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PFT’s Week Six picks

Robert Griffin III,  Jonathan Massaquoi,  Jonathan Babineaux AP

Last week, the “mild” concussion to RG3 prevented me from taking a “major” lead over MDS in the picks contest.

Robert Griffin III exited, the Redskins lost, and what would have been a two-game win for the week turned into a push, with both of us going 10-4.

This week, Robert Griffin III is back, and his team’s game against the Vikings once again will decide whether someone gets a two-game swing, or whether we tie once again.

For the year, there’s still no tie.  I’m leading the way at 49-28, and MDS is 47-30.

Steelers at Titans

MDS’s take: The Titans have been blown out in four of their five games this season, and I see this as the fifth. The Steelers have their problems, especially with age and injuries on defense, but Chris Johnson and Co. aren’t the team to exploit those problems.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 28, Titans 10.

Florio’s take:  Four years ago, former Titans running back Lendale White desecrated a Terrible Towel at the tail end of a regular-season game that secured home-field advantage in the playoffs for Tennessee.  Since then, the Titans haven’t been the same.  And the difference will never be as obvious as when the Steelers return to Nashville.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 24, Titans 9.

Raiders at Falcons

MDS’s take: Sunday’s biggest mismatch will take place in Atlanta, where the Falcons will have far too much for the Raiders to handle. The undefeated Falcons have had a couple close calls in the last couple weeks, but not this time.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 35, Raiders 13.

Florio’s take:  Could it be that the Falcons are 5-0 because they’ve already played three members of the AFC East?  After they move to 6-0 by beating the fourth member of the AFC West, it’ll be team to consider whether the Falcons can keep it up against teams from slightly more successful divisions.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 38, Raiders 20.

Cowboys at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Ravens’ offense was surprisingly flaccid (that’s what she said) against the Chiefs, but at home against the Cowboys, the Ravens should move the ball effectively. Ray Rice will have a big day as the Ravens win.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 24, Cowboys 17.

Florio’s take:  The team that closed down Texas Stadium by spanking the Cowboys will welcome them to a slightly more hostile environment with a similar result, thanks to superior talent on both sides of the ball.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 28, Cowboys 17.

Bengals at Browns

MDS’s take: The Browns are a better team than their 0-5 record suggests: They’ve played competitively against good teams. They’ll play competitively in the battle for Ohio, too, but they’ll come up short again.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 21, Browns 20.

Florio’s take:  This could be the Browns’ best chance to get a win before their Week 10 bye.  It also could be the Bengals’ best chance to restore their confidence before a three-game home stand against the Steelers, Broncos, and Giants.  The Browns have been competitive.  When in doubt, however, go with the team that isn’t 0-5.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 27, Browns 23.

Rams at Dolphins

MDS’s take: Hardly anyone has noticed it, but the Dolphins’ defense is actually quite good. Miami will put a lot of pressure on Sam Bradford and win a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 14, Rams 10.

Florio’s take:  Arguably the best game of the weekend, Rams coach Jeff Fisher gets a shot at the team he spurned.  With tough defenses and underrated offenses, the Miami offense should be able to do more against the St. Louis defense than vice-versa, given the absence of Danny Amendola.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 14, Rams 12.

Colts at Jets

MDS’s take: I was impressed with how well the Jets’ defense played against a good Houston passing game on Monday night: This defense looks a lot better without Darrelle Revis than I expected. I think they’ll give Andrew Luck enough trouble to eke out a close win.

MDS’s pick: Jets 19, Colts 17.

Florio’s take:  What once appeared to be a cream puff after a pair of sledgehammers won’t be nearly as easy for the Jets.  While the Colts will be better than expected, expecting them to go on the road and beat the Jets seems to be a little much, especially since the Jets are becoming increasingly desperate.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 20, Colts 14.

Lions at Eagles

MDS’s take: If the Lions’ defensive linemen were playing as well as their reputations (and their paychecks) say they should, I’d pick Detroit to force a bunch of Michael Vick turnovers and win this game. But the Lions just aren’t getting the kind of pressure you have to get to make Vick make mistakes, and so the Eagles will take this one.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Lions 17.

Florio’s take:  The Lions think they can recapture last year’s attitude simply by wanting to.  It’s not that easy, especially when the team remains flawed on both sides of the ball.  The Eagles have more talent — enough to overcome Mike Vick’s inevitable mistakes.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 24, Lions 17.

Chiefs at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: I’m not sure if Matt Cassel’s concussion makes the Chiefs more or less likely to win on Sunday, but either way I don’t see it happening: Tampa Bay’s run defense is good enough to contain Jamaal Charles and win this game.

MDS’s pick: Bucs 17, Chiefs 10.

Florio’s take:  This pair of potential playoff teams has been disappointing so far.  Those Chiefs fans who have been waiting for Brady Quinn to get a chance to play may be feeling regret, along with other negative emotions, before this one is over.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 13, Chiefs 9.

Bills at Cardinals

MDS’s take: I’m permanently off the Bills bandwagon. The Cardinals’ offense isn’t very good, but it doesn’t need to be to move the ball on this Bills unit. For all the money the Bills’ defensive front is making, you’d think they’d have one of the best pass rushes in the league, but you’d be wrong.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 20, Bills 10.

Florio’s take:  Yeah, the Cardinals aren’t as good as the Pats or the 49ers.  But they’re good enough to find a way to overcome a Buffalo team that has plenty of flaws on both sides of the ball — including an offensive line that’s currently even worse than Arizona’s.  Which is saying a lot.  Or not much at all.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 20, Bills 16.

Patriots at Seahawks

MDS’s take: I’m having a hard time getting a read on either of these teams. Are the Patriots the team that turned in a disappointing effort at home against the Cardinals, or the team whose offense has been all but unstoppable against the Bills and Broncos? Are the Seahawks the team that dominated Dallas or the team whose offense could hardly move the ball at all in their other four games? I don’t know, but I think the Patriots’ offense is good enough to put a lot of points on the board against a good Seattle defense.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 28, Seahawks 14.

Florio’s take:  After the Seahawks beat the Cowboys by 20, I said I’d never pick against the Seahawks at home again.  But I hadn’t looked at the schedule.  The Pats won there in 2008, without Tom Brady.  With him, the Pats will run their all-time record at CenturyLink Field to 2-0.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 27, Seahawks 17.

Giants at 49ers

MDS’s take: Tom Coughlin says no one is giving his team a chance in this game. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say the Giants don’t have a chance, but I would say the way the 49ers have played the last couple weeks, on both sides of the ball, I have a hard time seeing the Giants’ path to a win.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 31, Giants 17.

Florio’s take:  This is precisely the kind of game the Giants ordinarily win.  And if they hadn’t won in San Francisco in January en route to a Super Bowl victory, the Giants would win.  No amount of Rodney Dangerfield cliches from coach Tom Coughlin will overcome the fact that the 49ers are hungrier and, for now, better.  There’s a chance it will get ugly.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 31, Giants 24.

Vikings at Redskins

MDS’s take: Florio foolishly picked the Redskins last week, allowing me to escape with a tie in our Week Five picks. I hope he does it again this time.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 24, Redskins 13.

Florio’s takeAdrian Peterson returns to the scene of his serious knee injury, and Robert Griffin returns to the scene of his “mild” concussion.  The Redskins have lost eight in a row at FedEx Field, and the Vikings have won three straight there.  With the talent gap between these two teams fairly narrow, it just feels like it’s time for both trends to end.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 27, Vikings 21.

Packers at Texans

MDS’s take: I never would have believed 10 months ago, when the Packers were on a 20-game winning streak, that they’d lose six of their next 10 games. But Green Bay will be 4-6 in its last 10 after losing to the Texans on Sunday night.

MDS’s pick: Texans 24, Packers 14.

Florio’s take:  Anyone who says this is a “must” win for the Packers hasn’t looked at their upcoming schedule.  They’ll bottom out at 2-4, and then the rebound will begin.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Packers 20.

Broncos at Chargers

MDS’s take: In the battle for first place in the AFC West, I like Peyton Manning to step up with a big game and the Broncos to outscore the Chargers.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 35, Chargers 31.

Florio’s take:  The Chargers consistently have bedeviled Peyton Manning, and that was when Manning had a much better supporting cast.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 27, Broncos 23.

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Wilson thinks NFL fines for Marshawn are excessive

wilsonmarshawn AP

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is one of the NFL’s golden boys, a player who conducts himself in public exactly the way the league wants. But if Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has a different approach, Wilson thinks that’s fine.

Wilson said he thinks the fines that the NFL has threatened Lynch with are excessive. All Wilson cares about is that Lynch is a good teammate.

“There’s times I don’t think he should be fined, that’s for sure, especially to the extent that people try to fine him for,” Wilson said. “That’s just my honest opinion. I think the guy loves the game, people love the way he is, and sometimes people try to take certain things away from people, the way they are. I don’t know. I don’t think he should be fined for it, personally.”

Lynch has risked fines this week both for spending only five minutes a day in the presence of reporters and for wearing his own Beast Mode hats rather than NFL-authorized gear. It wouldn’t be surprising if the NFL ends up fining Lynch so much that he actually loses money for appearing in the Super Bowl. That sounds ridiculous to Wilson — and surely to many NFL players who think the NFL is too heavy-handed in its practice of fining players.

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Austin Collie joins CFL’s B.C. Lions

Austin Collie AP

Austin Collie is headed to the Canadian Football League.

Collie, the former Colts, 49ers and Patriots wide receiver, has signed with the British Columbia Lions, the team said Thursday.

A Hamilton, Ontario native, the 29-year-old Collie has caught 179 passes for 1,908 yards and 13 TDs in five NFL seasons, with the bulk of his experience with Indianapolis from 2009 through 2012. He also had stints with San Francisco and New England in 2013, catching four passes for 57 yards in the 2013 AFC title game with the Patriots. Collie did not play for an NFL club in 2014.

Collie endured multiple significant injuries in his Colts career, missing extended time in 2010 because of a concussion and nearly all of 2012 because of a patellar tendon tear.

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NFL didn’t log the PSI of each Patriots football

Football Getty Images

What was the precise PSI of each of the 12 footballs the Patriots’ offense used in the AFC Championship Game? We’ll probably never know.

NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino confirmed today that the NFL didn’t log the exact PSI of each football. According to Blandino, when officials inspect footballs to see if they’re properly inflated, they simply approve them or disapprove them.

In other words, although the Patriots did play with under-inflated footballs, the NFL hasn’t kept detailed records of whether those footballs were slightly under-inflated (which could be the result of a change in temperature) or significantly under-inflated (which would indicate that someone purposely let air out of the footballs).

The NFL will apply a low standard of proof to the Deflategate investigation, which means that the NFL doesn’t necessarily need an air-tight case to conclude that the Patriots broke the rules. But anyone who wants the NFL to get to the bottom of this should want the NFL to be as careful as it possibly can to preserve every piece of evidence it possibly can. And a detailed log of the inflation levels of each football is a piece of evidence the NFL should have.

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Earl Thomas apparently angry about random HGH test

NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks Team Media Availability Getty Images

The Seahawks have found something else to be aggravated with the NFL about.

Safety Earl Thomas posted a tweet this morning about being tested for HGH, and some of his teammates aren’t too pleased about it.

According to Ed Werder of ESPN, Thomas wouldn’t elaborate today, but another Seahawks player told him: “We are being treated like criminals, tested like people on parole.”

The league began testing in October, and they tested six players from eight randomly selected teams each week.

So while Thomas might have just coincidentally been on the list for this week, he and his teammates certainly don’t see it that way.

 

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Jonathan Dwyer placed on probation after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct

Jonathan Dwyer AP

Running back Jonathan Dwyer saw his 2014 season come to an early end when the Cardinals placed him on the non-football illness list following an arrest related to an incident with his wife in September.

The legal matters stemming from that arrest came to an end this week when Dwyer pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct in Maricopa County, Arizona. Maricopa County Superior Court spokesman Vincent Funari said, via the Associated Press, that Dwyer has been sentenced to 18 months of probation and community service as a result of the plea.

Dwyer was originally facing a felony count of aggravated assault and other misdemeanor charges before the plea as a result of the incident, which allegedly featured Dwyer head butting his wife in the face and breaking her nose.

The NFL could discipline Dwyer as well, although it’s not clear how much of a playing future Dwyer has ahead of him given his mediocre on-field production at a position where teams have proven adept at finding productive players on a regular basis.

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Lions have proposed expanding replay to cover penalty calls

Cowboys take down Lions; head to Green Bay next Getty Images

The Lions lost to the Cowboys in the Wild Card round of the playoffs in a game that featured officials picking up a flag for pass interference on Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens in the fourth quarter.

That decision helped keep the door open for Dallas to win the game and NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said in the days after the game that there should have been a defensive holding call on the play at the very least. The Lions would like to see all teams have a chance to challenge such rulings in the future.

At a press conference in Arizona Thursday, Blandino said that the Lions have made a proposal to expand replay so that it includes penalty calls in the future.

“We’ve had discussions going back to last offseason talking about expanding replay and adding to the list of reviewable plays,” Blandino said, via the Lions website. “I think when you look at the evolution of replay and where it started, it was always based in fact. Did the football touch the ground? Did the foot touch the sideline? And we stayed away from the areas that involved subjective judgement. There’s always judgement, but there’s different levels of subjective judgement and that was in the areas of pass interference and offensive holding. I think it’s something as the technology has improved and now we have high definition and super slow motion and 4K, all of that technology begs the question can we eliminate some of the mistakes that happen during the game? I think that’s something that’s going to be on the agenda this offseason.”

Over the years, one of the chief objections to expanding replay is that it would lead to slower games. It’s hard to see where there would be a huge rise in the number of challenges if the current arrangement for coaches is kept in place, however, and the ability to make the correct ruling on the field rather than in a press release after a game should be an appealing one.

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LeSean McCoy wants to talk to Eagles, but not about pay cut

1d3713faef2f0f9e198417dd0928916c Getty Images

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy wants to work with the Eagles.

He just doesn’t want to work for less.

Via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, McCoy said he’s happy to restructure his contract, so long as it doesn’t mean a cut in pay.

“I know how hard it is to keep a team together and I want to be part of this team. But I don’t want to take less money,” McCoy said. “I want to figure a way to make it happen [where] we’re all together.”

McCoy is scheduled to make $9.75 million this year, but carries a cap charge of nearly $12 million. That’s a big number for a team that also wants to keep wide receiver Jeremy Maclin out of free agency.

“We’re going to work it work it out and see what happens,” McCoy said. “I got to pay my boy Mac.”

But it’s not going to be out of his own pocket, if it’s up to McCoy.

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Archie Manning: Peyton evaluating everything before making a decision

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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wants to see Peyton Manning back in the NFL in 2015, but Manning’s father said Thursday that his son is still weighing his options.

Archie Manning said that Peyton is evaluating everything about the decision to return for another season and that he’s confident his son will make the right decision when the time comes. The first Manning to play quarterback in the NFL added that his son was disappointed that offensive coordinator Adam Gase joined John Fox in moving from Denver to Chicago this offseason, but that Gase’s departure probably wouldn’t swing things in any direction.

“Peyton’s going to try to decide whether he wants to play or retire. If he decides to play, he’ll be fine. It’ll be another coordinator. He’ll deal with it,” Manning said, via NBC San Diego.

Peyton Manning won’t have to do too much guesswork about what new wrinkles might be in the Denver offense since coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison have a long history designing schemes in the NFL. Kubiak also said that he’s going to work with Manning to design the offense if the veteran returns for another season with the Broncos.

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49ers hire Tom Gamble as senior personnel executive

UFC Fighters meet San Francisco 49ers Players Getty Images

The 49ers are bringing back Tom Gamble.

Gamble, most recently the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel, has joined San Francisco as a senior personnel executive, the team said Thursday.

The Eagles parted ways with Gamble in December after two seasons on the job. He spent the previous eight seasons with San Francisco, serving as the club’s director of player personnel in 2011 and 2012.

“Tom is one of the most experienced, knowledgeable, and respected personnel men in the business,” 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said in a team-issued statement. “He played an instrumental role in our personnel department from 2005-2012, and is well versed in our system having played a role in its development. This familiarity, along with his many strengths, will be tremendous assets as we prepare for free agency and the draft.  It is great to have Tom back with the 49ers.”

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Jets tab Jimmie Johnson as tight ends coach

Minnesota Vikings 2011 Headshots Getty Images

The Jets have added a pair of assistants with NFL playing experience to their coaching staff.

The club announced the hiring of Jimmie Johnson as tight ends coach and Daylon McCutcheon as a defensive backs assistant on Thursday.

Johnson, 48, was the Vikings’ tight ends coach from 2006 through 2013. He played 10 NFL seasons at tight end (1989-1998).

McCutcheon, 38, played eight NFL seasons at cornerback for Cleveland (1999-2006). The Jets’ new head coach, Todd Bowles, had a pair of secondary-coaching roles for the Browns from 2001 through 2004. McCutcheon had a coaching internship with Arizona in 2014, when Bowles was the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator.

Johnson and Bowles were teammates with Washington in 1989 and 1990.

The Jets also announced the hiring of Ryan Slowik as a defensive line assistant and a defensive quality control coach. Slowik was assistant defensive backs coach in Arizona in 2013 and 2014.

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NFL health and safety report says concussions, ACLs are down

New York Giants v New York Jets

Good news everybody, football isn’t dangerous any more.

The league issued its annual health and safety report Thursday, highlighting all the progress seemingly made in the prevention of injuries.

Among the numbers, they cite concussions down 25 percent from 2013 to 2014, and concussions caused by helmet-to-helmet hits down 28 percent in the last year.

Of course, the raw numbers are still alarming, as there were a total of 202 concussions in practice, preseason and regular season games last year, down from 229 in 2013 and 261 in 2012.

The league numbers also dispute the anecdotal notion (held by much of their workforce) that Thursday games are bad for your health, with an average of 4.8 injuries per Thursday games last year compared to 6.9 injuries per game on Sundays and Mondays.

Of course, that doesn’t take into account the wear and tear provided by the short weeks, and how the shortened recovery time could contribute to some of those weekend aches and pains.

Fewer ACL’s are being sprained however, with “just” 49 this year as opposed to 57 the year before. MCL’s are doing worse, with 138 this year after 136 the last year.

The reality is, football remains dangerous to those who play it, despite any efforts to make it safer, or to suggest that it’s becoming safer.

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Michael Bidwill: We’ve had a lot of great conversations with Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald AP

One of the first orders of business for the Cardinals this offseason is addressing wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s contract, which currently calls for him to account for $23.6 million of their salary cap space in 2015.

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim has said that the team has planned for Fitzgerald’s cap hit and that they won’t cut him to make life easier financially, but the team would prefer to have more room available to address other needs. Doing so would mean restructuring or extending Fitzgerald’s contract and team president Michael Bidwill told Mike Florio on PFT Live Thursday that he’s confident that things will work out.

“I think so. We’ve had a lot of great conversations and I’m feeling very comfortable we’ll get something worked out,” Bidwill said. “He’s been traveling since the end of the season and he’s back in town now. Obviously everybody’s busy this week, but I think in the coming weeks we’ll get something sorted out.”

For the rest of what Bidwill had to say about playing the role of host for the NFL this week, check out the entire interview below.

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Justin Tuck: Ndamukong Suh fits the Raider mold

Ndamukong Suh AP

The Raiders have a lot of cap space at their disposal this offseason and defensive end Justin Tuck knows how he’d like the team to spend some of it.

Speaking from the Super Bowl on Thursday, Tuck shared his thoughts on the impending free agency of Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. While he thinks you could “probably do without” some of the on-field tactics that have landed Suh in trouble during his career, Tuck said Suh is a “hell of a football player” whose overall game makes him seem “to be an Oakland Raider.”

“[He’s] Raider-ish,” Tuck said, via the Detroit Free Press. “And that’s one of the reasons why I know Raider Nation would applaud that move, beyond the fact that he’s an awesome football player. He kind of fits the mold of … the toughness and the ferocious player that built the Oakland Raiders.”

It would help to know who will be running the defense, but adding Suh to a defensive front that features 2014 first-round pick Khalil Mack, linebacker Sio Moore and Tuck would seem to be a step in the right direction for a team that gave up the most points in the league last season.

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Vermeil blames “poor management” for changes in San Francisco

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Former Eagles, Rams and Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil doesn’t care for the way Jim Harbaugh was treated on the way out the door in San Francisco.

Vermeil said on PFT Live that the 49ers should have shown enough respect for the work Harbaugh did to hold onto him.

“San Francisco was a mess before Jim Harbaugh took over. He straightened it out,” Vermeil said. “To me, that should never happen.”

Vermeil believes that if the 49ers’ management is committed to winning, then the 49ers need to find a way to make things work with a successful coach like Harbaugh.

“To me, it’s poor management. It’s probably more personal than anything. But if you’re mature you’ve got to be able to work those things out,” Vermeil said.

The 49ers’ management couldn’t work things out with Harbaugh. If Jim Tomsula doesn’t have the kind of success in San Francisco that Harbaugh did, plenty of San Francisco fans will agree with Vermeil, and blame owner Jed York and General Manager Trent Baalke for poorly managing Harbaugh’s departure.

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Chargers add Mike Nolan as linebackers coach

Mike Nolan AP

The Chargers added some experience to their coaching staff, landing former Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to coach their linebackers.

He replaces Joe Barry, who left to become Washington’s defensive coordinator.

“Mike is a tremendous coach with a wealth of experience and he’ll be a great addition to our coaching staff,” head coach Mike McCoy. “I’ve known him for many years having coached both with him and against him and it’s great to have him here with us with the Chargers.”

Nolan has 28 years of coaching experience, with 17 in the NFL and a largely unfortunate stint as the head coach of the 49ers.

He was the defensive coordinator in Denver in 2009, when McCoy was the Broncos offensive coordinator.

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