Mike Florio lists some of the top items on the Jaguars’ to-do list for the off-season, and wonders which QB the team will commit to long-term and if Maurice Jones-Drew is guaranteed a return to Jacksonville next season.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Is MJD a top priority?
The Cowboys were in prime time last Sunday night, which means that the eyes of the football world were squarely on Philadelphia when wide receiver Dez Bryant caught three touchdown passes in a victory over the Eagles.
His performance didn’t escape the notice of Colts coach Chuck Pagano, whose team travels to Dallas this Sunday. Pagano said that he’s expecting to see running back DeMarco Murray on Sunday despite Murray’s hand surgery earlier this week, but he knows he’ll see Bryant and that it will “take all hands on deck” to contain a player who scares the Indianapolis head man.
“He’s a nightmare. He’s one of the most competitive guys that we’ve seen,” Pagano said, via the Cowboys website. “He’s a great talent. He’s a great player. He’s a combination of size, athleticism and speed. But his competitive nature and his drive and his passion for the game and for his team and for winning is second to none. The guy’s a monster.”
Cornerback Vontae Davis figures to get a heavy dose of Bryant during Sunday’s game and they’ll need him to do a better job than Bradley Fletcher did last weekend if they’re going to keep the Cowboys from taking another step toward a division title.
All MDS wanted was a chance. Maybe he should have been more careful about what he wished for.
Down five games with 32 games left and his ability to close the gap hinging on the existence of enough disagreements between the two of us, we disagree on five games this week.
So, in theory, he can pull off a five-game sweep and pull even for the Week 17 push to the finish line.
Last week, he nailed 12 of 16 picks. But his decision to predict an Eagles sweep coupled with my decision to trust the Cowboys put me at 13-3.
For the season, I’ve moved to 150-74 (66.9%). MDS is 145-79 (64.7%).
Titans at Jaguars
MDS’s take: In one of the worst games the NFL has ever put on prime-time television, I think the Jaguars will show that they’re still playing hard late in the season, while the Titans have given up.
MDS’s pick: Jaguars 20, Titans 10.
Florio’s take: The Jaguars are favored for the first time in more than 40 games. And for good reason. The Titans stink.
Florio’s pick: Jaguars 17, Titans 13.
Eagles at Washington
MDS’s take: The Eagles are in a precarious position in the NFC playoff race, and I don’t think they’re going to make it. But I also don’t think they’ll lose to a reeling Washington team.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 20, Washington 10.
Florio’s take: Philly has a very real chance at winning the division, since the Cowboys have a very real chance at losing to the Colts and opening the door for a Week 17 win-and-in for the Eagles.
Florio’s pick: Eagles 27, Washington 17.
Chargers at 49ers
MDS’s take: The 49ers are done, while the Chargers still have slim playoff hopes. That’s enough to make me think the Chargers will come out motivated and the 49ers will not, so I’m taking San Diego.
MDS’s pick: Chargers 27, 49ers 17.
Florio’s take: The 49ers are playing for pride. The Chargers are playing for a postseason berth they ultimately won’t be able to earn, given the broken collarbone suffered by Keenan Allen. As players begin to realize that an era is ending, they’ll find a way to win at least one of the final two for the coach who nearly took the team to three straight Super Bowls.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 24, Chargers 20.
Browns at Panthers
MDS’s take: Johnny Manziel can’t possibly be any worse against the Panthers than he was against the Bengals, but I don’t think he’ll be a whole lot better, either. The Browns’ once-promising season will take another hit, while the Panthers will stay in contention in the NFC South.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 24, Browns 10.
Florio’s take: Johnny Manziel will be better this week; he can’t be any worse. But that won’t be enough to turn around a team that has gone into a characteristic free fall.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 23, Browns 10.
Lions at Bears
MDS’s take: The Bears have quit on the season, which means the Lions will get an easy win to clinch a playoff spot.
MDS’s pick: Lions 30, Bears 13.
Florio’s take: And the Bears still haven’t had a true franchise quarterback since Sid Luckman. The Lions continue to move toward the postseason. The Bears continue to move toward seismic changes.
Florio’s pick: Lions 31, Bears 13.
Ravens at Texans
MDS’s take: The Ravens haven’t clinched anything yet, but I think they’re going to make the playoffs and be a dangerous team when they get there. I like Baltimore to win easily on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Ravens 34, Texans 10.
Florio’s take: The Ravens have run out of cornerbacks. The Texans have run out of quarterbacks. Advantage, team with no cornerbacks.
Florio’s pick: Ravens 24, Texans 14.
Vikings at Dolphins
MDS’s take: The Dolphins collapsed in their biggest game of the season last week, while the Vikings have played hard despite being long since eliminated from playoff contention. I’m tempted to pick Minnesota in an upset, but I just don’t think Teddy Bridgewater is quite ready to have a mistake-free game against a good defense, and so I’ll take Miami in a close one.
MDS’s pick: Dolphins 17, Vikings 10.
Florio’s take: It’s unclear whether coach Joe Philbin will return to the Dolphins next year, but it won’t hurt to finish strong. Enter the Vikings, who have shown plenty of fight in a lost season but who don’t have the talent to overcome a Miami team that still has a little something to play for.
Florio’s pick: Dolphins 24, Vikings 17.
Falcons at Saints
MDS’s take: Someone has to win the NFC South, and I still think the best bet is the Saints, who are not a very good team but should be able to put up good numbers on offense against a lousy Atlanta defense.
MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Falcons 28.
Florio’s take: With or without Julio Jones lining up for Atlanta, the Saints reverse a bizarre trend that has seen them lose four straight games at home. Maybe, just maybe, a 7-9 Saints team will host an 11-5 Seahawks franchise, four years after the roles were reversed.
Florio’s pick: Saints 31, Falcons 20.
Patriots at Jets
MDS’s take: It wouldn’t shock me to see the Jets come out fired-up in Rex Ryan’s last game against the rival Patriots. The Jets could very well take an early lead. But over four quarters they just don’t have the firepower to keep up with New England.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 20, Jets 10.
Florio’s take: When hired by the Jets, Rex Ryan said he wasn’t going to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings. In what likely will be their last meeting, Belichick will be kicking Rex’s ass one last time, for old time’s sake.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 41, Jets 13.
Chiefs at Steelers
MDS’s take: This is an intriguing game in the AFC playoff race, where the winner is likely to make it and the loser is likely to be home for the holidays. I think the Chiefs are going to go on the road and pull off an upset.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 24, Steelers 21.
Florio’s take: The Steelers have lost at home to the Buccaneers and Saints. Which makes the fact that the Steelers will be playing their last two games at home not necessarily a good thing. But they’ve come this far and the division title is two victories away.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Chiefs 17.
Packers at Buccaneers
MDS’s take: The Bills showed that a good defense can rattle Aaron Rodgers. The Buccaneers’ defense is not as good as Buffalo’s. The Packers will win to set up a Week 17 NFC North showdown with the Lions.
MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Buccaneers 13.
Florio’s take: The Packers looked horrible in Buffalo. They’ll have to look a lot more horrible to lose in Tampa, especially with a loss moving Green Bay toward missing the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Packers 34, Buccaneers 20.
Giants at Rams
MDS’s take: If the Rams were in any division other than the NFC West, they’d have a real shot at being a playoff team. St. Louis can’t get to the postseason, but it can get to 8-8 with two more wins, and one of those wins will come on Sunday.
MDS’s pick: Rams 21, Giants 17.
Florio’s take: Both teams hope to finish the season strongly. The Rams are currently stronger than the Giants, despite a pair of victories by Eli and company.
Florio’s pick: Rams 24, Giants 20.
Colts at Cowboys
MDS’s take: The Colts don’t have much to play for after wrapping up the AFC South last week, while the Cowboys have plenty to play for as they could still finish anywhere from first seed in the NFC to out of the playoffs entirely. And yet I have a funny feeling that Andrew Luck is going to exploit the holes in the Cowboys’ defense and put up big numbers in a Colts win.
MDS’s pick: Colts 30, Cowboys 20.
Florio’s take: The Cowboys realize the stakes of this one; a win moves them closer to a division title and a loss could ultimately knock them out of the playoffs, again. DeMarco Murray will play, Tony Romo will deliver, and the Cowboys will continue one of their most surprising seasons ever.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 34, Colts 23.
Bills at Raiders
MDS’s take: The Bills probably won’t make the playoffs even if they win out, but beating the Raiders will clinch Buffalo’s first winning record since 2004. This Bills team is making progress.
MDS’s pick: Bills 17, Raiders 10.
Florio’s take: By beating the Packers, Doug Marrone may have saved his job for at least a year. He could secure it for the rest of the decade by securing the team’s first playoff berth since 1999.
Florio’s pick: Bills 24, Raiders 14.
Seahawks at Cardinals
MDS’s take: I admire the way the Cardinals have continued to find ways to win despite injuries taking a huge toll on the roster. But a Ryan Lindley-quarterbacked team just can’t beat a Seattle team that is playing at a Super Bowl level.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 6.
Florio’s take: Common sense points to Seattle, a seven-point favorite facing a third-string quarterback who was on San Diego’s practice squad a little more than a month ago. But I can already hear Bruce Arians telling reporters after the game how the players fed off the combined incentive of proving everyone wrong and seizing the brass ring that is home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Maybe I’m just a sucker for an underdog. Maybe I’m stupid. Maybe I’m a little tipsy. Regardless, I’d rather be wrong by picking the Cardinals than wrong by making the obvious pick.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 23, Seahawks 20.
Broncos at Bengals
MDS’s take: The good news for the Broncos is they’re showing they can win with defense and a good running game on offense. The bad news is that Peyton Manning’s numbers are way down, and the Bengals’ secondary is solid. Look for the Bengals to frustrate Manning and pull off a home upset.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Broncos 20.
Florio’s take: Andy Dalton has a putrid record of 2-9 in prime-time and postseason games. Make it 2-10. The only good news is that he’ll possibly not have a chance to lose another playoff game.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 30, Bengals 20.
For teams that are out of playoff contention, motivation might be hard to come by.
For many individual players, each game can be invaluable.
Jaguars defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks has a chance to earn an extra $600,000 tonight, if he can get half a sack in an otherwise unremarkable game against the Titans (a game featuring teams with a combined 4-24 record).
According to Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union, Marks had an incentive clause put in his contract last December which would pay him $600,000 if he collected 8.0 sacks. Since he had fewer than that (7.0) in his first five seasons, it seemed a reasonable inclusion.
But now he has 7.5 this year, making these last two games potentially more lucrative.
“Once the game starts, I don’t think about it,’’ Marks said. ”If it happens, it happens. If it don’t it don’t. . . .
“I play within the scheme. Playing within the scheme has gotten me to this point so I won’t abandon the scheme just to be selfish.”
Marks would have already hit the mark, except for a scoring change. Two weeks ago against the Texans, he was credited for one when quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick fell down and he touched him first, but that was later changed.
“I didn’t think it was a sack when it happened,” he said. “I thought it was a running play. It [taking the sack away] won’t bother me.”
It might if he can’t get back on the board in the next two games.
For several weeks, questions have swirled regarding whether and to what extent Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is playing with injuries. He could be playing with an injury that is bad enough that perhaps he shouldn’t be playing.
The Chargers recently acknowledged that Rivers has a back injury. He missed practice Tuesday and Wednesday, critical sessions before a Saturday game against the 49ers, due to the injury.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the back injury is “more severe than the team has acknowledged.”
Technically, teams aren’t required to acknowledge the severity of any injury. Teams simply must disclose on the thrice-weekly practice reports whether the player didn’t practice, practiced on a limited basis, or practiced fully with one or more injuries. Once per week, the team must apply a label reflecting the player’s anticipated availability for the game.
In Rivers’ case, the fact that he actually missed practice due to the back injury suggests that it’s significant, given that he had missed no practices due to what teammate Antonio Gates told reporters was a “severe rib injury.” (Gates later backtracked, predictably; the team eventually disclosed that Rivers has a chest injury.)
Rivers said Wednesday that he’ll play on Saturday. Thursday’s final injury report before the Saturday night game will reveal plenty about whether Rivers will indeed be able to go.
Given that the guy once played a postseason game with a torn ACL and presumably has battled through plenty of other injuries to do his job, don’t be surprised to see him play.
The Bills’ offensive line has room for improvement.
The Dolphins got four injured LBs back to practice, but it’s unclear if they’ll all be available.
The Bengals still have to win a pressure game to convince many.
The Steelers may be taking another look at the no-huddle offense.
Texans coach Bill O’Brien is going to leave us in suspense until Sunday about his starting QB (which will give us time to Google them).
No team has started more rookies than the Jaguars.
The Titans have something to play for tonight (other than draft position).
The Broncos added S Josh Bush to the active roster.
The Chiefs got two players back from concussions.
Chargers practice squad G Craig Watts was suspended four games for violating the league’s PED policy.
The Cowboys have been surprisingly bad at home this year.
Former Eagles coach Andy Reid tried to lure Troy Aikman out of retirement once, in the middle of a game.
Washington players don’t think a lot of penalties means they’re undisciplined.
The Packers are trying not to be overconfident against two-win Tampa Bay.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wants his team tougher in the fourth quarter.
The Saints added a kicker to the practice squad.
The Rams are making some noise on special teams.
Injuries have hit the 49ers hard.
The Seahawks were missing 60 percent of their offensive line Wednesday.
Rice said he wanted to do something to support his community, and that he in turn feels supported by the people in Baltimore.
“I’ve been back out but coming to Jimmy’s and Toys For Tots, this is the best time to give back,” Rice told CBS in Baltimore. “It’s a warm welcome just to know that there are still people out there who still do support.”
Rice says he thinks many people are willing to forgive him for the domestic violence incident that caused him to be suspended by the NFL and caused the NFL to be thrown into turmoil.
“I made a horrible mistake in my life but if you truly believe in second chances, they will forgive me,” Rice said. “I think all the fans have looked deep into who I am.”
Rice said he wants to remain active in the community.
“It does feel good to be out and amongst the Baltimore community and just to give back,” Rice said.
A charity appearance is the kind of small step Rice will need to make if he ever wants to rehabilitate his reputation. Despite the support he’s feeling from some in Baltimore, he still has a long way to go.
The Packers had a devil of a time keeping the Bills defensive line from harassing Aaron Rodgers during last Sunday’s loss in Buffalo, something that wasn’t helped by the loss of right tackle Bryan Bulaga to a concussion during the game.
Bulaga’s absence was particularly notable on a late sack by Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who beat J.C. Tretter and stripped Rodgers of the ball in the end zone for what wound up as a safety that accounted for the final points in a 21-13 Buffalo win. Bulaga hasn’t been cleared through the concussion protocol yet, but he has started working out and that’s left Packers coach Mike McCarthy feeling optimistic about the tackle’s chances of playing against the Buccaneers.
“Looks great,” McCarthy said, via ESPN.com. “Saw him in the weight room, in the meetings this morning. Making progress.”
Several other Packers were limited participants on Wednesday or sat out practice altogether, but McCarthy didn’t appear concerned that running back Eddie Lacy or linebacker Clay Matthews were at risk of missing the game.
The 49ers released defensive end Ray McDonald on Wednesday in the wake of news that he’s the subject of a sexual assault investigation that comes a short time after McDonald was investigated, but not charged, in a domestic violence case.
McDonald hasn’t been arrested and the 49ers stuck with McDonald through the first allegations by making frequent arguments in support of his right to due process, but they’re not going down that road this time. General Manager Trent Baalke cited a pattern of poor decision making when making the announcement that McDonald was gone from the team.
On Wednesday, quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he supported the team’s decision while also hoping McDonald is cleared of any wrongdoing.
“It’s very unfortunate. I understand why the team did what it did. Outside of that, it’s not my business,” Kaepernick said, via Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “He’s a good friend to a lot people on this team. No one around him ever thought bad of him. So hopefully it’s just a misunderstanding.”
Another player who didn’t want to be identified also spoke to Inman and was critical of the team handling things differently this time.
“If the organization wanted to save face, they should have done this [release of McDonald] the first time, and not now when we’re playing for nothing,” the player said.
Saving face may be part of the idea, but it’s a tough sell since releasing McDonald now makes it look like the team only cares about due process when there’s something for them to gain and that’s not a good look for the organization in any circumstances.
There are a number of things Bills running back C.J. Spiller’s going to have to get used to in a hurry, if he’s going to play this week.
Namely, shoulder pads.
Spiller took his off midway through Bills practice yesterday, his first since coming back from a broken collarbone.
“Yeah, I was just getting used to [wearing them] again,” Spiller said, via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. “It’s been two months since I’ve had them on so I just wanted to see what it felt like to put them back.”
Spiller was listed as limited in practice Wednesday, his first since injuring his shoulder Oct. 19. But the Bills seem inclined to activate him for Sunday’s game against the Raiders. The roster spot they need is waiting for him after fullback Frank Summers was released.
“He looked good,” coach Doug Marrone said. “But he’s still working his way back into the football part of it.”
Spiller said he felt “good” after practice, and when asked what would decide whether he’d play, he replied: “How I feel.”
So it stands to reason that they’ll activate him sometime before Saturday at 4 p.m., and give him a chance to give them a boost toward an unexpected playoff push.
Jets coach Rex Ryan was trying to watch a television copy of the Patriots to prepare for this week’s game, when the words he heard offended his delicate ears.
Specifically, the F-bombs dropped by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady caught him by surprise.
“I even take the TV copies of the games and I watch them, but to be honest with you, I couldn’t watch all of the game. I was offended by the language I saw,” Ryan said, via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ “I’m thinking, ‘Boy, that fine’s got to really be hefty because that’s one, two, three, four, five, of those bad boys I think.’”
Of course, Ryan was just poking fun at Brady, since he has his own colorful way with the language, and some background with the censors in charge.
Ryan was docked $100,000 earlier this year for swearing at a ref, which is different from just having a regular potty mouth like Brady.
Of course, it’s all our fault that the world knows the Patriots quarterback talks like a sailor, so perhaps we should apologize.
Or, they can all go f-ine themselves.
The NFL changes a lot from year to year, something that the Eagles could learn the hard way this season.
In 2013, the Eagles won 10 games and that was enough to make them NFC East champions and hosts of a home game in the playoffs. This year, the Eagles could wind up with 11 wins and get nothing for their efforts but the chance to start the offseason before 2015 gets underway. Should that happen, coach Chip Kelly won’t be chalking it up to bad luck or the breaks of the game.
“Right now, we’ve only got nine wins,” Kelly said, via ESPN.com. “I mean, for us to think of questions like that, that doesn’t help us beat Washington. So I don’t really think about it. If we win 11 games and it’s not good enough to get in, shame on us because we didn’t win the right games. That’s the bottom line. That’s what this whole deal is all about and we know it going in.”
Kelly’s right on the money when it comes to losing the wrong games. The Eagles have lost five games in the NFC, including matchups with the Cardinals, Seahawks and Packers that could result in their elimination from the playoffs via a head-to-head tiebreaker. Throw in last week’s loss to the Cowboys and that would make four losses to teams in the NFC playoff field, which is a couple too many for a real hard luck argument.
The Saints are ready to bury the Falcons once and for all.
But the Falcons aren’t biting on a eulogy offered by Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis.
Via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, Lewis was talking about not letting the Falcons pass for 500 yards against them when he said: “We’re definitely gonna give them their funeral.”
To his credit, Falcons wide receiver Roddy White didn’t pay it a whole lot of mind.
“Nope,” White said. “May we rest in peace until Sunday.”
The 6-8 Saints, leaders of a miserable division, can eliminate the 5-9 Falcons from the playoffs Sunday.
“It is what it is because you play the game on the field,” Douglas said. “I’ve never seen anybody play the game talking. All we’ve got to do is play the type of football we have to play, and the rest will take care of itself.
“Lewis is a great player. He’s a competitor. But it boils down to New Orleans vs. Atlanta. We don’t like them, and they don’t like us. You leave it all out there on Sunday. That’s when I’m going to play the game: on Sunday. I can’t play the game on Wednesday.”
The Falcons beat the Saints in the opener, and the Saints have been historically bad at home this year, so the possibility of the NFC pillowfight going down to the last week still exists.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said left tackle Russell Okung has yet to be ruled out for this week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.
“He’s still in the mix,” Carroll said. “He’s going to have some stuff done tomorrow that will let us know where he sits and all that. He’s not out of the plan yet.”
Carroll said Monday that Okung would likely miss 1-2 weeks due to a bruised lung suffered against the San Francisco 49ers. Okung was replaced by Alvin Bailey for the remainder of the game after Okung was injured on the final play of the first half.
Center Max Unger did not practice on Wednesday as Carroll said Unger was struggling to recover from the workload he went through in practice last Friday.
“He had a tough recovery from last Friday’s practice so he’s gonna be not going today, so we’ll see how he is tomorrow,” Carroll said. “We’re taking it one day at a time now. It’s close enough where we have a chance [to get him back].”
Unger has missed the last four games for Seattle after suffered a sprained ankle and knee injuries against the Kansas City Chiefs. Lemuel Jeanpierre and Patrick Lewis have started in Unger’s absence the last several weeks.
With Seattle giving up seven sacks to the Cardinals the last time they placed four weeks ago, the Seahawks could use Okung and Unger healthy and in the lineup. The game will either give the Cardinals the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the playoffs or put the Seahawks in the driver’s seat to accomplish both feats heading into the final week of the regular season.
However, Thomas wasn’t out of work long as he was claimed off waivers by the Detroit Lions on Wednesday.
Thomas played in one game for the Jets and appeared in three games for the Seattle Seahawks earlier this season. He spent the previous three years with the Carolina Panthers. He recorded two tackles and two passes defended.
To make room on the roster, the Lions placed tackle LaAdrian Waddle on injured reserve. Waddle started 10 games for the Lions this season before suffering a knee injury last week against the Minnesota Vikings.
As quarterback Russell Wilson closes in on the payday for which he becomes eligible the day after Week 17 ends, he’ll have a new agent to help him.
Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, Wilson has parted ways with Bus Cook, who has represented Wilson since he was drafted in 2012. And as further proof of the carefully-manicured Russell Wilson image, the leak to Schefter came with an obvious request that the move be characterized as something other than what it really is.
“A source close to Wilson said Cook was not fired, but simply the quarterback was making a change,” Schefter wrote on Facebook.
Sure, Wilson was making a change. He was making a change by firing Cook.
You can’t change an agent without firing the agent. Unless Cook resigned or retired (and he didn’t), Wilson initiated the process of changing agents; Wilson fired Cook.
(Why would Schefter push something so obviously not true, you may ask? Bookmark this page for when Schefter breaks the news that Wilson has signed a new mega-contract with a Seahawks.)
Wilson eventually will hire Mark Rodgers, a baseball-certified agent who currently has no active NFL clients, according to the NFLPA website. Eventually, Rodgers will have a fairly big one — and his first order of business will be to negotiate a contract that cuts against the recent trend of paying young quarterbacks on a year-to-year basis.
But, hey, at least Rodgers won’t have to worry about getting fired if Wilson’s next contract is lacking.