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Benson, Brees remained confident of Payton deal

Sean Payton, Gregory Aymond, Tom Benson AP

New Orleans NFL and NBA owner Tom Benson sat in his courtside seats for Friday night’s Hornets game, joined by the Archbishop of New Orleans, and eventually, the head Saint.

Before the game ended, Sean Payton joined his boss after agreeing in principle to a new deal with the Saints.

Terms of the contract weren’t revealed, but Benson joked that it was wrapped up long ago, and that he was never concerned about losing him.

“He’s always been our head coach,” Benson said, via Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I never had any doubt about that. . . .

“He’s going to have an extension on it, so that’s going to be a little bit better. … Sean and I, I was the only one he could talk to and he and I talked once a week.”

“We worked a long time on it and everything worked out, and I’ll leave it at that,” Payton said after the game. “And we’ll leave it at that.”

There are still significant questions to be answered about the timeline (his one-year suspension ends after the Super Bowl), but the Saints can at least go into the offseason assured their leader will be back.

While the league-imposed suspension lasts another calendar month, getting Payton under contract prior to the end of the season carried a symbolic weight.

As teams begin firing coaches Monday, having a potential free agent dangling would have been a blow to a team that suffered through a disappointing season and needs significant work.

But they’ve also been through similar down-to-the-wire negotiations, such as this summer’s with quarterback Drew Brees.

Maybe that’s why Brees was so confident.

“Very happy that it is official,” Brees told Holder via text. “Never had any doubts though.”

We found out this year how much Payton meant to the Saints, and we’ll find out over the course of the next year whether he’s worth the money they paid, which was expected to make him the highest-paid coach in the league.

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DeAndre Hopkins not frustrated by Texans offense

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 18:  DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans breaks the tackle attempt by Phillip Gaines #23 of the Kansas City Chiefs at NRG Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler said Wednesday that nothing has changed for the team’s offense because of the loss of defensive end J.J. Watt to another back injury and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins agrees with that assessment.

Hopkins said that the offense is “going to go out there and do what we do” regardless of the situation on the other side of the ball. That hasn’t always been a good thing this season, however.

The Texans were shutout their last time out of the gate and they’re scoring 14 points a game overall while the passing game ranks 27th with 214.7 yards per game. That’s down from last season as are Hopkins’ individual numbers, but the wideout says that’s  not a cause for frustration.

“No, it’s not frustrating at all,” Hopkins said, via the Houston Chronicle. “The team’s success, for me, comes first and all the accolades come after that. So, whatever I have to do, if it’s me drawing a double team, that means one of my other teammates are open. That’s not on the stat book, drawing a double team — people just see touchdowns — but, to me, my team’s success comes first.”

The Texans came into this season with hopes that their offense would carry more weight than it did last season. Whether it is going through Hopkins or someone else, there’s still work to do to realize that hope.

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Colts distinctly remember the last time they played the Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 13:   Nick Marshall #41 and Johnathan Cyprien #37 of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrate an interception return during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Field on December 13, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The good news for the Colts may be that they’re playing the Jaguars in London this weekend.

Because the last time they saw them in Florida, the Jaguars gave them an embarrassing 51-16 beating.

The Jaguars poured it on that day, converting a fourth-and-goal from the 1 inside the two-minute warning as their fans chanted “We want 50!”

Think I forgot?” Colts safety Mike Adams said, via Mike Wells of “I’m not sugar coating anything. Fifty! Fifty! We talked about that. It is what it is. It’s the NFL. . . .

“We were in the position to set ourselves up in the division. That’s what makes it hard. Obviously that game, I didn’t even watch all of it. Just a little bit to recap.”

That was the game that ended a 16-game AFC South winning streak for the Colts, and part of a two-game stretch in which they lost by 35 points.

Of course, there are plenty of differences since then, specifically the return of quarterback Andrew Luck, who has five straight wins over the Jaguars.

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Terrelle Pryor thinks the Browns can go 13-3

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: Terrelle Pryor #11 of the Cleveland Browns warms up prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on September 11, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Browns 29-10. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

Terrelle Pryor has emerged as one of the few bright spots on the Browns this season, becoming their No. 1 receiver while also taking some snaps at quarterback. And now we know something else about Pryor: His optimism is boundless.

Pryor said this week that despite the Browns’ 0-3 start, he thinks they’re a good enough team to win every remaining game and finish 13-3.

“We’re so close to getting over that hump,” Pryor said. “Once we get over that hump, I think we’re going to have a lot of success, even this year. . . . I think we can win all the rest of the games. It depends on our mindset. It depends on how we look at it. It’s just one week at a time.”

Is that realistic? No. Is it understandable that Pryor has that mindset? Yes. His confidence in himself has paid off, even if his confidence in his team may be just a bit too high.

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Elvis Dumervil says he’s playing Sunday

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 13: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks works under pressure from outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil #58 of the Baltimore Ravens while tight end Luke Willson #82 of the Seattle Seahawks blocks in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil returned to practice last week, but sat out Friday’s session and remained inactive for Baltimore’s 19-17 victory over the Jaguars.

It looks like his surgically-repaired foot is ready to take the final step, however. Teammate Terrell Suggs said Wednesday that he expects to have Dumervil in the lineup against the Raiders this Sunday and Thursday brought the word straight from Dumervil’s mouth.

Dumervil told reporters that he’ll make his 2016 debut this weekend.

“I’m excited to get in front of our fans,” Dumervil said, via Jamison Hensley of

Albert McClellan has been starting in place of Dumervil over the first three weeks and Za’Darius Smith has also played a significant number of snaps. Dumervil should be back in his usual spot with the first team, but working him back in will likely leave time for the others to continue seeing the field.

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Why is TV viewership down?

56627504 Getty Images

Fewer people are watching the NFL on TV, and no one really knows why.

The NFL Players Association admits that the trend is an obvious concern. The league has kept quiet, likely fearful that talking about the situation would lend credence to the dynamic, possibly causing other fans who are still watching the games to say, “Maybe I should stop, too.”

The decline has become a mystery, for the media and surely for the NFL. The league’s failure to discipline more aggressively players who have engaged in off-field misconduct possibly has turned off some fans. A perception that the league reacts too heavy-handedly in other matters (like #DeflateGate and the Saints bounty scandal) could cause others to think the NFL hopes to steer certain teams toward success and to make it harder for others to succeed.

These two dynamics have contributed to an intense sense of disdain by plenty of fans for Commissioner Roger Goodell. It’s odd, however, to think that fans are choosing not to watch the NFL on TV because they don’t care for the man whose name appears on the football. (That said, it’s likely no accident that Goodell largely stays out of view.)

The disconnect between the images televised across the country in high definition and the things seen by the naked eye in real time by seven officials interspersed with young, strong, large, fast men in armor remains a far bigger problem than the league office ever would admit. The NFL seems to have a general reluctance to fully embrace technology in order to get the calls right. At some point, however, the league must take more seriously the impact of fan frustrations arising from the sense that what everyone else sees is missed by the small group of people whose vantage point is the most important.

The ongoing desire to expand the NFL’s reach to other countries likely alienates some fans as well, given the potential belief that the league is taking the domestic audience for granted as it tries to spread the pro football virus around the globe. The mere mention of, for example, an international franchise or a Super Bowl played beyond borders of the U.S. sparks a strong negative reaction from plenty of fans.

Meanwhile, viewing habits have changed, dramatically. The younger generation no longer congregates around a large box; they carry small ones everywhere they go, constantly staring at them like zombies peering in to a sardine can full of brains. Many members of Generation Z don’t feel compelled to take the time to witness the flow of a game, the shifts in momentum, the nuances that set the stage for game-changing moments in the fourth quarter. They just want the highlights and the stats, so that they can see how their favorite team and, perhaps more importantly, their fantasy team performed.

Speaking of fantasy football, consider the perspective of kids who were born after the rise of what once was a collateral consideration to traditional rooting interests. With the pieces of a fantasy team spread over various NFL franchises, plenty of fans may not have the same zeal about one specific team, with the us-against-the-world mindset inherent to pre-fantasy fans fully undermined by the reality that, for example, an ardent Panthers fan may have Saints quarterback Drew Brees on his fantasy team.

Some would say the election is a factor, but if anything the political consternation should be causing people to more fervently embrace their diversions. Apart from the conflicts between prime-time games and two of the presidential debates, fans should be regarding NFL games as an escape from the political nonsense.

The quality of the early-season matchups could be an issue, due in large part to a lesser number of star players on great teams. Peyton Manning has retired, Tom Brady is suspended (his team nevertheless had two of its first three games televised nationally), and some of the best quarterbacks remain largely unknown and/or unaccomplished.

The concussion crisis, and the reality that football has become the pin cushion for criticism even though plenty of sports and other activities entail a risk of head injuries, likely has caused some fans to feel guilty about watching or enjoying football. In turn, the league’s efforts to make the game safer probably has influenced others who want big hits and who don’t care about the physical consequences to lose interest.

Some are suggesting that the anthem protests are causing fans to boycott the NFL, but it’s hard to see a connection between the objections to the behavior of a small group of players and the decision of significant numbers of fans to deprive themselves of something they enjoy. The NFL has made its position on the anthem clear, and the vast majority of players continue to stand at attention.

Even with the decline, nothing brings a live audience together like the NFL (except for The Walking Dead). But it’s clear the NFL has reason to worry, and that it has work to do. A more aggressive and creating marketing push could be needed, along with a willingness to consider significant changes to the rules and the officiating procedures.

Whatever the reasons, and there surely are many, the NFL has billions of reasons to figure them out — and to begin the process of addressing the problem. Publicly ignoring the issue is fine. If they’re privately paying no attention to it, the league will be in or a rude awakening when the time comes to negotiate the next set of TV deals.

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Giants down to two healthy safeties

Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) celebrates after scoring a touchdown as New York Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (41) and Nat Berhe (29) watch during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) AP

The Giants have been no stranger to injury issues in the secondary in recent years and it looks like they haven’t been able to shake the trend in Ben McAdoo’s first year as the head coach.

Safety Nat Berhe made an appearance on Thursday’s injury report with a concussion. The team said that Berhe, who played the entire game last Sunday, reported having a headache on Wednesday and was placed in the concussion protocol after being evaluated by the medical staff.

Berhe joins Darian Thompson on the sideline and Thompson is expected to miss more time as a result of a foot injury. That leaves the team with Landon Collins and Andrew Adams as healthy safeties a few days before a Monday night game against the Vikings.

Veteran corner Leon Hall could be an option to alleviate the issue of missing players, although they may need him at his usual spot with both Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite and Eli Apple dealing with injuries. According to multiple reports, both players were working on the side during the portion of Thursday’s practice open to the media.

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Bengals activate Burfict, cut Roach

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 17:  Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates during the NFL game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium on November 17, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bengals released linebacker Trevor Roach Thursday, officially clearing a spot for linebacker Vontaze Burfict to be activated and play in Thursday night’s game vs. the Dolphins.

Burfict was suspended for the first three games for repeated violations of on-field rules.

Though Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has said he isn’t sure how much Burfict will play right away and has hinted that he’ll be eased in slowly, Burfict said this week he’s “raring to go” and anxious to be back with his teammates.

Roach, a second-year player, had played in all three games this season.

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Garrett on Dez: He didn’t handle things the right way

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on prior to 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

Word broke on Wednesday night that the Cowboys fined wide receiver Dez Bryant for missing an MRI on his injured knee and team meetings earlier this week and coach Jason Garrett confirmed that report on Thursday.

Garrett said that Bryant missed the MRI on Monday and meetings the next two days, leading to the decision to penalize him for not being where he was supposed to be. Garrett cited Bryant’s thought the results of the MRI would be worse than the hairline fracture that was ultimately diagnosed as the reason for the missed test.

“He’s a very, very passionate person,” Garrett said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “He’s an emotional person. He didn’t handle it the right way. I’m not excusing his behavior. There are repercussions for your actions.”

While Bryant was wrong to take the no news is good news approach to finding out what was going on with his knee, the better-case scenario doesn’t mean he’ll be able to face the 49ers this weekend.

A report indicates Bryant could miss up to three weeks as a result of the injury, although Garrett would only say that the team doesn’t expect him to practice on Thursday and that he’s “moving better and better.”

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Dirk Koetter won’t be getting involved in the Tampa defense

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 18:  Head coach Dirk Koetter of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the sideline during the first quarter of the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Most NFL head coaches get their jobs after becoming proficient as coordinators on offense or defense. Those coaches typically continue to focus on what they know, and to hand the other side of the ball to a skilled coordinator.

That’s what Andy Reid has done for nearly 20 years, in Philadelphia and Kansas City. It’s what Doug Pederson is now doing in Philly. It’s also what Dirk Koetter is doing in Tampa. Even though the Buccaneers’ defense is struggling a bit, Koetter has no plans to get involved in it, with the Broncos coming to town.

“[Defensive coordinator Mike Smith] and the defensive staff, they know what they’re doing,” Koetter told “If I go in there, I’ll just screw ’em up. . . . As far as scheme, those guys know what they’re doing.”

It’s somewhat surprising that so many head coaches take a hands off approach to an entire side of the ball, especially since offensive gurus surely know a thing or two about what does and doesn’t work defensively, and vice versa. Still, if it works, it doesn’t matter. If, however, the person to whom half the fate of the team is delegated can’t get it done, it will be hard for the head coach to avoid returning to his coordinator role, with another team.

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Jets bring back kick returner Jeremy Ross

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 11: Jeremy Ross #11 of the New York Jets in action against the Jacksonville Jaguars quarter of an NFL preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets won’t have rookie Jalin Marshall for at least the next couple of weeks as he recovers from a shoulder injury and that means they need someone else to serve as their kick returner.

They addressed that need on Thursday by re-signing Jeremy Ross, who spent training camp and the preseason with the club before being released. Ross had four punt returns for 48 yards and two kickoff returns for 66 yards during the preseason.

Marshall has flashed potential as a kick returner, but he’s also had issues holding onto the ball in the first three weeks. He has had fumbles returned for touchdowns in each of the last two weeks, including one on a kickoff against the Chiefs last week that helped send the Jets to a 24-3 loss.

Ross has played for the Packers, Lions, Raiders and Ravens over the last four seasons and returned a kickoff for a touchdown while with Detroit in 2013.

The Jets placed defensive lineman Lawrence Thomas on injured reserve to make room for Ross on the roster.

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PFT’s Week Four picks

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 25:  Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs onto the field before the game against the Baltimore Ravens  at EverBank Field on September 25, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s harder then ever to predict the outcome of NFL games. Or maybe we just stink.

Regardless, MDS and I had a do-the-opposite 7-9 showing in Week Three. The putrid performances put MDS at 25-23 for the season, and yours truly at 24-24.

We’ll try to improve (and likely fail) in Week Four, where we disagree on four of the 15 games. So check out the picks below. And assume that, as to each game, the opposite outcome is guaranteed.

Dolphins at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Dolphins finally got a win on Sunday, but needing overtime at home to beat the Browns isn’t inspiring. The Bengals should win comfortably.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 28, Dolphins 14.

Florio’s take: An early-season desperation game for a pair of teams trying to avoid falling to 1-3. Miami has played well enough to be undefeated. They play up and down to the level of competition, and with coach Adam Gase starting to strongly assert himself, the Dolphins could be ready to get everyone’s attention, only a few days after nearly blowing it at home against the Browns.

Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Bengals 20.

Colts at Jaguars

MDS’s take: How does the NFL always manage to find bad games to send to London? The 1-2 Colts aren’t exactly setting the world on fire, but the 0-3 Jaguars might be the worst team in the league through three weeks.

MDS’s pick: Colts 24, Jaguars 13.

Florio’s take: The NFL keeps exporting race-to-the-bottom matchups to England, even if this one wasn’t supposed to be an early-season battle for the AFC South basement. The Jaguars scored 51 against the Colts last year, but that was against an Indy team that lacked Andrew Luck. So it’ll be closer this time, but Blake Bortles and company should be able to find a way to get their first win of the season.

Florio’s pick: Jaguars 31, Colts 27.

Titans at Texans

MDS’s take: As bad as the Texans looked last week against the Patriots, and even without J.J. Watt, I still think their defense is good enough to shut down the Titans’ “exotic smash mouth” attack.

MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Titans 10.

Florio’s take: The Texans can overcome not having J.J. Watt, at least against Tennessee. Against other teams, that may not be the case.

Florio’s pick: Texans 24, Titans 17.

Browns at Washington

MDS’s take: In the preseason, this game was circled as the return of Robert Griffin III. Now there’s nothing much interesting about it, other than a good opportunity for Washington to improve to 2-2.

MDS’s pick: Washington 21, Browns 13.

Florio’s take: Left for dead at 0-2, Washington scratches and claws its way back to .500 against a Browns team that won’t be a pushover.

Florio’s pick: Washington 31, Browns 23.

Seahawks at Jets

MDS’s take: The Seahawks’ defense is great, as usual. The Jets’ offense is a mess, with Ryan Fitzpatrick looking nothing like the solid passer he was last year. Seattle should win this easily.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Jets 10.

Florio’s take: The Jets had a “come to Jesus” meeting, but it’s the Seahawks who are returning to their Garden of Eden, where they won Super Bowl XLVIII.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 23, Jets 20.

Bills at Patriots

MDS’s take: Although I was impressed with the way Rex Ryan had his guys ready to play last week against the Cardinals, I wouldn’t pick them to win at New England whether it’s Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett or Julian Edelman at quarterback.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 22, Bills 9.

Florio’s take: Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, Julian Edelman, A.J. Derby, Drew Bledsoe, Tony Eason, Steve Grogan. It doesn’t matter. With 10 days to get ready for the last game of the #DeflateGate suspension, Bill Belichick would win even with Stephen Gostkowski at quarterback.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 24, Bills 10.

Panthers at Falcons

MDS’s take: My eyes tell me the Falcons have been a better team than the Panthers this year. But my head tells me the Panthers are the better team, even if they haven’t shown it. This feels like one of those games where I’m going to kick myself no matter which team I pick.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 21, Falcons 20.

Florio’s take: The Panthers have faced two championship-caliber defenses in three games. After Sunday, they will have faced two in four games.

Florio’s pick: Panthers 37, Falcons 28.

Raiders at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Ravens have a good defense and bad offense. The Raiders have a good offense and bad defense. Who wins? I’ll go with the team with the better special teams.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 24, Raiders 21.

Florio’s take: The Ravens keep on finding ways to win, thanks to a very good defense and a good-enough offense. It won’t be a Siragusa-on-Gannon flattening, but the Ravens will do just enough to emerge with the win.

Florio’s pick: Ravens 17, Raiders 14.

Lions at Bears

MDS’s take: The Lions have been fairly disappointing through three games, but the Bears are at a whole different level of disappointing.

MDS’s pick: Lions 28, Bears 17.

Florio’s take: This old-school black-and-blue division showdown will leave anyone who watches it needing a punch to the jaw to wake up.

Florio’s pick: Bears 16, Lions 13.

Broncos at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: That great Week One showing from Jameis Winston feels like a long time ago. The Broncos’ defense is going to give Winston another rough game.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 27, Buccaneers 14.

Florio’s take: The first overall pick in 2015 squares off against a seventh-rounder. The seventh-rounder has a far better defense. Advantage, seventh-rounder.

Florio’s pick: Broncos 28, Buccaneers 21.

Rams at Cardinals

MDS’s take: This feels almost like a must-win game for the Cardinals, who would find themselves two games back and down a tiebreaker with a loss. I think Bruce Arians will have his team ready for a big game.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 31, Rams 10.

Florio’s take: The up-and-down Cardinals find their groove for a week, until they lose it again for another week, as the Rams get back on their 7-9 pace.

Florio’s pick: Cardinals 34, Rams 20.

Saints at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Saints’ defense remains a mess, and things won’t get any easier against a Chargers offense that has looked pretty good with Philip Rivers throwing and Melvin Gordon running.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 27, Saints 20.

Florio’s take: Drew Brees returns to San Diego for likely the last time, regardless of whether the team moves. The spirit will be willing, but the defense will continue to be weak.

Florio’s pick: Chargers 34, Saints 27.

Cowboys at 49ers

MDS’s take: That 28-0 49ers win in Week One feels like it was from some alternate universe, because in the two weeks since then the 49ers have looked like they’d struggle to beat a college team by 28 points.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 20, 49ers 10.

Florio’s take: No Romo, no Dez. No problem, for the 49ers — especially since coach Chip Kelly knows the Cowboys well after playing them six times in three years with the Eagles.

Florio’s pick: 49ers 20, Cowboys 17.

Chiefs at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers took a serious beating in Philadelphia on Sunday but I don’t think they can possibly look that bad two weeks in a row. They’ll bounce back in a big way this week.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 24, Chiefs 21.

Florio’s take:  Doug Pederson figured out how to shut down the Steelers. His mentor, Andy Reid, may not be thrilled about that, since Pittsburgh now has even greater reason to figure out how to get back on the right track.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 31, Chiefs 21.

Giants at Vikings

MDS’s take: If the Vikings’ defense keeps playing the way it has through three weeks, they have a chance to be this year’s Broncos, a team that can win a Super Bowl no matter who plays quarterback. The Vikings should improve to 4-0 on Monday night.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 20, Giants 7.

Florio’s take: Last year, the Vikings developed a reputation for failing to get it done in prime time. This year, with a great defense and excellent coaching, the Vikings will get it done no matter what time of day the games start.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, Giants 20.

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Dirk Koetter: We’re throwing the ball too much

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 25:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams at Raymond James Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. The Rams defeated the Bucs 37-32.   (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images) Getty Images

Through the first three weeks of the season, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston leads the NFL with 142 pass attempts and has been throwing the ball more often than any first- or second-year quarterback other than Drew Bledsoe.

Winston has also been sacked five times, scrambled three times and had other pass attempts wiped out by penalties to create further imbalance for a team that’s run the ball 71 times. Head coach Dirk Koetter believes that needs to change in the coming weeks.

“In the last two games, we’ve thrown too much,” Koetter said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “We’ve got to quit getting behind by two scores, and we need to run the ball better.”

As Koetter noted, the Bucs have fallen behind in each of their last two games and gone to a pass-heavy attack as they tried to get back into losses to the Cardinals and Rams. They were more balanced in a Week One victory over the Falcons, lending support to the idea that more running will go hand in hand with better results for the team.

Getting that done would be easier with a healthy Doug Martin, who hurt his hamstring in Week Two and didn’t play in Week Three. Martin didn’t practice Wednesday, so the Bucs may need to find a way to get the run game working without him against a Broncos defense that’s not easy to move the ball against under any circumstances.

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Dustin Hopkins adds to weekly honors with monthly special teams award

Washington Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins (3) boots a field goal during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) AP

Dustin Hopkins‘ last week was good enough, but being perfect for the season was enough for a bigger honor.

The Washington kicker was named NFC special teams player of the month, hitting 11-of-11 field goals in September.

He was player of the week after going 5-of-5 against the Giants last week, but was deserving over the two games before that as well.

His 11 field goals are the most in the league, and he’s second in the league with 15 touchbacks. He’s also hit all five of his extra points.

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First-round prospect Tim Williams arrested on gun charge

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 3: Tim Williams #56 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates against the USC Trojans in the first half during the AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Alabama linebacker Tim Williams, a likely first-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, has been arrested on a gun charge.

Williams was arrested at 2 a.m. today on a misdemeanor charge of carrying a pistol without a license.

Police say they found the gun after approaching a vehicle in a parking lot because they could smell marijuana smoke coming out of it. According to police, Williams admitted that the gun is his. Another person in the car, not a football player, claimed responsibility for the marijuana.

Williams had 10.5 sacks last season and emerged as one of the best pass rushers in the country. He decided to return to Alabama for his senior season this year even though he said he was told he would have been a late first or early second-round pick if he had entered the 2016 draft. So far this season he has 1.5 sacks.

After he was released on $300 bond, Williams posted on Twitter, “Thank god a mistake worth learning from.”

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Carson Wentz wins rookie of the month honors

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback  Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles is seen on the line of scrimmage in the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field on September 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

One month ago, the Eagles expected to keep quarterback Carson Wentz on the bench at least for September, if not longer. Then, Teddy Bridgewater suffered a knee injury, the Vikings traded for Sam Bradford, and Wentz became the starter.

He has made more than the most out of his opportunities, leading the Eagles to a 3-0 record and winning the NFL’s offensive rookie of the month award for September.

Wentz has thrown 102 passes without an interception, and he’s averaging 7.5 yards per attempt. His best game by far came against the Steelers, with a 74.2 completion percentage, 301 yards passing, and a passer rating of 125.9.

The Eagles traded up to draft Wentz, the player they hope will become their next franchise quarterback. The Browns have faced plenty of criticism after trading the pick that became Wentz, and the Rams have faced plenty of questions about the decision to trade up and take not Wentz but Jared Goff.

It’s still too early to declare Wentz the next Donovan McNabb in Philly, but Wentz has passed every test he has faced, with the only knock being a propensity to get knocked around a little too much.

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