Mike Florio kicks off PFT Live by breaking down three of the hottest topics around the NFL. Florio discusses how the Pro Bowl is really just a glorified game of two-hand-touch, but fans will still watch because it involved the best players in the world. He also looks at Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman being snubbed from the game and who are the top candidates for Coach of the Year.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Why play the Pro Bowl?
When the NFLPA released sales figures of player merchandise from March through May, three members of the Cowboys took the top three spots on the list.
The NFLPA has released the list for the period from June through August and the Cowboys no longer rank 1-2-3, but they are still well represented at the top of the list. Wide receiver Dez Bryant still ranks first with quarterback Tony Romo in sixth, tight end Jason Witten at No. 10 and running back Ezekiel Elliott right behind Witten. The period covered in the latest report comes before quarterback Dak Prescott took off in the regular season, so there may be even more representation in the next set of figures.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady went from No. 7 to No. 2 in the latest round with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham rounding out the top five. The Seahawks placed five players in the top 50 while the Packers join the Cowboys with four players in that group.
The rankings are based on sales of all officially licensed merchandise, a category that includes clothes, toys, photos and other items emblazoned with the images of NFL players.
The good news is that MDS and I both stayed on the right side of .500 last week. The bad news is that it we weren’t very far above.
With 15 Week Seven games, we each went 8-7, splitting the two games on which we disagreed. This week, we again disagree on two games.
Hopefully, we’ll be more that slightly above .500.
And by the way I’m still up by two games on the season. Which is all that really matters to me.
Jaguars at Titans
MDS’s take: It’s the annual Thursday night Jaguars-Titans game. That’s sure to bolster the NFL’s ratings. The Titans are actually a better team than most people thought, and the Jaguars are worse.
MDS’s pick: Titans 28, Jaguars 13.
Florio’s take: With the Mr. Spock/Captain Kirk Color Rush debacle returning on Thursday night and in light of the growing discontent of Jacksonville’s owner, it really will be Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan.
Florio’s pick: Titans 24, Jaguars 16.
Washington at Cincinnati
MDS’s pick: Bengals 31, Washington 28.
Florio’s take: Marvin Lewis just beat his most recent offensive coordinator. And now he gets a chance to beat the guy Hue Jackson replaced. The Bengals quietly are putting the pieces together after a slow start; the process continues in England.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 24, Washington 17.
Chiefs at Colts
MDS’s take: Andrew Luck is playing well, but he’s been getting very little support, and no quarterback can do it himself. The Colts’ defense is terrible, and the Chiefs should rack up plenty of points on them.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 31, Colts 21.
Florio’s take: One of the great moments in Colts franchise history came not long ago in a playoff game against the Chiefs. Sunday will prove just how long gone those days are.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 30, Colts 21.
Raiders at Buccaneers
MDS’s take: I don’t think the Raiders are quite as good as their 5-2 record suggests, and I think the Buccaneers showed last week that they can take advantage of a bad defense. Tampa Bay wins a close one.
MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Raiders 23.
Florio’s take: The Raiders are 4-0 at 1:00 p.m. ET this year. Their biggest regret should be that, after Sunday’s game in Tampa, Oakland won’t have another.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 31, Buccaneers 28.
Seahawks at Saints
MDS’s take: The Seahawks’ offense hasn’t been playing well, but a meeting with the weak Saints’ defense could be just what the doctor ordered.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Saints 21.
Florio’s take: Seattle’s gaudy record conceals deeper concerns about the offense, which hasn’t been the same since Russell Wilson suffered a pair of injuries. The Saints have the offense to outpace Wilson and company.
Florio’s pick: Saints 27, Seahawks 20.
Lions at Texans
MDS’s take: Detroit’s defense is bad, but Brock Osweiler is worse. The Lions will manage to hold Osweiler in check and win what could be an ugly game.
MDS’s pick: Lions 17, Texans 16.
Florio’s take: The Texans win the games they’re supposed to win, and they lose the games they’re supposed to lose. It’s harder to categorize this one, but the home-field advantage gives them the edge.
Florio’s pick: Texans 27, Lions 24.
Jets at Browns
MDS’s take: These may be the two worst teams in the league right now, and if Cody Kessler or Josh McCown were completely healthy I’d pick the Browns to get their first win of the season. But with Kessler suffering from a concussion and McCown still recovering from a broken collarbone, I’ll take the Jets.
MDS’s pick: Jets 17, Browns 10.
Florio’s take: It could be the last, best chance for the Browns to win a game. But for Geno Smith’s torn ACL, maybe they would.
Florio’s pick: Jets 23, Browns 13.
Patriots at Bills
MDS’s take: The Bills dominated their first meeting, but that was with Tom Brady suspended. Now that Brady is back, I’d expect the Patriots to win this game and take total control of the AFC East.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 27, Bills 20.
Florio’s take: The Bills haven’t swept the Patriots during the Brady-Belichick era. That streak continues.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 30, Bills 20.
Cardinals at Panthers
MDS’s take: This may be the Panthers’ last chance to turn their season around, as a loss here would essentially mean there’s no hope of making the playoffs. I think they’ll rally with a big win.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 31, Cardinals 17.
Florio’s take: It’s a rematch of the NFC title game; the loser has little chance to get back there. The winner doesn’t have much more of a shot. It’s the last stand for the Panthers, who played 75 minutes less football than the Cardinals in Week Seven.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 28, Cardinals 23.
Chargers at Broncos
MDS’s take: The Chargers’ offense is playing well, but playing well in Denver is a tall order for any offense. I see a low-scoring game with the Broncos coming out on top.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 14, Chargers 13.
Florio’s take: The Chargers have an excellent opportunity to legitimize their season, shove the Broncos against the ropes, shake up the AFC West, and maybe nail down some votes for their futile stadium effort. They’ll nearly pull it off.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 24, Chargers 23.
Packers at Falcons
MDS’s pick: Falcons 35, Packers 28.
Florio’s take: Six years ago, the sixth-seeded Packers took down the top-seeded Falcons, 48-20. That was a long time ago, and the Falcons have new urgency to get things back on track against a still-flawed Packers team.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 27, Packers 23.
Eagles at Cowboys
MDS’s take: In one of this year’s better prime time games, the Cowboys should beat the Eagles and take control of the NFC East.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 28, Eagles 21.
Florio’s take: Has a game this consequential ever had three rookies in such key roles? This one does, and the team with two of the key rookies has the edge.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 27, Eagles 24.
Vikings at Bears
MDS’s take: Jay Cutler is back, and he’s about to get a rude awakening against the Vikings’ defense. This could get ugly.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 20, Bears 3.
Florio’s take: The Vikings have a tough five-game stretch coming up; if they stub their toe in Chicago, things could quickly fall apart.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, Bears 17.
The Raiders have gotten off to a 5-2 start, despite a defense which has been spotty at times.
They could potentially be getting a big boost for that side for the last month and a half of the season.
According to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie said outside linebacker Aldon Smith has applied to the NFL for reinstatement. His one-year suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy ends Nov. 17.
Sources said Smith is out of rehab, and McKenzie said he was working in an effort to coming back to the team.
‘Aldon is doing well,” McKenzie said. “That situation is going to be totally up to the league because he’s been in the program and they’ve monitored him. It’s up to [Roger] Goodell to say yah, nay or when. And he could say no to everything, . . . that part is out of our hands.
“The league will take everything into consideration and Aldon will have to meet with Goodell at some point.”
The Raiders can’t have direct contact with him, but they can keep tabs on him through his agent and other intermediaries.
If the 27-year-old Smith comes back, he’d add an immediate threat to a defense that could use him. In nine games with the Raiders before his suspension, he had 3.5 sacks, but he had 44.5 sacks in 50 games with the 49ers.
The Kirk-and-Spock uniforms that the Jaguars and Titans will wear for the second time are appropriate, given that the aftermath of Thursday’s game could be a remake of Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan has made it clear that, after several years of bad football, he expects improvement this year. Earlier this week, he popped in to the team facility to get answers regarding the team’s unexpected struggles in 2016.
And so it’s reasonable to ask whether a prime-time loss on Thursday night in Nashville will result in Khan making a change at the coaching position. With the bye week gone, the mini-bye that comes after the annual short-week game is the next best opportunity to give an interim head coach extra time to adjust.
While Khan may indeed opt to stay the course for the balance of the season, PFT Planet has spoken loudly in response to the simple up-or-down question of whether Khan should make a change in the event of a loss. The primary in-house option is former Bills coach Doug Marrone, who currently serves as offensive line coach and assistant head coach.
For 2017, the most intriguing option would be former Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin, who led the team to a far more significant date with the Titans, nearly a generation ago. In 1999, the 14-2 Jaguars hosted the 13-3 Titans in the AFC title game, with Tennessee scoring the upset and nearly winning the Super Bowl.
The rivalry, which started in the AFC Central and migrated to the AFC South in 2002, has deteriorated into a punchline. Khan may soon decide to give at least one half of that twice-per-year series some pop.
The decision could come as soon as tonight.
In the wake of harsh criticism over the league’s handling of the Josh Brown case, Roger Goodell is claiming the NFL has moved in the right direction on domestic violence.
“What you see here is a policy that’s evolved,” Goodell told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. “We’ve learned a lot, but these are complex matters. When you talk to the domestic violence experts, these are difficult matters to deal with. You have rights, you have families that you have to be concerned with, privacy issues. Yes, you want to make sure you’re doing everything possible to address these [alleged incidents] when they happen, but you also want to deal with them to prevent them from happening. I think we’ve made tremendous progress. Can we make more and will we make more? Of course.”
Goodell said Brown’s one-game suspension at the start of the season was solely for one incident that the NFL had information about.
“Here’s the issue, the discipline that occurred on the one game was for the event on May of 2015,” Goodell said. “That was the only one that we were able to get of all the different things that we’ve heard. The decision was made by our team after we had the evidence to be able to support the one game. We knew we would get challenged [by the NFL Players Association] and we were able to uphold it.”
Now that additional information alleging other domestic violence incidents has come out, Goodell said the league is investigating that as well.
“That’s what we’ll do now that we have additional information. We’ll aggressively pursue that and apply our personal conduct policy,” said Goodell.
Of course, Brown has now been released by the Giants, and his reputation has been tarnished to the point that no NFL team will sign him again. Any additional discipline the league hands out is irrelevant.
The last time the Packers faced the Falcons was in 2014 and they saw a 31-7 lead shrink considerably over the course of the second half thanks in large part to the exploits of Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.
The Packers held on for a 43-37 win, but Jones had 11 catches for 259 yards in the kind of dominating performance that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from him over the years. Packers coach Mike McCarthy thinks there’s “no carryover” between that game and the one the teams will play in Atlanta this weekend, but Jones is just a few weeks removed from a 300-yard game so it’s not like there’s a noticeable difference in his game.
It doesn’t help that the Packers head into the contest with injury issues at cornerback, which may be why defensive back Micah Hyde is hoping for a little help from on high when it comes to slowing Jones down on Sunday.
“The week of [the game], every night before you go to bed, you’ve got to pray.” Hyde said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Game day, you’ve got to wake up, you’ve got to pray. He’s just one of those guys that can get it done in all aspects of the game. Honestly, there’s nothing he can’t do. There’s guys that come along every now and then, you’ve got your Calvin Johnson-type guys, and he’s one of them. He’s the best in the game right now.”
The Packers were able to hold Odell Beckham in check when they face the Giants a couple of weeks ago, but the Falcons offense has been more productive than that one and they’ll be playing on their home field. That may raise the need for a little divine intervention on defense if the Packers are going to have more success about Jones this time around..
After an injury to Geno Smith put Ryan Fitzpatrick back under center for the Jets and the Jets won the game, Fitzpatrick launched into a scorched-earth “nobody believes in me” post-game monologue that overlooked his own role in his benching.
Four days later, Fitzpatrick would prefer that everyone stop talking about the things he said.
“I want it to die,” Fitzpatrick told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “There’s no controversy inside this building about what was said. . . . All I was saying was that I believe in myself. I don’t think we need to hang on to that moment, [but] I know it will be hung on to forever. I just felt that it was something that I needed to say.”
While Fitzpatrick’s words will hardly echo into eternity, they’ll stick with him for as long as he’s in New York. Whether he likes it or not.
“I’m human,” Fitzpatrick told Mehta. “I have emotion. Even though my wife might not think so sometimes. Or even though I don’t show it a lot of the time. That was a very difficult situation for me, because I’m a human being. That was a lot of what I was trying to express in that postgame interview too. I’m not a robot even though a lot of times [it] seems like things don’t affect me. There is a human element to it.”
There definitely is a human element, and I always prefer honest, authentic reactions to the standard, canned, lather/rinse/repeat crap. Still, real can also be compelling and/or ironic. Fitzpatrick’s effort to shift blame for his poor performances was both, and nothing he says is going to get people to stop thinking and talking about it.
Twice this season, Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree has been penalized for a throat slash gesture.
But Crabtree says it’s not a throat slash at all, and hopes to convince officials of this soon.
Via Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group, Crabtree said the celebration was intended with no malice, which he hopes to explain to refs before games start.
“Just talk to the ref before the game or something. I ain’t going to make a big deal about it,” Crabtree said. “It’s a misunderstanding. It’s cool. They aren’t perfect, now. I feel like they thought I was going to do it and they were ready, but I never did the throat slash.
“I’m sure they’ll look at that and if I get in the end zone and celebrate, I won’t get that flag.”
In Jacksonville last week, Crabtree’s touchdown celebration included moving his right hand toward his left shoulder, but he never drew it across his neck, the menacing gesture which the league has tried to stamp out (while giving one-game suspensions to domestic abusers).
After the first such incident (after a two-point conversion in New Orleans), Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said it was borrowed from the Kenny Powers character in “Eastbound and Down.”
With a little luck, Crabtree will someday be introduced to the song “Real American,” and make the tribute complete.
The Falcons started 4-1 this season before losing close games to the Seahawks and Chargers the last two week to drop closer to .500 on the season.
The losses also may have left some people wondering if this is the start of a replay from last season. The Falcons were 6-1 to open the 2015 season, but then lost their next six games to play themselves out of playoff contention.
That string started with a pair of losses in close games, but coach Dan Quinn says this year’s team isn’t the same as the one that folded after a strong start.
“We talked a lot about that in the offseason and our team is so different from our 2015 to our 2016 team,” Quinn said, via the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “We are equipped. We know the adversity that comes. We are a resilient group. I can’t emphasize enough how different the club is from last year to this year [with] our mindset and the way that we attack.”
The offense fell apart under a slew of turnovers last season, something that has not been a major issue this season. The Falcons have looked more versatile on offense as well and there’s more pass rush on defense, although a home loss to the Packers this weekend probably won’t do much to eliminate any creeping deja vu in Atlanta.
The easy part for the Giants was cutting Josh Brown (at least once they realized how badly they bungled it the first time). And the easy thing for fans to do is castigate Brown, because the domestic abuse he admitted to was reprehensible.
But one of the guys who had to work with Brown on a daily basis wanted to remind people that there’s a human side of the transaction as well, one which is much harder to deal with.
Via Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News, Giants running back Rashad Jennings said he felt “remorse” for the Brown family, both his former co-worker and his then-wife and children.
“That’s a tough situation,” Jennings said. “You have remorse for his family, him, his wife, his kids, everybody that’s involved, that’s really going to suffer more than the team will, more than the NFL will. You really have remorse for the effects of it. . . .
“I don’t have all the details. Either way, I do know 100 percent, domestic violence is nothing that in no way, shape or form that I support, it’s nothing that the New York Giants support.”
It was apparently something the Giants were able to tolerate for a few months, at least between the time they re-signed Brown as a free agent, through his ridiculous one-game suspension from the league and until the lurid details of the abuse came out last week, when it became impossible to keep him.
And now, those impacted by the move have had their painful pasts aired out for national consumption, and Brown’s ability to support his family as a football player are likely gone forever. And while it’s reasonable to think he should be punished, Jennings just offered a reminder of the unintended consequences, which can impact those involved for years to come.
It’s been quite a while since that trade went down, which has left everyone with plenty of time to get used to their new homes and new teammates. That’s not stopping Saints quarterback Drew Brees from sharing his feeling that it is “gonna be weird” to be in a game with Graham without being on the same side.
“Obviously a lot of good years here with Jimmy. Hated to see him go,” Brees said, via ESPN.com. “We were close, and he’s close with a lot of guys. And we all love Jimmy. So we understand that things like that happen in this league. And I’m sure he’s gonna be pretty amped up to be back. But I know our fan base loves him, they love what he did for New Orleans and did for our team. So there’s a lot of love there.”
Unger has been a good addition for the Saints as he’s provided a foundation piece on the offensive line over the last two seasons. Graham has been a more productive receiver in Seattle since returning from last year’s torn patellar tendon, which leaves this as a trade that has worked out well for both teams as they head toward their Week Eight clash.
The Dolphins have given running back Jay Ajayi 53 carries over the last two games and he would set a new NFL record for carries if he were to average that kind of workload over an entire season.
Miami has been reaping great rewards from that workload. Behind a healthy offensive line, Ajayi has run with the kind of power that made him appealing to the Dolphins in the first place and has put up 418 yards and three touchdowns in a pair of victories that have brightened the outlook for the season in South Florida.
Things would get even brighter if Ajayi can continue slicing through opposing defenses, but coach Adam Gase said the team is cognizant of not pushing Ajayi too far in pursuit of those kinds of results. Gase said Ajayi needs to be honest about how he’s feeling and that the Dolphins are “going to have to be smart about it if we’re going to be giving him that many carries.”
“When you run the style that he’s running right now, where it’s physical – he’s taking on a lot of hits, but he’s breaking a lot of tackles – over time that’s going to take a little bit of a toll, so we just have to make sure we monitor [him] throughout the game,” Gase said, via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
With Arian Foster retiring this week, the Dolphins will look to Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake as complements to Ajayi in the backfield. Having one or both find a role would help limit some of the wear and tear on Ajayi, but it is never advisable to go away from what’s working so the Dolphins figure to continue riding Ajayi until the results tell them it’s time to try something else.
Wentz hasn’t been the only impressive rookie quarterback in the NFC East, of course. There’s also Dak Prescott of the Cowboys, who will be on the other side of the field from Wentz in Dallas this weekend. It’s the first meeting between the two quarterbacks and it led to a question for Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews about whether this could be the replacement for the last great quarterback rivalry in the league.
“Peyton [Manning] and [Tom] Brady, that’s an extremely high honor to be mentioned with those guys,” Matthews said, via ESPN.com. “I have spoken highly of Carson and know that he could be named with those guys just with more years of playing. And I have a high respect for Dak, too. … You’re talking about a guy who is a poised quarterback, he knows what it means to be a leader, he knows what it means to be game-planned for. And I feel like Carson is the same way. The thing I love about Carson is he has that same ability but he also has a chip on his shoulder. So you’re talking about two guys that could potentially be like a Brady and Peyton rivalry. The only difference is, you’re going to get this two times a year, and possibly playoffs.”
Going from the first two months of a career to anything approaching Manning-Brady proportions is obviously a pretty big stretch, but it would make for a lot of happy people in both Dallas and Philadelphia because it would mean there’s no reason to look for a quarterback for the next decade or so.
The Dolphins are continuing to help victims of Hurricane Matthew.
Some think the Jets are just like the Cubs, without the lovable part.
The Browns haven’t always made good football, but they have created art.
Texans G.M. Rick Smith says he’s seen “flashes” from their offense.
The Jaguars hope to take advantage of a depleted Titans secondary.
Friends remembered Jason Coy as a family man and a Broncos fan after his death from a stadium fall.
The Raiders remain focused on their football, despite their week away in Florida.
The Chargers are creating some believers.
The Giants think their defense can be scary (and that has nothing to do with dressing up like a creepy clown).
The Bears are still working on that whole RB-by-committee thing.
The Lions got some key parts back to practice.
Not everyone thought the Vikings’ rotating tackles were a good idea.
The Buccaneers are finally getting healthy up front.
The Cardinals are running low on WRs (fortunately the Panthers aren’t deep in CBs).
The Rams hope the offensive line can get better in the run game.
The 49ers have a week to search for answers (can they find a stable, cohesive organization in that time?)
The Bills have gotten off to a decent start this year, even without their most expensive player.
But whether the results change or not, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus vows to his maker to be on the field, finally.
“Oh my god. I’m playing Sunday, man,” Dareus said, via Nick Veronica of the Buffalo News. “I can’t wait. I’m ready to enjoy myself. Just happy to be out there with the guys. Running around, feeling good. We’re ready to go pull it off, man, we’re going to make it happen.”
Dareus missed the first four games because of his suspension, and the last three because of a hamstring injury. But he said he didn’t feel like he began his comeback out of shape.
“I did whatever the team needed me to do,” Dareus said. “Whatever our trainers requested of me, whatever our strength coaches felt was best, stuck to a strict plan and hopefully this time it works because I don’t need any more minor setbacks. I’m ready to play, man. Sitting on the bench isn’t even fun.”
Nor for the Bills, who committed a lot of money for him to not contribute this season.