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PFT Live: Shaun King, Week 15 picks

Denver Broncos defensive tackle Unrein picks up a fumble by Oakland Raiders quarterback Palmer during their NFL football game in Oakland Reuters

Thursdays on PFT Live are about making picks for the coming week, but we’ve got a little football talk for you before Mike Florio and Michael David Smith discuss who they like in Week 15.

Shaun King of NBC Sports Network will join Florio to talk about the biggest news from around the league. They’ll hit on off-field matters, on-field matters and handicap the playoff picture a little bit with three games left in the season.

Then it will be time for Florio and MDS to continue their season-long battle for bragging rights around the PFT offices. Florio holds a four-game edge over the younger man, one that could grow to seven if all their disagreements go Florio’s direction. The other thing to watch for is MDS’ run at correctly predicting the Raiders’ point total. He’s done it the last four weeks and he’s picking them to beat the Chiefs this week as well.

You can watch it all live at noon ET.

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Patriots release Don Jones

Cincinnati Bengals v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Patriots found a spot on the roster for safety Don Jones against the Lions last week after making him a healthy scratch in Week 11, but Jones didn’t have the same luck this week.

The team announced that they have released Jones, who has played in nine of their first 11 games this season. Jones, who gave up his No. 29 to LeGarrette Blount when the running back returned to New England, saw most of his time on special teams and recorded six tackles.

Jones was a seventh-round pick of the Dolphins in 2013 and played in all 16 games with the team as a rookie. He was with the team through the end of the preseason, although he did serve a brief suspension and underwent sensitivity training mandated by Miami after Jones made some Twitter remarks concerning Michael Sam during this year’s draft.

The Patriots didn’t immediately fill the roster spot and could bring Jones back to the practice squad if they are so inclined.

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Packers defenders readying for chess match with Patriots

Casey Hayward AP

The Packers and Patriots will square off at Lambeau Field on Sunday and the Packers Defense is preparing for as tough a test as they’ve faced this season.

With tight end Rob Gronkowski back to full speed, the Patriots Offense has taken flight during their seven-game winning streak. They are averaging more than 39 points per game and forcing defenses to pick their poison as they take advantage of favorable matchups from week to week.

The Packers know that they will need to pressure Tom Brady and bring Gronkowski down when he does make a catch, but, ultimately, cornerback Tramon Williams says that Green Bay’s chances will come down to their ability to adapt to whatever area the Patriots try to attack.

“That’s been their MO,” Williams said, via the team’s website. “They find different ways to attack different teams. You never know what it’s going to be from week to week. That’s the chess match, and that’s what the great teams do. They play chess. It isn’t a checkers game. Hopefully we can go out and play chess a little bit, too.”

Recognizing what it takes to slow down the Patriots is a far different thing than actually doing it once the ball is snapped, but the Packers are on the right track when it comes to knowing that they’ll need to be adaptable. It’s something that has been a hallmark of the New England offense this season and any Packers win will require their defense to have the same approach.

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Griffin’s departure from starting lineup could be temporary

Griffin Getty Images

When the decision to start quarterback Colt McCoy was coupled with a suggestion that Robert Griffin III remained part of Washington’s long-term plans, plenty scoffed.  How, after all, can the team bench Griffin for the second time in less than a year and then embrace him all over again?

Apparently, they can.  Quite possibly, they will.

Griffin’s absence from the starting lineup could be as short as one week, and it could last until the start of next season.  Either way, the plan is to try to get Griffin back to being the player he was in 2012, when he took the league by storm (and kept defenses off balance) with a perfect mixture of accurate passing and explosive running ability.

The organization understands that Griffin has encountered a significant amount of adversity, most of which was beyond his control.  Weeks before he arrived, the NFL robbed the team of $36 million in cap space for treating the uncapped year of 2010 as, you know, uncapped.  And the draft picks given up to get Griffin made it harder to put high-level young talent around him.

Throw in the torn ACL, last year’s Shanahan-driven dysfunction, and a dislocated ankle that derailed his ability to learn coach Jay Gruden’s offense, and Griffin’s failure to develop into one of the best quarterbacks in the game becomes far more understandable.

It doesn’t mean Griffin is destined to return to what he was in 2012.  But the organization isn’t ready to give up on him.

In that regard, the organization includes coach Jay Gruden.  While his words suggest that Gruden is waging a battle to bench Griffin for good, the team believes Gruden wants Griffin to get better — and that Gruden is opting for candor instead of coddling as he tries to coax the most out of Griffin over the long haul.

By the start of the 2015 season, Washington’s roster could look a lot different.  Considerable dollars will be spent in free agency.  The first-round draft pick won’t belong to the Rams.  And some of the players who have kept the team from being successful will be gone.

Despite the current feeding frenzy fueled by common sense and conventional wisdom that Griffin will be among the former members of the team by next season, the plan really is to keep him around.  Surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to be a ploy to salvage his trade value.

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Seahawks still have Kaepernick’s number

kaepseahawks AP

Colin Kaepernick struggled against the Seahawks on Thursday night. As usual.

In Seattle’s 19-3 Thanksgiving night win at San Francisco, Richard Sherman picked off Kaepernick twice and the 49ers’ offense never got into the end zone. In fact, the 49ers only got into the red zone once, and on their one and only red-zone play, Kaepernick was sacked and the 49ers were pushed back out of the red zone.

That kind of game has become commonplace for Kaepernick against Seattle. In Kaepernick’s five starts against the Seahawks (counting the playoffs) he has completed 77 of 146 passes for 820 yards, with three touchdowns and nine interceptions. The 49ers have lost four of those five games.

That’s a far cry from Kaepernick’s numbers in the rest of his career: When not facing Seattle, Kaepernick has completed 629 of 1,031 passes for 8,336 yards, with 50 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Kaepernick has never thrown more than one touchdown pass in a game against the Seahawks but has thrown more than one touchdown 14 different times against other teams. On the other hand, Kaepernick has only thrown more than one interception in a game four times. Three of those four were against Seattle.

The 49ers will need Kaepernick to figure out Seattle’s defense in a hurry. The teams meet again in Seattle on December 14, in a game that looks like a must-win for the 49ers.

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Fans flood former Bills linebacker Darryl Talley with contributions

Talley Getty Images

On Thanksgiving, Tim Graham of the Buffalo News shared a troubling glimpse into the current struggles of former NFL linebacker Darryl Talley, a member of the Bills’ Ring of Honor and a key piece of the team that went to four straight Super Bowls.  While it appears the Bills organization may have turned its back on Talley, Bills fans definitely haven’t.

An effort launched Thursday to raise money for Talley, a College Football Hall of Famer who starred at West Virginia before playing for the Bills, already has generated more than $27,000.

On one hand, the NFL and its teams need to do more to take care of the men who struggle with medical and financial issues after giving so many years to the sport of football.  On the other hand, fans could be the best way to fill the void.

It’s not surprising that fans have genuine gratitude; any success a team enjoys flows from the efforts of its players.  While the NFL surely believes it’s doing enough to take care of the men who made pro football into a billion-dollar behemoth, someone needs to do more for Talley.  Now, someone is.

Kudos to those who have contributed.  For Bills fans, Mountaineer fans, and general fans of the sport who haven’t given but want to, just click the link.

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Jadeveon Clowney calls chances of playing this week “slim”

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney’s rookie year has been severely compromised by the torn meniscus in his knee that he suffered in the first week of the regular season and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to his difficulties.

Clowney was able to play in last weekend’s loss to the Bengals, but hasn’t practiced this week because of swelling and doesn’t think things will clear up in time for him to face the Titans on Sunday. He said Thursday that his chances of playing for the fifth time this season are “slim.”

“My knee swelled up on me a little bit, and I’m trying to get it back to the way it was before,” Clowney said, via the Houston Chronicle. “It’s bothering me a lot right now. I’m in a lot of pain. It’s been bothering me off and on the whole season. It’s the kind of thing if I can go, I’ll go. If I can’t, I won’t. I told them [trainers, doctors and coaches] how I feel, and it’s up to them.”

Clowney has solicited the advice of Brian Cushing about dealing with knee problems and Cushing showed him some stretches that loosened the knee up enough for him to play last weekend. It seems more lasting health is going to take a while, however, and that’s probably going to make the first overall pick’s rookie season a glorified redshirt year.

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Baalke’s daughter chimes in on Greg Roman

Roman Getty Images

Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

The boom is coming; it’s just a matter of time.  And the countdown arguably accelerated after Thursday night’s loss, when the owner’s decision to take to Twitter was matched by the daughter of 49ers G.M. Trent Baalke.  Said Cassie Baalke, a college freshman, about the team’s offensive coordinator:  “Greg Roman can take a hike. The 49ers don’t want you no more.”

49ersnews.com has the screen shot of the deleted tweet.  She later added this message:  “Everyone’s entitled to an opinion..sorry mine doesn’t favor you or agree with yours.”

The real question is whether and to what extent that opinion was influenced by anything she’s heard from her father.  It’s also fair to ask whether this relatively meaningless spark will blow the lid off the relationship between Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh, who brought Roman to the 49ers from Stanford and who has plenty of influence over the currently uncoordinated offense that Roman coordinates.

For whatever reason (and probably for more than one reason), tension has existed for a while between Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh.  A recent profile of Harbaugh by Seth Wickersham of ESPN The Magazine mentioned the painfully awkward shared elevator ride at the Scouting Combine, where the two supposed partners in football behaved like total strangers.  And as one league source explained it to PFT in August, no interaction of any kind was witnessed between Harbaugh and Baalke during a multi-day preseason stay in Baltimore for a game and joint practices with the Ravens.

So could Cassie Baalke’s deleted tweet become the equivalent of Gavrilo Princip’s bullet?  While there’s a good chance Archduke Ferdinand already has been dead for months, it’s the kind of tangible event that could trigger the kind of snide back and forth between G.M. and coach that turns a crack into a compound fracture.

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Larry Fitzgerald: I’m “highly likely” to play on Sunday

Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals played and lost without wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald last Sunday and they haven’t had him in practice yet this week, but the wideout isn’t ruling himself out for this week’s matchup with the Falcons.

Quite the opposite, actually. Fitzgerald worked out on the side while the rest of the team went through practice and said afterward that he was feeling optimistic about his chances of being on the field in Atlanta.

“I’m highly likely, but it’s not my call, though,” Fitzgerald said, via the Arizona Republic.

Fitzgerald said he was running fine and offered his weekly paycheck to race a member of the media to prove it. The offer was declined even after Fitzgerald pointed out the potential upside for his opponent, but we’ll have to wait to see if coach Bruce Arians and the medical staff are willing to take the bait.

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Friday morning one-liners

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

The Bills hope Marcus Thigpen is the answer to sparking their kick return game.

It didn’t get the attention of Odell Beckham’s catch, but Dolphins CB Brent Grimes had an athletic interception last week.

Patriots S Devin McCourty isn’t expecting too many takeaways this week.

S Jaiquawn Jarrett has been responsible for highs and lows this Jets season.

Ravens DE Chris Canty, the team’s union rep, is saddened by continued discord between the NFL and NFLPA.

Going on the road has paid off for the Bengals.

Browns LT Joe Thomas thinks this year’s team is better than the last Cleveland team to finish with a winning record.

Setting the stage for the final five weeks of the Steelers season.

Tom Savage will be the backup quarterback for the Texans this week.

Colts LB Shaun Phillips has no bad feelings about his time with the Titans.

DE Andre Branch is expected back for the Jaguars.

The Titans may be awfully shorthanded on the offensive line this weekend.

The Broncos haven’t won a road game this season when their opponent gets on the board first.

The Chiefs are holding a blood drive this week.

Spreading Thanksgiving cheer was part of the Raiders’ plan for the week.

The Chargers’ hurry-up offense showed improvement last weekend.

Cowboys WR Dwayne Harris took issue with a personal foul call against him.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin will face the team that gave him his first chance as an NFL head coach in his 300th game in the job.

It’s now a 6-0 record on Thanksgiving for the Eagles.

The Redskins won’t look outside the organization for immediate help at cornerback.

Another loss leads to more questions about the Bears.

The Lions secondary found its footing after a rough start to Thursday’s game.

It looks like Mike Neal and Jayrone Elliott will be at outside linebacker in place of Nick Perry for the Packers this weekend.

T Mike Harris is excited about his opportunity in the Vikings starting lineup.

The thoughts of Falcons G Jon Asamoah and CB Javier Arenas are with their former Chiefs teammate Eric Berry.

Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin isn’t worried about hitting a rookie wall.

Some suggestions for an improved mental approach for the Saints.

Buccaneers LB Mason Foster feels he’s back on form after a shoulder injury.

Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson is looking forward to tangling with Falcons WR Julio Jones.

Rams G Rodger Saffold is preparing to face a Raiders team it looked like he’d be joining this offseason.

Said 49ers WR Michael Crabtree, “Everybody’s a football player. We’ve been here. We’ve been the best team the past three years and we lost Super Bowls and lost big playoff games. We’ve been here before. We got to do better. That’s it. That’s it, man.”

What did we learn about the Seahawks during Thursday night’s win?

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Jim Harbaugh: We always evaluate offense, we’ll do it again

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

In the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, the 49ers managed to score 33 points in games against a pair of NFC East bottom feeders but avoided generating much of an alarm because they were able to win both games.

They are now up to 36 points in their last three games and the alarms are sounding because they both lost and lost to the Seahawks on Thursday as a result of their low-functioning offensive unit. 49ers CEO Jed York said the team’s play was “not acceptable” and quarterback Colin Kaepernick agreed with that assessment while coach Jim Harbaugh said that the team needs to win all four of it’s remaining games to make the playoffs.

Harbaugh’s likely correct and he was asked if there needed to be a deeper evaluation of or major changes to the offense in the wake of things hitting rock bottom against the Seahawks in order for that to happen.

“We always do that. We’ll do that again. We’ll evaluate it. I don’t know what you refer to with major changes,” Harbaugh said, via the San Jose Mercury News.

It’s a bit late in the game to be making major changes to the offense for this season and there aren’t a lot of people feeling confident that Harbaugh will be the guy overseeing those changes when they are made come the offseason.

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Marc Trestman: “It starts with me, I’m looking inside”

trestman AP

Bears coach Marc Trestman said after Thursday’s loss to the Lions that the blame belongs with him.

“It starts with me. I’m looking inside and accepting accountability for this loss, obviously. We just couldn’t get it done today and didn’t have enough ammunition,” Trestman said.

The Bears have been a major disappointment this season, leading to talk in Chicago that Trestman should be fired. That seems unlikely, given that Trestman is in just his second season and showed promise in his first, but Trestman knows that the results this season have not been good enough.

“It was extremely disappointing,” Trestman said of the loss to the Lions. “We just didn’t play well. That’s the bottom line. We didn’t play well enough offensively, we didn’t play well enough defensively to win this game.”

Now the Bears have to regroup for a three-game homestand against the Cowboys, Saints and Lions. The Bears are out of realistic playoff contention, but if they win a game or two in this homestand, they can be playoff spoilers. And Trestman can save his job.

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Jerry Jones: Cowboys got “whipped” up front

DeMarco Murray, Connor Barwin AP

Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan caught some attention for saying that he didn’t see why people thought the Cowboys’ offensive line was so great, but the attempt to make him eat his words failed rather spectacularly on Thursday.

The Eagles routed the Cowboys 33-10 and one of the biggest reasons they were able to do that was because of the way they controlled the proceedings up front on both sides of the ball. The Eagles ran for 256 yards on offense and held DeMarco Murray under 100 rushing yards for just the second time this year while also sacking Tony Romo four times. That made it very easy for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to diagnose what went wrong.

“Their defensive front was outstanding and really frustrated us and Romo,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “I recognize both their fronts whipped our fronts.”

Center Travis Frederick called it a “minor setback” for the Cowboys line, who will get back on the field against the Bears next weekend. With the Eagles hosting the Seahawks, the next game could find both teams with the same record once again and the Cowboys will need to be much better at the point of attack if they want a shot at winning the division.

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Mark Sanchez felt plenty thankful on Thursday

Mark Sanchez AP

Until Thursday, putting Mark Sanchez and Thanksgiving together conjured up images of Sanchez running headlong into Brandon Moore’s rear end against the Patriots in 2012.

Sanchez provided a much better Thanksgiving memory on Thursday in Dallas by leading the Eagles to a 33-10 win that left them in control of the NFC East heading into the final four weeks of the regular season. Sanchez threw for 217 yards and a touchdown, ran for another score and won for the third time in four starts to turn the buttfumble from defining moment to something to joke about.

“Sucked,” Sanchez said, via CSNPhilly.com. “I ran into some guy’s butt and dropped the ball on the turf and they scored. That’s like my favorite holiday, so that’s not cool. It’s really a bummer. The game plan was try not to do that, and we accomplished that.”

Sanchez also took a cue from the calendar and expressed gratitude for the way things have worked out for him over the years.

“It’s just been an incredible journey,” Sanchez said. “The whole thing. Playing in this league. Wearing the Jets logo, wearing the Eagles logo, this is an absolute dream come true. Best of times, worst of times, a lot of people would love to be in this position, no matter what. I’m very thankful. I’m very blessed.”

Sanchez only threw five passes after halftime as the Eagles were able to make their lead stand up behind the run game and defense. Continued success in those areas makes it easier for Sanchez to succeed, so the Eagles will need to keep things rolling when the Seahawks visit in Week 14 after allowing six points in their last 120 minutes of football.

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Richard Sherman on Kaepernick: I was the open man

Richard Sherman AP

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was holding court after Thursday night’s meeting with the 49ers, just as he was the last time the two teams met.

That was in the NFC Championship Game, of course, and Sherman saw his profile grow with the way he crowed about his play to force an interception on a pass to Michael Crabtree on the 49ers’ final attempt to score. Things weren’t that dramatic this time as the Seahawks took control early on their way to a 19-3 win, but Sherman still had the chance to crow after the game.

Earlier this week, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he wouldn’t shy away from throwing in Sherman’s direction and that he’d throw to whoever was open. Sherman had two interceptions during the game, leading to questions about both his growing history with the NFC West rivals.

“What history? I know no history,” Sherman said, via ESPN.com. “There was an opponent [Kaepernick] who said he would throw it to the open man. He didn’t care who was out there [in coverage]. I was the open man.”

Sherman and company will face the 49ers again in Seattle in Week 15 and he said the two sides know each other so well that it comes down to “will against will.” The Seahawks’ will won out on Thursday, dealing the 49ers’ playoff chances a big blow while putting another feather in Sherman’s cap in showdowns with the Niners.

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NFC playoff picture: Cowboys under pressure at the quarter pole

Tony Romo AP

With the Thanksgiving Day games in the books, the NFC playoff picture has gotten a shakeup.

First, let’s take a look at the winners:

— With their rout of Dallas, the Eagles (9-3) moved one game ahead of the Cowboys in the NFC East. For the moment, the Eagles are the No. 2 seed in the NFC, though they would lose their spot if Green Bay beats New England on Sunday.

— The Lions (8-4) have slid into the final wild-card spot after dispatching of Chicago.

— The Seahawks (8-4) moved up from No. 6 to No. 5 in the NFC after knocking off San Francisco. Why does this matter? The No. 5 seed is very likely to draw the NFC South winner in Round One.

Now, on to the losers:

— The Cowboys (8-4) fell from the No. 5 to the No. 7 seed on account of a good-but-not-great NFC record (5-4). This knocked them out of a three-way tiebreaker with Detroit and Seattle (see below).

— The 49ers (7-5) are now a game behind Seattle, Detroit and Dallas in the wild-card standings. With the defeat to the Seahawks, the Niners are now 1-3 in division play, with Seattle and Arizona having chances to sweep the season series in December.

— The Bears (5-7) are just about out of wild-card contention, though December home games against Dallas, New Orleans and Detroit will all have general NFC playoff ramifications.

Finally, let’s close with a few words on the Cowboys, who are suddenly quite vulnerable. Three of their final four games are on the road, with their lone home contest vs. AFC South-leading Indianapolis.

Dallas desperately needs to regain its footing with a win at Chicago next Thursday night. But can the Cowboys get it done? They are just 3-3 since upsetting Seattle in October, and they were outgained 464-267 by Philadelphia in the 33-10 loss on Thursday. The Bears’ offense isn’t exactly thriving at the moment, but it does have the skill-position talent to challenge Dallas.

Here’s a look at how the NFC’s playoff teams and primary playoff contenders would be seeded after Thursday’s games. The NFL’s tie-breaking rules and standings are referenced.

THE BIG SIX

1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2, .818). NFC West leader. Earn first-round bye, home-field advantage.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (9-3, .750). NFC East leader. Earn first-round bye.

3. Green Bay Packers (8-3, .727). NFC North leader. Host Lions in wild-card round.

4. Atlanta Falcons (4-7, .364). NFC South leader. NFC South’s top-seeded team on basis of head-to-head win vs. New Orleans. Host Seahawks in wild-card round.

5. Seattle Seahawks (8-4, .667). Wild card No. 1. Seeded ahead of Detroit on basis of better record in common games.

6. Detroit Lions (8-4, .667). Wild card No. 2. Seeded ahead of Dallas on basis of better conference record (6-2 vs. 5-4).

JUST MISSING

7. Dallas Cowboys (8-4, .667.).

8. San Francisco 49ers (7-5, .583).

THE REST OF THE NFC SOUTH

10. New Orleans Saints (4-7, .364).

13. Carolina Panthers (3-7-1, .318).

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9, .182).

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