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PFT’s Week 11 picks

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

That five-game lead over MDS has grown to seven, with seven weeks left.

If anyone is capable of blowing this lead, I am.

This week, we disagree on three games.  Last week, we were 10-3-1 and 8-5-1, respectively.  (I would have predicted the Rams-49ers would end in a tie, if I’d known games could end in ties.)

For the year, I’m now 93-52-1.  MDS is 86-59-1.

Dolphins at Bills

MDS’s take: NFL Network gets the week started with a pretty lousy game, with the Dolphins reeling and falling out of AFC wild-card contention, and the Bills even further behind in the AFC East. I’m expecting the difference in this one to be Bills running back C.J. Spiller, who will do to the Dolphins’ defense the same thing that Titans running back Chris Johnson did to the Dolphins’ defense last week. Spiller will have a big game and lead the way as the Bills win.

MDS’s pick: Bills 28, Dolphins 20.

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins have cooled off.  The Bills were never hot.  It’ll be cold on Thursday night in Buffalo.  More importantly, it’s hard to imagine the Dolphins recovering  from Sunday’s debacle against the Titans in only four days.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 28, Dolphins 20.

Cardinals at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Falcons are no longer undefeated and no longer viewed by many people as the best team in the league, but a home game against the Cardinals should be a nice way for Atlanta to get back in the W column. The Cardinals’ defense might be able to keep this game close, but Arizona’s offense won’t be able to do anything.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 16, Cardinals 9.

Florio’s take:  This is precisely the kind of game the Cardinals could steal.  The Falcons, fresh from their first loss, view Arizona as a show-up-and-win opponent — the puff-pastry appetizer to a two-pack of tough steaks in the form of the Bucs and Saints on a short week.  And the Cardinals have had two weeks to get ready for this one.  If I didn’t have a seven-game lead over MDS entering the week, I’d consider calling for the upset.  Instead, I’ll play a little prevent defense.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 35, Cardinals 21.

Buccaneers at Panthers

MDS’s take: Both of these teams have talented young quarterbacks, but it’s Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman who has taken a big step forward recently, while Carolina’s Cam Newton is looking shaky. The Bucs are entering the NFC playoff conversation with a win in Carolina.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 28, Panthers 14.

Florio’s take:  When the Bucs beat the Panthers 10 weeks ago, it was regarded as a surprise.  When the Bucs beat the Panthers this time, it won’t be.  Tampa has gradually improved, and Greg Schiano could soon be getting some coach of the year buzz.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 24, Panthers 16.

Browns at Cowboys

MDS’s take: This is the first of three straight home games, all against teams with losing records, for the Cowboys. So their schedule is setting up for them to go on a nice little run. After saving their season against the Eagles, the Cowboys won’t blow their season against the Browns.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 23, Browns 16.

Florio’s take:  The Cowboys get ready for their Thanksgiving date with the Redskins by feasting on the team that is the color of sweet potatoes, both fresh and digested.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 27, Browns 17.

Packers at Lions

MDS’s take: When the Lions get their passing game going, they’re as dangerous an offense as there is in the NFL.  The Vikings were doing all they could to stop Calvin Johnson on Sunday, and he still went over 200 receiving yards. Unfortunately for Detroit, the Lions usually don’t get their passing game going until their defense and special teams have already given up an early lead. And the Packers are not the kind of team the Lions want to be playing catchup against.

MDS’s pick: Packers 23, Lions 20.

Florio’s take:  The Packers are ready to make their move to the top of the division.  The Lions already have made their move to the bottom.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 27, Lions 14.

Jaguars at Texans

MDS’s take: Given that Florio is way ahead of me in our season picks contest, I’m tempted to take the Jaguars here because I’m going to need to hit on some big upsets if I’m going to have any chance of catching up. But even though I think the Texans might be due for a letdown after their big win in Chicago, the Jaguars are so bad that the Texans should beat them even if they turn in their worst effort of the season.

MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Jaguars 13.

Florio’s take:  Didn’t this used to be an actual rivalry?  It’s not anymore, thanks to the fact that one team has an 8-1 record, and the other is 1-8.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 41, Jaguars 17.

Bengals at Chiefs

MDS’s take: Cincinnati’s big win over the Giants could be the first step toward a surprise late-season run back to the playoffs, and there’s no way the Bengals will stumble against a terrible Chiefs team.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 34, Chiefs 10.

Florio’s take:  Logic tells us that the winless-at-home Chiefs should fall to a Bengals team that found a way to knock off the defending NFL champions.  But the Chiefs are due to finally get that second pickle.  It won’t do much to make things better in Kansas City, but things won’t get worse — at least not this week.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 23, Bengals 20.

Colts at Patriots

MDS’s take: I’m a believer in the Colts, in the sense that I believe they are going to make the playoffs this season. But that’s largely because the Colts have an easy schedule the rest of the way, with four games remaining against teams that currently have losing records. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, this is one of the toughest games the Colts still have to play, and I just don’t think the Colts’ defense is good enough to keep Tom Brady and company in check. This game may be a first-round playoff preview, but it’s not a close game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 28, Colts 10.

Florio’s take:  A year after the annual Colts-Patriots game lost its luster with the absence of Peyton Manning, the arrival of Andrew Luck could help restore the sizzle.  With the Colts better than folks realize and the Pats not quite as good as believed, the Colts could steal this one.  They likely won’t, but they could.

Florio’s pick:    Patriots 28, Colts 24.

Jets at Rams

MDS’s take: Neither one of these teams is very good, but the Rams have a lot of young guys who look like they’re hungry and playing as hard as they can in every game, while the Jets have a bunch of veterans who look like they give up when they fall behind and anonymously snipe at each other in the media. Advantage Rams.

MDS’s pick: Rams 21, Jets 17.

Florio’s take:  Last week, Pete Carroll got a little revenge against the team that once fired him as its head coach.  This week, Brian Schottenheimer gets a shot at revenge against the team that fired him without really firing him as its offensive coordinator.  The fact that the Rams currently are good and the Jets aren’t will make it easier.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 20, Jets 10.

Eagles at Redskins

MDS’s take: Stick a fork in the Eagles. They’re already on the first five-game losing streak of Andy Reid’s career, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that losing streak extend all the way to the end of the season.

MDS’s pick: Redskins 28, Eagles 13.

Florio’s take:  The struggling Philly offense finally finds an equally struggling defense.  And the struggling Philly defense finally finds digs deep and finds a way to avoid getting torched.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 24, Redskins 21.

Saints at Raiders

MDS’s take: There’s not much doubt after the Saints beat the Falcons that New Orleans has turned this thing around. It should be easy to keep things going against a Raiders team that looks like it has given up on the season.

MDS’s pick: Saints 38, Raiders 17.

Florio’s take:  Dennis Allen knows the Saints offense well, given the time he spent there as a defensive backs coach.  Unfortunately, he lacks the personnel to slow it down.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, Raider 20.

Chargers at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Broncos may be playing the best football in the league right now. Peyton Manning has the offense humming, of course, but Von Miller is a defensive player of the year candidate, and Trindon Holliday is one of the most dynamic special-teams players in the NFL — at least as long as he remembers that you’re supposed to cross the goal line before you start celebrating your touchdown. This is a complete football team, and the Broncos will all but wrap up the AFC West with an easy win over the Chargers.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Chargers 13.

Florio’s take:  This one will look a lot more like the second half of their last meeting, not the first half.  And it could be the final two halves of football for Norv Turner in San Diego.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 31, Chargers 17.

Ravens at Steelers

MDS’s take: Ben Roethlisberger’s injury came at the worst possible time for the Steelers.  Before Big Ben got hurt, I was expecting the Steelers to beat the Ravens both this week in Pittsburgh and two weeks from now in Baltimore, and to take the lead in the AFC North. But with Byron Leftwich in for Roethlisberger, I like the Ravens.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 17, Steelers 13.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers have played the Ravens close without Ben Roethlisberger.  And that’s when the Ravens actually had a great defense.  If the Steelers can run the ball effectively and if Byron Leftwich can start his elongated throwing motion quickly enough to get the ball out before Terrell Suggs plants him into the ground, the Steelers can hold serve at home.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 17, Ravens 13.

Bears at 49ers

MDS’s take: In a battle of teams that may be playing without their concussed starting quarterbacks, I have more faith in the 49ers’ ability to win by running the ball and playing good defense.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Bears 16.

Florio’s take:  Though the Bears likely won’t have another five-game free fall like they did last season, the losing streak will extend at least to two — regardless of who ends up playing quarterback for either team.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 20, Bears 13.

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Cardinals have talked to Chandler Jones about a new contract

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Outside linebackers Chandler Jones #55 and Markus Golden #44 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrate after a tackle on the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones has played well this season, but when Arizona traded a second-round pick to acquire Jones this year, it hoped to get more than one good year from Jones. And that can only happen with a new contract.

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said after Sunday night’s game that he has talked to Jones’s agent about a new contract for Jones, who is in the final year of his rookie deal. Keim described the pass rush Jones provides as “something we have not had here in years,” and he hopes to keep that pass rushing presence in Arizona for years to come.

Keim didn’t say a deal is close, but the fact that the team and the player are talking is a sign that something may get worked out before March, when the Cardinals would need to either put the franchise tag on Jones or risk seeing him leave in free agency.

Jones has five sacks so far this season and had a sack and forced fumble in last night’s tie against the Seahawks. The Cardinals are going to need more big plays like that from Jones to get back into playoff contention, both this year and in future years.

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Redskins ST coach Ben Kotwica gave Lions fans more than they bargained for Sunday

BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 24:  Urinals hang on a wall in a newly-inaugurated gender-free toilet at the office building of the city's Senate Administration for Work, Integration and Women (Senatsverwaltung fuer Arbeit, Integration und Frauen) on November 24, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. The administration has converted four of its previously separate men's and women's toilets to gender-free toilets in a sign of respect towards Berlin's trans-gender community, who otherwise often face potentially uncomfortable decisions or confrontations in the use of public toilets.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images) Getty Images

When you gotta go, you gotta go and that presented a problem for Redskins special teams coach Ben Kotwica during Sunday’s game against the Lions.

Kotwica couldn’t really leave the field to answer nature’s call and no one wants a case of uromysitisis poisoning, so he followed the lead of many others over the years and found a spot on the sideline to take care of business. Unlike some of those others, Kotwica neglected to bring along another coach, player or team employee to act as a shield.

As a result, some Lions fans sitting close to the field got an eyeful as Kotwica relieved himself into a Gatorade cup — Is it in you? never seemed to be so fine a slogan –while standing next to a trash can on the sideline. A photo made its way to TMZ Sports along with a report that Kotwica was the second member of the staff to use that spot over the course of the game.

TMZ reached out to the team, which had no comment about something that happens frequently if not always in such plain sight of the paying customers.

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Kaepernick doesn’t think anthem protests affect ratings

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sidelines during their NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Commissioner Roger Goodell and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick likely don’t agree on much. But here’s one thing on which they occupy the same page: They believe the 2016 drop in TV ratings has nothing to do with the ongoing national anthem protests.

“I don’t know much about ratings and how they are affected and all of those things,” Kaepernick said after Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers, via Andy Furillo of the Sacramento Bee. “But I don’t understand why ratings would go down, fighting for justice for people, to try to stop oppression, especially in a league that is predominantly black.”

Goodell was blunt and concise last week when asked about the potential connection by reporters: “That it’s not a factor. It’s not having any significant impact on our ratings.”

On one hand, it’s strange to think that anyone would deprive themselves of something they enjoy because of the actions of a small handful of all players. On the other hand, how does the league know for sure that it’s not a factor? Many have said it is; they all can’t simply be exaggerating and embellishing the connection in order to push an anti-protest agenda that isn’t affecting ratings.

Absent meaningful and effective research by the league aimed at identifying all reasons for the reduction in TV ratings, there’s no way to rule out the anthem protests. But the league surely has no interest in legitimizing the connection between the ongoing anthem protests and the declining ratings, because the league has no power to stop the protests.

Moreover, acknowledging that an exercise of player rights could impact TV ratings would be an admission that the players have much more power than they ever dreamed they’d possess.

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Falcons making plans to deal with Tevin Coleman’s hamstring injury

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 23: Tevin Coleman #26 of the Atlanta Falcons runs for a second quarter touchdown against the San Diego Chargers at the Georgia Dome on October 23, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons are discussing their options in the event running back Tevin Coleman has to miss time after injuring his hamstring in Sunday’s loss to the Chargers.

Coleman played 14 snaps before being forced out of the game and coach Dan Quinn said Monday that the team is still waiting to “find out how long he’ll be out.” Devonta Freeman is the only other running back currently on the roster, but the team has Terron Ward on the practice squad if they need to add a body.

“We’re discussing that big this afternoon,” Quinn said, via “Fortunately for us, Ward is here, and he’s somebody that’s got game experience in the system and somebody that we can totally rely on.”

Ward played in 13 games for the Falcons last season and ran 29 times for 95 yards. The Falcons would need to open up a spot to bring him onto the 53-man roster.

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Chip Kelly says it’s “news to him” if Staley is on trade block

Frank Gore, Joe Staley AP

If the 49ers are shopping offensive tackle Joe Staley ahead of next week’s trade deadline, 49ers coach Chip Kelly said Monday he has no knowledge of it.

That’s news to me,” Kelly told reporters. “Nobody’s had any discussions with me about Joe being traded. We need Joe here.”

Kelly isn’t in charge of the roster. 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke is, so we’ll see what happens. A source with knowledge of the situation told PFT that the 49ers were seeking a first-round pick for Staley.

Kelly said he hasn’t spoken with Staley about the trade rumors because he doesn’t “make a habit of talking with our guys about erroneous reports.”

Staley, 32, is under contract through 2019. His base salary spikes from $5.4 million this year to $8.25 million in 2017. The trade deadline is next Tuesday, November 1.

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Aaron Williams in team meetings, head/neck still being evaluated

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 16:   Aaron Williams #23 of the Buffalo Bills is looked after on the sidlelines during the first half against the San Francisco 49er at New Era Field on October 16, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s Patriots week, but Bills coach Rex Ryan hasn’t turned his attention or bombast to New England yet because he still has some housekeeping to take care of after Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins.

Injuries were at the top of that housekeeping list and Ryan offered updates on several players Monday, including safety Aaron Williams. Williams traveled home with the Bills on Sunday after going to the hospital for an MRI after taking a shot to the head from Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry.

“Aaron Williams was in meetings, walking around the building,” Ryan said. “Our medical staff is still on the process of evaluating his head and neck.”

Ryan called Landry’s hit, which was penalized, “totally unnecessary” and said he thought college football’s targeting rule might have it right by ejecting players guilty of such infractions.

Ryan said the team will wait and see how running back LeSean McCoy’s hamstring feels as the week unfolds. McCoy was listed as questionable to play on Sunday and had to leave early after feeling pain in the hamstring. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is in the concussion protocol and Ryan said he hopes wide receiver Robert Woods and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus will be able to play this week.

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Jalen Ramsey on fighting: I’d do it again, I won’t be disrespected

#20 of the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Baltimore Ravens at EverBank Field on September 25, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey was ejected from Sunday’s loss to the Raiders for fighting with Raiders wide receiver Johnny Holton after Raiders punter Marquette King ran 26 yards for a first down after a botched snap.

Ramsey was the second Jaguars defender ejected from the game with defensive tackle Malik Jackson also getting the thumb after he was penalized twice for unsportsmanlike conduct. Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny said he thought the ejections were “unacceptable” and that the behavior was something the team “can’t tolerate,” but Ramsey expressed a different point of view on Monday.

“They don’t want me to say this but I would do it again. I won’t be disrespected,” Ramsey said, via Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union.

Jackson said, via Philip Heilman of, that he understands there’s a “line to toe” and that he’d apologize by playing his hardest against the Titans this Thursday.

The Jaguars had 13 penalties for 122 yards overall in the game, something that doesn’t reflect well on the amount of discipline in place under coach Gus Bradley. Bradley’s record doesn’t speak that well for him either and he may need big improvements on both fronts to continue in his current role.

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Jameis Winston on pace for 136 hits

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signals against the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston never shies away from contact. But maybe, once in a while, he should.

As noted by the folks at, Winston took nine hits in Sunday’s win over the 49ers. That’s 51 for the year, which translates to 136 for a 16-game season.

Last year, Winston led all quarterbacks with 109 hits. This year, more fit and mobile, Winston is encountering (if not embracing) even more contact.

At some point, Winston’s approach could get him injured, under the basic theory that more hits equal more opportunities to eventually absorb a hit that keeps the player from playing.

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Browns claim Callahan, Ikard

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 01:  Quarterback Joe Callahan #6 of the Green Bay Packers passes as Ramik Wilson #53 of the Kansas City Chiefs defends during the preseason game at Arrowhead Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns have claimed rookie quarterback Joe Callahan after he was waived by the Saints on Saturday, NFL Network reported.

The Saints had claimed Callahan from the Packers eight days earlier. With the Browns, Callahan finds himself as close to actually playing as he’s been after Browns rookie quarterback Cody Kessler suffered a concussion in Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati.

Rookie Kevin Hogan took over for Kessler. The Browns had Kessler and Hogan active for Sunday’s game, and Josh McCown has been working his way back from a broken collarbone. It’s not yet known if Kessler or McCown will be cleared ahead of Sunday’s game vs. the Jets.

An undrafted rookie out of Div. III Wesley, Callahan played against the Browns in August, starting the preseason opener for both the Browns and the Packers. He got extended time in the preseason because Packers backup Brett Hundley was battling an ankle injury, and he’s used that to make a bunch of game checks. Both the Packers and Saints waived him late in the week due to injury situations at other positions.

The Browns also claimed offensive line Gabe Ikard, per a tweet from Ikard’s agent, Ken Sarnoff. Ikard was waived last week by the Bills as they activated first-round pick Shaq Lawson and made other roster moves to address injury situations.

The addition of Ikard, who’s played in six career games, is probably related to the situation involving Browns center Cameron Erving, who had to leave Sunday’s game due to an illness. Erving suffered a bruised lung earlier in the season.

At 0-7, the Browns are taking advantage of their standing atop the waiver wire to see if they can find future contributors.

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One day later, Mike Zimmer is still salty and vowing to “change things up”

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings looks down as he walks the sidelines during the third quarter of a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on October 23, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Vikings 21-10. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t happy with his team’s performance after Sunday’s loss at Philadelphia. A day later, he’s still upset.

“We’re trying to figure out everything right now,” Zimmer said Monday, via Chris Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “This is a gut check day. . . . We’re going to change some things up this week.”

After a showing that prompted Zimmer to call his offensive line “soft,” he offered up this biting critique that should force every player to engage in soul searching: “I have faith in this football team. But faith is belief without proof, and I have no proof yet.”

The defense has given Zimmer plenty of proof, but defense alone isn’t enough. As to the offense, Zimmer was careful to broaden his disdain beyond the tackles, guards, and center.

“Everyone said how I said it was the offensive line not doing good,” Zimmer said. “The offense in general wasn’t very good.”

The good news is that, one week from tonight, the Vikings face the not-very-good Bears. But if Minnesota stubs its toe against their 1-6 rivals from Chicago, Zimmer’s flavor of choice will continue to be salty.

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Jordan Reed cleared to practice this week

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 2: Tight end Jordan Reed #86 of the Washington Redskins scores a first quarter touchdown past free safety Jordan Poyer #33 of the Cleveland Browns at FedExField on October 2, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tight end Jordan Reed missed his second straight game with a concussion on Sunday, but he is making progress toward getting back into the lineup.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Monday that Reed has been cleared to practice when the team begins on-field preparations for their Week Eight game against the Bengals. Reed did get in one day of practice in a non-contact jersey last week before missing sessions on Thursday and Friday ahead of the loss to the Lions, so there are still steps to clear before he’ll be cleared for the game.

The window for getting cleared may be a little narrower as this week’s game will take place in London and Reed may not make the trip if he’s still dealing with any symptoms from the concussion. The Redskins will have a bye in Week Nine after returning from the game against Cincinnati.

Cornerback Josh Norman is also in the concussion protocol to start the week.

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Jets to stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick as starter after Geno Smith ACL tear

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 02:  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets looks on at the end of a 27-17 loss against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on October 2, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets coach Todd Bowles confirmed that quarterback Geno Smith would be out for the year with a torn ACL, and he’s not ready to start experimenting with other quarterbacks yet.

Bowles just told reporters that Ryan Fitzpatrick would start this week, with Smith going to injured reserve.

Fitzpatrick had just been benched the week before, and said after the game he was angry because he felt abandoned by the organization.

If pissed off is going to stop the turnovers I’m more than happy to have him pissed off the whole time,” Bowles said.

Fitzpatrick had thrown 11 interceptions in his first six starts, with just five touchdowns.

The Jets are 2-5 and close to the point when it’s reasonable to find out if Bryce Petty and/or Christian Hackenberg can play. With the 0-7 Browns on deck, it was reasonable to wonder if it was time to look to the future.

But getting to 3-5 at the midway point in the season would still leave some reason for hope, and Fitzpatrick likely still provides the best cause for that.

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Cardinals confirm Jaron Brown done for year with torn ACL

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11:  Wide receiver Jaron Brown #13 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game against the New England Patriots at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Patriots defeated the Cardinals 23-21.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The word from Arizona after wide receiver Jaron Brown injured his knee in Sunday night’s tie with the Seahawks was that Brown suffered a torn ACL.

That was the word from Cardinals coach Bruce Arians on Monday as well. Arians confirmed that Brown tore the ligament and will miss the rest of the season while on injured reserve.

Those will be the first games that Brown has missed since making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2013.

Brown has been bumped into a bigger role in recent weeks with Michael Floyd falling out of favor and John Brown sidelined by leg pain caused by a sickle cell trait. Floyd had five catches on Sunday night and J.J. Nelson, who had three catches for 84 yards, is also on hand in the event Brown’s absence continues.

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Ratings still shrinking

115872288 Getty Images

After seven weeks, the NFL has a problem. Whether the league wants it acknowledge it publicly or privately or will try to minimize it with damage-control doublespeak (“we don’t have fewer viewers, the same viewers are viewing less“), the NFL has a problem.

Ratings are down, every week in nearly every broadcasting window.

For Week Seven, the 9.4 overnight rating for the Bears-Packers game reflected an 18.2-percent drop from the Week Seven TNF game in 2015, a 20-3 win by the Seahawks over the 49ers. The Sunday night game between the Seahawks and Cardinals dropped by 15 percent from last year’s Eagles-Panthers game, with an 11.6 rating.

The Sunday late-afternoon window, which has for the most part been performing better than prime-time games, also was down sharply, with a 13.2-percent drop in the Patriots-Steelers game on CBS in 2016 and the Week Seven 2015 game between the Cowboys and Giants.

Plenty of potential reasons have been identified for the decline, but perhaps the simplest is that too many games (especially in prime time) lack real excitement, in part because they lack scoring. When the Seahawks and Cardinals are engaged in a punt-fest deadlocked (emphasis on the dead) 3-0 at halftime, who wouldn’t give in to the strong temptation to change the channel and/or go do something else for an hour or so, or long? It quickly became clear on Sunday night that it made sense to check out until 11:15 p.m. ET, or to check out for good.

No one cares about a game that has six total points scored through 60 minutes of action. Four decades ago, the NFL realized that 38-35 was much more exciting than 13-9, which prompted the league to make a series of rules changes aimed at infusing more offense into the game. Which led to more score and more excitement and eventually fueled the rise of fantasy football.

The challenge for the league, beyond cultivating more stars (by, you know, embracing their individuality and not suppressing it), developing more talent (especially at quarterback), and picking better games for prime-time programming, becomes finding a way to make football exciting again. Currently, not nearly enough people think it is.

And before anyone at 345 Park Avenue starts percolating possibilities for tweaking the rules in order to light up scoreboards, here’s hoping that all potential unintended consequences will be fully considered. Because if the NFL’s notion for pumping nitrous oxide into offenses has the same impact as that bright idea for reducing kickoff returns, there will be more snore-inducing defensive struggles in the future.

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Packers will put Jared Abbrederis on injured reserve

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 16:  Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis #84 of the Green Bay Packers runs after a catch in the first half against the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

With injuries piled up at running back and cornerback, the Packers need some roster spots right now.

They’re opening one by placing defensive back Chris Banjo on injured reserve and Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that he’s getting some company. Per Silverstein, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis will also make the move to I.R. on Monday.

Abbrederis has been dealing with a thigh injury and did not play against the Bears last Thursday. He didn’t play much when he was in the lineup, seeing 24 snaps on offense and catching one pass for eight yards in five games.

The 2014 fifth-round pick remains under contract for one more year with the Packers, who have yet to confirm either I.R. move or announce who will be joining the 53-man roster ahead of this week’s game against the Falcons.

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