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PFT’s Week Seven picks

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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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At age 40, Tom Brady may do what only Warren Moon has done before

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On August 3 Tom Brady will turn 40, an age at which NFL quarterbacks have rarely been able to keep playing. But if Brady plays in 2017 at anywhere close to the same level he played in 2016, he’ll be the best 40-year-old quarterback the league has ever seen.

So far, the list of quarterbacks who have entered a season at age 40 or older and played well that year consists of just one name: Warren Moon, who entered the 1997 season at age 40 (and turned 41 during the season), and that year he led the NFL with 245.2 passing yards per game and was chosen to the Pro Bowl.

Other than Moon, the list of quarterbacks entering a season at age 40 and older is a list of players who were past their primes. Brett Favre entered the 2009 season at age 39 and played well after his 40th birthday, but by 2010, the season he entered at age 40, he had fallen off a cliff. Doug Flutie and Vinny Testaverde were still in the league after turning 40, but they didn’t play particularly well. Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Sonny Jurgensen played at age 40, but they were backups.

If Brady can do anything close to what he did last year, when he threw 28 touchdown passes and two interceptions, it will be by far the best season of any quarterback who entered a season age 40 or older. And even if Brady takes a significant step backward, he’d almost certainly be the second-best 40-year-old quarterback behind Moon.

Brady is going to get old eventually, because everyone does. But he’s poised to be the best old quarterback ever.

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Robert Mathis regrets winning only one ring in Indianapolis

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Robert Mathis retired this year after a 14-year NFL career, all with the Colts. He was a six-time Pro Bowler and won a Super Bowl ring. But only one.

As Mathis looks back on his career, he sees a lot of accomplishment, but also regret, for the fact that a Colts team that came close many times only won one Super Bowl.

“Looking back on that team, I feel a mix of pride, and I’ll admit, the slightest bit of disappointment,” Mathis wrote at the Players’ Tribune. “I’m so proud of what we accomplished during our era of Colts football, but I think every person, down to the last man, would tell you that he expected to win more than one ring in Indy. If there’s any regret I have from my career, it’s that.”

The Colts made the playoffs in each of Mathis’s first eight seasons, then missed the playoffs in the year of Peyton Manning’s neck injury and returned to the playoffs for three more consecutive years with Andrew Luck at quarterback. They were consistently among the best teams in the league, and yet they only ended the year on top once. It’s hard not to look at those Colts teams and think that as good as they were, they could have done even more in the postseason.

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Al Saunders: I’ll be shocked if Terrelle Pryor isn’t in the Pro Bowl

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Browns receivers coach Al Saunders thinks his team let a Pro Bowl wide receiver get away this offseason.

Saunders told ESPN that he believes Terrelle Pryor, who left Cleveland for Washington in free agency, is going to be a Pro Bowler at the end of the season.

“I will be shocked if he isn’t in the Pro Bowl,” Saunders said. “He’s going to have that kind of year.”

That raises an obvious question: Why didn’t the Browns keep Pryor, who left for a one-year, $6 million contract that Cleveland easily could have afforded under its salary cap? If Saunders seriously believes Pryor is a Pro Bowler, and the Browns’ front office let him walk anyway, that would suggest that the coaches and the personnel department aren’t on the same page.

Despite playing in a bad offense last season in his first year as a wide receiver after switching from quarterback, Pryor caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards. In a better offense in Washington, it won’t be surprising at all to see Saunders proven right. In which case Pryor was a bargain for Washington, and letting him leave was a mistake for Cleveland.

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Eric Dickerson: Sean Mannion should start over Jared Goff

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Eric Dickerson isn’t done offering his opinions about the Rams.

Dickerson, the Hall of Fame former Rams running back who routinely ripped Jeff Fisher before he was fired as the Rams’ coach last year, is now weighing in on the Rams’ quarterback situation. And in Dickerson’s view, last year’s first overall pick Jared Goff showed last year that he’s not as good a passer as 2015 third-round pick Sean Mannion.

“The offense was terrible. The offense looked like a high school offense,” Dickerson said on FS1. “My guy that I would start the season with would be Sean Mannion. I’ve been saying that since last year. Give him a shot.”

Dickerson said he attended a Rams practice last year where someone whose name he did not divulge told him that Mannion was good enough to start, but that Goff got the nod because of the money invested in him as a first overall pick.

“I was at practice early last year, before I got kicked off the sidelines, and I was standing next to some of the guys. I said, ‘Man, he can throw,'” Dickerson recalled. “He said, ‘He can throw it. He can really throw it.’ I said, ‘Why won’t they play him?’ He said, ‘You know. The money. We’ve got a No. 1 draft pick. We’ve got all this money to him.'”

Mannion has never started a game and has thrown just 13 passes in his two years as a Ram, but Dickerson thinks Mannion should be the man.

“It’s all about winning football games,” Dickerson said. “You have a better chance of winning with Sean Mannion.”

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O.J. Simpson will be welcome at the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame invites every Hall of Famer to its annual enshrinement ceremony every year, and that will include O.J. Simpson in 2018.

Asked whether Simpson will be welcome once he’s paroled, the Hall of Fame told ESPN, “All Hall of Famers are invited to attend the annual enshrinement.”

Simpson has been a pariah in NFL circles since he was accused of double murder in 1994. But he was granted parole this week for a 2008 armed robbery conviction and is expected to be released in October, so he could attend next year’s enshrinement ceremony.

The Hall of Fame has kept Simpson’s bust in place despite his off-field issues. Simpson has not attended a Hall of Fame ceremony since his own enshrinement in 1985.

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Dolphins center Mike Pouncey to have hip examined next week

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Dolphins center Mike Pouncey will have his left hip examined next week with hopes of being cleared to join his teammates for the start of training camp July 27, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. But the Dolphins won’t make a decision on whether to place Pouncey on the physically unable to perform list until after the exam.

Pouncey has not practiced since last November, playing only five games last season.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase has joked this offseason about placing Pouncey in “bubble wrap” to protect the offensive lineman from injury. To that end, according to Salguero, Pouncey will not practice much in training camp or even the regular season as the Dolphins protect him against injury.

Pouncey has not played a full, 16-game season since 2012, his second season. He has required surgery on both hips.

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Is Simeon Rice a Hall of Famer?

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Warren Sapp long has campaigned for Hall of Fame selectors to recognize his former teammate Simeon Rice, whom Sapp has said is better than Michael Strahan. Now, the Buccaneers’ website has made a case for Rice to join Sapp and Strahan in Canton.

There is no doubt Simeon Rice should be a Hall-of-Famer,” former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks, a 2014 Hall of Fame inductee, told Scott Smith. “Anyone that puts up 122 sacks and has eight double-digit sack seasons during a 12-year career deserves to be in the conversation. And he did this while going against the best offensive linemen—the left tackles. Sim is one of the best pass rushers of his time, and he played a big part in making us the dominant defense that we were in the early 2000s. Go talk to some of the great Hall-of-Fame left tackles that had to go up against Sim on a regular basis, and all you’ll hear is how hard he was to get in front of and slow down. For a left tackle out there on an island, he was their worst nightmare.”

Of the defensive linemen voted into the Hall since 1981, only five played all or most of their careers at right end as Rice did.

Selectors have never voted Rice — now in his fifth year of eligibility — a finalist. The top-11 all-time sack leaders have made the Hall of Fame. Leslie O’Neal, who ranks 12th with 132.5 career sacks, and Rice, who ranks 13th with 122, have the most career sacks without a bust in Canton. (Sacks became an official statistic in 1982.)

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who was Rice’s position coach in Tampa, long has pushed to get Rice in Canton.

“Simeon was always big in the big games from the Super Bowl to all the playoff games,” Marinelli told Smith. “He was the missing piece for our defense because he was a guy that could take the game over. Some of the biggest games he had were against the very best players. He helped drive us to our Super Bowl championship. To me, that is what the Hall of Fame is all about. It’s not just the numbers. It’s about the guys that can get you to a world championship and that’s what Simeon did.”

The problem for Rice is that he played on a defense that already has two Hall of Famers in Sapp and Brooks. Safety John Lynch has been a finalist. Cornerback Ronde Barber becomes eligible in the Class of 2018. As great as the Bucs defense was, they won one Super Bowl. (Yes, I realize who the Bucs quarterbacks were as I covered the team then.) With Lynch, Barber and Rice likely among nominees this year, the question for selectors becomes: Who was the next most important part of that defense?

Rice can take solace in Charles Haley’s journey to Canton. It took Haley, who had 100.5 sacks and five Super Bowl rings, six years to become a finalist and 11 to earn election.

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David Irving a no-show as Cowboys report

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Defensive lineman David Irving was a no-show as the Cowboys reported to training camp Friday, sources confirmed. ESPN’s Todd Archer first reported Irving’s unexcused absence.

The Cowboys held a conditioning run and physicals at their training complex in Frisco, a day before leaving for Oxnard, Calif.

Receiver Dez Bryant arrived late, and the Cowboys are expected to fine him. Irving, though, is subject to a $40,000 fine for missing the reporting date, according to the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.

Last month, the NFL suspended Irving for the first four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He had four sacks and four forced fumbles last season and was expected to play a big role as a pass-rusher this season.

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Agent: Adam Jones considering options after receiving one-game suspension

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The agent for Adam Jones said they are considering “all options” after the league suspended the Bengals cornerback for one game for violating the personal conduct penalty. Jones has three days to appeal.

“We are reviewing the ruling and assessing all options,” agent Peter Schaffer said, via Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal. “Any decision we make will be in the best interest of Adam, the Bengals and the NFL.”

Jones pleaded guilty to obstructing official business after a January incident in which he spat on a jailhouse nurse.

In the league’s letter to Jones, they said the “extensive video documentation of the tone, tenor and nature of your interactions with law enforcement at the site of your arrest, during transportation to the jail, and during the booking process. As you acknowledged, your post-arrest words and actions reflected poorly on you and your family, the Cincinnati Bengals football club, and the NFL. While it is our understanding that appropriate apologies have been publicly extended, they do not completely negate your behavior and admission of culpability for the underlying conduct.”

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Deone Bucannon only Cardinals player on PUP

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Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. Coach Bruce Arians said Friday, after the team’s conditioning run, that Bucannon is the only player on PUP.

Bucannon had surgery on his right ankle in May after a lingering problem caused him to miss the final three games of last season.

The Cardinals hope Bucannon can return in time for the season opener.

Deone is close,” Arians said, via Darren Urban of the team website. “He’s getting there. I think he’s a little bit ahead of schedule. We have our fingers crossed. The first game is his due date, so to speak. Hopefully we’ll have him ready to play.”

Haason Reddick, the team’s first-round pick, has taken first-team reps in Bucannon’s spot next to veteran Karlos Dansby.

Linebacker Jarvis Jones tweaked a quadriceps muscle during the conditioning run Friday, Arians said, and could miss a few days of work.

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Dez Bryant arrives late to conditioning test, physicals

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Dez Bryant threw a free barbeque for his hometown of Lufkin on Thursday, but he likely earned a fine from the Cowboys after showing up late to the team facility Friday.

Bryant told Jane Slater of the NFL Network that he had a sinus infection and headache, so he spent the night in Lufkin, which is 175 miles from Frisco. Per Slater, Bryant said he should have informed the coaching staff earlier, but that he has talked to coaches, takes full responsibility and is prepared for the consequences.

Bryant arrived three hours late for physicals and the team’s conditioning test. Bryant told Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan that he wasn’t scheduled to run because of the sinus infection.

Although Bryant has a history of tardiness, he reminded Slater that he has “laid low” this offseason.

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Falcons still hoping to sell out their PSLs

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As the Falcons prepare to open their swanky new stadium in Atlanta, the bad news is that they still have nearly 6,000 PSLs to sell. The good news is that they’ve sold more than 55,000.

Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Falcons have sold 55,113 Personal Seat Licenses. The PSLs have generated $256.3 million.

Roughly 10,000 seats are excluded from the PSL process. The PSLs range from $500 to $45,000 per seat.

So, basically, the food at the stadium will be cheap. But not much else will be.

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Dolphins place two undrafted rookies on PUP

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The Dolphins placed running back De’Veon Smith and tackle Eric Smith on the physically unable to perform list.

Miami signed De’Veon Smith as an undrafted college free agent on May 5. A two-year starter at Michigan, he played 49 career games with 26 starts. Smith had 495 carries for 2,235 yards and 22 touchdowns, while catching 38 passes for 251 yards and one touchdown.

The Dolphins signed Eric Smith as an undrafted college free agent on May 5. He started all four years at Virginia, playing in 45 career games. He was the team’s starting right tackle for every game from 2014-16.

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Michael Oher sued by Uber driver for assault

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Michael Oher’s bad week keeps getting worse.

According to the Associated Press, the former Panthers left tackle — who was released Thursday — has now been sued in connection with the Nashville incident in which he was accused of assaulting an Uber driver.

Oher faces misdemeanor charges from the April incident. The lawsuit, filed by driver Girma Berkessa said that Oher was “extremely intoxicated.” The suit also contends Oher pushed the driver to the ground, kicked him and called him a homophobic slur several times.

Oher was released with a failed physical designation. He’s been in the league’s concussion protocol since Week Three of last season, and visited a concussion specialist earlier this week.

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Malik Jackson predicts Super Bowl title for Jaguars

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The Jaguars’ 80-1 Super Bowl odds are better than only five other teams. But if Malik Jackson is to be believed, Jacksonville is a good bet.

Jackson, who won a Super Bowl with the Broncos before leaving for the Jaguars’ six-year, $85.5 million offer last offseason, expects Jacksonville to win Super Bowl LII.

That’s what I believe and, until we lose, that’s when I’ll believe different,” Jackson told The Simms and Lefkoe Podcast, via NFL.com.
“The Panthers did it. If the Panthers can do it after the season they had [in going 7-8-1 in 2014]. . . But we’re going to win the Super Bowl. If they can do it, why can’t we?”

The Jaguars were a trendy darkhorse playoff pick this time a year ago, but after last year’s 3-13 season, few are willing to venture out on that limb again. Jacksonville has not made the playoffs since 2007 despite several high draft picks and high-profile free agent signings.

“I’m very confident,” Jackson said. “It truly feels different. . . .I think it’s a lot of guys coming in here and coming to Jacksonville saying, ‘I’m going to change this. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that,'” Jackson said. “We have leaders. We have a lot of great players. We just need to be consistent, and that’s on all three sides of the ball: offense, defense and special teams.”

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