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PFT’s Week Five picks

Washington Redskins v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Last week was a very good week.  But for a late field goal by the Redskins, misplaced faith in the Chiefs, and a failure to realize that, as Joe Theismann says, Tony Romo “isn’t that good,” I would have generated the first perfect week of picks in the however-many-year history of doing this.

Instead, I finished 12-3.  Which gave me the win in Week Four over MDS, who was 11-4.

For the year, I’ve won three weeks, he’s won one, and I lead the overall contest by two games.  I’m at 39-24; MDS is 37-26.

We’re gradually becoming less pathetic.  Read on to see whether we’ll end up more pathetic this week.

Cardinals at Rams

MDS’s take: The Cardinals keep winning close games, and eventually the breaks have to go against them late in a close one, right? Probably, but not this week. The Cardinals win yet another close one.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 21, Rams 20.

Florio’s take:  It’s “correction week” in the NFL.  And if I’m correct (which I rarely am), it begins on Thursday night in St. Louis, when the Cardinals’ ability to find a way to win will be temporarily suspended.  Greg the Leg a/k/a Young G.Z. a/k/a Legatron a/k/a Greg Zuerlein saves the day, again.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 16, Cardinals 13.

Dolphins at Bengals

MDS’s take: I love the way the Bengals’ offense is running under coordinator Jay Gruden, who keeps finding ways to get the ball in his playmakers’ hands. I see A.J. Green getting open in the Dolphins’ secondary all day. This should be a big win for Cincinnati.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 35, Dolphins 14.

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins could be shorthanded at cornerback, which will make it even harder to stop receiver A.J. Green.  The good news is that through five weeks the Dolphins will be only two games out of first place in the AFC East.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 31, Dolphins 16.

Packers at Colts

MDS’s take: Clay Matthews will make Andrew Luck’s life miserable, while Aaron Rodgers will have his best statistical game of the season. The Packers win in a mismatch.

MDS’s pick: Packers 28, Colts 10.

Florio’s take:  Though the Colts have become the most sympathetic team in the NFL this week, the Packers desperately need to find their groove on offense.  If they don’t, it could be a long year.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Colts 20.

Ravens at Chiefs

MDS’s take: Florio did me a favor and picked the Chiefs last week, and I’m hoping he does it again. The calls to bench Matt Cassel will only grow louder as the Ravens’ defense has its way with him.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 24, Chiefs 14.

Florio’s take:  When the Chiefs were a playoff team, they couldn’t handle the Ravens at home.  Rested and ready after four games that kicked off 17 days apart, the Ravens are ready to put the Texans on notice that Baltimore won’t step aside for them.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 35, Chiefs 24.

Titans at Vikings

MDS’s take: Other than their miraculous win over the Lions — which they did their best to blow despite scoring an improbable five 60-plus-yard touchdowns — the Titans have looked lousy all season. The Vikings, on the other hand, have been one of the NFL’s pleasant surprises this season. Adrian Peterson will have 100 yards, Chris Johnson will have 10 yards, and the Vikings will win this one handily to improve to 4-1 and exceed their 2011 win total.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 24, Titans 13.

Florio’s take:  To do justice to their wins over the 49ers and Lions, the Vikings can’t stumble against the Titans.  Though Matthew Hasselbeck’s savvy and skill could keep it close, Adrian Peterson seems poised to finally have a big day.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 27, Titans 17.

Browns at Giants

MDS’s take: It’s been largely overlooked because the team around him is so bad, but Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden has bounced back from his disastrous Week One performance and given Cleveland three straight solid starts. Unfortunately, the team around him is really bad. The Giants should take this one easily in a week that’s shaping up to have a lot of blowouts.

MDS’s pick: Giants 35, Browns 21.

Florio’s take:  This one has “upset” written all over it.  Last year, in three consecutive home games, the Giants were less than impressive against the Seahawks, Bills, and Dolphins.  With a crippling slate of games on the horizon, the Giants can’t afford to fall to 2-3.  Eli Manning finds a way.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 35, Browns 27.

Eagles at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers are getting healthier, with running back Rashard Mendenhall, linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu all ready to play Sunday. Look for Harrison and Polamalu to force Mike Vick into a couple of turnovers and the Steelers to win a close and low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 13, Eagles 10.

Florio’s take:  I’ve lived within 100 miles of Pittsburgh long enough to know that the Steelers, with a 1-2 record and two weeks to prepare, don’t lose this game.  Not at home.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Eagles 10.

Falcons at Redskins

MDS’s take: The Falcons have been playing very well in all three phases of the game, and they’re just too complete a team for the Redskins to handle. Washington’s defense will emphasize shutting down Roddy White, and Julio Jones will step up with a big game.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 24, Redskins 20.

Florio’s take:  It wouldn’t be “correction week” if the undefeated teams don’t lose.  A week after the Falcons struggled to contain Cam Newton, they’ll likewise have a hard time with RG3, who is overdue for his first home win.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 41, Falcons 38.

Seahawks at Panthers

MDS’s take: Marshawn Lynch will have a big game against the Panthers’ porous run defense, but I think this is the week when Cam Newton finally reminds us all why we were so excited about him last year. Newton will put points on the board with his arm and with his legs and lead the Panthers to an impressive win that quiets Newton’s critics, at least for one week.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 31, Seahawks 21.

Florio’s take:  With the bye week looming, the Panthers need to pull together and get a win via methodical use of the running game and patient defense that forces rookie quarterback Russell Wilson to sustain drives.  There’s a huge difference between 1-4 and 2-3, especially with two weeks to stew about the outcome of this one.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 20, Seahawks 14.

Bears at Jaguars

MDS’s take: Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert has been careful with the ball this season, throwing just one interception in four games. But the opportunistic Chicago defense that took advantage of Tony Romo on Monday night will force Gabbert into his first multiple-interception game of the year, and the Bears will cruise to 4-1.

MDS’s pick: Bears 21, Jaguars 6.

Florio’s take:  The Jaguars have played twice at home this year.  And they’ve looked horrible in both.  Against the Bears, they won’t look much better.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 28, Jaguars 6.

Broncos at Patriots

MDS’s take: I’m sold on Peyton Manning being all the way back to his pre-neck surgery form, but I’m less sold on the Broncos’ defense being able to stop Tom Brady.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 30, Broncos 28.

Florio’s take:  Normalcy returns for Peyton Manning, sort of.  He has played in New England nine times during his career.  And it could be the moment that finally makes him feel like everything is back to normal.  In this case, of course, “normal” includes losing to the Patriots, again.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 28, Broncos 24.

Bills at 49ers

MDS’s take: San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith will have his first 300-yard game of the season against a shaky Bills secondary. Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick probably won’t be quite as bad as Mark Sanchez was against the 49ers’ defense, but that’s not saying much.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Bills 3.

Florio’s take:  The perennial Chris Berman Super Bowl prediction that never happened will finish the same way it would have if the team that never loses Super Bowls played the team that never wins them.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 34, Bills 14.

Chargers at Saints

MDS’s take: Drew Brees will break Johnny Unitas’s NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass — and he’ll do it in style, as the Saints finally win their first game of the season.

MDS’s pick: Saints 30, Chargers 20.

Florio’s take:  The Chiefs beat the Saints and the Chargers beat the Chiefs so it makes sense for the Saints to beat the Chargers.  Sunday night will be one of those rare nights when everything falls together for the Saints.  If it doesn’t, it may not again.  Ever.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, Chargers 24.

Texans at Jets

MDS’s take: For the second straight week, it’s going to get ugly for the Jets. They look like a team whose season could spiral out of control in a hurry, while the Texans look like a team that will clinch its division by Thanksgiving.

MDS’s pick: Texans 45, Jets 10.

Florio’s takeTim Tebow should be starting this week, but the Jets know not to throw a Christian to the Texans.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 41, Jets 10.

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Bucs will owe Anthony Collins $3 million if he’s cut

Collins Getty Images

The Buccaneers typically don’t use signing bonuses for their free-agent contacts.  Instead, they rely on guaranteed salaries.  For tackle Anthony Collins, who was signed in free agency a year ago, the guaranteed money extended beyond the $6 million he received in 2014.

Per a source with knowledge of the contract, $3 million of the $6 million base salary due and owing to Collins already is fully guaranteed, with no offset language.  If he’s cut instead of traded, the Buccaneers will owe him the full $3 million — regardless of whether he signs with a new team.

The Buccaneers are trying to move on because the other $3 million becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the new league year.  So instead of paying him $6 million to play for the team in 2015, they’ll pay him $3 million to not play for the team in 2015, unless they can find someone to trade for him.

Collins started 10 games last season, his first in Tampa.  He previously spent six with the Bengals, never becoming a full-time starter.

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Dolphins use transition tag on Charles Clay

Charles Clay, Nickell Robey AP

Last year, the Steelers pulled a surprise move just before the deadline to use franchise and transition tags by dusting off the rarely-used transition tag for linebacker Jason Worilds.

The Dolphins are taking a page from that book. They announced that they have placed the transition tag on tight end Charles Clay, who was set to become a free agent next week.

The transition tag differs from the non-exclusive franchise tag in that it offers teams a chance to match other offers for the player without any compensation coming their way in the event they choose not to match the offer. It also pays the player the average of the top 10 players at the position from the previous year rather than the top five salaries covered by the franchise tag.

For Clay, that salary would be $7.071 million although he’d have to sign the tag to eliminate the possibility that the Dolphins rescind it and move in a different direction. Clay had 58 catches for 605 yards in 2014 and was expected to be one of the top tight ends on the open market. Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron now look like the best players at the position who will be set free on March 10.

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Report: Patriots use franchise tag on Stephen Gostkowski

Stephen Gostkowski

Safety Devin McCourty may be hitting the open market.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Patriots have placed their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, which means they’ll either have to sign McCourty to a new contract by the start of the new league year on March 10 or risk losing him to another team on the open market. Should McCourty get to that point, he’s expected to be pursued by several teams as he’ll be the top safety available.

If Gostkowski plays out the season under the tag, he’ll make $4.1 million. The tag for safeties is $9.6 million, which may have influenced the decision if the Patriots know that they have other things they want to do with that money.

Gostkowski made 35-of-37 field goals for the Super Bowl champions in 2015, his ninth season with the club. It’s the third time the Patriots have used the tag on a kicker with Adam Vinatieri getting it in 2002 and 2005.

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Lions hang onto veteran defensive end Darryl Tapp

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

While it’s not the name they might have been hoping for, the Lions did keep a defensive lineman today.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions have re-signed veteran Darryl Tapp.

Tapp signed a minimum salary benefit deal, which pays him just over $1 million, while counting just $655,000 against the salary cap.

Of course, that’s a far cry from the guy and the amount of money heading out the door with their decision to not tag defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

The 30-year-old Tapp is versatile enough to play inside or outside, and pitched in at defensive tackle a bit last year.

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Cowboys officially place franchise tag on Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Over the weekend, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said it “would be a stretch” for the team to reach agreement on a long-term deal with wide receiver Dez Bryant before the deadline to use the franchise tag.

There were no last-minute surprises and Dallas officially placed the tag on Bryant on Monday afternoon. If Bryant plays out the year under the terms of the tag, he’ll make $12.8 million in 2015 and be on track to become a free agent again next year.

During an appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon on Monday, Bryant’s agent Tom Condon said that the tag was not a “terrible” thing and that talks will continue with the Cowboys on a multi-year extension. Condon gave no hint about Bryant’s plans to sign the tag, but he probably won’t be doing so immediately.

Bryant, who caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, joins Demaryius Thomas of the Broncos as receivers who have received the franchise tag on Monday.

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Broncos use non-exclusive franchise tag on Demaryius Thomas

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwmymwrkztbhnjeyngy1zdnmzdc3njdmnjfhzdblyza0 AP

The Broncos have done the expected on Monday and placed their franchise tag on wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.

The move comes as little surprise after several reports out of Denver indicated that the two sides weren’t close to agreement on a long-term deal that would keep Thomas in Denver for years to come. General Manager John Elway indicated weeks ago that the team would use the tag if that’s how things played out.

Denver announced that they used the non-exclusive tag, which means other teams can make a run at Thomas as long as he doesn’t sign it. The Broncos would have the right to match any offer and a team signing Thomas away would have to give the Broncos two first-round picks to make it happen.

Thomas will make $12.8 million under the tag, which he can sign at any point. There’s also a window to agree to a multi-year deal until July 15 and Thomas would be on track for free agency again next year if he fails to do so.

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Giants franchise Jason Pierre-Paul

Houston Texans v New York Giants Getty Images

The Giants have officially placed the franchise tag on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

The move comes as no surprise, as it’s been reported for weeks that Pierre-Paul would get the tag if he and the Giants don’t first come to an agreement on a long-term contract extension.

If Pierre-Paul wants, he can sign the franchise tender and play the 2015 season on a one-year contract with a guaranteed salary of $14.8 million. He would then either hit free agency next year or get franchised again, which would give him a 2016 salary of $17.8 million.

Pierre-Paul may think he can do better than that if he bides his time and convinces the Giants to give him a long-term deal, but one way or the other, he will remain with the Giants in 2015.

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Super Bowl ticket lawsuit finally goes to trial

Super Bowl Football AP

More than four years ago, folks who had bought tickets for Super Bowl XLV showed up for the game only to learn that the seats corresponding to the tickets didn’t exist.

Finally, the case is going to trial.

Jury selection, opening statements, and testimony are expected Monday in federal court in Dallas. The lawyer representing the plaintiffs issued a statement over the weekend explaining that Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to be one of the first witnesses called.

Presumably, the lawyers will be playing Goodell’s videotaped testimony for the jury from August 2013. The lawyers also contend that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been subpoenaed to testify at the trial.

The NFL tried aggressively to resolve the claims of aggrieved customers in the aftermath of the Super Bowl ticket fiasco. But the question is whether the law entitles the customers to more than the NFL offered, especially when taking into consideration the full range of costs incurred to travel to Dallas to attend the Super Bowl but not being allowed to do so.

A jury will eventually decide whether and to what extent the customers should be compensated.

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Jaguars carry over the most money into 2015 cap

Shad Khan AP

The NFL has announced that the salary cap for the 2015 season will be $143.28 million per team, although that number doesn’t depict how much money each team actually has to spend.

Teams have the right to carry over unused cap space from last season, which means that there’s a wide range of adjusted cap totals. The NFLPA has released those figures and the Jaguars are bringing the most money with them into the new league year.

The Jags have elected to carry over $21,768,205 and other adjustments from the 2014 season bring their adjusted cap total for 2015 to $168,486,107. The Browns are next at $161,767,400 million and the Eagles are third at a shade under $160 million. The Jets and Titans joined those teams in carrying over more than $10 million and round out the top five.

The Rams are at the other end of the spectrum as they elected to carry over no money from last year, leaving them with an adjusted cap of $144,673,387 for this year. That’s not the lowest in the league as the Chargers have $142,972,612 after adjustments from last year’s cap ate away most of their carried over money.

A team-by-team list of adjusted cap figures can be found right here.

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Dolphins cut veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan

Finnegan Getty Images

If you’re an NFL veteran on the wrong side of 30 with a big cap number but without a clean bill of health, you might not want to answer your phone this week.

According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins have released cornerback Cortland Finnegan.

Finnegan played just 12 games last year because of injuries, and was due $5.475 million this season, making it an easy call for the Dolphins.

The 31-year-old Finnegan may not be quite ready for the wake, but his big-earning days are certainly behind him.

The Dolphins have cleared out a number of veteran contracts lately for cap purposes. Wide receivers Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson got it last week, and more moves could be on the way.

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Report: Washington working on Brian Orakpo return

NFL-New York Giants at Washington Redskins Getty Images

The Redskins used the franchise tag on linebacker Brian Orakpo last year to ensure he would remain in Washington for the 2014 season, but it doesn’t look like they’ll go down that road again this time around.

Dianna Marie Russini of NBC Washington reports that the team will not tag Orakpo for the second straight year. That’s not a big surprise with Orakpo recovering from a torn pectoral muscle for the third time in his career.

That injury limited Orakpo to seven games and a half-sack last season, although Russini reports that the team is still interested in bringing Orakpo back. They’re reportedly working on reaching agreement on a deal that Orakpo would sign before hitting the open market next week.

The top of the market for edge rushers will be impacted by franchise tags as Justin Houston has been tagged while Jason Pierre-Paul and Jerry Hughes could join him before Monday afternoon’s deadline. Greg Hardy is the biggest name expected to hit March 10 with the ability to sign anywhere he wants with Orakpo, Brandon Graham and Jason Worilds somewhere behind him on the list.

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Report: Brad Jones visited Titans, visiting Eagles on Monday

Matt Forte, Brad Jones AP

Players who have been released by their teams since the end of the season are free to sign with other teams ahead of the start of free agency next week and linebacker Brad Jones is trying to take advantage of that opportunity.

Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports that Jones recently visited with the Titans and is scheduled to meet with the Eagles on Monday. Wyatt adds that other teams have shown interest in Jones, who was released by the Packers in February.

Jones played in 76 games at inside linebacker for the Packers over the last six seasons.

The Eagles currently have Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans (recovering from a torn Achilles) and Emmanuel Acho at the position, so Jones could provide depth while taking on the big role on special teams he played with the Packers. The Titans, who have Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard among others on the depth chart, showed interest in Jones last year before he re-signed with Green Bay.

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Ravens cut Victor Hampton after DWI arrest

victorhampton AP

When a good player gets arrested, the player’s team usually releases a statement saying it is aware of the matter but will have no comment while it waits for due process to play out.

When a mediocre player gets arrested, the player’s team usually cuts him.

Victor Hampton has just found that out the hard way.

Hampton, who was arrested for driving while intoxicated over the weekend, has been released by the Ravens. The Ravens’ entire statement was as follows: “The Baltimore Ravens have waived CB Victor Hampton from their roster, general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome announced Monday afternoon.”

Although Hampton faces a potential two-game suspension from the NFL, that’s probably not going to be an issue. Hampton went undrafted in 2014 largely because of off-field concerns, and after failing to get on the field as a rookie, he’s now been arrested again. Hampton has blown enough second chances that it’s hard to see any team giving Hampton another second chance.

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2015 salary cap set at $143.28 million

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers

The 2015 NFL salary cap has been set at $143.28 million.

That won’t come as a surprise to either owners or players, but it wasn’t official until today. The final cap number was set today in conjunction with the deadline for teams to make their decisions on franchise player designations.

That doesn’t mean every team will spend $143.28 million. In fact, according to the NFL Players Association, 31 teams are carrying over some unused cap space from last year. The Rams are the only team that is not carrying over any cap space. Teams also have dead money counting against their 2015 caps from prorated signing bonuses of players who are no longer on the roster, and teams can use accounting tricks to spend more than $143.28 million this year by pushing some of the money they pay players to future years’ caps.

But the cap has been set, and the cap number for every team will be $143.28 million.

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Treasure to trash: Bucs trying to unload Anthony Collins

St. Louis Rams v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

When the free agent period opens next week, teams will throw big money at guys they believe to be the answers to all their problems.

And if they’re not, those guys will inevitably be thrown back.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Buccaneers are trying to trade left tackle Anthony Collins, and will cut him if they’re not able to.

That pretty much means they’re going to cut him, as Collins played so poorly last year there won’t be a line of teams eager to take on his contract.

The Bucs signed him to a five-year, $30 million a year ago, hoping he’d shore up a weak offensive line.

Collins was good-not-great for the Bengals, and the Buccaneers clearly overspent out of desperation.

Now, they’re looking elsewhere, and providing a cautionary tale to teams who want to win in March,

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