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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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Cromartie on Beckham: Still so much room for him to grow

Odell Beckham, Darrelle Revis AP

Earlier this year, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie called Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham a “one-year wonder” because he felt that he had not seen enough of Beckham to know that he could produce on an every-week basis.

Cromartie made those comments in early October and Beckham has done a pretty good job of proving that he can thrive every time out since then. He has 72 catches for 1,005 yards and nine touchdowns on the year, putting him on pace to end the year with the kind of production rarely seen from wide receiver in their first two years.

On Monday, Cromartie again referenced that youth while discussing the potential for growth that he feels Beckham has within his reach.

“I still feel like there’s still so much room for him to grow,” Cromartie said, via “He’s a young, athletic guy that can go out and make plays, and make unbelievable catches. He’s proven that over and over. He does have a lot of room to grow, because he’s so young. He’s only in his second year, so he only can evolve in that offense. Being around the guys, like Eli Manning, [can] make him evolve more. Yes, he has a lot of room to grow, to be the guy that everyone knows he can be.”

Beckham has played 23 NFL games, so it would be rather silly to think that he’s a fully formed player even if what we’ve seen puts him squarely in the upper tier of NFL wideouts. With Darrelle Revis still in the concussion protocol, Marcus Williams battling a knee injury and Cromartie still prone to getting burnt, his current level may be more than enough to make nightmares for the Jets this Sunday.

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NFL convening “health and safety” call on Tuesday

nfl Getty Images

The NFL’s quarterly meetings will occur in Dallas on Tuesday. On the docket is an item that is drawing some attention.

Per multiple sources, the league has scheduled for Tuesday a conference call between the NFL, the NFL Players Association, and the players regarding player “health and safety.”

The email message scheduling the call, according to one source, explains that the conference call is required by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Another source suggested that the plan will be for all players to participate in the call.

It’s unclear whether this is an annual event. Regardless, it has gotten extra attention in light of last week’s Case Keenum concussion debacle, along with the looming release of the film Concussion, which based on the now-rampant TV commercials clearly hopes to make the NFL look bad for its mishandling of the concussion problem. In every version of the spots being televised pretty much everywhere (except NFL Network), a member of Congress is grilling the Commissioner, played by an actor who looks nothing like the Commissioner.

As it relates to the issue of concussions, the NFL looks nothing like it did prior to October 2009, when Roger Goodell and others were summoned to Capitol Hill and sufficiently intimated to take action. Still, the Keenum situation from nine days ago demonstrates that plenty still needs to be done.

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Pagano finally plays the “100 percent” card on Luck

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwqzzwu0ntvjmdi5zgqwnjzimtfmzjyzyji3nmmzyzjk AP

The initial Twitter-fueled headline emerging from Monday’s Chuck Pagano press conference focused on the adjectives he used to describe the question of whether 40-year-old Matthew Hasselbeck is supplanting Andrew Luck as the team’s starting quarterback. The far more significant comment from Pagano arose from the specific number he uttered.

“Andrew is our starting quarterback and when he is healthy and he is 100 percent healthy and the doctors and our trainers say he is ready to roll then he is going to be under center,” Pagano said, via comments distributed by the team.

And there it is. The “100 percent” rule. The standard that Pagano that PFT argued Pagano should use on Luck back in Week Six, after Hasselbeck’s Jimmy Connors/Michael Jordan/Willis Reed performance against the Texans and when Luck still was nursing a shoulder and/or rib injury. (Heck, we even prefaced that explanation by saying it would be “ludicrous” to even suggest benching Luck for Hasselbeck; “ludicrous” is one of the terms Pagano used when addressing the possibility on Monday.)

So when is a guy with a lacerated kidney and a separate abdominal strain truly “100 percent”? February? April? May?

For all the clarity implied in the three digits, it’s a loose, vague, fuzzy standard, allowing Pagano to go with Hasselbeck’s hot hand as long as it stays hot, keeping Luck on the bench without ever benching him.

From the perspective of Pagano’s long-term employment prospects in a job he has said repeatedly will be his last, there’s nothing ridiculous or ludicrous about that.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 22: Tamba Hali #91 of the Kansas City Chiefs tackles Danny Woodhead #39 of the San Diego Chargers during a game at Qualcomm Stadium on November 22, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills parted ways with LB A.J. Tarpley.

Is firing offensive coordinator Bill Lazor now too little and too late for the Dolphins?

A look at the Patriots’ clock management on Sunday night.

Jets S Calvin Pryor got the support of coach Todd Bowles after Ryan Tannehill called Pryor “classless.”

A blocked field goal made for a happy NFL debut for Ravens DE Brent Urban.

The Bengals defensive backs tackled well against the Rams.

With Josh McCown injured again, what do the Browns do at quarterback?

Steelers WR Markus Wheaton took advantage of increased opportunities in Week 12.

There was no “Victory Monday” day off for the Texans.

WR Andre Johnson played 33 snaps for the Colts last Sunday.

Jaguars WR Allen Hurns’s status for this week hasn’t been determined yet.

How does the Titans’ home losing streak measure up to other extended bouts of futility?

A breakdown of playing time for the Broncos in their win over the Patriots.

Chiefs LB Tamba Hali’s NFL career has exceeded his own expectations.

The Raiders running game never caught fire against the Titans.

Youth is being served on the Chargers defense.

Rookie T Chaz Green is expected to return to action for the Cowboys.

Giants players say the playoffs, not beating the Jets, is the biggest motivation this week.

The Eagles added C Barrett Jones to the roster.

Redskins DL Ricky Jean Francois thinks his team can make a Super Bowl run.

Everybody around the Bears was in a dancing mood on Thanksgiving.

CB Alex Carter won’t get back on the field for the Lions this year.

The Packers got TE Andrew Quarless back at practice Monday.

Coach Mike Zimmer praised the Vikings for playing like a “smart football team.”

The Falcons hope RB Devonta Freeman and WR Devin Hester can provide some spark upon their returns to the lineup.

Said newly signed Panthers CB Cortland Finnegan, “Any guy who ever plays the game, they just want one more snap, let’s just be honest. I got giddy just putting on the helmet today.”

What approach should the Saints employ for their final five games?

Losing to the Colts hasn’t dampened good spirits around the Buccaneers.

It looks like rookie David Johnson will be the No. 1 running back for the Cardinals this week.

Rams RB Todd Gurley got emotional over his college coach Mark Richt’s ouster at Georgia.

RB Shaun Draughn is making the most of his chance with the 49ers.

TE Luke Willson’s importance to the Seahawks will go up with Jimmy Graham injured.

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Matt Millen: “Sorry, Detroit, it didn’t quite work out”

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Getty Images

After failing as the Lions’ team president, Matt Millen settled back into a career as a broadcaster and rarely discussed the mistakes he made in Detroit. But on Sunday, he apologized.

Millen, working the Buccaneers-Colts game on FOX, chuckled as he acknowledged that he never should have been trusted with running a franchise.

“A little bit of a tactical error on my part, I had this fleeting dream that I thought maybe I could run a team,” Millen said. “Sorry, Detroit, it didn’t quite work out.”

Millen is obviously right that it didn’t work out: In 2001 he took over a team that had gone 9-7 the year before, promptly turned them into a 2-14 team his first hear, and never even reached .500, with his tenure culminating in the NFL’s only 0-16 season ever in Millen’s final year, in 2008.

The Lions are currently looking for a new General Manager, having just fired Martin Mayhew, who was promoted to the job after Millen was finally fired. The good news for the Lions is that whoever they hire, it can’t possibly be worse than Millen.

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PFT’s Week 13 Power Rankings

Cam Newton AP

1. Panthers (11-0; last week No. 2): It’s been a year since they’ve lost a regular-season game. The real question for the rest of the current year is whether they’ll win three games in the postseason.

2. Broncos (9-2; No. 6): The Broncos could be paying a quarterback $19 million next year, after all. Just not the one they thought.

3. Patriots (10-1; No. 1): Will Tom Brady eventually be throwing passes to Tony Gonzalez, Randy Moss, and/or Terrell Owens?

4. Bengals (9-2; No. 4): The Bengals are back. As long as they don’t have to play at night.

5. Cardinals (9-2; No. 3): Good teams find a way to win even when they’re playing the opposite of good.

6. Vikings (8-3; No. 8): The Steve Hutchinson/Nate Burleson Tit-for-Tat Bowl finally has both teams playing for something other than spite.

7. Packers (7-4; No. 5): If Peyton Manning or Tom Brady had young teammates who weren’t spending enough time preparing to play, the last thing either of them would need to do is complain about it publicly.

8. Seahawks (6-5; No. 9): Russell Wilson played better than ever with Marshawn Lynch not in the building. Which may not be a coincidence.

9. Chiefs (6-5; No. 10): Yes, the 49ers kept the wrong guy.

10. Steelers (6-5; No. 7): That fake field goal was so bad that the Colts were laughing at it.

11. Colts (6-5; No. 14): 4-0 is the new 40.

12. Texans (6-5; No. 15): Few teams have improved more than this one during the season, and few can figure out how they did it.

13. Raiders (5-6; No. 13): Every time the Raiders give us a reason to give up on them, they give us a reason not to.

14. Bills (5-6; No. 12): They need to finish 4-1 to match what they did without LeSean McCoy, Tyrod Taylor, Charles Clay, and Rex Ryan.

15. Jets (6-5; No. 16): Stephen Ross no longer owns the Dolphins; the Jets do.

16. Bears (5-6; No. 20): Thirty years after a team to never forget, the Bears are gradually piecing together a season to remember.

17. Washington (5-6; No. 25): I like that at home; I hate that on the road.

18. Giants (5-6; No. 11): How bad would they have played in Washington if they hadn’t had two weeks to get ready?

19. Falcons (6-5; No. 17): Matty Ice has a modified nickname.

20. Buccaneers (5-6; No. 18): Is it a drop if it never actually touches your hands?

21. Lions (4-7; No. 24): The Lions have mastered Cooterball.

22. Ravens (4-7; No. 28): Thanks, Ravens, for the annual reminder that the Texans actually paid many millions of dollars to Matt Schaub.

23. Rams (4-7; No. 21): Apparently, “kiss my ass” comes from the Competition Committee’s special parliamentary procedures known as Robert’s Rules of Odor.

24. Dolphins (4-7; No. 22): If the Dolphins fire someone every time they lose to the Jets, the Dolphins may eventually have no one left to fire.

25. Jaguars (4-7; No. 23): At least folks in Jacksonville can enjoy the holidays without being distracted by playoff seedings.

26. Eagles (4-7; No. 26): At this rate, the Eagles may give the Titans a first-round pick to take Chip Kelly.

27. Saints (4-7; No. 27): Drew Brees will make it to 45 only if he becomes a kicker.

28. Chargers (3-8; No. 31): The Chargers are so bad that beating the Jaguars is actually an upset.

29. 49ers (3-8; No. 29): The 49ers are so bad that Rob Schneider is calling them out.

30. Cowboys (3-8; No. 19): At least the expectations won’t be quite as high next year.

31. Titans (2-9; No. 30): If the NFL played 45 minutes game, the Titans would be a lock for the Super Bowl.

32. Browns (2-9; No. 32): A Pick Six and a Kick Six and anyone who watched that one got sick at least six times.

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Stedman Bailey improving, still in intensive care

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 04: Wide receiver Stedman Bailey #12 of the St. Louis Rams (right) celebrates his third quarter touchdown with wide receiver Kenny Britt #18 (left) during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Rams wide receiver Stedman Bailey remains in a Florida hospital after being shot in the head twice last week, but word on Monday was positive about the process he’s making after having surgery.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher offered an update on Bailey’s condition during his meeting with the media and said that the wideout was still in intensive care as he recovers, but that there was an encouraging development that he was able to share with the team over the weekend.

“He’s improving,” Fisher said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “One thing that was really, really cool [and] really, really emotional was that he obviously had intensive surgery — he was in surgery for over six hours — to remove one bullet. There were two wounds to the head, two shots. He was in a medically induced coma for obvious reason to keep the swelling down in the brain. … His girlfriend texted a picture to some of his teammates yesterday in the locker room [before the game] of him signing his name on a piece of paper, so [we] got to share that with the team yesterday and it was good news.”

Fisher said he didn’t have any more information on the investigation into the shooting, which saw Bailey and another man injured while sitting in a car with three others, including two minors, who were not injured.

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Rex Ryan: Bills have to get better challenge system in place

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 23:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the Buffalo Bills reacts during the third quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 23, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Sunday, Bills coach Rex Ryan responded to questions about not challenging a Jeremy Maclin catch that looked like an incompletion on replays with an answer that included complaints about the lack of replays on the video board at Arrowhead Stadium.

Those replays would have helped Ryan on the sideline, but there’s little reason why coaches up in the booth wouldn’t have been able to notice that it didn’t appear to be a catch. It was a rough day all around on the challenge front.

The Bills were 0-2 on their challenges and they failed to challenge two other plays that could have gone their way, leaving Ryan with little choice but to promise changes to the team’s system in the weeks to come.

“There is a process in place,” Ryan said, via the Buffalo News. “Did that process let us down? Absolutely did. It failed on a couple of occasions, obviously. There’s something we clearly have to improve in. I thought it was going well this year, but obviously we need to find a way to get it where it’s better, where something like where people at home can see something and we don’t see it. To me, that can’t happen. It won’t happen in the future.”

Ryan didn’t outline what changes would be made or who was responsible for advising him, although he did say that team chaplain James Trapp, who was seen on TV talking to Ryan during a possible challenge, wasn’t involved. Sticking with the men in the booth over the man further upstairs would seem to be the best approach to replays, although Buffalo’s experience last Sunday probably could have been improved just by flipping a coin.

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Pernell McPhee gleeful about spanking Bears gave Aaron Rodgers

Pernell McPhee

As thinly veiled shots at opponents go, the latest to come back and bite Aaron Rodgers was fairly innocuous.

This is the same guy who in discussing a 24-game winning home streak over the Lions said: “It’s just kind of fell our way the last 20 times or whatever but it’s always been very competitive.”

So when he followed with “It’s always fun to beat the Bears,” after a Week One victory, it didn’t seem like that big a diss.

But Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee certainly took it that way.

“C’mon, the quarterback said he loved beating up on us. Who he think we are?” McPhee said, via Jeff Dickerson of “We ain’t the team from last year, or two years ago, or three years ago. You know what I’m saying? This is the 2015 Chicago Bears. A lot of guys took it personal, especially when some guy says he love beating up on your brother. I ain’t going to let nobody come and beat my little brother up.

You know, we went in there and slapped him on his ass. They need to go ask him how that feels.”

Considering it was their fourth loss in five games, it likely stings a little. But Rodgers also continued a run of ineffectiveness on his own, completing just 22-of-43 passes for 202 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The 62.4 rating was the lowest of his career at Lambeau Field.

And limiting to that was gratifying to McPhee, who clearly took offense at Rodgers’ Soldier Field gloating.

“This game, it can get real personal,” McPhee said. “When you are winning, it is all fun. When you are losing, it is very personal. I think the last two games we lost, Denver and Minnesota, a lot of guys took it upon themselves that this, going in, that this Green Bay game was going to be personal.”

We’ll have to wait a year to see how Rodgers responds to the Bears in particular, though we’ll see Thursday against the Lions if the recent backside-smacking got his attention.

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Jason Garrett says Tony Romo “has a lot of football left in him”

Tony Romo AP

Tony Romo’s turning 36 next offseason, and will be coming off a twice-broken collarbone that turned this into a nightmare season for him and the Cowboys.

But coach Jason Garrett can easily think of the future, because he thinks Romo will be back, and better than ever.

We think Tony has a lot of football left in him,” Garrett said, via Todd Archer of

The list of recent surgeries for Romo is long, including the two on his back in 2013. And though this is his third time breaking his left collarbone since 2010, this one won’t require another surgery, and they expect him to be fully healed by camp next season. But Garrett said the mental hurdle will be as hard to clear as the physical one.

“Tony’s a great competitor, Tony wants to play as much as anybody, wants to play at a high level and help our team, and when that gets taken away from you early on in the season, you have to watch, that’s challenging. And then you get a chance to come back and then it happens again, those are not easy,” Garrett said. “There’s a tremendous investment that everybody makes in this, and the commitment that he’s made to our team over the course of his career, the investment he has made has been significant — when you can’t go out there and play because of injury — that can be frustrating for everybody.

“But somehow, some way, you’ve got to get your mind right, and you’ve got to start again. It’s a clean slate, think about the right things to get yourself back with your rehab and your treatment and get focused on the future. And he’s certainly doing that even though it’s not an easy thing to do.”

And for now, he’s their quarterback of the future, though the clock is ticking on that particular designation as well.

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Ravens win an emotional one for Will Hill, Brent Urban

Atlanta Falcons v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

When the story of the 2015 NFL season is written, last night may not even be a footnote, one bad team beating another bad team in a mildly interesting fashion.

But for the guys involved in the game-deciding play, it was a novel, full of redemption and reward for years pf perserverance.

The Ravens won on a last second field goal block by defensive end Brent Urban, returned for a touchdown by safety Will Hill. And their reactions should tell you why it was a big deal, at least to them.

Urban called the moment “surreal” and said he was nearly speechless. The 2014 fourth-round pick lost his rookie season to a knee injury, then tore his biceps in training camp and was just activated last week, making it his first NFL game. He was so caught up in the moment he thought he had blocked the kick with his surgically repaired right arm instead of his left.

“It’s great for it to go our way at the end of the game with a big play,” Urban said, via Jeff Zrebeic of the Baltimore Sun. “It’s a great feeling. Things just happened our way, finally, and we’re ecstatic.”

For Hill, the relief was more temporary, since he had just given up a game-tying touchdown to Travis Benjamin with a blown coverage, so picking up the block and returning it 64 yards capped a two minutes that took him from being the cause for a loss to the cause for a win.

The swing left him a little queasy, and he admitted he nearly threw up after scoring his touchdown.

“It was almost a game of redemption,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Will Hill didn’t do a very good job on that coverage. He got fooled a little bit, gave up a touchdown pass, and then comes back and picks it up and runs it in. All the guys on the field-goal block team that set the wall down the sidelines, it was just a thing of beauty.”

It might have fallen short of that standard for most. But for Urban and Hill, it created lifelong memories.

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Browns facing another Manziel decision, and soon

Johnny Manziel AP

Just a week ago, Browns coach Mike Pettine finally got permission to publicly discipline Johnny Manziel.

The team released a statement last Tuesday that said Manziel had been demoted from starter to No. 3 quarterback for Monday night’s game against the Ravens. A follow-up report said Manziel had lied to Pettine and others about the video and photos that showed up on social media from his weekend off.

Now, the Browns probably have a few hours to decide if they want to make Manziel their starter again.

Nobody inside the team will get much sleep after the way the Browns lost to the Ravens, but Tuesday morning the Browns have to start getting ready for next Sunday’s game vs. the Bengals under the assumption that Josh McCown will not be available.

At 2-9, the Browns are clearly playing for next year. We don’t know who in the front office or coaching staff will be around then, but we’ll soon know if Pettine thinks Manziel deserves another shot to start.

McCown got hurt in the fourth quarter of Monday’s loss — that’s three times in McCown’s last three starts — and Pettine went to Austin Davis instead of Manziel. Davis had not previously played in a game with the Browns since being signed in September.

Manziel threw for a career-best 373 yards in a 30-9 loss at Pittsburgh on Nov. 15. It was his fifth career start and third this season, and the team announced two days later that he’d been named the starter for the rest of the season.

Despite the demotion, the Browns made Manziel active for the game vs. the Ravens. In only one of their previous 10 games had the Browns made three quarterbacks active. Last Wednesday, Pettine said Manziel was not at “a dead end” with the Browns and wouldn’t rule out the team going back to him.

But after talking about “a violation of trust,” Pettine’s next decision will reveal whether he was handing out a punishment or trying to get Manziel to learn a lesson.

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Pettine: Collarbone injury forced McCown out

McCown AP

Browns Coach Mike Pettine told reporters after Monday night’s loss to the Ravens that quarterback Josh McCown was forced out in the fourth quarter due to a collarbone injury.

Pettine said McCown will remain the team’s starting quarterback for next Sunday’s game vs. the Bengals if he is healthy enough to play, but said the team will know more about his injury Tuesday.

About 75 minutes after the Browns lost on a blocked field goal return, Mary Kay Cabot of tweeted that McCown has a “possible” broken collarbone.

McCown had his right arm in a sling as he left First Energy Stadium. He left the game after the second time he appeared to be in pain after taking a hit.

McCown has left his last three starts in the fourth quarter due to injury. He missed the previous two games due to a rib injury suffered Nov. 1.

Austin Davis replaced McCown Monday. Johnny Manziel had started the two previous games and was named the starter for the rest of the season during the Browns’ bye week, but he was demoted after he reportedly lied to Pettine about his latest appearance social media.

Davis played for the first time since joining the Browns in September. He threw a touchdown pass with 1:47 left to tie the game and scrambled to get the Browns into field goal range on the final drive, but Pettine said a headset issue caused the confusion that led to the Browns allowing the clock to run despite having two timeouts.

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DeShawn Shead takes starting corner job from Cary Williams for Seahawks

DeShawn Shead Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Cary Williams had started 81 straight games, regular and postseason combined, dating back to his time in Philadelphia and Baltimore before he was benched for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Williams was one of seven players declared inactive for Seattle on Sunday. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Deshawn Shead.

Shead held his own against an explosive Steelers passing attack. His 10 tackles were second on the team he recorded four passes defended during the game. In comparison, Williams has just four passes defended all season.

“He played a really good, tough game,” head coach Pete Carroll said of Shead. “He had a lot of challenges and he came through at the point of the ball coming in a number of times. They got him once, but all in all, he played really good. Did a very good job. We were all really proud of him.”

Williams was initially benched last week in the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers after blowing an assignment on a 36-yard completion to tight end Vance McDonald. That led to Shead getting a chance to start against Pittsburgh.

So where does that leave Williams, who signed a three-year, $18 million deal with Seattle this offseason?

“Right now he’s trying to fight for playing time, trying to get back in,” Carroll said. “Shead did a good job and we feel pretty good about DeShawn coming back again this week.”

Shead helped hold Martavis Bryant to just five catches for 69 yards on Sunday. The majority of Pittsburgh’s 480 passing yards came over the middle of the field against Seattle’s linebackers and safeties and slot cornerbacks.

If Shead continues as the starter, it would seem unlikely that Williams would be back in 2016 for the Seahawks. The team could save close to $4 million against the salary cap by releasing him this offseason.

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Ravens win on blocked field goal return as time expires

Mike Pettine AP

The Browns had lost a game in just about every way possible.

Then Monday night happened.

With their game against the Ravens tied at 27 and three seconds left, the Browns lined up for a 51-yard field goal try from kicker Travis Coons, who hadn’t missed a field goal all season.

The kick was blocked by Ravens defensive end Brent Urban, and picked up by Ravens safety Will Hill. After securing the ball Hill basically had one man to beat on the sideline, and he returned it 64 yards for a touchdown.

The Ravens took a knee instead of kicking the extra point and won, 33-27. They also got the game’s first points via special teams, an 82-yard punt return by rookie Kaelin Clay.

It was a wild final two minutes. Ravens quarterback Matt Schaub was picked off by Tramon Williams with 50 seconds left, setting the Browns up at the Ravens’ 46-yard line. After wasting precious seconds despite having two timeouts, Browns quarterback Austin Davis scrambled to the Ravens’ 33 with eight seconds left. Duke Johnson then ran for no gain, and each team used a timeout before the final kick.

The Browns trailed 10-0 early and 27-20 at the two-minute warning before Davis hit Travis Benjamin on a 42-yard touchdown pass. Davis was playing because starter Josh McCown was hurt and because, in the words of ESPN play-by-play man Mike Tirico, the Browns put Johnny Manzielin timeout.”

Per former Browns and NFL writer Joe Reedy, it’s the 22nd time since returning to the NFL in 1999 that the Browns lost on the final play of the game. But it’s the first they’ve lost on a blocked field goal return.

The Browns fall to 2-9. The Ravens improve to 4-7.

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