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PFT’s Week 13 picks

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With 176 games completed, the gap has been cut from seven to two.

After a four-game sweep of our disagreements in Week 11, MDS posted another 3-1 mark in Week 12, making it very interesting over the final five weeks.

This week, we have only one disagreement.  So it’ll be down to one or back to three by Monday.  (I are good at the math.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean we’ll be right on the picks on which we agree.  But we’re doing OK.  MDS was 11-5 for Week 12, and I was 9-7.  For the season, I’m at 112-63-1, a 63.6 percent accuracy rate.  MDS is 110-65-1, which equates to 62.5 percent.

Saints at Falcons

MDS’s take: It sounds crazy to say this about a 5-6 team facing a 10-1 team, but right now the Saints are playing better football than the Falcons. Having said that, I have a hunch the Falcons will turn in their best effort of the season at home against the team that gave them their only loss.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 28, Saints 21.

Florio’s take:  An already contentious rivalry will become even more contentious now that eggs have flown into the Saints bus and former Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton has declared that his new team, the Saints, don’t regard the rivalry as a rivalry, given that the Saints have won 11 of 13.  With the Falcons closing in on a playoff berth and sensitive about the perception that they can’t win big games at home, it’s time to drop the Saints’ mark against the Falcons to 11 of 14.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 27, Saints 24.

Jaguars at Bills

MDS’s take: Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne has been impressive enough since replacing Blaine Gabbert that I’m tempted to pick the Jags to pull off a home upset. But these are still the Jaguars, and even if Henne has improved the offense, they still have a terrible defense, plus the Bills have a big special teams edge.

MDS’s pick: Bills 27, Jaguars 23.

Florio’s take:  The Jags are riding a rare one-game winning streak.  The Bill are trying to break a not-so-rare one-game losing streak.  Home team gets the advantage, even though the Jaguars are better with Chad Henne at quarterback.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 24, Jaguars 17.

Seahawks at Bears

MDS’s take: This might be the day’s most interesting game, especially if you enjoy watching teams that play tough, physical defense. I think Seattle’s defensive front has the potential to make life a nightmare for Jay Cutler playing behind the Bears’ woeful offensive line, and yet the Seahawks have struggled so much away from home that I’m taking the Bears in a close one.

MDS’s pick: Bears 14, Seahawks 13.

Florio’s take:  It’s chicken salad time for the Chicago offensive line, with failed first-round tackle Gabe Carimi being pressed into service at guard.  But Jay Cutler knows how to avoid the pressure and deliver the ball, and the Seahawks still haven’t learned how to win on the road.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 23, Seahawks 13.

Colts at Lions

MDS’s take: The Lions are playing better football than their record suggests, while the Colts are playing worse football than their record suggests. I still think Indianapolis will be a wild card team, but in this game Calvin Johnson will have a huge day against a weak secondary.

MDS’s pick: Lions 31, Colts 20.

Florio’s take:  Assuming that the Lions haven’t folded the tents after a season-crushing Thanksgiving loss, they’ve got the horses to hold off a Colts team that has yet to learn how to win away from Indy consistently.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Colts 20.

Vikings at Packers

MDS’s take: Green Bay had a letdown against the Giants last week, but that won’t happen again. This is the game when the Packers pull ahead of the pack in the NFC wild card race, as well as staying within striking distance of the Bears in the NFC North.

MDS’s pick: Packers 34, Vikings 13.

Florio’s take:  Minnesota has embarked on its long-expected late-season collapse, and the Packers will be extra salty after getting peppered by the Giants.  This one could get ugly.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Vikings 13.

Panthers at Chiefs

MDS’s take: It’s too late for the Panthers to get back in the playoff race, but I do see them going on a little bit of a late-season run. With Cam Newton playing well, they’ll easily win in Kansas City.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 27, Chiefs 9.

Florio’s take:  The Chiefs can’t lose every game the rest of the season, can they?  Carolina is on the road after a Monday night on the road, cramming two rounds of travel into a short week after a game in which they are feeling better about themselves than they should.  The Chiefs, if they don’t win this one, may not win another.  Ever.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 20, Panthers 16.

Patriots at Dolphins

MDS’s take: I like a lot about the way the Dolphins are playing, especially defensively. And the Patriots’ secondary has a bad tendency to leave receivers wide open, so Ryan Tannehill may have a decent statistical game. But New England’s offense is such a well-oiled machine that I like the Patriots to get into the end zone five or six times.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 38, Dolphins 28.

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins will win if the sprinklers come on again.  And if the are loaded with hydrochloric acid and aimed at the eyes of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.  Otherwise, advantage Pats.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 35, Dolphins 24.

Cardinals at Jets

MDS’s take: This is a stinker of a game between two teams with all kinds of problems at the quarterback position, but it says something about how far the Cardinals have sunk that Mark Sanchez is easily the top quarterback in this game.

MDS’s pick: Jets 20, Cardinals 10.

Florio’s take:  It’s easy to assume the Jets will continue their implosion.  The schedule suggests they could win five in a row.  They may not get to 9-7, but 5-7 is looking pretty promising.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 30, Cardinals 17.

49ers at Rams

MDS’s take: I don’t think this game is going to be easy for the 49ers because St. Louis isn’t an easy place to play anymore, but in the end San Francisco just has too much power on both sides of the ball for the Rams to have much of a chance.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Rams 13.

Florio’s take:  They pick up where they left off after five quarters that ended in a tie.  The Rams try to extend their 3-0-1 record in the NFC West.  The Niners are simply a better team with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 31, Rams 23.

Texans at Titans

MDS’s take: The Titans fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer this week, as if that will fix anything. The Titans’ problems go much deeper than the offensive playcalling, and the Texans — getting a well deserved three extra days of rest following their back-to-back overtime games the last two weeks — will look fresh and win this one handily.

MDS’s pick: Texans 41, Titans 20.

Florio’s take:  Yes, before the season I thought the the Titans, who were unexpectedly 9-7 in 2011, were poised to topple the Texans.  It hasn’t happened.  And it won’t happen for the Titans on Sunday, not with the Texans closing in on their second straight playoff berth.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Titans 14.

Buccaneers at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Bucs are thin in the secondary after trading away Aqib Talib and losing Eric Wright to a suspension, and Peyton Manning is the last quarterback you want to face when you’re thin in the secondary. Manning will pick the Bucs’ defense apart. The best chance the Bucs have of keeping this game close is to control the ball by running Doug Martin, but in the end Manning will just have too much for Tampa Bay.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 35, Buccaneers 24.

Florio’s take:  With Eric Wright suspended and Aqib Talib long gone, it’ll be a long day for the Bucs’ porous pass defense.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 31, Buccaneers 21.

Steelers at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Steelers need this one, but they’re not going to get it. Without Ben Roethlisberger the Steelers just aren’t a very good team, and I expect the Ravens to earn a big win that helps them pull away in the AFC North.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 23, Steelers 7.

Florio’s take:  With or without Ben Roethlisberger, the Ravens are tough to beat at home.  And even though it would be fitting for the Steelers to win in Baltimore after the Ravens won in Pittsburgh, the Ravens are the better team — and the Steelers are on the verge of a late-season implosion.  All that’s left is for coach Mike Tomlin to vow to “unleash hell.”

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 19, Steelers 13.

Browns at Raiders

MDS’s take: Both teams are 3-8, but they’re a different 3-8. The Browns are a 3-8 team that is playing competitive football and has a lot of young guys who look hungry. The Raiders are a 3-8 team that just wrapped up an 0-4 November in which their four losses came by a total of 90 points. The Browns will go into the Black Hole and come out with their first road win of the season.

MDS’s pick: Browns 21, Raiders 17.

Florio’s take:  The Browns are better than their record suggests.  The Raiders are worse.  With Browns players trying to save the job of their head coach (and in turn their own jobs), Cleveland has more incentive to try to emerge with a win.

Florio’s pick:  Browns 17, Raiders 13.

Bengals at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Bengals are rolling and the Chargers are reeling. Marvin Lewis will take another step toward the playoffs while Norv Turner takes another step toward the unemployment line.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Chargers 14.

Florio’s take:  San Diego’s AFC North tour continues, and they wish it wouldn’t.  After losing to the Browns and to the Ravens, a surging Cincinnati team is ready to keep pushing toward their first consecutive playoff appearances in non-strike years.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 27, Chargers 17.

Eagles at Cowboys

MDS’s take: The Eagles have given up on the season. At this point I don’t think I’d pick them to beat anyone, and I certainly won’t pick them to win on the road against a Cowboys team that still has slim playoff hopes.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 28, Eagles 20.

Florio’s take:  Philly is in a full-blown free fall.  After seeing them lose to the lowly Panthers, I’m done picking them until next September at the earliest.  The Cowboys aren’t much better, but they’re good enough (and sufficiently healthier) to get it done.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 34, Eagles 20.

Giants at Redskins

MDS’s take: The Redskins have done a great job of pulling themselves back into NFC East contention, and if you want to see an interesting playoff race in December you should be rooting for the Redskins to beat the Giants on Monday night. But Robert Griffin III playing so well as a rookie has masked the fact that the Redskins have big problems on both sides of the ball. The Giants will be too much for them.

MDS’s pick: Giants 34, Redskins 17.

Florio’s take:  The Giants have awoken from their slumber.  That may not be enough to contain a streaking RG3 in his Monday night debut.  Forced to make a choice, however, let’s stick with the team that has shown that it still has the ability to periodically play up to its potential.  Especially when it has to.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 31, Redskins 27.

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Texans hire Paul Pasqualoni as defensive line coach

Paul Pasqualoni AP

The Texans lost a veteran assistant coach last week when defensive line coach Bill Kollar took a job with the Broncos.

They’ll replace him with another seasoned coach. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that Paul Pasqualoni will join Bill O’Brien’s staff as Kollar’s replacement.

Pasqualoni coached the Bears defensive linemen in 2014 and was the head coach at the University of Connecticut from 2011 to his midseason firing in 2013. Pasqualoni has also coached with the Dolphins and Cowboys and is best-known for his 14-year run as the head coach at Syracuse. Pasqualoni was 107-59-1 in that job.

He’ll have the benefit of working with defensive end J.J. Watt in his new job, although Pasqualoni and the rest of the team’s defensive coaching staff should find plenty to do with the non-MVP candidates that make up the rest of the unit.

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Brian Hoyer open to Browns return if he can compete for starting job

Connor Shaw, Austen Lane AP

When the Browns benched Brian Hoyer in favor of Johnny Manziel late in the regular season, it seemed as if they would be moving on from Hoyer when he became a free agent.

Manziel fizzled, though, and there’s nothing close to certainty that he’ll be the starter when the Browns take the field to start the 2015 season. As a result, Hoyer’s not closing the door on a return to the team. His agent Joe Linta said that he’s heard interest, but no numbers, from the Browns in a return and indicated his client has no hard feelings about how things played out in 2014. Linta also outlined the scenario that would keep Cleveland as an option for Hoyer.

“I think the only thing that would make him not [want to] come back is if they said Manziel or whoever we take in the draft or whoever we sign in free agency is going to be the starter and you will only be the backup,” Linta said. “I think that would probably drive him away a little bit. If [coach Mike] Pettine said, ‘Hey, it’s going to be an open competition again between you and Johnny,’ great, let’s go. … [Hoyer] wants to play. The kid wants to have an opportunity to compete and play.”

Linta said Hoyer anticipates meeting with Pettine and others from the team soon to discuss their plans and that negotiations would pick up at next month’s scouting combine if everyone is on the same page.

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Sunday morning one-liners

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Bills DT Marcell Dareus paid a visit to Luke Air Force Base.

The wait for a wax likeness of former Dolphins QB Dan Marino has come to an end.

Patriots WR Matthew Slater is familiar with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll from his college days facing USC as a UCLA player.

The Jets signed T Sean Hooey to a future contract, making him the first acquisition since G.M. Mike Maccagnan came on the job.

The Ravens met with USC CB Josh Shaw during Senior Bowl week.

T Marshall Newhouse is one of the free agents the Bengals will consider re-signing this offseason.

Eight reasons why Browns T Joe Thomas has been a fixture at the Pro Bowl.

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler has waited a long time for his opportunity.

Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick helped a high school student with a project.

Colts CB Vontae Davis feels all “grown up” as he prepares for his first Pro Bowl.

QB Blake Bortles and Jaguars receivers will hold a passing camp before the start of offseason work.

Former Titans RB Eddie George has transitioned well from the football world to the business world.

Making the Hall of Fame case for former Broncos RB Terrell Davis.

A look at the Chiefs offensive line heading into the offseason.

Former Raiders WR Tim Brown hopes the sixth time is the right time to make it into Hall of Fame.

Reminiscing about the Chargers’ trip to Super Bowl XXIX.

Assessing the chances that Cowboys TE Jason Witten can make it to the Hall of Fame.

The Giants have good memories of the last Super Bowl played in Arizona.

Eagles RB Darren Sproles feels validated by his Pro Bowl selection.

Which of their own free agents should the Redskins re-sign this offseason?

Bears QB Jay Cutler might have preferred facing a blitzing defense to being left alone with his kids.

Previewing free agent options on the offensive line for the Lions.

Grading the Packers Offense for the 2014 season.

Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman is showing patience building with youth.

The top five plays of the Falcons season as chosen by the Falcons.

Panthers TE Greg Olsen and LB Luke Kuechly will be on opposite sides in the Pro Bowl.

Reviewing Saints director of college scouting Jeff Ireland’s work with the Dolphins.

The Buccaneers website takes a look at some standout players from the Senior Bowl.

CB Justin Bethel wants to add more defensive work to his special teams duties with the Cardinals.

Said Rams DE Robert Quinn, “It’s a nice vacation, especially at this time of year. But I’m just proud to be here. To be voted to the Pro Bowl is a huge honor and a blessing. Being here and getting a chance to practice with and play against the best of the best, it’s something special.”

The 49ers offensive coordinator search will move on without Lane Kiffin.

Are this year’s Seahawks similar to the 2003 Patriots?

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Marcus Mariota not sure he’ll throw at combine

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There’s still one game to play in this season, but 30 teams are a lot more interested in what’s going to happen in the offseason and draft and have already turned their attention in that direction.

For the teams in that group that are looking for a quarterback, Marcus Mariota’s workouts will be of particular interest in the months to come. The Oregon quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner is expected to be either the first or second quarterback off the board, but teams may have to wait a while to watch him throw.

Mariota was honored as the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year in Hawaii on Saturday and said at a press conference that he’s not sure if he’ll throw at February’s combine because of a right shoulder injury he suffered against Ohio State in the college title game.

“Right now we’re still making that decision, whether to throw at the Combine. I had to kinda rest about a week-and-a-half,” Mariota said, via the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “I sprained the AC joint. But now, I’m able to throw. Feels good.”

If Mariota’s able to throw now, one would imagine he’d be able to throw in Indianapolis in a few weeks. Like many top prospects, however, Mariota seems more likely to take time to polish up his game before doing his workouts for teams in his chosen environment a bit later in the process.

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Lane Kiffin staying at Alabama

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If the 49ers were hoping to land Lane Kiffin as their offensive coordinator, they’ll need to look in a different direction.

Kiffin announced Saturday that he’ll return for a second season running the offense at the University of Alabama. There were reports earlier this month that Kiffin was a “front-runner” for the same job on Jim Tomsula’s staff, but he’s decided to keep on rolling with Nick Saban after leading the Crimson Tide to a school record for total offense.

“I made a comment at the Sugar Bowl that I would be back this fall at Alabama and that is definitely the plan. This time of year, there are lots of things out there regarding other coaching opportunities, but I want to reaffirm my commitment to the University of Alabama, Coach Saban, and our team,” Kiffin said in a statement. “I’m excited about what our offensive staff was able to accomplish last year, but I also think there are a lot of things we can do a better job of in terms of putting our players in the best situation to have success.”

Colts assistant Rob Chudzinski is also thought to be a candidate for the job. The Colts blocked him from interviewing, but Chudzinski’s contract is coming to an end so he’ll be free to talk to the 49ers as long as they don’t hire someone else.

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Packers’ Sam Shields admits he thinks Dez Bryant made the catch

samshields AP

Packers cornerback Sam Shields was covering Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant on his infamous overruled catch when their teams met in the playoffs. At the time, Shields said the ref made a good call in reversing the catch. Now Shields admits that’s not how he saw it.

Shields told ESPN that he believes Bryant did catch the ball, and he is surprised the Packers won their challenge of the play.

It was a catch,” Shields said, “But the new rule and at the last minute what happened, that’s what the refs came up with. I never said he didn’t catch it. He made a helluva catch I was in great coverage. Like I said, it was good on good and he came up with the catch.”

Shields seems surprised that Bryant reaching for the goal line didn’t constitute a “football move” that would make it a catch.

“I did look back and I seen him reaching and I guess that’s when he didn’t control the ball as he was doing that,” Shields said.

What Shields doesn’t seem to realize is that the NFL rules say that when a player makes a catch as he’s going to the ground, he must maintain control, and Bryant didn’t. Under NFL rules, it wasn’t a catch. But the fact that even Shields thinks it was a catch shows just how convoluted the NFL’s rules are.

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NFL to test new replay system at Pro Bowl

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This year’s Pro Bowl will be used to experiment with a variety of new procedures.  Most already were known.  One potentially significant one wasn’t.

Per Darren Rovell of ESPN.com, replay review during the Pro Bowl will be conducted via review of the play on a Microsoft Surface tablet — and with communication via Bose headphones.

That replaces the voting-booth approach the NFL has used since replay review returned well over a decade ago, with the referee examining a monitor hidden behind a curtain.

Per Rovell, the change is part of an effort to better integrate the products for which the NFL is paid millions of dollars to use.  It’s unclear whether the NFL will ditch the mobile replay unit and use tablets exclusively for games that count.

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Bill Belichick on sideline videotaping: “We never did it again”

Bill Belichick AP

After a more than 2,000-word opening statement in his Saturday press conference detailing how the club’s footballs might have become under-inflated in the AFC title game vs. Indianapolis, Patriots coach Bill Belichick opened the floor for a question-and-answer session.

Seven questions in, a sore subject for the Patriots was broached: the 2007 videotaping scandal that cost the club a first-round pick and $250,000 in fines, plus another $500,000 docked from Belichick.

According to the press conference transcript from the Patriots, here’s what Belichick was asked:

“You said you always try to err on the side of caution and stay on the right side of the rules, but with the videotaping it was clear that you were pushing the envelope on that. Is that something that changed that?”

Here was Belichick’s response, per the Patriots:

“I mean, look, that’s a whole other discussion,” Belichick said of the Patriots’ taping of the Jets’ signals from the sidelines. “The guy’s giving signals out in front of 80,000 people, OK?

“So we filmed him taking signals out in front of 80,000 people, like there were a lot of other teams doing at that time, too. Forget about that. If we were wrong then we’ve been disciplined for that.”

Before a follow-up question could be completed, Belichick continued:

“The guy’s in front of 80,000 people. 80,000 people saw it. Everybody [on the] sideline saw it. Everybody sees our guy in front of the 80,000 people. I mean, there he is.

“So, it was wrong, we were disciplined for it. That’s it. We never did it again. We’re never going to do it again and anything else that’s close, we’re not going to do either.”

It’s possible Belichick could again be asked about “Spygate” at the Super Bowl, especially after indicating Saturday that “there were a lot of other teams” filming signals around 2007, too. However, it doesn’t seem likely Belichick would be very expansive about this topic next week. To borrow a phrase from Jerry Reinsdorf, this might be our only bite of the apple on “Spygate.”

Then again, who saw Saturday’s press conference coming?

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Belichick’s explanation on inflation raises new questions

Belichick AP

Saturday’s unexpected press conference from Patriots coach Bill Belchick seemed like an effort to put the issue behind the team as the trip to Phoenix and Super Bowl XLIX awaits.  But Belichick’s words, which deftly loaded up the media with information on the subject at a time when the NFL is providing very little, raise several key questions.

Most significantly, Belichick’s Thursday and Saturday press conferences starkly differ on one key question:  Who inflates the footballs?

“Obviously with our footballs being inflated to the 12.5-pound range, any deflation would then take us under that specification limit,” Belichick said Thursday.  “Knowing that now, in the future we will certainly inflate the footballs above that low level to account for any possible change during the game.”  (Emphasis added.)

On Saturday, Belichick said that the Patriots have no control over the actual inflation, indicating that the officials — not the team — inflate the footballs.

“When the footballs are delivered to the officials’ locker room, the officials were asked to inflate them to 12.5 PSI,” Belichick said. “What exactly they did, I don’t know.  But for the purposes of our study, that’s what we did.  We set them at 12.5.  That’s at the discretion of the official, though. Regardless of what we ask for, it’s the official’s discretion to put them where he wants.”  (Emphasis added.)

So who inflates the footballs?  Thursday’s “I have no explanation” Bill Belichick made clear it’s the team that was putting the minimum required amount of 12.5 PSI into the balls before the game, and that any naturally-occurring deflation was necessarily taking the footballs under the low end of the one-pound acceptable range from 12.5 to 13.5 PSI.  Saturday’s “I have an extensive explanation” Bill Belichick said the Patriots simply ask the officials to inflate the footballs to 12.5 PSI, but that it’s ultimately the “official’s discretion” as to how much air will be put in the footballs.  (And, in turn, the official’s fault if the balls weren’t properly inflated.)

It’s a stunning contrast, one that calls for further explanation from Belichick.  This should be the first question he’s asked at his first press conference in Arizona, and the assembled media should decline to accept a response along the lines of, “I’ve said all I’m going to say about that.”

Another topic on which Belichick may need to say more than he has said is the interaction between inflation of the balls to 12.5 PSI and any “rubbing” that results in the balls reaching an “equilibrium state” of 11.5 PSI.  The key question is whether anyone in the organization — specifically mysterious football savant Ernie Adams — knew that any type of rubbing would result in the ball reaching an “equilibrium state” that brought it one full PSI below the minimum.  Beyond that, atmospheric conditions would drop the ball even farther below the minimum.

Other curious statements were made by Belichick on Saturday.  For example:  “We can’t speak specifically to what happened because we have no way of touching the footballs other than once the officials have them we don’t touch them except for when we play with them in the game.”  That’s just not accurate; ball attendants employed by the Patriots have possession of the 12 game balls and the 12 backup balls until they’re used during the game.

“I believe now 100 percent that I have personally, and we as an organization, have absolutely followed every rule to the letter,” Belichick said early in the Saturday press conference.  But there’s a potential difference between following rules to the letter and respecting their spirit.  As Ravens defensive lineman Chris Canty said earlier in the week on NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk, the Patriots are “habitual line-steppers.”  In an effort to gave every possible advantage, they possibly look for ways to push the envelope, retreating to plausible deniability whenever complaints are made or investigations are launched.

It would be naive to assume that the procedures used by the Patriots when it comes to inflating and handling footballs was accidental or coincidental, even if Belichick truly had no knowledge or involvement in that aspect of game preparations.  The ultra-competitive nature of the sport coupled with the uncanny ability of Belichick and those he employs to seize upon every opportunity to gain an edge suggests that they discovered a way to produce footballs that passed the pregame inspection at the low end of the permitted PSI and that then dropped well below the minimum, furthering the stated preferences of the guy charged with the task of throwing the footballs.

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North rolls to 34-13 victory in Senior Bowl

Ameer Abdullah AP

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah garnered Most Outstanding Player honors as the North pulled away to a 34-13 victory in Saturday’s Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.

One of the more well-regarded backs in the Class of 2015, Abdullah (5-8, 198) gained 73 yards rushing on just seven carries and added four receptions on 40 yards for the North, which was led by the Titans’ coaching staff.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty (North) paced all passers with 123 yards on 9-of-13 attempts, though he was picked once. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion added 79 yards on 9-of-13 passes for the North, including a touchdown pass to Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack.

Yale running back Tyler Varga scored a pair of fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns for the North, which outscored the South 24-6 after halftime. Minnesota running back David Cobb (11 carries, 69 yards) added the North’s other TD.

Northern Iowa running back David Johnson tallied the South’s lone touchdown, a 19-yard first-quarter score. Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson led the South with 118 yards passing on 8-of-15 attempts.

The Jaguars coached the South team. Jacksonville selects third in the upcoming draft, with Tennessee picking second.

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Oddsmaker: Super Bowl line won’t reach a field goal

Las Vegas Strip Exteriors Getty Images

The defending-champion Seahawks remain one-point underdogs to New England at the majority of Nevada sports books.

And the price has even inched up a little at one notable book.

As Micah Roberts of “The Linemakers” of Sporting News notes, Wynn Las Vegas moved Seattle to a 1.5-point underdog on Saturday, becoming the first Nevada sports book to go that high.

However, Wynn oddsmaker John Avello told Roberts that “we’re not seeing anyone rush to the windows” to back Seattle, even at the higher price.

Avello, for his part, told “The Linemakers” he suspects “those looking to bet large” on the Seahawks are hoping the line hits a field goal, but the veteran Las Vegas oddsmaker doesn’t believe that will happen.

“I could see 2 or maybe even 2.5, but not 3,” Avello said, according to “The Linemakers.”

The Seahawks opened as slight favorites on Sunday night, but Patriots money drove the line toward New England, which is now favored at numerous hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, including the MGM and Caesars properties.

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Saints reach deal with CFL CB Delvin Breaux

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The Saints are signing a CFL star with Louisiana ties.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, New Orleans has reached a deal with ex-Hamilton Tiger-Cats cornerback Delvin Breaux.

In his second season with Hamilton, the 25-year-old Breaux (6-1, 196) was voted to the CFL’s 2014 All-Star squad.

A serious neck injury prevented Breaux, a one-time LSU signee, from playing college football, but he caught on with the Arena Football League’s New Orleans VooDoo in 2012 before joining Hamilton.

Breaux had workouts with 13 NFL clubs, ESPN reported.

The Ticats released Breaux on Saturday, which presumably allows him to join New Orleans.

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NFL warns Marshawn Lynch a crotch grab will cost 15 yards

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The threat of fines has not deterred Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch from grabbing his crotch after scoring touchdowns. But the threat of a 15-yard penalty might.

The NFL wants Lynch to know that officials will be on the lookout and ready to assess a 15-yard penalty if Lynch does it again. NFL V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio that the Seahawks have been warned that if Lynch makes an obscene gesture at any time during Super Bowl XLIX, the Seahawks will be penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Blandino told Paolantonio that if Lynch grabs his crotch after scoring a touchdown, “that means they will kick off from the 20 yard line.”

That’s where the Seahawks would have kicked off after Lynch scored a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game. If the officials had seen Lynch grab his crotch, he would have been penalized.

Lynch got away with it that time. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will probably tell Lynch in no uncertain terms that he can’t risk it in the Super Bowl. If Lynch wants to pay a fine out of his own paycheck, that’s his business. If he hurts the team, that’s another story.

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Over-Under on Doug Baldwin’s Super Bowl catches: four

Doug Baldwin AP

Welcome to Day Two of PFT’s Prop Challenge, where we analyze one of the hundreds of Super Bowl XLIX proposition bets set by Las Vegas oddsmakers and let you vote upon what side you would take — hypothetically, of course.

On Day One, we took a closer look at the Over-Under on Patriots wideout Brandon LaFell’s Super Bowl receiving yards, which the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook sets at 50.5 yards.

With a little more than 5,000 votes in our poll, OVER 50.5 yards for Brandon LaFell in Super Bowl XLIX leads by a 55-45 margin.

So on to the next order of business.

As promised, the second prop is a Seahawks one. And it’s also a receiving-related gamble.

Linemaker William Hill U.S. sets the Over-Under on Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin’s receptions at four.

The OVER, interestingly enough, is even money, meaning bettors will double up on a winning bet.

The UNDER, however, is -120, meaning bettors have to bet $12 to win $10.

In short, OVER four catches is set to entice.

Again, we turn to you. Including the playoffs, Baldwin averages 4.2 catches per contest, and he’s exceeded four catches seven times. In his last five postseason games, Baldwin has caught 22-of-28 passes thrown his way, including all five targets in Super Bowl XLVIII.

On the other hand, Baldwin faces a strong New England secondary headlined by standout cornerback Darrelle Revis, one of the game’s very best at his position.

Which way to go — OVER or UNDER four catches for Doug Baldwin? Cast your vote and tell us in the comments.

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Belichick’s explanation invites scrutiny, analysis, testing

Pesci

By offering a detailed explanation of the things the Patriots do to prepare their footballs for games and the pressure changes that occur inside the bladders contained in those footballs, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has thrown down the gauntlet to anyone who would doubt his version of reality.

And now the media outlets that spent the week comparing balls inflated to 12.5 PSI with balls inflated to 10.5 PSI will parse through Belichick’s words, copy his recipe, and try it on their own footballs.  With actual scientists, not a football coach, reporting the results.

On one hand, Belichick deliberately has set up what the lawyers call a “battle of the experts.”  It happens in a trial when one side brings in a witness with specialized knowledge who tells one story based on the physical evidence and the other side brings in a witness with specialized knowledge who tells the exact opposite story based on that same evidence.

That reality makes Belichick’s My Cousin Vinny reference even more appropriate.  In that film, Mona Lisa Vito testified as an expert witness who obliterated the testimony from the dude who played the prosecutor in the Seinfeld finale.  In real life, there’s a chance that Belichick will be the guy who played the prosecutor in the Seinfeld finale — and that a looming litany of scientists and engineers and other highly-educated folks will duplicate the variables contained in Belichick’s explanation, come to their own conclusions, and eventually reprise Joe Pesci’s two-sentence opening statement from the trial at which Ms. Vito testified:

“Everything that guy just said is bullsh-t.  Thank you.”

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