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PFT’s Week 12 picks

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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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Steelers keep James Conner in Pittsburgh

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James Conner is leaving college football, but he’s not leaving the facility where he practiced or the stadium where he played.

The Steelers have made the former running back a third-round pick in the draft.

Conner’s story is well-documented; he survived cancer to return to football. Conner recently has said he was only 60 percent at the outset of the 2016 college season.

The Steelers currently have Le’Veon Bell at the top of the depth chart. He’s subject to the franchise tag, and could be gone after 2017. Conner, if he develops, could become an intriguing contributor in 2018.

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Cowboys add Jourdan Lewis, who faces a July jury trial

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The Cowboys have rolled the dice on a player who is facing domestic violence charges.

Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis has been drafted in round three, despite a July 10 trial date on misdemeanor charges. That fact that it’s a misdemeanor means he wouldn’t face significant jail time.

Lewis allegedly “dragged [the victim] across the living room floor and then grabbed her by the neck and held her down on the floor for about three seconds.” He has pleaded not guilty.

Lewis faces no discipline from the league, given that the incident happened before the draft. However, the incident would be considered as potential aggravating circumstances if Lewis has any violations of the Personal Conduct Policy while in the NFL.

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Giants add Davis Webb

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Amid a buzz that former Cal quarterback Davis Webb could have crashed round one, he lasted until round three. And he ended up on the depth chart in New York.

The Giants have made Webb the 87th pick in the draft.

He becomes the potential replacement to Eli Manning, whenever Eli Manning will decide to retire. (Or when the Giants will decide to retire him.)

Webb arrives from Cal. He transferred to Berkeley after losing the starting job at Texas Tech to Patrick Mahomes. Before that, Webb beat out Baker Mayfield, resulting in Mayfield transferring to Oklahaom.

Webb aspires to be a coach. For now, he’ll be a player with the Giants — and he potentially could become the starter there, in time.

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Ravens take a flier on risky pass-rusher Tim Williams

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Father Ozzie’s Home for Wayward Boys has taken in another one, and doubled up with another former Alabama player.

With the 78th pick, the Ravens took linebacker Tim Williams, who has both the pedigree and checkered past that the Ravens have some background with.

Williams is one of the most talented pass-rush prospects in the draft, with nine sacks and 16 tackles for loss last year.

But he comes with concerns, specifically his admission of multiple failed drug tests in college. Coupled with a misdemeanor gun charge, it was enough to scare some people off, at least at this point in the proceedings.

Williams was also used almost exclusively as a pass-rusher, but Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome obviously felt like the middle of the third round was an acceptable time to take a chance on someone from his old school who could be an impact player on passing downs.

Williams is the second Alabama player to join the Ravens this week, along with first-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey.

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Eagles “really confident” Sidney Jones will be same player after Achilles tear

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Cornerback Sidney Jones became a new member of the Eagles in the second round of the draft on Friday night, but it’s still unknown when Jones will be able to get on the field for the team.

Jones tore his Achilles in his pro day workout and will be on a rehab schedule for several more months at least. A recent report from his doctors indicated a return during the season is in the cards, but Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said Friday night that the team didn’t know when Jones will be ready to play.

He did say that the team believes Jones will be the same player he was before the injury when he is ready to go.

“Our doctors and training staff not only looked at corners, but we reached out to teams in other sports,” Roseman said, via CSNPhilly.com. “That gave us a lot of confidence here. There’s no insurance for this, but we feel really confident that with our medical team when he gets here he’s going to be able to be the exact same player he was before the injury. … There’ll be no rushing back from this. We’ll do whatever’s in the best interest of getting Sidney Jones 100 percent. Whatever the timetable is. We’ll defer to the doctors. That will not be our decision.”

The Eagles would obviously like to see Jones help them in 2017, but picking him here means they’re comfortable with trading a year of playing time for a better player once he’s back on the field. That says a lot about how highly they regarded Jones before the injury and how much that full return would mean to the team.

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Rams add Cooper Kupp

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The Rams are adding weapons for Jared Goff and Sean McVay.

After taking a tight end in round two, the Rams have added a receiver in the third round, nabbing Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp.

Primarily a slot receiver, Kupp’s arrival creates an intriguing situation as it relates to Tavon Austin, the eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft who received a second contract last year but who has still not really become what they hoped he’d be.

Kupp could transition to the outside at the next level, with Austin on the inside. However it plays out, the Rams are adding pass catchers and playmakers as they prepare to go head to head with the Chargers in Los Angeles.

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Saints continue to add to backfield with Alvin Kamara

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The Saints already had a 1,000-yard back, and then they went and signed a former MVP and future Hall-of-Famer.

So naturally, they drafted another running back.

The Saints traded up to the 67th overall pick in the third round to take Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

He didn’t get regular work in college, but he was a big-play threat, averaging 6.5 yards per carry last year. He’s also a solid pass-catcher, and gives them a different element than either Mark Ingram or Adrian Peterson.

The Saints like using multiple backs, and they’ve now reloaded significantly.

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Marvin Lewis: We felt we could move forward with Joe Mixon

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The Bengals brought one of the bigger storylines of the second round of the NFL draft to an end when they drafted Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon with the 48th overall pick.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis acknowledged that the 2014 video of Mixon punching a woman is repellant — “I don’t know who isn’t disgusted at what they saw,” Lewis said at a press conference Friday night.” — but said that the team’s research into Mixon during the pre-draft process and the settlement he came to with the woman left them feeling comfortable about bringing him to Cincinnati.

“We’ve done such a lot of work regarding Joe Mixon, throughout the entire process this year and based on all the time, all the research, we felt that we can continue to move forward,” Lewis said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Joe’s situation kind of came to a settlement in all ways this week, which also led us to feel better about the opportunity here to move forward. We have done all our due diligence we could do, time spent, interviewing people, everybody around him, everybody around his background, people that have coached at Oklahoma with insight regarding him and how he has carried himself since that day.”

Mixon will be scrutinized on and off the field in Cincinnati, something that he and the team should already be well aware of and something they’ll likely continue to deal with for some time given how big of a story Mixon’s assault became in the last few months.

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JuJu Smith-Schuster is a Steeler

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It’s time for virtual JuJu Smith-Schuster to change teams again.

The former USC receiver, an emotional and competitive player who will instantly fit with the mindset of Pittsburgh, has become the newest member of the Steelers.

He arrives via the 62nd pick, near the bottom of round two. And he could instantly boost a depth chart that consistently features plenty of impact players, especially with the conditional reinstatement of Martavis Bryant.

During a recent visit to PFT Live, Smith-Schuster said the Rams and Cowboys showed the most pre-draft interest in him. After creating a player based on himself in Madden, he joined the Bills before obtaining a release and signing with the Raiders.

The real Smith-Schuster is now a Steeler, and once upon a time the Steelers found a receiver from USC who did great things for the team, in Super Bowl X and elsewhere.

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Cowboys take CB Chidobe Awuzie in round two

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The Cowboys continue to address the exodus that damaged the defense in free agency.

After taking pass rusher Taco Charlton in round one, the Cowboys replaced Brandon Carr and/or Morris Claiborne by selecting Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie in round two.

The Cowboys will need Awuzie to compete for playing time right away, along with pretty much every other defensive player they pick.

Nearly all of the pre-draft visits conducted by the Cowboys were defensive players. Look for more of the same over the rest of the draft.

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Mixon pick creates crowded backfield in Cincinnati

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Setting aside the biggest issues arising from the Bengals’ decision to draft running back Joe Mixon, the team has now added a third second-round tailback to the depth chart.

Gio Bernard arrived via the second round in 2013. The following year, the Bengals used a second-round pick on Jeremy Hill. With Mixon now on the team, who gets the short straw?

Bernard, who tore an ACL late last season, already has received a $1 million roster bonus for 2017. He has a cap charge of more than $3.6 million this year.

Hill enters the final year of his rookie contract. He has averaged fewer than four yards per carry in each of the two years since his rookie season that featured 5.1 yards per attempt. He could be vulnerable to a trade or, possibly, an outright release. Either move would entail a cap charge of only $262,000.

It makes more sense for Mixon to supplant Hill, given their comparable styles. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine the Bengals keeping all three guys in 2017.

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Browns get a quarterback, draft DeShone Kizer

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After passing on quarterbacks three times in the first round, the Browns drafted a quarterback in the second round.

Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer went to Cleveland with the 52nd overall pick.

The Browns had three first-round picks but eschewed quarterbacks with all three, but tonight they decided to grab Kizer, a physically impressive quarterback who still has a lot of work to do in developing as an NFL-caliber passer.

Kizer joins Cody Kessler, last year’s third-round pick, in the Browns’ quarterback room. Cleveland also has Brock Osweiler and Kevin Hogan under contract, and the Browns have said that Osweiler will get a chance to start, although he was acquired mostly because the Texans gave the Browns a second-round pick to take his contract off their hands.

Although Kizer probably won’t start over Kessler at first, he’ll surely be given an opportunity to win the starting job at some point during the season. Whether he’s the Browns’ quarterback of the future remains to be seen, but he’s probably the most talented player they have at the most important position in football.

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Ashland tight end Adam Shaheen goes to Bears at No. 45

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The Bears traded up and took a quarterback in the first round and followed that up by trading down to take a tight end in the second round.

Their choice comes with an unusual pedigree for a second-round pick. Adam Shaheen played at Division II Ashland after starting his college career as a basketball player and dominated over the last two seasons. He’s big at 6’6″ and 278 pounds, but ran well at the combine and drew a lot of interest during the pre-draft process.

He’ll now be making a big leap in competition and there will surely be some growing pains as he finds himself lined up against NFL players. Should he grow as a result, the Bears could have a very useful weapon to go with first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky and 2016 rookie running back Jordan Howard in their offense of the future.

There’s a flip side to that happy ending, of course, but Bears General Manager Ryan Pace is betting that his offensive picks will be part of the foundation of better results in Chicago.

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Bengals draft Joe Mixon

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The most controversial player in the 2017 NFL draft is off the board.

With the 48th overall pick, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon.

Although he had first-round talent, many teams took Mixon off their boards entirely because of the ugly incident in 2014 when he punched a fellow Oklahoma student, breaking bones in her face. When video of that punch was released late last year, some people thought Mixon wouldn’t be drafted at all.

But talent wins out in the NFL, and the Bengals have a reputation for looking past players’ off-field troubles when the players can help on the field. And there’s little doubt that Mixon can help on the field.

With John Ross yesterday and Mixon today, the Bengals have added a lot of playmaking talent to their offense. With Mixon, however, they’ve also added a potential source of controversy. This pick will be heavily scrutinized.

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Colts take cornerback Quincy Wilson with the 46th pick

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New Colts General Manager Chris Ballard had a big task in front on him when he took over this offseason, and he’s starting at the back of the defense and working forward.

The Colts took Florida safety Quincy Wilson with the 46th pick, adding to the rebuild of the secondary.

They took Ohio State safety Malik Hooker in the first round last night, a shot of talent to a unit that really needed it.

Wilson gives them a big, physical cornerback, which they needed back there with Vontae Davis.

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