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PFT’s Week Four picks

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Getty Images

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have complained about the Monday night debacle.

After all, I picked the Seahawks to win by a point and, thanks to the replacement officials, Seattle won by two.  Since MDS picked the Pack, it allowed me to win the weekly contest with MDS by two, 9-7 versus 7-9.

Given the crazy, upside-down games from Week Three, I’ll take a winning record and run with it — as quickly as the Seahawks ran with their unwarranted win.

For the season, I’m now 27-21, and MDS is 26-22.

This week, we disagree on three games.  All 15 of our picks appear below.

Browns at Ravens

MDS’s take: Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden has actually looked decent the last two weeks, after a disastrous Week One. But the Ravens’ defense will bring far too much heat for Weeden to handle. I look for Haloti Ngata to pound Weeden into the turf a few times on Thursday night.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 27, Browns 6.

Florio’s take:  The Browns are another close loss or two away from imploding completely.  They won’t have to worry about another close loss on Thursday night.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 31, Browns 13.

Panthers at Falcons

MDS’s take: I still don’t believe the Panthers are as bad as they’ve looked this season, and that by the end of the year they could be fighting for a playoff spot. But Atlanta is the wrong place for the Panthers to try to get back on track.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 23, Panthers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Falcons have beaten the Panthers four straight times, scoring 31 points exactly in each game.  Atlanta could be on track to clinching the division by Thanksgiving.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 31, Panthers 14.

Patriots at Bills

MDS’s take: This is a fascinating game in the AFC East race, one that could establish the Bills as the favorites to win the division. I’ve been saying all year that the Bills have made the right moves to become playoff contenders this season, but I just think the Patriots, with their backs against the wall, are going to come out focused and ready to play their best game of the season.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Bills 14.

Florio’s take:  The Bills have beaten the Pats only once since the last time the Pats had a losing record.  Buffalo is moving in the right direction, but New England needs this one badly.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 30, Bills 23.

Vikings at Lions

MDS’s take: Another fascinating divisional game, as the Vikings have a real opportunity here to establish themselves as surprising contenders in the NFC North. However, I see far too many matchup advantages for the Lions’ receivers against the Vikings’ secondary.  Not just Calvin Johnson (who has a matchup advantage over every defensive back in the league) but also receivers Nate Burleson and Titus Young and tight end Brandon Pettigrew should be able to get open and get points on the board in Detroit.

MDS’s pick: Lions 28, Vikings 24.

Florio’s take:  The Lions have won three straight in the series, but the Vikings are gaining confidence,  The Lions continue to be more flawed than anyone realized.  Receiver Jerome Simpson returns from suspension in time to help the Vikings take advantage of Detroit’s biggest weakness.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 24, Lions 16.

Titans at Texans

MDS’s take: The Texans are the best team in the AFC South by such a large margin that the question for me isn’t whether they’ll win the division but how quickly they’ll clinch. My guess is some time around Week 11. This win will be another step toward that.

MDS’s pick: Texans 34, Titans 10.

Florio’s take:  Yeah, I picked the Titans to win the division.  And if they upset the Texans on Sunday, the Titans will thrust themselves into the conversation.  And if they upset the Texans, it will mean that I picked this specific game incorrectly.  Despite last weekend’s epic in Nashville, the Titans aren’t nearly as good as I thought they’d be.  The Texans are much better than I thought they’d be.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 24, Titans 13.

Chargers at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Chiefs looked pretty good against the Saints on Sunday, and the Chargers looked pretty bad against the Falcons on Sunday. But I’m expecting the Chargers to win, in a game that I have a hunch will come down to special teams, where the Chargers will make plays and the Chiefs will make mistakes.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 28, Chiefs 21.

Florio’s take:  One week often changes everything.  Last Sunday, the Chargers went from elite to “meh” status, and the Chiefs showed they’ve got some fight.  Home team gets the edge in this one, especially if Jamaal Charles saved some yards for Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 24, Chargers 22.

49ers at Jets

MDS’s take: If not for the injury to Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, I’d be very tempted to pick the 49ers to lose their second straight road game. But that Revis injury is devastating to the Jets not only because it radically changes what they can do on defense, but also because while seeing players and coaches on the Jets talking this week, you could practically feel the entire locker room deflating at the loss of their best player. I think the Jets are going to come out looking very bad on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 27, Jets 14.

Florio’s take:  The difference between the 49ers defense and the Jets defense is that the 49ers didn’t put all their eggs in one island.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 20, Jets 13.

Seahawks at Rams

MDS’s take: The Seahawks don’t have any time to send thank-you notes to the league office for their gift on Monday night, because they’ve got a road trip to St. Louis on a short work week. I like the way Jeff Fisher’s defense is playing, and I think Russell Wilson will feel a lot of pressure, but Seattle’s defensive line will have Sam Bradford under pressure, and the Seahawks will win a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 10, Rams 9.

Florio’s take:  Short week, significant travel, improving opponent, and guilty conscience add up to trouble for the Seahawks in St. Louis.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 14, Seahawks 12.

Dolphins at Cardinals

MDS’s take: It’s taken me a while to learn to believe in the Cardinals, but I’m there now. Which probably means they’re going to lose. But I’m picking them anyway.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 24, Dolphins 7.

Florio’s take:  This has the potential to be one of those early-season “correction” games.  But how can the Dolphins win if they can’t score any offensive touchdowns against once of the best defenses in the league?

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 17, Dolphins 6.

Bengals at Jaguars

MDS’s take: I loved the game Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden called on Sunday against the Redskins. Look for Bengals receiver A.J. Green to have another big day against the Jaguars.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 28, Jaguars 24.

Florio’s take:  It would be fitting for the Bengals, a week after finally winning a game they were supposed to lose, to lose a game they’re supposed to win.  But the Bengals are better than the Jaguars on both sides of the ball — and the Jaguars will have a hard time keeping up with a suddenly dynamic and diverse offense.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 24, Jaguars 14.

Raiders at Broncos

MDS’s take: It says something about what we’ve come to expect from Peyton Manning that he had 330 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers on Sunday against a very good Texans defense, and yet everyone is talking about how he’s just not the same. Playing a weak Raiders defense will result in Manning looking a lot better, and the Broncos improving to 2-2.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 35, Raiders 14.

Florio’s take:  Peyton Manning won’t need much arm strength to move the ball against a defense that can’t do much to stop him.  Or anyone.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 27, Raiders 17.

Saints at Packers

MDS’s take: Raise your hand if you predicted these two teams would be a combined 1-5 heading into this game. I see the Packers’ problems as much more correctable than the Saints’ problems, and I see Aaron Rodgers having a big day against a shaky Saints defense.

MDS’s pick: Packers 27, Saints 17.

Florio’s take:  The Saints can thank the Seahawks and the replacement officials for what they’re about to endure.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 45, Saints 17.

Redskins at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: The Bucs have a bad offense and a good defense; the Redskins have a good offense and a bad defense. I like Tampa Bay’s defense to keep it close and the Redskins’ defense to give up a big play at the wrong time.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 14, Redskins 10.

Florio’s take:  That win over the Saints in New Orleans is looking less impressive by the week.  And the Bucs are better than their record would suggest.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 20, Redskins 16.

Giants at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Eagles need to bounce back in a big way after laying an egg against the Cardinals. I think they’re going to, with Michael Vick finally making it through a game without a turnover.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Giants 21.

Florio’s take:  Eagles coach Andy Reid does his best work when his back is against the wall.  And his back is already against the wall.  And he said just enough this week to put his quarterback’s back against the wall, too.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Giants 24.

Bears at Cowboys

MDS’s take: As impressive as the Bears’ defense has been, I think they’ll struggle with the explosiveness of Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, who should have a huge game in a Dallas win.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 34, Bears 20.

Florio’s take:  If the Cowboys can keep Tony Romo in two or fewer pieces (factoring in the possibility of the partial loss of an ear), the Cowboys should win this one.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 26, Bears 17.

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Devin Hester says he wasn’t happy the last few years in Chicago

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Devin Hester took sole possession of the NFL record for most return touchdowns in a career when he took back a Michael Koenen punt for a 26-yard touchdown in the second quarter of the Atlanta Falcons 56-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Hester made the majority of the progress toward that record while a member of the Chicago Bears over the previous eight seasons.

However, Hester said after the game Thursday night in a postgame interview on the NFL Network that he hadn’t been happy with the last few years he spent with the Bears. He even seemingly took a veiled shot at his former quarterback, Jay Cutler.

I’m happy man,” Hester said, via Adam Hoge of WGN Radio. “You know what, I’m going to say it, man. I wasn’t happy the last 3-4 years in Chicago because things wasn’t going the way I expect. I would always have a great camp, have all the receivers saying and coaches saying I had the best camp of all the receivers. And once the season start off, I’m not there.

“You know, and I got a quarterback now that man, he loves even the walk-ons, man. And the coaches know how to get the ball to me, you know, make plays for me. And I’m excited for this season, man. This is only the beginning for our team.”

The experiment of using Hester’s ability as a receiver in Chicago never seemed to fully take off. After posting a strong campaign in 2009 with 57 catches for 757 yards and three touchdowns, he never approached those numbers again. His catch total dripped to 40, 26 and then 23 over the next three seasons before being taken out of the role under Marc Trestman last year.

In three games for Atlanta, Hester already has seven catches for 126 yards and appears to be revitalized in all facets of the game.

Every team in the league had a chance to sign Hester when he was a free agent this summer. With Hester happy with his surroundings, the Falcons may have found a potential difference maker off the scrap heap.

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Earl Thomas says his “championship spirit” is back after loss to Chargers

Seahawks Chargers Football AP

Earl Thomas can’t quite put his finger on why he felt a little off during Sunday’s 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers. However, Thomas believes the loss has helped reinvigorate him ahead of this week’s Super Bowl rematch with the Denver Broncos.

“I think I definitely got my championship spirit back after that loss; my crave, my hunger, and my desire to be unstoppable back,” Thomas said. “I don’t think I lost it but after that game I was like, ‘dang, something just hit me,’ and I just been focused ever since and it feel so good just to be feeling like this.”

Seattle’s defense was on the field for over 42 minutes with temperatures on the field nearing 120 degrees. Thomas even had to leave the game in the second half to get an IV to replenish fluids after suffering from cramps. The Chargers put up 377 yards of offense and converted 10 of 19 third opportunities to keep Seattle’s defense on the field. Thomas and the rest of the Seahawks defense just couldn’t get the stops they are typically able to get.

While San Diego didn’t hit any massively big play against the Seahawks – their longest play being a 21-yard touchdown from Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates – Seattle just couldn’t find ways to get off the field consistently.

Thomas just didn’t feel like he was playing like himself last week in San Diego. It’s an experience he says he hasn’t encountered before.

“It never happened like that,” Thomas said. “That game was so weird. It was different. It just felt funny out there. Even in my body language when I watch myself on film. I have no regrets from the game but one thing I can say, just that my technique and just as my posture wasn’t as aggressive and I think that’s a part of my mindset that I need to turn on.”

Thomas is itching for the opportunity to get back on track this week against the Broncos.

“We’re ready to play right now,” Thomas said. “I love when we have something to prove and a lot of times when we’re on top like this, we’ve got to protect what we have. This is not a one person game, this is a team sport and we have to capture every moment. We have a lot of young players that are trying to understand their role in this defense, but we had a lot of great coachable moments from that film and I got onto some guys and I took criticism myself and we move on.”

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Lovie Smith “embarrassed” by Bucs’ showing in 56-14 loss

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

In the aftermath of the worst loss of his NFL head coaching career, Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith said he was “embarrassed” by his team’s performance in a 56-14 loss at Atlanta on Thursday night.

“Obviously, you know, we weren’t ready to play,” Smith said, taking the blame for his team’s poor showing at the outset of his postgame remarks.

Smith said the team’s injury list, which grew longer with the loss of quarterback Josh McCown to a thumb injury Thursday, was not an excuse for a defeat in which the Bucs surrendered the first eight touchdowns before finally getting on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.

“The guys we had out there, we should’ve played better than that,” Smith said.

In relief of McCown, second-year backup Mike Glennon completed 17-of-24 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Glennon also didn’t commit a turnover.

“If there was something bright to come out of this game, it was probably his play,” Smith said.

Never before had a Smith-coached team surrendered more than 45 points in a game, and never had one of his teams lost by more than five touchdowns, according to the Spreadapedia database.

The Buccaneers’ head coach called the loss a “scar” that would stay with Tampa Bay.

“Scars don’t go away. This will be on us,” Smith said. “Rest of our lives, we’re going to remember this game.”

He added: “Luckily, we have 13 more games to go.”

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Falcons hammer hapless Buccaneers in 56-14 victory

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons completely dominated the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the tune of a massive 56-14 blowout victory on Thursday night.

It was the second highest point total in Atlanta franchise history. The Falcons improved to 2-1 on the year while Tampa Bay fell to 0-3.

Devin Hester scored the 20th return touchdown of his career to take sole possession of the NFL record for most kick returns for scores in a career. Hester also had a 20-yard touchdown run on an endaround in the second quarter.

Matt Ryan set a franchise record for completion percentage (87.5 percent) in a game going 21 of 24 for 286 yards and three touchdowns before being replaced by T.J. Yates in the third quarter. Harry Douglas caught one touchdown pass from Ryan with Julio Jones added two scores. Steven Jackson scored. Antone Smith scored. Safety Kemal Ishmael scored on an interception return.

The Buccaneers couldn’t do anything right. Tampa Bay fumbled five times, losing four to Atlanta. Josh McCown was intercepted once before leaving the game in the second quarter with a thumb injury. Add in snap issues as well and it was a total cluster for the Bucs.

Despite having 56 points through three quarters, the Falcons were unable to become the 23rd team to score 60 points in an NFL game. The New Orleans Saints were the most recent team to do so with a 62-7 victory over Indianapolis in October 2011.

The Buccaneers were outgained by a 344-153 margin with five turnovers. Bobby Rainey – playing for an injured Doug Martin – had just 41 yards on 11 carries and two of their five fumbles.

Tampa Bay recorded their only offensive score of the game with 8:46 left to go when Mike Glennon hit Vincent Jackson for a 3-yard touchdown. Linebacker Danny Lansanah intercepted Yates on Atlanta’s next possession and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to bring the score to 56-14.

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Week Three skill position injury report — Thursday

Seattle Seahawks v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

The following is a compilation of skill position players listed on Thursday’s injury report, along with their practice activity levels as declared by their clubs.

The final status for players whose teams play on Sunday will be announced on Friday.

Did not practice

Rams WR Tavon Austin (knee).

Panthers WR Jason Avant (thigh).

Giants WR Odell Beckham (hamstring).

Bengals RB Rex Burkhead (knee).

49ers TE Vernon Davis (ankle, knee).

Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring).

Rams TE Cory Harkey (knee).

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (illness).

Jaguars WR Allen Hurns (ankle).

Washington WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder).

Saints RB Mark Ingram (hand).

Jaguars WR Marqise Lee (hamstring).

Bears WR Brandon Marshall (ankle).

Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee).

49ers TE Vance McDonald (knee).

Steelers TE Heath Miller (not injury related).

Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle).

Dolphins RB Knowshon Moreno (elbow).

Colts WR Hakeem Nicks (illness).

Cowboys RB Joseph Randle (concussion).

Washington TE Jordan Reed (hamstring).

Raiders WR Rod Streater (hip).

Browns RB Ben Tate (knee).

Chiefs RB De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring).

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (thigh).

Bills WR Robert Woods (ankle).

Limited

Chargers WR Keenan Allen (groin).

Steelers RB Dri Archer (ankle).

Lions RB Joique Bell (knee).

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (shoulder).

Browns TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder).

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (ankle).

Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee).

Panthers WR Jerricho Cotchery (thigh).

Patriots WR Julian Edelman (back).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot).

Cowboys TE Gavin Escobar (knee).

Washington PK Kai Forbath (right groin).

Texans RB Arian Foster (hamstring).

Chargers TE Antonio Gates (hamstring).

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart (foot).

Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe).

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (knee).

Jaguars TE Clay Harbor (calf).

Rams QB Shaun Hill (thigh).

Eagles WR Josh Huff (shoulder).

Bears WR Alshon Jeffery (hamstring).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (ankle).

Jaguars RB Storm Johnson (ankle).

Raiders RB Maurice Jones-Drew (hand).

Seahawks RB Christine Michael (hamstring).

Lions RB Montell Owens (hamstring).

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer (right shoulder).

Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson (chest).

Ravens RB Bernard Pierce (thigh).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen).

Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts (hamstring).

Jaguars TE Mickey Shuler (heel).

Panthers RB Mike Tolbert (chest).

Patriots RB Shane Vereen (shoulder).

Washington RB Darrel Young (neck).

Full

Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin (knee).

Browns WR Travis Benjamin (knee).

Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (quadricep).

Colts RB Ahmad Bradshaw (other).

Panthers WR Philly Brown (ankle).

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant (shoulder).

Eagles TE Zach Ertz (knee).

Texans TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (foot).

Ravens QB Joe Flacco (illness).

Texans TE Garrett Graham (ankle).

Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray (foot).

Chiefs WR Frankie Hammond (shoulder).

Dolphins WR Brian Hartline (back).

Seahawks TE Cooper Helfet (knee).

Washington RB Roy Helu (quadricep).

Chiefs WR Junior Hemingway (hip).

Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (groin).

49ers RB Carlos Hyde (calf).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick (back).

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (back).

Titans RB Dexter McCluster (foot).

Broncos PK Brandon McManus (right groin).

Steelers WR Lance Moore (groin).

Bears WR Josh Morgan (groin).

Panthers TE Greg Olsen (calf).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (ribs).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin).

Vikings WR Rodney Smith (hamstring).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (other).

Titans QB Charlie Whitehurst (right finger).

Chiefs WR Albert Wilson (ankle).

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Josh McCown heads to locker room with thumb injury

McCown

The Buccaneers’ quarterback of the past/future is about to become the quarterback of the present.

Mike Glennon will enter Thursday night’s game against the Falcons in place of Josh McCown.  The starter has left for the locker room after striking his hand on a helmet after throwing a pass.  Officially, he’s questionable to return with a thumb injury, according to Tracy Wolfson of CBS.

Glennon can’t do much worse than McCown, who completed five of 12 passes for 58 yards and an interception before leaving the game.

The Buccaneers continue to trail, 35-0.

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Devin Hester passes Deion Sanders for all-time TD return mark

Hester Getty Images

During his first season with the Falcons, Devin Hester has shown that he can do a thing or two on offense.  But he also still has the skills that could eventually put him in Canton.

With a 62-yard punt return that hit paydirt, Hester broke a tie with Deion Sanders at 19 career touchdown returns.  Hester now has the record all to himself with 20.  He paid tribute to Sanders with an extended high step into the end zone, drawing a flag for taunting in the process.

Hester also has added a 20-yard touchdown run as part of Atlanta’s 35-0 first-half lead.

And while it’s easier to criticize the Bears both for letting Hester go and for never finding a way to unleash his broken-field skills on offense, keep in mind that every team has a crack at Hester on the open market.  The Falcons made the move to get him, and he could end up being a major difference maker as Atlanta tries to get back to the postseason.

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Gonzalez says he won’t be returning to Falcons

Gonzalez Getty Images

After the 2012 season, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez was 95-percent retired.  And he returned.

After the 2013 season, Gonzalez’s moved his estimate to 100 percent.  And he has said he won’t be returning.

Now with CBS, which televises Thursday Night Football, Gonzalez explained that he won’t be returning to the Week Three TNF host team.

“No,” Gonzalez said about a possible reunion with the Falcons. “I know I can still play. But at the same time, I got 17 years in the league. I really do feel content and happy to be up here because I win every week.”

Gonzalez’s options aren’t limited to the Falcons. He signed a two-year deal in 2013, which as a practical matter gave the Falcons his rights for 2014, if he decided to give it another go. By not retiring before the start of the league year in March, Gonzalez forced the Falcons to cut him before a balloon payment came due. As a result, Gonzalez can now sign with any team, at any time.

Literally, at any time. Even during the playoffs.

If, for example, one of the Super Bowl teams has a tight end suffer an injury in the conference title game (it happened three years ago, when Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski badly sprained an ankle), Gonzalez can sign a contract and suit up for a one-game shot at the Super Bowl ring he never won.

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Falcons taking it to the Bucs in Atlanta

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It’s been an ugly start for the Buccaneers tonight in Atlanta.

The Falcons’ first two offensive possessions ended with Matt Ryan touchdown passes, the first to Harry Douglas and the second to Julio Jones, and Atlanta got a pick-six on defense from safety Kemal Ishmael making the score 21-0.

In the early going the game has been notable mostly for how easy the Falcons have made it look: They’ve simply marched down the field with the Bucs providing little to no resistance. Only once did it look like the Bucs had made a big play on defense, when safety Mark Barron took the ball away from Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo and began racing downfield. But Falcons receiver Devin Hester made a great play, running Barron down, stripping the ball from him and recovering Barron’s fumble.

The Bucs caught a break when they fumbled the ensuing kickoff, only to have the officials rule that forward progress had stopped. That break didn’t amount to much, as Ishmael’s interception return for a touchdown happened right after. The Bucs are going to have to catch a whole lot more breaks if they’re going to make this game competitive.

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Todd Haley missed Steelers’ flight to Baltimore last week

Haley Getty Images

Here’s an unusual story that would have gotten more attention in recent days if other more serious and unusual stories hadn’t become so usual of late.

Last week, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley missed the team’s flight to Baltimore for the Week Two Thursday night game against the Ravens.  The Steelers have confirmed the version of events that multiple sources shared with PFT.

Late for the flight, Haley contacted the team to advise that he was stuck in traffic.  He said his wife would be driving to Baltimore anyway, so he rode with her.

Ultimately, Haley missed no meetings and the situation otherwise caused no problems.  But his absence on the flight was noticed, and it was regarded as unusual.

Probably because it is unusual.  Members of the coaching staff ordinarily don’t miss team flights.  In this specific case, Haley was fortunate that the game was fairly close via car.  He also was fortunate that most of the media has been focused on other things.

Snoop Dogg, however, may have something to say.

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Police say prior incident took place at Ray McDonald’s house

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

As authorities continue to investigate whether to bring formal charges against 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald, who was arrested and accused of domestic violence in August, police now say another incident took place at McDonald’s home on May 25.

San Jose police confirmed today that they were called to McDonald’s house after an incident in which a woman grabbed a man’s gun. Although police did not identify either the man or the woman involved by name, multiple reports say the subjects were McDonald and his fiancee, whom McDonald is accused of assaulting in a later incident in August.

“An engaged couple (a male and female subject) were in an argument when the female subject became upset, grabbed a firearm (handgun) registered to the male subject, and held it at her side,” the police statement released today said, via CSNBayArea.com. “When the male subject informed the female subject that he was going to call 911, the female subject put the firearm away and fled without incident. The female subject did not make any threats or point the firearm at the male subject. Both subjects have been identified and were contacted.”

This is the first time police have released any information about the May 25 incident, in which no arrests were made. Police arrested McDonald on August 31 but have released little information about the circumstances that led to that arrest, other than a brief statement saying the “victim had visible injuries.”

The 49ers have taken criticism for allowing McDonald to continue to play while the investigation into the August 31 incident is ongoing. Three other NFL players — Carolina’s Greg Hardy, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and Arizona’s Jonathan Dwyer — have been taken off the field this week while they face abuse charges.

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Gerald McCoy, Doug Martin, Roddy White among Thursday inactives

Roddy White AP

The Buccaneers will be without a Pro Bowl interior lineman and their starting tailback on Thursday night.

Standout defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand) and running back Doug Martin (knee) are both inactive for tonight’s game at Atlanta, the Bucs said. Bobby Rainey starts in place of Martin, who will miss his second straight game, while Da’Quan Bowers will replace McCoy, according to the Falcons’ website, which announced the game’s starters.

The Falcons are also down a key contributor, too, with wide receiver Roddy White (hamstring) declared inactive, according to the club. Harry Douglas will get the start for White, who didn’t practice all week.

The Falcons’ other inactives are cornerback Javier Arenas, defensive tackle Cliff Matthews, quarterback Sean Renfree, offensive tackle Ryan Schraeder, linebacker Tyler Starr and center James Stone.

In addition to McCoy and Martin, the Buccaneers have deactivated offensive guard Kadeem Edwards, linebacker Mason Foster, offensive guard Rishaw Johnson, offensive tackle Kevin Pamphile and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

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Vikings release WR Jerome Simpson

Jerome Simpson AP

The Vikings are parting ways with Jerome Simpson.

The club announced Thursday evening it had released Simpson, a veteran wideout who’s serving the final week of a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

The decision to move on from Simpson comes after news of the wide receiver’s July 7 citation for marijuana possession and other charges broke earlier Thursday.

The 28-year-old Simpson hauled in 48 passes for 726 yards and one touchdown for Minnesota in 2013. A second-round pick of the Bengals in 2008, Simpson has long stood out for his athleticism and body control, and he has made multiple highlight-reel plays in his pro career.

However, off-field issues have marked his time in the NFL. He served a three-game suspension to begin the 2012 season after serving a brief prison stint on a marijuana conviction. And now, it’s possible he could face more legal and league discipline.

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Poll finds NFL still has strong support across America

nflball AP

The NFL has had two weeks of terrible news about players behaving badly and the league failing to take sufficient action. But Americans still love football.

A new NBC News/Marist poll finds that while most Americans disapprove of the way the NFL has handled domestic violence cases, the vast majority of fans haven’t turned away from the league: 86 percent of fans say domestic violence news hasn’t changed the amount of professional football they watch, compared will 11 percent who are now less likely to watch and 3 percent who are more likely to watch.

The poll shows that 53 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the NFL has handled recent domestic violence cases. Football fans are slightly more likely to disapprove than non-fans, with 57 percent of football fans disapproving of the NFL’s handling of the matter. Men (55 percent) are also slightly more likely than women (50 percent) to disapprove of the NFL’s handling of the recent cases.

There’s also good news in the poll for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, as just 29 percent of Americans think he should be forced out of his job. The owners have been steadfast in their support of Goodell, and that’s unlikely to change unless the paying customers demand it. It appears that the customers love football enough that they’ll tolerate a lot of malfeasance from the league and its players.

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Raiders waive seventh-round pick

Oakland Raiders v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Raiders have waived defensive lineman Shelby Harris, one of the club’s seventh-round selections in May, the team said Thursday.

The 23-year-old Harris did not play in Oakland’s first two games. Harris (6-2, 288) played collegiately at Illinois State and Wisconsin. He has practice squad eligibility, and the Raiders have one open spot on the practice roster.

The transaction leaves the Raiders with eight defensive linemen, including four defensive ends (Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, C.J. Wilson, Benson Mayowa).

The Raiders now have one open roster spot. Oakland (0-2) plays at New England on Sunday.

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