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PFT’s Week 14 picks

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With four weeks to go, the lead is back to three.

And we disagree on three games.

In other words, MDS a/k/a the master of Raiders exacta, could catch me by 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Last week, I went 11-5.  MDS was 10-6.  For the season, I’m now at 123-68-1, a 64.0 percent accuracy rate.  MDS is 120-71-1, which equates to 62.5 percent.

Broncos at Raiders

MDS’s take: My amazing run of accuracy in predicting Raiders scores has put a lot of pressure on me to get this one right. So here’s what it boils down to: The Broncos are good, the Raiders are not, and the score won’t be close.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Raiders 13.

Florio’s takePeyton Manning has never lost in Oakland.  Then again, he has played there only twice.  Make it three on Thursday night.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 27, Raiders 13.

Rams at Bills

MDS’s take: The Bills’ defense has turned things around recently, with Mario Williams getting five sacks in the last three games. I think Williams will bring the pressure to Sam Bradford, and the Bills will win.

MDS’s pick: Bills 17, Rams 14.

Florio’s take:  The up-and-down Rams play very well inside the division and not so well outside of it.  The Bills sometimes play well at home, and sometimes they don’t.  The difference here is that the Rams have an arguably realistic shot at the postseason, and the Bills don’t.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 17, Bills 13.

Falcons at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Falcons are playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and the Panthers are playing for the first overall pick in the draft. Advantage Atlanta.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 21, Panthers 13.

Florio’s take:  Earlier this year, the Panthers nearly toppled the Falcons in Atlanta.  The rematch comes in Charlotte, with the Falcons chasing the top seed and the Panthers pursuing respect.  As they move closer to proving that they’re ready to hang with the big boys, the Falcons prove that their near-miss against Carolina was a fluke.

Florio’s pick:   Falcons 31, Panthers 20.

Cowboys at Bengals

MDS’s take: This is a close, competitive game, and I have a funny feeling the Bengals’ superior special teams could turn out to make the difference. The Bengals will bolster their own playoff hopes and deal a lethal blow to the Cowboys’ hopes.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Cowboys 20.

Florio’s take:  Yes, the Cowboys won last week.  But they beat the Philly “B” team, barely.  The Bengals are moving in the right direction, and it’ll stay that way at least until they have to play the Steelers or Ravens again.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 24, Cowboys 20.

Chiefs at Browns

MDS’s take: The weekend’s worst game will be in Cleveland, where the Browns will win an ugly one.

MDS’s pick: Browns 15, Chiefs 12.

Florio’s take:  A week after the biggest win of his career, Brady Quinn returns to the place where his career started.  Though the Browns probably will win this one, I can’t pick against Quinn and the Chiefs.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 23, Browns 20.

Titans at Colts

MDS’s take: I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Colts stumble on their march to the playoffs here — this team could be ripe for an upset after gutting out a tough, physical, hard-fought game in Detroit last week. I also have major doubts about the ability of the Colts’ defense to keep them in big games down the stretch. The Titans, however, don’t have much offensive firepower, and so I’ll take the Colts in a close one.

MDS’s pick: Colts 20, Titans 17.

Florio’s takeAndrew Luck and the Colts move closer to one of the most unlikely playoff berths in recent history.  Meanwhile, Titans owner Bud Adams moved toward a series of pink slips and middle fingers fired at his employees.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 34, Titans 20.

Jets at Jaguars

MDS’s take: Rex Ryan gave Mark Sanchez what should be an easy win in Jacksonville. I’m not sold on Sanchez, but I am sold on the Jets’ ability to shut down the Jaguars’ offense.

MDS’s pick: Jets 20, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take:  Whether it’s Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy, Tim Tebow, Vinny Testaverde, or Joe Namath at quarterback, the Jets have the defense to shut down the Jacksonville offense.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 10, Jaguars 6.

Bears at Vikings

MDS’s take: After an amazing start to the season, Chicago’s defense has declined in recent weeks. Playing against the struggling Christian Ponder is just the thing to cure what ails the Bears.

MDS’s pick: Bears 17, Vikings 7.

Florio’s take:  It’s the last, best chance for the Vikings to remain in the playoff race.  And it’s the last, best chance for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to show that he realizes that, with Adrian Peterson in the backfield, there’s never a reason to pass the ball.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 24, Bears 16.

Chargers at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers showed what kind of team they are in Sunday’s win over the Ravens, while the Chargers showed what kind of team they are in Sunday’s loss to the Bengals: The talent gap between these two teams isn’t big, but the Steelers play their best in crunch time, and the Chargers play their worst in crunch time.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 23, Chargers 20.

Florio’s take:  The Chargers haven’t won in Pittsburgh since somehow toppling the Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium for the 1994 AFC title.  The 0-6 streak will continue on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 24, Chargers 13.

Eagles at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: Greg Schiano’s guys are playing hard every week, win or lose, while Andy Reid’s guys have quit on the season. This is an easy one.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 35, Eagles 10.

Florio’s take:  The Phillies have won more recently than the Eagles.  That fact should hold for another week, or longer.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 27, Eagles 17.

Ravens at Redskins

MDS’s take: The Ravens’ run defense is terrible, and the Redskins’ run offense is excellent. Washington will rush for 200 yards and win a tough, physical game.

MDS’s pick: Redskins 13, Ravens 10.

Florio’s take:  The Redskins currently look more like the potential Super Bowl team, beating every other team in the NFC East in a three-game stretch.  Though it remains to be seen whether God really is on the Redskins’ side, He’s definitely not on the Ravens’ this year.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 23, Ravens 21.

Dolphins at 49ers

MDS’s take: Colin Kaepernick may have taken a step backward last week against the Rams, but he’ll show against the Dolphins that Jim Harbaugh made the right decision. And even if Kaepernick has a bad game, it’s not like the Dolphins are putting many points on the board against San Francisco’s defense.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Dolphins 6.

Florio’s take:  This game has considerably less hype than their Super Bowl XIX rendezvous.  But the outcome will be similar.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 38, Dolphins 16.

Saints at Giants

MDS’s take: The Saints are out of the playoff race, but they’re still a dangerous team, and I’m tempted to pick them against the Giants, coming off a tough loss on a short week. But the Giants know their backs are against the wall, and that’s when this team usually plays its best football.

MDS’s pick: Giants 28, Saints 27.

Florio’s take:  New York’s margin for error has, for now, shrunk to zero.  Which matches the Saints’ chances of getting to the postseason.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 28, Saints 17.

Cardinals at Seahawks

MDS’s take: With the Cardinals’ horrendous offense playing in a tough environment in Seattle, this game could get ugly. Looks to me like the biggest mismatch of the week in the NFL.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 35, Cardinals 3.

Florio’s take:  The Seahawks don’t lose at home.  The Cardinals don’t win anywhere.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 20, Cardinals 10.

Lions at Packers

MDS’s take: The Lions have a knack for playing well enough against good teams to keep it close, and then losing. That’s what they’ll do in Green Bay, where Calvin Johnson will have another big-time performance but Aaron Rodgers will pick apart Detroit’s secondary.

MDS’s pick: Packers 31, Lions 27.

Florio’s take:  The Packers need to keep winning.  For the Lions, it’s too late.  At this point, they’re playing only for Calvin Johnson to break Jerry Rice’s record.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 31, Lions 20.

Texans at Patriots

MDS’s take: Now this is a great Monday Night Football game. If the Texans win, the race for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs is pretty much over. But I think the Patriots are a better football team right now, and they’re going to take this one and make a big statement that they’re the favorites to get to the Super Bowl out of the AFC, even if they have to win a rematch in Houston in January to get there.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 28, Texans 14.

Florio’s take:  The Pats make their move toward the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff field.  It’s a great game on paper, but it’s got the potential to be a snooze-fest.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 34, Texans 24.

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Robert Mathis regrets winning only one ring in Indianapolis

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Robert Mathis retired this year after a 14-year NFL career, all with the Colts. He was a six-time Pro Bowler and won a Super Bowl ring. But only one.

As Mathis looks back on his career, he sees a lot of accomplishment, but also regret, for the fact that a Colts team that came close many times only won one Super Bowl.

“Looking back on that team, I feel a mix of pride, and I’ll admit, the slightest bit of disappointment,” Mathis wrote at the Players’ Tribune. “I’m so proud of what we accomplished during our era of Colts football, but I think every person, down to the last man, would tell you that he expected to win more than one ring in Indy. If there’s any regret I have from my career, it’s that.”

The Colts made the playoffs in each of Mathis’s first eight seasons, then missed the playoffs in the year of Peyton Manning’s neck injury and returned to the playoffs for three more consecutive years with Andrew Luck at quarterback. They were consistently among the best teams in the league, and yet they only ended the year on top once. It’s hard not to look at those Colts teams and think that as good as they were, they could have done even more in the postseason.

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Al Saunders: I’ll be shocked if Terrelle Pryor isn’t in the Pro Bowl

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Browns receivers coach Al Saunders thinks his team let a Pro Bowl wide receiver get away this offseason.

Saunders told ESPN that he believes Terrelle Pryor, who left Cleveland for Washington in free agency, is going to be a Pro Bowler at the end of the season.

“I will be shocked if he isn’t in the Pro Bowl,” Saunders said. “He’s going to have that kind of year.”

That raises an obvious question: Why didn’t the Browns keep Pryor, who left for a one-year, $6 million contract that Cleveland easily could have afforded under its salary cap? If Saunders seriously believes Pryor is a Pro Bowler, and the Browns’ front office let him walk anyway, that would suggest that the coaches and the personnel department aren’t on the same page.

Despite playing in a bad offense last season in his first year as a wide receiver after switching from quarterback, Pryor caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards. In a better offense in Washington, it won’t be surprising at all to see Saunders proven right. In which case Pryor was a bargain for Washington, and letting him leave was a mistake for Cleveland.

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Eric Dickerson: Sean Mannion should start over Jared Goff

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Eric Dickerson isn’t done offering his opinions about the Rams.

Dickerson, the Hall of Fame former Rams running back who routinely ripped Jeff Fisher before he was fired as the Rams’ coach last year, is now weighing in on the Rams’ quarterback situation. And in Dickerson’s view, last year’s first overall pick Jared Goff showed last year that he’s not as good a passer as 2015 third-round pick Sean Mannion.

“The offense was terrible. The offense looked like a high school offense,” Dickerson said on FS1. “My guy that I would start the season with would be Sean Mannion. I’ve been saying that since last year. Give him a shot.”

Dickerson said he attended a Rams practice last year where someone whose name he did not divulge told him that Mannion was good enough to start, but that Goff got the nod because of the money invested in him as a first overall pick.

“I was at practice early last year, before I got kicked off the sidelines, and I was standing next to some of the guys. I said, ‘Man, he can throw,'” Dickerson recalled. “He said, ‘He can throw it. He can really throw it.’ I said, ‘Why won’t they play him?’ He said, ‘You know. The money. We’ve got a No. 1 draft pick. We’ve got all this money to him.'”

Mannion has never started a game and has thrown just 13 passes in his two years as a Ram, but Dickerson thinks Mannion should be the man.

“It’s all about winning football games,” Dickerson said. “You have a better chance of winning with Sean Mannion.”

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O.J. Simpson will be welcome at the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame invites every Hall of Famer to its annual enshrinement ceremony every year, and that will include O.J. Simpson in 2018.

Asked whether Simpson will be welcome once he’s paroled, the Hall of Fame told ESPN, “All Hall of Famers are invited to attend the annual enshrinement.”

Simpson has been a pariah in NFL circles since he was accused of double murder in 1994. But he was granted parole this week for a 2008 armed robbery conviction and is expected to be released in October, so he could attend next year’s enshrinement ceremony.

The Hall of Fame has kept Simpson’s bust in place despite his off-field issues. Simpson has not attended a Hall of Fame ceremony since his own enshrinement in 1985.

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Dolphins center Mike Pouncey to have hip examined next week

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Dolphins center Mike Pouncey will have his left hip examined next week with hopes of being cleared to join his teammates for the start of training camp July 27, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. But the Dolphins won’t make a decision on whether to place Pouncey on the physically unable to perform list until after the exam.

Pouncey has not practiced since last November, playing only five games last season.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase has joked this offseason about placing Pouncey in “bubble wrap” to protect the offensive lineman from injury. To that end, according to Salguero, Pouncey will not practice much in training camp or even the regular season as the Dolphins protect him against injury.

Pouncey has not played a full, 16-game season since 2012, his second season. He has required surgery on both hips.

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Is Simeon Rice a Hall of Famer?

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Warren Sapp long has campaigned for Hall of Fame selectors to recognize his former teammate Simeon Rice, whom Sapp has said is better than Michael Strahan. Now, the Buccaneers’ website has made a case for Rice to join Sapp and Strahan in Canton.

There is no doubt Simeon Rice should be a Hall-of-Famer,” former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks, a 2014 Hall of Fame inductee, told Scott Smith. “Anyone that puts up 122 sacks and has eight double-digit sack seasons during a 12-year career deserves to be in the conversation. And he did this while going against the best offensive linemen—the left tackles. Sim is one of the best pass rushers of his time, and he played a big part in making us the dominant defense that we were in the early 2000s. Go talk to some of the great Hall-of-Fame left tackles that had to go up against Sim on a regular basis, and all you’ll hear is how hard he was to get in front of and slow down. For a left tackle out there on an island, he was their worst nightmare.”

Of the defensive linemen voted into the Hall since 1981, only five played all or most of their careers at right end as Rice did.

Selectors have never voted Rice — now in his fifth year of eligibility — a finalist. The top-11 all-time sack leaders have made the Hall of Fame. Leslie O’Neal, who ranks 12th with 132.5 career sacks, and Rice, who ranks 13th with 122, have the most career sacks without a bust in Canton. (Sacks became an official statistic in 1982.)

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who was Rice’s position coach in Tampa, long has pushed to get Rice in Canton.

“Simeon was always big in the big games from the Super Bowl to all the playoff games,” Marinelli told Smith. “He was the missing piece for our defense because he was a guy that could take the game over. Some of the biggest games he had were against the very best players. He helped drive us to our Super Bowl championship. To me, that is what the Hall of Fame is all about. It’s not just the numbers. It’s about the guys that can get you to a world championship and that’s what Simeon did.”

The problem for Rice is that he played on a defense that already has two Hall of Famers in Sapp and Brooks. Safety John Lynch has been a finalist. Cornerback Ronde Barber becomes eligible in the Class of 2018. As great as the Bucs defense was, they won one Super Bowl. (Yes, I realize who the Bucs quarterbacks were as I covered the team then.) With Lynch, Barber and Rice likely among nominees this year, the question for selectors becomes: Who was the next most important part of that defense?

Rice can take solace in Charles Haley’s journey to Canton. It took Haley, who had 100.5 sacks and five Super Bowl rings, six years to become a finalist and 11 to earn election.

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David Irving a no-show as Cowboys report

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Defensive lineman David Irving was a no-show as the Cowboys reported to training camp Friday, sources confirmed. ESPN’s Todd Archer first reported Irving’s unexcused absence.

The Cowboys held a conditioning run and physicals at their training complex in Frisco, a day before leaving for Oxnard, Calif.

Receiver Dez Bryant arrived late, and the Cowboys are expected to fine him. Irving, though, is subject to a $40,000 fine for missing the reporting date, according to the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.

Last month, the NFL suspended Irving for the first four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He had four sacks and four forced fumbles last season and was expected to play a big role as a pass-rusher this season.

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Agent: Adam Jones considering options after receiving one-game suspension

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The agent for Adam Jones said they are considering “all options” after the league suspended the Bengals cornerback for one game for violating the personal conduct penalty. Jones has three days to appeal.

“We are reviewing the ruling and assessing all options,” agent Peter Schaffer said, via Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal. “Any decision we make will be in the best interest of Adam, the Bengals and the NFL.”

Jones pleaded guilty to obstructing official business after a January incident in which he spat on a jailhouse nurse.

In the league’s letter to Jones, they said the “extensive video documentation of the tone, tenor and nature of your interactions with law enforcement at the site of your arrest, during transportation to the jail, and during the booking process. As you acknowledged, your post-arrest words and actions reflected poorly on you and your family, the Cincinnati Bengals football club, and the NFL. While it is our understanding that appropriate apologies have been publicly extended, they do not completely negate your behavior and admission of culpability for the underlying conduct.”

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Deone Bucannon only Cardinals player on PUP

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Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. Coach Bruce Arians said Friday, after the team’s conditioning run, that Bucannon is the only player on PUP.

Bucannon had surgery on his right ankle in May after a lingering problem caused him to miss the final three games of last season.

The Cardinals hope Bucannon can return in time for the season opener.

Deone is close,” Arians said, via Darren Urban of the team website. “He’s getting there. I think he’s a little bit ahead of schedule. We have our fingers crossed. The first game is his due date, so to speak. Hopefully we’ll have him ready to play.”

Haason Reddick, the team’s first-round pick, has taken first-team reps in Bucannon’s spot next to veteran Karlos Dansby.

Linebacker Jarvis Jones tweaked a quadriceps muscle during the conditioning run Friday, Arians said, and could miss a few days of work.

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Dez Bryant arrives late to conditioning test, physicals

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Dez Bryant threw a free barbeque for his hometown of Lufkin on Thursday, but he likely earned a fine from the Cowboys after showing up late to the team facility Friday.

Bryant told Jane Slater of the NFL Network that he had a sinus infection and headache, so he spent the night in Lufkin, which is 175 miles from Frisco. Per Slater, Bryant said he should have informed the coaching staff earlier, but that he has talked to coaches, takes full responsibility and is prepared for the consequences.

Bryant arrived three hours late for physicals and the team’s conditioning test. Bryant told Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan that he wasn’t scheduled to run because of the sinus infection.

Although Bryant has a history of tardiness, he reminded Slater that he has “laid low” this offseason.

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Falcons still hoping to sell out their PSLs

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As the Falcons prepare to open their swanky new stadium in Atlanta, the bad news is that they still have nearly 6,000 PSLs to sell. The good news is that they’ve sold more than 55,000.

Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Falcons have sold 55,113 Personal Seat Licenses. The PSLs have generated $256.3 million.

Roughly 10,000 seats are excluded from the PSL process. The PSLs range from $500 to $45,000 per seat.

So, basically, the food at the stadium will be cheap. But not much else will be.

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Dolphins place two undrafted rookies on PUP

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The Dolphins placed running back De’Veon Smith and tackle Eric Smith on the physically unable to perform list.

Miami signed De’Veon Smith as an undrafted college free agent on May 5. A two-year starter at Michigan, he played 49 career games with 26 starts. Smith had 495 carries for 2,235 yards and 22 touchdowns, while catching 38 passes for 251 yards and one touchdown.

The Dolphins signed Eric Smith as an undrafted college free agent on May 5. He started all four years at Virginia, playing in 45 career games. He was the team’s starting right tackle for every game from 2014-16.

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Michael Oher sued by Uber driver for assault

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Michael Oher’s bad week keeps getting worse.

According to the Associated Press, the former Panthers left tackle — who was released Thursday — has now been sued in connection with the Nashville incident in which he was accused of assaulting an Uber driver.

Oher faces misdemeanor charges from the April incident. The lawsuit, filed by driver Girma Berkessa said that Oher was “extremely intoxicated.” The suit also contends Oher pushed the driver to the ground, kicked him and called him a homophobic slur several times.

Oher was released with a failed physical designation. He’s been in the league’s concussion protocol since Week Three of last season, and visited a concussion specialist earlier this week.

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Malik Jackson predicts Super Bowl title for Jaguars

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The Jaguars’ 80-1 Super Bowl odds are better than only five other teams. But if Malik Jackson is to be believed, Jacksonville is a good bet.

Jackson, who won a Super Bowl with the Broncos before leaving for the Jaguars’ six-year, $85.5 million offer last offseason, expects Jacksonville to win Super Bowl LII.

That’s what I believe and, until we lose, that’s when I’ll believe different,” Jackson told The Simms and Lefkoe Podcast, via NFL.com.
“The Panthers did it. If the Panthers can do it after the season they had [in going 7-8-1 in 2014]. . . But we’re going to win the Super Bowl. If they can do it, why can’t we?”

The Jaguars were a trendy darkhorse playoff pick this time a year ago, but after last year’s 3-13 season, few are willing to venture out on that limb again. Jacksonville has not made the playoffs since 2007 despite several high draft picks and high-profile free agent signings.

“I’m very confident,” Jackson said. “It truly feels different. . . .I think it’s a lot of guys coming in here and coming to Jacksonville saying, ‘I’m going to change this. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that,'” Jackson said. “We have leaders. We have a lot of great players. We just need to be consistent, and that’s on all three sides of the ball: offense, defense and special teams.”

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Vikings sign Chunky Clements, release Caleb Kidder

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The Vikings signed defensive tackle Chunky Clements on Friday. They released defensive end Caleb Kidder to make room for Clements.

Clements went undrafted after starting 20 games and playing in 26 others at Illinois. He finished his college career with 99 tackles, six sacks and four forced fumbles.

Clements missed the final game of the 2016 season after undergoing surgery to repair a Lisfranc tear in his right foot.

The Vikings now have 89 players on their roster.

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