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PFT’s Week Nine picks

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The good news last week?  MDS gained only one game on me.  The bad news?  MDS got only seven of the 14 games right.

Yep, that 12-1 performance from yours truly in Week Seven is now the chunk of filet between a moldy pair of 6-8 slices of counterfeit Wonder bread.

At one point, it was looking disastrous.  Thanks to the Giants, Broncos, and 49ers, a nauseating 3-8 start was salvaged.  Sort of.

This week, we again disagree on only one game.  And it all comes down to Monday night.

For the year, I’m now 73-45, and MDS is 69-49.

Chiefs at Chargers

MDS’s take: Matt Cassel is back as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback, and the result will be more or less the same as the first time Cassel started against the Chargers this year: He’ll throw multiple interceptions and the Chiefs will lose.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 27, Chiefs 13.

Florio’s take:  The Chargers already have beaten the Chiefs in Kansas City.  Then again, who hasn’t?  Norv Turner’s week-to-week employment lasts at least another week.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 27, Chiefs 16.

Broncos at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Bengals’ defense has been a mess this season, and Peyton Manning is getting better every week. Manning will throw for 300 yards and four touchdowns and the Broncos will cruise.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Bengals 17.

Florio’s take:  The schedule softens for a Denver team that looks to be much better than the one that made it to the final eight a year ago.  The Bengals, on the other hand, are starting a rough patch that will make a rough season even rougher.  Roughly speaking.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 31, Bengals 17.

Ravens at Browns

MDS’s take: I’m tempted to pick the upset here, as the Ravens have struggled to put teams away while the Browns have played competitive football even in defeat. But while the Browns will keep this one close, the Ravens will manage to hold them off.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 23, Browns 21.

Florio’s take:  Cleveland’s old team returns to town, nearly 17 years to the day after Cleveland’s old team declared its intention to leave.  The Browns will make it interesting, but the Ravens know they need to step it up now in order to hold off the Steelers, who are making their move and who face the Ravens twice in three weeks, starting later this month.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 20, Browns 14.

Cardinals at Packers

MDS’s take: This looks to me like the easiest pick on the board. Aaron Rodgers will have another big game, Clay Matthews will have a couple sacks, and the reeling Cardinals will lose their fifth straight.

MDS’s pick: Packers 31, Cardinals 12.

Florio’s take:  After nearly losing to the Jags, the Packers will be on guard for a Cardinals team that hits the road on a short week after a Monday night mess.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 35, Cardinals 20.

Bills at Texans

MDS’s take: Speaking of easy games to pick, there’s no way the Bills’ defense slows down Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Co. I do think C.J. Spiller could have a big game against the Texans’ run defense, but the Bills’ offense won’t be able to keep up the scoring pace.

MDS’s pick: Texans 35, Bills 21.

Florio’s take:  $100 million can buy a lot of Super Bowl rings.  That may be the only way Mario Williams ever gets one.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 30, Bills 17.

Dolphins at Colts

MDS’s take: If the playoffs started today, these two teams would earn the two AFC wild card berths. Who saw that coming before the season? I look for the Dolphins to take a big step toward the playoffs with a big win in Indianapolis, and I expect a lot of people to be talking about Joe Philbin as a coach of the year candidate after his team gets its biggest win of the season.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 27, Colts 14.

Florio’s take:  A pair of top-ten quarterbacks have winning records through eight weeks, and neither has a III at the end of his name.  Despite III wins in a row, the Dolphins remain underrated.  Will they still be if they’re VIII-III when hosting the Pats?

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 23, Colts 20.

Lions at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Lions’ m.o. is the same every week: Start slowly and get better as the game goes on. Some games, like last week against the Seahawks, that results in a last-minute come-from-behind win. Other games, like two weeks ago against the Bears, that results in a last-minute touchdown followed by a failed onside kick and a loss. So which will it be this week? I’m betting neither. The Lions have finally found an opponent they can beat from pillar to post and will win easily in Jacksonville.

MDS’s pick: Lions 27, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take:  With the Jaguars outscored 95-20 at home at home this season and the Lions beginning to show some signs of life, this is precisely the kind of game that Jacksonville should win.  I’ll take my chances.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 28, Jaguars 17.

Bears at Titans

MDS’s take: The Bears’ defense will make life miserable for Matt Hasselbeck and hold Chris Johnson to less than 20 yards. Chicago wins this big.

MDS’s pick: Bears 27, Titans 13.

Florio’s take:  It’s tempting to take the Titans, who have played well lately.  Especially since the Bears were sluggish at best against the Panthers.  But a good team finds a way to win games it seems to be trying to lose.  On Sunday, the Bears will be less complacent.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 27, Titans 17.

Panthers at Redskins

MDS’s take: In a game with all eyes on Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, I like Redskins running back Alfred Morris to steal the show with a big game against a suspect Panthers run defense.

MDS’s pick: Redskins 24, Panthers 14.

Florio’s take:  The quarterbacks should put their respective Heisman Trophies on the line for this one.  If they do, Robert Griffin III will have bookends.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 33, Panthers 23.

Buccaneers at Raiders

MDS’s take: The Raiders are actually playing some surprisingly good football lately, to the point where I wouldn’t rule out a run at an AFC playoff spot. Carson Palmer will put a lot of points on the board as the Raiders win their third straight game.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 34, Buccaneers 20.

Florio’s take:  This rematch of Super Bowl XXXVII will turn out a little bit better for the Silver and Black, which surprisingly remain in striking distance for a playoff berth.

Florio’s pick:  Raiders 27, Buccaneers 20.

Vikings at Seahawks

MDS’s take: Both the Vikings and the Seahawks are coming off disappointing Week Eight performances, but I have a lot more faith in Seattle’s ability to turn things around at home.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 23, Vikings 16.

Florio’s take:  The Vikings were exposed last week against the Bucs, and offensive coordinator Bill Mugrave could be exposed to unemployment if he doesn’t get the team back on track.  Good luck with that in Seattle, against that defense.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 20, Vikings 9.

Steelers at Giants

MDS’s take: The Steelers have played well at home and badly on the road this season, and that will continue against the Giants, who will win their fifth in a row.

MDS’s pick: Giants 28, Steelers 17.

Florio’s take:  It’s a simple formula in New York.  Play great against great teams.  Play not-so-great against not-so-great teams.  The Steelers currently fall closer to the former category.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 35, Steelers 27.

Cowboys at Falcons

MDS’s take: Despite the Falcons’ 7-0 record and the Cowboys’ 3-4 record, I see this as a close game.  The Cowboys are playing competitive football and the Falcons have had a tendency to let weaker teams hang around. But the end result will be something we’ve already seen a couple times this season.  Dallas failing to pull it out in the end.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 24, Cowboys 21.

Florio’s take:  If the Cowboys spot the Falcons 23 points, the Falcons won’t let them back into it.  And with their only non-flex visit to Sunday Night Football, the Falcons aren’t about to stumble against an inferior team.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 31, Cowboys 20.

Eagles at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints have probably already run out of chances to turn their season around, and the Eagles are rapidly running out of chances, too. But the Saints’ defense is so weak that Michael Vick can’t help but have a better game on Monday night, and the Eagles will win in New Orleans.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 31, Saints 21.

Florio’s take:  For a team that may not be making it to the playoffs, delivering a knockout punch to the Eagles on national TV in the Superdome could be the next best thing.  Maybe a certain T-shirt will be making another appearance; at least ESPN isn’t regulated by the FCC.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 27, Eagles 24.

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Washington dumps “envelope fee” policy for will call

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At a time, NFL desperately wants fans to choose to buy tickets to football games, the franchise in Washington nearly made fans less likely to buy tickets to football games. For a change, the latest example has nothing to do with the quality of the on-field product.

Via ESPN.com, the franchise imposed a $50 “envelope fee” for tickets left at will call. And the team already has dumped the policy.

“It was a policy that was implemented to combat scalping at the stadium,” team spokesman Tony Wyllie said. “Our ticket office has historically exercised discretion in enforcing the policy. It is an outdated policy, and we no longer require payment. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Strangely, the article from ESPN.com doesn’t make it clear that the team already has abandoned the policy. Upon reading the headline (“Redskins bar non-season-ticket holders from will call amid stir over fee”) and initially reviewing the article, it seems as if the team hasn’t gotten rid of the policy, even though it has.

Even more strangely, the article lists the franchise’s various recent embarrassments, without mentioning the biggest one: An admission by the wife of the General Manager that she posted on Twitter a suggestion that an ESPN reporter obtains information by trading sexual favors, which came after the G.M.’s wife initially denied it.

Then again, maybe none of this is strange. Maybe this is an example of how ESPN will subtly retaliate against the team for the attack on one of its own.

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Bills place McKelvin on NFI, release 17 players

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The Bills announced a bunch of roster moves Friday afternoon, most notably placing veteran cornerback Leodis McKelvin on the reserve/non-football injury list.

That designation means McKelvin is out for at least the first six weeks of the season. He broke his ankle last November and early in training camp suffered a setback in his rehab and had a follow-up procedure done on the ankle.

Earlier this week Bills coach Rex Ryan said McKelvin was making “encouraging” progress but that there was still no timetable for his return.

A longtime starter, McKelvin had four interceptions last season before the injury. In part because of the injury and in part because McKelvin turned 30 on Friday, the Bills used a second-round pick on cornerback Ronald Darby last spring.

The Bills also cut Quentin Groves, Dezmin Lewis, Will Campbell, John Conner, Andre Davis, IK Enemkpali, Andre Fluellen, Bronson Hill, Darryl Johnson, Alex Kupper, BJ Larsen, Merrill Noel, Tobias Palmer, Cyril Richardson, Matt Simms and Cierre Wood.

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Cardinals cut Matt Shaughnessy, two running backs

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Cardinals coach Bruce Arians thought running back Chris Johnson looked “extremely sharp” in his preseason debut for the team on Thursday night and a couple of early cuts out of Arizona make Johnson’s chances of sticking around for more action in the desert look pretty good.

Josina Anderson of ESPN reports that the team has cut running backs Robert Hughes and Paul Lasike. Hughes was talked about as a short yardage option out of the backfield for the Cardinals this season, but he played sparingly in the preseason and the team has opted to roll with other backs. Hughes ran seven times for 11 yards last season and caught eight passes for 140 yards.

Lasike was an undrafted free agent out of BYU and had two carries and a catch in the preseason.

Anderson also reports that the team is releasing veteran defensive end/outside linebacker Matt Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy missed eight games with a knee injury last season and has made 19 starts for the Cardinals over the last two seasons.

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Chris Johnson got 12 touches in his Cardinals debut, and needed it

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New Cardinals running back Chris Johnson ran the ball 11 times and also caught a pass in his first preseason game with the team on Thursday night, and he said afterward that he had to get that kind of workload to get ready for the regular season.

“First couple drives, I still felt a little rusty,” Johnson said, via the Arizona Republic. “Then I started getting in my groove. The more times they hand the ball off, the more I start to feel it. It was something that I needed.”

Johnson picked up 45 yards on the ground and 10 on his catch, and the Cardinals seemed to like what they saw.

“I thought Chris looked extremely sharp,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.

Johnson is many years removed from being “CJ2K,” but it’s reasonable to think he could hit 1,000 yards if he gets a solid workload in Arizona this season. The Cardinals’ running game was one of the worst in the league last year, and getting Johnson up to speed would go a long way toward turning that around.

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Bills cut quarterback Matt Simms

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The Bills cut a quarterback who wasn’t going to be their starter, but not the really expensive one.

According to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, the Bills have waived quarterback Matt Simms.

The former Jets project was clearly fourth behind the three-headed monster of Tyrod Taylor, Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel throughout the preseason, so that part of it isn’t necessarily a surprise.

It remains to be seen how many they keep, and whether Cassel is one of them after losing the starting job to Taylor. Cutting him would save them $4.15 million in base salary, but it would cost them face also, after trading a pair of picks to the Vikings for the veteran.

But Simms was always the odd man out, so this was sort of inevitable.

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Texans waive Louis Nix, Kenny Hilliard

Louis Nix AP

The Texans drafted defensive tackle Louis Nix in the third round of the 2014 draft, but their opinion of him has apparently soured over the year-plus he’s spent with the team.

According to multiple reports, the team has waived Nix as they make the necessary alterations to their roster to reach the 53-man limit by Saturday afternoon. Those reports also have the team waiving 2015 seventh-round running back Kenny Hilliard.

Nix could return to the practice squad if he isn’t claimed off waivers, but his time with the Texans will come to an end without ever appearing in a regular season game if this is indeed the end of his run in Houston. Nix was placed on injured reserve with a wrist injury last September, although he returned to start every preseason game this summer while Vince Wilfork got some veteran rest on game days. The Texans drafted Christian Covington this year and he appears set to back up Wilfork.

Hilliard was behind Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes and Chris Polk in the competition to replace Arian Foster while Foster recovers from groin surgery. The LSU product would likely be a practice squad candidate if he doesn’t land elsewhere.

There are also multiple reports that the Texans have cut defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick and wide receiver Damaris Johnson.

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Ravens announce five cuts

Tom Nelson AP

The Ravens have announced the first of the moves they’ll have to make over the next two days in order to reach the 53-man limit.

Among the players dropped from the roster was wide receiver Tom Nelson, who was known as safety Tom Nelson during the early days of his NFL career. Nelson played for the Bengals in 2009 and 2010 after making the team as an undrafted free agent and saw action in four games for the Eagles in 2011. That was the last time Nelson played in the league, so making the move to receiver was a big leap to take in order to continue his professional career.

Nelson caught five passes for 57 yards in the preseason. The Ravens also waived wide receiver Daniel Brown, leaving them with seven wideouts on the roster at the moment.

Linebacker Andrew Bose, tackle Blaine Clausell and cornerback Quinton Pointer were also waived as the Ravens dropped to 70 players.

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Keep up with NFL cuts with our PFT 53-man roster trackers

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NFL teams are going to remove 704 players from the payroll in the next 24 hours or so, as teams have until 4 p.m. Saturday to get to the 53-man roster limit.

It’s a lot to follow. But fortunately for you, we’re here to help.

We’ll be keeping up with the action as it happens, and will continue to until teams are down to the regular season limit.

You can click the link for a list of AFC cuts, and here for the NFC.

Hit refresh often, because this stuff happens fast. And, because we’re nice enough to compile them for you.

Thanks.

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Falcons trading for Andy Levitre

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Guard Andy Levitre fell out of favor with the Titans this offseason and was thought to be on the roster bubble with Tennessee dropping to 53 players by Saturday afternoon’s deadline.

The bubble has burst for Levitre with the Titans, but, as someone may well have said at some point, when one bubble bursts another opens.

On Twitter Friday, Levitre tweeted “#RiseUp,” which is a slogan used by the Falcons and PFT has learned, via a league source, that Levitre’s post was in fact a reference to a trade that will send him to Atlanta. The compensation going back to Tennessee is unknown at this time.

Levitre came to Tennessee on a six-year, $46.8 million contract before the 2013 season and played all 32 games for the Titans over the last two seasons, but his performance wasn’t up to the expectations that accompanied Levitre from his successful stint with the Bills. Byron Bell replaced him at left guard this summer, which would have made him an expensive backup for the Titans.

He’ll move into a zone blocking system with Kyle Shanahan running the Falcons offense and should be able to mount at least a challenge for a starting job given the underwhelming current crop of interior linemen in Atlanta.

UPDATE 1:11 p.m. ET: The deal has been announced. The Titans will receive a 2016 sixth-round pick and a conditional 2017 draft choice from the Falcons.

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Jay Ajayi suffered a cracked rib Thursday night

Jay Ajayi AP

Running back Jay Ajayi dropped a bit lower than expected in the draft because of concerns about his knee and now a rib injury may limit his chances of making an impact in his rookie season with the Dolphins.

Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reports that Ajayi, who wound up going in the fifth round, cracked a rib during Thursday night’s preseason finale. The injury came during a good game for Ajayi, who ran nine times for 66 yards and caught two passes for 37 yards against the Buccaneers. It was a step in the right direction for Ajayi, who missed the first two preseason games while dealing with hamstring issues in August.

“I thought he ran hard,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “He made a guy or two miss, showed toughness inside, and caught the balls that were thrown to him, which is always a good place to start.”

There’s not much chance that the Dolphins are going to cut Ajayi, but his absences early in camp didn’t help him in the competition for playing time with other backup options to Lamar Miller. If the Dolphins want to go with Damien Williams, LaMichael James and/or Mike Gillislee, they could place Ajayi on injured reserve and let this year serve as a redshirt season.

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Bills to release linebacker/puncher of people IK Enemkpali

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Tyrod Taylor doesn’t have to worry about getting punched in the face, or at least as much as he did previously.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, the Bills have released linebacker IK Enemkpali, who they had in for a few weeks after he broke former Jets teammate Geno Smith’s jaw.

The Bills had some interest since coach Rex Ryan drafted him during his last year with the Bills, but they apparently decided he wasn’t worth keeping around.

While Enemkpali has some pass-rush potential, he also has problems keeping his hands to himself off the field.

In addition to his former teammate who owed him $600, Enemkpali has also punched an off-duty cop and a man who was posing as a woman named “Missy Lee” whom he met on the internet and arranged to have sex with.

And now, he has punched his ticket out of Buffalo.

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Report: Eagles trying to trade Najee Goode

Jimmy Garoppolo, Najee Goode AP

There were points this offseason when people wondered whether the Eagles were interested in trading linebacker Mychal Kendricks, but those thoughts went out the window when the Eagles signed Kendricks to a contract extension.

That guaranteed a crowded group at inside linebacker since the Eagles also have DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso and 2015 third-round pick Jordan Hicks on track to make the roster with former Packer Brad Jones and Najee Goode also in the mix. The Eagles are reportedly trying to thin that herd through a trade.

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Eagles are trying to trade Goode before the Saturday afternoon deadline to cut the roster to 53 players. There’s no word on what they might be looking for in return, but anything more than a pick in the final rounds would be a stretch.

Goode was a fifth-round pick in 2012 and has played 18 games in three years with the team. He missed 15 games last season after tearing his pectoral muscle in the season opener.

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Report: Steelers trade punter Wing to Giants

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The news of the Giants releasing punter Steve Weatherford Friday morning came as a surprise. Now, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports the Giants have added his replacement, Brad Wing, in a trade with the Steelers.

That means the Steelers are likely going with Jordan Berry as their punter. Wing punted for the Steelers as a rookie last season.

Berry averaged 49.8 yards per punt in the preseason, about a yard better than Wing. Berry was working an overnight shift at McDonald’s a year ago in his native Australia before getting an office job in hopes of saving enough money to return to the United States and give the NFL one more try, and it appears now he’s landed an NFL gig.

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PFT Live: Jeffrey Kessler, Eagles talk with Tim McManus

Jeffrey L. Kessler AP

The NFLPA and Tom Brady scored a big win in federal court over the NFL on Thursday and we’ll have one of the key people involved on the winning side as a guest on PFT Live Friday.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler fielded the questions from Judge Richard Berman for the NFLPA during oral arguments leading up to Berman’s decision to overturn Brady’s four-game suspension and he’ll join Mike Florio on Friday’s program to discuss the case. They’ll talk about the ruling, the NFL’s appeal and what impact the whole saga may have on future disciplinary actions coming from the league office.

Tim McManus of 97.5 The Fanatic will be on the program to talk about the Eagles with the cut to 53 players looming. They’ll talk about who will make the roster and whether Tim Tebow will be the No. 3 quarterback in Philly this year.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour by clicking right here.

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Snoop Dogg isn’t a fan of the Tom Brady decision

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A well-established bandwagon-hopper who seems to gravitate to the Steelers isn’t happy with the court decision that makes Patriots quarterback Tom Brady available for the Week One game against Pittsburgh.

Rapper Snoop Dogg posted a video online complaining about the reversal of the suspension by Judge Richard Berman.

“Yeah, the NFL overturned Brady’s sh-t,” Snoop Dogg said. “I can’t do nothing but smoke. That’s bullsh-t. You might as well overturn all the homies that got weed cases in the league, too. If you all are gonna do that. Keep it real.”

On one hand, he has a point. The NFL shouldn’t care about players smoking marijuana on their own time — especially in Colorado and Washington, where it’s now legal. On the other hand, the substance-abuse policy is separate from the policies that applied to Brady.

Brady was never told he could be suspended for his actions. Players know they can be suspended for smoking marijuana. And that’s ultimately why Brady will be playing against Snoop’s Steelers in six days.

It’s also why Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell and receiver Martavis Bryant won’t be.

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