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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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Tisch says St. Louis, Oakland, San Diego are “kind of in the fourth quarter”

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When it comes to Los Angeles, the NFL has a tough balancing act on its hands.  The desire to go to L.A. on one side, the importance of giving the cities where the potential L.A. franchises currently play a fair chance at keeping them on the other.

Ultimately, one or two current NFL cities will be losing their teams.  And while the NFL tries to say all the right things (presumably in order to prevent three stadiums from being empty or close to it in 2015), the cat is far enough out of the bag to make it clear that St. Louis, Oakland, and/or San Diego will be losing their franchises, as soon as next year.

This could come to a vote in a year,” Giants co-owner Steve Tisch said at the league meetings, via Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  Tisch added that the league has made it “very clear” that those three cities must “get their proposals to their respective teams sooner rather than later.”

“Is it crunch time? Is it a two-minute warning yet? No,” Tisch said, via Thomas.  “But . . . those three cities are kind of in the fourth quarter.”

As Thomas points out, St. Louis seems to be much farther along in the process than Oakland or San Diego.  But owner Stan Kroenke remains, as Thomas characterizes it, on a “bullet train” to L.A.

Which makes the theory that has gathered momentum in recent weeks the most sensible one yet:  The Rams and Chargers go to L.A., and the Raiders slide from Oakland to St. Louis.  Which will mean that only two cities will lose the NFL, but that three teams will be getting new stadiums.

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Russell Wilson: Contract situation will work out

Russell Wilson AP

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is heading into the final season of his contract, but he doesn’t sound overly concerned about getting a new deal done.

“In terms of my contract, I don’t really talk about that kind of stuff,” Wilson said, via the Everett Herald. “I love the game of football. I love playing the game of football. I try to put my best foot forward and I want to be the best to ever play the game. That’s the way I look at it. I’ve been fortunate enough to win a lot of games at such a young age and to be able to play with some great guys and have some great comeback wins and win a Super Bowl, and go to back to back Super Bowls. It’s been special. So that’s what I focus on. I focus on the next opportunity that I have. The rest will come. I believe God is going to bless me. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I trust always. And I trust it’s going to work out the way it’s supposed to.”

The Seahawks get Wilson for this year at the bargain salary of $1.5 million. If they can’t get a deal done beyond this year, however, the only way they could ensure he doesn’t leave is to franchise him at a number approaching $20 million.

Franchising Wilson is exactly what they’ll do if they have to, but they’d prefer to get a deal done before it comes to that. Wilson sounds like he’s ready for whatever happens: Ready to sign if the right deal comes, or ready to wait if he’s not satisfied with what the Seahawks are offering.

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Dixon arrested after moped incident

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Saints cornerback Brian Dixon was arrested for resisting arrest, but not for anything else.  Which raises a legitimate question about what he was being arrested for when he resisted arrest.

That logic still seems to be lost on the authorities in South Beach, but Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate offers some additional details about the incident.

Per Underhill, police say Dixon was driving a moped.  A police officer pulled him over.  Dixon then questioned the officer.  And the officer arrested Dixon.

Without knowing what Dixon said, it’s hard to know whether the arrest was justified.  It’s nevertheless odd that Dixon was arrested for resisting an arrest that still has not been specified.

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Packers to remain “smart” about how they use Eddie Lacy

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The Packers wanted Eddie Lacy to show he could be an effective three-down running back in 2014 and Lacy was successful in that effort.

Lacy averaged over 10 yards a catch on 42 receptions and did a solid job as a pass blocker in his second NFL season, leaving coach Mike McCarthy without too much to tell Lacy about where to improve heading into the 2015 season. The conversation will instead be about continuing to use Lacy in a way that he can be an effective offensive force without putting him at risk of overuse over the course of the season.

McCarthy said he thought the team was “really smart” in how they used Lacy last season. He ran the ball 246 times in the regular season, good for 13th in the league, and it sounds like McCarthy would be happy with a similar total next season.

“I go back to past experience,” McCarthy said, via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I went through this, really. Ricky Williams [who was with the Saints when McCarthy was on New Orleans’s staff] was the first running back that I went through the how-many-attempts, how-many-runs [discussion]. It’s a learning experience. I’m conscientious of how many times each guy touches the ball, how much each guy plays, especially the running back. I think you have to be smart there.”

Lacy added 40 more carries while continuing to run well in the postseason, which makes it tough to argue with the contention that the team came up with a good plan for their top running back. As long as Lacy is healthy, they should be able to find the same formula this time around.

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League, Irsay still silent on Indiana law

Irsay AP

The NFL still hasn’t said a word about a law that passed last week in Indiana.  Last year, when a similar law nearly passed in Arizona, the league said plenty publicly — and reportedly was privately considering moving Super Bowl XLIX, with Tampa Bay being the first option.

The league has remained silent regarding the Indiana law even as hundreds rallied Saturday against the law that prohibits the placement of a “substantial burden” on the ability of a person, an institution, a business, or an association’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs.  The provision has been interpreted as permitting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence says a bill clarifying the new law is now in the works.

“I just can’t account for the hostility that’s been directed at our state,” Pence said, via the Associated Press.  “I’ve been taken aback by the mischaracterizations from outside the state of Indiana about what is in this bill.”

However it plays out, the NFL’s silence in 2015 makes little sense, given the noise it made in 2014 when Arizona was poised to do the same thing.

Meanwhile, the Colts have said nothing, either.  Which seems a little odd, given the fairly high profile owner Jim Irsay has assumed on Twitter.  Though he recently has been tweeting about roster moves and the league meetings, Irsay hasn’t said a word via Twitter for the last six days.

If the league had said nothing a year ago regarding Arizona, saying nothing now wouldn’t be so glaring.  But if the league were indeed planning in 2014 to pull the plug on a Super Bowl due to be played in a matter of months, complete silence in 2015 makes no sense.

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Erin Henderson set for visit with Jets

Jermaine Gresham, Erin Henderson AP

Erin Henderson’s search for a chance to resume his NFL career will be heading to New Jersey.

Henderson met with the 49ers last week after sitting out the entire 2014 season following his release in Minnesota, but didn’t sign a contract with the team. The Niners have moved on to a scheduled meeting with Lance Briggs and Henderson’s agent says his client is moving on to a meeting with the Jets.

Jim Chapman told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee that Henderson has scheduled a visit with the AFC East club. The Jets re-signed David Harris as free agency opened and have Demario Davis back as well, which leaves Henderson as a depth option at inside linebacker.

The Vikings dropped Henderson last February after a pair of arrests for drunk driving. He started 33 games during his final three seasons with the Vikings and was a fairly effective player before his off-field trouble led to his on-field hiatus.

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Saints cornerback arrested in Miami Beach

Dixon Getty Images

Saints cornerback Brian Dixon has been arrested in Miami Beach for resisting arrest without violence.  Per multiple sources, the arrest occurred early this morning.

It’s unclear why Dixon was being arrested in the first place.  He’s charged only with resisting arrest.

The Saints will now have to decide whether to resist the temptation to sever ties with Dixon, who was undrafted in 2014 coming out of Northwest Missouri State.

UPDATE 12:24 p.m. ET:  Dixon reportedly was arrested after being pulled over while driving a moped.

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Mike Tomlin: We have the goods to be NFL’s best offense

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The Steelers averaged 27.2 points per game last season, which was good enough for seventh place in the NFL and a first place finish in the AFC North.

Things looked even better once wide receiver Martavis Bryant was plugged into the lineup after missing the first six games. The Steelers jumped to 31.2 points per game, a number that would have ranked first in the league if they’d done it over the course of all 16 contests. With Bryant set for a bigger role from the outset in 2015 and the likes of Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger also on hand, coach Mike Tomlin thinks the stage is set for the Steelers to be the league’s top offense.

“My expectation is they’re capable of being the very best because we’ve got the goods,” Tomlin said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We’ve got guys that are capable. We’ve got guys that know what they’re doing. We’ve got guys that played together for an extended period of time now. So that’s a reasonable expectation.”

If the Steelers can’t get their defense on a better track, they’ll need their offense to be at least as good as it was in 2014 to book another trip to the postseason. That’s a change from the familiar balance in Pittsburgh, but it’s one that the Steelers will continue to embrace as long it represents their best path to success.

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Sealver Siliga still in walking boot after foot surgery

Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Patriots played most of last season without defensive tackle Sealver Siliga in the lineup, but they made good use of him once he returned from injured reserve late in the year.

Siliga started the final three games of the regular season and all three New England postseason victories, recording 31 tackles and a pair of sacks on the way to a Super Bowl title. Siliga seems likely to remain in that spot come next season as long as he’s healthy.

Right now, Siliga isn’t quite there. The foot injury that kept Siliga out for nine games wasn’t totally healed, though, and he had surgery after the season to set things right. Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com reports Siliga is still using a walking boot as he recovers from the operation. There’s no word on whether he’ll continue to be wearing it when the team starts OTAs, but it seems a good bet that Siliga will be somewhat limited during offseason work.

With Vince Wilfork now in Houston, Siliga and Alan Branch are the biggest bodies on the interior of the defensive line in New England. They could add another option in the draft and may have to look for more help if Siliga’s foot issue continues to linger.

 

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Cardinals to give Logan Thomas “a ton of work” this offseason

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When the Cardinals lost Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton for the season with injuries last year, they briefly considered starting Logan Thomas in the regular season finale before opting to stick with Ryan Lindley for that game and in their playoff loss to the Panthers.

Arians said at the time that he didn’t think Thomas, who was drafted in the fourth round last year, was ready for action and he repeated the point at last week’s league meetings. Arians said he wasn’t going to let Thomas fail because “once you fail those scars never go away” and that part of the plan this offseason is to make sure Thomas won’t fail if he’s forced into action in 2015.

“He’s going to get a ton of work and those reps are invaluable,” Arians said, via the team’s website. “Just in decision-making, how fast you’re getting it out of your hand, where you’re going with it, where you’re going when ‘one’ and ‘two’ are still covered. Are you still scrambling around or are you going to find your outlets? That growth process comes strictly from reps.”

Arians indicated that most of Thomas’s reps would come on Field Two with younger members of the squad, but there should be opportunities with the first team as well with Palmer and Stanton coming off of injuries. If Thomas shows well during those chances, he may start making a case to be Palmer’s backup and/or possible successor in the Cardinals lineup while also allowing the team to avoid any further dips into the Lindley bucket.

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Sunday morning one-liners

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The Bills tried to leave themselves without much work to do in the draft.

Winning more games is the next step in Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill’s development.

Patriots QB Tom Brady put on his basketball shoes for a game with Michael Jordan.

Todd Bowles had several mentors on his way to becoming Jets head coach.

CB Lardarius Webb hopes to retire with the Ravens after restructuring his contract.

Tracing DE Michael Johnson’s path away from and back to the Bengals.

Two ways of looking at the best Browns of all time.

Plenty of coaches praised Steelers S Troy Polamalu during last week’s league meetings.

The Texans need G Xavier Su’a-Filo to step up in his second season.

Colts WR T.Y. Hilton and TE Coby Fleener are both a year away from possible free agency.

A call for the Jaguars to find space for WR Greg Jennings.

The five biggest developments of the Titans offseason.

Holdovers on the offensive coaching staff are helping the Broncos transition under head coach Gary Kubiak this offseason.

Former Chiefs TE Sean McGrath is part of the recent group of young players leaving the NFL.

Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie is one of several linebackers to wear No. 54 as a player with the team.

A music video is part of the effort to keep the Chargers in San Diego.

Would Michigan DE Frank Clark be an option for the Cowboys in the draft?

The Giants were part of the contingent of teams at LSU’s pro day.

Is scheme or talent the most important thing for the Eagles?

A look at possibilities for the Redskins to trade back from the fifth pick.

West Virginia WR Mario Alford’s speed could make him attractive to the Bears.

Would Indiana RB Tevin Coleman be a good fit with the Lions?

Packers General Manager Ted Thompson isn’t likely to change his approach to the draft.

Captain Munnerlyn expects to retain a starting cornerback job with the Vikings.

G Mike Person likes what he’s seen of the Falcons blocking schemes.

Jarrett Boykin may have taken the Panthers out of the running for other free agent wideouts.

The least successful free agent signings in Saints history.

The Buccaneers signed free agents familiar with their defense.

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald played the world’s longest par 3 in South Africa.

Coach Jeff Fisher broke down the Rams’ moves on defense.

What led the 49ers to hold onto QB Blaine Gabbert as Colin Kaepernick’s backup?

This weekend marked the anniversary of the trade that brought CB Shawn Springs to the Seahawks.

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Jay Gruden on Mariota visit: We have a lot of options at No. 5

Marcus Mariota AP

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is setting up visits and workouts with the teams at the top of the draft, including a stop in Virginia next month.

Mariota will be at the Redskins’ headquarters in April, a little more than a month after General Manager Scot McCloughan took in the Heisman Trophy winner’s pro day workout. The Redskins already have a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, of course, although the team isn’t going farther than saying that Robert Griffin III is the starter “right now.” That suggests an open mind about using the fifth pick on Mariota and coach Jay Gruden didn’t suggest otherwise when asked about the quarterback’s visit on Saturday.

“There’s a lot of people that will be available with the fifth pick,” Gruden said, via CSNWashington.com. “We’re gonna look at ‘em all and make a good Redskins decision. Whoever that is will be a big help for us.”

Whether Washington is considering Mariota or not, it makes sense for them to make the rest of the league think he’s a consideration in order to keep open the possibility of a trade come draft day. As the Redskins well know, desire to land a quarterback in the first round can make teams offer handsome sums in trade compensation and they might be able to get on the receiving end this time around.

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Stevan Ridley close to medical clearance, lines up visits this week

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Free agent running back Stevan Ridley is healing from a torn ACL and looking for work.

Ridley has his first free agent visits of the offseason scheduled this week, Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com reports.

A 2011 third-round pick of the Patriots who has spent his entire career in New England, Ridley had 94 carries for 340 yards and two touchdowns in the first six games before a season-ending injury last year. He is now about six weeks away from being cleared medically.

Given the injury and the fact that Ridley has spent most of the last two years as a backup, it’s unlikely that Ridley can get much more than a minimum contract. But as a 26-year-old who’s a couple of years removed from a 1,263-yard season, Ridley will probably draw interest from a few teams. And if he’s fully healthy, he may turn out to be a bargain.

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Bob McNair thinks Vince Wilfork won’t be another Ed Reed

Wilfork Getty Images

Two years ago, the Texans gave $5 million in guaranteed money to an 11-year veteran defender who had just won a Super Bowl.  It didn’t work out.

This year, the Texans once again gave $5 million in guaranteed money to an 11-year veteran defender who had just won a Super Bowl.  Some wonder whether it will work out.

Obviously, owner Bob McNair believes Vince Wilfork won’t be another Ed Reed.  Otherwise, the Texans wouldn’t have taken a chance on a player that Patriots coach Bill Belichick opted to not keep around.  So what’s the difference between Reed and Wilfork?

“I think the difference is when you have someone at a position where they have to be able to run, then age is more of a consideration,” McNair said at the league meetings, via Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com.  “We thought Ed was in good shape and was going to be able to come down and play and he was a big disappointment.  At nose tackle, you don’t have to run that much.  He’s got to be strong.  So there’s some positions you can play for more years and you aren’t taking as much risk.”

The notion that old guys are more likely to lose speed than strength seems a little simplistic.  Plenty of fast guys retain their speed well into their 30s.  Plenty of strong guys lose their strength well before turning 40.

The biggest difference between Reed and Wilfork is that Reed was damaged goods when he signed with the Texans.  The Texans didn’t notice that Reed needed hip surgery when giving him a passing grade on his physical.

So it’s less embarrassing for the Texans to distinguish Reed and Wilfork based on the speed vs. strength of older players, and not to remind everyone that whoever gave Reed a clean bill of health in 2013 made a major mistake.  Ultimately, Reed’s short stay in Houston had a lot more to do with the hip problem the team didn’t spot than an age-related reduction in his speed.

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Donald Stephenson gets a clean slate in Kansas City

Stephenson Getty Images

Last year, Donald Stephenson was expected to start at right tackle for the Chiefs.  A four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy derailed that plan.

Entering 2015, G.M. John Dorsey says Stephenson gets a fresh shot at becoming the starting right tackle.

“There’s some things that occurred last year, but it’s a clean slate,” Dorsey said at the league meetings, via Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star.  “So what he has to do is set the little things into motion that professionals do in terms of obtaining that starting position.

“So what you do is take little steps, ultimately building toward bigger goals that you set for yourself. And I think you go in and challenge yourself on a daily basis.  You go in and do the little things it takes to be truly professional — do not take this game for granted.”

The Chiefs have overhauled their line this offseason, adding guards Ben Grubbs and Paul Fanaika and letting center Rodney Hudson leave via free agency.  Stephenson ultimately started no games in 2014, but he appeared in each of the 12 that followed his suspension.

Stephenson and Jeff Allen most likely will be the primary competitors for the starting job at right tackle.

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