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PFT’s Week Seven picks

Dallas Cowboys v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

Last week was one of those crazy Costanza weeks, when in hindsight it made sense to make our picks and then do the opposite.  Both MDS and yours truly were 6-8 for the week.  Six up, eight down.  Denver’s stunning comeback knocked me under .500 and allowed MDS to salvage a tie for the Week Six contest, since we disagreed on two games.  (The Redskins came through for me . . . finally.)

This week, there won’t be a tie unless there’s a tie in one of the three games on which we disagree.  Scroll down to see where we stand on the various comments.

And as to whether this week we made our picks and then did the opposite, our official comment is, “No comment.”

For the year, I’m at 55-36, and MDS is 53-38.

Seahawks at 49ers

MDS’s take: The NFC West is far more competitive than anyone expected, and the winner of this game has to be viewed as the favorite to win the division. I like the 49ers to come in focused after Sunday’s dismal loss to the Giants and easily handle the Seahawks.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 23, Seahawks 6.

Florio’s take:  The Niners got a rude awakening from the Giants.  And so the Niners will be wide awake when the Seahawks blow in to town for a better-than-expected primetime showdown.  Home team gets the edge, especially since the home team was embarrassed on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 20, Seahawks 10.

Titans at Bills

MDS’s take: Both of these teams are coming off their best wins of the season, but the Bills were the team whose win looked like something they can build on, because their defense finally stopped somebody. They’ll stop Matt Hasselbeck and Chris Johnson on Sunday, too.

MDS’s pick: Bills 20, Titans 13.

Florio’s take:  The rematch of the Music City Miracle game won’t be played in the Music City, and a miracle likely won’t be happening.  Last week, the Titans stole one from a diminished Steelers team, and the Bills showed resilience.  Playing at home with a share of first (and fourth) place in the division, Buffalo should be able to stay on the right track.  At least for now.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 27, Titans 17.

Cowboys at Panthers

MDS’s take: I’ve been on the Panthers’ bandwagon all year, and although I should probably know better by now, I still believe Carolina is better than its record suggests.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 21, Cowboys 20.

Florio’s take:  The consistently inconsistent Cowboys played well and lost on Sunday in Baltimore.  They’re due to play poorly and win in Carolina against a Panthers team that has figured out how to consistently play poorly and lose.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Panthers 20.

Ravens at Texans

MDS’s take: The only two teams with winning records in the AFC face off in a game that we might look back on in January as the game that decided home-field advantage in the playoffs. I think the team with home-field advantage takes this one, bouncing back from last week’s ugly loss to the Packers.

MDS’s pick: Texans 24, Ravens 14.

Florio’s take:  The Texans’ pride is wounded.  The Ravens are simply wounded.  If Houston doesn’t get things back on track quickly, a tailspin could be coming.  They’ve got the rushing attack to get there — and the Ravens don’t have the defense to stop them.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Ravens 20.

Browns at Colts

MDS’s take: Andrew Luck has the brighter future, but right now I’m not sure he’s a better quarterback than Brandon Weeden, who’s playing better as a rookie than he gets credit for. As inspiring as their win over the Packers two weeks ago was, the Colts’ loss to the Jets exposed a lot of holes, and I like the Browns to make it two wins in a row.

MDS’s pick: Browns 21, Colts 20.

Florio’s take:  Potent at home and sluggish on the road, Indy matches its win total from Peyton Manning’s rookie season against a Brown team that is still basking in the afterglow of that elusive first win of the season.  And Jimmy could be getting upset.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 30, Browns 24.

Cardinals at Vikings

MDS’s take: The Cardinals’ defense and special teams are good enough to keep them in any game, but the Cardinals’ offense is bad enough to lose any game. Jared Allen will make life miserable for John Skelton and the Vikings will win.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 17, Cardinals 7.

Florio’s take:  Former Vikings ballboy Larry Fitzgerald has never won in Minnesota.  That’s not likely to change on Sunday as he makes what likely will be his final trip to the soon-to-be-imploded Metrodome.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 23, Cardinals 14.

Redskins at Giants

MDS’s take: The Redskins beat the Giants twice last year, and they have an enormous opportunity on Sunday to show they can really hang with the big boys.  But while Robert Griffin III has been a sensational rookie quarterback, the Redskins are still a ways off from being a complete and elite team.

MDS’s pick: Giants 31, Redskins 14.

Florio’s take:  If the Redskins hadn’t swept the Giants last year, this is precisely the kind of game that the Giants would have lost.  Instead, one of the best teams in the NFC will continue its climb back toward the postseason.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 31, Redskins 20.

Packers at Rams

MDS’s take: How many people predicted before the season that both of these teams would be 3-3 when they met in Week Seven? Certainly not me. The Rams could make a huge statement that they’re real contenders by winning this one, but the Packers already made their statement last week in Houston, and now it’s time for Green Bay to start separating itself from the NFC pack.

MDS’s pick: Packers 24, Rams 10.

Florio’s take:  It was only a matter of time before the Packers found the gas pedal.  If they can dismantle the Texans in their own building, the Packers can outscore the Rams in theirs.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 31, Rams 17.

Saints at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: There may still be time for the Saints to turn their season around, but I just don’t see it happening. The bottom line for the Saints is that their defense is a mess, and Drew Brees can’t win a game all by himself. The Bucs will win and get to .500.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Saints 20.

Florio’s take:  Last year, when the Saints were great and the Bucs were anything but, New Orleans couldn’t win in Tampa.  And so it makes sense for the Saints, who genuinely believe they can turn this thing around, to roll into Raymond James Stadium and rack up plenty of points.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 31, Buccaneers 25.

Jets at Patriots

MDS’s take: Rex Ryan wants the Patriots to know that he thinks the Jets will win, but I don’t think too many people agree with Rex. The AFC East standings say the division is wide open, but the reality is that the Patriots are heavy favorites, and they’ll take a big step toward proving that on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 34, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  The Jets have their swagger back.  But it’s a week-to-week thing.  And this week the swagger takes a break as the Pats once again work to put a game they should have won behind them.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 30, Jets 23.

Jaguars at Raiders

MDS’s take: This looks to me like Sunday’s worst game, a matchup of two teams going nowhere. But the Raiders are closer to getting somewhere than the Jaguars.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 23, Jaguars 13.

Florio’s take:  If no one watches this game, will it actually be played?  Unfortunately, yes.

Florio’s pick:  Raiders 17, Jaguars 9.

Steelers at Bengals

MDS’s take: A.J. Green can make a lot of big plays against that old and slow Steelers defense, but the Steelers will put a lot of points up on the weak Bengals defense, too. There’s a part of me that feels like this is the game when the Bengals establish themselves as up-and-comers in the AFC North, but a bigger part of me thinks the Steelers find a way to hold the Bengals off.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 35, Bengals 34.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals couldn’t beat the Steelers or Ravens last year when the Bengals were good.  This year, the Bengals aren’t as good.  But neither are the Steelers.  Where’s my Magic 8-Ball when I need it?

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 24, Bengals 21.

Lions at Bears

MDS’s take: The Lions saved their season with a come-from-behind overtime win over the Eagles, but back-to-back road wins will be too much for Detroit fans to ask for. The Bears will remain in the NFC North lead and the Lions will remain in the basement.

MDS’s pick: Bears 20, Lions 17.

Florio’s take:  The Lions think they have their edge back.  The reality is the Eagles gave them a gift.  The Bears won’t be quite so charitable.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 30, Lions 17.

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Goodell can’t ever envision himself resigning

Goodell Getty Images

NFL controversies, particularly the botched handling of the Ray Rice case, have led to calls in some quarters for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign. He says that will never happen.

Asked at his “State of the League” press conference whether there’s any set of circumstances that would result in his resignation, Goodell said he can’t imagine that happening.

“No, I can’t. Does that surprise you?” Goodell said.

Goodell did acknowledge that even though the NFL’s popularity has never been greater, he hasn’t had the best of years.

“It’s been a tough year on me personally,” Goodell said. “It’s been a year of what I would say is humility and learning. We, obviously as an organization, have gone through adversity. More importantly, it’s been adversity for me. We take that seriously. It’s an opportunity for us to get better. It’s an opportunity for us, for our organization, to get better. We’ve all done a lot of soul searching, starting with yours truly.”

That soul searching has apparently not included ever asking himself whether he’s the right person for the job. In Goodell’s mind, he absolutely is — and that won’t change.

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Jimmy Graham says current plan is no shoulder surgery

Graham Getty Images

Before the Pro Bowl, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said his participation in the annual all-star game will help determine whether he needs surgery on the shoulder he injured early in the regular season.

After the Pro Bowl, Graham told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio that the current plan is to continue to rest and rehab the shoulder without surgery.

Graham said plenty more during his slot as the final guest in a week full of excellent conversations, from his aggressive approach to pick-up basketball to his love of flying to how the movie Top Gun sparked his passion for flying and provided the template for his first kiss.

The six-foot, seven-inch Graham also said he was first able to dunk a basketball when he was merely five feet, eight inches tall.

In all, Graham was loose, relaxed, funny — something that doesn’t come through very much while he’s bringing the same intensity to football that he does to basketball.

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Patriots won’t hold Saturday walk-through; Belichick happy with team’s approach

Tom Brady AP

Saying the Patriots were “as ready as we’re going to be” from a practice standpoint, coach Bill Belichick indicated Friday the club would cancel its Saturday walk-through practice, according to the media pool report of the workout.

The Pats also scrapped their Saturday walk-through before Super Bowl XLVI.

According to media pool reporter Jarrett Bell of USA Today, Belichick believes his club has a good mindset entering Sunday.

“These guys have worked hard,” Belichick said. “I think they’re ready to go. We’re playing a good team, so we’re going to have to play well.”

The Patriots practiced as some rain fell Friday at the Cardinals’ practice facilities in Tempe, but the club did its work outside. The club did retreat inside, however, to take a break of about 30 minutes to simulate the longer-than-usual Super Bowl halftime.

Finally, Belichick noted that the club was in good shape health-wise as the Super Bowl nears.

“We’re all good to go,” Belichick said.

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Goodell addresses improvements to officiating

goodell AP

As a postseason in which officials were a focal point comes to a close, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says some improvements to officiating may be on the way.

Goodell said at his “State of the League” press conference that the NFL will examine ways to make officiating better for the 2015 season.

“We are looking at other ways to enhance replay and officiating,” Goodell said. “That includes potentially expanding replay to penalties if it can be done without more disruption to the pace of the game. And we are discussing rotating members of the officiating crews during the season as a way to improve consistency throughout our regular season and benefit our crews in the postseason. In officiating, consistency is our number-one objective.”

Achieving consistency is easier said than done, because consistency has been lacking in NFL officiating for a long, long time. But it’s good to know that the NFL realizes that officiating is something that needs to be improved.

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NFL tempts fate with inability to handle scandals properly

NFL AP

Over the years, the NFL’s Commissioner has navigated plenty of difficult situations that could have tested the tenuous balance between the Commissioner’s role as the overseer of the sport and his job as employee of the owners of the teams he oversees. Through it all, an inherent conflict of interest has existed, hiding in plain sight and generating scant scrutiny or concern: How can the Commissioner be expected to police the very people for whom he works?

It’s an obscure, nuanced question, causing few to notice the dilemma faced by the master who is also a servant. And while in most past cases the Commissioner has found a way to solve problems without making conspicuous the delicate ground on which he often treads, the recent bungling of cases like the Ray Rice fiasco and #DeflateGate eventually will cause someone with real political power to notice the fundamental flaw in the structure of the league — and to suggest a solution that would entail a greater degree of independence for the Commissioner.

For the NFL (and other pro sports), a truly independent governing body would be the only way to reliably ensure that all problems would be handled consistently and all franchises treated fairly, without regard to friendship or influence or other factors that could cause a Commissioner to exercise discretion in a way that protects and/or advances the Commissioner’s relationship with a given owner. As it now stands, the NFL (and other pro sports) have a Commissioner who at times pretends to be the representative of all interested constituencies when, in reality, he’s the guy working for the folks who own the teams.

While an election process for Commissioner, with owners, players, coaches, and maybe others voting on the person who would rule the sport, would create plenty of challenges, a broadening of the pool of people who pick the Commissioner would help to alleviate the obvious problem faced by someone who is expected to impose discipline against someone who has a direct, 1/32nd voice in the compensation and/or ongoing employment of the Commissioner. The far bigger wildcard for the NFL (and other pro sports) would arise from a decision by Congress to create an office or a board responsible for supervising the sport, enforcing the rules, and punishing those who cheat.

Before the “doesn’t Congress have anything better to do?” crowd gets too cranked up, the ongoing growth of the NFL — coupled with the benefits it receives from federal legislation that makes the league office a non-profit operation and that exempts the NFL from antitrust laws when it comes to the marketing of TV rights — could eventually compel action, if the NFL can’t properly govern itself. In recent months, the league has undermined considerably public confidence in its ability to clean up its own messes. At some point, a politician will suggest that someone else should police the sport.

While still an incredibly unlikely outcome, the league’s mishandling of recent crises at least puts the potential debate in a corner of the radar. More mistakes could move the subject closer to the center of the screen.

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Goodell says NFL is still looking at changing extra points

probowlgoalposts AP

After another season in which more than 99 percent of extra points were successful, the NFL is looking at ways to make it harder.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said today that he wants to continue exploring ways to make extra points more exciting.

“Fans want every play to have suspense,” Goodell said. “But the extra point has become virtually automatic. We have experimented with alternatives to make it a more competitive play, and we expect to advance these ideas through the Competition Committee this offseason.”

Extra points were made harder at the Pro Bowl by moving them farther back from the goal posts, and by making the goal posts four feet narrower. The game’s kickers didn’t like that change, but it did make extra points more interesting.

But is the league ready to take such a step in the regular season? And has the league fully considered the effect that narrower goal posts would have on field goals? It’s clear that Goodell would like to see extra points become more interesting, but it’s unclear whether the NFL has found the right change to make.

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Las Vegas sports book takes “seven-figure wager” on Patriots

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptyzmgnhmmiym2m0n2e0m2e3ztrmotg3yzk0ntyxn2i2 AP

You may very well like the Patriots to win Super Bowl XLIX.

But you probably aren’t quite as confident as the bettor who placed an absolutely gigantic wager on New England at an MGM Resorts International sports book in Nevada.

According to Micah Roberts of “The Linemakers” of Sporting News, MGM took a “seven-figure wager” on the Patriots over the Seahawks in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Jay Rood, the vice president of race and sports at MGM, told PFT the bet was a wager on New England at pick ‘em.

MGM did not receive a single million-dollar bet on last year’s Super Bowl, Rood said.

The Patriots are one-point favorites over Seattle at numerous Nevada sports books, including MGM’s properties, which include The Mirage and Bellagio.

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Eric Winston apologizes for his shot at Roger Goodell

Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos Getty Images

NFL Players Association President Eric Winston took a shot at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today, but it didn’t take Winston long to back down.

Shortly after Winston told Tom Curran of CSNNE.com that a 2-year-old could do Goodell’s job, Winston issued an apology.

“In a casual conversation with a reporter about the success of the NFL and how nothing seems to get in its way, I inappropriately and flippantly made a remark about the job of Commissioner Goodell,” Winston said in a statement passed along to PFT. “We often disagree on the issues but I want to apologize to Roger for being unprofessional. I am disappointed that my comment was taken out of context and inserted into a column without any knowledge that the conversation was ‘on-the-record.’ I am disappointed that this reporter chose to burn me, but this is an important lesson that I will learn going forward. This is my fault and again, I apologize.”

If Winston didn’t realize that his conversation with Curran was on the record, that’s Winston’s problem, not Curran’s. When a journalist talks to a source, the conversation is presumed on the record unless both parties explicitly agree that it’s off the record. If Winston didn’t want his comments published, he shouldn’t have said anything unless and until he and Curran agreed to keep their conversation off the record. For Winston to complain that Curran “chose to burn me” doesn’t hold much water. Curran asked a question to a source and then published the source’s answer. That’s what reporters do.

The NFLPA walks a fine line when dealing with Goodell: The league is often heavy-handed in its dealings with the players, and when that happens the players need to push back against Goodell. But antagonizing Goodell can be counterproductive for the union. Winston seems to realize that he burned himself with his comments.

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Kam Chancellor added to last injury report of the year

NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks Team Media Availability Getty Images

The final injury report of the season is out, and it’s not a dramatic one.

Which, of course, is part of the reason these two teams are here.

The only real change on the report Friday is that Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor was listed as a limited participant in practice today with a knee injury, after not previously appearing on the report.

But he’s listed as probable for Sunday’s game, as are five other teammates: Tackle Justin Britt (knee), running back Marshawn Lynch (back), cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow), guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle) and safety Earl Thomas (shoulder).

The Patriots list is slightly longer, but doesn’t contain anything major.

Center Bryan Stork, who has been limited in practice this week with a knee injury, is listed as questionable.

Six other Patriots are listed as probable for the game: Linebacker Akeem Ayers (knee), quarterback Tom Brady (ankle), linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), defensive tackle Chris Jones (elbow), cornerback Darrelle Revis (not injury related) and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga (foot).

Brady’s on the report as he often is, but has been listed as a full participant in practice all week.

The lack of news on the injury report is good news, as the two best teams in the league get to see each other near their best.

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Carroll, Belichick disagree on whether the Super Bowl is “fun”

carrollbelichick AP

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Patriots coach Bill Belichick showed mutual respect at their joint press conference this morning, but they also showed what different men they are. That was true from the very beginning, when Carroll enthused at the start of the press conference about how much fun he was having, and then Belichick offered that he wouldn’t describe this week as “fun.”

“It’s been nothing but fun,” Carroll said. “The opportunity that presents itself playing in this game is so special and so unique. Everybody is tuned in and we’re grateful for being here. Thrilled to have the matchup that we have with a great organization in Bill and New England.”

Belichick replied: “I don’t think fun is the word that I’d use. It’s been a huge challenge. It’s a tough team to prepare for, but I certainly have all the respect in the world for them. I could see why they were champions last year and why they are here again this year. They do so many things well on so many levels and we’re going to have to try to match that performance on Sunday. With that being said, our team’s excited. They’ve worked very hard to get to this point.”

Carroll and Belichick are fundamentally different coaches who have shown that there’s more than one way to win. Belichick’s mantra is “Do your job,” and he regularly reminds his players that it is, in fact, a job. Carroll wins by reminding his players that they get to play a game for a living, and embracing the fact that football is fun.

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Titans part ways with Lake Dawson

Tennessee Titans v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

The Titans have made a significant shakeup in their front office.

Tennessee has “parted ways” with vice president of player personnel Lake Dawson, the team said Friday afternoon.

The departure of Dawson is something of a surprise. A former NFL wide receiver, Dawson had spent the last eight seasons with Tennessee. He interviewed for the Bears’ G.M. role in January and also talked with the Dolphins and Buccaneers about their G.M. positions last year.

The club also announced it was changing its front office setup. Director of college scouting Blake Beddingfield and pro scouting coordinator Brian Gardner will now work directly under General Manager Ruston Webster. Previously, Dawson oversaw the pro and college scouting operations.

“This was not an easy decision and I want to thank Lake for his time with the team,” Webster said in a team-issued statement Friday. “This new structure will help us streamline things from both the college and pro perspectives. We will move forward without a VP of Player Personnel and the college and pro sides will report directly to me.”

The Titans finished 2-14 in 2014, the franchise’s worst record since 1983. Tennessee has not made the postseason since 2008, and it has not won a playoff game since 2003.

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Prop Challenge, Day VIII — Over-Under on Russell Wilson’s rushing yards: 41.5

Russell Wilson AP

Welcome to PFT’s Prop Challenge, our daily look at a Super Bowl proposition bet.

Here’s the idea: we present a prop, do some light analysis, then let you decide which side to take — hypothetically, of course. (Previous examples are at the bottom of this post.)

When the Super Bowl wraps up, we’ll tally the votes and see how well PFT Planet did.

Now, let’s get to today’s prop, which is courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook:

Over-Under on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s rushing yards: 41.5.

Over: -110. Under: -110.

Including the playoffs, Wilson has averaged 49.8 rushing yards in his 18 starts.

So the OVER looks good, right?

Well, maybe not.

Take Wilson’s three 100-yard rushing games out of the equation, and the third-year quarterback has averaged just 37.4 yards in his other appearances. Also, in the postseason, Wilson has gained just 47 total rushing yards on 14 attempts.

Overall, Wilson has exceeded 41.5 rushing yards in just 7-of-18 games.

In short, OVER and UNDER players have some data in their favor.

So pick a side — OVER or UNDER 41.5 rushing yards for Russell Wilson. Vote in the poll, and share your thoughts in the comments. We’ll be back tomorrow with our penultimate prop.

Previous props studied:

Day I: Over-Under on Brandon LaFell’s receiving yards.

Day II: Over-Under on Doug Baldwin’s catches.

Day III: Will Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown?

Day IV: Will there be a one-yard TD in the Super Bowl?

Day V: Over-Under on Tim Wright’s receiving yards.

Day VI: Over-Under on LeGarrette Blount’s carries.

Day VII: Will there be a safety in the Super Bowl?

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NFLPA president Eric Winston takes a shot at Roger Goodell

Super Bowl Football AP

Apparently, not everyone was moved by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference.

And the president of the NFL Players Association was quick to take a shot at management.

Hey, even the worst bartender at Spring Break does pretty well,” Winston said, via Tom Curran of CSNNE. “Think about it, a 2-year-old could [be NFL Commissioner] and still make money.”

So, tell us how you really feel, Eric.

Goodell admitted that the last year had been a difficult one for him, and was asked Friday during the press conference if he ever considered resigning or whether he deserved a pay cut.

Not surprisingly, he didn’t volunteer for either. Apparently that new bottle opener isn’t going to pay for itself.

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Packers fire special teams coach Shawn Slocum

Green Bay Packers 2011 Headshots Getty Images

The Packers gave up a touchdown on a fake field goal and saw the Seahawks recover a key onside kick during their NFC Championship game loss nearly two weeks ago and special teams coach Shawn Slocum gave up his job on Friday.

There was some talk that a change could be made following the loss and the team released an announcement on Friday afternoon that Slocum has been released. He’d been on the staff since Mike McCarthy became the head coach in 2006.

“I would like to thank Shawn for all of his contributions over the past nine years,” McCarthy said in a statement. “He was a positive contributor to our success, including helping us win Super Bowl XLV. We wish Shawn, Michelle and their family the best moving forward.”

The Packers hired former Florida and Illinois coach Ron Zook as an assistant special teams coach before the 2014 season, but there’s been no announcement about whether he’ll be elevated to replace Slocum.

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Chris Harris optimistic on Manning’s return, has faith in Osweiler

Denver Broncos practice at Dove Valley in Englewood, CO. Getty Images

During his appearance on Friday’s PFT Live, Broncos cornerback Chris Harris expressed optimism Peyton Manning would return in 2015, noting the lousy taste the divisional-round loss to former team Indianapolis had to leave with the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

“I believe he’s coming back,” Harris said. “I think nobody wants to go out losing to their former team and the new quarterback that replaced you. I don’t think Peyton wants to go like that at all, so I think he’ll definitely come back.”

Teammate Demaryius Thomas, an earlier guest on Friday’s PFT Live, was more hopeful than certain on Manning’s return.

“I think he will,” Thomas said of Manning playing in 2015.

But Thomas added this: “I say that because I want him back, but I really don’t know.”

If Manning does step aside, it could open the door for backup Brock Osweiler to take the job. A three-season understudy to Manning, Osweiler has thrown just 30 NFL regular season passes.

Both Thomas and Harris believe Osweiler is capable of stepping in if needed.

Said Thomas: “I got all the faith in Brock Osweiler. He’s been around Peyton for three years now. He’s grown every year he’s been there.”

Thomas, for his part, told PFT’s Mike Florio that he would have no qualms returning to Denver if Osweiler, not Manning, were the starter. Thomas is slated to be an unrestricted free agent in March and figures to draw significant interest.

Harris, meanwhile, said he had “a lot of confidence” in Osweiler, a 6-8, 240-pound Arizona State product.

“He’s kind of like a young Joe Flacco,” Harris said of Osweiler. “He has that arm. I think him and (Broncos head coach Gary) Kubiak, I think they’re going to fit perfect together. With the way he ran the offense with the Ravens with Joe Flacco, I see Brock as a similar quarterback.”

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