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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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Marshawn is probable for Thursday night

Lynch AP

When the Seahawks and 49ers get together on Thanksgiving night on NBC, the 49ers will get a full dose of running back Marshawn Lynch.

Lynch is officially listed as probable for the NFC West showdown, with a back injury.  It means there’s a virtual certainty he’ll be available for normal duty.

Out for the Seahawks are tight end Cooper Helfet (ankle), the only guy who scored a touchdown in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals.  Also due to miss the game for Seattle are center Max Under (knee, ankle) and linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder).

Questionable for Seattle are former 49ers defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (knee) and cornerback Jeremy Lane (glute).

For the home team, tight end Derek Carrier (foot), tackle Anthony Davis (concussion), and defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey (forearm) are out. Cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring), receiver Bruce Ellington (ankle), and tight end Vance McDonald (back) are questionable.

The “probables” for San Fran include running back Frank Gore, who has a knee injury.

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Rex Ryan: We have two good quarterbacks

genovick AP

Sometimes coaches have to put a positive spin on things even when all is lost. We’ll assume that’s what Jets coach Rex Ryan was doing when he addressed his quarterback situation today.

Asked about the decision to bench Michael Vick and start Geno Smith, Ryan maintained that both of them are good quarterbacks.

“I have said it all along I feel we have two good quarterbacks, I definitely feel that. And we have another guy that is a decent quarterback as well, in [Matt] Simms. But I feel that way,” Ryan said.

The reality is, if the Jets had two good quarterbacks they wouldn’t be 2-9 right now. If the Jets had one good quarterback they wouldn’t be 2-9 right now. The Jets have zero good quarterbacks. (And for that matter, if Simms is “decent,” then the Jets ought to let him start the last five games of the season and see what he can do.)

Truthfully, the Jets are just playing out the string, so they’ve decided to give the job to the younger quarterback. Ryan acknowledged that part of the decision to switch from Vick to Smith is to give the franchise more time to evaluate Smith.

“Let’s see how far he’s come,” Ryan said of Smith. “We’ve given him a few weeks off, let’s see how it handles it. Yeah, I am curious to see that. But again, I mentioned I’m excited to see it.”

Ryan may be the only one who’s excited to see the Jets’ offense for the last five games of the season.

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Kyle Fuller, Riley Reiff and Reggie Bush all questionable for Turkey Day

Rhett Ellison, Jarius Wright, Kyle Fuller AP

The Bears and Lions have released their final injury reports before Thursday’s game at Ford Field and it finds key players on both sides questionable.

Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller drew the tag after hurting his MCL last weekend. He was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday after being deemed a non-participant on Monday and Tuesday. If Fuller doesn’t play, it would eliminate the possibility that he’d line up across from his brother and Lions wide receiver Corey at some point on Thursday. Their parents have crafted some custom jerseys for the occasion, so it would be a letdown emotionally and sartorially if one of their sons couldn’t go.

On the other side, Lions left tackle Riley Reiff and running back Reggie Bush both got in limited practices on Friday before drawing the questionable tag. It was Reiff’s first practice of the week while Bush worked every day and has been targeting this week to return from the ankle injury that’s sidelined him recently.

The Bears listed defensive linemen Jeremiah Ratliff and Trevor Scott as doubtful due to knee injuries, and they’ve ruled out linebackers Lance Briggs and Darryl Sharpton and wide receiver Chris Williams.

Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley and guard Larry Warford remain out.

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Shaun Phillps lands with Colts

Blake Bortles, Shaun Phillips AP

Linebacker Shaun Phillips has taken an overnight elevator ride from the basement to the penthouse in the AFC South.

Phillips was waived by the Titans on Tuesday and he’ll spend Thanksgiving as a member of the Colts, who announced that they added Phillips via a waiver claim on Wednesday. The move for Phillips, who has 81.5 career sacks, is a signal that the Colts would like to boost their pass rush off the edge.

The Colts currently rank 11th in the NFL with 27 sacks, seven of which have come from outside linebackers Bjoern Werner and Erik Walden. They hoped to have Robert Mathis for the final 12 regular season games, but he tore his Achilles while working out ahead of his reinstatement from a season-opening four-game suspension.

Phillips, who is signed through next season, had just two sacks in 11 games with the Titans, so he’s hardly been an impact player this season. Phillips did have 10 sacks last year with the Broncos, so a return to a team with postseason aspirations could be a boost to his productivity.

Linebacker Victor Butler has shuffled on and off the Colts roster a few times recently and he shuffled back off with Phillips’s arrival.

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Ryan Kalil says his brother’s hat-flick was all his fault

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Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil has apologized for flicking the hat off a heckling fan last Sunday.

But the guy should probably be glad Ryan Kalil didn’t give more wedgies growing up.

The Panthers center came to the defense of his little brother, saying his treatment of Matt when they were growing up may have contributed to Sunday’s outburst.

“I was a little disappointed,” Ryan Kalil said, via John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I would have liked him to go with the, ‘You spilled something on your shirt‘ move, and then flick him on the chin. . . .

“It’s probably my fault for picking on him when he was little. That hat thing was a go-to move.”

Ryan said his brother was actually on the phone with their father when the incident occurred, saying the heckler was saying “some pretty ugly stuff.”
Of course, there’s plenty being said about Matt Kalil in Minnesota, where many feel he’s not living up to his first-round status.

And for that, a bunch of Vikings fans probably wish Ryan would have given his brother a few more noogies when they were growing up.

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Donte Whitner ruffles Fred Jackson’s feathers

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Safety Donte Whitner and the Browns will travel to meet the Bills on Sunday and Whitner’s not heading for the happiest of welcomes in the town he called home for the first five years of his career.

Whitner made a crack on Twitter over the summer about the Bills moving to Toronto, which made former Bill Darryl Talley quite upset and the bad feelings haven’t died down in Buffalo. Running back Fred Jackson said Wednesday that Whitner will “never get my respect” for what Jackson felt was talking down to people in Buffalo and in the organization.

“That’s just him being him,” Jackson said, via ESPN.com. “Donte is a guy that likes to ruffle feathers. He found any way he could to try and ruffle Buffalo’s feathers, knowing he had to come up to us. It’s just dumb for him to do, and talk about people like that, and talk about the city of Buffalo like that. But at the same time, you’ve just got to take it with a grain of salt and say it’s just some dude that’s being an idiot about some stuff.”

Whitner said he’s expecting a chilly reception from the fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but that he doesn’t care about hurting feelings if it might help the Browns win a game.

“[The Toronto Bills comment] wasn’t excessive. It wasn’t a joke. I knew that it would get to them. I knew it would ruffle a feather. If they’re over there talking about this, maybe we are in their heads. Maybe I’m in their heads. Maybe. We don’t know, but the goal is to go 1-0, the goal is to get them talking about things other than football, and I guess that’s what they’re doing.”

Whitner and Jackson should meet up at some point when Jackson gets hold of the ball and it will be interesting to see whose feathers are the most ruffled on the other side of a collision.

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Zach Mettenberger sends himself to selfie rehab

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Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger made a rookie mistake by drawing too much attention to himself on social media before his first start, and incurred the wrath of Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

But Mettenberger said he’s gone cold turkey on taking selfies, in hopes of keeping a lower profile.

“I was just addicted to it I guess. I put myself in a rehab program,” Mettenberger said, via Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean. “And now that I’ve quit I feel like I am a much better person.”

Watt criticized Mettenberger for it after the game, and had his own selfie sack celebration during.

“It’s just kind of a reminder, this is the National Football League, not high school. Welcome to the show,” Watt said then. “I just, I take my job very seriously. If I was a rookie quarterback being named the starter for the first time in the league, I feel like I’d be a little bit more focused than that. Maybe he’ll learn from it, maybe not. We won the game, so that’s all that matters.”

On a conference call this week, Watt said he was surprised it got so much attention.

“I think that definitely got blown up more than I expected it to be. I guess I should have expected it with today’s world, but somebody asked me a question after the game and I answered it,” Watt said. “That’s all there was to it. It’s football.”

Of course, Mettenberger might want to win a game before sending out any more selfies, since he hasn’t done that yet as a starter either.

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Josh Gordon on suspension: Lowest point was disassociation from teammates

Josh Gordon, Greg Little AP

Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon looked like he hadn’t missed a beat during his 10-game suspension during last Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

Gordon caught eight passes for 120 yards to help the Browns improve to 7-4 with a 26-24 victory, but the time during his suspension wasn’t as smooth as his return to the field. Gordon spoke to former Browns teammate Nate Burleson for NFL Network about feeling alienated from his teammates during the ban he received for violations of the substance-abuse and personal conduct policies.

“The lowest point of all this I think was the disassociation from a lot of friends you thought were close or you thought you were kind of cool with really not checking on you anymore, [not] hitting you up anymore, [not] wanting to hang out,” Gordon said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “As far as even people in here [with the Browns]. I don’t want to throw names around but I can see it. I’m definitely really observant so I see how people might just be more standoffish as they were before. It’s kind of like a disease. People they want to see it but they don’t really want to touch it.”

Gordon’s description of the limbo he found himself in for the first 10 games of the season sounded right to coach Mike Pettine, who called it an “uncomfortable” situation that left players who are suspended or injured on the outside looking in at the rest of the team. Pettine added that he thought any of what Gordon felt was a product of the circumstances and not anyone’s feelings about Gordon.

“Knowing the quality of the people in this building, I doubt there would be any overt maliciousness or, basically, just what’s being described,” Pettine said. “I know Josh is well liked by his teammates.  He’s certainly well-liked by the coaching staff and he’s come a long way.”

The comparison to an injured player seems like an apt one based on the way players knocked out for the season have described their experiences. Gordon was healthy and in meetings, but he wasn’t part of the team for practice or games and that’s going to make for the uncomfortable moments that Pettine mentioned. As long as everyone feels comfortable now, and it looked like Gordon did, all should be well on that front.

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No fine for Lynch’s “yeah”-filled press conference

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Two Sundays ago, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch avoided reporters.  He was fined $100,000 for the infraction.

This past Sunday, Lynch talked to reporters, primarily by repeatedly saying “yeah,” even in response to questions that didn’t call for a yes/no answer.

So will the NFL fine Lynch for failing to comply with the spirit of the media policy?  Nope.

Per a league source, Lynch hasn’t been fined for his latest shenanigans.  It’s likely, however, that the league won’t tolerate that approach on a regular basis.

After Texans running back Arian Foster repeatedly said that he’s just trying to be a good teammate during a session with reporters, the NFL warned him that he could be fined if he engages in similar shenanigans in the future.  So if Lynch opts for “yeah” as a standard response to reporter questions, the NFL eventually will say “yeah” when asked if Lynch has been fined.

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Josh Brent not expected to play this week

Josh Brent AP

Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent is listed as probable on the team’s injury report with a calf injury, but it doesn’t sound like that will be enough to get him a spot on Thursday’s 46-man roster.

The Cowboys placed defensive lineman Jack Crawford on injured reserve Wednesday, but coach Jason Garrett indicated defensive tackle Terrell McClain would play after joining Brent on the inactive list last weekend. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli sent a similar message about Brent’s chances of facing the Eagles.

“He’s coming along fineS,” Marinelli said, via the Dallas Morning News. “It’s just that we have some guys who are playing pretty well for us right now, too. So we’ll keep you updated when we feel he’s ready to go and I’ll alert you.”

Wide receiver Terrence Williams is also probable after hurting his finger against the Giants and practicing in full on Friday.

Cornerback Tyler Patmon is out with a knee injury, linebacker Dekoda Watson is out with a hamstring injury and safety Jeff Heath is doubtful after having thumb surgery earlier this week. Crawford also had thumb surgery and the team promoted linebacker Keith Smith from the practice squad to fill his spot on the roster.

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Latavius Murray practicing after last week’s concussion

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

Raiders running back Latavius Murray had an eventful Thursday night against the Chiefs.

Murray saw his profile grow exponentially when he scored on 11- and 90-yard touchdown runs in the first half of the Raiders’ nationally televised first win of the 2014 season. Just as a wider group of people were getting to know who Murray was, things took a negative turn when Murray was forced out of the game with a concussion.

Sunday’s game against the Rams won’t have quite as big a viewing audience, but it looks like there’s a good chance that they’ll see Murray. According to multiple reports from Oakland, Murray was on the field and taking part in the team’s first practice of the week. That doesn’t mean he’s cleared to play Sunday, but it puts him on the right track to follow up on his four carry,112 yard breakout.

The Raiders also announced a roster move on Wednesday. Tight end David Ausberry was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury and promoted defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin from the practice squad. Ausberry had two catches in six games this season and missed all of last season.

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Devon Still refutes claims he’s not paying child support

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Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still has responded to a report that he wasn’t paying child support for his daughter Leah, but said he didn’t want to get into the details of the case.

The report in this morning’s New York Daily News said that Still hasn’t paid any child support since August 2014, while Leah has become a national storyline during her battle with cancer.

“My daughter’s battle with cancer has been inspirational to many all over the world,” Still said in a statement released by the team, via Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. “When she gets older, I want her to be able to look back and read about her positive impact on the world, not about the private issues her parents were going through. I am not going to retaliate against the mother of my daughter, and the untruthful reports in the New York Daily News article, by criticizing her character. I am going to continue to allow the court system to handle this matter, as it has been doing these past couple of months.”

The Bengals are circling the wagons around Still, after more than $1.3 million was raised through sales of his jersey to benefit children’s cancer research.

Coach Marvin Lewis said he met with Still Wednesday morning, and remains “very confident” in his defensive tackle.

“We’re not privy to all the facts of it,” Lewis said. “But Devon is very confident that he’s taking care of business the right way and eventually, at some point, if there’s things that need to be done through the legality through the courts, that all would come out that way. We’re going to continue to support him. We’re very confident in the things he’s done. . . .

“Devon has grown up so much through this unfortunate illness that his daughter’s dealing with. It’s really grown him as a man and as a person. I told him that just today how he’s handled everything. I’m so impressed.

“He’s really a beacon for a lot of people. He will be for a lot of young guys as they face different trials and tribulations as an NFL player. There are the outside pressures that no one understands that guys go through. There’s the pressure of playing, the pressure of performing. All those things that occur, and this one is really outside of football.”

The hope is that the legal fight doesn’t take away from Leah’s continuing battle, and that the adults in this situation resolve things with her welfare in mind.

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Dominic Raiola fined for hit to the head, not for hit to the knees

Dominic Raiola AP

Lions center Dominic Raiola was fined for a cheap shot against the Patriots on Sunday. Just not the cheap shot everyone has been talking about.

Raiola, who admitted he took a shot at Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore’s knees on the final play of the game, was not fined for that. But he was fined $10,000 for taking a swing at Moore’s head on another play.

“Dominic Raiola was fined $10,000 for unnecessary roughness,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said. “Specifically, on a pass play, he unnecessarily struck his opponent, violating Rule 12, Section 2, Article 12(c) of the NFL Rule Book which prohibits ‘striking, swinging at, or clubbing the head, neck, or face of an opponent with the wrist(s), arm(s), elbow(s), or hand(s).’ The play was a third-and-nine from the Detroit 35 with 57 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Again, Raiola was not fined for his block on the final snap of the game.”

That the NFL fined Raiola for that play and not for the cut block to Moore shows that the NFL is a lot more cautious about protecting players’ heads than about protecting players’ knees. Many NFL players, especially defensive linemen, have said that all blocks to the knee should be outlawed. But the NFL is particularly sensitive about hits to the head, and it was a hit to the head that got Raiola fined.

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Emmanuel Acho questionable for Thursday

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Eagles only have one player whose status is in doubt for Thursday’s game in Dallas and it looks like the call on linebacker Emmanuel Acho will wait until the last possible moment.

Acho is listed as questionable because of a groin injury that has left him as a limited participant during the team’s short practice week. Acho said that the nature of the injury was such that he won’t know until Thursday whether he will be feeling well enough to take the field.

“I made major strides from [Monday] to [Tuesday],” Acho said, via the Eagles website. “But with it being on Thursday, I can’t make a call on Wednesday, because who knows how I’ll feel when I wake up Thursday morning. So it’ll probably have to be a Thursday decision.”

If Acho doesn’t go, Casey Matthews will see increased time next to Mychal Kendricks at inside linebacker.

Quarterback Nick Foles (collarbone) is the only player ruled out for Philadelphia. Six other players, including wide receiver Jordan Matthews (knee) and left tackle Jason Peters (quad), are probable.

 

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No practice for Larry Fitzgerald on Wednesday

Larry Fitzgerald AP

The Cardinals played without wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in last Sunday’s 19-3 loss to the Seahawks and they opened this week of practice without him as well.

Coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, that Fitzgerald’s sprained MCL is improving, but the wideout isn’t ready to resume a practice schedule yet.

The Cardinals listed Fitzgerald as questionable after he missed all three days of practice last week, although it doesn’t seem like he was all that close to playing. Arians said after the loss that Fitzgerald couldn’t run during pre-game warmups, which indicates that there’s a lot of room for improvement before Fitzgerald will be given the green light to return to a full workload.

Fitzgerald is tied for the team lead in catches and leads the team in receiving yards. His presence may not have made for a different result last Sunday, but it wouldn’t have hurt the team’s efforts to gain more than 140 yards through the air during the game.

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