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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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Saints defense implements “Operation: Feed Drew”

Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Saints defense had forced two turnovers on the season heading into last week’s game against the Lions, a number they doubled against Detroit by picking off two Matthew Stafford passes.

That helped lead to two short fields for the Saints, something they hadn’t experienced in their first five games of the season, and they were able to turn those turnovers into 10 points. The result of the game wasn’t what the Saints wanted as the Lions came back to win after Drew Brees threw an interception of his own, but members of the defense know that the odds are in their favor if they can get Brees the ball in advantageous situations more often.

That’s why they’ve instituted “Operation: Feed Drew” in New Orleans.

“We have to keep taking those,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said, via the Baton Rouge Advocate. “The more chances he gets to score the ball, the better chance we have at winning.”

The nascent operation could find the sledding tough this Sunday. The Packers have turned the ball over four times all season, which may leave Brees to feed himself in a game that’s probably going to take a lot of points for the Saints to win.

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Harry Douglas back at practice on Thursday

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

The Lions and Falcons are preparing to face off in London this Sunday and there’s been a lot of attention paid this week to whether or not the Lions will have wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush available for the game.

The Falcons have some uncertainty surrounding the status of one of their key offensive players as well. Wide receiver Harry Douglas has missed the last four games because of a foot injury, but made the trip to London with the team and was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice.

Coach Mike Smith said no decision would be made on Douglas (or defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, who missed a second straight practice) until the team gauges the response to this week’s practice work.

“We’ll have to see how both those guys handle their workload over the next couple of days to see what their game status will be,” Smith said, via the team.

How much getting Douglas back will help an offense that’s still dealing with a porous offensive line remains to be seen, but the Falcons would surely prefer to be as close to 100 percent as possible as they try to avoid a fifth straight loss.

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PFT Live: Denard Robinson, Week Eight picks

Cleveland Browns v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

The Jaguars got their first 100-yard rushing game of the year last Sunday against the Browns, but it didn’t come from offseason free agent acquisition Toby Gerhart.

It was former Michigan quarterback and 2013 fifth-round pick Denard Robinson that did the honors and helped the Jags to their first victory of the season. Robinson will join Mike Florio on Thursday’s edition of PFT Live to talk about getting that victory, his transition to running back and what he thinks the rest of the 2014 season holds for a young Jaguars team.

The Jaguars face the Dolphins in a battle for Florida bragging rights this Sunday and that will be one of the 15 games that Florio and MDS are predicting winners for this week. They’ll share their choice for that game and the reasoning behind that choice during our weekly picks segment.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Gruden hints at Week 11 return for Griffin

Griffin AP

When a report emerged that Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III plans to return from a dislocated ankle in Week Eight against the Cowboys, a source with knowledge of the situation promptly said it was too early to know when Griffin would return.

The source suggested that Week 11 makes more sense, given that it comes after the bye week and entails a visit from the Buccaneers.

Coincidentally (or not), coach Jay Gruden recently hinted that Week 11 could be the date on which Griffin returns to action.

“I would guarantee Tampa, most likely, unless something happens between now and then,” Gruden told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday.  “You’ve got a good bye week, you’ve got a couple weeks to make sure it’s ready.  Obviously Robert is a quick healer.  He works extremely hard in the training room.  So the process could be sped up a little bit depending on how he feels.”

If the team learned anything from last year’s goofy “Operation: Patience” and “All In For Week One” mantras, it’s that real patience is critical to the healing process.  Gruden wisely has tapped the brakes not by pointing at the scars of the Shanahan regime but by emphasizing the importance of practice reps to a quarterback’s ability to play.

“[T]he quarterback position is very delicate,” Gruden said.  “You need your reps to play, and play successfully.  You can’t just throw a guy out there without the reps, and the practice time, and the continuity with the receivers and the backs and the tight ends.  So it’ll be a little bit of a process — probably a little bit more than people think — but we’ll play it by ear and see how he’s doing on a daily basis.”

In other words, it’s highly unlikely that Griffin will play in Dallas on Monday night, and nearly as unlikely that he’d play on a short week in Minnesota the following Sunday.

Waiting until after the bye gives Griffin more than three more weeks not only to heal but also to prepare.  Which will help ensure that, when he plays, he’ll play at his best.  Whatever his best may be.

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Lions’ LaAdrian Waddle returned to game after concussion

waddle AP

Lions right tackle LaAdrian Waddle returned to the field for Detroit’s final kneeldown on Sunday against the Saints despite suffering a concussion on his previous play, an extra point that gave the Lions their game-winning point in a 24-23 win.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that Lions coach Jim Caldwell and G.M. Martin Mayhew both claimed the Lions follow the NFL concussion protocol “to the letter” even as they acknowledged that Waddle returned to the field with a concussion.

“We knew exactly when it occurred and what happened within the context of it,” Caldwell said. “It was the last play of the game for him. It was actually on a field goal, the PAT at the end. It’s the last play of the game for him.”

But if Waddle got a concussion on the PAT, why did he return to the game for the kneeldown on the Lions’ final possession?

“Well, in terms of they knew exactly what happened to him in terms of he banged his head on the ground after where he gets up,” Caldwell said. “It wasn’t to the point where they thought he was concussed at that time. The final snap of the game, we knew it was only one snap, then the doctors reviewed him, took a look at him, it wasn’t one of those situations where he felt he had to go in the locker room right away. But they did know he banged it when he came off, and that he was good.”

You could argue that it was just a kneeldown and so Waddle wasn’t at much risk, but there’s no “just a kneeldown” exception to the NFL’s concussion rules. And you could also argue that when it’s just a kneeldown, that’s all the more reason that the team should show an excess of caution and not put a player on the field when he had just suffered a hard hit to the head on his previous play. The Lions may say they follow the concussion rules to the letter, but they got this one wrong.

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Reggie Bush held out of practice, Calvin Johnson returns for Lions

Reggie Bush. Keenan Lewis AP

The Lions suddenly have another injury situation to monitor with one of their offensive stars.

Via Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website, running back Reggie Bush did not practice today.

Bush did limited work on Wednesday, making his absence today more of a concern.

The ankle problem he’s dealing with caused him to miss the second half of last week’s comeback against the Saints, as well as the entire week before.

Of course, if they get Calvin Johnson back, he won’t be as missed. Johnson reportedly did more at practice today, and could be close to a return.

But the fact the Lions came back to beat the Saints last week without Bush or Johnson speaks to the maturation of the team as a whole, as well as quarterback Matthew Stafford.

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Arbitrator also requires Newsome, Cass to testify

Newsome AP

Wednesday’s preliminary victory by the NFLPA and Ray Rice didn’t consist only of a requirement that Commissioner Roger Goodell testify in the appeal hearing regarding the indefinite suspension imposed on Rice.  The union and Rice also secured the ability to question two key members of the Ravens organization.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones has required Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome and Ravens president Dick Cass to testify at the appeal hearing, which currently is set for November 5-6.

Judge Jones declined to require testimony from Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, coach John Harbaugh, and director of security Darren Sanders.

The roster of witnesses expected to testify at the hearing also includes Ray Rice, NFL senior V.P. of labor policy and government affairs Adolpho Birch, and NFL V.P. of security Jeff Miller.  It’s also possible that Janay Palmer Rice will testify, given that she, Ray, and Goodell reportedly had a private discussion regarding the incident that resulted initially in a two-game suspension, and then in an indefinite suspension.

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Broncos table contract talks with Demaryius and Julius Thomas

Denver Broncos vs New York Jets, NFL Getty Images

Broncos boss John Elway earned his reputation as a closer, primarily for landing quarterback Peyton Manning in free agency.

But he’s going to have plenty of work to do this offseason to maintain that image.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Broncos have tabled contract talks with both wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, as both play out their contracts this season.

They’ve negotiated with both players, but with no resolution imminent, have decided to wait until the offseason.

That’s a bold play, considering they’d have to get at least one of them done to be able use the franchise tag on the other, and both sides know that.

There’s also the small matter of wide receiver Wes Welker’s expiring deal, but he won’t be nearly as expensive or difficult to reach or replace.

It’s a risky hand of cards, but Elway plays at the high stakes table, and is used to winning.

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PFT’s Week Eight picks

Brees Getty Images

Last week, as the Saints built a supposedly insurmountable lead over the Lions, I taunted MDS with a link of Homer Simpson singing When the Saints Go Over There.  And I scoffed when he suggested I was celebrating prematurely.  Which of course cemented the looming jinx.

Back came the Lions and down went the Saints and MDS prevailed in the one game of 15 on which we disagreed.

For the week, MDS was 11-4 and I was 10-5.  For the season, he’s now at 70-36 (66 percent) and I’m at 65-41 (61.3 percent).

We disagree on two games this week.  And there will be no premature celebrating from me this week.  Or ever again.

Chargers at Broncos

MDS’s take: The battle for first place in the AFC West will feature two MVP candidates at quarterback, but the difference in my view is that the Broncos’ defense is playing almost as well as their offense. This will be a lower-scoring game than most people think, and that favors Denver.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 21, Chargers 10.

Florio’s take:  Last year, the Chargers caught the Broncos napping on a Thursday night in December.  This year, the Broncos are bracing for their rivals, and the midseason stakes are considerably higher.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 38, Chargers 20.

Lions at Falcons

MDS’s take: What does an offense with good skill-position players and a terrible line look like? Like the 2014 Falcons, whose injuries up front have been devastating. The Lions’ defensive front will take advantage of the injury-riddled Atlanta line and improve to 6-2 with a win in London.

MDS’s pick: Lions 24, Falcons 13.

Florio’s take:  At least the Falcons won’t have to use a silent snap count for this home game, since it won’t be played in the Georgia Dome.  It won’t matter; Detroit’s defense is too good and Atlanta’s offensive line is too banged up.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Falcons 17.

Seahawks at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Seahawks haven’t been playing their best football lately, but they’ve been playing better than the Panthers, whose defense has fallen apart. Seattle will get things turned around.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Panthers 20.

Florio’s take:  Last year, the Panthers took the Seahawks to the limit in Week One, an outcome that became more impressive for Carolina as the season unfolded.  This year, Carolina’s defense is coming apart at the seams, and the Seahawks’ performance have been spotty enough to trigger the kind of external criticism that could put a much-needed chip back on their shoulders.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 30, Panthers 20.

Ravens at Bengals

MDS’s take: Cincinnati dominated when these two teams met in Week One, but Baltimore has looked like the much better team recently. The Ravens are playing so well in all three phases of the game that I just can’t pick against them right now.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 21, Bengals 20.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals won in Baltimore to start the season.  But the Bengals are struggling without a deep threat to stretch the field (assuming A.J. Green remains out), and the Ravens have found their groove.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 24, Bengals 17.

Dolphins at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Jaguars got their first win on Sunday. Can they make it two in a row? Not against the Dolphins, who are a much better team than most people realize. Miami will win this one easily.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 30, Jaguars 14.

Florio’s take:  This is exactly the kind of game the Dolphins could lose, a week after a thrilling road win in Chicago.  The upset is tempting, but the Dolphins presumably won’t take the Jags lightly a week after the Browns did.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 24, Jaguars 13.

Rams at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The two Missouri teams pulled off two surprising upsets last week, but I see the Rams’ win as more of a fluke, while the Chiefs’ win was a sign that they’ve got a good chance to go on a run in the AFC. I like Kansas City to win this one easily.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 31, Rams 10.

Florio’s take:  More than bragging rights will be on the line in the latest edition of the Battle for Missouri.  Both teams have a chance to make a run at the postseason after being blown out at home in Week One.  The Chiefs have too much talent for the Rams, especially when the Kansas City offense faces the St. Louis defense.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 24, Rams 17.

Bears at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Bears are coming apart at the seams, just as the Patriots are coming together and playing their best football. This should be a big win for New England.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 27, Bears 17.

Florio’s take:  The Patriots have found the gas pedal, and the Bears are clumsily mashing their feet against the floorboard in search of it.  Yes, the Patriots are banged up defensively, but the extra time to prepare and the apparent inability of coach Marc Trestman to adjust to defenses that have a full season of offensive film gives the edge to one of the great tactical masterminds in NFL history.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 30, Bears 21.

Bills at Jets

MDS’s take: I’ve felt all year that the Jets are a better team than they’re showing on the field, and I think we’re finally going to see them turn in a complete game on Sunday. The Bills’ offense will struggle with the Jets’ defense and the Jets will win a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Jets 17, Bills 13.

Florio’s take:  The Jets surely won’t finish 1-15.  What better way to get a win than against a Bills team that is rattled at the tailback position and generally not a good as its 4-3 record suggests?  While Percy Harvin isn’t good enough to turn around a lost season in New York, he’s good enough to make a difference in this one.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 24, Bills 20.

Vikings at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: In a battle of two of the worst teams in the NFL, I’ll take the home team. That’s about all I’ve got to say about this one.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 9, Vikings 6.

Florio’s take:  Somehow, the Bucs are still alive in the NFC South.  While a run at the division is unlikely, they’ve extra week to prepare gives them the edge in the latest reunion of a longtime NFC Central rivalry.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 27, Vikings 24.

Texans at Titans

MDS’s take: The Texans have lost three straight, but all against good teams. Against a bad team with a rookie making his first start at quarterback, I like Houston to take care of business.

MDS’s pick: Texans 17, Titans 14.

Florio’s take:  The fading Texans get just what they needed — a crack at a Titans team that somehow has two wins.  It’ll stay at two wins on Sunday, with Ryan Fitzpatrick (who’s averaging a career-high 8.0 yards per attempt) getting a chance to beat his most recent former team.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Titans 13.

Eagles at Cardinals

MDS’s take: Coming off a bye week that followed their most impressive win of the season, I think the Eagles should be playing their best football right now. Arizona is playing excellent football, but the Eagles will upset the Cardinals in the desert.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 21, Cardinals 17.

Florio’s take:  So much for the Cardinals wanting to rejoin the NFC East.  They face the 5-1 Eagles and 6-1 Cowboys in consecutive weeks, and it could be time for the Super Bowl jinx to begin to kick in.  Especially with Chip Kelly having two weeks to get ready for this one.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Cardinals 20.

Raiders at Browns

MDS’s take: Could the Browns make it two straight losses to previously winless opponents? I don’t see it. Cleveland’s offense should have no trouble moving the ball against Oakland.

MDS’s pick: Browns 28, Raiders 14.

Florio’s take:  Trap Game No. 2 for the Browns.  And its against a team that delivered one of the most bitter defeats in franchise postseason history.  If the Browns lose to a winless team for the second straight week, they won’t have to worry about a bitter playoff defeat this year.

Florio’s pick:  Browns 27, Raiders 17.

Colts at Steelers

MDS’s take: Andrew Luck should have a big game against a suspect Steelers secondary, and the Colts should put up plenty of points in Pittsburgh.

MDS’s pick: Colts 35, Steelers 27.

Florio’s take:  Yea, the Colts shut out the Bengals last week.  But that happened at home, not in Pittsburgh.  In Pittsburgh, the Steelers average 28 points per game.  And just when folks write off the Steelers, they find a way to win games they’re supposed to lose.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 28, Colts 23.

Packers at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints’ defense is a complete mess, and Aaron Rodgers is playing at a very high level. Even if the Saints get a great game from their offense, they simply won’t be able to keep up in a high-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Saints 20.

Florio’s take:  The Saints are still undefeated at home, and they play even better in the Superdome when America is watching.  By the way, the NFC South remains ripe for the plucking.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, Packers 31.

Washington at Cowboys

MDS’s take: Is Colt McCoy the answer? Of course not. Stop asking stupid questions. The Cowboys will roll.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 31, Washington 13.

Florio’s takeKirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, it doesn’t matter.  The Cowboys may cool off by the time it really counts, but they’re the hottest team in football for now.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 31, Washington 16.

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Jared Allen doesn’t see leadership void with Bears

Chicago Bears v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Bears’ 3-4 start and angry locker room after last weekend’s loss to the Dolphins have left people discussing whether the Bears have a leadership void on the team that will lead them to a disappointing finish to this season.

Defensive end Jared Allen has weighed in on the question and the veteran doesn’t see an issue with the leadership on hand in Chicago. Allen said that there’s no problem with the kind of “raw” emotions that the team aired following the loss, but that good leadership, which he thinks the Bears have, isn’t synonymous with making fiery speeches all the time.

“I don’t want this to sound bad. But when you’re talking about a leader, what does that look like to people? I think we have great leaders here. I mean leaders don’t necessarily have to stand up at the podium and make some big speech. As a matter of fact, if someone gets up every week and has to have a ‘Coach is out. Let’s have [a big meeting].’ That’s lame. Honestly. What’s that going to do? That’s rah-rah,” Allen said, via the Chicago Tribune. “Leadership comes from the guys who show up every week, go out and work during practice. They’re in their playbook, they know what they’re doing and they go out on Sunday and give it everything they got.”

The issue of whether or not the leadership on the Bears is sufficient is going to be settled by the way the rest of the season plays out. If they beat the Patriots this week and then take out the Packers after the bye, wide receiver Brandon Marshall’s postgame comments will be deemed just what the team needed while more losing will make it easy for people to draw the opposite conclusion. Neither one will be entirely true, but, as always, the on-field results will drive the narrative the rest of the way.

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Michael Vick: Percy Harvin “won’t be a monster” with Jets

Percy Harvin AP

Negative stories have accompanied wide receiver Percy Harvin out of both Minnesota and Seattle, leading some to wonder if the Jets are going to get a player who helps them on the field more than he becomes a divisive figure off of it.

The top two quarterbacks on the depth chart would surely prefer that Harvin’s impact come on the field and both of them say that they are confident that Harvin’s troublemaking won’t be an issue on his new team. Geno Smith said that he guarantees Harvin “cleans his act up while he’s here” and Michael Vick said the one-time participant in Vick’s football camps sent a similar message.

“He won’t be a monster here,” Vick said, via the New York Post. “He won’t be a monster here. I can assure all the fans of that…That won’t take place here.”

Vick didn’t offer many specifics as to why Harvin won’t be a monster, but his own experience with facing a moment when his future football career hinged on being a good teammate and doing the right thing could account for the optimistic view. Vick was able to do that and the Jets figure to give Harvin every chance to show he can make the same commitment because their offense could use someone who creates trouble for defenses without causing any for the Jets.

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Bears need a leader to emerge

Trestman Getty Images

As the Bears try to break free from a 3-4 start that we all now know receiver Brandon Marshall regards as unacceptable, it seems they’re desperately in need of one thing they don’t have — a leader who can bring the locker room together.

Marshall seems to be trying; the question is whether his teammates will respond to his locker-room tirade and public comments aimed at getting the team to fulfill its potential. Quarterback Jay Cutler either isn’t wired or inclined to even make an effort to lead the team.

Then there’s coach Marc Trestman, whose position that folks should be “non-judgmental” and “accepting” of post-game popping off from players could result in more of the same. Trestman faces the biggest test of his still-young tenure as head coach. Can Trestman command the locker room and impose his will on the players?

John Mullin of CSN Chicago joined Wednesday’s PFT Live to discuss these issues. And Mullin pointed out a key apples-to-apples fact that currently isn’t lost on Bears fans — G.M. Phil Emery picked Trestman over Bruce Arians in early 2013, and Arians has done a much better job to date, arguably with less overall talent.

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Left side of Ravens offensive line closing in on return

Eugene Monroe AP

The Ravens can score a big divisional win when they face the Bengals this Sunday and their chances of having the starting left side of their offensive line in the lineup are looking pretty good.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele were both full participants in practice on Wednesday, which should have them on track to get on the field Sunday barring any setbacks in the next couple of days. Monroe has missed four games after having arthroscopic knee surgery and said he’s feeling healthy after his full return to work.

“Yeah, it gets frustrating after a while being in a training room every day,” Monroe said, via the Baltimore Sun. “Missing out on games, man, that was really the first stretch of my career where I was out for consecutive weeks. It was different, but it was needed. I needed to get healthy, and now that’s happened. I’m just glad to be back out there. I feel real good about it.”

Neither player was missed all that much the last two weeks as the Ravens outscored the Bucs and Falcons 77-24 in a pair of easy victories, but their return will be welcomed with a trip to Pittsburgh coming up a week after the Ravens visit Cincinnati.

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Andre Johnson rides to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s defense

Houston Texans v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

When Texans receiver Andre Johnson was staying away this offseason, amid reports he was disturbed about the team’s rebuilding phase, it was natural to assume he wasn’t happy with the quarterback, or lack thereof.

But even as coach Bill O’Brien said Ryan Fitzpatrick made some bad reads and missed Johnson for some big gains recently, the veteran receiver came to the defense of the journeyman quarterback.

“When you don’t win, everybody needs to look at themselves and see what they can do better,” Johnson said, via Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle. “We all need to pick our play up, fix the mistakes we’re making and do what we need to do to win. You can’t dwell on one person or one guy. Head coaches and quarterbacks are going to get the bulk of the criticism because of the positions they’re in.”

Johnson said if anything, “better communication” would fix the problems between himself and his quarterback.

“He has a tough job, a lot to think about on every play,” Johnson said. “You just have to communicate with him, let him know what you’re seeing, stuff like that. Everybody makes mistakes. I make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.”

Of course, if Johnson really wanted more open lines of communication with Fitzpatrick, he had an offseason full of chances to build them, but he declined.

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After being sent home, Revis returned to facility to apologize to Belichick

Revis AP

In New England, the best way to get a day off is to show up late.

But it’s still not regarded as a good thing when Patriots coach Bill Belichick sends a player home for being tardy. After that happened on Tuesday to cornerback Darrelle Revis, Revis was sufficiently contrite that he later returned to the facility to personally apologize to Belichick, via Tom Curran of CSN New England.

Revis reportedly overslept. And Belichick has a history of telling guys who fail to arrive on time to take the day off.

Curran also reports that John Geiger, who serves as the cornerback’s business manager, deleted at the request of Revis tweets that criticized the initial report from Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.

There’s no reason to believe that Revis will face any further discipline, especially as the Patriots prepare to face a Bears team that has several talented pass catchers.

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