Can the Texans win for the first time ever in Indianapolis? Does the cold weather favor the Patriots over the Dolphins? The Bears need a win over the Lions, will they get it? The PFT guys answer these questions and more as they make their Sunday picks.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: PFT Sunday picks
The Browns knocked Johnny Manziel down to the third string on Tuesday after pictures and videos of his bye week partying popped up on social media, ending Manziel’s run as the team’s starting quarterback a week after coach Mike Pettine moved him to the top spot on the depth chart regardless of Josh McCown’s health.
Pettine said Tuesday that Manziel “violated the trust” that the team put in him and said it again during a Wednesday press conference that was heavy on Manziel discussion. Pettine said it was “made reasonably clear” to Manziel what the team expected of him during the time off, but added that there was “no personal rift” and that the demotion did not close the door on a future for the 2014 first-round pick with the Browns.
“We certainly hope not,” Pettine said, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “He’s made progress. We told him, ‘this isn’t a dead end. It’s a hurdle. … This is a healthy dose of adversity. Let’s see how he handles it.”
With six weeks left in the season, it’s hard to imagine that Manziel can do enough to win back the trust that he violated to move back into the starting role unless the Browns want to make this stand look like a particularly toothless one. Where that will leave him for the future is anybody’s guess since the Browns may be making changes on the coaching staff and/or in the front office at the end of another disappointing season, but it’s just as hard to imagine Cleveland or any other team yoking the future of their organization to Manziel at this point.
The Panthers have turned in their final injury report before Thursday’s game against the Cowboys and it leaves them likely to play the game without cornerback Charles Tillman.
Tillman missed last week’s game because of a knee injury and he’s been listed as doubtful to play this week for the same reason. Tillman was listed as a limited participant in practice the last two days, which may wind up serving as groundwork for a Week 13 return although Tillman said, via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, that he’ll be making the trip to Texas.
Wide receiver Philly Brown was also out against the Redskins last weekend and has been listed as questionable because of a shoulder injury. Brown said Wednesday that he feels good enough to play while noting that the decision won’t be his to make.
Long snapper J.J. Jansen is probable after being added to the injury report during the week with a head injury, which likely means that the Panthers won’t need to use the newly signed Danny Aiken in his place on Thursday.
Kelce wasn’t listed on Monday’s injury report at all, but didn’t practice Tuesday because of a knee injury, and the fact it’s progressed to this point suggests it might be serious enough to create doubt about his availability.
The Broncos announced Tuesday that they would be working out quarterback Christian Ponder on Wednesday and it appears they liked what they saw from the former Vikings first-round pick.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team will add Ponder to their roster to give themselves more depth at quarterback while Peyton Manning is sidelined by a foot injury. There’s no word on what the corresponding move would be to get Ponder on the roster.
According to Rapoport, Ponder will start as the No. 3 quarterback behind Brock Osweiler and Trevor Siemian and focus on learning the offense before the team thinks about putting him directly under Osweiler on the depth chart.
Ponder made one start for the Vikings last season and 36 over four years in Minnesota. He spent the offseason with the Raiders, but has not been on a roster since the start of the regular season.
The Falcons will practice Wednesday without running back Devonta Freeman.
Falcons Coach Dan Quinn told reporters that Freeman remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He left last Sunday’s game vs. the Colts after three carries.
Freeman is fifth in the NFL with 764 rushing yards and leads all runners with 9 touchdowns.
Rookie Tevin Coleman is next up if Freeman isn’t cleared in time to play Sunday vs. the Vikings.
After last week’s mistakes in letting Rams quarterback Case Keenum continue to play after he suffered a concussion, the NFL is trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The league just put out a statement, saying that a mandatory conference call was held last night with the head athletic trainers of all teams. The call also included NFLPA Medical Director Dr. Thom Mayer, and was led by NFL Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Betsy Nabel, Head, Neck & Spine Committee Co-Chairman Dr. Hunt Batjer, NFL Physicians Society President Dr. Robert Heyer of the Carolina Panthers, and PFATS President Rick Burkholder of the Chiefs.
“During the call, the team medical staffs discussed the events that led to the failure to remove St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum from Sunday’s game, and reviewed the proper implementation of the league’s concussion protocols to ensure that players are removed from the field for a medical evaluation as required by the protocols,” the statement read. “Medical experts from the league and the Players Association will continue to review the protocols and make improvements as necessary to protect the health and safety of NFL players, including consideration of discipline for future violations of the protocols.”
The failure to protect Keenum was startling and sad, considering the amount of scrutiny the league has come under regarding concussions, and the steps they had previously taken to prevent such a situation.
After pictures and video of Johnny Manziel’s bye week activities surfaced, Browns coach Mike Pettine announced on Tuesday that Josh McCown will return to the starting quarterback job that the team had given to Manziel last week.
On Wednesday’s PFT Live, Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland will join Mike Florio to discuss the team’s decision and whether it means that the Browns have closed the door on Manziel’s future with the team. They’ll also talk about other matters concerning the 2-8 team, including whether Pettine will continue to decide on starters in 2016.
Two other members of the PFT crew will join Florio during the show as well. Darin Gantt will drop in with a preview of the Panthers’ Thanksgiving game in Dallas and Michael David Smith will break down the picks for the the entire Week 12 slate.
As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.
It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app.
The Panthers are cruising right along at 10-0, having survived the big injuries.
Now, they’re having to make roster moves to cover some smaller ones.
Aiken became a temporary need when regular long snapper J.J. Jansen came in with a headache and may go into the league’s concussion protocol.
“He said he had taken a shot [against Washington], so we’ll see what the doctors decide,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said yesterday, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review.
Jansen has snapped in 106 games for the Panthers, but with his status up in the air, they needed some cover from someone who actually snaps for a living, rather than let defensive end Jared Allen or tight end Greg Olsen or Ed Dickson do it.
Watkins said earlier in the season that he thought he should have the ball thrown his way 10 times a game, but he didn’t repeat that thought this week. He said that “it’s not about getting targets, it’s about winning” when asked about how often the Bills looked his way.
Coach Rex Ryan had a somewhat different take on things. During an interview with “Schopp and The Bulldog” on WGR 550, Ryan called Watkins “too good of a playmaker not to get more looks” and said that the receiver’s ability was good enough that the Bills should be trying to get him the ball even if it’s not an ideal situation to send the ball in his direction.
“You try to look at the defense and put your guys in an opportunity where they can be successful. You’re trying to throw to the open guy,” Ryan said. “However, I think Sammy is such a talent that you can probably force the issue a little bit there. And obviously if there’s one-on-ones across the board, then let’s take our best shot. We’ll throw it to our best against your best and see what happens. Because I truly believe Sammy is that good. So we got to look at that. As we’re moving forward, start taking advantage of this young man.”
Simply throwing the ball to Watkins regardless of coverage is a recipe for disaster, but some risks have to be taken to make sure that your best players have the ball in their hands as often as possible. One way to help make that happen is to take advantage of the openings that come from increased attention on Watkins, something Tyrod Taylor and company struggled to do against the Patriots on Monday night.
The NFL has admitted that Bills receiver Sammy Watkins got out of bounds with two seconds remaining on Monday night, meaning the Bills should have had time to run one last play in their 20-13 loss to the Patriots.
NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino said on NFL Network on Tuesday night that Watkins rolled out of bounds without being touched, which means the clock should have stopped. The official closest to the play erroneously thought Watkins was giving himself up in the field of play and signaled for the clock to keep running.
“He is down in bounds, but he’s not contacted,” Blandino said as he showed video of the play. “He’s attempting to get out of bounds, you want to give that player the opportunity to get out of bounds, and really, that’s what should have happened.”
For the official right on top of that play to screw it up is a serious mistake. It also doesn’t help matters that the NFL waited until Tuesday night to acknowledge the error. That led to a day of confusion in which many fans, wrongly interpreting the rule, posted on social media that the clock kept running because Watkins wasn’t moving forward when he went out of bounds.
It’s good that the NFL is transparent enough to acknowledge such mistakes, but the league would do better to acknowledge those mistakes more quickly. Even better, of course, would be not to make mistakes in the first place.
Former Cowboys running back Joseph Randle was arrested Tuesday night outside a Kansas casino, TMZ reported.
Per the TMZ report, Randle was asked to leave the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, KS. He did, but he later returned and tried to fight a security officer.
Randle is facing charges of felony criminal threats, misdemeanor assault of a law enforcement officer, interference with a law enforcement officer, battery, disorderly conduct and criminal trespass.
Before the Cowboys released Randle in early November, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he was concerned about Randle’s mental health.
Randle is subject to a four-game NFL suspension even though he’s not on a team.
The good news? After a crappy Week 10 performance, I finished about .500 in Week 11. The bad news? Not by much.
It was 8-6 for me, 9-5 for MDS, and now we’re tied with six weeks to go.
With six disagreements this week (the most of the year, by far), this is the weekend when separation could happen. If definitely will begin on Thursday, where we disagree on one of the three Thanksgiving Day games.
For the year, we’re both 101-59, a success rate of 63.12 percent.
Eagles at Lions
MDS’s take: The Eagles looked terrible on Sunday and the Lions looked pretty good, but Detroit’s offense still isn’t making many big plays, and I think Philly can win a close, low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 17, Lions 14.
Florio’s take: The Lions are hot, and the Eagles are on the verge of an implosion. With Jim Caldwell earning a chance to keep his job (and possibly to emerge with power over personnel) and Mark Sanchez likely starting again for Philly, Detroit could be halfway to .500 after a 1-7 disaster.
Florio’s pick: Lions 24, Eagles 17.
Panthers at Cowboys
MDS’s take: In their last 28 games, the Cowboys are 16-3 when Tony Romo starts and 0-9 when he doesn’t. Unfortunately for Dallas, Romo now has to face perhaps the best defense in the NFL in the Panthers, and a loss on Thanksgiving will seal the Cowboys’ fate.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 20, Cowboys 13.
Florio’s take: The playoffs start for the Cowboys on Thursday. If so, they’ll be one and done. The Panthers are better than most will realize or admit, and Cam Newton will relish the opportunity to dance for a national audience that is dabbing the gravy from its collective chin.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 30, Cowboys 27.
Bears at Packers
MDS’s pick: Packers 34, Bears 17.
Florio’s take: They’re retiring Brett Favre’s number, which will give his successor (and one-time in-house rival) extra motivation to avoid losing a second straight home game to a division rival.
Florio’s pick: Packers 31, Bears 21.
Vikings at Falcons
MDS’s take: This is a huge game in the NFC wild card race, as the Vikings and Falcons would currently be the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds in the conference. I like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to have a big day in what should be an exciting game.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 28, Vikings 27.
Florio’s take: The Vikings had one bad game in their last six. The Falcons have had one good game in their last six. The Vikings have the better team on both sides of the ball, and (most importantly) it’s not really a big game for Minnesota. Which means they won’t stain their purple pants yellow.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 26, Falcons 18.
Rams at Bengals
MDS’s take: The Bengals went through a tough stretch the last couple weeks, but the Rams have been a brutally bad team on offense recently, and that should be just what Cincinnati needs to win a low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 13, Rams 6.
Florio’s take: After two straight losses, the Bengals are close to reacquiring the same, old “same old” prefix. Fortunately for Cincinnati, the Rams are falling apart at a much more dramatic and profound rate.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 31, Rams 15.
Saints at Texans
MDS’s take: When they’re not starting Ryan Mallett, the Texans are a pretty good team: They went 1-3 with Mallett starting, but they’re 4-2 in their other six games. Brian Hoyer should have a big game against the Saints’ bad defense, and the Texans will move to 6-5.
MDS’s pick: Texans 24, Saints 20.
Florio’s take: After two straight wins, it’s time to believe in the Texans. After two ugly losses, it’s time to not believe in the Saints. Which probably means the Saints will find a way to surprise us. Nevertheless, if the Texans are going to be a factor in the AFC South, they need to win this one.
Florio’s pick: Texans 24, Saints 20.
Buccaneers at Colts
MDS’s take: Both of these teams are coming off road wins last week and fighting for playoff berths, which makes this a pretty good game. I think the Colts will improve to 4-0 in games Matt Hasselbeck starts.
MDS’s pick: Colts 24, Buccaneers 17.
Florio’s take: The Colts are shaky and the Bucs are gaining confidence by the week. If Jameis Winston can stay healthy (which given his style of play could be a big if), Tampa Bay could find itself in the postseason.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 26, Colts 23.
Chargers at Jaguars
MDS’s take: The Jaguars remain right in the thick of things in the AFC South, while the Chargers are so beaten up that they’re just struggling to find 46 healthy bodies to throw out there on Sunday. Jacksonville should take this one and improve to 5-6.
MDS’s pick: Jaguars 30, Chargers 13.
Florio’s take: The Chargers are falling apart. The Jaguars are surprisingly competitive. Advantage: Team that is still playing for a playoff berth.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 23, Chargers 13.
Bills at Chiefs
MDS’s take: The Chiefs are on a four-game winning streak and have won all four games handily. Despite a slow start, Kansas City has a good chance of making the playoffs, and they’ll knock off a potential wild-card rival with a win over the Bills.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 21, Bills 20.
Florio’s take: The Bills have a short-week trip to a hostile environment, against one of the hottest teams in the league. Kansas City has come too far after a 1-5 start to stumble now.
Florio’s pick: Chiefs 27, Bills 17.
Dolphins at Jets
MDS’s take: Remember when Dan Campbell had turned the Dolphins around? That feels like a long time ago. The truth is, the Campbell Dolphins aren’t much different from the Joe Philbin Dolphins.
MDS’s pick: Jets 21, Dolphins 17.
Florio’s take: Previously, the Jets got Joe Philbin fired. New Dolphins coach Dan Campbell will show his appreciation by beating the Jets, who have fallen apart after a 4-1 start.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 20, Jets 17.
Raiders at Titans
MDS’s take: The Raiders have taken a step backward after looking like playoff contenders early in the season, but they should still be good enough to win at Tennessee, where the Titans are the NFL’s only winless home team.
MDS’s pick: Raiders 38, Titans 24.
Florio’s take: The Titans aren’t as bad as their record indicates, and the Raiders have suddenly lost their way. It’s time for Marcus Mariota to pick up his third win.
Florio’s pick: Titans 27, Raiders 20.
Giants at Washington
MDS’s take: The winner of this game is in first place in the NFC East. It’s going to be a close, tough game that the Giants will pull out in the fourth quarter.
MDS’s pick: Giants 24, Washington 23.
Florio’s take: New York makes its final push to win the division, and to hold off the Cowboys. Washington will have little or no chance to capture the title with a loss.
Florio’s pick: Giants 23, Washington 17.
Cardinals at 49ers
MDS’s take: The Cardinals are closing in on the NFC West crown and will take another step in that direction with another division road win.
MDS’s pick: Cardinals 28, 49ers 17.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 40, 49ers 17.
Steelers at Seahawks
MDS’s take: This is close to a must-win game for the Seahawks for an NFC wild card berth, and it’s a big game for the Steelers for an AFC wild card berth as well. I think Seattle, playing at home, will turn in a good defensive effort and win a close one.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 20, Steelers 17.
Florio’s take: Seattle needs another win, badly. Thomas Rawls has given the offense a huge boost, and the bye week gave them more time to figure out how to use Jimmy Graham. The Steelers remain viable contenders in the AFC, but it won’t be easy to pull out this one.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 27, Steelers 24.
Patriots at Broncos
MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Broncos 14.
Florio’s take: Gary Kubiak struggled against the Patriots during his time with the Texans, but he had the Patriots on the ropes in January as the offensive coordinator of the Ravens. Based on how well the Broncos played last time they hosted an unbeaten team on Sunday Night Football, and given how well Brock Osweiler fits the Kubiak offense, it could be time for New England’s run of perfection to end.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 27, Patriots 23.
Ravens at Browns
MDS’s pick: Browns 20, Ravens 16.
Florio’s take: The King of the Pick Six is back, leading a team with seven losses in 10 games. It gives the Browns a rare chance to get a win in an even rarer Monday night appearance.
Florio’s pick: Browns 13, Ravens 10.
The Steelers are two games behind the Bengals in the AFC North and Cincinnati won the first matchup of the year between the two teams, but that’s not stopping Pittsburgh from setting its sights on a division title this season.
While safety Mike Mitchell concedes that the Steelers are “a little behind the eight ball” in that quest, that’s about all he’s willing to concede with six games left on the schedule.
“We want the division,” Mitchell said, via the team’s website. “We never want to back door into the playoffs. Obviously you will get in any way you can. We want to win the division. We want to run the North. But we will get in any way we can.”
The Bengals looked the most vulnerable they’ve looked all season in a Week 10 loss to the Texans, but put together a better effort in last Sunday’s close loss to the Cardinals and have the Rams and Browns on the schedule before a Week 14 rematch with Pittsburgh. They then close the year with the 49ers, Broncos and Ravens.
The Steelers, meanwhile, have to travel to Seattle this weekend and host the Colts in Week 13 before closing the year with the Broncos, Ravens and Browns. There’s not much margin for error there if the Steelers are going to wind up with the division title, but it’s hard to expect them to set any other goal at this point in the proceedings.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week Wednesday after a five-field goal performance that made a bit of NFL history.
Crosby connected from 42, 47, 40, 42 and 52 yards against the Vikings last Sunday, becoming the first kicker to make five field goals without a miss in a game when all five tries were from 40-plus yards.
The player of the week award is the sixth of Crosby’s career.
Crosby has made 17 of 19 field goal attempts this season. The five makes in a game tied a career best he previously set in 2013.
Usually it’s the guys who return punts or block punts or score points with kicks. Rarely do the punters get recognized.
But Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt was just named AFC special teams player of the week, for his role in the Chiefs’ surge back to relevance.
Colquitt averaged 40.6 yards on his five punts in last week’s win over the Chargers, but four of them were downed inside the 20. The field position helped, as they held the Chargers to a single field goal in winning their fourth straight game.
He’s just the second Chiefs punter to earn the weekly honor, following Louie Aguiar in Week Five of 1995.