Skip to content

PFT’s Week 14 picks

Peterson Getty Images

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.

Permalink 72 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Features, Rumor Mill, Top Stories
yo

Report: Adrian Peterson skipping start of Vikings OTAs

Peterson Getty Images

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he had an idea when running back Adrian Peterson was going to show up for work.

At some point this week, someone can ask him if he knew it wasn’t going to be soon.

According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the less-than-gruntled running back won’t be on hand when the Vikings begin OTAs Tuesday.

The Vikings have said they weren’t interested in dealing Peterson, and with the draft come and gone, any realistic window for moving him is closed.

But now, the absences become costly for Peterson, who has a $250,000 workout bonus that hinges on his appearance at 90 percent of the team’s OTAs and minicamps.

Whether he shows up this week and in time to collect remains to be seen, but the current plan is for him to not be there Tuesday.

Of course, losing a quarter of a million is one thing for most of us, but Peterson’s set to make $13 million this year. So whether this is just posturing, it’s at least the latest sign he’s not happy in Minnesota.

Permalink 54 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Rally to support Tom Brady draws about 150 people outside Gillette Stadium

Fans Attend "Free Tom Brady" Rally Getty Images

On Sunday, we learned something: if you hold a rally supporting a star quarterback suspended due to allegations of deflated footballs, they will come.

Approximately 150 people attended Sunday’s “Free Tom Brady” rally outside of Gillette Stadium, the Boston Globe reported, citing Foxborough, Mass. police for the crowd estimate.

Brady, the Patriots’ four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, has been banned for the first four regular season games of 2015 by the NFL. He is appealing.

The demonstration, per a Facebook page advertising the event, was intended to “protest the unjust football arrest of half God half man Tom Brady.”

According to media reports, the demonstration included a recently married couple that is not honeymooning in Bermuda in solidarity with with the Patriots after Brady’s four-game suspension.

“We want to be here to support our Patriots, and until that ban is lifted we’re not going on our honeymoon,” said Paul Goodrow of Watertown, Mass., according to the Boston Herald. “Our whole house is like a man cave.

“The NFL debacled this so-called Deflategate. It’s just ridiculous. It’s all because of fans from other states who hate us because they ain’t us. I believe that he is innocent. This is just a smear campaign against the Patriots.”

There was no indication any Patriots staff were present for the rally.

New England begins its organized team practice activities on Tuesday.

Permalink 125 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

All but one team will hold OTAs this week

The New England Patriots Workout In Foxborough, Mass. Getty Images

In less than four weeks, all NFL clubs will have wrapped up their organized offseason workouts.

Not surprisingly, then, the upcoming week will be a working one around the league.

Thirty-one of 32 NFL clubs will hold organized team practice activities (OTAs) between Tuesday, May 26 and Friday, May 29. Only the Rams will not be holding any club-overseen workouts this week.

OTAs are non-padded, non-hitting practices in which coaches can instruct players. Players can wear helmets, and full team drills are allowed, per the CBA between NFL teams and players.

The majority of clubs will have OTAs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before calling it a week. However, others will mix in a day off. The Patriots, for instance, are set to work on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Here are the days in which teams will hold OTAs this week:

Arizona: Tuesday-Thursday.

Atlanta: Tuesday-Friday.

Baltimore: Tuesday-Thursday.

Buffalo: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Carolina: Tuesday-Thursday.

Chicago: Wednesday-Friday.

Cincinnati: Tuesday-Thursday.

Cleveland: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Dallas: Tuesday-Thursday.

Denver: Wednesday-Friday.

Detroit: Tuesday-Thursday.

Green Bay: Wednesday-Friday.

Houston: Tuesday-Thursday.

Indianapolis: Tuesday-Thursday.

Jacksonville: Tuesday-Thursday.

Kansas City: Tuesday-Thursday.

Miami: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Minnesota: Tuesday-Thursday.

New England: Tuesday; Thursday-Friday.

New Orleans: Tuesday-Thursday.

N.Y. Giants: Wednesday-Friday.

N.Y. Jets: Tuesday-Thursday.

Oakland: Tuesday-Thursday.

Philadelphia: Tuesday-Thursday.

Pittsburgh: Tuesday-Thursday.

St. Louis: None.

San Diego: Tuesday-Thursday.

San Francisco: Wednesday-Friday.

Seattle: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Tampa Bay: Tuesday-Thursday.

Tennessee: Tuesday-Thursday.

Washington: Tuesday-Thursday.

Permalink 14 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Kris Durham worked out for Saints and Cowboys

Kris Durham, Dwayne Gratz AP

Veteran free agents trying to catch on with a team before the end of offseason work are running short on time, but they can be heartened by the fact that teams are still taking a look at who’s available on the open market.

Wide receiver Kris Durham was a guest on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Alex Marvez and Zig Fracassi and said that he’s had workouts with both the Saints and Cowboys recently. Durham played for the Titans last season.

The Saints recently added Josh Morgan to their receiving corps and Drew Brees has talked up the chance to see Nick Toon and Seantavius Jones get more looks behind Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks during the 2015 season. Throw in Joe Morgan and Durham would likely have a tough route to playing time in New Orleans.

Dallas has a bit less depth with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley backed up by a group of players short on experience and Durham played for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan in Detroit. Mickey Spagnola of the Cowboys website adds that the team also worked out former 49ers first-round pick A.J. Jenkins and reports there’s a good chance the team adds a “somewhat veteran” wideout in the coming weeks.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman likely to split reps in Atlanta

devontafreeman AP

Steven Jackson is out after two years as the Falcons’ top running back. At the moment, the plan is for last year’s fourth-round pick and this year’s third-round pick to split the job of taking Jackson’s place.

Devonta Freeman, who had 65 carries for 248 yards as a rookie last year, and Tevin Coleman, a rookie from Indiana, will be in a two-back system with equal reps, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.

Whether Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan sticks with a two-back system throughout the season remains to be seen. Both Freeman and Coleman will get the opportunity to separate himself during training camp. But it will be an equal opportunity for both players.

It also remains to be seen what the Falcons will get out of Antone Smith, who played very well in limited action last season before breaking his leg. Smith has played very sparingly so far in his career, but when he has had the ball in his hands, he’s been fantastic: He has averaged 9.9 yards on 29 carries and 15.5 yards on 15 catches. A trio of Freeman, Coleman and Smith may make the Falcons better at running back without Jackson than they were with him.

Permalink 8 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

ESPN says NFL lawyers “recommend” Goodell handle Brady appeal

Lawyers

There’s apparently a little-known principle of journalism that goes like this: Fool me once, shame on me. Now fool me again!

Four months after allowing itself to provide the primary catalyst for #DeflateGate via a false report that sparked a frenzy, ESPN is currently helping to boost artificially the perception that there are no problems at all with the decision of Commissioner Roger Goodell to personally handle the appeal of the four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Appearing as of this posting on the front page of ESPN’s NFL page is this headline: “Lawyers endorse Goodell hearing Brady appeal.” With no explanation of which lawyers to which the headline refers, it isn’t clear who exactly is endorsing the decision. Which prompted me to click on the story. Which made the link pretty good click bait.

So I clicked. And I was greeted with this headline: “Lawyers recommend Roger Goodell hear Tom Brady appeal.” Which is actually a little stronger than “endorse.” Which prompted me to read more than the headline, in order to find out who was doing the recommending.

Here are the first two sentences of the article: “Attorneys for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have recommended that Goodell reject the NFLPA’s request that he recuse himself from hearing Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension. While Goodell still could step aside as arbitrator, he would be doing so against the advice of his lawyers.”

Which apparently makes it all OK.

The article then says nothing more about who made the recommendation or why the recommendation was made or whether Goodell relied on the recommendation in making the decision to handle the appeal. It cites no sources, named or unnamed, for the report that Goodell’s lawyers made the recommendation, and it credits no reporter until the very end of the story, where it adds in italics, “ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

In all, it looks and feels like an effort to artificially legitimize Goodell’s decision to handle the appeal to a potentially skeptical public. The clear takeaway isn’t that Goodell is intent on handling the appeal personally; it’s that the lawyers advised him to do it. So he’s not doing what he wants to do in order to ensure that he decides the matter in light of the broader business interests of the league or because he simply wants to control everything, he’s simply doing what the lawyers have told him to do.

Which apparently makes it all OK.

It’s a distinction without a difference, since: (1) the lawyers work for him and will be inclined to tell him what he wants to hear; and (2) the lawyers presumably are moving in lock step with Goodell on his intent to make the decision without deferring to anyone truly neutral and independent, who would then have the power to scuttle the findings and conclusions that Ted Wells charged the league millions of dollars to reach, possibly at the direct or indirect behest of the league.

As NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said Friday on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, “The Wells report delivered exactly what the client wanted.” And that’s a common dynamic in American business. Lawyers routinely provide an “independent analysis” that gives credence and credibility to the thing the client wants to have credence and credibility when judged by someone else.

It’s still unclear whether that’s exactly what happened as to the findings of the Wells report. It’s very clear that’s what happened as to the “recommendation” that Goodell personally handle the Wells report. And it’s abundantly clear that ESPN has gone out of its way to help sell to the public the notion that the decision has a degree of credence and credibility that ultimately is meaningless — even though it was ESPN that undermined its own brand by passing along blatantly false information in the early days of #DeflateGate that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs measured at two full pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum.

ESPN’s ongoing willingness to carry water for the league on this topic is surprising in light of the lie it was told. Then again, with hardly anyone wagging a finger at ESPN for allowing itself to be so grossly manipulated, it’s easy for ESPN to react to the situation like Kevin Bacon taking a paddle to the ass in Animal House.

Permalink 78 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Lane Johnson puked his way through brutal offseason workouts

Wild Card Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson wasn’t interested in rest and relaxation this offseason.

Johnson spent five weeks early in the offseason doing a workout routine based around mixed martial arts principles and devised by Jay Glazer and former UFC champion Randy Couture. Johnson said it was the most brutal thing he has ever been through, but when it was time for Organized Team Activities to start, he surprised himself with how much he had improved.

“The first couple days, I was puking non-stop,” Johnson said. “It was terrible. Going into OTAs now, I’m in the best shape of my life. I notice now I’m a lot quicker with my hands and a lot stronger with my hands. I don’t have to really think about it. It comes naturally.”

Johnson thinks these workouts are going to take him to the next step in his career.

“I want to be elite at my position in the NFL, and I felt that this would help me get there,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of confidence about what’s ahead of me. I think I’m getting close to being elite. Last year was a big stepping stone from my rookie year and I just have to be more aggressive and more violent going into Year 3.”

If Johnson can develop into an elite offensive tackle, all that puke will be worth it.

Permalink 24 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

49ers want to “cause confusion” on defense this season

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

Among the many changes to the 49ers this offseason is the decision to hand the reins of the defense to coordinator Eric Mangini after they parted ways with Vic Fangio.

Fangio has been followed out the door by linebacker Patrick Willis, defensive end Justin Smith and others from last year’s defense and the holdovers will be utilized in a different fashion by Mangini. Safety Antoine Bethea said that the defense is moving away from Fangio’s fairly straightforward approach as Mangini, whose move from tight ends coach back to defense may have confused some during the 49ers’ offseason upheaval, tries to keep offenses guessing about what the 49ers will do.

“Coach Mangini, his thing is we’re going to cause confusion,” Bethea said, via CSNBayArea.com. “The opposing offense isn’t going to know what we’re going to be able to do each down. It could be bringing the pressure. It could be dropping eight into coverage. But it’s just keeping the offense on their heels. However, you want to look at it, I think it’s going to be a good deal for our defense.”

Bethea said that “everybody has to know what everybody else is doing” in the defense, something that could cause some confusion for the 49ers if a team with shifting personnel doesn’t have things nailed down come the regular season. Bethea and coach Jim Tomsula both said that the team would use OTAs to see what new wrinkles work and which should be discarded when the team gets to training camp, but the end philosophical change offers more proof that 2015 is going to be about new directions for the 49ers.

Permalink 48 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Army vet Daniel Rodriguez trying to make most of chance with Rams

Daniel Rodriguez AP

Memorial Day weekend has its fair share of gatherings around the grill, swimming in sunny weather and other fun, but none of that should get in the way of remembering that the holiday honors those who have given their lives in service to the country around the world.

Rams wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez doesn’t need that reminder. Rodriguez did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was wounded during the Battle of Kamdesh, while in the Army and his football career began with a promise to a friend who was killed in combat. Rodriguez went to community college, worked on his game and landed as a walk-on at Clemson.

“It was just one of those things where I felt that if I had any purpose in life, I needed to make sure that I kept my word to a friend, and live my life in a way that honored those who had died,” Rodriguez said, via the Rams website. “I needed to make sure that I represented myself well on behalf of my friends who were killed. And that was just trying to live through a promise.”

Rodriguez, who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device for his service in Afghanistan, wasn’t drafted, but met with Rams personnel at the postseason Medal of Honor Bowl and his pro day and got an invite to try out at the rookie minicamp.

“When they invited me, I was like, ‘Heck yeah, I would love to try out. I’ve got nothing to lose,'” Rodriguez said. “They flew me out here and I thought I was only going to be here for a two-day trial. And they said I had a pretty good workout, made some plays, and they offered to have me stay. It was one of those things that I couldn’t really believe happened, and it was all a whirlwind. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I had invitations to other minicamps down the road, and I was just trying to take advantage of every one. And this one was the first one and it stuck. Honestly, it was a blessing in disguise.”

Rodriguez has a long way to go to make the Rams’ 53-man roster, but he overcame long odds to get this far and it’s a safe bet that he’ll have plenty of people rooting for him to continue his stay in St. Louis well past this summer’s cutdown day.

Permalink 38 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Brooks Reed may miss start of OTAs

Baltimore Ravens v Houston Texans Getty Images

Linebacker Brooks Reed may miss the first set of organized team activities with his new team.

The Falcons signed Reed to a five-year deal as a free agent in March and is expected to be a starter for the team in the fall, but Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports that Reed may be on the bench as the team moves into the next phase of workouts this week. Reed reportedly suffered a groin injury during the team’s recent veteran minicamp.

McClure describes the injury as a minor one, but the Falcons don’t have much reason to push it toward being something more significant at this point in the offseason. O’Brien Schofield is expected to take Reed’s reps with the first team.

The Falcons may have several offensive linemen on the sideline when they start OTAs as well. Left tackle Jake Matthews, center Joe Hawley, tackle Sam Baker and interior lineman Peter Konz are all on the way back from injuries, as are safety William Moore and running back Antone Smith.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Sunday morning one-liners

Mario Williams AP

Mario Williams is preparing for a change in his role on the Bills Defense.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is looking forward to the team’s organized team activities.

The chance to see QB Jimmy Garoppolo in a game could prove to be a positive for the Patriots.

Jets coach Todd Bowles shared his thoughts on making evaluations at non-contact practices.

The Ravens are spotlighting TE Nick Boyle’s minicamp highlights on their website.

Checking in on the chances of the Bengals reaching an extension with WR A.J. Green in the near future.

Will Josh McCown give the Browns a 30-something success story at quarterback?

Said Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt, “I have made some progress, but I am in my second year and I still have a lot to learn.”

The Texans’ uniforms didn’t get much love from ESPN.com’s Uni Watch.

Colts G Donald Thomas is trying to regain his spot in the lineup.

TE Connor Hamlett took a brief break from football before signing with the Jaguars.

A look at some of the best rookie seasons in Titans history.

The Broncos are preparing options for PATs based on this season’s rule changes.

How will the playing time break down on the Chiefs defensive line?

The Raiders hosted a tour of the USS Hornet for military families.

Stadium issues continue to dominate the Chargers landscape.

Ten things to know about Cowboys rookie OL Chaz Green.

The Giants are moving Bennett Jackson from corner to safety.

A projection of the Eagles starting defense.

A look at Redskins RB Alfred Morris’s best performances from his first three seasons.

Bears tight ends are forging quick bonds this offseason.

CB Rashean Mathis wants to be a mentor for younger Lions cornerbacks.

The Packers have one roster spot available.

The Vikings will need some unexpected contributors to step up this season.

Falcons WR Julio Jones is branching out into the restaurant business.

Comparing the Panthers’ front seven to the 2003 defensive front.

If the Texans appear on “Hard Knocks,” the Saints could make a cameo or two.

Buccaneers defensive line coach Joe Cullen said preparing to face the Lions last season made him aware of DE George Johnson, who joined the Bucs in a trade this offseason.

Checking out the inside linebacker possibilities with the Cardinals.

Who are the breakout candidates for the Rams this year?

Running through the contenders to replace 49ers DE Justin Smith in the lineup.

Previewing the choices defenses will have to make when facing the Seahawks this season.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Goodell’s quest for “new information” makes for confusing Brady appeal

Goodell AP

Apart from the question of whether Commissioner Roger Goodell possesses sufficient independence to ever serve as the arbitrator in cases involving NFL teams and NFL players is the question of whether he possesses the basic competence to do so.

Unlike some of his predecessors, Goodell isn’t a lawyer. And an arbitration definitely is a legal proceeding.

The first question for any legal proceeding is determining the legal standard to apply. In an appeal, sometimes the entire process starts over again from scratch (the Latin-loving lawyers call that “de novo” review). Most appeals apply deference to significant portions of the work that was done by a lower tribunal.

When former federal judge Barbara Jones overturned the indefinite suspension of former Ravens running back Ray Rice last year, she used the “abuse of discretion” standard, which gives (Captain Obvious alert) a range of discretion to the person who made the initial decision. The hearing officer on appeal may have reached a different decision if handling the case from scratch, but if the person who made the initial decision exercised discretion properly, the decision should be upheld.

Rice’s case arose under the Personal Conduct Policy. The suspension of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady flows from Article 46 of the labor deal, which gives the Commissioner full power over matters regarding the integrity of the game. The standard for Brady’s case is believed to be “arbitrary and capricious,” which is similar to the “abuse of discretion” test. The person handling the appeal may not agree with the decision, but the decision stands unless the person who made it had no reasonable grounds to do so, or failed to engage in an adequate consideration of the circumstances.

Regardless of the specific wording of the standard, the initial Brady decision is expected to receive “very substantial weight” on appeal.

For all appeals that aren’t “de novo,” the record of evidence becomes frozen in place when the appeal commences. Which means that, unless the appeals officer is starting from scratch, no new evidence should be considered. Which makes one of the comments this week from Commissioner Roger Goodell confusing, to say the least.

Asked whether Brady would receive another chance to cooperate with the investigation by surrendering text messages and emails, Goodell said this: “We have a process here. It’s long established. I look forward to hearing directly from Tom. If there is new information or there’s information in helping us get this right, I want to hear directly from Tom on that.”

“New information” shouldn’t matter under the “abuse of discretion” or “arbitrary and capricious” standard. The quest for “new information” has ended at that point. So if Goodell is considering “new information,” he’s not handling the appeal the way he should.

If there’s “new information,” Brady should ask to re-open the investigation, allowing Wells to do whatever it is that he charged the NFL millions of dollars to do, and then giving Vincent a chance to reconsider the punishment, with Goodell waiting to review the matter on appeal. That apparently won’t be happening, which introduces a major flaw into the process.

A separate problem arises from the reality that, even though Goodell tried to distance himself from the initial decision by delegating it to executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent, the suspension shows the fingerprints of the man whose signature appears on every football the NFL uses.

“[O]nce we had the [Ted] Wells report, our staff — led by Troy Vincent, who handles these matters on a regular basis and has all spring — immediately began meetings,” Goodell said. “I participated in some of those meetings so I understood the discussion that they were having. Troy made a recommendation. I authorized him to go ahead and issue that as I do in every other case.”

Goodell participating in disciplinary meetings is no different than an owner participating in draft meetings; eventually, the owner’s preferences will become a factor. And when Goodell “authorized” his top football lieutenant to make the initial decision to suspend Brady four games, Goodell may as well have been making the decision himself.

And now he’ll be handling the appeal. Under a standard that shouldn’t allow for “new information” to be considered. Which will do nothing to dissuade the NFL Players Association from arguing that the NFL is, once again, making it up as it goes.

Permalink 278 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Art Rooney II hopes NFL will soon hold games in Mexico and Germany

Art Rooney II AP

One of the members of the NFL’s International Committee is optimistic the league will soon stage games in two countries in which it has shown interest.

In an interview with his club’s website, Steelers president Art Rooney II said he “would be disappointed” if the NFL wasn’t holding games in Germany and Mexico “within the next five years.”

Said Rooney, according to Steelers.com: “The audience in those two countries — there are enough NFL fans in both to support a game, and so it’s really a matter of being able to put together a stadium situation that would work well for us, as well as being able to put together a broadcasting and digital media-style programming so the games can be broadcast in those countries as well being played there.”

On Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would “evaluate” Germany, Mexico and Brazil as game sites. However, as Rooney told Steelers.com, Germany and Mexico are more likely to host a game before Brazil.

Said Rooney: “Brazil is the one I would say is the newest discussion, and my guess is there will have to be a little longer lead time in developing that.”

The NFL will hold three regular season games in London in 2015. Overall, the league has scheduled 14 games in London since 2007.

At some point, the league would figure to play a game elsewhere, whether in Europe or somewhere else outside North America. And as Rooney sees it, Germany and Mexico are at the head of the line.

Permalink 45 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Doug Whaley: All our quarterbacks are on equal footing

EJ Manuel AP

Last week, Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman denied a report that the Bills were thinking about parting ways with third-year quarterback EJ Manuel before the start of the 2015 season.

General Manager Doug Whaley was on the same page during an appearance on The Jim Rome Show. Whaley called the report “just someone trying to get something stirred” during the offseason and said that the team remains excited about Manuel’s future in the NFL. That excitement wasn’t enough to stop the team from acquiring Matt Cassel and it isn’t enough to lift Manuel ahead of Tyrod Taylor or Jeff Tuel in the pecking order at this point in the offseason, however.

“I look for him to come in and compete and try to take the job,” Whaley said. “Everybody has got an equal footing. It’s a clean slate for all four of our quarterbacks. We’re not tied to anybody. We just want the best man to start. It’s exciting for us.”

The Bills may not be making any plans to cut Manuel at this point and there isn’t much reason for them to be in that mode. If all four quarterbacks really are on equal footing, though, then Manuel can end up fourth on the depth chart at the end of August and leave the Bills with a decision to make.

Permalink 16 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

A.J. McCarron sees himself and Andy Dalton as two future stars

Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron AP

At the moment, A.J. McCarron is stuck behind Andy Dalton on the quarterback depth chart in Cincinnati. But McCarron doesn’t see himself as a backup for long

McCarron told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he is OK with being behind Dalton on the depth chart for now, but he thinks he and Dalton will both be stars in the future.

“If you’re not going to dream big, then why dream?” he said. “I want to compete. Andy’s our starter, I know that. I love Andy to death. Andy’s always been there for me. He’s been like a big brother to me. But I’m going to compete and try to push him the best I can and have his back — always. He’s our starter, I know that, but I want to make him better in every way that I can. Like I told him, hopefully one day me and him can be retired and look back on it and we’re both 100 million-dollar guys. That’s my dream. And I’ll always be that way. So that’s what I want to do.”

McCarron won two national championships as the starting quarterback at Alabama, but he spent his rookie season on the sideline after the Bengals drafted him in the fifth round last year. He’s got a long way to go before he’s a $100 million guy. But it’s good to dream big.

Permalink 65 Comments Feed for comments Back to top