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Week One power rankings

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[Editor’s note:  Every Tuesday morning, we’ll post a consensus ranking based on an average of the five rankings from the five PFT writers.  So if you disagree with any of these, don’t blame me.  Who am I kidding?  You’d blame me even if I didn’t cast a ballot at all.]

1. Patriots (1-0; No. 2 last week) (four first-place votes):  With an improved defense and an improved running game, it will take much more than a busted nose for Tom Brady to keep the Pats from their first Super Bowl win since 2004.

2. 49ers (1-0; No. 7) (one first-place vote):  It’s hard to imagine Week One going any better, even if they had managed to sign Peyton Manning.

3. Ravens (1-0; No. 4):  It wasn’t a stirring as last year’s Week One win over the Steelers, but it’ll do.

4. Texans (1-0; No. 5):  Yes, it was impressive.  But the 2012 Dolphins are a far cry from their counterparts of 40 years ago.

5. Packers (0-1; No. 1): Thursday night’s game should have a postseason feel, because if the Packers fall to 0-2 with two home losses before the second Sunday of the season, the Packers may not feel the postseason this year.

6. Broncos (1-0; No. 14):  Even the guy who paid for the Tebow billboards last year has bought a Peyton Manning jersey.

7.  Giants (0-1; No. 2):  They’ll be sliding more than five spots per week if they can’t find four (or five) defensive backs who can cover receivers.

8. Eagles (1-0; No. 9):  A win is a win, but the teams that will be playing the Eagles over the next few months are surely feeling better about the chances of getting a win over Philly.

9. Steelers (0-1; No. 6):  They saw some Tebowing late in Denver on Sunday.  The goal for Sunday when the Jets come to town will be to avoid seeing any more of it.

10. Cowboys (1-0; No. 13):  Tony Romo returns to Seattle for the first time since the time he had popcorn right before a game-winning field goal try.

11. Falcons (1-0; No. 10):  The fact that five Internet hacks weren’t sufficiently impressed with Sunday’s performance to keep the Falcons at least where they were before the game underscores the fact that the Falcons won’t get respect until they command it.

12. Lions (1-0; No. 12):  Rams quarterback Sam Bradford may not have stayed in school to avoid the Lions, but Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford didn’t do much to avoid throwing the ball to Rams.

13. Redskins (1-0; No. 24):  Receiver Josh Morgan gushed last week about RG3.  And it looked like an understatement on Sunday.

14. Bears (1-0; No. 11):  Andrew Luck or no Andrew Luck, the PFT Power Rankings panel wasn’t impressed by a 20-point win over a 2-14 team.  The Bears will get a chance to get noticed on Thursday at Lambeau.

15. Saints (0-1; No. 7):  It’s hard not to wonder if the Saints would have looked better prepared if they had signed Drew Brees not before training camp but before the offseason program.

16. Jets (1-0; No. 22):  The Jets may have been wise to bank a few of those 48 points for Sunday’s trip to Pittsburgh.

17. Chiefs (0-1; No. 19):  They held their own with the Falcons, but those four missing starters on defense eventually caught up to the Chiefs.

18. Chargers (1-0; No. 20):  When a team wins a game primarily because the other team’s backup long snapper sucks, that’s not an encouraging sign.

19. Panthers (0-1; No. 19):  The PFT panel apparently thinks last Sunday was a fluke for Cam Newton and Carolina; others may be wondering whether last year was the fluke.

20. Cardinals (1-0; No. 25):  Kevin Kolb gets yet another chance to not earn his money.

21. Raiders (0-1; No. 21):  Of all the changes G.M. Reggie McKenzie has made, not having a backup plan at long snapper kept him from winning his first game.

22. Titans (0-1; No. 21):  Somebody had to open the season by playing the Patriots.  The good news is that the Titans don’t have to play them again.

23. Buccaneers (1-0; No. 23):  Whether the players buy in to the Schiano system after one win remains to be seen.  For now, the PFT panel remains skeptical.

24. Bengals (0-1; No. 24):  The trend of beating teams they’re supposed to beat and losing to teams to which they’re supposed to lose continues.

25. Vikings (1-0; No. 25):  Hey Vikes, win your next home game (Week Three against San Fran), and we’ll move you into the top 20.

26. Seahawks (0-1; No. 26):  Braylon Edwards picked a strange way to show his appreciation for having a job.

27. Bills (0-1; No. 18):  Mario Williams may want a Mulligan.

28. Colts (0-1; No. 26):  If Andrew Luck wants to match Peyton Manning’s three-win rookie season, Luck needs to win at least one of the next two games, at home against the Vikings and Jagars.

29. Jaguars (0-1; No. 29):  Does the fact that it could have been worse than a three-point loss in overtime make the loss any better?

30. Rams (0-1; No. 30):  With a clock operator error marring the final minutes of a close one in Detroit, only the Rams could find new ways to lose games.

31. Dolphins (0-1; No. 31):  It’s way too early to think the Dolphins won’t win a game this season.  But they definitely don’t look like a team that can win a game this month.

32. Browns (0-1; No. 32):  If Brandon Weeden wasn’t overwhelmed in putting up a 5.1 passer rating, we’d hate to see how bad his numbers would have been if he was.

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Bears upgrade tight end position, leaving Zach Miller competing for spot

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The Bears’ offseason moves indicate they play to use more multiple tight end formations this season. Chicago committed to the position by signing Dion Sims to a three-year, $18 million deal with $10 million guaranteed, and by drafting Adam Shaheen in the second round. Both are obvious locks to make the roster assuming they stay healthy.

That leaves veteran Zach Miller competing with Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker and MyCole Pruitt for potentially one spot.

Miller, 32, set career highs with 47 catches and 486 yards in 10 games last season. He broke his right foot in Week 11 last season, forcing him to miss the offseason program.

Since he joined the Bears in 2014, Miller has missed 23 games and played in 25. He has one year remaining on his contract with a base of $1.5 million. All of those factors could open the door for Brown, a converted receiver claimed off waivers from the Ravens in November.

“Basically me and Zach are the same players and obviously Zach can’t practice right now,” Brown said, via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. “There is a lot of stuff they are putting in that Zach can do, and they want to see if I can do it. I guess they trust me enough to know if I can do it, Zach can do it. Let’s see what we can do with the skill sets we have.”

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Cowboys continue to work out quarterbacks

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The Cowboys insist they’re happy with Kellen Moore. If that’s the case, then it appears they’re not happy with what they have behind Dak Prescott and Moore.

The Cowboys worked out former Baylor quarterback Seth Russell this week.

“The workout went really, really well,” Russell told David Smoak of ESPN-Central Texas. “Scouts said they were going to send the film to the coaches and then they would let me know in 2-4 weeks, maybe sooner. They said I looked a lot stronger and had more zip on the ball. Legs looked really good and athletic.”

Russell went undrafted and unsigned, though he earned a tryout at the Raiders rookie minicamp last month.

The Cowboys didn’t draft a quarterback, though they kept an eye on University of Miami’s Brad Kaaya, who was selected by the Lions in the sixth round. Dallas signed rookie free agents Cooper Rush and Austin Appleby. Rush remains on the roster, but the Cowboys waived Appleby to claim Zac Dysert.

After getting Dysert, the Cowboys worked out Ryan Nassib. Now, it’s Russell.

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Jaguars TE: Leonard Fournette can be like Fred Taylor

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Because he’s a back of a certain size, there’s a temptation to turn Leonard Fournette into just a power back. And he is one of those.

But Jaguars veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis said that Fournette made an immediate impression during the unpadded work so far, and put his name next to a Jaguars legend (they’re old enough to have legends, right?).

Originally, when we drafted [Fournette], I thought he was going to be one of those guys that really would show up when we put pads on, but this guy is fast,” Lewis said, via NFL.com. “He’s big, has good footwork and great vision, and he’s doing all of that without even having pads on. And you know what type of runner he is when he does have pads on.

“I think we have a great scheme in place for him to come in and just plug and play. And I think he’s going to fit great with our offense. He brings back that old-school feel, like back when we had Fred Taylor, and we were able to run the ball, possess the ball, play-action pass, take shots down the field. It’s going to help Blake [Bortles], so I’m looking forward to that.”

If Fournette can have a Taylor-like effect, he should look forward to it.

Taylor’s probably one of the more underrated runners of the last 20 years. In his 11 seasons with the Jaguars, Taylor finished with 11,271 yards, topped 1,000 yards in seven seasons, and he averaged 4.6 yards per carry. He also was the main cog in an offense which featured a good-not-great quarterback (Mark Brunell) but had very good receivers (Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith).

Bortles has some work to do before he reaches the level of good-not-great, but the Jaguars have the other offensive skill pieces in place. And if Fournette can indeed contribute the way Taylor did for more than a decade, they might finally deliver on the potential they’ve teased with for the last few years.

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Koetter: Bucs used silent count at home in 2015

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So why did Bucs coach Dirk Koetter urge fans not to sell tickets to Raiders fans as Tampa Bay prepared to host Oakland last year? Koetter knows what can go wrong when too many fans of the road team invade a stadium.

“The first year I was here, and we played a couple of those teams from the northeast, the traditional teams that travel well,” Koetter said on The Ira Kaufman Podcast, via JoeBucsFan.com. “I mean, we had to go to [the] silent count in our own home stadium, and that’s just not right.”

Koetter typically treads lightly when talking about his belief that fans should support the team, possibly because he knows that the response will be, “Give us something worthy of support.”

“The organization, the fans and the team has to play better, OK?” Koetter said. “Any time I start talking too much about my role with the fans, they’re going to slap me right back down to earth. And there’s always going to be a bunch of people [saying], ‘Hey, Dirk, worry about coaching the team.’ And I get that; that’s my ultimate job. But I’m always looking to give us every advantage we can get because it’s all about winning. I’m worrying about motivating my team, but I want the fans’ help. Because we need the home field advantage.”

This year, it shouldn’t be an issue, as long as the team delivers. Optimism is running high, but that means so are expectations. With the Bucs in one of the widest-open divisions in football, they’ll need to win early. Otherwise, there will be plenty of fans of the visiting team visiting Raymond James Stadium as the season unfolds.

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Tuesday’s special-edition PFT Live podcast is up

With no three-hour editions of PFT Live until July 24 and yours truly sitting around doing nothing, I’ve decided to sit around doing nothing while talking about football.

Tuesday’s NFL news and analysis roundup, in the form of the PFT Live podcast, is available for your listening pleasure.

Join me as I rip through a dozen topics or so. Later this week, we’ll be joined by Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who apparently is working during his vacation, too.

Download and subscribe at Apple Podcasts, audioBoom, and wherever else they have podcasts.

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Taco Charlton finally gets his taco endorsement deal

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The day after the Cowboys drafted defensive end Taco Charlton in the first round, the Dallas Morning News‘ headline read “Taco Bueno.”

Given how well his name would work for purposes other than headlines, it was only a matter of time before Charlton landed an endorsement deal related to his first name. That time has come.

The news comes, appropriately enough, on a Taco Tuesday. Even appropriately, it is the Tex-Mex chain Taco Bueno that announced Charlton has signed on to promote their restaurants.

“At the heart of any good partnership is authenticity and genuine respect,” CEO Mike Roper said in a statement, via the News. “Taco is serious about football, and we are serious about Tex-Mex, and that is a winning combination. We couldn’t be more excited to bring some fun to all our fans this upcoming football season.”

Charlton has also signed on to promote Big Red soda, so he’ll have something to wash down all the tacos that will be coming his way in Dallas.

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Jim Kelly: Sean McDermott gives Bills discipline they haven’t had in a while

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Among the things that Sean McDermott did after being named the head coach of the Bills was remove a pool table and video games from the team’s locker room.

McDermott explained the move by saying “this is a business” and that having those diversions on hand weren’t going to help him build “a focused, disciplined and accountable football team.” Bills great Jim Kelly cited one of those traits as a reason why he’s excited about this year’s team.

“I’m excited about the 2017 Buffalo Bills. Coach McDermott brings discipline to the table that we haven’t had in a while,” Kelly said, via the team’s Twitter account.

It’s hard to read Kelly’s comment and not think about McDermott’s immediate predecessor. Disciplined wasn’t frequently used to describe Rex Ryan’s teams and it’s not surprising that a clear difference from Ryan’s style would be appealing given the way the last two years played out.

There was a time, of course, when Ryan’s style suited many people just fine. Kelly was one of them, which probably just serves to underscore that the Bills have tried a lot of different approaches since Kelly’s heyday without hitting on one that’s brought them much success.

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New Gatorade ad champions losing, showcases Matt Ryan

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This isn’t based on an item from The Onion. But I checked several times to be completely sure.

Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a new Gatorade commercial sells sugar water (with electrolytes) by championing losing, and by reveling in the motivation that comes from failure.

“Make Defeat Your Fuel” is the slogan that drives the ad — and it makes sense, from a market-share standpoint. In every game, there’s both a winner and a loser,  and in every league or conference, most teams end up losing. With so many losers out there, why not market to them directly?

The commercial starts with a closeup of Michael Jordan, a dry-faced mirror-image of the meme that has become synonymous with athletic failure. Jordan, who was cut from his high-school basketball team, is followed by J.J. Watt, who points out that he “started his career a walk-on” (at Wisconsin; he had a scholarship at Central Michigan). Next come the Manning brothers, with Peyton pointing out that went 3-13 as a rookie (the all-time rookie interception record he still holds isn’t mentioned), and with Eli saying he once led the league in interceptions.

Eventually comes Matt Ryan, with a recreation of his walk through confetti that wasn’t falling for the Falcons after Super Bowl LI, followed by a slickly-edited training montage.

It remains to be seen whether the effort to attach the leading sports drink to losing will continue to prompt athletes to buy Gatorade. If the goal was to inspire by latching on to the story of a loser who becomes a winner, the far more effective tactic would have been to digitally add some Gatorade swigging to the unforgettable training montage that came after Adrian emerged from the coma and gave her husband a one-word mandate.

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Report: No way Rams, Trumaine Johnson will reach long-term deal

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Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson will apparently play for $16.7 million this season, then hit free agency next year.

The Rams and Johnson aren’t close on talks about a long-term deal and won’t get a deal done, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Johnson signed the franchise tender and said he’s happy in Los Angeles, so there’s no reason to believe the two sides being far apart is causing any animosity. It’s just a matter of Johnson thinking he can make more by hitting free agency next year than the Rams are offering him now.

This is the second consecutive year that Johnson got the franchise tag, meaning he’ll get true unrestricted free agency next year. Under NFL rules, franchising Johnson for a third time next year would require the Rams to guarantee him at least $24 million for the 2018 season, which would be prohibitively expensive. So Johnson is one season away from getting to shop his services to the entire league.

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Report: Chiefs to interview Ryan Cowden for G.M. job on Wednesday

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The Chiefs will reportedly interview a candidate for their General Manager opening on Wednesday.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Titans director of player personnel Ryan Cowden will interview with the team on Wednesday. Chiefs co-director of player personnel Brett Veach is also set to interview for the job.

Cowden joined the Titans last year and oversaw all areas of the team’s pro and college scouting departments. He spent the previous 16 years in the Panthers organization.

Seahawks exec Scott Fitterer and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick have been mentioned as other possible candidates for the job, although there have been no reports of interviews being scheduled with either man at this point. The Chiefs fired John Dorsey last week after four years on the job with reports that issues with his communication and management styles led to the decision.

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Supreme Court could remove federal ban to sports wagering

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At a time when Congress has launched an effort to scrap a 1992 law that prevents most states from legalizing wagering on sports, another branch of the government could get the job done more quickly.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that challenges the federal prohibition on expanded betting on sporting events. The case, arising from efforts by New Jersey to enact sports wagering, will be presented as early as October 2017, with a decision coming in the weeks or months thereafter.

While the decision doesn’t mean New Jersey will win, it’s an encouraging sign. New Jersey had lost at every step of the process, and a decision by the Supreme Court not to hear the case would have ended it with an “L” for pro-gambling interests. A victory remains possible, and some will predict that the current makeup of the Supreme Court points to a win.

The argument against the law flows from the notion that states should be permitted to decide whether to allow gambling on sports. The 1992 law was written in a way that allowed places like Nevada to continue to permit sports wagering, forbidding other states who didn’t already allow this form of gambling to join in.

The development puts the NFL in an awkward spot. At a time when it has embraced Las Vegas by allowing the Raiders to eventually move there, many think the league also secretly longs for the day when fans can play the odds via NFL.com and/or each of the various team websites, with the league acting as the bookie at most, middleman at a minimum, for widespread wagering. To get there, federal law first must change, and then the states must embrace betting, one by one.

The NFL had no comment on the news of a new effort in Congress to scrap the federal law prohibiting sports wagering. PFT has submitted a request for comment to the league regarding the Supreme Court’s decision, which on the surface will be met with a profane muttering of frustration but which at a deeper level could prompt a profane shout of joy, thanks to the many billions the league will earn every year if/when it can finally get a piece of all of the money that currently changes hands illegally by people who bet on sports, regardless of what the law allows.

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Ravens announce scouting hires

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At least one of this summer’s ESPN layoffs has found an NFL job.

The Ravens announced they had hired Kevin Weidl as a new area scout for the Southeast and Southwest.

Weidl worked for Scouts Inc. as a draft analyst and did some television and radio work in Charlotte, but was let go as part of the four-letter network’s purge earlier this spring. His brother Andy used to work for the Ravens, but just left to take a job with the Eagles as assistant director of player personnel.

The Ravens also promoted Brandon Berning to an area scout post, after he served as a player personnel assistant.

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Former Chiefs cornerback gets first pro baseball hit

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Tim Tebow isn’t the only former NFL player giving baseball a shot this summer.

Former Chiefs cornerback Sanders Commings, whose football career ended because of injuries, is playing in the Braves farm system. And last night, playing for the Danville Braves, he got his first two professional hits in his second professional start. That gives him a .333 average, and a 113-point edge on Tebow.

It’s impressive because Commings hasn’t played baseball competitively since 2008, when he was in high school in Georgia.

It was a little bit of a sigh of relief,” he said, via Alex Tichenor of the Danville Register & Bee. “Last game, I got two at-bats and got two [strikeouts], so I felt a little bit of pressure to get that first hit. I got a first-pitch fastball today and it dropped in for a double. It feels really good.”

Commings was a fifth-round pick of the Chiefs in 2013. He played two games after breaking his collarbone in training camp. The next year, he broke his ankle in training camp and spent the year on injured reserve. He was waived with an injury settlement in 2015.

He trained with former Major Leaguer Jerry Hairston Jr., and signed a free agent deal with the Braves this year. And apparently the 27-year-old Commings has impressed his teammates who have played more recently.

“I was amazed,” D-Braves shortstop Nick Shumpert said. “His swing is really good for not having played in that long. It looks like a normal baseball swing. When I first saw him, I didn’t know he hadn’t played in a while.”

Of course, he didn’t win a Heisman Trophy, doesn’t have a side job in television, and he wasn’t a quarterback, so he hasn’t been promoted yet.

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Jets name Matt Bazirgan college scouting director

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The Jets are in the throes of a big rebuilding project and part of the responsibility for its success or failure will rest on the people tasked with adding players out of the college ranks in the coming seasons.

There will be a new head of that scouting effort. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that the the Jets made Matt Bazirgan their new college scouting director and the team’s website reflects that change.

Rex Hogan was hired after Mike Maccagnan became General Manager in 2015 and held that job for the last two years, but left to take a post in the Colts’ front office this offseason. Bazirgan has worked for the Jets since 2004 and was promoted to pro personnel director following Maccagnan’s arrival in New Jersey.

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Bengals sign a guard

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The Bengals have added a player to their offensive line group ahead of training camp.

The team announced on Tuesday that they have signed guard Cameron Lee to their 90-man roster.

Lee went undrafted after completing his career at Illinois State last season. He started every game during his final two seasons in college and signed with the Saints after the draft, but was dropped from New Orleans’ roster earlier this month.

The Bengals signed Andre Smith this offseason with designs on him switching from tackle to take over for Kevin Zeitler, who signed with the Browns as a free agent. Lee will be competing for a reserve spot or a chance to continue working with the Bengals as a member of their practice squad come September.

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