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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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Two days before home finale, Jets work out seven

Greg Childs AP

NFL teams typically bring in the bulk of their tryout players on Tuesday.  The Jets, only two days away from facing the Patriots in the regular-season home finale, brought in seven players for a Friday workout.

Per a league source, the Jets took a look at quarterbacks Dominique Davis and Bryn Renner, receivers Greg Childs, Joe Morgan, and Eric Ward, linebacker Brandon Denmark, and defensive back Aaron Hester.

Childs (pictured) was a fourth-round pick of the Vikings in 2012. He suffered a torn patellar tendon in both knees as a rookie, and the Vikings released him in March.

None of the players have been signed. It’s possible that the Jets were taking advantage of an opportunity to kick tires before the offseason roster rules allow the team to expand to a maximum of 90 players on the roster.

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Ryan Mallett wants to be the Texans’ QB next season

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The Texans’ quarterback situation is a mess right now, with the team down to fourth-stringers Case Keenum and Thad Lewis as the only healthy options. But the quarterback whose injury began this mess hopes he can stabilize the position next year.

Ryan Mallett, who became the starting quarterback only to suffer a torn pectoral muscle in his second start, says he hopes to be the starter in Houston next year. Mallett is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March, but he says he’s optimistic a deal will get done for him to return and continue working with coach Bill O’Brien.

“Yeah. Of course. I like it here. I love the system,” Mallett said. “But it’s not the time of the year to discuss that. So we’re still in season; we’re focused on the Ravens.”

Mallett is hoping to be healthy enough to get in a good offseason of work.

“I’m attacking [the rehab] every morning so we’ll see how it goes. There’s no timetable. Day-to-day. We’ll see how it feels every day,” Mallett said.

The Texans have the talent on the roster to be a good team next year if they get the quarterback position straightened out. But that’s a big “if.” Mallett hasn’t yet proven he can be a good NFL starter. He just wants to get the opportunity to do that in Houston next year.

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DeMarco Murray is determined to play

Murray AP

Officially listed as questionable, unofficially Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is determined to play on Sunday against the Colts.

Murray, per a source with knowledge of the situation, declared even before having surgery to repair a broken bone in his hand on Monday that he will play in Week 16.  At this point, it’s believed to be primarily a matter of pain tolerance and management.

Sure, there’s risk.  But Murray is willing to accept it — and he wants to prove that he can play in every game of an NFL regular season for the first time in his career.

He’s also chasing a new contract and 2,000 yards rushing.  So the stakes are high and Murray fully intends to play.

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Week 16 injury report roundup

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Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Saturday and Sunday. So, without further delay, the injury report roundup for Week 16 of the 2014 season.

Eagles at Redskins

The Eagles ruled out quarterback Nick Foles (collarbone) and linebacker Trent Cole (hand) early in the week and have no other injury issues. The Redskins ruled out defensive end Jason Hatcher (knee) and linebacker Gabe Miller (ankle) and they’re likely to be without linebacker Keenan Robinson (knee, doubtful). Tackle Trent Williams (shoulder) is questionable.

Chargers at 49ers

Any concern about quarterback Philip Rivers (chest, back) dissipated when the Chargers listed him as probable, but wide receiver Keenan Allen (collarbone), running back Ryan Mathews (ankle) and punter Mike Scifres (shoulder) are all out. Tight end Ladarius Green (ankle, concussion) and defensive tackle Corey Liuget (ankle) are both questionable. A long 49ers injury report starts with linebacker Chris Borland (ankle), cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring), running back Carlos Hyde (ankle) and wide receiver Steve Johnson (knee) being ruled out. It continues to questionable tags for linebacker Ahmad Brooks (thumb), wide receiver Michael Crabtree (knee), tackle Anthony Davis (concussion), running back Frank Gore (concussion), safety Raymond Ventrone (groin) and linebacker Michael Wilhoite (hip) before moving on to eight probable players.

Browns at Panthers

Tight end Gary Barnidge (rib), linebacker Karlos Dansby (knee), cornerback Joe Haden (shoulder), wide receiver Marlon Moore (knee), cornerback Robert Nelson (hamstring) and linebacker Jabaal Sheard (foot) are all questionable for the Browns. Safety Tashaun Gipson (knee) and cornerback K’Waun Williams (hamstring) have been ruled out. Quarterback Cam Newton (back) is probable for the Panthers after missing last week’s game. Cornerback Carrington Byndom (hamstring), linebacker A.J. Klein (knee), guard Amini Silatolu (knee) and running back DeAngelo Williams (hand) are all listed as questionable.

Lions at Bears

Cornerback Mohammed Seisay (hamstring) is questionable for the Lions and defensive tackle Nick Fairley (knee) remains out, but the Lions don’t have any other injury issues this week. The Bears ruled out safety Chris Conte (back) and kicker Robbie Gould (quad) and they listed four players — cornerback Tim Jennings (ankle), guard Kyle Long (hip), defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (knee) and defensive tackle Will Sutton (illness) — as questionable.

Ravens at Texans

The Ravens listed defensive end Chris Canty (ankle) as questionable, but the rest of the injury report is made up of probables. Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (ankle, questionable) will be a game-time decision, but wide receiver Andre Johnson (concussion, probable) is expected to play. Tight end Garrett Graham (ankle), linebacker Mike Mohamed (concussion), quarterback Tom Savage (knee) and guard Xavier Su’a-Filo (back) have all been ruled out.

Vikings at Dolphins

The Vikings announced linebacker Anthony Barr will have season-ending knee surgery and guard Charlie Johnson (ankle) will also be out this week. Tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle, knee) will probably join them after drawing a doubtful tag. Guard Dallas Thomas (foot) and running back Daniel Thomas (knee) give the Dolphins a pair of doubtful Thomases. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins (foot), safety Don Jones (shoulder) and cornerback Jamar Taylor (shoulder) are all questionable.

Falcons at Saints

Wide receiver Julio Jones (hip, questionable) is a game-time decision after missing practice all week and the Falcons will also wait to make calls on guard Jon Asamoah (back) and safety William Moore (foot). Tackle Terron Armstead (neck), defensive end Akiem Hicks (ankle) and safety Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) are all questionable for the Saints and make up their entire injury report.

Patriots at Jets

Quarterback Tom Brady (ankle) is probable for the Patriots. Everyone else on the injury report — 12 players including wide receiver Julian Edelman (thigh, concussion) and linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder) — is questionable. Jets safety Rontez Miles (shin) is out after injuring himself in practice after being called up from the practice squad. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (toe) is questionable after missing the last two games.

Chiefs at Steelers

The Chiefs have plenty of probables, including running back Jamaal Charles (knee/ankle), but wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (illness) and linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) are the only questionable players for Sunday. The Steelers don’t expect to have safety Troy Polamalu (knee) or cornerback Ike Taylor (shoulder, forearm) after listing them as doubtful.

Packers at Buccaneers

Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga (concussion, questionable) is waiting to be cleared while cornerback Davon House (shoulder) will be out. Running back Eddie Lacy (eye) is probable. The Buccaneers listed linebacker Mason Foster (achilles), cornerback Isaiah Frey (ankle), safety Dashon Goldson (shin), defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (hamstring), tackle Kevin Pamphile (ankle, knee) and wide receiver Solomon Patton (foot) as questionable. They also ruled safety Major Wright (ribs) out for Sunday.

Giants at Rams

The Giants listed Rashad Jennings (ankle) as out and linebacker Jameel McClain (knee) as probable. That’s their entire report, while the Rams go one better by listing three players as probable.

Colts at Cowboys

The Colts will be missing tackle Gosder Cherilus (groin), guard Joe Reitz (ankle) and guard Hugh Thornton (knee) on the offensive line and the status of cornerback Vontae Davis (groin) and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) is questionable. Running back DeMarco Murray (hand) is questionable for the Cowboys, who also have concerns about right tackle Doug Free (ankle, doubtful) and right guard Zack Martin (ankle, questionable). Defensive tackle Josh Brent (calf) and linebacker Dekoda Watson (hamstring) are out.

Bills at Raiders

The Bills head to Oakland in good shape on the injury front. Tight end Chris Gragg (knee, questionable) is the only player listed as anything other than probable. Things are less pleasant on the Raiders side, where cornerback Tarell Brown (foot), wide receiver Vincent Brown (groin), cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring), tight end Brian Leonhardt (concussion), wide receiver Denarius Moore (knee, ankle) and tackle Menelik Watson (foot, ankle) have been ruled out. Cornerback D.J. Hayden (back) and defensive end C.J. Wilson (knee) are both questionable.

Seahawks at Cardinals

The Seahawks will vie for first place without left tackle Russell Okung (chest) and doubt that they’ll have center Max Unger (ankle, knee). Defensive end Damarcus Dobbs (ankle) is also doubtful and tight end Tony Moeaki (shoulder) is questionable. The Cardinals kept the door open for quarterback Drew Stanton (knee), but it doesn’t look like he’ll walk through it after being listed as doubtful. Guard Jonathan Cooper (wrist) is out and wide receiver Jaron Brown (toe) is questionable.

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Calvin Pace says it has “been a pleasure” to play the Patriots

New York Jets v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Patriots turn perceived and/or actual opponent slights into fuel used to stoke their already legendary collective competitive fire. Just last week, they used the Dolphins’ words from September as inspiration, and we know how this turned out for poor Miami.

On Sunday, the 3-11 Jets now get a crack at New England, and it figures to be a tall order for Rex Ryan’s club. But we know this much: the Jets don’t seem to be giving the Patriots much bulletin-board material.

Earlier in the week, Ryan praised coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, calling them “first-ballot” Hall of Famers. And on Friday, Jets veteran outside linebacker Calvin Pace showed further respect to the Pats.

“It’s been a pleasure to play them,” Pace said, according to Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post. “They bring out the best in you. Bring your best or they’ll blow you out.”

The suspicion here is the Patriots hold the Jets in similar esteem. When both clubs had their fastball, this was football at its most skilled, its most compelling.

Though the Patriots have won 8-of-12 games vs. the Jets in Ryan’s tenure, his best teams gave New England all it could handle, with New York’s 2010 divisional-round victory in Foxborough the shining example.

With seven seasons in the Jets-Patriots rivalry to his credit, Pace’s words carry a little extra weight. The highs and lows — he’s lived them. And no matter what happens Sunday or what decisions the Jets make after the season, this remains unchanged: the Ryan-era Jets kept the Belichick-era Pats honest like few other clubs.

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Junior Galette not on injury report, but expects limited role on Sunday

New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers AP

Saints linebacker Junior Galette had two sacks in 27 snaps against the Bears on Monday night and it sounds like the Saints will be looking for the same kind of efficient production from him against the Falcons this Sunday.

Galette wasn’t on the injury report at all this week, but said Friday that the knee injury he suffered against the Panthers two weeks ago is still troubling him. As a result, he expects to be used in a limited role again this weekend as the Saints try to take another step toward the NFC South title.

“Probably the same thing going into this game. Kind of ease off the knee a little bit,” Galette said, via ESPN.com. “Right now my knee’s not 100 percent. So just being smart and making sure I’m not playing 60 snaps on half a knee.”

Galette leads the Saints with nine sacks this season.

Among players that do appear on the injury report for New Orleans this week, left tackle Terron Armstead (neck) and safety Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) are both questionable after missing practice all week. Bryce Harris would replace Armstead and Kenny Vaccaro could return to the starting lineup should Sanford miss the game.

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Santana Moss fined $22,050 for abusive language to officials

Santana Moss AP

Wide receiver Santana Moss expressed regret for blowing his top at the end of the first half of last week’s loss to the Giants and he’ll have to make some financial concessions as well.

According to multiple reports, Moss has been fined $22,050 for his abusive language to officials after a replay review wiped out what had initially been ruled a Robert Griffin III touchdown run. Moss was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected from the game.

The play ended the half with the Redskins up 10-7 and the Giants tied the game with a field goal after opening the half with a successful onside kick that got them the ball in Washington territory. Moss apologized “for being wrong” and letting his emotions get the best of him.

After the game, referee Jeff Triplette told a pool reporter that Moss was ejected because he used “very, very inappropriate language” toward field judge Alex Kemp after he’d already gone far enough to draw the flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.

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Philip Rivers is probable, but Allen and Mathews out

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Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will be there.

But two of his most productive teammates won’t be.

The Chargers have officially listed Rivers as probable, meaning there’s a virtual certainty he’ll play Saturday night against the 49ers, after a week of conflicting reports about the health of his back.

But neither wide receiver Keenan Allen nor running back Ryan Mathews will join him, which will limit Rivers’ ability to put points on the board.

Of course, they’re playing against a banged up 49ers defense, so it might not matter as much.

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DeAndre Hopkins questionable after sitting out third straight practice

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Texans will wait until Sunday to make a call on wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

After a third straight missed practice, Hopkins (ankle) is listed as questionable on the injury report. According to Drew Dougherty of Texans TV, head coach Bill O’Brien indicated Hopkins’ status will be determined the morning before Houston hosts Baltimore.

The 22-year-old Hopkins has hauled in 69 passes for 1,167 yards and six touchdowns this season. The Texans’ No. 1 pick in 2013, Hopkins has yet to miss a game in his NFL career.

While Hopkins is questionable, wideout Andre Johnson (concussion) is poised to return after a one-game absence. Johnson is listed as probable.

At 7-7, the Texans are two games out of the final wild-card spot with just two left to play.

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Documents show ESPN mischaracterized evidence from Rice appeal

Miller email

Last week, a kerfuffle erupted between the NFL and ESPN regarding an ESPN report that focused on one key portion of the Ray Rice appeal process.  Specifically, the league accused ESPN of distorting the testimony and the evidence.

The fight centered on the impression created by Don Van Natta, Jr. that, only one day before Commissioner Roger Goodell told the owners via memo that the league tried on multiple occasions to obtain the notorious Ray Rice elevator video from law enforcement agencies, the league’s lead investigator, Jim Buckley, wrote in an email to NFL security chief Jeff Miller,  “I never contacted anyone about the tape.”  Last Friday, the NFL said in a statement, “That is a quote not from an email, but from an argument by Rice’s own attorney mischaracterizing the evidence.”

It may look like a Ralph Macchio “I shot the clerk?“-style misunderstanding, but it’s not.  PFT has obtained a copy of the email in question, along with a copy of the key page from the transcript of the Rice appeal hearing.  On this point, the NFL is right.

In the email in question, the NFL’s lead investigator does not say “I never contacted anyone about the tape.”  That quote comes from a question posed to NFL V.P. of security Jeff Miller at the Rice appeal hearing.  The NFL’s lawyer objected to the characterization of the e-mail, and hearing officer Barbara S. Jones said, “I can read them.”

Apparently, no one from ESPN read them.  Again, the email from the NFL’s lead investigator does not say, “I never contacted anyone about the tape.”  Nevertheless, the ESPN article as published (and as still existing on ESPN.com) declares, “The last e-mail on the chain from Buckley says: ‘I never contacted anyone about the tape.’

It’s clear that Van Natta based his assertion not on the email but on lawyer Jeffrey Kessler’s mischaracterization of it.  Indeed, Van Natta tracks verbatim the question posed by Kessler to Miller:  “The last e-mail on the chain says, ‘I never contacted anyone about the tape.'”

ESPN has said on multiple occasions regarding this issue, “We stand by our reporting.”  PFT asked ESPN to release the entire transcript, but ESPN declined to do so.  (PFT also contacted the hearing officer last Friday with a request that the entire transcript plus exhibits be released publicly, but received no response.)

Frankly, ESPN shouldn’t stand by its reporting on this specific point.  Van Natta made a mistake.  ESPN should admit it and fix it.  Unless and until ESPN does, the NFL has a good reason to be upset with the company that once pulled the plug on a popular fictional show about pro football at the behest of former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

In this specific case, the documents PFT has obtained show that the NFL is right, ESPN is wrong, and next year’s Monday Night Football schedule possibly will consist of Titans-Jaguars, multiple times over.

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Washington puts Brandon Meriweather on IR

Meriweather AP

Brandon Meriweather has been dealing with a toe injury that’s kept him inactive the last three weeks, and now it’s going to keep him out for the year.

Washingnton announced that the veteran safety was being placed on injured reserve.

They filled his roster spot with linebacker Steve Beauharnais, promoting him from the practice squad.

Meriweather’s about to turn 31, and will be a free agent this offseason, and the toe injury won’t help his market.

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DeMarco Murray questionable, won’t have to run “gauntlet” to prove he can play

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpty1ntmyodflmzqwmzbiy2viyte1ogrhzmfjnwi3ntez AP

The Cowboys haven’t officially ruled running back DeMarco Murray in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Colts, but things certainly appear to be trending that way.

Murray has been listed as questionable for the game, which will kick off less than a week after he had surgery on a broken bone in his left hand. Murray said that the decision to play with a protective shell on his hand will rest with him, something owner Jerry Jones confirmed on Thursday, and  coach Jason Garrett said Friday that the team isn’t going to force Murray to prove his hand can take a beating in order to put him in the lineup.

“We’re not going to create a situation where OK, go through the gauntlet and everyone is going to beat on your hand,” Garrett said, via the Dallas Morning News. “We ain’t doing that. But hopefully when you see him practice he looks like himself. His feedback matters. His mindset, his mentality matters, it matters more than anything else. But then we’ll look at it and see if he’s looking like himself.”

If Murray really is going to make the final call, it is hard to believe he’ll choose not to play. Whether for individual reasons associated with showing toughness or impending free agency or because it’s a crucial game for the team, players typically want to play and nothing Murray’s done this week suggests he feels otherwise.

Right guard Zack Martin is questionable and right tackle Doug Free is doubtful after a week spent tending to ankle injuries. Jermey Parnell will likely start in Free’s place.

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Bryan Bulaga questionable due to concussion

New England Patriots v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Packers may need to turn to J.C. Tretter at right tackle again this weekend.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga is questionable to play in Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers after suffering a concussion in last Sunday’s loss to the Bills. Tretter replaced him and struggled against the Bills defensive line during his time in the game, including a play that saw defensive end Mario Williams beat him for a sack and fumble of Aaron Rodgers that turned into a safety.

The Packers didn’t hold a formal practice on Friday, but coach Mike McCarthy said, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette, that Bulaga would have been limited if they did because he remains in the concussion protocol. McCarthy did say that Bulaga was making process, so he could still get out of the protocol in time for kickoff against the Bucs.

Cornerback Davon House has been ruled out again this week because of a shoulder injury and the team is hopeful that he’d be able to return for a possible playoff game in a couple of weeks.

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Ryan Lindley will start regardless of Drew Stanton’s status

Drew Stanton AP

The Cardinals are holding out hope that quarterback Drew Stanton’s knee will feel well enough for him to suit up on Sunday, but they aren’t wavering from their plan to start Ryan Lindley even if Stanton can play.

Coach Bruce Arians said Friday, via Darren Urban of the team’s website, that Stanton will be a game-time decision on Sunday after getting some practice time in during the week. Arians added that Stanton will be backing up Lindley in the event that decision leads to Stanton being in uniform.

If Stanton isn’t well enough to start, it’s a bit perplexing that the Cardinals would put him into the game at any point since they already have Logan Thomas on the roster to serve as relief for Lindley. Playing a rookie like Thomas against a defense like Seattle’s is hardly an ideal place to find yourself, but neither is playing a balky Stanton when you’ve already booked a ticket for the playoffs.

The Cardinals ruled out guard Jonathan Cooper because of a wrist injury. Paul Fanaika, who missed the last two games with an ankle injury, is expected to return to the lineup.

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Testimony suggests other NFL players drugged drinks

Sharper AP

The criminal cases involving former NFL safety Darren Sharper contain some of the most disturbing allegations ever made against a current or former pro football player.  Testimony generated in connection with one of the criminal cases suggests that other NFL players may have done some of the same things Sharper allegedly did.

Sharper is accused of being a serial rapist, using drugged drinks to incapacitate his victims.  Via Adam Grimm of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, an FBI agent has testified at a pre-trial hearing that one of Sharper’s co-defendants, Brandon Licciardi, told federal agents that, at a Las Vegas convention attended by multiple NFL players, one player told Licciardi that drinks had been spiked with drugs.

The FBI agent declined to name any of the involved players Licciardi mentioned.

“It’s possible I could mess it up,” FBI Special Agent Robert Blythe testified. “There are a couple.”

Blythe said that none of the other players are being investigated — yet.

“There could be investigations going forward.  There’s not currently,” Bythe testified.  “If given time, I intend to look into those allegations.”

Blythe also testified that Licciardi referred to the drugged drinks as “horny juice.”

Another agent, DeWayne Horner, testified that Sharper bet on football and baseball games.  Sharper allegedly lost $25,000 to Russians in California — and stiffed them.  (If that’s true, Sharper probably is far safer in prison.)

Apart from Sharper’s case raising the very troubling question of whether other players are rapists, it highlights the naivete that the league, fans, and the media display when assuming players aren’t betting on football, playing high-stakes fantasy football, or otherwise doing things that could, directly or indirectly, undermine the integrity of NFL games.

In light of the league’s new personal conduct policy, the situation gives rise to another important question.  Will the league affirmatively investigate the vague allegation that other players put drugs in women’s drinks?

UPDATE 3:16 p.m. ET:  “We would look into any information of this nature,” the league office told PFT in response to a request for comment.

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