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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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Devin Hester says he wasn’t happy the last few years in Chicago

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Devin Hester took sole possession of the NFL record for most return touchdowns in a career when he took back a Michael Koenen punt for a 26-yard touchdown in the second quarter of the Atlanta Falcons 56-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Hester made the majority of the progress toward that record while a member of the Chicago Bears over the previous eight seasons.

However, Hester said after the game Thursday night in a postgame interview on the NFL Network that he hadn’t been happy with the last few years he spent with the Bears. He even seemingly took a veiled shot at his former quarterback, Jay Cutler.

I’m happy man,” Hester said, via Adam Hoge of WGN Radio. “You know what, I’m going to say it, man. I wasn’t happy the last 3-4 years in Chicago because things wasn’t going the way I expect. I would always have a great camp, have all the receivers saying and coaches saying I had the best camp of all the receivers. And once the season start off, I’m not there.

“You know, and I got a quarterback now that man, he loves even the walk-ons, man. And the coaches know how to get the ball to me, you know, make plays for me. And I’m excited for this season, man. This is only the beginning for our team.”

The experiment of using Hester’s ability as a receiver in Chicago never seemed to fully take off. After posting a strong campaign in 2009 with 57 catches for 757 yards and three touchdowns, he never approached those numbers again. His catch total dripped to 40, 26 and then 23 over the next three seasons before being taken out of the role under Marc Trestman last year.

In three games for Atlanta, Hester already has seven catches for 126 yards and appears to be revitalized in all facets of the game.

Every team in the league had a chance to sign Hester when he was a free agent this summer. With Hester happy with his surroundings, the Falcons may have found a potential difference maker off the scrap heap.

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Earl Thomas says his “championship spirit” is back after loss to Chargers

Seahawks Chargers Football AP

Earl Thomas can’t quite put his finger on why he felt a little off during Sunday’s 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers. However, Thomas believes the loss has helped reinvigorate him ahead of this week’s Super Bowl rematch with the Denver Broncos.

“I think I definitely got my championship spirit back after that loss; my crave, my hunger, and my desire to be unstoppable back,” Thomas said. “I don’t think I lost it but after that game I was like, ‘dang, something just hit me,’ and I just been focused ever since and it feel so good just to be feeling like this.”

Seattle’s defense was on the field for over 42 minutes with temperatures on the field nearing 120 degrees. Thomas even had to leave the game in the second half to get an IV to replenish fluids after suffering from cramps. The Chargers put up 377 yards of offense and converted 10 of 19 third opportunities to keep Seattle’s defense on the field. Thomas and the rest of the Seahawks defense just couldn’t get the stops they are typically able to get.

While San Diego didn’t hit any massively big play against the Seahawks – their longest play being a 21-yard touchdown from Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates – Seattle just couldn’t find ways to get off the field consistently.

Thomas just didn’t feel like he was playing like himself last week in San Diego. It’s an experience he says he hasn’t encountered before.

“It never happened like that,” Thomas said. “That game was so weird. It was different. It just felt funny out there. Even in my body language when I watch myself on film. I have no regrets from the game but one thing I can say, just that my technique and just as my posture wasn’t as aggressive and I think that’s a part of my mindset that I need to turn on.”

Thomas is itching for the opportunity to get back on track this week against the Broncos.

“We’re ready to play right now,” Thomas said. “I love when we have something to prove and a lot of times when we’re on top like this, we’ve got to protect what we have. This is not a one person game, this is a team sport and we have to capture every moment. We have a lot of young players that are trying to understand their role in this defense, but we had a lot of great coachable moments from that film and I got onto some guys and I took criticism myself and we move on.”

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Lovie Smith “embarrassed” by Bucs’ showing in 56-14 loss

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In the aftermath of the worst loss of his NFL head coaching career, Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith said he was “embarrassed” by his team’s performance in a 56-14 loss at Atlanta on Thursday night.

“Obviously, you know, we weren’t ready to play,” Smith said, taking the blame for his team’s poor showing at the outset of his postgame remarks.

Smith said the team’s injury list, which grew longer with the loss of quarterback Josh McCown to a thumb injury Thursday, was not an excuse for a defeat in which the Bucs surrendered the first eight touchdowns before finally getting on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.

“The guys we had out there, we should’ve played better than that,” Smith said.

In relief of McCown, second-year backup Mike Glennon completed 17-of-24 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Glennon also didn’t commit a turnover.

“If there was something bright to come out of this game, it was probably his play,” Smith said.

Never before had a Smith-coached team surrendered more than 45 points in a game, and never had one of his teams lost by more than five touchdowns, according to the Spreadapedia database.

The Buccaneers’ head coach called the loss a “scar” that would stay with Tampa Bay.

“Scars don’t go away. This will be on us,” Smith said. “Rest of our lives, we’re going to remember this game.”

He added: “Luckily, we have 13 more games to go.”

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Falcons hammer hapless Buccaneers in 56-14 victory

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The Atlanta Falcons completely dominated the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the tune of a massive 56-14 blowout victory on Thursday night.

It was the second highest point total in Atlanta franchise history. The Falcons improved to 2-1 on the year while Tampa Bay fell to 0-3.

Devin Hester scored the 20th return touchdown of his career to take sole possession of the NFL record for most kick returns for scores in a career. Hester also had a 20-yard touchdown run on an endaround in the second quarter.

Matt Ryan set a franchise record for completion percentage (87.5 percent) in a game going 21 of 24 for 286 yards and three touchdowns before being replaced by T.J. Yates in the third quarter. Harry Douglas caught one touchdown pass from Ryan with Julio Jones added two scores. Steven Jackson scored. Antone Smith scored. Safety Kemal Ishmael scored on an interception return.

The Buccaneers couldn’t do anything right. Tampa Bay fumbled five times, losing four to Atlanta. Josh McCown was intercepted once before leaving the game in the second quarter with a thumb injury. Add in snap issues as well and it was a total cluster for the Bucs.

Despite having 56 points through three quarters, the Falcons were unable to become the 23rd team to score 60 points in an NFL game. The New Orleans Saints were the most recent team to do so with a 62-7 victory over Indianapolis in October 2011.

The Buccaneers were outgained by a 344-153 margin with five turnovers. Bobby Rainey – playing for an injured Doug Martin – had just 41 yards on 11 carries and two of their five fumbles.

Tampa Bay recorded their only offensive score of the game with 8:46 left to go when Mike Glennon hit Vincent Jackson for a 3-yard touchdown. Linebacker Danny Lansanah intercepted Yates on Atlanta’s next possession and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to bring the score to 56-14.

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Week Three skill position injury report — Thursday

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The following is a compilation of skill position players listed on Thursday’s injury report, along with their practice activity levels as declared by their clubs.

The final status for players whose teams play on Sunday will be announced on Friday.

Did not practice

Rams WR Tavon Austin (knee).

Panthers WR Jason Avant (thigh).

Giants WR Odell Beckham (hamstring).

Bengals RB Rex Burkhead (knee).

49ers TE Vernon Davis (ankle, knee).

Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring).

Rams TE Cory Harkey (knee).

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (illness).

Jaguars WR Allen Hurns (ankle).

Washington WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder).

Saints RB Mark Ingram (hand).

Jaguars WR Marqise Lee (hamstring).

Bears WR Brandon Marshall (ankle).

Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee).

49ers TE Vance McDonald (knee).

Steelers TE Heath Miller (not injury related).

Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle).

Dolphins RB Knowshon Moreno (elbow).

Colts WR Hakeem Nicks (illness).

Cowboys RB Joseph Randle (concussion).

Washington TE Jordan Reed (hamstring).

Raiders WR Rod Streater (hip).

Browns RB Ben Tate (knee).

Chiefs RB De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring).

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (thigh).

Bills WR Robert Woods (ankle).

Limited

Chargers WR Keenan Allen (groin).

Steelers RB Dri Archer (ankle).

Lions RB Joique Bell (knee).

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (shoulder).

Browns TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder).

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (ankle).

Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee).

Panthers WR Jerricho Cotchery (thigh).

Patriots WR Julian Edelman (back).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot).

Cowboys TE Gavin Escobar (knee).

Washington PK Kai Forbath (right groin).

Texans RB Arian Foster (hamstring).

Chargers TE Antonio Gates (hamstring).

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart (foot).

Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe).

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (knee).

Jaguars TE Clay Harbor (calf).

Rams QB Shaun Hill (thigh).

Eagles WR Josh Huff (shoulder).

Bears WR Alshon Jeffery (hamstring).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (ankle).

Jaguars RB Storm Johnson (ankle).

Raiders RB Maurice Jones-Drew (hand).

Seahawks RB Christine Michael (hamstring).

Lions RB Montell Owens (hamstring).

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer (right shoulder).

Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson (chest).

Ravens RB Bernard Pierce (thigh).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen).

Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts (hamstring).

Jaguars TE Mickey Shuler (heel).

Panthers RB Mike Tolbert (chest).

Patriots RB Shane Vereen (shoulder).

Washington RB Darrel Young (neck).

Full

Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin (knee).

Browns WR Travis Benjamin (knee).

Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (quadricep).

Colts RB Ahmad Bradshaw (other).

Panthers WR Philly Brown (ankle).

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant (shoulder).

Eagles TE Zach Ertz (knee).

Texans TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (foot).

Ravens QB Joe Flacco (illness).

Texans TE Garrett Graham (ankle).

Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray (foot).

Chiefs WR Frankie Hammond (shoulder).

Dolphins WR Brian Hartline (back).

Seahawks TE Cooper Helfet (knee).

Washington RB Roy Helu (quadricep).

Chiefs WR Junior Hemingway (hip).

Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (groin).

49ers RB Carlos Hyde (calf).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick (back).

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (back).

Titans RB Dexter McCluster (foot).

Broncos PK Brandon McManus (right groin).

Steelers WR Lance Moore (groin).

Bears WR Josh Morgan (groin).

Panthers TE Greg Olsen (calf).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (ribs).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin).

Vikings WR Rodney Smith (hamstring).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (other).

Titans QB Charlie Whitehurst (right finger).

Chiefs WR Albert Wilson (ankle).

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Josh McCown heads to locker room with thumb injury

McCown

The Buccaneers’ quarterback of the past/future is about to become the quarterback of the present.

Mike Glennon will enter Thursday night’s game against the Falcons in place of Josh McCown.  The starter has left for the locker room after striking his hand on a helmet after throwing a pass.  Officially, he’s questionable to return with a thumb injury, according to Tracy Wolfson of CBS.

Glennon can’t do much worse than McCown, who completed five of 12 passes for 58 yards and an interception before leaving the game.

The Buccaneers continue to trail, 35-0.

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Devin Hester passes Deion Sanders for all-time TD return mark

Hester Getty Images

During his first season with the Falcons, Devin Hester has shown that he can do a thing or two on offense.  But he also still has the skills that could eventually put him in Canton.

With a 62-yard punt return that hit paydirt, Hester broke a tie with Deion Sanders at 19 career touchdown returns.  Hester now has the record all to himself with 20.  He paid tribute to Sanders with an extended high step into the end zone, drawing a flag for taunting in the process.

Hester also has added a 20-yard touchdown run as part of Atlanta’s 35-0 first-half lead.

And while it’s easier to criticize the Bears both for letting Hester go and for never finding a way to unleash his broken-field skills on offense, keep in mind that every team has a crack at Hester on the open market.  The Falcons made the move to get him, and he could end up being a major difference maker as Atlanta tries to get back to the postseason.

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Gonzalez says he won’t be returning to Falcons

Gonzalez Getty Images

After the 2012 season, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez was 95-percent retired.  And he returned.

After the 2013 season, Gonzalez’s moved his estimate to 100 percent.  And he has said he won’t be returning.

Now with CBS, which televises Thursday Night Football, Gonzalez explained that he won’t be returning to the Week Three TNF host team.

“No,” Gonzalez said about a possible reunion with the Falcons. “I know I can still play. But at the same time, I got 17 years in the league. I really do feel content and happy to be up here because I win every week.”

Gonzalez’s options aren’t limited to the Falcons. He signed a two-year deal in 2013, which as a practical matter gave the Falcons his rights for 2014, if he decided to give it another go. By not retiring before the start of the league year in March, Gonzalez forced the Falcons to cut him before a balloon payment came due. As a result, Gonzalez can now sign with any team, at any time.

Literally, at any time. Even during the playoffs.

If, for example, one of the Super Bowl teams has a tight end suffer an injury in the conference title game (it happened three years ago, when Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski badly sprained an ankle), Gonzalez can sign a contract and suit up for a one-game shot at the Super Bowl ring he never won.

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Falcons taking it to the Bucs in Atlanta

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It’s been an ugly start for the Buccaneers tonight in Atlanta.

The Falcons’ first two offensive possessions ended with Matt Ryan touchdown passes, the first to Harry Douglas and the second to Julio Jones, and Atlanta got a pick-six on defense from safety Kemal Ishmael making the score 21-0.

In the early going the game has been notable mostly for how easy the Falcons have made it look: They’ve simply marched down the field with the Bucs providing little to no resistance. Only once did it look like the Bucs had made a big play on defense, when safety Mark Barron took the ball away from Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo and began racing downfield. But Falcons receiver Devin Hester made a great play, running Barron down, stripping the ball from him and recovering Barron’s fumble.

The Bucs caught a break when they fumbled the ensuing kickoff, only to have the officials rule that forward progress had stopped. That break didn’t amount to much, as Ishmael’s interception return for a touchdown happened right after. The Bucs are going to have to catch a whole lot more breaks if they’re going to make this game competitive.

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Todd Haley missed Steelers’ flight to Baltimore last week

Haley Getty Images

Here’s an unusual story that would have gotten more attention in recent days if other more serious and unusual stories hadn’t become so usual of late.

Last week, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley missed the team’s flight to Baltimore for the Week Two Thursday night game against the Ravens.  The Steelers have confirmed the version of events that multiple sources shared with PFT.

Late for the flight, Haley contacted the team to advise that he was stuck in traffic.  He said his wife would be driving to Baltimore anyway, so he rode with her.

Ultimately, Haley missed no meetings and the situation otherwise caused no problems.  But his absence on the flight was noticed, and it was regarded as unusual.

Probably because it is unusual.  Members of the coaching staff ordinarily don’t miss team flights.  In this specific case, Haley was fortunate that the game was fairly close via car.  He also was fortunate that most of the media has been focused on other things.

Snoop Dogg, however, may have something to say.

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Police say prior incident took place at Ray McDonald’s house

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

As authorities continue to investigate whether to bring formal charges against 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald, who was arrested and accused of domestic violence in August, police now say another incident took place at McDonald’s home on May 25.

San Jose police confirmed today that they were called to McDonald’s house after an incident in which a woman grabbed a man’s gun. Although police did not identify either the man or the woman involved by name, multiple reports say the subjects were McDonald and his fiancee, whom McDonald is accused of assaulting in a later incident in August.

“An engaged couple (a male and female subject) were in an argument when the female subject became upset, grabbed a firearm (handgun) registered to the male subject, and held it at her side,” the police statement released today said, via CSNBayArea.com. “When the male subject informed the female subject that he was going to call 911, the female subject put the firearm away and fled without incident. The female subject did not make any threats or point the firearm at the male subject. Both subjects have been identified and were contacted.”

This is the first time police have released any information about the May 25 incident, in which no arrests were made. Police arrested McDonald on August 31 but have released little information about the circumstances that led to that arrest, other than a brief statement saying the “victim had visible injuries.”

The 49ers have taken criticism for allowing McDonald to continue to play while the investigation into the August 31 incident is ongoing. Three other NFL players — Carolina’s Greg Hardy, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and Arizona’s Jonathan Dwyer — have been taken off the field this week while they face abuse charges.

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Gerald McCoy, Doug Martin, Roddy White among Thursday inactives

Roddy White AP

The Buccaneers will be without a Pro Bowl interior lineman and their starting tailback on Thursday night.

Standout defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand) and running back Doug Martin (knee) are both inactive for tonight’s game at Atlanta, the Bucs said. Bobby Rainey starts in place of Martin, who will miss his second straight game, while Da’Quan Bowers will replace McCoy, according to the Falcons’ website, which announced the game’s starters.

The Falcons are also down a key contributor, too, with wide receiver Roddy White (hamstring) declared inactive, according to the club. Harry Douglas will get the start for White, who didn’t practice all week.

The Falcons’ other inactives are cornerback Javier Arenas, defensive tackle Cliff Matthews, quarterback Sean Renfree, offensive tackle Ryan Schraeder, linebacker Tyler Starr and center James Stone.

In addition to McCoy and Martin, the Buccaneers have deactivated offensive guard Kadeem Edwards, linebacker Mason Foster, offensive guard Rishaw Johnson, offensive tackle Kevin Pamphile and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

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Vikings release WR Jerome Simpson

Jerome Simpson AP

The Vikings are parting ways with Jerome Simpson.

The club announced Thursday evening it had released Simpson, a veteran wideout who’s serving the final week of a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

The decision to move on from Simpson comes after news of the wide receiver’s July 7 citation for marijuana possession and other charges broke earlier Thursday.

The 28-year-old Simpson hauled in 48 passes for 726 yards and one touchdown for Minnesota in 2013. A second-round pick of the Bengals in 2008, Simpson has long stood out for his athleticism and body control, and he has made multiple highlight-reel plays in his pro career.

However, off-field issues have marked his time in the NFL. He served a three-game suspension to begin the 2012 season after serving a brief prison stint on a marijuana conviction. And now, it’s possible he could face more legal and league discipline.

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Poll finds NFL still has strong support across America

nflball AP

The NFL has had two weeks of terrible news about players behaving badly and the league failing to take sufficient action. But Americans still love football.

A new NBC News/Marist poll finds that while most Americans disapprove of the way the NFL has handled domestic violence cases, the vast majority of fans haven’t turned away from the league: 86 percent of fans say domestic violence news hasn’t changed the amount of professional football they watch, compared will 11 percent who are now less likely to watch and 3 percent who are more likely to watch.

The poll shows that 53 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the NFL has handled recent domestic violence cases. Football fans are slightly more likely to disapprove than non-fans, with 57 percent of football fans disapproving of the NFL’s handling of the matter. Men (55 percent) are also slightly more likely than women (50 percent) to disapprove of the NFL’s handling of the recent cases.

There’s also good news in the poll for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, as just 29 percent of Americans think he should be forced out of his job. The owners have been steadfast in their support of Goodell, and that’s unlikely to change unless the paying customers demand it. It appears that the customers love football enough that they’ll tolerate a lot of malfeasance from the league and its players.

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Raiders waive seventh-round pick

Oakland Raiders v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Raiders have waived defensive lineman Shelby Harris, one of the club’s seventh-round selections in May, the team said Thursday.

The 23-year-old Harris did not play in Oakland’s first two games. Harris (6-2, 288) played collegiately at Illinois State and Wisconsin. He has practice squad eligibility, and the Raiders have one open spot on the practice roster.

The transaction leaves the Raiders with eight defensive linemen, including four defensive ends (Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, C.J. Wilson, Benson Mayowa).

The Raiders now have one open roster spot. Oakland (0-2) plays at New England on Sunday.

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