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PFT’s Week 12 picks

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The good news is that I went 10-4 last week, thanks to every overtime game falling the way I’d pick them.  The bad news is that MDS went 13-1, chopping my seven-game lead down to four.

The worst news, potentially, is that we disagree on four games this week.  Which means that MDS can catch me.

Along the way, MDS pulled off the first-ever hole-in-one in the PFT picks battle, correctly guessing the score of the Saints-Raiders game, 38-17.

So, yeah, MDS had a pretty good week, relegating me to muttering, “Son of a bitch.”

But, hey, I still have the better season record, at 103-56-1.  MDS is 99-60-1.

For now.

Texans at Lions

MDS’s take: The Texans looked very vulnerable on Sunday, needing to rally in the fourth quarter just to force overtime before beating the Jaguars. So a Lions win wouldn’t shock me here. But Detroit’s loss to Green Bay on Sunday likely ended the Lions’ playoff hopes, and I see them coming out flat on Thanksgiving.

MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Lions 10.

Florio’s take:  The Lions have lost 11 of 12 Thanksgiving games.  Make it 12 of 13 when the one-loss Texans come to town, four days after getting a wakeup call against the one-win Jags.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Lions 17.

Redskins at Cowboys

MDS’s take: The Cowboys are surprisingly back in the NFC East hunt, less because they’re playing better than because an easy stretch in their schedule has coincided with the Giants’ annual November swoon. They should keep it going against an inconsistent Redskins team.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 24, Redskins 20.

Florio’s take:  The Cowboys are 6-0 all time against the Redskins on Thanksgiving.  Though Washington never has rolled in to Dallas with a quarterback as good as Robert Griffin III on the roster, the Cowboys are too close to the top of the division to stumble now.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Redskins 20.

Patriots at Jets

MDS’s take: I give Rex Ryan a lot of credit for having his team playing hard in the face of adversity last week, and I think Rex will put together a good game plan to stop a Gronkowski-less Patriots offense. But the problems with the Jets’ own offense are real, and not getting any better. The Patriots will win a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 17, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  A possible classic is in the offing, the first-ever nationally-broadcast Thanksgiving night NFL game on a major network.  The fact that the Jets won on Sunday makes it more interesting.  The fact that the Pats have been pounding teams lately makes it potentially less interesting — except to see which players get hurt on the PAT team in the fourth quarter.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 38, Jets 24.

Vikings at Bears

MDS’s take: If Jay Cutler is back, this is a game the Bears should win handily. If Cutler is out, all bets are off. But it’s looking like Cutler will be cleared to return, and the Bears should turn things around with a convincing win.

MDS’s pick: Bears 24, Vikings 13.

Florio’s take:  The Vikings emerge from their bye week with a six-game stretch that doesn’t look quite as challenging given the Bears’ two-game losing streak.  But the Bears know they need to reverse the slide now, and the Vikings’ second-year quarterback simply isn’t as good as the second-year quarterback who picked the Bears apart on Monday night.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 30, Vikings 17.

Raiders at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Raiders look like they’re ready to give up on the season, and the Bengals look like they’re ready to go on a run. This one won’t be close.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 34, Raiders 10.

Florio’s takeCarson Palmer returns to Cincinnati, with a team far worse than the one for which he notoriously refused to keep playing.  He’ll tell himself he doesn’t feel regret.  And if he tells himself enough, maybe he’ll believe it.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 28, Raiders 13.

Steelers at Browns

MDS’s take: Given the uncertainty surrounding the Steelers’ quarterback situation, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Browns take this one. But I think Charlie Batch will surprise some people by running the offense competently and putting points on the board, and the Steelers’ defense will give Brandon Weeden trouble.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 24, Browns 7.

Florio’s take:  Whether it’s Charlie Batch or Brian Hoyer or Ben Roethlisberger or Kordell Stewart or Terry Hanratty under center, the Steelers will find a way to get things back on track against a Browns team that isn’t nearly as bad as their record would suggest.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 17, Browns 13.

Bills at Colts

MDS’s take: After getting demolished by the Patriots, the Colts need this one. I like Andrew Luck to have a big game against a suspect Buffalo defense, and the Colts to get a win that allows them to keep pace with the Steelers and a game ahead of the Bengals in the AFC wild card race.

MDS’s pick: Colts 28, Bills 20.

Florio’s take:  A potential playoff knockout game, with the winner in pretty good shape to make it to January and the loser, well, not.  The Colts aren’t as bad as their loss to the Pats would indicate, and the Bills aren’t as good as their win over the Fins would suggest.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 24, Bills 17.

Titans at Jaguars

MDS’s take: I give the Jaguars a lot of credit for coming out and playing hard against the Texans on Sunday, but the reality is they’re just a bad football team in all phases of the game. The Titans aren’t great either, but they should beat Jacksonville comfortably.

MDS’s pick: Titans 34, Jaguars 17.

Florio’s take:  Giving the Texans their best shot and losing in heartbreaking fashion will either help a bad team find its groove or grease the skids for an epic collapse.  I’m guessing the latter, especially with the Titans still in position to bogart a wild-card berth.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 27, Jaguars 10.

Broncos at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Broncos have all but clinched the AFC West. No way they lose to the worst team in the division, and maybe the worst team in the league.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 38, Chiefs 10.

Florio’s take:  The Chiefs wanted Peyton Manning, but he didn’t want them.  He’ll get a chance to prove why he made the right choice on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 34, Chiefs 10.

Seahawks at Dolphins

MDS’s take: In Seattle, this game would be a blowout. In Miami, I’m tempted to pick the Dolphins, because the Seahawks have struggled so much on the road. But the Dolphins have been finding ways to lose recently, and I suspect they’ll do that again on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 20, Dolphins 17.

Florio’s take:  The next step for the Seahawks is to find a way to consistently win away from home.  And they can’t get much farther away from home than Miami.  So why not start there?

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 24, Dolphins 9.

Falcons at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: This is a huge opportunity for Greg Schiano’s Buccaneers to show they’re legitimate NFC playoff contenders, but I don’t think they’re ready to take that step. The Falcons will stay ahead of the NFC pack with a win in Tampa.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 21, Buccaneers 20.

Florio’s take:  The Falcons have looked shaky in the past few weeks, and the Bucs have had a solid four games.  The Bucs have the run defense and the running game to give Atlanta a glimpse of the flaws they need to fix before the postseason.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 27, Falcons 24.

Ravens at Chargers

MDS’s take: I don’t believe the Ravens are as good as their 8-2 record suggests, and they’re bound to come back to the pack in the AFC eventually. But after the Chargers’ loss to the Broncos on Sunday, San Diego isn’t going anywhere. The Chargers will come out flat and the Ravens will win.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 20, Chargers 16.

Florio’s take:  The Ravens are getting closer to a fifth straight postseason, and Norv Turner is getting closer to a third coaching postmortem.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 24, Chargers 20.

Rams at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Cardinals’ offense will be a mess until they can get their quarterback situation straightened out, but Arizona’s defense is good enough that the Rams will lose a low-scoring game in the desert.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 10, Rams 7.

Florio’s take:  The Cardinals have no one to play quarterback and, more importantly, no one to cover Danny Amendola.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 20, Cardinals 10.

49ers at Saints

MDS’s take: This is a fascinating game, with the Saints making a furious run toward the playoffs after a disastrous start to the season, and the 49ers coming off a Monday night when they looked unstoppable. If there’s any defense that can slow Drew Brees and Co. down, it’s the 49ers’ defense. I like San Francisco to get a big road win.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Saints 27.

Florio’s take:  By the end of Thanksgiving weekend, we’ll be giving thanks for one of the great games of the 2012 season.  The Saints may not be able to keep it going, but they’re not ready to stop now.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, 49ers 31.

Packers at Giants

MDS’s take: With the Cowboys closing in on them in the NFC East, the Giants can’t afford to lay an egg like they did two weeks ago against the Bengals. I believe the bye week will help Tom Coughlin’s crew right the ship, and the Packers will be handed a tough conference loss.

MDS’s pick: Giants 24, Packers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Giants annual theme song is Wake Me Up When November Ends.  November is ending.  The Giants are waking up.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 38, Packers 35.

Panthers at Eagles

MDS’s take: A lousy Monday night game ends the week on a down note. Neither of these teams is any good, but at least the Panthers don’t look like they’ve completely quit on the season.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 21, Eagles 20.

Florio’s take:  Yep, this one sure looked a lot more interesting when the schedule came out in April.  The only question is whether the cries of “Fire Andy” will be drowned out by the chants of “We Want Gruden.”  In the background, the Eagles will prove to be the slightly better of two bad teams.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 24, Panthers 14.

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Jerry Jones: Let’s be real aggressive to build a winner around Romo

Tony Romo, Jerry Jones AP

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones thinks he has a quarterback who can lead his team to a Super Bowl, and he doesn’t want that opportunity to slip away.

That’s why, Jones told USA Today, he’s trying hard to be aggressive and build a championship-caliber team around Tony Romo.

Let’s be real aggressive,” Jones said. “At this juncture, that has everything to do with where Romo is, and the level of players we have.”

Among the aggressive moves the Cowboys have made this offseason were signing Greg Hardy, drafting Randy Gregory and making a big push to bring in La’El Collins as an undrafted free agent. But the Cowboys also had a big loss in the form of running back DeMarco Murray, who left for Philadelphia. Jones said losing Murray was just part of the cost of doing business.

“We’d love to have Murray,” Jones said. “We had to take a little step back to go forward. We needed that cap room. That’s risky. Yet it freed up the cap room that we could use to make other moves.”

Jones thinks the Cowboys can win a championship without Murray. As long as they have enough other pieces around Romo.

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PFT Live: Dolphins talk with Armando Salguero, Bills talk with Vic Carucci

Bill Lazor, Ryan Tannehill AP

The Dolphins liked what they saw from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and wide receiver DeVante Parker at Tuesday’s organized team activity, which is a good development since they were two of the team’s biggest acquisitions this offseason.

On Wednesday’s PFT Live, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald will join Mike Florio for a closer look at which other players have also opened some eyes during the offseason program. From there, we’ll check in with three other teams for an OTA update.

Florio will talk Browns with Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland, 49ers with Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area and Bills with Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News during the program.

We also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox 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 of the show by clicking right here.

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Washington parting ways with veteran cornerback Tracy Porter

LANDOVER, MD November 16: Washington Redskins cornerback Tracy Porter (22) knocks away a pass intended for Tampa Bay wide receiver Louis Murphy (18) bringing up a fourth down in the first quarter at FedEx field on November 16,  2014 in Landover, MD.    (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images) Getty Images

It sounded like it was just a delay and a long layover.

But Tracy Porter’s plane to Washington was apparently canceled, as the team released the veteran cornerback today.

According to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, the decision to part ways with Porter saves $2.2 million in cap space. He was signed to a two-year, $6 million deal last year, but appeared in just two games.

When Porter and left tackle Trent Williams didn’t show for OTAs yesterday, Washington coach Jay Gruden said they had “flight issues.”

Here’s hoping Porter packed a parachute.

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Broncos excuse Antonio Smith from OTAs during investigation

ENGLEWOOD, CO - MAY 20: Denver Broncos defensive end Antonio Smith hams it up for the camera May 20, 2015 during a portrait session at Dove Valley. (Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images) Getty Images

Teams usually want every player available to show up for OTAs.

But obviously for the Broncos, Antonio Smith is a special case.

According to Mike Klis of KUSA, Smith will not participate in OTAs because of “personal reasons.”

That’s another way of saying “the Broncos don’t want him on their field wearing their or their sponsors’ logos while he’s part of an investigation in a child sexual abuse case in Texas.”

This is hardly an unexpected move, especially on the heels of the Bears’ release of Ray McDonald this week upon his latest arrest.

According to the report, Broncos General Manager John Elway met with coach Gary Kubiak and team president Joe Ellis about the matter, and had “several discussions” with Smith.

Smith hasn’t been charged, but the complaint is still being looked at by the Fort Bend County (Texas) District Attorney’s Office.

The Broncos signed the veteran defensive end to a one-year deal in April, saying they were unaware of the investigation at the time.

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Report: Washington releasing Chris Chester

Washington Redskins' OTA's Getty Images

Washington is parting ways with its starting right guard.

The club will release Chris Chester, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported Wednesday.

The 32-year-old Chester has started 64 straight regular season games for Washington. Overall, he has started 111-of-137 contests since entering the NFL with Baltimore in 2006.

Chester was set to make $3.5 million in salary in 2015, per NFLPA data.

Second-year pro Spencer Long could be among the options to replace Chester at right guard. A Nebraska product, Long was a third-round pick of Washington in 2014, and he was listed as the top backup to Chester as a rookie.

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Freeman starts OTAs as starting tailback in Atlanta

Freeman Getty Images

Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman may indeed be sharing touches in Atlanta this year. But one of them needs to be the starter.

And Freeman has started OTAs as the starter, as explained by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“I love the competitive attitude that Devonta brings,” coach Dan Quinn said Tuesday, via Ledbetter. “For me, when I talk about having the best offseason you’ve ever had, he’s one of the guys who says, ‘Coach I’m here. I’m ready.’ That shows you what kind of competitor that he is. . . . He doesn’t back down from anything. That’s one of the things I love about Devonta the most, [he’s ready for] every challenge.”

When Freeman appeared before the draft on PFT Live, he was even ready for the possibility of the Falcons taking running back Todd Gurley with the eighth overall pick in the draft. And the rest of Freeman’s teammates seem to be ready for the upcoming season, too; per Ledbetter, Quinn had 100-percent participation in the first OTA session of his head-coaching career.

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Texans look to be the choice for Hard Knocks

HardKnocksGetty Getty Images

Their head coach may not want it, but he’s apparently going to get it.

With all signs pointing to the Texans being the team that serves as the focal point for Hard Knocks in 2015, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle says via Twitter that he expects the Texans to officially get the assignment.

Coach Bill O’Brien, who comes from the Bill Belichick School of Absolute and Total Secrecy, probably isn’t happy about it. And as McClain noted during a Tuesday visit to PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, O’Brien may have to watch his language with the NFL Films microphones littering the practice field. (Then again, that didn’t affect Rex Ryan.)

The Texans may not be the most popular choice, but they’ll have some intriguing story lines, including a quarterback competition, a star running back who has a history of being standoffish and obtuse with the local media, one of the very best defensive players in the game, and a No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft who is trying to regain his form after microfracture surgery. Plus, profane or not, O’Brien likely will be an engaging, entertaining, and compelling figure.

So while NFL Films and HBO could have done better, they also could have done a lot worse. The fact that they’ll be doing this year’s show with a team whose coach likely would have preferred to pass the baton suggests that maybe more teams coached by men who would be inclined to find a way out of the assignment will accept the fact that, eventually, every team will be doing it.

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FIFA indictments are a warning to other sports leagues, including NFL

fifa-logo-getty Getty Images

After years of being widely regarded as a thoroughly corrupt organization, the international body that runs the sport of soccer has been targeted aggressively by the U.S. government.

“Two generations of soccer officials abused their positions of trust for personal gain,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release, “frequently through an alliance with unscrupulous sports marketing executives who shut out competitors and kept highly lucrative contracts for themselves through the systematic payment of bribes and kickbacks.”

Regardless of how this plays out for the nine FIFA executives who have been indicted and for FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who has not been indicted yet but could be once the nine indicted FIFA executives begin clamoring to cut deals with prosecutors, it’s a warning to every other sports league, including the NFL. If you become big enough and sufficiently controversial and notorious, the feds eventually will start poking around your business. And your business had better be in proper order, or the feds will keep poking around your business until there’s enough evidence to begin to present facts about your business to a grand jury.

Let’s be clear on this. There’s no specific reason to believe that the NFL or anyone connected to it currently is doing anything that would attract a full-blown federal prosecution. But enough issues and problems have arisen in recent months and years to possibly spark general curiosity regarding whether a crime or two may be lurking behind certain aspects of the NFL’s great fortune.

During his recent appearing on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, former federal prosecutor turned NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith pointed out the difference in treatment experienced by players who get in trouble and by owners who get in trouble.

“You have the cases of Mr. Irsay, where somebody unfortunately overdosed to death in his house, you have the case involving the owner in Cleveland where the business that he was connected with was found to be in violation of federal law, and you have the case of the [Wilfs] where a state court judge ruled that the owners of the Minnesota Vikings engaged in fraud,” Smith said. “One one hand you have a Commissioner who was overturned three times” in disciplining Saints players for the bounty scandal, Ray Rice, and Adrian Peterson, “and on the other hand you have a Commissioner who has looked the other way three times.”

In recent years, Congress has become the political body most commonly mentioned as potentially inclined to not look the other way when an NFL controversy goes mainstream. But the work of Congress typically occurs in public. Privately, prosecutors can scratch the surface and peel the onion and systematically compile the evidence that may or may not ever lead to an affirmative attack on what has become a very large American target.

Again, there’s no specific reason to believe that the NFL or anyone connected to it currently is doing anything that would attract a full-blown federal prosecution. But the FIFA case should serve as a warning to all sports leagues that the smoke of perceived incompetence could result in someone with subpoena power choosing to search for the fire of actual corruption.

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Mariota showing off his speed at Titans’ OTAs

Mariota AP

Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota is making an impression at Organized Team Activities. Not with his arm so much as with his feet.

After practicing against Mariota for the first time, Titans linebacker Zach Brown was surprised by what he saw.

He is faster than I thought,” Brown told the Tennessean. “He is an athletic quarterback. He didn’t win the Heisman for nothing. One time he took off – I was guarding Delanie [Walker] – and I turned around and I was like, ‘Where is he?’ He is fast. He impressed me. He is still a rookie and he has to learn, but he is a cool guy. I haven’t seen him get frustrated yet.”

Brown, who ran track at North Carolina, is one of the NFL’s fastest linebackers. He knows speed when he sees it. And he’s impressed with the speed displayed by Mariota.

Still, Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt cautions that it’s way too early to get overly excited about Mariota.

“It’s a process. That’s why you want to give him as many reps as you can, to get him more comfortable, get him prepared,” Whisenhunt said. “I guess the best assessment would be some good, some bad, probably probably what you’d expect.”

It’s nice that Mariota has impressed as a runner, but Whisenhunt will only be happy when Mariota impresses as a passer.

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Derek Carr taking snaps, but isn’t throwing

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was held out of last week’s practices because of a right ring finger injury that coach Jack Del Rio and Carr’s agent both suggested was a relatively minor concern.

Carr wasn’t a full participant in Tuesday’s practice, but he looks like he’s on the road to proving them correct. Carr didn’t throw the ball during the session, but handed it off while taking part in individual drills.

“Derek was able to take some snaps,” Del Rio said, via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com. “We’ll bring him along. Things with him are progressing.”

Bair reports there’s “some hope” that Carr will resume throwing by next month’s minicamp and a stronger belief that all will be well for training camp, an outlook supported by the fact that the team is comfortable enough with Carr’s condition to have him on the field at all this week.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

NFL Draft Football AP

The Bills want to run as many plays as possible at OTAs.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin wants to see how his players finish. (If they don’t finish in the playoffs, Philbin may be finished.)

Here’s a look at the Patriots’ rookie class.

The Jets hired seven new scouts.

Ex-Ravens DT Terrance Cody has an August court date on felony animal cruelty charges.

The Bengals demand versatility from their linebackers.

Browns coach Mike Pettine saw some sloppiness on the first day of OTAs.

Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell says he has no one to blame but himself for his suspension at the start of the season.

After canceling yesterday’s OTA due to severe weather, the Texans’ OTA schedule now features practices today and tomorrow, plus June 1-2, 4, 8-9 and 11-12.

Colts DT Art Jones says last season was “frustrating as hell.”

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley isn’t thrilled that DE Chris Clemons has chosen to skip voluntary offseason work.

There’s really no quarterback competition in Tennessee, where the job is Marcus Mariota’s.

Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison loves the give and take with Peyton Manning.

Justin Houston is staying away from the Chiefs, but teammate Tamba Hali says they’re in touch.

Raiders rookie TE Clive Walford is standing out at OTAs.

In San Diego, Melvin Gordon is trying to get No. 25 from Darrell Stuckey.

Here’s a look at the top players on the Cowboys’ roster.

Tom Coughlin has shied away from joint practices in the past, but the Giants have agreed to hold one with the Bengals.

Did the Cowboys’ line make DeMarco Murray, and if so, what kind of player will he be in Philadelphia?

DeSean Jackson skipped OTAs to watch basketball.

Ex-Bear Marcus Spears is ripping his former team.

Lions backup QB Dan Orlovsky says RB Theo Riddick is too good not to put on the field.

Here are some of the questions facing the Packers at the start of OTAs.

What can the Vikings expect from rookie LB Eric Kendricks?

Falcons coach Dan Quinn is taking a hands-on approach to the team’s pass rush.

The Panthers want to see what they have from rookie WR Devin Funchess.

Saints rookie Hau’oli Kikaha was one of the best pass rushers in college football history.

Will the Glazers pony up to get Tampa a Super Bowl?

The Cardinals need their running game to take a step forward.

Former Rams G Davin Joseph and LB Will Herring remain unrestricted free agents, the only two players from the Rams’ free agent pool who haven’t signed contracts yet.

After 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick made a mess on social media on Tuesday, former Packers TE Tom Crabtree called him “#7tupid.”

There’s still no progress on a new contract for Seahawks QB Russell Wilson.

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Steelers putting an early emphasis on two-point conversions

Pittsburgh Steelers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

It might not be the biggest play they run this season, but it’s the first, and that might mean something.

When the Steelers opened the offensive team drill portions of yesterday’s OTAs, they didn’t start at the 20 as they normally do. They moved to the 2-yard line, where they practiced two-point conversions to begin the day’s work.

“Coach told me we were going to do it, and I was a little prepared for it,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, via Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It was a little surprising knowing that we haven’t put in red zone yet and they haven’t put in red-zone defense yet. That’s going to be a big part of the game now: teams consciously going for two or at least debating it.”

Tomlin talked to his players about it before the drill, but didn’t expound afterward, saying: “We are not going to talk about it. We are just going to do it.”

With extra point attempts moved back to the 15, there will be more incentive for teams to go for two. But while many coaches will stick with the routines that they’re used to, some coaches will be more daring.

Tomlin’s 10-of-13 on two-pointers as Steelers coach, making all four of their attempts last year. Since 2001, the Steelers have a league-best 72.7 percent conversion rate on two-pointers.

And with an offense that’s so prolific in every area of the field, getting some early work on the new plays only makes sense.

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DeVante Parker draws rave reviews for early OTA work

Parker Getty Images

With most of the NFL conducting OTA sessions on Tuesday, it was hard for any one player to stand out. Dolphins rookie receiver DeVante Parker did.

Praise popped up for Parker on Twitter throughout the team’s practice session. Afterward, quarterback Ryan Tannehill added his two cents.

DeVante was great today,” Tannehill said, via the team’s official website. “We’ve been seeing [it] for the past few weeks just working on air, but today against the defense you got to see him make some tough catches with defenders on his back in traffic, and that’s what you want to see. You’ve got a guy with a big body who’s able to make strong catches with his hands in traffic. That’s when you’re able to cut it loose.”

Via Omar Kelly and Chris Perkings of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Parker was “catching everything thrown his way,” and he was “impressive” against veteran defenders like cornerback Brent Grimes.

Parker still has a long way to go before he’s making those plays in pads against full contact, and an even longer way to go before getting it done in games against guys like Darrelle Revis. But at a time when this is the closest thing to football we’ve seen since football season ended, it’s encouraging for Dolphins fans that they may have used the 14th overall pick in the draft on a player who is poised to become a difference maker — especially since they got him for a lot less than what they paid to get Ndamukong Suh.

It was also smart of the Dolphins to unload disgruntled wideout Mike Wallace onto the Vikings. If Minnesota hadn’t acquired him before the draft, the Vikings may have used pick No. 11 to reunite Parker with fellow former Louisville standout Teddy Bridgewater.

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Blake Bortles sees “big difference” after offseason work

Blake Bortles AP

Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles set out to refine his game this offseason by working with quarterback guru Tom House and others in California.

His tutors were pleased with the results of Bortles’s labor and the reviews from Jacksonville are positive as well. Tight end Marcedes Lewis said he noticed a positive change in Bortles’s footwork, coach Gus Bradley said “we’ve seen really good improvement” and Bortles is pleased with where his mechanics are after the offseason attention.

“To me, it’s a big difference,” Bortles said, via ESPN.com. “To the guys that I worked with it’s a big difference. It’s just more efficient. It’s better. It’s something when I was able to talk to [offensive coordinator Greg Olson] a while back, there were things we wanted to work on to fix. It was good because we were on the same page with things I was trying to fix anyways.”

Bradley also said that he “appreciates” the work Bortles put in on his own this offseason and it’s certainly a good development for the team that their 2014 first-rounder is doing what he can to improve his game. As always, though, the effort will have to be matched with execution for Bortles and the Jacksonville offense to take the strides necessary for a climb toward a winning record.

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Adrian Peterson set to show up, for Adrian Peterson Day

Detroit Lions v Minnesota ViKings Getty Images

Some things are just bigger than OTAs.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who is staying away from the team’s practices, will make his first extended public appearance next month.

What’s the occasion? Well, none other than Adrian Peterson Day in his hometown of Palestine, Texas.

According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Peterson is expected to attend the June 13 shindig, which has been held each year since 2007.

Adrian will be there; that’s the plan,” family friend Kenneth Abrams said. “It will be business as usual. We’re a small town [of about 18,000] and everybody supports him, but I think it will be bigger this year.”

Peterson’s not busy with OTAs, as he’s still exerting whatever leverage he has (not much) to get loose from the Vikings. But they’ve got no real reason to let him go, and don’t seem particularly interested in doing so.

So it might be worth checking out the parade at Adrian Peterson Day, just to see who sponsors a float.

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