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PFT’s Week 16 picks

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The proverbial pink champagne is on ice.

Yes, with a clean sweep in the three games on which we disagreed last weekend, I’ve now built a seven-game lead over MDS, with only 32 games to go.

The problem for MDS is that we probably won’t disagree on seven games in the final two weeks.  Even then, he needs to be right on all of them.

For Week 16, we disagree on three.  So I’ll lead by at least four and possibly by 10 by the time the fat man in the red suit breaks into my house, eats my cookies, and leaves behind a bunch of stuff for everyone but me.

For the week, I was 12-4 to a 9-7 from MDS.  On the year, I’m at 146-77-1, good for 65.1 percent.  MDS is 139-84-1, still at 62.0 percent.

Falcons at Lions

MDS’s take: Both of these teams have been severely inconsistent this season, with the Falcons consistently managing to pull out wins when they don’t play very well, and the Lions consistently managing to pull out losses when they play competitively. So after a week in which the Falcons blew out a good team and the Lions got blown out by a bad team, I’m picking both teams to revert to their inconsistent ways. Does this logic make sense? Maybe not, but I’m going to have to pick some upsets to catch Florio.  So what the heck?

MDS’s pick: Lions 21, Falcons 20.

Florio’s take:  It would be fitting for the Lions to close out a disappointing year with a pair of home wins over postseason contenders from Atlanta and Chicago.  It would be fitting, but after seeing the Lions lay an egg against the nine-eggs-in-a-row-laying Cardinals, it’s impossible for me to think the Lions can take down a Falcons team that put a goose egg on the Giants.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 31, Lions 17.

Giants at Ravens

MDS’s take: Both of these teams once looked like locks to win their divisions and now look desperate. Former Giants coach Bill Parcells liked to say that in games like this, you go with the more desperate team. That’s the Giants, who probably need to win out to make the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Giants 24, Ravens 13.

Florio’s take:  The Ravens are desperate for a win.  The Giants are more desperate for a win.  Even though Eli Manning’s Giants have lost to two teams that Peyton Manning’s Broncos played previously and beat, the third time needs to be a charm, or Eli will have no chance to chase his third ring.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 27, Ravens 20.

Raiders at Panthers

MDS’s take: A couple weeks ago this looked like it could be a game to determine the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. But the Panthers have won two in a row, and the Raiders won last week, and so now it looks merely like a game that could help shape the Top 10 of the draft. Which makes it an even less interesting game than it otherwise would have been.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 31, Raiders 10.

Florio’s take:  Ron Rivera is making it very hard for the next G.M. to hire a new coach.  It will keep getting harder.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 31, Raiders 20.

Saints at Cowboys

MDS’s take: The Dallas secondary is going to struggle mightily against the Saints’ passing attack, but with the season on the line I see Tony Romo having a big game against the Saints’ defense.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 34, Saints 31.

Florio’s take:  A loss to Dallas is a win for the Saints, since it makes it more likely that there won’t be a place with the Cowboys for Sean Payton.  Even though the Saints won big over the Bucs, the Cowboys are chasing a playoff berth no one thought they’d secure.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 30, Saints 24.

Titans at Packers

MDS’s take: Tennessee has actually played some reasonably good football in the five weeks since owner Bud Adams put the team on notice following a humiliating loss to the Bears: In those five weeks the Titans have blown out the Dolphins, ended the Jets’ playoff hopes and played a very close game against the playoff-bound Colts. But Green Bay in December is a tough place to play, and the Packers won’t have too much trouble putting the Titans away.

MDS’s pick: Packers 35, Titans 21.

Florio’s take:  Green Bay is reached for a No. 2 seed.  The Titans are reaching for a lower draft pick.  Advantage Packers.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 27, Titans 17.

Vikings at Texans

MDS’s take: It’s impressive that the Vikings are still playing meaningful games this deep in the season, but this is where it comes to an end.  The Texans will clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by spanking the Vikings, and the loss will severely damage the Vikings’ playoff hopes.

MDS’s pick: Texans 41, Vikings 20.

Florio’s take:  The Texans may not be able to stop Adrian Peterson, but they’ll likely come through in the most important statistical category — points scored versus points allowed.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 31, Vikings 20.

Patriots at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Patriots can’t be feeling good about themselves after Sunday night’s loss to the 49ers. They’ll take it out on the Jaguars in the day’s biggest blowout.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 38, Jaguars 3.

Florio’s take:  Five years ago, these two teams squared off in the playoffs.  The closest the Jaguars ever get to returning comes from periodically losing to New England.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 41, Jaguars 14.

Colts at Chiefs

MDS’s take: Let’s just stop and reflect for a moment on how important the quarterback position is in the NFL: In 2010, with Peyton Manning, the Colts were a playoff team. In 2011, with Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins, the Colts were the worst team in the league. In 2012, with Andrew Luck, the Colts will beat the Chiefs on Sunday and clinch a playoff berth.

MDS’s pick: Colts 28, Chiefs 14.

Florio’s take:  The team that lucked into the top pick in the 2012 draft faces the team that won’t have the same good fortune finding a quarterback with the first or second overall selection in 2013.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 24, Chiefs 13.

Bills at Dolphins

MDS’s take: Amazingly, the Dolphins are still in playoff contention, although they would need a lot of help in order to get there, even if they win out. They’ll at least take care of their end by winning on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 24, Bills 20.

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins are surprisingly still alive for the postseason.  The Bills unsurprisingly aren’t.  Edge to the home team and the team that still have something to play for, which in this case is the same team.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 20, Bills 17.

Redskins at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Redskins just need to win out and they win the NFC East. No way they get tripped up by the Eagles, who are just playing out the string. Who would have figured before the season that the Redskins would be playing for a division title while the Eagles would be long since eliminated from playoff contention?

MDS’s pick: Redskins 31, Eagles 10.

Florio’s take:  It’s likely the final home game for Eagles coach Andy Reid.  And Reid surely would love to spoil Washington’s chances to get to the postseason.  Of course, Reid also would have loved to have had the kind of year that would have made Sunday’s game not his final home game.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 24, Eagles 14.

Bengals at Steelers

MDS’s take: The game of the day is in Pittsburgh, where these two teams will be fighting for the one open playoff spot remaining after the Colts take care of business. I like the Steelers to summon everything they have left and put themselves in prime position to clinch in Week 17.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 21, Bengals 20.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals are 0-9 in their last eight games against the Steelers and Ravens.  And the Steelers are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.  And the Steelers desperately need a win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.  This isn’t a game the Steelers lose.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 23, Bengals 13.

Rams at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: I was surprised the extent to which the Bucs looked on Sunday like they’ve given up on the season. Greg Schiano and Jeff Fisher both have rebuilding jobs on their hands, but Fisher’s Rams appear to be closer to getting that job done than Schiano’s Bucs.

MDS’s pick: Rams 17, Buccaneers 9.

Florio’s take:  The Bucs play their final home game of the season while in a full-blown free fall.  Since it’s potentially cornerback Ronde Barber’s final home game of his career, look for the Bucs to find a way to turn things around against a Rams team that saw its unlikely postseason run slam to a halt in Week 15.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 28, Rams 17.

Browns at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Broncos just need to beat two bad teams, the Browns and Chiefs, in order to ensure that if they rematch the Patriots in the playoffs, that game takes place in Denver. Peyton Manning and Co. will take care of business.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 28, Browns 10.

Florio’s take:  The Broncos are closing in on a bye.  The Browns are closing in on saying “bye” to their coach and G.M.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 27, Browns 14.

Bears at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Bears need to win out and get some help to make the playoffs. I’m not sure if they’ll get the help, but with only the Cardinals and Lions left on the schedule, they should win out.

MDS’s pick: Bears 27, Cardinals 9.

Florio’s take:  No one’s ass is getting crowned as a result of this one.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 20, Cardinals 10.

49ers at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Sunday night game is a big one, matching the two teams that may be playing the best football in all of the NFL right now. On a neutral field I’d probably take the 49ers, but in Seattle I give the Seahawks the edge.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 21, 49ers 17.

Florio’s take:  The “what’s your deal?” rivalry suddenly has become one of the best in the game, making the frosty relationship between the two coaches an afterthought.  The Seahawks could have, and should have, won the last time these teams met.  This time, the Seahawks are even better.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 20, 49ers 17.

Chargers at Jets

MDS’s take: Greg McElroy may get the loudest ovation at home that a Jets quarterback has received since Joe Namath. I don’t think McElroy is the long-term answer, but I do think he’ll play competently, and the Jets’ defense will play well, and Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow will stand together on the sideline awkwardly watching the McElroy-led Jets win a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Jets 13, Chargers 10.

Florio’s take:  The McElroy era begins with a Bolt.  Or maybe a butt fumble.  There’s too much drama this week in the locker room for the Jets to come together and win.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 17, Jets 10.

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Report: Bills G.M. “went rogue” in cutting Fred Jackson

Terry Pegula, Doug Whaley, Rex Ryan, AP

As the Bills move on from running back Fred Jackson, it’s possible that the move resulted from the actions of one specific person in the organization.

Citing two unnamed sources, Tim Graham of the Buffalo News reports that Bills G.M. Doug Whaley “went rogue” in cutting the veteran tailback.

As a source with knowledge of the situation explained it to PFT on Monday, it’s believed Whaley had wanted to cut Jackson since March, and that Whaley preferred Bryce Brown to Jackson. As PFT reported on Wednesday, Jackson would have “done anything” to stay with the team, but he never got the chance to take a pay cut or to make other concessions.

Graham says that the team will remain unified in any public comments on the situation. Privately, however, it’s hard not to wonder whether Whaley may have put even more pressure on himself by taking matters with Jackson into his own hands.

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Feely did indeed tell Judge Berman about the Jets K ball incident

Feely Getty Images

Last night, PFT surmised that free-agent kicker Jay Feely may have told Judge Richard M. Berman about the 2009 incident involving a Jets kicking ball during Feely’s unexpected trip to court in his capacity as a member of the NFL Players Association’s Executive Committee.

As it turns out, Feely did.

Appearing on The Doug Gottlieb Show, Feely said that he explained to Judge Berman the situation arising from a Jets-Patriots game.

“We talked about the similarities in that case and the differences in the way the NFL responded,” Feely said. “I didn’t get in trouble. I had no culpability in that case.”

As the kicker, Feely presumably would have been at least “generally aware” of the use of an unapproved piece of equipment by a Jets equipment employee, who was suspended as a result of the incident. But Feely was neither questioned nor disciplined.

It’s an important point, because the failure to investigate or to discipline Feely under similar circumstances shows that the NFL may have been acting arbitrarily in Brady’s case.

By Friday, we’ll find out whether Judge Berman agrees.

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Rex Ryan promises Buffalo is his last coaching job

Buffalo Bills v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Football coaches usually don’t stay in one place for long, but Rex Ryan is hoping he has several good years ahead of him in Buffalo. Because after he’s done coaching the Bills, that’s it.

Ryan told USA Today that he’s all done in coaching after he’s done with the Bills, so whatever goals he still has as a coach, he needs to accomplish them in Buffalo.

This is definitely going to be it,” Ryan said. “This is my last stop in coaching, and then when my days are up, I’ll turn it over to the younger generation. I’m not going anywhere else.”

The 52-year-old Ryan is young enough that he could have many years ahead of him: He’s a decade younger than Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick, and a decade and a half younger than Tom Coughlin. But Ryan insists any years he has left in coaching will be with the Bills.

“I got news for you: I’m not changing. I’m going to be myself. I don’t care if you like it, or you dislike it. This is who I am,” Ryan said.

And he’ll keep being who he is in Buffalo, and then end his coaching career.

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Rolando McClain passes physical days before suspension starts

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain spent the start of training camp on the physically unable to perform list and will spend the start of the regular season on the reserve/suspended list. But for now, he’s ready for a brief stint on the active roster.

McClain has passed his physical and has been taken off the PUP list, and he’s back at practice. McClain has been out all offseason with a knee injury.

After seeming to get his career on track with the Cowboys last year, McClain was suspended this offseason for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He will miss the first four games of the season while serving his suspension.

But the good news for the Cowboys is that McClain will apparently be healthy when his suspension is over. The Cowboys are ready for him to get back on the field.

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Fifth-year options have no offset obligation

Phil Taylor AP

With the Browns deciding to cut defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who has a fully-guaranteed fifth-year option salary of $5.477 million, I initially assumed that the Browns would get a dollar-for-dollar credit for any money Taylor earns elsewhere.

As I often do, I assumed wrong.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says nothing about offset language in the fifth-year option, and the NFL Players Association believes there’s no offset obligation. Indeed, the offset duty applies only when affirmative offset language is added to a contract. Without that express language, there’s no offset.

Which means that Taylor could indeed get $5.477 million to not play for the Browns, along with whatever he makes elsewhere.

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Report: Julius Thomas to have surgery on injured finger Wednesday

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On Monday, Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said that tight end Julius Thomas was headed for a second opinion on the finger he broke in the team’s preseason opener and that surgery was a possibility depending on the evaluation.

It looks like Thomas is headed for the operating room. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Thomas will have the surgery on Wednesday and that he could miss the next month while recovering. That’s the same general timeline Caldwell gave while discussing the possibility of surgery on Monday.

It’s a blow to the Jaguars, who spent big to get Thomas as a free agent so that he could provide Blake Bortles with a reliable target in Bortles’s second season with the club. Bortles is 39-of-60 for 461 yards and a touchdown in the preseason.

Assuming the timeline holds up, Thomas should return to the lineup sometime around the team’s Week Four game against the Colts. Clay Harbor and Marcedes Lewis are the next tight ends up for the Jaguars, who will also likely look to second-year wideouts Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee more often with Thomas out of the lineup.

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Packers set their 75-man roster

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The Packers have made the necessary roster moves to get their roster down to 75 players.

It’s a list short on recognizable names other than wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who was placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in the team’s second preseason game of the summer.

Nelson’s injury didn’t help wide receivers Javess Blue, Jimmie Hunt or James Butler avoid the waiver wire. Their departures leave the Pack with eight wideouts still on the roster with Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis and Myles White looking like sure or strong bets to survive final cuts as well.

The Packers also waived linebacker Tavarus Dantzler, tackle Fabbians Ebbele, linebacker Josh Francis, defensive tackle Lavon Hooks, tackle Vince Kowalski, quarterback Matt Blanchard, linebacker Adrian Hubbard, defensive back Kyle Sebetic and tight end Harold Spears.

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Trindon Holliday among the cuts as Raiders get down to 75

Trindon Holliday, Seth Roberts AP

The NFL’s shortest player is among the cuts as the Raiders trimmed their roster to 75.

Kick returner Trindon Holliday, the 5-foot-5 former track star who has made some big plays but also had some costly fumbles in his NFL career, was among the veterans the Raiders cut today. Oakland also cut veteran cornerbacks James Dockery and Ras-I Dowling.

The Raiders waived punter Steven Clark, cornerback Rob Daniel, quarterback Cody Fajardo, receiver Josh Jarper, guard Lamar Mady, running back Trent Richardson, receiver Kenbrell Thompkins and receiver Milton Williams.

Offensive tackle Menelik Watson was placed on injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles, and safety Jimmy Hall was waived/injured.

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Bears claim Zac Dysert off waivers

Denver Broncos v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Bears backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen has a concussion and the team made a move Tuesday to give themselves some more help at the position.

Agent Mike McCartney announced on Twitter that his client Zac Dysert has been claimed off waivers by Chicago. Dysert was cut by the Broncos as they made their way to 75 players this week.

The move may not just be a temporary one. Dysert was a seventh-round pick by Denver in 2013, which means he spent the first two years of his career in an offense coordinated by Adam Gase on a team coached by John Fox. That’s the same situation in Chicago and Gase might prefer to have Dysert on hand even after Clausen is healthy enough to resume his role as the No. 2 behind Jay Cutler.

Reports out of Chicago are that undrafted rookie quarterback Shane Carden will be waived to make room for Dysert on the roster. The Bears also have David Fales on the depth chart at the position.

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Which Final Four team is most likely to not win its division?

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History tells us that roughly half the teams that made the playoffs last year won’t be back in 2015. Of the four teams that made it to the conference title games, which one is most likely to not win its division?

That’s the poll question for Tuesday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN. Answer it now, then tune in at 6:00 p.m. ET for the show.

The show will consist of a lot more than answering that question. To find out what it will make the 30-minute cut, tune in to NBCSN at the top of the hour for Rodney Harrison, Paul Burmeister, and yours truly.

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Judge Berman “anticipates” Brady ruling by end of the week

Roger Goodell AP

On Monday, Judge Richard Berman said that he fully expected to issue a ruling in the Tom Brady case on Tuesday or Wednesday.

It’s after 5 p.m. on Tuesday in New York and there’s been no ruling issued yet, so it seems unlikely to be delivered on September 1. September 2 may not be the day either based on an order issued by Berman on Tuesday afternoon.

“The Court anticipates issuing its Decision and Order by the end of the week,” Berman wrote, via Bob McGovern of the Boston Herald.

That leaves more time to go over the potential rulings that Berman could make and the responses that the NFL and/or Brady could have to those rulings, although it’s probably safe to say that just about everything that could be said about the case, the suspension, the meaning of the nickname “Deflator,” courtroom sketch artists and the Ideal Gas Law has already been said at this point.

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Texans owner says J.J. Watt wouldn’t destroy his phone like Brady

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans Getty Images

Texans owner Bob McNair puts the blame for Deflategate squarely on Tom Brady, saying that if Brady would have cooperated with the NFL’s investigation, the matter could have been resolved much more easily.

McNair said on 610-AM in Houston that a player should be willing to cooperate with the league, and that he’d expect his own best player to cooperate in a league investigation.

“What escalated the whole thing is that Brady and the Patriots were going to cooperate fully, and then when it came down to it, they didn’t,” McNair said, via ESPN. “If it was J.J. Watt, I think he would have been cooperative, and it wouldn’t be a question. . . . I don’t think J.J. would destroy his cell phone.”

McNair is convinced that the Patriots deflated footballs to gain an edge, and that the NFL did the right thing in cracking down.

“In the minds of somebody in that organization, they thought it was important. They thought it would give them a competitive advantage, and that’s why they did it,” McNair said.

As Roger Goodell continues to face criticism over Deflategate, McNairs comments indicate that at least one of Goodell’s 32 bosses think he has done his job well.

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Falcons say goodbye to Peter Konz

Atlanta Falcons v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

The Falcons have spent a lot of time in recent years looking for offensive linemen that would solidify their protection and run blocking, something that might not have been necessary if their decision to draft Peter Konz in the second round of the 2012 draft had been a hit.

It was a miss, however. Konz struggled during his first two years in the league, tore his ACL last year and won’t get another chance to turn things around in Atlanta.

The Falcons announced Tuesday that they have waived the interior lineman with an injury settlement, which leaves them at the mandated 75 players. Konz started 28 games over his three seasons with the Falcons, but his performance was lacking as both a pass and run blocker.

Atlanta heads toward the cut to 53 players with Mike Person, Joe Hawley, James Stone, Chris Chester and Jon Asamoah as options to play in the interior and could be looking for players to push or bolster that group once other teams trim the fat from their rosters.

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Will Beatty to PUP as Giants go down to 74 players

New York Giants v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Giants only needed to cut their roster to 75 players on Tuesday, but they went a little further and left themselves with an open roster spot to use between now and Saturday’s cut to the 53-man roster.

Among the moves that the Giants made was placing left tackle Will Beatty on the regular season PUP list. Beatty tore his pectoral in the spring and placing him on that list keeps open the option of bringing him back late in the season if he’s sufficiently healed. It also leaves the injured reserve/return slot, which can’t be used until after the cut to 53 players, given to each team open in the event of another severe injury that doesn’t end a season.

The Giants placed defensive backs Josh Gordy and Bennett Jackson on injured reserve. Jackson tore his ACL as part of the run of injuries the Giants have suffered at safety this summer while Gordy has a hip injury.

Wide receiver Juron Criner, offensive lineman Michael Bamiro, defensive back Justin Halley, offensive lineman Eric Herman, offensive lineman Derrick Johnson, punter Robert Malone, defensive end Jordan Stanton, defensive tackle Jimmy Staten, tight end Will Tye, offensive lineman Brandon Mosley and running back Akeem Hunt were all let go.

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Pete Carroll: We haven’t made decision on Fred Jackson yet

Fred Jackson, Justin Houston AP

It didn’t take long for the Seahawks to set up a visit with running back Fred Jackson after he was released by the Bills, but an announcement about a signing may take a little longer.

Coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday that running back Robert Turbin has a high ankle sprain that will keep him off the field for a while and led to the Seahawks reaching out to Jackson, although Carroll said they may have been interested anyway. As of now, though, it’s just a visit and not a signing.

“We have not made that decision at all at this point,” Carroll said, via Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com.

The interest in Jackson as a potential fill-in for Turbin is easy to understand given Jackson’s long record of both NFL success and sharing backfields with other backs, including a spell with Marshawn Lynch in Buffalo. It doesn’t say much for Christine Michael’s chances of getting a long look in the backfield this season, although his number could still come up if things don’t work out with Jackson.

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