ignored.  Only in egregious cases would the league get involved, with teams losing one or more OTA days and fines rarely if ever imposed.

Carroll didn’t receive a fine when the Seahawks violated the rules two years ago, presumably under the portion of Article 21, Section 8 that allows the Commissioner to reduce or eliminate fines if the violation resulted from a good-faith interpretation of the rules or if the violation wasn’t “material.”

This time around, the Commissioner opted to fine Carroll more than $100,000 — but less than the $250,000 specified for a second offense.  The Seahawks were fined more than $200,000 for the second offense — but less than the $500,000 specified for a second offense.  This suggests that the Commissioner believed the certain circumstances justified a reduction in the fines contemplated by the CBA.

While the Seahawks reportedly have lost “at least two minicamp practices in 2015,” the rules contemplate the elimination not of minicamp practices but of a week of OTAs.  If two violations occur in the same league year, the team also loses a fourth-round draft pick.

Violations of the rules against offseason contact are inevitable, given that players are competing for roster spots and depth-chart position.  But the Seahawks have become the first team to receive a fine for violating offseason rules under the new CBA, and Carroll has become the first coach to personally be fined for an offseason workout violation.  Whatever happened was noteworthy, but also isolated.

Otherwise, the fines would have been much higher, and the Seahawks would have lost a fourth-round draft pick.

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Rams may not be able to slide Sam to practice squad

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The St. Louis Rams soon have a decision to make regarding seventh-round rookie defensive end Michael Sam.  In a Tuesday appearance on PFT Live, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explained that Sam could still have a difficult time making the team, despite a couple of sacks in the preseason.

With the Rams destined to keep eight defensive lineman, Sam will be competing with Ethan Westbrooks, who arrived undrafted from West Texas A&M for the ninth spot.  If the Rams decide to carry 10 defensive lineman on the 53-man roster, Sam and Westbrooks will both stay.

As Rams G.M. Les Snead told PFT Live in May, the team used a late-round pick on Sam due to concerns that it would be difficult to persuade rookie defensive ends to choose to join a loaded depth chart via undrafted free agency.  Westbrook, to his credit, embraced the challenge.

As Peter King of TheMMQB.com pointed out on Tuesday, Sam could be destined for the practice squad.  To get to the practice squad, however, Sam would first have to clear waivers.  And there’s a good chance Sam has played well enough in the preseason to prompt a team with needs at the position to make a claim on Sam’s contract.

So, basically, all those 96 jerseys in blue and gold could soon be worthless.

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What a vas deferens a day makes for Saints QB Drew Brees

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For the length of his professional relationship with Sean Payton, no one has ever accused Saints quarterback Drew Brees of shooting blanks.

But after celebrating the birth of his fourth child — and first daughter — Brees joked that his days of leading a prolific, ahem, offense might be over.

Brees returned to practice Tuesday after his wife Brittany delivered their daughter Monday, and joked that the fourth kid might be the last.

“I think I’m done,” Brees said, via Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I might have to follow Jim Henderson’s recommendation from the [New Orleans Touchdown Club] luncheon. … He was saying the ‘V’ word was next for me.

“Vasectomy. We’ve got some football games to win first. And then as I’ve been told by those who have experienced it, do it Saturday before the final round of The Masters so I’ve got an excuse to sit around and watch it.”

That might have been a bit more information than anyone needed, but then again, Brees was never in danger of getting cut this week anyway.

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Torrey Smith: I don’t think Meriweather should be suspended

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Washington safety Brandon Meriweather is suspended for the first two games of the regular season for an illegal hit to Ravens receiver Torrey Smith. One person who doesn’t support the suspension is the player who bore the brunt of the illegal hit.

Smith wrote on Twitter that he doesn’t think Meriweather should have been suspended, although he hastened to add that he knows it’s not up to him.

“I don’t think he should be suspended,” Smith wrote, “but I don’t make or enforce the rules…I just play.”

It’s not uncommon for players to say they don’t want a fellow player punished, but in the case of Meriweather, the NFL really didn’t have much choice but to act. Meriweather has a long history of illegal hits to opponents’ heads, and fines don’t seem to deter him. A suspension was expected as soon as Meriweather delivered that hit, even if Smith didn’t think it was warranted.

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All 32 teams reach 75-player limit

Logan Mankins AP

The first of this week’s two big roster cutdown days has ended, and all NFL teams are down to the 75-player limit.

We’ve updated our NFL roster cuts tracker to give you one place to keep track of all the transactions that have been made in the NFL over the last couple of days.

There were no big surprises among today’s cuts. The biggest roster transaction of the day came when the Patriots traded guard Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay for tight end Tim Wright and a fourth-round pick. But that move didn’t have any bearing on the 75-man roster limit, as each team lost one player and gained one player.

Some surprises are likely to come on Saturday, when all NFL teams must reach the 53-player roster limit for the regular season. We’ll be tracking all of it right here.

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Packers put B.J. Raji on injured reserve, get down to 75

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Injury-related roster moves got the Packers down to 75 players on their roster before today’s deadline.

The biggest move related to veteran defensive lineman B.J. Raji, who was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn bicep.

Five other Packers were placed on injured reserve along with Raji: WR Jared Abbrederis, T/G Don Barclay, RB Rajion Neal, LB Joe Thomas and G Andrew Tiller.

Raji, who started all 16 games last season and has missed just two starts in the last four years, will be the biggest loss of the bunch for the Packers.

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Jeff Tedford absent due to undisclosed health condition

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As the Buccaneers address one of their biggest questions on offense, a major question is swirling regarding the man who runs it.

Via JoeBucsFan.com, offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford is absent from the team after undergoing an undisclosed medical procedure.

The procedure went well,” coach Lovie Smith said. “He’s fine, alert, up.  Our staff will pull up the slack and we’ll go from there.”

Tedford won’t coach in the preseason finale.  For now, there’s no reason to think he won’t be available for Week One.

Whatever the condition, we extend our best wishes to Tedford as he recovers.

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Sam Bradford officially on IR as Rams reach 75-man limit

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Not that there was any doubt, but now it’s official: Sam Bradford is out for the season.

Bradford, the Rams franchise quarterback who suffered a torn ACL in Saturday’s preseason game, has been officially placed on injured reserve.

Moving Bradford to IR was one of four roster moves the Rams made today to get down to the 75-player limit. St. Louis also waived DE Sammy Brown and S Matt Daniels and placed C Demetrius Rhaney on injured reserve.

For the Rams and Bradford, the question now is whether Bradford has played his last game in St. Louis. The enormous contract Bradford got as a first overall draft pick under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement means it’s inconceivable that he could be back under his current contract. It’s possible that Bradford could return to the Rams if he’s willing to take a big pay cut, but it’s also possible that Bradford and the Rams are done.

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Jaguars place Aaron Colvin on NFI, reduce roster to 75 players

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When the Jaguars drafted defensive back Aaron Colvin in the fourth round of May’s draft, they knew it would be some time before he’d be ready to help the team on the field.

Colvin tore his ACL during the Senior Bowl early this year, an injury that led him to slip to Jacksonville in the draft as well as to the non-football injury list on Tuesday. The Jaguars made the move, which bars Colvin from practicing or playing for at least the first six weeks of the season, to drop their roster to 75 players. Colvin must be activated by Week 11 to play this season.

“We are really pleased with Aaron’s progress throughout the offseason and preseason,” Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said on the team’s website. “He has been dedicated to his rehab from day one and worked extremely hard with our training and strength staff every day. He played at a high level at Oklahoma and we feel strongly about what he will bring to our roster in the future. He will continue his rehab and we will make a decision on his playing status for 2014 at the appropriate time.”

If Colvin makes a full recovery, the Jaguars should have a useful piece for their secondary in 2015 and beyond.

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Report: Seahawks fined, stripped of minicamp days for violating no-contact practice rules

Pete Carroll

In 2012, the Seahawks were disciplined by the NFL for violating the league’s rules governing contact in offseason practices.

They were fined an undisclosed amount and stripped of two OTA practices for the violation, but that apparently didn’t stop them from crossing the league’s line again this year.When the Seahawks were punished in 2012, Carroll complained that it was unclear what constituted illegal contact during practices and the question has been raised by others during the last few off seasons as well.

Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that the Seahawks and coach Pete Carroll have been collectively fined more than $300,000 for again violating the rule. Per Mortensen, Carroll was fined “at least” $100,000 and the Seahawks were fined more than $200,000. In addition, the team will lose two minicamp days during the 2015 offseason.

Like all the rules stemming from the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, the rule barring contact in offseason practices was agreed to by both the NFLPA and the league. NFLPA president Eric Winston is now a member of the Seahawks, but was not with the team in the offseason.

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PFT on NBCSN continues to get you ready for the 2014 regular season

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On Tuesday, NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk returns to a full hour in duration, and we’ll cover as much ground as we can in the allotted time.

Linebacker Jonathan Vilma joins the effort for the day, and the conversation will include a look at current NFL narratives and the inevitable reality of playoff turnover.

One of the narratives currently making its way through the league is that the defending NFC East champions will run away with the crown.  But we’d like some empirical proof of that.  So go ahead and answer the question below, and then tune in at 6:00 p.m. for a full hour of PFT on NBCSN.

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Texans cut three, get down to 75

boffeli AP

The Texans are the latest team to reach the 75-man roster limit.

On Tuesday the Texans cut three more players: OLB Paul Hazel, OL Conor Boffeli and WR Anthony McClung. Via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, that puts them at the 75-man limit.

The Texans made most of their roster moves on Monday.

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Eagles waive-injured Julian Vandervelde to get to 75 players

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The Eagles didn’t delay making the bulk of their cuts to the 75-man limit, but held off on making their final move until Tuesday.

That move has been made. Offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde was waived-injured, dropping the team to 75 players ahead of the deadline to reach that level.

Vandervelde, who played 14 games last season, had back surgery earlier this summer and can revert to injured reserve if he goes unclaimed. Given his injury, that seems unlikely but it is unclear what future Vandervelde would have in Philadelphia. David Molk has taken over as the team’s backup center and done well in the role, taking away one of Vandervelde’s bigger selling points when he’s healthy.

The Eagles will now move on to paring the roster down to 53 players ahead of Saturday’s deadline to reach the regular season roster limit.

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