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PFT’s Week Five picks

Luck AP

The gap has been narrowed from three games to two, thanks to 10-5 showing last week.  The good news for MDS, who went a mere 9-6, was that he had his first hole in one of the year, picking the Seahawks to beat the Texans by the score of 23-20.  (I’d be really impressed if he also predicted overtime.)

For the year, MDS leads with a mark of 43-20, or 68.2 percent.  I’m closing in on him with a 41-22 mark, which equates to 65 percent.

This week, we disagree on 21.4 percent of the games.  Read on for our takes and our picks.

Bills at Browns

MDS’s take: Browns fever is sweeping the nation! OK, that’s a slight overstatement, but this team is playing very well, especially on defense, where new coordinator Ray Horton deserves an enormous amount of credit. Cleveland will beat Buffalo and improve to 3-0 since allegedly giving up on the season by trading Trent Richardson.

MDS’s pick: Browns 17, Bills 14.

Florio’s take:  The Bills are too banged up and the Browns, two weeks after they supposedly abandoned their season, are too strong on defense and sufficiently competent on offense to lose.  With two home wins only four days apart, they’ll soon have to call it the Factory of Gladness.

Florio’s pick:  Browns 20, Bills 14.

Saints at Bears

MDS’s take: The Bears’ defense is missing Henry Melton and struggled against Detroit’s offense last week. This week an even better New Orleans offense is heading to Chicago, and the Bears’ defense will struggle again.

MDS’s pick: Saints 28, Bears 24.

Florio’s take:  The Saints are much improved, but they’re still not the same team when they exit the Superdome.  The winless Bucs nearly beat them in Tampa; the much better Bears will finish the job on the choppy turf of Soldier Field.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 24, Saints 21.

Patriots at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Patriots will miss Vince Wilfork’s presence on the defensive line. Look for Bengals running back Giovani Bernard to have a big day as the Patriots suffer their first loss of the season.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 21, Patriots 20.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals are learning how to be a good team.  A week after failing to win a game they should have, the Bengals find a way to prevail in a contest many assume they’ll lose.  And down goes another of the undefeated.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 27, Patriots 24.

Lions at Packers

MDS’s take: The Lions have lost 22 in a row in Green Bay. The last time the Lions beat the Packers on the road, it was 1991 and the starting quarterbacks in the game were Erik Kramer and Mike Tomczak. The Lions are just not very good at Lambeau Field. The streak will continue for another year.

MDS’s pick: Packers 27, Lions 20.

Florio’s take:  Earlier this year, the Lions won for the first time ever in Washington.  And now it could be time to win in Green Bay for the first time since the year before Brett Favre arrived.  But the Packers are rested and ready and healed (for the most part) after a bye week.  More importantly, they’re desperate to avoid a 1-3 start to the season.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 31, Lions 24.

Seahawks at Colts

MDS’s take: The Seahawks tend to struggle on the road, and the Colts are playing excellent football, looking even better than last year’s surprise playoff team. So my head is telling me to pick Indianapolis. But my gut is telling me Russell Wilson is going to have an easier time finding open receivers in the Colts’ secondary than Andrew Luck will have finding open receivers in the Seahawks’ secondary, and that will be the difference.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Colts 27.

Florio’s take
:  Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton won’t be allowing former Stanford cornerback (and receiver) Richard Sherman to spot any tendencies or tells this week.  If the Colts can outscore the 49ers by 20 in their own building, the Colts can outscore the Seahawks by at least one at home.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 24, Seahawks 23.

Ravens at Dolphins

MDS’s take: Perhaps it’s premature, four weeks into the season, to say this about the defending Super Bowl champion. But I just don’t think the Ravens are a very good team. The Dolphins’ defense had plenty of flaws on display in Monday night’s loss to the Saints, but the Ravens’ suspect offensive line is going to make it easy for the Dolphins to get to Joe Flacco.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 31, Ravens 17.

Florio’s take:  In 2007, the Dolphins got their only win of the season against the Ravens.  This year, it will be one of a lot more than one.  While it’s too early to write off Baltimore, it’s too late to consider them a viable candidate to knock off the improved Dolphins in Miami.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 27, Ravens 20.

Eagles at Giants

MDS’s take: Other than the first half of Week One, the Eagles haven’t looked particularly good this season. But the Giants have looked downright awful. The NFC East is such a bad division that even at 0-4 the Giants aren’t out of it yet, but they’ll drop to 0-5 on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 27, Giants 17.

Florio’s take:  Forget the 0-4 record.  The Giants are only two games out of first place, and they can pull to within one with a win over Philly and a Dallas loss to the Broncos.  Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning finally find a way to a win.  (And I’ll keep saying that until they finally do.)

Florio’s pick:  Giants 27, Eagles 19.

Jaguars at Rams

MDS’s take: I’d pick anyone to beat the Jaguars. Easily. This Jacksonville team is as bad an NFL team as I’ve ever seen, and I remember the 2008 Lions well.

MDS’s pick: Rams 34, Jaguars 17.

Florio’s take:  What’s more likely, the Broncos going 16-0 or the Jaguars going 0-16?  This week, we’ll remain on track for “both.”

Florio’s pick:  Rams 27, Jaguars 10.

Chiefs at Titans

MDS’s take: In this matchup of two surprise AFC playoff contenders, I probably would have picked Tennessee if Jake Locker were healthy. But with Locker out, the Chiefs will improve to 5-0. Who saw that coming?

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 20, Titans 14.

Florio’s take:  Alex Smith gets his first crack at a Gregg Williams defense since proof emerged of Williams telling his players to hurt Smith.  The bigger problem for the Titans is that quarterback Jake Locker is hurt.  So which Ryan Fitzpatrick shows up — the one from before he got paid by the Bills, or after?

Florio’s pick
:  Chiefs 21, Titans 17.

Panthers at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Panthers won’t catch the Saints in the NFC South, and the Cardinals won’t catch the Seahawks in the NFC West. But the winner of this game will have to feel like it’s in very good position to emerge as an NFC wild card contender. I think it’s going to be the Panthers, who have an offense that’s capable of putting a lot of points on the board. I don’t see Arizona’s offense keeping up.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 31, Cardinals 17.

Florio’s take:  For Carolina, the bye week makes many forget a dominant performance against the Giants.  Not me.  The defense is clicking and the offense is doing enough to outpace a better-than-expected Arizona team in its own building.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Cardinals 21.

Broncos at Cowboys

MDS’s take: This is the flip side of what I said earlier about the Jaguars: I’d pick the Broncos to beat anyone. (Although I’d probably have to think long and hard about it if they played at Seattle.) The Broncos are the best team in football and will improve to 5-0, while the Cowboys will fall to 2-3, which in the NFC East is still good enough for first place.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 35, Cowboys 21.

Florio’s take:  Jerry Jones wants Tony Romo to be Peyton Manning.  Tony Romo is no Peyton Manning.  Jerry Jones will get to see it up close on Sunday.  To his dismay.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 42, Cowboys 24.

Chargers at Raiders

MDS’s take: In the midnight special, Philip Rivers will put up big numbers against a suspect Raiders defense. The winners will be the Chargers and the losers will be any fans who stay up to watch the whole game and have to be at work on Monday morning.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 28, Raiders 20.

Florio’s takeTerrelle Pryor has created hope for the Raiders, but that doesn’t mean there will be wins.  The Chargers are the better team on both sides of the ball, and quarterback Philip Rivers is reminding everyone that he’s still a franchise quarterback.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 26, Raiders 20.

Texans at 49ers

MDS’s take: This is a big one for two teams that entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations and are now looking up at better teams in their own divisions. San Francisco’s defense will miss Aldon Smith, but they’ll still be able to get enough pressure on Matt Schaub to force him into another disappointing game.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Texans 20.

Florio’s take:  A pair of Super Bowl contenders that have failed to meet expectations meet in San Francisco with the expectation that the 49ers will win.  Expect that to happen, with the Niners sticking with a smash-mouth attack and the Texans sliding under .500 — and possibly two games out of first place in the AFC South.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 24, Texans 17.

Jets at Falcons

MDS’s take: Geno Smith may develop into a good quarterback eventually, but right now he’s a mess, and Monday night he’s going to have a particularly tough time when playing with a depleted receiving corps. The Jets’ defense is good enough to keep this game low scoring, but the Falcons will force multiple turnovers and control this game.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 17, Jets 6.

Florio’s take:  The surprisingly 1-3 Falcons host the surprisingly 2-2 Jets in a game with an outcome that will surprise no one.  Folks who stayed up late to watch Chargers-Raiders will get to catch up on their sleep by turning in at halftime, and in the morning they’ll find out whether the Falcons once again blew a big lead.  What has two thumbs and thinks they won’t?

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 42, Jets 17.

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Russell Wilson hits HR in cameo appearance in Rangers camp

Russell Wilson AP

Russell Wilson was a mediocre pro baseball player before he became an outstanding pro quarterback.

But Saturday, he showed a flash in the batting cage similar to his early run in the NFL.

According to Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, Wilson sent one over the fence during his batting practice with the Texas Rangers in Surprise, Ariz., surprising even himself.

I haven’t swung a bat in about two years,” he said.

Wilson also took ground balls, during his second annual cameo in Rangers camp. Texas chose Wilson in the Rule 5 Draft giving them the right to have the Seahawks quarterback hang around.

Wilson was drafted by the Rockies in the fourth round of the 2010 draft as a second baseman, when he was also playing football at N.C. State.

He hit .229 in 93 games, giving no indication there was much of a future in it. Saturday’s swing notwithstanding, it seems he made the right call.

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Jared Allen wants to prove he belongs: “I’m good still. Really”

Chicago Bears v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Bears are still figuring out how best to use Jared Allen, since they’re kind of contractually stuck with him.

But after a disappointing first year in Chicago, Allen vows to show everyone this year that he still has plenty left in the tank, and he started that campaign when he met with General Manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox last week.

“I was less anxious and so much more eager to talk to them,” Allen said, via Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune. “Just to say, ‘Hey guys. I know the film from last year only shows 5.5 sacks. But don’t believe that’s all I have left.

I’m good still. Really.”

Of course, Allen’s going to have to prove it in a foreign defense, as the Bears are shifting to a 3-4 system that will require him to play outside linebacker if he’s going to see the field on anything other than passing downs.

But as he comes to the twilight of a brilliant career (he turns 33 next week), Allen feels compelled to go out on his terms, to prove he’s still an impact pass-rusher even if he didn’t look like one last year.

“There are three reasons guys hang on,” Allen said. “Some need the money. Some need the identity the NFL gives them. So they stick around for that. Some guys genuinely think they still have it. . . . I’m selfish enough that if I didn’t truly think I still had it, I’d walk away. I’m in the top 10 all time [in sacks]. I have a 12-sack per-year average. I don’t want to end to end my career with an eight-sack per-year average, right?

“I can’t let last season be my lasting impression, the image of a guy who was hurt and sick and pissed off,” he says. “That’s not me. … This is not about making the best of a bad situation. It’s about being the best again in an environment where I can be.”

If he can adapt late in his caerer, he’ll have that opportunity.

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Lance Briggs to visit the 49ers on Monday

New York Giants v Chicago Bears Getty Images

With a big hole to fill at inside linebacker, the 49ers identified Mason Foster and Lance Briggs as two potential targets in free agency this week. Foster signed with the Bears instead, but Briggs is heading to San Francisco for a visit.

Briggs told Vaughn McClure of ESPNChicago.com that he will visit with the 49ers on Monday. Briggs is from the area and grew up a 49ers fan.

The 34-year-old Briggs was informed by the Bears this year that he won’t be back in Chicago, but he says he can “still perform at an elite level.” That’s debatable, but if Briggs can be anything close to the player he once was, he’d represent a major upgrade for the 49ers. With the retirements of Chris Borland and Patrick Willis, San Francisco desperately needs help at the position.

If Briggs doesn’t sign with the 49ers, other options include the Buccaneers (where he’d be reunited with former Bears coach Lovie Smith) and Cowboys (where he’d be reunited with Rod Marinelli, an assistant on Smith’s staff who is now the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator). Even at his advanced age, there are probably a few defenses that Briggs can help, and he’ll likely sign with one soon.

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Chiefs see Andy Reid and Alex Smith as a Super Bowl combination

Andy Reid, Alex Smith (11) AP

The Chiefs are confident that they have the two most important pieces in place to win a Super Bowl.

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said that in head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith, Kansas City has exactly what it needs to get a title.

“We’ve got a coach and a quarterback who can take us to the Super Bowl,” Hunt said, via the Kansas City Star. “And if we keep building the team the right way — and I will go back and mention again, I feel a big part of that is drafting right, [because] you have to do that every year — we’ve got a real shot of getting to the game we all want to get in.”

Hunt made clear that the expectations are high for his franchise, which hasn’t won a playoff game since Joe Montana led a victory over the Houston Oilers in 1993.

“The expectation is that we have a team that can compete for a championship every year, and to have that, you have to be building every year,” Hunt said. “I don’t want to see us get in a position where we’re mortgaging the future trying to win it all this year. We always want to be in a building mode.”

The hardest part about building a champion is finding the coach and the quarterback. Hunt thinks that job is done.

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Jay Gruden says the door is open for Santana Moss to return

Santana Moss AP

Santana Moss will turn 36 this offseason, caught just 10 passes last season and is not currently under contract to any NFL team. But that doesn’t necessarily mean his NFL career is over.

Jay Gruden, who coached Moss in Washington last year, says the team would be open to bringing Moss back for another season.

“You know what? I could always play with Santana,” Gruden said, via the Washington Post. “Santana’s a great person. He’s great in the locker room for us. He knows all the positions. I know he’s going to be in great shape, and I would not hesitate one bit to call him.”

Washington seems fairly set at receiver with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Ryan Grant and Andre Roberts, but if the team decides it needs another player at the position — and that player is not added in the draft — Moss could return.

“We’ve talked about everybody. It’s just about when, how. We don’t want — we’ll wait until the draft to see what we have as far as numbers at every position and go from there. You know, that’s something that we know where Santana is, and he knows where we are, and something may work out down the road,” Gruden said.

No one has any illusions that a 36-year-old Moss is going to be like the 26-year-old Moss who set the franchise record for receiving yards in a season and was an All-Pro. But if the team wants to add some veteran depth, Moss may be back for one more year.

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Washington plans to host Marcus Mariota

Playoff Championship Ohio St Oregon Football AP

The Jets are sending some key decision-makers to work out Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. But the team drafting ahead of them may take Mariota before the Jets, at No. 6, get the chance.

Washington, which has the fifth overall pick, plans bring Mariota to the team’s headquarters in Ashburn, Virginia, Albert Breer of NFL Network reports. Tampa Bay and Tennessee have also scheduled visits with Mariota, so four of the teams with the top six picks will work him out.

It’s anyone’s guess where Mariota might land. The interest in him is high enough that there seems to be a good chance that he’ll go in the Top 6, but there are also mock drafts that see him sliding quite a bit further than that.

If Washington drafts him, that would be a very strong sign that the team is preparing to move on from quarterback Robert Griffin III. So far, the team hasn’t decided whether to pick up the fifth-year option on Griffin’s contract, which means he could be a free agent next March.

In addition to the teams high in the draft that may take Mariota, the Chargers have shown interest and are expected to work him out on April 15. It seems unlikely that Mariota would still be available to the Chargers with the 17th overall pick, but with only one more season left on Philip Rivers’s contract, San Diego could trade Rivers to move up and get Mariota.

Almost everyone thinks Jameis Winston will go first overall to Tampa Bay. Plenty of teams are interested in Mariota as well, but it’s still anyone’s guess which of those teams will end up with him.

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Packers may use pistol formation on a regular basis

Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers AP

Last year, a late-season calf injury to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers forced coach Mike McCarthy to rely at times on the pistol formation, given the limitations on Rodgers’ mobility.  McCarthy plans to use it more in 2015.

I like the pistol,” McCarthy said in Arizona this week at the league meetings, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  “I think there’s a lot of value regardless of the injury to Aaron.  I know he likes it.  There’s a place for it year-round in your offense.”

The Packers wouldn’t use it as a tool for allowing Rodgers to run the read-option, but as a way to introduce more variables into the defensive effort to crack the code of the team’s tendencies.

“I liked it from a self-scout standpoint,” McCarthy said.  “It gives you another self-scout variable when you’re in the gun, but you also have the tailback behind you.  [There are a] lot of benefits to it.”

With a quarterback like Rodgers, it’s hard to imagine the Green Bay offense struggling in any formation.  Still, look for the pistol to be a more prevalent formation for the Packers.

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Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion visits the Seahawks

Green Bay Packers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Now that the criminal charges against him are gone, Letroy Guion is looking for a way to replace the change which he hasn’t recovered yet.

And that might mean a change of address.

Via Adam, Caplan of ESPN, Guion visited the Seahawks yesterday. There’s still some interest from the Packers, but it’s interesting that his first contact was from the Northwest.

The Seahawks have been active looking for depth on the defensive line this offseason, and Guion would give them an opportunity to get younger and better in the middle.

Guion was arrested in February in Florida on gun and drug charges, but those went away as a first time offender, after he agreed to pay a $5,000 fine.

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Chad Greenway takes pay cut to stay with the Vikings

Chad Greenway, Nate Triplett AP

We noted early this month that the Vikings wanted to keep Chad Greenway, but didn’t want to pay him the $7 million he was owed on his contract.

Problem solved.

Greenway has taken a pay cut that will give Minnesota more than $3.2 million in salary cap relief, Field Yates of ESPN reports. Greenway’s new base salary is $3.4 million. He has $1 million guaranteed this year and can get $600,000 in incentives.

The Vikings drafted Greenway in the first round in 2006 and he’s spent his entire career in Minnesota, and both sides want Greenway to finish his career in Minnesota. But it’s also clear that both sides realize that at age 32 and coming off an injury-plagued season, Greenway isn’t the same player he was when he signed his previous contract. Now he’s going to be making a salary more commensurate with where he is, late in his career.

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Saturday morning one-liners

rodney-harrison Getty Images

Former Patriots S Rodney Harrison thinks the team made the right move in letting CB Darrelle Revis walk away.

Jets owner Woody Johnson sold a Manhattan apartment for $77.5 million.

Bills G.M. Doug Whaley would like to re-sign LB Brandon Spikes.

A timely text message from former Dolphins G.M. Jeff Ireland to New Orleans coach Sean Payton resulted in Ireland getting a new job.

Pittsburgh is actively trying to add more hotels in the hopes of hosting a Super Bowl.

In advance of a potential full-time move to Cleveland, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has put his Knoxville home on the market.

Bengals owner Mike Brown supports ditching the extra point and making everybody go for two.

Ravens LB Courtney Upshaw could fill the pass-rush void created by the departure of Pernell McPhee.

Texans owner Bob McNair seems to think WR Andre Johnson has lost a step.

A new Jaguars hat was supposed to show the Jacksonville skyline under the bill, but it wasn’t Jacksonville.

Titans assistant head coach/defense Dick LeBeau briefly considered calling it a career after leaving the Steelers.

The Colts will work out Alabama S Nick Perry on Monday.

Chiefs G.M. John Dorsey said S Eric Berry is in good spirits as he continues his cancer fight.

Chargers physician Christopher Wahl has resigned, citing family reasons and the potential relocation of the franchise.

Broncos WR Cody Latimer will join Peyton Manning for workouts next week in the hopes of making a leap in 2015.

DL C.J. Wilson is happy to be staying with the Raiders.

Cowboys DT Amobi Okoye has listed a Katy, Texas mansion for $2.1 million.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie attended Thursday’s public viewing for Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik.

Itsaknockout, a horse owned by Giants V.P. of player personnel Chris Mara, could end up in the Kentucky Derby.

Washington’s home field will host Argentina and El Salvador on Saturday in a soccer match.

The Bears could be looking to load up on pass rushers.

A Wisconsin man faces charges that the stole $46,000 from local businesses by failing to deliver on promises of Packers tickets.

Daktronics will install 18 high-definition LED video displays in the new Vikings stadium.

Lions DE Ziggy Ansah will benefit from the presence of DT Haloti Ngata.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn has opened the door on a possible return from QB Matt Schaub, who was traded from Atlanta eight years ago.

After spending 2014 on the practice squad, Panthers WR Stephen Hill could be ready to make a real contribution this year.

Could the Buccaneers be making a Peyton Manning-Ryan Leaf decision which knowing whether they’ll be taking Manning or Leaf?

Saints RB Mark Ingram is feeling “extremely blessed.”

The 49ers’ new stadium will be hosting Wrestlemania on Sunday night.

Free-agent DT Letroy Guion visited the Seahawks on Friday.

The workout bonus for Cardinals NT Alameda Ta’amu is tied to making weight.

A Rams scout talks about scouting.

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Arizona neurologist praises NFL’s new injury timeout rule

Craig Ochoa AP

Any time a doctor who works for or near the NFL praises an NFL initiative, there’s a reasonable cause for skepticism.

But in the case of the league’s recently adopted injury timeout rule, it’s hard to find much room for argument.

Via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com, one of the league’s independent sideline neurologists had nothing but good to say about the policy.

“In my opinion, this is the biggest thing for sports medicine that has come out,” said Dr. Javier Cardenas, who is on the NFL head, neck and spine committee. “Where else do you have a medical provider that actually is calling a timeout in any other sport? None. None. Huge for sports medicine.”

Cardenas works the sidelines at Cardinals games, so he has ringside seats for what’s happening on the field. But under the new rule, it’s a certified athletic trainer (ATC spotter) upstairs) who can make the call to stop the game if a player appears disoriented (such as Julian Edelman late in the Super Bowl).

That’s when doctors such as Cardenas can step in.

Other than a natural curiosity as to whether the spotter will be as quick on the trigger when a star player or a quarterback is hurt, there’s a bright line distinction here. Unlike when one of the league’s own concussion specialists said reports of CTE in football players was “over-exaggerated,” Cardenas’ point was clear.

The only result of this new rule is positive.

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Winston first, Williams second, and then the draft is wide open

Jameis Winston AP

Everyone thinks the Buccaneers will take Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in the draft. Most people think the Titans will take Leonard Williams with the second pick. And after that? No one knows.

Taking a look at a total of 10 mock drafts at Rotoworld, NFL.com and CBS, the general consensus is that there is no consensus beyond the Top 2 picks. Here are a few observations:

1. Everyone thinks Jameis Winston is going first. It’s not exactly breaking news at this point that the Buccaneers are expected to take Winston with the first overall pick in the draft. All 10 mock drafts had Winston going first.

2. Almost everyone thinks Leonard Williams is going second. One mock draft has Marcus Mariota going to Tennessee with the second overall pick. Eight of the other nine mock drafts had Williams, the USC defensive lineman, going No. 2. And the other mock draft that didn’t have Williams going second had Nebraska’s Randy Gregory going second — and that comes with an asterisk, because that mock draft came out before the news broke that Gregory had failed a marijuana test at the Combine, which may hurt his draft stock.

3. If Mariota doesn’t go second, no one knows where he’s going. Various mock drafts have him going third, sixth, seventh, 10th, 12th and 13th. Predicting where Mariota will land this year may prove as hard as predicting where Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater would land last year.

4. Dante Fowler looks like a very high pick. Most mock drafts have Fowler, the Florida outside linebacker, going third overall to Jacksonville. Everyone has Fowler going in the Top 8.

5. The Raiders will draft Kevin White or Amari Cooper. The biggest debate in this year’s draft may be about whether the best wide receiver is West Virginia’s White or Alabama’s Cooper. There seems to be little doubt that Oakland will draft one of them. Seven mock drafts have White going fourth overall to the Raiders, and the other three have Cooper going fourth overall to the Raiders.

6. Vic Beasley is all over the map. Beasley, the Clemson pass rusher, could go No. 3 to Jacksonville, No. 22 to Pittsburgh, or anywhere in between, depending on whom you believe.

7. Iowa’s Brandon Scherff is probably the top offensive lineman. Six of the mock drafts have Scherff as the first lineman off the board, but there’s widespread disagreement about how high he’ll go: Perhaps as high as No. 5, but there may also not be any offensive linemen in the Top 10.

8. At least one running back is going in the first round. The first-round running back once looked like an endangered species, but this year everyone agrees that either Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon or Georgia’s Todd Gurley, or both, will be a first-round pick.

9. No one really knows anything. A month away is still far too early to predict the draft with any degree of accuracy. All it takes is one team early in the draft to surprise us, and the domino effect will completely reshape the rest of the first round. And if that surprise early on is the Buccaneers taking someone other than Winston, you can tear up every mock draft right then and there.

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Cowboys won’t spend a lot to bring back Rolando McClain

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Free agent linebacker Rolando McClain remains unsigned, and from all indications, if he’s going to return to Dallas it will be for a low-cost, low-risk contract.

The Dallas Morning News reports that the Cowboys and McClain have “a drastically different” number in mind when it comes to how much McClain should be paid. In other words, the Cowboys are willing to McClain back only if he’s willing to play for something close to the $700,000 they paid him last year.

McClain, however, surely thinks he’s worth a lot more than that. He started 12 games last year and was a big part of the reason the Cowboys’ defense significantly improved.

There have long been questions about McClain’s off-field activities. He’s been arrested multiple times, walked away from football for a year in 2013, and will be playing for free for the first four games of this season because of league discipline for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. So it’s easy to see why the Cowboys don’t want to devote a lot of money to him.

It’s also easy to see why no other team would want to devote a lot of money to him. Unless McClain is willing to reduce his contract demands, he may be out of work a while.

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Jones thinks a team or two is headed to L.A.

George Straight 2014 The Cowboy Rides Away Tour Press Conference Getty Images

Collectively, the NFL’s owners have yet to decide whether a franchise will relocate to Los Angeles.  Individually, more and more of them have expressed a belief that it’s going to happen.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently has joined the growing chorus of owners that see the NFL back in L.A.

“It does,” Jones said on PFT Live regarding the notion that it looks like a team or two will be returning to Los Angeles in 2016.  “[Chargers owner] Dean Spanos is outstanding, [Raiders owner] Mark Davis has got a legacy associated with Los Angeles, the Raiders, and of course [Rams owner] Stan Kroenke is one of the top owners we have in the room.  They’re doers, their teams are in a position that can do it.

“It’s going to mean a huge risk and a huge commitment of dollars to whoever does it,” Jones added.  “That will assure us that they’ll kill themselves making this a success.  Los Angeles is big to the NFL, it’s bigger than your normal consideration.  Los Angeles just has a ‘wow’ factor that we’ve got to do it right.  And that’s my biggest concern.  All of these guys are capable, they’ve got teams that the fans of Los Angeles are familiar with in all cases; two that have been in Los Angeles and one that’s been right down the road. So this is a good situation I think.”

What about the looming possibility that a team like the Raiders will end up right down the road from the Cowboys, in San Antonio?

“Well if they go there, we have a plain suburb called Plano, Texas right outside of Dallas. There’s a higher percentage of Cowboy fans in San Antonio than there is in Plano; 97 percent.  So it’s a great hotbed for us down there, we do a lot of things down there, we train down there.  So if they go down there they’ll be surrounded with a lot of Cowboy fans and that’s good, that’s good.  The main things I’m interested in is the fans in San Antonio getting all the football they deserve to get.”

Regardless, fans in L.A. will be getting plenty of football.  Whether they deserve it depends on how many of them show up to experience it.

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Pagano plans to coach Colts for “many years to come”

Pagano Getty Images

Colts coach Chuck Pagano reportedly won’t be getting a new contract before the final season of his initial four-year deal.  But that doesn’t have Pagano thinking about working for any other team.

Be where your feet are,” Pagano said in a statement issued Friday night, via Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star.  “What do I mean?  Cancer taught me to be thankful for today.  All I’m concentrating on is today.  Then tomorrow.  My focus right now is on the draft, bringing in players that can help us continue to grow, get better, and continue to ‘Build the Monster.’  I look forward to coaching the Colts this season and for many years to come.”

To summarize, Pagano isn’t thinking about the future but he plans to remain with the Colts well into the future.  Whether owner Jim Irsay feels that way after the next football season ends remains to be seen.

It also remains to be seen whether Irsay issues a statement of his own.  Or says something about the situation on Twitter.  Using what may or may not be song lyrics.

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