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PFT’s Week Two picks

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Getty Images

Last week, MDS and yours truly disagreed on only one pick.  I trusted the J-E-T-S, and he didn’t.

So I finished 11-5, and he’s already in second place with a 10-6 mark.

This week, we’ve doubled our disagreements.  Which means that there’s a good chance I’ll be in second place by next week at this time.

Tune in to PFT Live this Thursday and every Thursday for MDS and yours truly talking about three or four of Sunday’s games.  And, yes, there may be gloating.

Bears at Packers

MDS’s take: This is about as close as a Week Two game can get to being a must-win for the Packers. Lose here and they’re two games behind the Bears, plus the Bears have the tiebreaker edge, plus they’re 0-2 at Lambeau Field, plus they’re behind the Lions and Vikings in the NFC North as well. Jay Cutler will have a good game against the Packers’ suspect pass defense, but Aaron Rodgers will have an even better game, and the Packers will win with their backs to the wall.

MDS’s pick: Packers 34, Bears 31.

Florio’s take:  The Packers have beaten the Bears in five of their last six games.  And other than the 2010 NFC title game, none has been bigger than Thursday night’s contest at Lambeau Field.  If the Packers lose, the team that was 15-1 in 2011 will fall to 0-2 in 2012, with 25 percent of the home schedule completed.  Look for the Packers’ defense to find something close to their groove — finally — and for Green Bay to get things moving in the right direction with a strong offensive output.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 28, Bears 24.

Chiefs at Bills

MDS’s take: Picking the Bills burned me in Week One, costing me the head-to-head battle with Florio in last week’s picks. Will I learn from that mistake and avoid the Bills this time? Nope. I think the Bills are a better team than they showed against the Jets and should win a close one at home.

MDS’s pick: Bills 14, Chiefs 10.

Florio’s take:  Last year, the Bills went to Arrowhead in Week One and spanked the Chiefs.  This year, the Chiefs return the favor in Week Two.  (And as long as MDS keeps picking the Bills, I’ll keep building an edge in the season-long contest.)

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 34, Bills 21.

Saints at Panthers

MDS’s take: Can Cam Newton do to the Saints’ defense what Robert Griffin III did? Or is the Panthers’ offense going to lay an egg for the second week in a row? In a game that will leave the loser in a big hole in the NFC South, I’m picking the Panthers in a home upset.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 27, Saints 24.

Florio’s take:  The loser of this game will fall to 0-2.  For the Panthers, that would be a problem.  For the Saints, it would be grounds for panic.  Caught napping last Sunday against the Redskins, the Saints wake up in a big way.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 42, Panthers 24.

Browns at Bengals

MDS’s take: Both of these teams looked bad in Week One, but the Browns seem to be on a different level of bad, because Brandon Weeden just doesn’t look like he’s ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Joe Flacco showed on Monday night that a good quarterback can beat the Bengals deep, but Weeden is not a good quarterback.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Browns 10.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals lose the games they’re supposed to lose, and they win the games they’re supposed to win.  That trend held on Monday night, and it’ll hold on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 28, Browns 16.

Vikings at Colts

MDS’s take: Andrew Luck had four turnovers in his debut against the Bears, but what would really concern me about that game if I were a Colts fan is that the Colts’ defense didn’t look any better than it did last year. Christian Ponder will have his second consecutive big game and the Vikings will start a surprising 2-0.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 27, Colts 20.

Florio’s take:  Andrew Luck will always be compared to Peyton Manning.  And Peyton Manning lost the first home game of his career.  So if Luck can pull this one off, he’ll already be ahead of the curve.  Though the Vikings aren’t nearly as good as they were the year that Peyton Manning entered the league, they’re good enough to spoil Luck’s debut at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 24, Colts 20.

Texans at Jaguars

MDS’s take: Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert looks like he’s taken a big step forward since last season, and Jacksonville should put some points on the board. But the Jaguars won’t be able to keep pace with the loaded Texans offense, and this game could get ugly.

MDS’s pick: Texans 35, Jaguars 14.

Florio’s take:  Jaguars owner Shahid Khan wants to remove the tarps at EverBank Field.  His players may want to hide under them when the Texans come to town.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 35, Jaguars 17.

Raiders at Dolphins

MDS’s take: Both of these offenses looked like they leave a lot to be desired in their Week One losses, but I have a lot more faith in Carson Palmer turning things around than I have in Ryan Tannehill turning things around. The Dolphins, who started last season 0-7, will take another step toward another dismal start.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 24, Dolphins 6.

Florio’s take:  The Raiders may need sunglasses to dull the glare of all those empty orange seats.  And it will only get more empty in the second half.

Florio’s pick:  Raiders 24, Dolphins 17.

Cardinals at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Cardinals somehow seem to keep playing in close, competitive, exciting games: Last year 13 of their 16 games were decided by a touchdown or less, and they went down to the wire against the Seahawks in Week One as well. So will they be in a close game again? No. The Patriots win this one easily.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 34, Cardinals 14.

Florio’s take:  The two hottest teams over the last 10 regular-season games get together in Foxboro, but there’s still a huge gap between the 9-1 Patriots and 8-2 Cardinals.  Actually, there’s a pretty big gap right now between the 9-1 Patriots and 31 other teams.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 31, Cardinals 13.

Buccaneers at Giants

MDS’s take: Greg Schiano had his team playing exactly the kind of tough, physical football he promised they would play in Week One against the Panthers, while the defending champion Giants looked surprisingly out of sorts in their Week One loss to the Cowboys. But the Giants are still the Giants and the Buccaneers are still the Buccaneers, and Week One will look like an anomaly when this game is over.

MDS’s pick: Giants 27, Buccaneers 10.

Florio’s take:  This is the kind of game that Giants could have lost, if they’d beaten the Cowboys in Week One.  But since the Giants lost to the Cowboys in Week One, they’ll be guarding against another letdown — and quarterback Eli Manning will do what he has to do to propel the team in an early must-win situation.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 27, Buccaneers 17.

Ravens at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Eagles won ugly in Week One, while the Ravens won big. Much like they did last year, the Eagles look like a team that’s less than the sum of its parts, and I like the Ravens to go to Philadelphia and win.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 24, Eagles 17.

Florio’s take:  A week after barely beating the toothless new Browns, the Eagles get a taste of the old Browns.  By the time it’s over, Mike Vick may need Jeffrey Lurie to push the wheelchair.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 30, Eagles 21.

Redskins at Rams

MDS’s take: I liked the way the Rams’ defense looked in the first game of the Jeff Fisher era: Yes, they gave up 355 passing yards to Matthew Stafford in a loss to the Lions, but they also mixed up their coverages and picked Stafford off three times. The Rams will do a better job of containing Robert Griffin III than the Saints did, but the problem for St. Louis is that the offensive line is a mess, and they’re not going to be able to put many points on the board.

MDS’s pick: Redskins 20, Rams 13.

Florio’s take:  If the Rams had known how RG3 would make his NFL debut, the price for the pick that was sent to the Redskins would have been a lot higher than three ones and a two.  And the Rams may regret sooner rather than later the decision to not simply pick Griffin themselves.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 28, Rams 20.

Cowboys at Seahawks

MDS’s take: Russell Wilson struggled against the Cardinals’ defense, and he’s going to struggle again against an athletic Cowboys defense that can limit Wilson’s mobility. The fans in Seattle may be calling for Matt Flynn soon.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 21, Seahawks 6.

Florio’s takeTony Romo returns to Seattle for the first time since he fumbled the snap on a field goal that would have secured a win in his first career playoff game.  This time around, the defense will be the difference, especially since the Seahawks’ receivers are banged up.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Seahawks 13.

Jets at Steelers

MDS’s take: No one saw the Jets’ offensive explosion coming last week, so maybe I’m underestimating them here, but I just don’t like Mark Sanchez’s chances of moving the ball effectively against the Steelers’ defense.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 17, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers saw some Tebowing late in Sunday’s loss to the Broncos.  The Steelers will be hoping to see none of it on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Jets 10.

Titans at Chargers

MDS’s take: Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips had an excellent game against the Raiders, and he’s going to make Titans quarterback Jake Locker’s life very difficult on Sunday. The Chargers will be off to their first 2-0 start since 2006.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 24, Titans 17.

Florio’s take:  The Chargers begin what could be one of their final seasons in San Diego  in style.  Except for all the empty seats at the stadium.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 21, Titans 17.

Lions at 49ers

MDS’s take: The Lions survived with an unimpressive win over the Rams at home, while the 49ers had an extremely impressive win over the Packers on the road. San Francisco may just have the best team in the NFL.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 27, Lions 17.

Florio’s take:  The 49ers have gotten better since the last time these two teams met in Detroit.  The Lions haven’t.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 31, Lions 17.

Broncos at Falcons

MDS’s take: The loss of starting cornerback Brent Grimes is a huge blow to the Falcons, and Peyton Manning is the worst quarterback to face for a team trying to adjust to an injury in the secondary: Manning will find places to pick apart the Falcons’ secondary and get a big road win against a good team.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Falcons 28.

Florio’s take:  Last year, Denver’s defense kept games close long enough for the quarterback to do something heroic.  This week, they’ll do the same thing — without having to give up so few points.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 38, Falcons 35.

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Report: Jerome Simpson visited 49ers Wednesday

Jerome Simpson AP

Ted Ginn isn’t the only veteran wide receiver who paid a visit to the 49ers this week.

Matt Maiocco of reports that the team hosted Jerome Simpson in addition to Ginn on Wednesday.

Simpson didn’t play in the NFL at all in 2014 after the Vikings released him in September at the conclusion of a three-game suspension that Simpson earned for repeat violations of the league’s substance abuse policy. Simpson served another NFL suspension after a September 2011 marijuana arrest and was arrested again on DUI charges in 2013 before being cited last July on charges of marijuana possession, open container and violating the conditions of his limited drivers license.

Simpson had 48 catches for 726 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings in 2013 and flashed a lot of speed (and jumping ability) with both Minnesota  and Cincinnati when he wasn’t on the suspended list. That might earn him another look, although the off-field issues make it unlikely he’ll get more than an opportunity to earn a trip to training camp from any team that signs him in the offseason.

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Dolphins re-sign Jason Fox to two-year deal

Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller, Jason Fox AP

The Dolphins closed the year with Jason Fox as their starting right tackle and it seems they liked what Fox did in his two games with the first team.

The team announced Thursday that they have re-signed Fox to a two-year deal. Fox, who played for the veteran’s minimum last season, was set to become an unrestricted free agent next week, but gave up that option for what agent Drew Rosenhaus tells PFT is a $2.5 million deal.

Dallas Thomas got the first shot at right tackle after Ja’Wuan James switched sides in the wake of Branden Albert’s season-ending knee injury. Thomas got hurt, though, and Fox stepped in and gave them better pass blocking than they’d received with Thomas in the lineup.

If Albert is healthy, Fox will go back to a reserve role in 2015. Last year’s starting center Samson Satele and left guard Daryn Colledge are still set for free agency, so there will likely be more work on the offensive line to come in Miami.

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Stephen Tulloch says he’ll be back in Detroit

Stephen Tulloch AP

Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch said recently that he was hopeful that he would remain with the Lions in 2015 despite his torn ACL in 2014 and a $5.8 million cap hit that some thought might be prohibitive.

Tulloch has learned the answer to that question and it’s the one he said he wanted. The nine-year veteran announced on Instagram Thursday that he will return to the Lions for a fifth season.

“Let’s put all the questions and speculations to rest. I will be back in Detroit for my 10th season this year. I appreciate the Lions organization for believing in me and having the confidence that I’ll be back to the player that I’ve always been. Trust and know I grind hard everyday and will hit the field running when its time to suit up.”

Let’s hope he didn’t celebrate the news too boisterously.

Had the Lions opted to use the franchise tag on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, things may have played out differently for Tulloch. The Lions didn’t go that expensive route, however, and it seems that a healthy Tulloch will be part of the defensive mix regardless of how the defensive line looks in front of him in 2015.

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D.J. Swearinger accused of skipping out on $20K bill for car customization

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Texans safety D.J. Swearinger wanted to have some work done on his truck this offseason, but the people who did it say he wasn’t willing to pay for it.

TMZ reports that a police report has been filed in Houston alleging that Swearinger skipped out on a $20,000 bill from Espi Motors for work they did on his pickup truck.

According to the report, Swearinger brought his truck into the shop to have a variety of bells and whistles installed, including matte black paint with a Batman logo, speakers, new wheels, custom grill and a train horn, and then balked at the cost for the work when it was done. He then allegedly took his car from the shop without paying for the work. The shop tried to track Swearinger down, but were unable to do so despite the distinctive look of the truck that Swearinger’s allegedly driving around town.

Per TMZ, police are investigating and neither Swearinger nor the Texans have made any comment.

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Manning passes physical, Elway says an older QB can thrive in Denver

Buffalo Bills v Denver Broncos Getty Images

John Elway won Super Bowls as the Broncos’ quarterback at ages 37 and 38. And he thinks Peyton Manning is well-positioned to win a Super Bowl as the Broncos’ quarterback at age 39.

The Broncos have announced that Manning will be back as the team’s starting quarterback this season, meaning he has passed his required physical. Although Manning ended last season looking like he had slowed down and was struggling physically, the physical exam shows that his surgically repaired neck remains healthy enough for him to play.

And Elway thinks he can play well. Elway says he hired Gary Kubiak to be the Broncos’ head coach in large part because he thinks Kubiak runs just the kind of offense that will be helpful to the aging Manning.

“Peyton could fit in this offense very easily,” Elway said. “It’s a lot more dependent on balance, so therefore Peyton is hopefully not going to have to throw the ball 50 or 55 times. I think for an older quarterback, it’s a perfect system to be in.”

Manning didn’t have to throw it 50 times a game very often before Kubiak arrived, either; he has thrown 50 or more passes only five times in his 53 games as a Bronco. But Elway’s point is well taken: Kubiak will get the Broncos going on the ground, and that will take some pressure off Manning.

Still, if the Broncos’ offense is going to be successful this season, it’s going to be successful primarily because Manning plays more like he played in his first two and a half years with the Broncos, and less like he played over the second half of last season.

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NFL: Greg Hardy can sign contract while on exempt list

Greg Hardy AP

There was no immediate resolution to defensive end Greg Hardy’s standing with the NFL after a Wednesday meeting in New York, which means that Hardy remains on the commissioner’s exempt list with the start of free agency approaching quickly.

The league has clarified one bit of business as it relates to Hardy, though. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said that Hardy and other players on the exempt list are eligible to sign deals.

“There’s nothing to prevent a player on the exempt list without a contract from signing a new one,” Aiello said, via the Associated Press.

That may be true, but Hardy’s pursuit of a new job is still likely to be impacted by his uncertain playing status. He’s not eligible to play in a game until he’s off the list and the league is still working to decide whether Hardy will be suspended under the personal conduct policy as a result of last year’s arrest on domestic violence charges.

Hardy reportedly turned over documents from last July’s bench trial to the NFL. Hardy was found guilty in that trial, but appealed to have a jury trial and the charges were dismissed when his accuser failed to appear for it last month.

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Report: Giants TE Larry Donnell OK after airliner slides off runway

Larry Donnell AP

According to multiple reports, Giants tight end Larry Donnell was a passenger on Delta Airlines Flight 1086, which slid off a runway and through a fence in wintry conditions at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Thursday morning.

However, Donnell was unharmed, the player’s agent told Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. The newspaper reported Donnell was returning to New York from Atlanta, where the fight originated, to sign his exclusive-rights contract with the Giants.

Via an Instagram account (beyond_greatnes) that bears his name, Donnell appears to have posted a photo and a video just outside the accident site. (A hat tip to Art Stapleton of the Bergen Record for pointing this out.)

“Plane down” read the caption of one photo of the aircraft in the snow, its nose sticking through the fence.

According to the New York Daily News, which cited a fire department spokesperson, no injuries have been reported from the incident.

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Joe Haden: Justin Gilbert is “growing up”

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Cornerback Justin Gilbert had a disappointing rookie season after being selected eighth overall by the Browns last year, which led to owner Jimmy Haslam and Gilbert’s teammates to say that he needs to mature if he is going to make good on the promise that made him such a high pick.

One of Gilbert’s teammates in the secondary has been working out with him since the start of the offseason and has seen signs of that growth. Cornerback Joe Haden has been talking to Gilbert about how to “carry yourself like a pro” and says he has seen his lessons taking hold.

“He is growing up,” Haden said, via the team’s website. “Justin’s a very, very talented player. It’s just going to take a little bit of time.”

Gilbert said that he’s learned that playing in the NFL is a business and that he needs to “come to work every day and prepare like it’s your last day” to be successful. That was lacking last season, with General Manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine both talking about personal issues that they felt held Gilbert back.

Whether or not impending free agent Buster Skrine returns, the Browns could use a big improvement from Gilbert in Year Two as their defense looks like it will have to be a major strength for the team to improve on their results in 2014.

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Dominique Easley avoids knee surgery, hopes to be ready for OTAs

Chicago Bears Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Getty Images

The Patriots won’t be picking up their option on defensive tackle Vince Wilfork’s contract for the 2015 season, which doesn’t rule out his return on a different deal but could leave the Patriots looking elsewhere for help on the defensive line.

One player that could figure into their decisions up front is Dominique Easley. The Patriots’ first-round pick in 2014 suffered a torn ACL in his final year of college, which helped the Patriots grab him although his knee wasn’t well enough for him to make it through his entire rookie season.

Easley wound up on injured reserve, but Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports that Easley won’t need surgery to repair the knee this offseason. That leaves him on track to take part in OTAs this spring as he tries to show the team’s coaching staff that he can take on a bigger role next season.

He may not be stepping into Wilfork’s shoes as a nose tackle full time, but having a healthy Easley would give the Patriots more options up front in 2015.

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PFT Live: Bills talk with Vic Carucci

Rex Ryan AP

The Bills have gotten their offseason off to a blazing start this week with a pair of trades.

They acquired running back LeSean McCoy in a deal with the Eagles that cost them linebacker Kiko Alonso and followed that up by making a trade with the Vikings for quarterback Matt Cassel. Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News will join Mike Florio on Thursday’s PFT Live to discuss those moves and other things that may be in the works with free agency about to start.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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Bears “exploring trade options” for wide receiver Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall AP

‘Tis the season for moving on from bad contracts, and the Bears are no exception.

According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears are “exploring trade options” for veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Whether they’re merely answering the phone, or putting out word in hopes of making it ring remains to be seen, but it’s clear there’s some disconnect between the new regime of General Manager Ryan Pace/coach John Fox and the guy who got an extension from the previous administration last offseason.

If Marshall is still on the Bears roster on March 12, his $7.5 million in base salary is guaranteed.

The Bears got Marshall for a pair of third-round picks in 2012, and would certainly be looking for less than that now, to get out from under the contract.

It’s not that Marshall’s not been productive when well, but his media schedule and a few outbursts with teammates have made him the kind of guy new coaches are wary of.

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Vikings not saying much about Peterson meeting

Peterson AP

After Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and G.M. Rick Spielman spent roughly four hours visiting with running back Adrian Peterson on Wednesday, Peterson initially said the meeting went well.  He later offered a more detailed — and cryptic — explanation that fueled speculation he still wants out of Minnesota.

Upon getting back to Minnesota, Zimmer and Spielman didn’t have much to add.

“I’d just characterize it as a very good meeting and leave it at that,” Spielman told Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on returning to the Twin Cities.

Said Zimmer, “Adrian’s a good guy.”

The absence of a statement that Peterson will definitely return to the Vikings in 2015 means there’s still a chance he won’t.  Peterson reportedly has concerns about the manner in which his criminal charges of child abuse were handled last year by the team.  If, as it appeared at the time, the strings were being pulled by 345 Park Avenue, the Vikings at some point need to explain that to Peterson — and they need to hope he believes it.

Ultimately, money will be the major factor.  Unless someone else is willing to give Peterson $12.75 million for 2015, the Vikings will be his best choice.  Maybe, in the end, Peterson can use the uncertainty regarding his status (and the team’s apparent desire to bring him back) to squeeze out even more cash from the team’s coffers.

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Report: Chiefs expected to cut Dwayne Bowe if they can’t trade

Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Given the fact the Chiefs went through an entire season without a touchdown from their wide receivers, the idea they want to mix it up there seems reasonable.

But given their recent investments, it’s still going to be a tough pill to swallow.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Chiefs are expected to cut wide receiver Dwayne Bowe unless they can trade him.

Bowe just finished the second year of a five-year, $56 million deal, and is scheduled to make $10.75 million this year.

Because he forfeited his guarantees with his one-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, it’s easier for the Chiefs to move on if they want to.

If they designate him as a post-June 1 cut, they’d take a $3 million cap hit this year and $6 million next year, unless they want to swallow the whole $9 million this season.

And it sounds like they definitely want to move on, unless they’re able to squeeze him into a last-minute pay cut.

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Devonta Freeman sees himself as “the man” in Atlanta

devontafreeman AP

Last season, veteran Steven Jackson was the Falcons’ primary ball carrier, while rookie Devonta Freeman was the No. 2. This season, Freeman thinks the starting job is his.

Freeman told ESPN that he expects to be the Falcons’ starting running back this year now that Jackson has been jettisoned.

“Personally, I want to be the man. I want to be the guy,” Freeman said. “I want to make my own name with the Atlanta Falcons. I want to go really, really far. I want to set the bar high. I just want to win a Super Bowl and maybe be the MVP one day. You just never know. I feel like I’m hungrier right now. I don’t know what’s gotten into me this offseason. I just feel like a whole new monster. And I ain’t just talking.”

Freeman may be getting a little ahead of himself when he talks about being an MVP. Last year he showed some promise, but he had just 65 carries for 248 yards and one touchdown. He has a long way to go before he’s a star.

But he probably will be the man who gets the bulk of the carries in Atlanta this season. If Freeman takes a big step forward in his second season, that will go a long way toward helping the Falcons turn things around.

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Hartline heads to Houston for a visit

Hartline Getty Images

Twenty-four hours ago, free-agent receiver Brian Hartline hoped to be 24 hours away from picking a new team, with a visit to the Browns followed by a visit to the Bears.  Apparently, neither team has made Hartline an offer he couldn’t refuse.

So Hartline is heading to Houston for a visit, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.  A deal with the Texans is a possibility.

Cut last week by the Dolphins, Hartline was due to make $5.9 million in 2015.  The Texans will likely soon by cutting receiver Andre Johnson, who has asked to be released in the wake of being informed he’ll have a reduced role.  Johnson is on the books for $11.5 million in compensation this year.

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