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PFT’s Week 17 picks

Griffin Reuters

Well, it’s officially over.

With an eight-game gap and one week of games left, MDS and yours truly disagree on only five games.  Which means that, even if MDS sweeps, I’ll still be three games ahead.  (Math continues to be my strong suit.)

Of course, if I sweep I’ll finish with a 13-game lead.  And based on the five disagreements, I think I will.

Read on to see our picks and our takes for the final week of the regular season.  It all re-sets to 0-0 for the playoffs, at which time MDS will have a chance to exact revenge.  Or to fail again.

Last week, I was 11-5 and MDS went 10-6.  For the year, I’m now at 157-82-1, good for 65.4 percent.  MDS is 149-90-1, which keeps him at 62.0 percent.

Buccaneers at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Falcons wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but they say they’re playing to win in Week 17. They shouldn’t have much trouble winning against the Bucs, who have collapsed at the end of the season.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 34, Buccaneers 13.

Florio’s take:  The Bucs haven’t been the same team since they nearly beat the Falcons in Tampa.  The Falcons are still trying to prove that they’re one of the best teams in the league.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 27, Buccaneers 17.

Jets at Bills

MDS’s take: Football fans, the Greg McElroyRyan Fitzpatrick quarterback matchup you’ve all been waiting for is finally here. Fitzpatrick will throw a couple of touchdown passes in what may be his final start in Buffalo.

MDS’s pick: Bills 20, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  The Jets have folded the tents, even though the circus is still in town.  Buffalo celebrates the news of a new lease with a home win to end the season, just in time for plenty of changes.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 27, Jets 14.

Ravens at Bengals

MDS’s take: At first glance this might look like a big game, matching up two playoff teams. But with the Bengals locked into the No. 6 seed and the Ravens highly likely to end up with the No. 4 seed, neither of these teams has a lot to play for. I think the Ravens, however, will be a little more motivated to build on the momentum from last week’s win over the Giants and will take this one.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 21, Bengals 14.

Florio’s take:  This meaningless game has plenty of meaning for the Bengals, who need to convince themselves that they can beat the Ravens, in order to obtain the confidence that they can do something else they haven’t done in an even longer time — win in the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 27, Ravens 20.

Bears at Lions

MDS’s take: In 2000, the Lions were 9-6 heading into Week 17 and needed only to beat the 4-11 Bears to make the playoffs. Instead, the Bears pulled the upset and Lions owner William Clay Ford cleaned house and began the disastrous Matt Millen era. This year it’s the 9-6 Bears who need to beat the 4-11 Lions to have a shot at the playoffs. I’ll take the Lions to get their revenge in an upset.

MDS’s pick: Lions 28, Bears 24.

Florio’s take:  Rodney Harrison declared while watching the Lions lose to the Falcons that Detroit’s body language suggests the Lions have quit.  The Bears haven’t.  Sometimes, it’s that easy.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 24, Lions 10.

Texans at Colts

MDS’s take: The Texans are playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, while the Colts are already locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Houston has more to play for and is a better team and will win this one going away.

MDS’s pick: Texans 36, Colts 17.

Florio’s take:  The Texans have never won in Indianapolis.  They need it this time more than ever.  But the Colts will have coach Chuck Pagano back, and even if the Colts leave so much on the field that it will make it harder to win in the playoffs, they’ll leave it all on the field to beat the Texans.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 27, Texans 23.

Packers at Vikings

MDS’s take: This is the biggest game played in Minnesota since Brett Favre led the Vikings to a divisional playoff win over the Cowboys three years ago. Unfortunately for Vikings fans, they’re hosting a Packers team that’s peaking at the right time. I like Aaron Rodgers to lead the Packers to a high-scoring win.

MDS’s pick: Packers 35, Vikings 27.

Florio’s take:  The Vikings are playing for a postseason berth.  The Packers are playing for a bye.  The Packers remain the better team, and they have every reason to demonstrate that on Sunday.  To the delight of the Bears.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Vikings 21.

Dolphins at Patriots

MDS’s take: A win probably won’t be enough to earn New England a first-round playoff bye, but the Patriots will be motivated to try — and to wash out the bad taste of back-to-back disappointing performances, in a loss to the 49ers and a close win over the Jaguars.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 41, Dolphins 14.

Florio’s take:  The Pats still have a crack at a bye.  That’s all the incentive they need to take out the Dolphins for the second time this month.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 34, Dolphins 17.

Panthers at Saints

MDS’s take: It’s a meaningless game for both teams, but that doesn’t make it a bad game: Both of these teams have been playing good football in recent weeks, despite falling short of the playoffs. I like the Panthers to keep their winning streak going and make a statement that they’re a team to keep an eye on in 2013.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 24, Saints 21.

Florio’s take:  New Orleans is trying to finish on a high note.  And they are succeeding.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, Panthers 10.

Eagles at Giants

MDS’s take: The Eagles quit on Andy Reid months ago. The Giants have looked in the last couple weeks like they quit on Tom Coughlin. Both of these teams are slouching toward the end of the season, but the Giants have more to play for.

MDS’s pick: Giants 14, Eagles 10.

Florio’s take:  The Giants are playing for pride, along with a sliver of hope that they could make it to the playoffs if enough other teams lose.  If the Giants find a way in, there’s a pretty good chance they won’t lose again.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 27, Eagles 20.

Browns at Steelers

MDS’s take: This game is meaningless, and I’m tempted to pick the Browns on the theory that the Steelers will be feeling a hangover from their disappointing Week 16 loss. But the Browns have gone in the tank over the last couple of weeks, and at this point I’m not sure I’d pick them to win on the road against anyone.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 17, Browns 9.

Florio’s take:  The Browns haven’t swept the Steelers since 1988, 11 years before the current edition of the Browns was born.  With rampant changes looming in Cleveland, the Steelers still have enough gas in the tank to avoid getting punked by the franchise they’ve owned since 1999 (even though the Browns are now technically owned by a guy who still owns a chunk of the Steelers).

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Browns 10.

Jaguars at Titans

MDS’s take: Last time the Titans suffered a humiliating blowout loss and were called out by their owner, they responded by winning the next game. I think they’ll do it again.

MDS’s pick: Titans 24, Jaguars 14.

Florio’s take:  Bud Adams isn’t happy with his coaching staff.  He’ll be slightly less unhappy after Sunday, but still unhappy enough to clean house.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 27, Jaguars 16.

Chiefs at Broncos

MDS’s take: Knowing they need to win in order to earn a first-round playoff bye, the Broncos will pound the Chiefs, who have nothing to play for other than the first pick in next year’s draft — which Kansas City will earn by losing.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 27, Chiefs 10.

Florio’s take:  With 10 straight wins each by at least seven points, the Broncos could be the best team in the playoff field.  They’re definitely good enough to continue chasing a bye week.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 34, Chiefs 10.

Raiders at Chargers

MDS’s take: With Norv Turner virtually assured of being fired after the game, his team will send him out a winner in an AFC West contest that doesn’t really matter for much of anything.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 24, Raiders 10.

Florio’s take:  Norv Turner has one last chance to change the owner’s mind.  It won’t matter.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 24, Raiders 10.

Cardinals at 49ers

MDS’s take: San Francisco will shake off Sunday night’s thrashing in Seattle to clinch the NFC West.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Cardinals 3.

Florio’s take:  The Niners are on the brink of squandering the NFC West title that we were ready to hand them back in September.  If they can’t beat the Cardinals and Brian Hoyer at home, San Fran doesn’t even deserve to be in the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 31, Cardinals 13.

Rams at Seahawks

MDS’s take: No one wants to play the Seahawks right now. They’re destroying everything in their paths. The Rams will be no different.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 45, Rams 7.

Florio’s take:  The Seahawks, who lost their first round of NFC West games, have been exacting revenge in a big way.  They finish the job on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 41, Rams 17.

Cowboys at Redskins

MDS’s take: In the biggest game of the day, the Cowboys will ride Tony Romo and Dez Bryant to a high-scoring win. I suspect that Robert Griffin III is hurting more than he’s letting on and won’t be able to move as effectively as he did in the Redskins’ Thanksgiving win over the Cowboys. Dallas will take the NFC East crown.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 31, Redskins 28.

Florio’s take:  For the second straight year, the NFC East title game returns to prime time in Week 17.  For the second straight year, the home team advances.  For the second straight year, the Cowboys come up short.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 24, Cowboys 21.

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Eli Harold was flagged, fined for tackle that injured Russell Wilson

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, top, is pulled down by San Francisco 49ers' Eli Harold in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) AP

The sack that resulted in an MCL sprain for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson didn’t amount to a classic horse-collar tackle. But it fell within the scope of the recently-expanded definition of the rule.

As a result, 49ers linebacker Eli Harold was flagged for the hit — and fined $18,231.

NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino explained in his weekly media officiating video that a violation occurred even though Harold didn’t have his hand inside Wilson’s jersey, and even though Harold didn’t pull Wilson to the ground from behind.

“The left hand will be in the front of the jersey but the right hand will be on the back at the nameplate,” Blandino said. “He’s gonna pull the runner toward the ground. The key is where does he grab the runner? He’s gonna grab on the nameplate. And remember the new rule this year is nameplate or above. . . . And if he pulls the runner toward the ground in any direction it’s a foul.”

The league expanded the protection earlier this year to limit injuries, and Wilson was indeed injured on the play.

Horse-collar tackles remain legal as to quarterbacks in the pocket. When the quarterback exits the pocket, the back of his jersey can’t be grabbed and pulled to the ground at the nameplate or above.

Which probably means that the term “horse-collar tackle” should be revised into something that better reflects what is prohibited, if for no reason other than to limit fan and media confusion.

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Week Four injury report roundup

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on before a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Week Four kicked off on Thursday night with a Bengals win and it continues with 13 more games on Sunday, which means that the 26 teams in those games submitted their final injury reports of the week on Friday.

Questionable players are uncertain to play, doubtful players are unlikely to play and out should be self-explanatory. Players who are on active rosters and don’t appear below should be considered in the lineup barring any announcements on Saturday. The teams playing on Monday night won’t release their injury reports until Saturday and are not listed here.

With that housekeeping out of the way, here are all the injury reports for Sunday.

Colts vs. Jaguars (in London)

The Colts ruled out WR Donte Moncrief (shoulder), CB Darius Butler (hamstring) and C Jonotthan Harrison (illness). Tackles Denzelle Good and Joe Reitz are both questionable due to back injuries.

Jaguars DE Jared Odrick (tricep) and TE Ben Koyack (knee) will not play in the United Kingdom. TE Julius Thomas (elbow) and LB Dan Skuta (hip) are listed as questionable.

Seahawks at Jets

RB Thomas Rawls (fibula) remains out for the Seahawks. TE Jimmy Graham (knee/back), TE Nick Vannett (ankle), LB Mike Morgan (hip), DT Jarran Reed (hip) and RB C.J. Prosise (wrist) are all questionable. QB Russell Wilson (knee/ankle) has no injury designation at all.

The Jets won’t have WR Eric Decker (shoulder), WR Jalin Marshall (shoulder) or QB Bryce Petty (shoulder) in the lineup this Sunday. LT Ryan Clady also has a shoulder injury, but is listed as questionable.

Panthers at Falcons

The Panthers will play without RB Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) and DT Vernon Butler (knee) again this weekend. DE Charles Johnson (quad) drew a questionable tag.

Falcons linebackers Paul Worrilow (groin) and De’Vondre Campbell are both out for Sunday.

Raiders at Ravens

The Raiders have ruled out S Nate Allen (quad), T Austin Howard (ankle) and T Menelik Watson (calf). C Rodney Hudson (knee), RB Taiwan Jones (knee) and T Matt McCants (knee) are all questionable.

RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), LT Ronnie Stanley (foot) and CB Sheldon Price (thigh) are all doubtful for the Ravens. WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), KR Devin Hester (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), G Alex Lewis (concussion) and OL John Urschel (shoulder) all drew questionable tags.

Lions at Bears

The Lions are without DE Ziggy Ansah (ankle) and LB DeAndre Levy (quad) again this week. DE Wallace Gilberry (abdomen), LB Antwione Williams (hamstring), WR Marvin Jones (hamstring), TE Eric Ebron (ankle), S Tavon Wilson (neck), CB Adairius Barnes (ankle), T Riley Reiff (ankle) and DE Devin Taylor (ankle) are all questionable to play.

A long Bears injury report finds RB Ka’Deem Carey (hamstring), QB Jay Cutler (thumb), DT Eddie Goldman (ankle), RB Jeremy Langford (ankle) and LB Danny Trevathan (thumb) all doubtful to play. S Harold Jones-Quartey (concussion), DE Jonathan Bullard (toe), WR Alshon Jeffery (hamstring), DB Sherrick McManis (hamstring), CB Tracy Porter (knee), G Josh Sitton (shoulder) and LB Willie Young (knee) drew questionable tags.

Titans at Texans

Titans CB Cody Riggs (hamstring) and S Da’Norris Searcy (ankle) have been ruled out for the AFC South clash. TE Delanie Walker (hamstring) is questionable.

The Texans ruled out LT Duane Brown (knee), TE Stephen Anderson (hamstring), RB Jonathan Grimes (ankle) and WR Braxton Miller (hamstring). LB Brian Cushing (knee) and S Quintin Demps (hamstring) are listed as questionable.

Bills at Patriots

The Bills initially ruled out WR Sammy Watkins (foot), but later placed him on injured reserve. T Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle), C Patrick Lewis (knee) and WR Greg Salas (groin) remain on the active roster, but won’t play this weekend. S Colt Anderson (foot), TE Charles Clay (knee), CB Ronald Darby (hamstring), T Cordy Glenn (ankle), QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder), S Jonathan Meeks (foot) and S Aaron Williams (ankle) are all questionable.

The question of the Patriots starting quarterback is up in the air with Jacoby Brissett (thumb) and Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) listed as questionable to play. T Marcus Cannon (calf), G Jonathan Cooper (foot), LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder), TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring), LB Dont’a Hightower (knee) and CB Eric Rowe (ankle) are also questionable.

Browns at Redskins

The Browns head to Washington without WR Corey Coleman (hand), TE Seth DeValve (knee), C Cameron Erving (chest, lung), QB Josh McCown (left shoulder), DE Carl Nassib (hand) and LB Nate Orchard (ankle) in the lineup. CB Tramon Williams (shoulder) is listed as doubtful, leaving him unlikely to play. S Ibraheim Campbell (hamstring) and CB Joe Haden (groin) are both listed as questionable.

CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle), WR Josh Doctson (achilles), G Shawn Lauvao (ankle) and CB Dashaun Phillips (hamstring) are all out for the Redskins. LB Trent Murphy (elbow, shoulder) and DE Kendall Reyes (groin) are both questionable.

Broncos at Buccaneers

TE Virgil Green (calf), T Donald Stephenson (calf) and LB DeMarcus Ware (forearm) remain out for the Broncos. Safeties Shiloh Keo (knee) and Justin Simmons (hand) both drew questionable designations.

The Buccaneers ruled out DE Robert Ayers (ankle), RB Doug Martin (hamstring), WR Cecil Shorts (hamstring) and TE Luke Stocker (ankle). C Joe Hawley (ankle) is listed as questionable.

Rams at Cardinals

Cardinals P Drew Butler (calf) and DT Frostee Rucker (knee) will not play this weekend.

Rams DE William Hayes (ankle) is doubtful after missing practice all week. WR Tavon Austin (shoulder), WR Kenny Britt (thigh), DT Dominique Easley (illness) and CB Lamarcus Joyner (toe) are all listed as questionable.

Saints at Chargers

T Terron Armstead (knee), CB Delvin Breaux (fibula), TE Josh Hill (ankle) and G Senio Kelemete (hamstring) are out for the Saints. DT Tyeler Davison (shoulder, foot), LB Dannell Ellerbe (quadricep), LB James Laurinaitis (quadricep), WR Willie Snead (toe) and S Kenny Vaccaro (ankle) are all listed as questionable.

The Chargers will play without S Jahleel Addae (collarbone), DE Joey Bosa (hamstring) and CB Brandon Flowers (concussion). Doubtful tags leave T King Dunlap (illness) and TE Antonio Gates (hamstring) unlikely to play. T Joe Barksdale (foot), LB Jatavis Brown (hamstring) and G Orlando Franklin (back) are all questionable.

Cowboys at 49ers

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (knee) is questionable, but he didn’t practice all week and said the team will play it safe. LT Tyron Smith (back) is also questionable and also didn’t practice. CB Orlando Scandrick (hamstring), DE Jack Crawford (shoulder), RT Doug Free (quadriceps), LB Andrew Gachkar (neck), S Jeff Heath (knee), and LB Mark Nzeocha (Achilles) round out the list of questionable Cowboys. QB Tony Romo (back) is out.

The 49ers ruled out CB Jimmie Ward (quadricep). Tight ends Vance McDonald (hip) and Garrett Celek (back) are questionable.

Chiefs at Steelers

RB Jamaal Charles (knee) may play for the first time this season after being listed as questionable. The Chiefs definitely won’t have T Jah Reid (knee, ankle) and RB Charcandrick West (ankle), however. CB Phillip Gaines (knee) and LB Tamba Hali (knee, hand) are both questionable.

The Steelers will be missing G Ramon Foster (chest), S Robert Golden (hamstring), CB Senquez Golson (foot), RB Roosevelt Nix (back), WR Eli Rogers (toe), LB Ryan Shazier (knee) and C Cody Wallace (knee) on Sunday night.

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Sammy Watkins to IR, Bills claim Justin Hunter

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13:  Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills makes the catch for a 16 yard gain in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

When Bills coach Rex Ryan spoke to the media on Friday, there was “major concern” about Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins‘ ability to return to the lineup in the near future because of continued problems with his surgically repaired foot.

Ryan may have a penchant for hyperbole, but this wasn’t one of those times. The concern about Watkins was great enough that the Bills placed him on injured reserve on Friday afternoon.

Watkins will be eligible to return to the team in eight weeks if his foot is feeling better and the Bills opt to use their one designated return spot for him, but there’s obviously some doubt about when Watkins might be well enough to return to the Bills lineup.

The Bills filled Watkins’ roster spot by claiming wide receiver Justin Hunter off of waivers from the Dolphins. A 2013 second-round pick of the Titans, Hunter has not made good on the potential he showed coming out of college. With Watkins out of the lineup, he should get plenty of chances to do so in Buffalo in the coming weeks.

Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Greg Salas, Brandon Tate and Walter Powell are the other wideouts on Buffalo’s active roster.

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Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron questionable for Lions

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 25: Marvin Jones #11 of the Detroit Lions catches a touchdown pass in the 4th quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 25, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 34-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Lions try to move to 2-2 on the year, they’ll definitely not have two key players. They possibly won’t have two others.

As expected, defensive end Ziggy Ansah and linebacker DeAndre Levy are out for Sunday’s game, with ankle and quad injuries, respectively.

Receiver Marvin Jones (hamstring) and tight end Eric Ebron (ankle) are questionable. Both fully participated in practice on Friday after being limited on Thursday.

Also questionable for the Lions are cornerback Adairius Barnes (ankle), defensive end Wallace Gilberry (abdomen), tackle Riley Reiff (ankle), defensive end Devin Taylor (ankle), linebacker Antwione Williams  (hamstring), and safety Tavon Wilson (neck).

Jones leads the league in receiving yards through three games, with 408 total yards.

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Evan Mathis, Michael Floyd set to play this Sunday

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 01:  Guard Evan Mathis #69 of the Arizona Cardinals prepares to take the field for the preseaon NFL game against the Denver Broncos at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the Broncos 38-17.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals missed right guard Evan Mathis in the lineup in Buffalo last Sunday, but they’ll have him back as they try to improve their record to 2-2 against the Rams this weekend.

Mathis missed last Sunday with a toe injury, but got in a full practice Friday. He was not given a designation on the team’s injury report, which means he’s expected to play barring a downgrade at some point on Saturday.

Wide receiver Michael Floyd also went without a designation on the injury report and practiced in full the last two days after being cleared through the league’s concussion protocol. Floyd was diagnosed with a concussion on Monday after reporting headaches a day after doctors gave him the green light to return to the game following an evaluation in Buffalo.

Punter Drew Butler is out for Sunday with a calf injury, leaving Ryan Quigley to handle the punting and holding duties. Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker remains out with a knee injury.

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Josh Norman fined $48,620 for hit on Sterling Shepard

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:  Josh Norman #24 of the Washington Redskins discusses a penalty against one of his teammates in the second half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 25, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Washington Redskins defeated the New York Giants 29-27.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Washington cornerback Josh Norman didn’t draw any penalties for hits on his rival, Giants receiver Odell Beckham, during their much-anticipated meeting on Sunday. But Norman was penalized and fined for a hit on another Giants receiver.

Norman was fined $48,620 for a hit on Giants receiver Sterling Shepard, the NFL confirmed today.

The hit drew an unnecessary roughness flag against Norman. The fine is more than players usually get for unnecessary roughness, but Norman is considered a repeat offender after two fines for his actions when he played against the Giants last year.

Norman will see the Giants again on New Year’s Day, in Week 17.

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Emmanuel Sanders not fined for Antonio Brown-style move

Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers) AP

Key & Peele got it right; two pumps are allowed.

Two weeks after Steelers receiver Antonio Brown drew a flag and a fine for a pelvic-thrust celebration that included three (maybe four) pumps, Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders escaped both by stopping short of three.

While it’s possible Sanders added a third pump (CBS cameras cut away after two), the NFL tells PFT that Sanders was not fined.

The two plays had striking similarities. Perhaps the only difference was the number of pumps. Which would indeed make Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele prescient.

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Thursday Night Football draws eight million

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 29:  Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins attempts to escape from Geno Atkins #97 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on September 29, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

There was no press release touting the record-low eight-million-person audience generated by Monday night’s Falcons-Saints game on ESPN, which did battle with the first presidential debate. Thursday night’s Dolphins-Bengals game drew a similar audience, and it’s reason for at least a little crowing.

The league has announced that the NFL Network-only game generated a 4.76 household rating and an audience of eight million on all platforms, TV and digital. According to the league, it’s a six-percent increase over the ratings and audiences for last year’s NFLN-only games.

So how does it compare to 2015? For the first time this year, an apples-to-apples look isn’t feasible, because last year’s Week Four games on Thursday night appeared on CBS and NFLN. The Ravens-Steelers game drew a whopping 19.4 million viewers.

This year, the exclusive NFLN games are interspersed among the full schedule; in past years, the NFLN-only games came later in the year.

That dynamic alone would contribute to the lower total numbers for games that were exclusive to the league-owned network, since more of the game involve teams that aren’t vying for postseason positioning.

Next week, Thursday Night Football returns to CBS and NFL Network, along with Twitter. The numbers generated by Cardinals-49ers will be compared to last year’s Week 5 Thursday nighter between the Colts and Texans.

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Jimmy Graham questionable, Russell Wilson not on injury report

Seattle Seahawks' Jimmy Graham (88) leaps in celebration after scoring a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer) AP

In the old days, Russell Wilson might have been listed as probable on the injury report. But with that designation gone, he’s not on the report at all.

The Seahawks have ruled running back Thomas Rawls out and declared five players questionable, but none of them happen to be their quarterback who has been getting treatment for knee and ankle injuries.

Wilson had previously said there was “no doubt” he was going to play this week against the Jets.

The Seahawks listed tight ends Jimmy Graham and Nick Vannett questionable, along with linebacker Mike Morgan, defensive tackle Jarran Reed and running back C.J. Prosise.

Graham had 100 yards on six catches last week against the 49ers, but was held out of practice Thursday with knee and back issues.

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Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo both listed as questionable

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 11: Jacoby Brissett #7 of the New England Patriots and Jimmy Garoppolo #10 enter the field for drills before a preseason game with New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

The impending end of Tom Brady’s suspension means we know who will be at quarterback for the Patriots in Week Five, but the identity of their starter for Week Four remains up in the air on Friday.

Jacoby Brissett, who has a right thumb injury, and Jimmy Garoppolo, who has a right shoulder injury, were both limited participants at practice this week and both of them were listed as questionable on the final injury report for Sunday’s game against the Bills.

Garoppolo didn’t throw any passes during the portion of Friday’s practice open to the media, per CSN New England, but did throw earlier in the week. Brissett did throw in front of the media and showed “no signs of favoring his right thumb.”

Six other Patriots were listed as questionable, including tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski, who injured his hamstring over the summer, made his 2016 debut in a limited role against the Texans last week.

Guard Jonathan Cooper, cornerback Eric Rowe, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and tackle Marcus Cannon round out the questionable group.

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Ware, Stephenson, Green out for Broncos

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 25:  John Phillips #86 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Broncos head to Tampa Bay for a battle with the Buccaneers, the Broncos will be missing three key players: linebacker DeMarcus Ware (forearm), guard Donald Stephenson (calf), and tight end Virgil Green (calf).

Based on comments from coach Gary Kubiak, it sounds as if Green’s absence wasn’t anticipated.

“I don’t want to say it’s been a little slower than we thought,” Kubiak told reporters. “We thought we were maybe looking at [one] game, but we’re here at the end of the week. We pushed him a little bit yesterday. I don’t think we went backwards or anything, we just didn’t feel like we made enough progress to put him out there. It’s a long season. Jeff [Heuerman] and John [Phillips] have to step up again. . . .

“We’re going to play them both. I think John still starts the game. John has done a really good job. I think he’s getting better for us. Jeff obviously gained some confidence last week, making a big play for us in the game. However much we use those guys, it’ll probably be right down the middle again. We’re going to play them both.”

Phillips (pictured) had two catches for nine yards and a touchdown last Sunday at Cincinnati. Heuerman added one catch for 29 yards.

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Duane Brown remains out for Texans

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 03: An injured Duane Brown #76 of the Houston Texans is carted off the field while playing agains the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first quarter on January 3, 2016 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans have had left tackle Duane Brown on the practice field in recent days, but he’s not ready to make his regular season debut.

Brown has been out since having offseason quad surgery and was ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Titans on Friday. Brown was a limited participant in practice this week, so his return to the lineup probably may not be far off. Chris Clark will continue to start in his place.

Linebacker Brian Cushing and safety Quintin Demps were also limited in practice on Friday and both have been listed as questionable for Sunday. Cushing was expected to miss 4-6 weeks after hurting his knee in the season opener, but expressed optimism this week that he’d beat that timetable. Demps is dealing with a hamstring injury.

Wide receiver Braxton Miller has been ruled out with a hamstring injury for the second straight week. Tight end Stephen Anderson and running back Jonathan Grimes will also be inactive this weekend.

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Dez Bryant not ruled out, but “we want to be safe”

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys runs for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys aren’t ruling wide receiver Dez Bryant out for Sunday’s game against the 49ers, but it sounds like chances are good that he will miss the game.

Bryant suffered a hairline fracture in his right knee against the Bears last Sunday and his status for this week was clouded by a delay in taking an MRI until the middle of the week that, when coupled with Bryant’s absence from team meetings, led to a fine from the club.

Bryant said Friday that all is good with the team now and that everyone is trying to be “smart” about the best way to handle the injury so that Bryant returns as quickly as possible in good health.

“We want to be safe,” Bryant said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s a long season. I feel good. We’re going to go from there.”

Terrence Williams, Colt Beasley and Brice Butler would be the top wideouts if Bryant is indeed out of Sunday’s game with tight end Jason Witten also on hand as the Cowboys try to improve to 3-1.

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Antonio Brown planning to wear Arnold Palmer’s image on his cleats

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 07:  Honorary starter Arnold Palmer attends the ceremonial tee off to start the first round of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2016 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was fined after Week One for wearing blue cleats, which is a violation of the league’s uniform rules, and he changed cleats at halftime last weekend after an official told him he wouldn’t be allowed to return to the game while again wearing shoes of the wrong color.

Brown is planning to wear black-and-gold cleats for Sunday night’s game against the Chiefs, which fits with the rule calling for shoes to be in team colors, but there will be a bit of a twist. Brown plans to have an image of the late golfing legend Arnold Palmer, who died last Sunday, on the shoes.

Brown said he wants to have “some motivation” and inspiration each week of the season and chose Palmer after spending time at Palmer’s house in Latrobe, Pennsylvania before this summer’s training camp.

“A guy like Arnold, his legacy and what he meant not only to the world, but to Latrobe, to Pennsylvania, his legacy will live on,” Brown said, via ESPN.com. “An inspiring guy. I’m glad I got a moment to share with him.”

Brown’s choice should win him the backing of Arnie’s Army along with the weekly support he and the rest of the Steelers get from the remnants of Franco’s Italian Army.

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Joey Bosa out again this week for Chargers, with lingering hamstring

San Diego Chargers NFL football player Joey Bosa wipes his brow while working out at his first practice since agreeing to a four year contract, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi) AP

We’re going to have to wait at least another week to see Joey Bosa make his NFL debut.

Via Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chargers have ruled their first-round pick out for Sunday’s game against the Saints.

They also ruled safety Jahleel Addae and cornerback Brandon Flowers out, while tight end Antonio Gates and left tackle King Dunlap are doubtful.

Bosa practiced this week, but was limited because of the hamstring issue that has been a bother since he missed training camp and signed just before the start of the regular season.

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