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PFT’s Week Ten picks

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The lead is back to five.

Last week, we disagreed on one game:  Eagles at Saints.  I took the home team, MDS took the road team.  And I ended up 10-4 for the week to MDS’s 9-5.

This week, we disagree on twice as many games as last week.  Which sounds better than two.

For the year, I’m 83-49, and MDS is 78-54.  Yep, that’s a five-game lead.  Which definitely sounds better than two.

Colts at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The 5-3 Colts have an easy enough schedule the rest of the way that if they just win the games they should win, they’ll finish the season with a winning record. One of the games they should win is this one, and I think they will.

MDS’s pick: Colts 20, Jaguars 17.

Florio’s take:  The last time the Colts visited Jacksonville, a win by the home team ensured that Andrew Luck would head to Indy.  The Colts return as a playoff contender, intent on avenging a September home loss to the Jaguars.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 27, Jaguar 20.

Raiders at Ravens

MDS’s take: For a 6-2 team, the Ravens have a lot of question marks, especially on their aged and injured defense. But the Raiders have even more problems on defense, and I like Baltimore to win a high-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 35, Raiders 31.

Florio’s take:  The Raiders aren’t as bad as you’d think, and the Ravens aren’t as good.  Look for Baltimore’s decimated run defense to thrive against Oakland’s decimated running game, and for the Ravens to do enough to fend off the Steelers as a pair of games against Pittsburgh loom on the schedule.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 31, Raiders 14.

Broncos at Panthers

MDS’s take: Broncos coach John Fox will win back at his old stomping grounds in Carolina, where Peyton Manning will pick apart the Panthers’ defense while Von Miller will make Cam Newton’s life miserable.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 28, Panthers 14.

Florio’s take:  John Fox returns to Charlotte with a quarterback far better than any he ever had when he coached the Panthers.  Against a team with plenty of guys Fox knows very well.  The Carolina winning streak ends at one.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 30, Panthers 20.

Giants at Bengals

MDS’s take: I could pick this game with confidence if I knew which Giants team was going to show up. Will it be the team that showed up for 60 minutes and pounded the 49ers, or the team that sleepwalked through long stretches of close wins against the Redskins and Cowboys, and a close loss to the Steelers? Given the way the Giants have played the last three weeks I’m tempted to go with the upset, but the Bengals’ defense has been so bad this season that Eli Manning simply has to have a good game.

MDS’s pick: Giants 29, Bengals 25.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals are in a free fall, and the Giants are caught in the early stages of their annual midseason swoon.  I’ve got more faith in the Giants getting it done, especially since Eli Manning will surely have the benefit of some insights from his big brother, who won four days ago in Cincinnati.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 31, Bengals 20.

Titans at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Dolphins missed a golden opportunity to establish themselves as the AFC wild-card frontrunners on Sunday against the Colts, but I still like the way this team is playing, especially on defense. The Titans got a tongue-lashing from their owner after another bad loss on Sunday against the Bears, but that won’t be enough to shake them out of their doldrums.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 35, Titans 17.

Florio’s takeJake Locker returns, his left shoulder coincidentally healing at the time Matt Hasselbeck lost his hot hand.  Locker will learn what everyone else has learned this year.  The Miami defense is pretty good.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 17, Titans 13.

Lions at Vikings

MDS’s take: When these teams met in Week Four in Detroit, the Vikings were bolstered by two kick return touchdowns and won 20-13. But the Lions have shored up their special teams problems, Vikings kickoff returner Percy Harvin is hurt, and the Lions should earn their first NFC North victory of the season in the rematch in Minnesota.

MDS’s pick: Lions 23, Vikings 10.

Florio’s take:  With a brutal post-bye schedule, this game could determine whether the Vikings will finish 6-10 or 5-11.  I’ll pick the Vikings now, primarily because it’s the last time I’ll pick them all season.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 23, Lions 20.

Bills at Patriots

MDS’s take: In another rematch of a Week Four meeting, the Bills’ defense is in big trouble.  It probably won’t get quite as ugly for Buffalo as it did in the Patriots’ 52-28 win in September, but the Patriots will put plenty of points on the board.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 38, Bills 20.

Florio’s take:  The Pats scored 45 points against the Rams in 60 minutes, and 45 against the Bills in 25.  New England needs to keep its foot on the gas in order to get ready for some tough challenges that are waiting in the postseason.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 38, Bills 21.

Falcons at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints have won three out of four, and a win here would signal that New Orleans really has turned its season around. Unfortunately, there are just too many holes on the Saints’ defense for New Orleans to stop a Falcons team that can attack with Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers. This Falcons team just has too many weapons.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 27, Saints 21.

Florio’s take:  Halfway to an unblemished regular season, the Falcons simply don’t have the feel of a 16-0 team.  With four games against the Saints and Bucs over the balance of the year, the Falcons most likely won’t be.  It starts now, with the Saints staking their claim for a wild-card berth by hanging loss No. 1 on Atlanta.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 28, Falcons 27.

Chargers at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: With running back Doug Martin and a solid front seven on defense, the Bucs are becoming exactly the kind of team Greg Schiano wanted to build: A team that wins by running and stopping the run. Tampa Bay will do it again against a Chargers team that has yet to beat a good opponent all season.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 16, Chargers 14.

Florio’s take:  By playing last Thursday, the Chargers had some extra time to figure out how to stop the Muscle Hamster.  It won’t be enough.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 27, Chargers 21.

Jets at Seahawks

MDS’s take: Seattle is a tough team to play for anyone, but I see Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and his receiving corps having a particularly tough game against a good Seahawks secondary. Rex Ryan will have a good game plan to contain Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, but the Seahawks’ defense will lead the way to a low-scoring win.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 12, Jets 7.

Florio’s take:  The Pete Carroll-Mark Sanchez reunion provides a great story line.  But the bottom line is that it’s foolish to pick against the Seahawks at home.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 21, Jets 13.

Cowboys at Eagles

MDS’s take: Until Monday night, I was still a believer in the Eagles’ ability to turn their season around. But Philly’s offensive line looked terrible, the defense looked like it has taken a step backward with the departure of coordinator Juan Castillo, and the Eagles look like they’re ready to pack it in for the season. The Cowboys may still make a run at the playoffs, but the Eagles are done.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 24, Eagles 14.

Florio’s take:  It’s a early playoff game between two teams that are destined to miss the playoffs.  In the past two weeks, the Cowboys gave the Falcons a much better game in Atlanta than the Eagles gave the Falcons at home.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Eagles 21.

Rams at 49ers

MDS’s take: The 49ers’ defense has had a few letdowns, but when they’re on their game it’s just about impossible to score on them. And they’ll be on their game against a mediocre Rams offense.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 20, Rams 3.

Florio’s take:  Lost in the success of the Falcons and the Bears, the resurgence of the Packers, and the collapse of the Eagles, the Niners are ready to remind everyone that they may be the best team in the conference.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 27, Rams 9.

Texans at Bears

MDS’s take: In the best game of the week, the Bears’ opportunistic defense will try to force turnovers against a Texans offense whose quarterback, Matt Schaub, has only four turnovers all season. I like the Bears to get the best of it.

MDS’s pick: Bears 17, Texans 10.

Florio’s take:  The Texans haven’t been stepping up in high-profile games, which doesn’t bode well for the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 19, Texans 13.

Chiefs at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers are on a three-game winning streak and the Chiefs are in a tailspin. The Monday night game will be over by halftime, and millions of Americans will go to bed early.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 34, Chiefs 9.

Florio’s take:  Todd Haley gets a crack at the Chiefs.  But the Chiefs also get a crack at Todd Haley.  If this one were being played in Kansas City, I’d take the upset.  But it’s hard to imagine a one-win team toppling the Steelers in their own building.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 24, Chiefs 16.

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Coughlin thinks Giants will be rejuvenated under new offense

coughlin AP

The oldest coach in the NFL wanted some fresh blood in his offense.

That’s why, Giants coach Tom Coughlin told Josina Anderson on ESPN, he decided to hire Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator. Coughlin said he thinks McAdoo’s playbook will go a long way toward making Eli Manning look more like he looked in the Giants’ two Super Bowl seasons, and less like he looked during his 27-interception 2013 season.

“I felt like this would be an opportunity for us to rejuvenate those veteran players who were here, Eli for one, to force all of us to learn, again, a new system, a new communication process,” Coughlin said. “For 10 years we had used the same system — we got two Super Bowls and accomplished an awful lot of things offensively — but last year wasn’t one of those years. We turned it over way too much.”

Coughlin was careful not to make it sound like he was taking shots at former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. But it’s clear that Coughlin believed a change was in order.

“I just felt like after Kevin retired that this might be the time to make a wholesale change and in so doing reinvigorate the entire system, the coaches that were kept, the veteran players who have been here, to put new energy into their preparation,” Coughlin said.

Rejuvenating the Giants’ offense this year may be Coughlin’s last hope of making a run at his third Super Bowl ring.

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Texans, Andre Johnson’s agent are communicating

Pittsburgh Steelers v Houston Texans Getty Images

On Monday, Texans receiver Andre Johnson reportedly was back in the building.  On Tuesday, agent Kennard McGuire declined to address those reports.

“I am not refuting, confirming or denying any reports or stories,” McGuire told Mark Berman of FOX 26 in Houston.  “Per the collective bargaining agreement there’s a period in which veteran players are not allowed to participate or be in their team’s facilities.”

As explained earlier in the day, veteran players currently may work out on their own at team facilities.  Which is all that Johnson could have been doing, under the CBA.

While not addressing whether Johnson visited the team’s facility, McGuire admitted that he has been talking to the Texans on Johnson’s behalf.

“While I am personally in contact with the Texans organization, those conversations will remain between myself, the organization and Andre Johnson,” McGuire told Berman.

Johnson reportedly was willing to report for OTAs, but the Texans refused to give him a chance to earn back a $1 million roster bonus that Johnson forfeited by missing the first two phases of the offseason workout program.  That impasse caused Johnson to skip all remaining offseason activities, including a mandatory minicamp.  The question now becomes whether Johnson will show up for training camp.

Veterans are due to report in Houston on Friday.

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Saints sign two undrafted rookies

Tyrone Ezell AP

The Saints have added two undrafted rookies who had previous short stints with other NFL clubs, signing linebacker Marcus Thompson (ex-Dolphins) and nose tackle Tyrone Ezell (ex-Texans) on Tuesday, the club said.

A Rutgers product, Thompson (6-1, 250) recorded 5.5 sacks in 2013 and was one of the team’s defensive MVPs. The Dolphins waived him on July 1.

Ezell (6-4, 305) had a three-day stint with Houston in May. He was a 12-game starter for the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 and was a team captain.

In corresponding roster moves, the Saints waived/injured third-year outside linebacker Cheta Ozougwu and undrafted rookie nose tackle Moses McCray.

The Saints have all 90 roster spots filled.

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Pat Angerer signs with Falcons

Miami Dolphins v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

When the Falcons lost linebacker Sean Weatherspoon for the season, there were several veteran free agents mentioned as possible signings to shore up the team’s inside linebacker group.

Former Colt Pat Angerer was on that list and he worked out for the team on Tuesday. The workout apparently went well because Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that Angerer is the newest member of Atlanta’s roster.

Angerer ended the 2013 season on injured reserve after hurting his knee and required microfracture surgery to repair the injury. That kept him from shopping himself as a free agent this spring, but things have obviously progressed well enough to satisfy the Falcons.

Angerer, a second-round pick in 2010, played 54 games and made 39 starts during his time with the Colts. The Falcons have Paul Worrilow, Joplo Bartu and rookie Prince Shembo among the in-house options who will compete with Angerer to fill the starting linebacker jobs come the regular season.

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Shoulder healed, Eric Fisher gets back to left tackle

Fisher AP

When the Chiefs made Eric Fisher the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, they didn’t intend for Fisher to be the team’s long-term right tackle.  Now that Branden Albert has exited via free agency, Fisher can flip back to his natural position.

“It’s like riding a bike,” Fisher told reporters on Tuesday regarding the change.  “I felt good out there today. It’s a lot more natural for me. I’m really excited about it.”

Fisher has been permitted to show up early for camp because of the shoulder injury that resulted in surgery.  His weight is at 315 pounds, he’s been lifting again since before OTAs, and he’s ready for his second NFL season.

“I’ve been working my butt of and am just glad to be out here,” Fisher said.  “I never really lost strength.  I’ve been in there working and when you can’t bench there’s other things you can do and that’s what I was doing.”

Fisher said his shoulder is healed and he’s “ready to go.”  Fisher believes he’ll take part in the first padded practice of the year, on Saturday.

Apart from the injury, Fisher struggled at times as a rookie, creating real concerns as to whether he’s ready to play left tackle for the Chiefs.

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Doug Marrone indicates there’s competition to back up EJ Manuel

Jeff Tuel,EJ Manuel,Thad Lewis AP

The Bills’ backup quarterback situation is one to watch, even if only for the events of a season ago.

Starter EJ Manuel missed six games because of injury in 2013, and key veteran Kevin Kolb suffered a career-ending concussion in the preseason, leaving Thaddeus Lewis (five starts) and then-rookie Jeff Tuel (one start) to carry the load at times.

An undrafted free agent from Washington State, Tuel struggled in his first NFL season, completing just 26-of-59 passes (44.1 percent) with three interceptions and just one score. Lewis, who had prior NFL stints in Cleveland, St. Louis and Detroit, fared somewhat better after taking over as the top backup. He was far more accurate, completing 59.5 percent of his attempts (93-of-157). However, he had more turnovers (six) than touchdowns (five).

However, if Lewis is going to win the top reserve role once again, he may have to hold off a challenge from Tuel, who reportedly got some work with the second-team offense on Tuesday. Afterwards, Bills coach Doug Marrone told reporters there was competition for the primary backup job behind Manuel.

“Sure, we have a battle for the second team quarterback,” Marrone said, according to a transcript of his post-practice remarks from the club. “We’re trying to find out who it’s going to be, and Jeff did a nice job in OTAs, and he’s earned himself some more reps.”

The Bills carried just two quarterbacks to begin the 2013 season. And that means Tuel, Lewis and fourth-stringer Dennis Dixon could potentially be fighting for just one spot.

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Broncos make Joel Dreessen an even lower-paid ($0) tight end

Joel Dreessen AP

If Joel Dreesen thought tight end pay was unfairly low before, he’s in for a shock this summer, with no pay whatsoever.

The Broncos announced they had released the veteran tight end with a failed physical designation Tuesday.

He caught 41 passes for the Broncos two years ago, but only caught seven passes last year as Julius Thomas flourished as a target for more catches (and ostensibly, more money).

He had three operations on his left knee in the span of a year, and battled through problems with that joint this offseason.

So now the Broncos get to take his $2.5 million in base salary and give it to another tight end.

Or not.

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Chargers part ways with Larry English

Seattle Seahawks v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

The Chargers haven’t opened up training camp yet, but they’ve already decided that linebacker Larry English won’t be a member of their 53-man roster.

The team announced Tuesday that they have released English. The Chargers also announced that they have signed center Khalil Wilkes.

English was a first-round pick in 2009, but never developed into the player they hoped to get when they selected him out of Northern Illinois. English made just nine starts in his 52 appearances with the Chargers and produced 11 sacks and one forced fumble over that stretch. Injuries contributed to keeping him off the field, including a pec injury that sent him to injured reserve last season, but English wasn’t much of a factor when he was healthy.

English is not subject to waivers, so he is free to sign with any team once now that he’s been officially dropped by the Chargers.

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Dispute over Patriots’ Hernandez records resolved

Paperwork Getty Images

The lawyers representing former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez wanted to get a wide variety of documents from the team.  The team didn’t want to surrender certain things. A middle ground has been identified.

According to the Associated Press, attorney Michael Fee said in court on Tuesday that the dispute has been resolved.  Lawyers for both Hernandez and the Patriots declined comment.

The Patriots previously had agreed to surrender 317 pages of personnel records, but the team refused to produce a scouting report and a one-page summary of Hernandez’s pre-draft psychological assessment.

Hernandez’s lawyers have argued that the documents may contain critical information about Hernandez’s state of mind, which could be a hint that the lawyers are exploring the possibility of using some type of insanity-based defense as an alternative to arguing that Hernandez didn’t kill Odin Lloyd.

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Judge denies Rolando McClain’s request to delay trial starting Friday

Rolando McClain AP

The Cowboys traded for linebacker Rolando McClain earlier this month as they try to find options to step in for the injured Sean Lee, but it looks like he’s going to miss a little bit of his first training camp with the team.

The Associated Press reports that Judge Bill Cook Jr. ruled that McClain’s trial in Alabama on charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct will not be moved from a scheduled Friday start. McClain’s attorney had requested a delay because of the conflict with Cowboys camp, but the linebacker will now either have to settle the case before Friday or miss some practice time while the case is heard.

McClain pleaded not guilty to the charges, which resulted from an April 2013 incident in Decatur, Alabama, last year.

It’s certainly not an ideal situation for McClain, who is trying to resume the football career he put on hold last season to deal with mounting legal issues stemming from his off-field behavior. Even with Lee out of the lineup, McClain faces an uphill battle in a short amount of time to show that he’s both fit enough and committed enough for the Cowboys to keep around.

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Jameel McClain carted off the field at Giants camp

Giants Camp Football AP

One of the rites of training camp season is the emergence of the cart as a harbinger of bad news.

And in Giants camp, they’re going to need a bigger one.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, linebacker Jameel McClain was hauled off the field in the dreaded cart, with what appeared to be a left leg injury.

While we don’t know the severity of McClain’s problem at the moment, we know they’re already thin there, with linebacker Jon Beason on the physically unable to perform list.

Guard Brandon Mosley was also hauled off earlier. He was working with the starters after the retirement of veteran Chris Snee, and was apparently replaced with the ones by rookie Weston Richburg.

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Super Bowl champion Seahawks are at the top of PFT’s preseason rankings

Jacksonville Jaguars v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl by 35 points over the Denver Broncos in February. They re-signed several key players to long-term deals this offseason and suffered few significant losses to free agency this spring.

With all that in mind, the Seahawks had to come in at the top of our preseason power rankings.

The Seahawks have few questions as training camp gets set to open on Friday. Seattle’s offense has the potential to be more explosive this season with a healthy Percy Harvin in the lineup and Russell Wilson having another year of experience under his belt. The defense will remain as one of the most physically imposing units in the league with their key pieces intact and star-studded secondary locked up for the next few years.

However, the San Francisco 49ers remain directly in the rear-view mirror and the battle for NFC West should once again be must-see entertainment this fall.

Our full Seahawks preview is located here. Tell us in the poll below if you feel the Seahawks deserve the ranking we gave them heading into the season.

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Bengals don’t expect Leon Hall, Geno Atkins to be on PUP for long

Tom Brady, Geno Atkins AP

The Bengals got ready for the start of training camp on Monday by putting a slew of players on either the Physically Unable to Perform or Non-Football Injury lists.

Two of the biggest names to hit the PUP list were cornerback Leon Hall and defensive tackle Geno Atkins, both of whom are recovering from season-ending injuries during the 2013 season. There wasn’t much word leading up to Monday’s moves that either player was going to need to extend their rehab much longer and coach Marvin Lewis said Tuesday that the team hasn’t ruled out either player practicing before the first week of camp is out.

“Leon’s goal was to be out there the very first practice. He’ll probably achieve that goal,” Lewis said, via the team’s website. “Geno’s goal is to be out there the very first practice. I’m going to keep him from achieving that goal because I want to lay eyes on Geno for a few days. That’s what I told him yesterday. He’s going to start on PUP and as soon as he and I agree he’s ready to go in the rigors of practice, we’ll feel good about it.”

It’s the prudent direction to take since players who participate in practice are not eligible for the regular season PUP list, which requires them to wait at least six weeks before practicing, and the Bengals can remove the designation at any point during training camp.

Hall will take the conditioning test on Wednesday and he should be off the list if he performs well. If Atkins follows suit quickly, the Bengals defense will be shaping up nicely ahead of the start of the regular season.

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Weather the latest thing to keep Marcell Dareus from camp

Dareus Getty Images

For all his self-inflcited problems this offseason, weather is the latest thing to keep defensive tackle Marcell Dareus from training camp.

According to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, Dareus wasn’t able to get from his court date in Alabama Monday to Rochester, N.Y. because of bad weather.

“He’ll be with our weight room staff working out as soon as he gets here,” coach Doug Marrone said.

They’re going to give him a few more days before he re-takes his conditioning test, which he failed once already. Between that and arrests for synthetic marijuana and drag racing, it’s been quite an offseason already for the former No. 3 overall pick.

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Andre Johnson sighting at NRG Stadium sparks speculation he’ll report for camp

Miami Dolphins v Houston Texans Getty Images

As the Texans and receiver Andre Johnson remain at an impasse over whether he’ll be given a chance to earn back $1 million in a squandered roster bonus, a new development suggests he’ll show up for training camp.

Unless it doesn’t.

Per multiple reports, Johnson was spotted Monday at NRG Stadium, the building in which the Texans play and the location of the team’s facilities.  Per a source with direct knowledge of the situation, however, Johnson’s visit to the building doesn’t mean he’ll be showing up for training camp.  It likewise doesn’t mean he won’t be showing up for camp.

After the offseason program ends and before the start of training camp, players are permitted to use the team facility to work out on their own, as long as no coach, trainer, or other club personnel participates in the process.  That’s possibly all that Johnson was doing — utilizing his free access to the weight room and other exercise equipment at the team facility.

So, yes, Johnson was there.  And, no, it doesn’t mean anything, one way or the other.

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