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PFT’s Week 13 picks

Carolina Panthers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

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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Rudolph gets $6.5 million to sign on deal with maximum value of $40 million

Rudolph AP

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph has a new five-year extension, announced tonight by the team and reportedly carrying a base value of $36.5 million.  A source with knowledge of the terms has shared some additional details with PFT.

Rudolph gets a $6.5 million signing bonus.  Along with a technically non-guaranteed but as a practical matter fully guaranteed base salary of $956,343 for 2014, Rudolph definitely will earn $7.456 million in the next five months.

Per the source, the deal has another $12 million in injury-only guarantees that eventually convert to full guarantees on the third day of a given league year.  (The number of years over which the guaranteed money is spread isn’t currently known.  Until the relevant dates pass and the money becomes fully guaranteed, it’s not actually or practically guaranteed.)

On the back end, Rudolph earns an extra $750,000 for each year in which he catches 80 passes, and $500,000 for each year he makes it to the Pro Bowl.  Over five years, that’s a total of $6.25 million in available incentives, but the total he can earn through these accomplishments is capped at a total of $3.5 million.

The base new-money value of $7.3 million puts him behind only Jimmy Graham ($10 million in new money), Rob Gronkowski ($9 million), Jason Witten ($7.4 million), and Vernon Davis ($7.35 million).  A single 80-catch season will throw another $0.25 million on the annual average, vaulting Rudolph ahead of Witten and Davis.

Eighty catches won’t be a breeze, but in Norv Turner’s offense it’s a distinct possibility.

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Vikings strike five-year deal with Kyle Rudolph

Kyle Rudolph AP

The Vikings have signed one of their core offensive players to a contract extension.

The club confirmed Sunday night it had reached a new deal with 24-year-old tight end Kyle Rudolph, who was entering the final year of his contract.

According to FOX’s Jay Glazer — who first reported news of the extension — Rudolph received a five-year, $36.5 million contract from Minnesota.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reports the new deal makes Rudolph the game’s fifth highest-paid tight end.

Rudolph has hauled in 109 passes for 1,055 yards and 15 touchdowns in three NFL seasons, all with Minnesota. The Vikings selected Rudolph in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He played collegiately at Notre Dame.

“I’m extremely excited to get this extension completed and continue my career with the Minnesota Vikings,” Rudolph said in a statement issued by the club Sunday night. “I’ve said all along I wanted to stay in Minnesota. I love the fans, the community and, most importantly, I’m excited about where this team is going. I’m looking forward to the 2014 season and helping this organization reach our ultimate goal.”

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Christine Michael bangs up shoulder

Seahawks AP

As the Marshawn Lynch holdout lingers, his leverage spikes if/when any of the team’s alternatives at tailback gets injured.

If became when on Sunday, when second-year running back Christine Michael left practice with a shoulder injury.

“He just banged his shoulder a little bit,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters after practice.  “They think he will be ready to go on Tuesday.”

The injury serves as a reminder that Plan B can quickly becomes Plan C and so on, unless and until Lynch returns to the fold.  There’s been no progress along those lines, with Lynch wanting a new contract and the Seahawks refusing to rip up the last two seasons of a four-year, $30 million deal.

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Ron Rivera: De’Quan Menzie is retiring

Arizona Cardinals v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

The Panthers waived defensive back De’Quan Menzie on Saturday.

And now, it appears the third-year pro could be electing to end his career.

According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera indicated Sunday that the 24-year-old Menzie was retiring.

Menzie’s verified Twitter account had the following post Sunday: “Officially done….”

An Alabama product, Menzie (5-11, 200) was a fifth-round selection of Kansas City in 2012. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve (hip flexor). After being waived by Kansas City in May 2013, Menzie had a brief stint with Detroit before being waived in August 2013. The Panthers signed Menzie to a futures contract in January 2014.

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LaMichael James carted off during 49ers practice

James Getty Images

Another day, another injured tailback in San Francisco.

Via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, third-year running back LaMichael James was carted off during practice with an apparent wrist/arm injury.

James, who has appeared in only 14 regular-season games in two NFL seasons, has a chance to show that he can contribute to the base offense following the season-ending ACL injury suffered on Friday by Kendall Hunter.  While the specific nature and severity of the injury isn’t known, guys usually don’t get carted off with arm/wrist injuries.

Before practice, coach Jim Harbaugh said that the team has “complete and total confidence” in James, who along with Marcus Lattimore and Carlos Hyde will be counted on to make an impact, especially with Hunter done for the year.

In two seasons, James has only 39 regular-season rushing attempts for 184 yards.  He has caught five passes for 45 yards.  His primary contributions have come as a kickoff and punt returner, with 49 total returns in two season.

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McCoy, Cole downplay practice-field fracas

McCoy AP

On Sunday, during the second practice of camp and a day before the pads go on, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy took issue with a hit from defensive end Trent Cole, sparking the first fight of the year.  After the session ended, Cole and McCoy downplayed the exchange of pleasantries.

I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Cole said, via Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com.  “That’s my brother, man.  We were just playing around.  We’re competitors.  We’re very competitive.”

McCoy was a little less willing to let it all go.  But he seems to have moved on, too.

“The whole camp so far, it’s been touching a little too much,” McCoy said. “I’m trying to let them know, ‘It’s OK if you can’t cover me.’”

Defensive end Brandon Graham, who was in the middle of the melee but called himself a spectator, initially tried to describe the hit as a “nudge.”

“You know, it wasn’t really a nudge because it was 270 [pounds] against 200,” Graham said.  “I wasn’t taking it that seriously because it was just a regular catfight.”

But Graham admitted there’s no place for fighting or otherwise hurting teammates.

“You gotta draw the line,” Graham said.  “You gotta take care of each out out here.  Even when we get pads on you can’t just be out here trying to kill everybody, because we do got to have them for the season.  But [Monday] is gonna be a lot of aggression.”

Coach Chip Kelly isn’t a fan of aggression that results in fights — cat-style or otherwise — between guys who wear the same uniform.  Kelly may need to send a clear message to his players to keep things from getting out of control.

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Texans offensive line dedicates season to Quessenberry

Quessenberry Getty Images

As Texans offensive lineman David Quessenberry prepares to endure his third round of chemotherapy, his teammates have found a way to honor him.

“Absolutely, we have dedicated this season to him as a line,” left tackle Duane Brown told FOX 26 and the Houston Chronicle.  “He’s in the ultimate battle right now.”

Center Chris Myers intends to take it a step farther, finding ways to raise money and awareness for lymphoma.

“With everything going on with David right now this season is obviously going to be dedicated to him,” Myers said.  “He’s on our minds 24-7, and that’s not going to stop. . . . It’s going to go throughout the whole season and for us to be able to do something special this season would be huge for him.”

“Hey, every night we go to bed, we say a prayer for the man,” guard Ben Jones said. “Every day we try to reach out to him because he means a lot  to us.  We want him to know we’re behind him.”

The support from his teammates has had a major impact on Quessenberry.

“It’s hard to put into words what it means to have the support of your brothers on the team,” Quessenberry said. “It’s humbling.  Truly it’s an honor.  I want to do them proud. I want to come back stronger and come back and help these guys when I do come back eventually.  “This year I got blind-sided getting diagnosed with cancer.  Just knowing that my teammates and my brothers got my back is truly something special.”

A sixth-round pick in 2013, Quessenberry was diagnosed with lymphoma in June.  We wish him the best as he continues the battle.

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DeMarcus Ware has a lower leg injury

Ware AP

During his time with the Cowboys, defensive end/linebacker DeMarcus Ware played through plenty of injuries.  He’s already dealing with one in Denver.

Ware was held out for roughly half of Sunday’s practice due to what coach John Fox called a lower leg injury.  Fox told reporters it doesn’t appear to be serious.

Of course, “doesn’t appear” leaves the window slightly open for the possibility that it is.  And as Broncos fans learned four years ago with former Denver pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil, a season-ending injury can happen out of nowhere in the early stages of training camp.

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Patrick Peterson’s days on offense and special teams are done

patrickpeterson AP

In training camp last year, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said cornerback Patrick Peterson could be one of the Top 5 receivers in the NFL. But at training camp this year, Arians has decided to put a stop to the experiment of giving Peterson snaps on offense.

Arians told Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ website that the addition of speedy receivers Ted Ginn in free agency and John Brown in the draft means that Peterson won’t be needed to make plays on offense. That’s no surprise: Peterson didn’t do much of anything on offense last season, catching six passes for 54 yards and carrying the ball four times for 21 yards. If that’s all the Cardinals are going to get out of Peterson on offense, it’s probably not worth the time and energy it takes for Peterson to work with the offense.

Peterson added that not only will he not be a wide receiver anymore, but he won’t return punts either. That decision is a little more surprising because Peterson is an outstanding punt returner who led the league with 699 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. But Ginn and Brown can both return punts as well, and taking Peterson off punt returns will allow him to focus on his most important job, at cornerback.

As for talk that Peterson is due for a pay raise and a long-term contract extension soon, Peterson said he’s not worrying about that.

“I’m here to play football,” Peterson said. “I have two years left on my deal and I want to do the best I can to help this team win. I haven’t been to the playoffs since I’ve been here & that’s my first goal.”

Arians thinks Peterson can do more to help the Cardinals make the playoffs if he’s doing nothing other than playing defense.

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Panthers sign running back Fozzy Whittaker

RB-Fozzy-Whittaker-AP-Photo-by-Cleveland-Browns AP

Though it sounds strange to see given their track record, the Panthers found themselves short at running back.

So they solved that problem for the moment by bringing in former Browns running back/return man Fozzy Whittaker. (Waka! Waka!).

The Panthers had an immediate need with Jonathan Stewart on the shelf with a hamstring and sixth-round pick Tyler Gaffney going on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Whittaker has some return ability, but has been looking for work since the Browns cut him in May.

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Redskins cut the cord on 2013 draft pick Brandon Jenkins

Washington Redskins v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Players with value get chances. Players without value get made into examples.

The Redskins released 2013 fifth-round pick Brandon Jenkins Sunday, less than a week into his second training camp.

According to Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com, Jenkins “had a particularly poor effort in Sunday morning’s one-on-one battle drills,” and was released hours later.

The former Florida State linebacker had one tackle in six games last season, and barely played in the second half of the season, since he didn’t contribute on special teams.

Draft picks usually get a longer leash, especially in their first two seasons. But he might be more useful to the Redskins as an object lesson than as a player.

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Jason Pinkston absent, and neither he nor Browns will say why

Pinkston Getty Images

Hard to believe as it may seem, the Browns currently employ football players not named Johnny Manziel.  As to one of them, a question has arisen regarding his employment.

Via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, offensive lineman Jason Pinkston isn’t around.  And no one will say what’s going on.

“I can assure you I’m in no legal trouble and retiring hasn’t come up,” Pinkston said via Twitter.  “As far as my situation, I’ll leave it to them to explain.”

The only problem is that the Browns won’t explain.

“Pinkston’s unavailable to practice and due to his circumstances I cannot comment on it any further,” Pettine said.  “I want to give you more, but just given the circumstances, I can’t.  That’s where we are with Jason.”

Agent Neil Schwartz, who has a history of holding players out (including 49ers guard Alex Boone), couldn’t be reached for comment.

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Cassel, Bridgewater “pretty much splitting reps”

Cassel AP

After being called out by Peyton Manning for his smedium shirt and all-access pass to Broncos training camp, FOX’s Jay Glazer took his bus-defacing training-camp tour to Mankato State University.  He liked what he saw and heard of Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Per Glazer, Bridgewater and veteran Matt Cassel are “pretty much splitting reps” at practice, and “[h]ugeee” (maybe the tight shirt made the button stick) optimism exists for Bridgewater’s future.

It doesn’t mean that Bridgewater will be the Week One starter.  It does mean that, the longer the rep-spitting lasts, the less prepared the Week One starter will be.

Though in different conferences, the Vikings and Browns will provide an intriguing apples-and-apples quarterback comparison in 2014 and beyond, given that both were interested in Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater.  Cleveland ultimately traded up to get Manziel before the Vikings could, and Minnesota moved back to round one to get Bridgewater.

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Chargers throw water on idea of NFL-owned stadium in L.A.

Spanos Getty Images

If the Chargers stay in San Diego, the last thing they want is one or two teams headquartered 90 miles up the road in L.A.  It’s no surprise, then, that the Chargers don’t believe the NFL would ever solve the generation-old L.A. stadium problem by building its own.

It’s pie in the sky,” Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani told Nick Canepa of U-T San Diego.

It’s also nothing new, according to team president Dean Spanos.

“It’s an idea that has been floated before,” Spanos said.  “There’s nothing new to it.  For the past 20 years we’ve been hearing about it.”

Regardless of who builds and owns the stadium, the Chargers clearly aren’t interested in encouraging the arrival of franchises that will compete for the same eyeballs and $100 bills.

“[T]he league has been successful without a team there and so has L.A.,” Spanos said.  “There are a lot of issues.  And you have to sell 24 of the 32 owners that it’s a good investment.  It’s a ways down the line, and I’m not sure it has the votes.”

In contrast, Patriots owner Robert Kraft recently said he wants to see a team return to Los Angeles within two or three years.  For now, we’ll take the over.  And if Spanos has his way, the over will be never.

Unless, of course, the Chargers are the team that moves to L.A.

 

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Cowboys hope to go from 32nd to first in NFL defensive rankings

morrisclaiborne AP

The Cowboys ranked dead last in the league in total defense last season, allowing more than 415 yards a game in a year when no other defense even allowed 400. This year, the loss of linebacker Sean Lee to a knee injury and the departure of top pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher in free agency makes it seem unlikely that the Cowboys’ defense could get much better.

But that’s not the way the Cowboys see it. According to cornerback Morris Claiborne, the guys in the Cowboys’ defensive meetings have greed that they’re shooting to be not just better than last year, but the best defense in the NFL.

“We were last in the league in defense and we’re trying to be No. 1,” he said, via the Dallas Morning News. “That’s our goal. We’re not shying away from it.”

Claiborne says the Cowboys feel terrible about the way they played last year, but that doesn’t mean they have terrible talent on defense.

“It’s definitely embarrassing,” Claiborne said, “especially when you know the type of talent you have on the team, but it’s just not showing up.”

It’s not realistic to think the Cowboys could be the No. 1 defense in the league this year. If the Cowboys could even be average on defense, that would be an enormous improvement.

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