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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: No structural problems with Lardarius Webb’s back

Lardarius Webb AP

The Ravens got more worried about cornerback Lardarius Webb’s back after his Friday injury had not resolved itself in time for Monday’s practice, which led them to send him for more tests in hopes of finding out when he’d be able to get back to work.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that doctors found no structural damage to Webb’s back during their examination. It is thought to be a muscular problem that will be treated with rest and rehabilitation.

In other words, it is going to take some time for Webb’s back to get well enough for football action. The Ravens don’t think that his availability for the season opener is at risk at this point and a cautious approach from here will be designed to keep Webb on track for early September.

Webb had 74 tackles and two interceptions last season, making a successful move from a torn ACL back to the top of the depth chart at cornerback in Baltimore.

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Man faces charges for urinating on Art Modell’s grave

MODELL AP

A Browns fan that made a video of himself urinating on Art Modell’s grave may find himself in jail as a result of his decision to vent his anger in that manner and share it with the world.

Authorities in Maryland said Tuesday that they will charge the man, whose identity has not been revealed beyond being a Browns fan with disorderly conduct in a cemetery. The charge carries a possible penalty of two years in jail and a $500 fine.

“Everyone who has buried a loved one has the right to believe that their final resting place will be treated with respect,” Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said in a statement, via the Associated Press. “Bringing charges against this individual should act as a deterrent to others and assure the rest of us that no matter who you are, indecencies will not be committed against your final resting place.”

Modell’s son David thanked the police and prosecutors for their work on the case, adding that being angry at his father for moving the Browns to Baltimore doesn’t give people the right to break the law.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

EJ Manuel AP

Jets coach Rex Ryan wasn’t happy when QB Tajh Boyd took a hit in practice: “We don’t hit our quarterbacks, period,” Ryan said. “That’s why they’re in the red jersey. You got to be smart.”

Bills QB EJ Manuel’s position coach thinks the sky is the limit for his potential.

Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor says he’s OK with his players making mistakes, as long as they learn from them.

Said Tommy Kelly of trying to earn a job on the Patriots’ defensive line, “This is a very hard team to make, so if you don’t go out there and put it on the line every day, you ain’t going to be here. Simple as that.”

The Ravens’ new national anthem singer made his debut at an open practice.

Bengals WR Mohamed Sanu has done a little of everything in practice, including throwing a touchdown pass and taking a handoff in the backfield.

Said Browns RB Ben Tate of taking issue with a defensive player taking him to the ground, “It is a little frustrating but I understand that they need to work. But you know it’s a line and you know when they cross that line offensively we have gotta let them know that its not acceptable. So that is really what it was about just setting the tempo that, ‘Hey, you are not going to bully us. You know what I am saying?’ Everybody’s pro defense, defensive head coach but I am letting them know, ‘It don’t matter, ya’ll not gonna bully us.”

Steelers OL David Snow has been waived/injured after suffering an injury on the first day of camp.

Texans DE J.J. Watt was already the NFL’s best defensive lineman, but he may be getting even better.

Colts QB Andrew Luck may be ready to take a leap forward in his completion percentage.

Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis is having a strong camp.

After eight seasons in Tennessee, Michael Griffin says of this year’s group: “It’s a different team now. It’s a different team in the fact that it’s different all the way around. You see this team in a positive direction, aimed in the right direction. The guys we’ve brought in the last two years, the coaching staff — all of this you can see where this team can go.”

Broncos DE Derek Wolfe is looking healthy and strong in camp.

Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson is hoping to break the all-time franchise record for career tackles.

Matt Schaub is settling in as the Raiders’ starting quarterback.

Chargers coach Mike McCoy believes in giving players plenty of rest during camp.

Eagles QB Nick Foles says his great numbers last year mean nothing this year.

After not playing at all this year, Giants TE Daniel Fells has a chance to be a starter this year.

Cowboys LB Sean Lee is staying involved, even though he’s out for the year with a knee injury.

Washington backup QB Kirk Cousins is driving his grandma’s van.

Here’s a look at the state of the competition to back up QB Jay Cutler in Chicago.

Lions first-round pick Eric Ebron has dropped some passes, but coach Jim Caldwell is not concerned.

Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner is finding QB Teddy Bridgewater to be a quick study.

Packers S Sean Richardson has been able to overcome a serious neck injury.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan has confidence in Atlanta’s revamped offensive line.

Panthers undrafted rookie WR Marcus Lucas is catching a lot of touchdown passes in practice.

There’s pressure in New Orleans on S Jairus Byrd, who comes to the Saints with high expectations.

Said Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith of RB Jeff Demps, “When you have the title ‘fastest man in the NFL,’ you search for ways to do something with him.”

Rams DE William Hayes is recovering from three offseason surgeries.

Cardinals WR Michael Floyd may seem like the No. 2 receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald, but Floyd says there is no No. 1 or No. 2 in Arizona.

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch’s holdout could get expensive.

After a year off, 49ers WR Brandon Lloyd is enjoying being back in the NFL.

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Peterson gets $15.3 million signing bonus

Peterson Getty Images

Usually, a reporter publishes a player’s “guaranteed” money in a new contract without explaining how much is fully guaranteed at signing, how much is guaranteed for injury only, and when injury-only guarantees convert to full guarantees in the future.  For players like Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, the vague, incomplete information has initially come directly from them.

Peterson tweeted late Wednesday that he has signed a five-year, $70 million extension with $48 million guaranteed.  (It’s actually $70.05 million over five, a small difference but also an important one.)  Per a source with knowledge of the contract, only $47.3 million becomes fully guaranteed.  The full $48 million is guaranteed for injury only, for now.

The best guaranteed money in any NFL contract comes from the signing bonus.  According to the source, Peterson gets $15.3 million from the Cardinals.

Then, by the fifth day of the 2015 waiver period (which comes the week after Super Bowl XLIX), a total of $27.8 million will have become fully guaranteed, for skill, injury, and cap.

By the fifth day of the 2016 waiver period, $42.619 million becomes fully guaranteed.  By the fifth day of the 2017 waiver period, the rest of the $47.3 million becomes fully guaranteed.  The last $700,000 never becomes fully guaranteed.

The formula gives the Cardinals three different opportunities to move on before the guarantees fully vest, but the triggers come very early in the offseason, forcing Arizona to make a quick decision in early 2015, 2016, and 2017.  If/when they decide to move on, Peterson would the market more than a month before the start of free agency.  (In contrast, the 49ers have until April 1 each year to make a decision on Colin Kaepernick, three weeks after the start of free agency.)

Again, Peterson finagled this contract with two years left on his rookie deal.  He’s the first first-round pick in the rookie wage scale era to get a second contract.  For the rest, it could be a while until deals start getting done.

 

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Dolphins’ line coach is concerned about his options at center

Mike Pouncey AP

Dolphins center Mike Pouncey is injured and may not return until late in the regular season, and the performances in training camp of Pouncey’s potential replacements have the team worried.

After a practice in which new center Shelley Smith (who has never played center before) had two bad snaps to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and in which backup center Sam Brenner was carted off with a leg injury, Dolphins offensive line coach John Benton acknowledged there are issues.

Obviously, I’m concerned,” Benton said, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “We’ve got to find a way to be good at that position.”

Benton said he doesn’t know how well Smith is going to play at center but hopes to see a good preseason performance out of him.

“It’s unclear in the sense there’s a lot unclear until you get to that first game,” he said. “We’ll know a lot after that first preseason game. I’m optimistic. To say confident is probably a little stretch.”

To say the Dolphins will have a good offensive line this year is probably a stretch.

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Report: Cowboys fear Demarcus Lawrence has a broken foot

DeMarcus Lawrence AP

For a defense that couldn’t afford to take any more hits after the loss of Sean Lee to injury earlier this offseason, the Dallas Cowboys had to watch another key defensive piece get carted off the practice field.

Second-round defensive end Demarcus Lawrence was taken off the field by cart after going down with an injury during Tuesday’s practice.

According to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Cowboys fear Lawrence has suffered a broken foot.

While the extent of the damage is still uncertain, it is an injury that can require a substantial recovery period.

Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones missed the final 11 games of last season after breaking a screw in his surgically repaired foot. Houston Texans lineman David Quessenberry missed the entire season after breaking a bone in his foot in practice prior to the start of the season.

Depending on the severity of the injury, the Cowboys could place Lawrence on the short-term injured reserve list for the start of the regular season, which would force him to miss at least eight game before being eligible to play.

For a defense that was ranked dead last in 2013, it’s a blow the Cowboys couldn’t afford to take.

UPDATE 1:00 a.m. ET: According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, Lawrence did suffer a broken foot and is expected to miss 8-10 weeks. The injury will require surgery to repair the damage.

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Peterson’s deal technically makes him the highest paid corner in new money

Peterson AP

Continuing a trend among highly-paid cornerbacks to announce their new contracts via Twitter with basic financial information, Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson has informed the tweet-watching world that he has signed a five-year, $70 million extension with $48 million guaranteed.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the deal is actually with $70.05 million over five years, a minor distinction that makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL based on a new-money analysis.  Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman signed in May four-year, $56 million extension, worth $14 million a year in new money.  Peterson’s average is $14.01 million.

While Peterson was a little low on the total amount, he’s also a little high on the guaranteed money.  We hope to have more details about the guaranteed money in the morning.

The key for Peterson comes from both shifting the injury risk to the team and getting a big-money extension with two years left on his rookie contract.  Sherman and Browns cornerback Joe Haden got their new deals with one year left on existing deals.  Peterson becomes the first 2011 first-round pick to get a long-term deal despite having two years remaining under contract.

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Patrick Peterson announces five-year extension with Cardinals

Cardinals Camp Football AP

Cornerback Patrick Peterson has reached an agreement with the Arizona Cardinals on a five-year contract extension.

Peterson had two more seasons left on his rookie deal with the Cardinals after Arizona picked up the fifth-year option on his contract earlier this offseason. Peterson announced his new deal via his Twitter account.

While we won’t know what the deal is truly worth until getting a closer look at the numbers, Peterson’s deal is right in line with the extensions given to Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks and Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns this offseason.

According to Peterson’s self-reported numbers, Peterson would bring in more total guaranteed money ($48 million) than Sherman ($40 million) or Haden ($45 million). However, not all of that money is likely fully guaranteed.

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Cam Thomas faces a Ron Mexico-style lawsuit

Thomas AP

Two years before Mike Vick became known as a dogfighter, he was sued for giving a woman herpes.  The case introduced the football-following world to Ron Mexico, the alias Vick allegedly used when seeking treatment.

Now, Steelers defensive lineman Cam Thomas faces a similar lawsuit.  Without the creative alternative name.

Via 10News.com in San Diego, a woman filed on May 30 a civil complaint against Thomas for sexual battery, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud through intentional concealment, and negligence.

The woman, who sued under the name Adrienne E., accuses Thomas of attempting to shove her from a moving car, using a “hot flat iron on her hair” during an argument, and choking her until she passed out.

Adrienne E. also claims that the couple had unprotected sex on multiple occasions, and she contends that she at one point asked Thomas about bruises and sores in the area of his genitalia.  He allegedly explained that the condition arose from the “girdle he wears in practice and during workouts.”  She claims that she contracted herpes from Thomas.

Via TMZ, a lawyer who represents Thomas claims that the plaintiff is a “bitter girl” who is “angry, vindictive and mean” because Thomas has “another woman, and a baby in his life.”

Thomas becomes the second Steelers player this year accused of assaulting a female.  Last week, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and his twin brother, Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, were sued by a trio of persons who contend they were assaulted at the brothers’ birthday party in Miami.  Maurkice allegedly punched a woman in the face, rendering her unconscious.  He denies the allegations.

Thomas signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Steelers in free agency.

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Patrick Peterson says NFC West ripe for the taking

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Patrick Peterson feels the NFC West is more than just the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

In Peterson’s mind, the Arizona Cardinals have as good of a shot as anyone to win the NFC West this season.

The Cardinals finished 2013 as one of the league’s hottest teams, winning seven of their final nine games. Arizona finished with a 10-6 record but missed out on a playoff berth. Four of Arizona’s six losses came to NFC West rivals. They were 0-2 against the 49ers and split with the Seahawks and St. Louis Rams. In fact, the Cardinals are the only team to win a game on the road in Seattle over the last two seasons.

Peterson feels the Cardinals are right there with the Seahawks and 49ers and don’t need to close a massive gap to the division’s best teams.

We gave San Fran two games last year. Gave them two games last year,” Peterson said, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today. “Came out slow and played Seattle slow in the first game, and we still ended up climbing back in the game to the fourth quarter and we kind of tucked our tail again. We went up to Seattle (and won). And lord knows we gave the Rams the first game we played them.”

“We got what it takes. We’ve got the talent. We’ve got the personnel. We’ve got the great coaching staff, front office. We have everything in the pot that we need to help us win ballgames.”

Arizona’s only two losses over the final two months of the season each came by just a field goal to a pair of playoff teams. The Cardinals lost 24-21 on the road to the Philadelphia Eagles and lost 23-20 to the 49ers at home in Week 17.

However, the Cardinals lost two key pieces on their defense that could be difficult to replace in Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby.

Arizona is a very talented team and could very well challenge for a playoff spot this season but supplanting the 49ers and Seahawks for the division crown may prove to be too tall a mountain for the Cardinals to climb.

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Mark Davis acknowledges San Antonio visit

Davis AP

Yes, Raiders owner Mark Davis recently took a trip to San Antonio.

We know this because the Raiders posted a three-part message on the matter at the team’s Twitter page, in response to the report from the San Antonio Express-News that the team could move to Texas.

“I was in San Antonio to honor Cliff Branch on his induction into the [Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association Hall of Fame],” Davis said.  “Former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros is a friend, and Henry suggested I take the opportunity to meet with some of the city officials while we were in town.”

Meet about what?

“I have nothing further to discuss on the topic,” Davis said.

Despite Davis slamming the door, San Antonio has more to say, via a memo sent by City Manager Sheryl Sculley to City Council after the news of the visit broke on Tuesday.

“I was asked to meet two weeks ago with the owner of the Oakland Raiders, Mark Davis, and members of his staff,” Sculley wrote.  “Mr. Davis has expressed interest in a possible relocation of his NFL team to San Antonio and we are engaged in preliminary due diligence.  The agenda for this visit included a tour of the Alamodome and meetings with local business leaders.”

Davis has been careful not to talk too much about possibly moving the team, because he doesn’t want to be perceived as making threats.  By meeting with officials from other cities about a possible relocation, he’s nevertheless exploring options and/or exerting leverage and/or laying the foundation to leave.

With a one-year lease at the O.co Coliseum, Davis could in theory leave Oakland after the 2014 season.  But at least 23 other owners would have to support the move.  The two already in Texas may not be thrilled with the potential dilution of the overall marketplace.

The NBA team in San Antonio also may not be thrilled with the dilution of its own fan base.  Per the Express-News, the Spurs are concerned that the Raiders (who wear the same colors as the Spurs) could impact the financial success of the defending NBA champions.

While it’s easy to assume nothing will happen with the Raiders and San Antonio, something has to happen for the team in Oakland or something will happen for it in some other city.

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Bears sign WR Dale Moss

Chicago Bears v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Bears have brought back a wide receiver who has experience in Marc Trestman’s offense.

The club announced the signing of Dale Moss, who spent part of the 2013 offseason with Chicago. He was also on the Bears’ practice squad for a portion of the 2012 regular season.

The 25-year-old Moss entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2012. The South Dakota State product has played with Green Bay (2012), Tampa Bay (2012) and Carolina (2013). Moss was last in the NFL with the Panthers, who waived him in August 2013.

Moss is one of 11 receivers on the Bears’ roster. The Bears have filled all 90 roster spots.

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New Dolphins T-shirt carries lengthy credo written by the players

Dolphins

As the Dolphins try to put a challenging 2013 season behind them, they realize that they’re not that far away from becoming a true contender.  Their effort includes a T-shirt carrying a stream of slogans that were devised not by the coaching staff but by the players.

“It started in the offseason when [Coach Joe Philbin] came to a group of guys, veterans on the team, reiterating that this is our team,” defensive end Cameron Wake told PFT by phone on Tuesday night.  “If you go around any locker room, they’ll have all the mantras and the sayings.  From my experience, it’s been coach-driven, what they want the team statement to be.  He said it should come from you guys.  We sat down as a group of men, teammates, brothers and came up with a group of statements about what the Dolphins are and should be.”

Wake said that “everybody” was involved in coming up with slogans, which were collected and discussed.  The team then picked the best.

The end result, a “Miami Dolphins Credo,” has been placed onto a T-shirt.

“I am a Miami Dolphin,” the T-shirt reads.  “I am a warrior and a member of an unbeatable team.  I will always place the team first.  If I see something — I will say something — I commit to call it as it is.  I will develop undying trust with the man to my left and right.  I will never accept defeat.  I will never quit.  I am the change that I want to see in my team.  I live respect and truth telling.  I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, and proficient in my position tasks and drills.  I am a professional.  I am a Miami Dolphin.”

It’s no accident that the list begins and ends with “I am a Miami Dolphin.”

“Whatever you do, bad, good, great, terrible, it’s going to be attributed to the Miami Dolphins,” Wake said.  “Whatever you do, wherever you go, you are going to be representing this organization.”

The different sizes were used in large part to ensure that each sentence fit entirely on one line, and the large “I will never quit” sentence catches the eye.  And for good reason; last year’s scandal involving Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito was sparked by Martin essentially quitting on the team.  But Wake says that line is not about Martin.

“It never crossed my mind and never had anything to do with him whatsoever,” Wake said.  “I think about games like the Cincinnati game, like the Patriots game.  Where we have to fight until there’s no time left on the clock.”

The line “If I see something — I will say something — I commit to call it as it is” also invites speculation that it was influenced by the Martin/Incognito ordeal.  Wake says it’s actually about day-in and day-out efforts to hold teammates accountable in every way.  He explained that the new mindset resulted in 99-percent participation in the offseason program, and in a more vocal locker room and practice field when it comes to making sure everyone is doing everything he can to push the Dolphins to the next level.

“We’re not a zero-win team,” Wake said.  “We were a good football team that lost games we shouldn’t have.  To go in and tweak that small percentage to gain that extra yard, touchdown, gain hopefully comes from this whole effort.”

Whether intended or not, an effort to ensure accountability on and off the field will ensure that the 2014 Dolphins won’t be dealing with avoidable distractions like the one that may have ultimately affected the team’s ability to clinch a playoff berth after heading into the final two weeks at 8-6.  If the new attitude remains in place through the inevitable adversity that nearly every team encounters, maybe the Dolphins will end up being a lot better than expected this year.

 

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DeMarcus Lawrence carted off from Cowboys practice

Lawrence AP

An historically bad Cowboys defense won’t get any better in 2014 if its players can’t stay healthy.  While no injury this year can be as bad for the effort as the one suffered in the offseason by middle linebacker Sean Lee, each and every additional injury makes it harder for the Cowboys to turn things around.

The latest injury happened at practice on Tuesday night, with rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence exiting practice via cart ride, per multiple reports.  Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says it could be an ankle injury.

Whatever the specific injury, it’s not a good development for a team that had an embarrassingly bad defense in 2013.

Lawrence, the 34th overall pick in the 2014 draft, is expected to help fill the void created by the release of DeMarcus Ware, a rare bright spot who was dumped due to concerns that his salary is to high — and who then got more money this year from the Broncos.

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Stephen A. Smith gets a one-week suspension

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Ray Rice’s suspension has spawned another one.

Stephen A. Smith, who foolishly suggested that women may play a role in provoking illegal violence from the men in their lives and then doubled down on Twitter before finally apologizing via teleprompter, has been suspended for a week by ESPN.  He won’t appear on ESPN2’s First Take or ESPN Radio (which he’s leaving for Sirius Mad Dog Radio anyway) until August 6.

“I believe his apology was sincere and that he and we have learned from what we’ve collectively experienced,” ESPN president John Skipper said, via the Associated Press.

While Smith’s apology may have been sincere, it apparently wasn’t a one-time slip of the tongue.

Given that the suspension came four days after the comments were uttered, the suspension likely was the result of a more lengthy and detailed conversation that possibly considered other options.  Those options may have included a longer suspension, or maybe a permanent one.

On one hand, stupid opinions and/or good opinions articulated stupidly can be stupid enough to result in tangible employment consequences.  On the other hand, the “embrace debate” premise of First Take creates an environment in which stupid opinions and/or good opinions articulated stupidly are encouraged, if not required.

Last year, stupid opinions about Robert Griffin III on First Take got Rob Parker fired.  Now, Smith has been suspended and possibly placed on a leash so short that he’ll have to tiptoe on eggshells to avoid stepping on a land mine.

Maybe the problem isn’t Parker or Smith but the show itself.  Debate should be authentic and organic.  When a network demands that a pair of analysts come up with diametrically opposed and yet equally hot takes on multiple topics per day, it’s somewhat amazing that the format hasn’t claimed more careers.

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