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Giants RB coach: Andre Brown, David Wilson need a chance at reps

Super Bowl XLVI Getty Images

We have more evidence making it quite clear running back Brandon Jacobs wants to return to the Giants, something the New York Post reported earlier in April.

Giants running backs coach Jerald Ingram said Jacobs is “hoping and praying” to re-sign with New York, Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger reported Wednesday night.

Both Vrentas and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York reported Ingram said the Giants might have at least pondered the prospect of Jacobs getting a second shot with the team that drafted him.

That said, Ingram also made it clear that the club wants to give David Wilson and Andre Brown chances to perform, Vrentas and Tom Rock of Newsday reported on Twitter Wednesday night.

The Giants invested a first-round pick on Wilson in 2012, and they tendered Brown at the second-round level in restricted free agency earlier in the offseason. Those commitments alone suggest Wilson and Brown will have important roles in the backfield.

The Giants could perhaps use a little more running back depth, and Jacobs and the still-unsigned Ahmad Bradshaw know the offense. However, the team previously parted ways with each veteran back. Jacobs is 31, and Bradshaw is coming off foot surgery.

Bradshaw and Jacobs have a combined 1,999 regular-season carries for the Giants. That work helped New York win two NFL titles. Both backs don’t ever have to step foot on the field again for the Giants to have legacies with the club.

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Bills bring back Thigpen, cut Herron

Marcus Thigpen AP

The Bills announced four roster moves Wednesday, most notably the signing of wide receiver Marcus Thigpen.

A veteran of 46 career games, Thigpen previously spent time with the Bills last season and earlier this season. He figures to be given a chance to help in the return game.

The team also signed guard Ryan Groy off of the Buccaneers’ practice squad. Groy started three games for the Bears last year and has also been with the Patriots, who traded for him last summer.

Running back Boom Herron and wide receiver Denarius Moore were released.

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Marshawn Lynch’s surgery successful, expected return by end of year

Marshawn Lynch AP

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch hopes to be back on the field by the end of the year after surgery today.

Lynch’s sports hernia surgery was completed this morning and went fine, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. He and the Seahawks hope Lynch can be back in late December.

The good news for the Seahawks is that Lynch’s backup, undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls, has been everything they could have asked for in a backup and more. Rawls has 101 carries for 604 yards, with a 6.0-yard average that’s better than Lynch has ever had. Lynch’s career-high rushing average was 5.0 yards a carry in 2012.

If Lynch is back to full speed by the end of the season, the Seahawks will have a 1-2 running back combination as good as any in the league. The problem is that at 5-5, the Seahawks are at risk of not having anything to play for by the end of the season. The Seahawks will have to win without Lynch before they’re in a position to win anything meaningful with Lynch.

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Pettine on Manziel’s future in Cleveland: This is a hurdle, not a dead end

of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the Cleveland Browns during the game at Heinz Field on November 15, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Getty Images

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 “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.

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Charles Tillman doubtful to face Dallas

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 08:  Charles Tillman #31 and Roman Harper #41 of the Carolina Panthers react after forcing a fumble by the Green Bay Packers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

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.

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Jason Kelce, Sam Bradford listed as questionable by Eagles

Kelce Getty Images

Jason Kelce’s mystery knee injury has left him a 50-50 call for Thanksgiving.

Via Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, the Eagles have listed Kelce, quarterback Sam Bradford and tackle Jason Peters as questionable for tomorrow’s game with the Lions.

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.

So unless Sam Bradford surprises his teammates, backup Mark Sanchez will be out there taking snaps from someone who may or may not be Kelce.

Also, tight end Zach Ertz and running back Ryan Mathews are listed as out because of concussions.

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Report: Broncos signing Christian Ponder

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Quarterback Christian Ponder #9 of the Oakland Raiders warms up prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on September 3, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

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.

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Devonta Freeman still in concussion protocol

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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.

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NFL has conference call to remind all teams of concussion protocol

Case Keenum, Courtney Upshaw AP

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.

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PFT Live: Browns talk with Tony Grossi, Week 12 picks

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 15:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns during the 2nd half of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 15, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

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.

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Panthers sign an emergency long snapper for the week

JJ Jansen AP

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.

The team announced they had signed long snapper Danny Aiken, filling the roster spot created when guard Amini Silatolu was placed on injured reserve.

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.

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Rex: We can probably force the issue with throws to Sammy Watkins

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 12:  Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills attempts to catch a pass in the end zone under pressure from Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 12, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

In Monday night’s loss to the Patriots, Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins had three catches for 39 yards and was targeted seven times overall by quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

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.

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NFL admits Sammy Watkins got out of bounds with two seconds left

Rex Ryan AP

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.

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Joseph Randle arrested at Kansas casino

Joseph Randle AP

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.

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PFT’s Week 12 picks

Matthew Stafford AP

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 take: Green Bay’s offense does miss receiver Jordy Nelson, but Aaron Rodgers should be able to get back on track against a weak Bears defense. The Packers will cruise.

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 take: Arizona beat Colin Kaepernick by 40 points. Blaine Gabbert will fare better, but not much.

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 take: The Broncos made the right call by replacing Peyton Manning with Brock Osweiler, but neither quarterback would lead Denver to a win over New England.

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 take: The late-season Monday night slate has a lot of ugly games, and this is the ugliest. I like the Johnny Manziel-led Browns to beat the Matt Schaub-led Ravens.

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.

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Mike Mitchell: We want to run the AFC North

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 18:  Mike Mitchell #23 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates after recovering a fumble in the 3rd quarter of the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Heinz Field on October 18, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Getty Images

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.

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