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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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Zach Miller, Jeremy Langford touchdowns give Bears halftime lead

Zach Miller AP

Jeremy Langford scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Chicago Bears a 14-13 lead over the Green Bay Packers at halftime on Thursday night.

The Bears quickly drove 58 yards on seven plays with Langford scoring with 30 seconds left to give Chicago their first lead of the night.

Trailing 7-0, Chris Prosinski forced a fumble from Eddie Lacy to give Chicago the ball at the Packers 36-yard line. Nine plays later, Jay Cutler found tight end Zach Miller open for a 3-yard touchdown to even the game 7-7 with six minutes left in the second quarter.

Jeff Janis‘ 64-yard kickoff return quickly put the Packers back in Chicago territory with a chance to re-take the lead. Green Bay moved to the Chicago 1-yard line on a 4-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb, but an offensive pass interference call on James Jones backed the Packers up and led to a 22-yard Mason Crosby field goal to give Green Bay a 10-7 lead.

The Bears took over with 1:58 remaining and Cutler marched the Bears for the go-ahead score. Deonte Thompson’s 37-yard kickoff return give Chicago good field position to start the drive. The Bears didn’t face a single third down on the possession in moving quickly downfield. Marquess Wilson nearly scored a 20-yard touchdown but was ruled down at the 1-yard line upon review. It didn’t take long for the Bears to punch it in with Langford scoring on the next play.

A 13-yard completion from Rodgers to Richard Rodgers and a 23-yard completion to Randall Cobb moved Green Bay into field goal position. Crosby hit a 50-yard field goal as time expired to close the gap before the half.

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Slim chance Romo plays again this year

Tony Romo AP

On Friday, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will find out whether his left clavicle has indeed been fractured again. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the bone most likely has once again been broken.

If it’s broken, Romo won’t play again this year. But what if it’s not broken?

ESPN’s Ed Werder reports that Romo’s season is over regardless of the outcome of the CT scan. PFT has been told, however, that there’s still a slim chance Romo will return.

First, the collarbone would have to not be broken. Second, the Cowboys would have to win multiple games without Romo in order to make his return in three weeks or so relevant to the team’s effort to catch the Giants in the NFC East.

That’s a tall order, given that the Cowboys are 0-7 without Romo in 2015.

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Lacy rolling early, just misses blooper-reel play

Green Bay Packers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Eddie Lacy is running like he has something to prove, and the Packers have an early 7-0 lead on the Bears.

Lacy turned a short pass from Aaron Rodgers into a 25-yard touchdown with 5:15 left in the first quarter. After losing his starting job earlier this season amid struggles with injuries and his weight, Lacy looks fast and determined tonight.

The touchdown survived a review. Lacy flipped the ball backwards near the goal line, close enough that a second and third look were necessary to make sure the ball had crossed the goal line before he flung it backwards into the air.

It would have been the kind of blooper-reel play that lived for a long time.

Lacy has 6 carries for 48 yards. He had a 29-yard run on the game’s first possession but was stuffed on fourth and 2 as the Packers chose to be aggressive early in the game.

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Watch Bears-Packers on NBC Sports Live Extra

Aaron Rodgers AP

Not everyone is currently crowded around a TV. For those of you who aren’t, you can still see the Thanksgiving NFL nightcap.

The Bears-Packers contest can be seen at NBC Sports Live Extra. You also can watch the game by downloading the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

After a couple of snoozers to start the day, here’s hoping the Bears give the Packers all they can handle, while you keep giving your gullet all the food and drink it can handle. And then some.

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Source: “Most likely” a small fracture for Romo

Tony Romo AP

X-rays apparently were inconclusive. By Friday, an answer will emerge as to the status of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s twice-broken left collarbone.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, there’s “most likely” a small fracture in the bone.

After Thursday’s loss, Romo told reporters that the sensation was similar to his past experiences with breaking the bone. He’ll have a CT scan to determine whether the bone is indeed broken.

If it’s broken, Romo undoubtedly will be done for the year. If it’s not broken, it’ll be interesting to see when he returns — especially with the Cowboys at 3-8.

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Tony Romo: Shoulder “feels similar” to first broken collarbone

Tony Romo AP

Tony Romo’s immediate reaction gave no reason for optimism.

And while they’re not calling it yet, there’s not much reason for any.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he didn’t have any update on the injured left shoulder that knocked his quarterback out Sunday, but Romo didn’t seem confident, as he stood at the podium with his left arm in a sling.

Via Ed Werder of ESPN, Romo said “It feels similar” to the broken clavicle he suffered in Week Two against the Eagles, but that he wanted to wait for more tests tomorrow.

Romo landed hard on his shoulder near the end of the third quarter, as he was being tackled by Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. He immediately grabbed his left shoulder, in obvious pain.

Now the questions will turn to whether Romo returned too soon from what Jones said was six fractures. He was wearing extra padding to try to protect the area, but it clearly didn’t work.

And now, the Cowboys can’t expect to either.

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Panthers stay perfect with thorough thrashing of Cowboys

Luke Kuechly, Bene' Benwikere, Cole Beasley AP

The Panthers stayed undefeated, and made perhaps their most convincing case yet that their 11-0 record is not an accident.

And the Cowboys found out there was something worse than Tony Romo throwing three interceptions in the first half.

The Panthers rolled to a dominant 33-14 win over the Cowboys, whose nightmare season took another turn as Romo left late in the third quarter to get X-rays on his left clavicle.

While that dropped the Cowboys to 3-8, it also extinguished any hope they had of turning things around if Romo’s not going to be able to return. They had a bit of confidence when he came back last week and helped them snap a seven-game losing streak, which coincided with his absence from his first broken left clavicle.

But for the Panthers, it was a celebration long before Romo gave way to Matt Cassel.

They turned three Romo interceptions into 17 points in the first half and never looked back, sustaining drives in the second half with a powerful run game. They needed it, as the Cowboys played well enough defensively in the first half to keep it reasonably close.

But at this point, the Panthers’ formula is evident, as they won their 15th straight regular season game, dating back to last season. By the time they play their next game on Dec. 6, it will be 371 days since they last lost a regular season game (Nov. 30, 2014 at the Vikings).

They can run the ball, topping 100 yards as a team for the 22nd straight game.

They can pass-protect better than advertised, keeping a largely clean pocket for Cam Newton, and negating Greg Hardy’s effort at revenge. Newton was sacked just once, and Hardy made no impact on the game against his old team.

They can stop the run, limiting Dallas to 16 rushing yards in the first half and just 15 in the second.

And they can create takeaways, as they entered the week leading the league in turnovers created and points off turnovers. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly had a pair of interceptions, returning one for a score (after safety Kurt Coleman had a pick-six of his own).

It’s a formula that could carry them to the Super Bowl, and give them a serious chance at a 16-0 season. Their remaining five games are at New Orleans, at home against the Falcons, followed by back-to-back road games against the Giants and Falcons and their home finale against the Buccaneers.

While they were a Vegas underdog to start this week, it’s hard to see that being the case again, unless the oddsmakers see the trip to New York as a potential slip.

But even if they do lose a game at some point, they showed a national audience Thursday that their success is legitimate, and that they’re one of the two most dangerous teams in the league.

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Forte, Jeffery active for Thursday nightcap

Forte Getty Images

The Bears will have running back Matt Forte and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the lineup for Thursday night’s game at Green Bay.

Forte (knee) and Jeffery (groin) had been listed as questionable. Forte has missed the last three games, and rookie Jeremy Langford has played well in his place.

As previously announced, the Bears will be without tight end Martellus Bennett (ribs) and wide receiver Eddie Royal (knee). Bennett leads the Bears with 50 receptions, while Jeffery leads the team with 515 receiving yards.

Linebacker Pernell McPhee, who had also been questionable with a knee injury, will also play. Starting defensive Will Sutton was not on the injury report but is inactive.

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X-rays for Romo on left collarbone

Tony Romo AP

In the second game of the season, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo broke his left collarbone. In his second game back from the injury, he may have broken it again.

Via Tracy Wolfson of CBS, Romo currently is getting X-rays on the clavicle, which owner Jerry Jones recently suggested was broken in multiple places.

‘To give you an idea, if you ever want to make a picture of his positive competitive mentality, do it when he came back off a shoulder that had six fractures,” Jones said Sunday, after a 24-14 win at Miami. “OK? Six. OK!”

Regardless of whether it’s one break or more, the Cowboys are now facing life without Romo again, which would almost certainly bring an end to a season that started with such high expectations, after an unexpected surge to 12-4 in 2014.

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Panthers rolling, Tony Romo leaves game after shot to shoulder

Cam Newton, Randy Gregory AP

It looked like the Cowboys were going to trade field goals with the Panthers to open the second half.

But then they made another mistake, one that they can’t trace to Tony Romo, and the Panthers are pulling away.

After Cowboys rookie Byron Jones was flagged for leaping over the line on a field goal try, the Panthers kept the drive going and finally found the end zone on offense.

Cam Newton ran in from 4 yards out, giving the Panthers a 30-6 lead late in the third quarter.

But the news got worse for Dallas, as Romo went down on the next to last play of the third quarter, landing hard on his left shoulder. That’s the one with the broken collarbone that cost him seven games.

So as bad as the game is for the Cowboys, the news could be getting even worse.

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Greg Hardy not able to start the second half

hardy_1200 Getty Images

Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy wanted to prove to the Panthers they made a mistake letting him go.

But he hasn’t been able to make an impact on the game so far, and he wasn’t even on the field when the second half began.

Hardy didn’t record a statistic in the first half, the Panthers lead 23-3. Then when they came out for the second half, Hardy came out without a helmet, and took a seat on the bench.

Via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Hardy was taking oxygen on the sidelines during the first series of the second half. Hardy has dealt with asthma his entire career.

UPDATE 6:35 p.m. ET: Hardy returned to the field for the second possession.

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Tony Romo keeps throwing picks, Panthers lead 20-3

Tony Romo

The Panthers aren’t having as much success offensively as they’re accustomed to.

They might not need to do much more.

Luke Kuechly just returned an interception for a touchdown, the second pick-six of Tony Romo on the day, giving the Panthers a 20-3 lead in the second quarter.

Coupled with Kurt Coleman’s touchdown and then another pick by Kuechly, the Panthers are rolling in the late stages of the second quarter.

The big mistakes from Romo have undermined an otherwise good day by his defense, which has kept Cam Newton frustrated, forcing him to settle for a pair of field goals. But with the job the Panthers are doing on Romo (Dez Bryant still doesn’t have a catch), Newton will eventually end up smiling.

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Colts claim RB Boom Herron

Indianapolis Colts v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Colts claimed running back Boom Herron on Thursday, bringing back the player who emerged as their top running back in last year’s playoffs.

Herron was waived-injured by the Colts after he was injured in the final preseason game, then released with an injury settlement. He signed with the Bills and played four games before being waived Wednesday.

Running back Zurlon Tipton was waived to make room for Herron on the roster.

A sixth-round pick of the Bengals in 2012, Herron played five games for the Colts in 2013 after being signed off of the Bengals’ practice squad. He played in all 16 games and made three starts for the Colts last season. He ran well down the stretch, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, and ran 45 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns in the Colts’ three playoff games.

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Report: Patriots placing Dobson on IR

Aaron Dobson AP

An ankle injury has ended the season for Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson.

ESPN’s Field Yates reported Thursday that the team will place Dobson on injured reserve and replace him on the roster with safety Dewey McDonald.

Dobson suffered what was originally diagnosed as a high ankle sprain during last Monday’s win over the Bills. The Patriots are low on receivers with Julian Edelman out for an extended period, Danny Amendola dealing with a knee injury and Keshawn Martin dealing with a hamstring injury, so the loss of Dobson is significant even though he was not a starter.

The injury situation forced the Patriots to work out three wide receivers on Wednesday.

The Patriots claimed McDonald from the Colts earlier in the season. He’s been on and off the roster since then and is primarily a special teams player.

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Panthers start things off with a quick pick-six

Kurt Coleman AP

It’s hard to imagine not being able to see a Panthers player in these eye-popping blue uniforms they’re wearing today.

And yet, Tony Romo just did.

The Panthers took a quick 7-0 lead in Dallas, with Kurt Coleman picking off Romo and returning it for a touchdown.

The interception was Coleman’s fifth of the year for the Panthers, as he’s proven to be an excellent free agent pickup for a defense that continues to create turnovers.

They followed by forcing a quick three-and-out, establishing an early tone.

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