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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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Seahawks tackle Bradley Sowell to miss time with sprained right knee

Bradley Sowell AP

The Seahawks will have to get by for at least the next few weeks without starting left tackle Bradley Sowell.

An MRI on Monday showed a sprained MCL in Sowell’s right knee suffered in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s 6-6 tie with the Arizona Cardinals.

“It’s going to take a few weeks, we’ll see what it takes to get him back,” head coach Pete Carroll said.

George Fant replaced Sowell at left tackle for the remainder the game. Fant, an undrafted free agent from Western Kentucky, has incredibly limited football experience. He played basketball exclusively for the majority of his college career before joining the football team for his final season. He played defensive line and tight end at Western Kentucky in very limited action.

The Seahawks are excited about Fant’s upside. However, this may be earlier than Seattle would have hoped to have to throw him in the starting lineup.

“George jumped in there and we’ve been counting on young George to jump up at one of these times,” Carroll said. “We didn’t know when it was going to be. He did an admirable job for his first time ever and we’ll see how he goes.”

Seattle went into training camp hoping Garry Gilliam would seize their left tackle job. They could move Gilliam back to left tackle and put J’Marcus Webb at right tackle if they feel Fant is not yet ready for a starting role. Putting Webb at left tackle is also an option in the short-term.

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Broncos present Kubiak with game ball after easy win

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 2:  Head coach Gary Kubiak of the Denver Broncos looks on from the sidelines in the final moments of the fourth quarter of an NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 2, 2016 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib came out of the postgame locker room Monday night to talk with ESPN’s army of commentators.

Talib said the Broncos presented head coach Gary Kubiak with a game ball after their 27-9 win over the Texans because “we missed him last week. Our whole vibe last week was off. He’s just deserving. He made us had a great week of practice.”

Kubiak missed the Broncos’ Oct. 13 loss to the Chargers after being hospitalized and ordered by his doctors to take a week off.

The win over the Texans was special for the Broncos because Kubiak is the ex-Texans head coach and because quarterback Brock Osweiler left the Broncos for the Texans in free agency. Talib said the Broncos were ready, “mainly for Brock,” and played the way they believed they would.

“We wanted to get some good hits on him,” Talib said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get that many. We only got one sack.

“We liked our matchups…against their receiving corps. We just played our technique, man, we went out there and put hands on them. With a pass rush like [we have]…we know something is going to happen.”

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Osweiler struggles, Broncos roll to Monday night win

Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) escapes the reach of Denver Broncos defensive end Jared Crick during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 24, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

Quarterback Brock Osweiler left Denver last March to sign with the Texans. In his return Monday night, Osweiler never had much of a chance.

The Broncos’ defense dominated, Osweiler never hit enough passes to truly threaten and the Broncos powered their way to a 27-9 win. The Texans held an early 6-0 lead but only got inside the Broncos’ 25-yard line once all night, and that was in the third quarter.

The Broncos didn’t turn the ball over or give up a sack. They had touchdown drives of 72, 75 and 68 yards, respectively. C.J. Anderson ran for 107 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

The Broncos won the coin toss and chose to defer, putting Osweiler on the field first. Of course they chose to defer.

It was the right move, too, as Osweiler struggled all night. Through three quarters, Osweiler averaged 2.8 yards per pass. He finished 22-of-41 for 131 yards.

Anderson ran for a score and Demaryius Thomas caught a touchdown pass in the first half. The Broncos went up 21-9 late in the third quarter on the first touchdown run of rookie Devontae Booker’s NFL career.

The Broncos move to 5-2 and host the Chargers next week. The Texans are 4-3 and host the Lions next week.

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Broncos take full control

Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson (22) scores a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 24, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) AP

A short touchdown run by rookie Devontae Booker late in the third quarter extended the Broncos’ lead over the Texans to 21-9.

It’s become the kind of defensively dominated game most expected it would be. Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler has struggled in his return to Denver and the Broncos defense has gained confidence as the game has gone on. Through three quarters, Osweiler has averaged 2.8 yards per pass.

The Broncos have had touchdown drives of 72, 75 and 68 yards, respectively. It’s hard to imagine the Texans having enough left in the tank or enough offense to mount a fourth-quarter rally.

C.J. Anderson ran for a score and Demaryius Thomas caught a touchdown pass in the first half.

The touchdown was the first of Booker’s NFL career and the first third-quarter touchdown of the season for the Broncos.

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Report: Texans tackle Derek Newton tore patella tendons in both knees

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 24:  Tackle Derek Newton #72 of the Houston Texans is carted off the field in the first quarter of the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Getty Images

Houston Texans right tackle Derek Newton has suffered torn patella tendons in both knees, according to Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL Media.

Newton went down without any contact as he was setting to block Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller early in Houston’s Monday night game in Denver. Trainers placed both of Newton’s legs in air casts before he was lifted onto a cart and taken from the stadium.

Chris Clark replaced Newton at right tackle.

A torn patella tendon is a devastating injury on its own. New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz and Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham are a couple of players to experience the injury in recent seasons. However, very few players have had to deal with tearing both tendons at the same time.

Former Chicago Bears receiver Wendell Davis had both knees give out while tracking a pass from Jim Harbaugh at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia in 1993. The injury effectively ended Davis’ career, though he did attempt a comeback with the Indianapolis Colts in 1995. More recently, Cleveland Browns cornerback Gary Baxter suffered the dual injury in a game against the Broncos in 2006. He also tried to return to football but never appeared in another game.

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Anderson touchdown caps long drive, gives Broncos first lead

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The Broncos have taken a 7-6 lead on the Texans early in the second quarter on a 7-yard touchdown run by C.J. Anderson.

The touchdown drive covered 85 yards in 10 plays and was the first productive Broncos’ drive of the night.

After a quick stop, a Trevor Siemian touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas made it 14-6. The Texans appear to be in trouble.

Both teams took their starting running backs out of the game after injury scares, but both are apparently OK. Lamar Miller was back in the game on the drive following the touchdown. Anderson was injured on the last play of the first quarter. He took a few plays off, then returned.

The Texans got two first quarter field goals to take a 6-0 lead.

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Texans tackle Newton carted off

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 01: Derek Newton #75 of the Houston Texans looks on during the game against the Minnesota Vikings on September 1, 2011 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans starting right tackle Derek Newton was carted off the field in the first quarter of Monday night’s Texans-Broncos game.

According to the ESPN broadcast, air casts were placed on both of Newton’s legs and Texans tackle Duane Brown had to assist the team’s training staff in getting Newton on the cart.

The Texans announced that Newton has a knee injury.

Newton missed last week’s game, ending a streak of 56 straight starts. Chris Clark is his likely replacement at right tackle, where he’ll be the primary matchup for All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller of the Broncos.

Trainers spent several minutes with Newton after his legs got tangled with Miller’s on a third-down play. The Texans kicked a field goal on the next play and have a 3-0 lead.

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Arian Foster calls it quits

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Arian Foster #29 of the Miami Dolphins carries the ball during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins running back Arian Foster announced his retirement Monday evening.

Foster released a statement via the Twitter account of Uninterrupted, an athlete website owned by NBA star LeBron James.

“There comes a time in every athlete’s career when their ambition and their body are no longer on the same page,” Foster wrote. “I’ve reached that point. It’s hard to write those words because this game has been everything to me.”

Foster, 30, went from undrafted free agent to the Texans’ practice squad to the franchise’s all-time leading rusher and four-time Pro Bowler. He led the NFL with 1,616 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns in 2010, his second season.

He was limited to four games last season by injuries, then signed with the Dolphins after being released by the Texans last March. He’s retiring after battling more injuries this season.

In his statement, Foster thanked the Dolphins and said he was proud to have been a part of the NFL for eight seasons.

“Life has other plans,” he wrote. “I could not be prouder of the things my teammates and I accomplished in this game.”

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Hunter Henry in concussion protocol

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 13:  Hunter Henry #86 of the San Diego Chargers runs with the ball after his catch during the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium on October 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chargers rookie tight end Hunter Henry is in the NFL’s concussion protocol and will be monitored this week as the Chargers prepare to play at the Broncos.

Chargers Coach Mike McCoy said Monday that Henry reported concussion-like symptoms after the Chargers won in Atlanta Sunday.

Henry, who’s just 21, has 20 catches on the season, three for touchdowns. He’s become a key player in a dangerous Chargers’ offense, and if he can’t play Sunday it would be a significant loss.

Henry had eight catches for 83 yards and a touchdown when the Chargers beat the Broncos on Oct. 13.

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Denials from coaches don’t mean Joe Thomas, Joe Staley won’t be traded

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 24:  Joe Staley #74 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the preseason game against the San Diego Chargers at Levi's Stadium on August 24, 2014 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

We have no intent to trade Percy Harvin.”

Remember that one? It came from Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman, not long before the team unloaded the mercurial wideout on a Seattle team that got limited use out of him before dumping him on the Jets for a bowl of soup.

Granted, Spielman never said Harvin wouldn’t be traded. But the message is that, no matter what a team says, trades can and do happen.

As to Browns tackle Joe Thomas and 49ers tackle Joe Staley, Browns coach Hue Jackson and 49ers coach Chip Kelly, respectively, have thrown water on the notion that either are available. Jackson said Thomas, who nearly was traded a year ago (before the Browns were in full-blown rebuilding mode), won’t be traded. Kelly said talk of a Staley trade is “news to him.”

That’s fine. But keep this in mind: Neither guy is the G.M., and neither guy owns the team. If either team gets what they want (the Browns, we’re told, want a second-round pick and the 49ers, we’re told want a late first-round selection) or perhaps something close to it, whatever Jackson or Kelly are saying now will quickly be forgotten.

Just like Minnesota’s lack of intent to trade Percy Harvin. Or like Jets coach Todd Bowles claim from one week ago tonight that he wouldn’t be benching Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Often in NFL circles, truth takes a back seat to strategic objectives. Which makes it foolish to take anything any coach, G.M., or owner says at face value.

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Okung is OK, in Monday night’s starting lineup

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 08:  Running back C.J. Anderson #22 of the Denver Broncos celebrates with offensive tackle Russell Okung #73 after Anderson scores on a 25-yard reception in the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 8, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos left tackle Russell Okung is active and in the starting lineup for Monday night’s game vs. the Texans.

Okung had been listed as questionable due to a concussion. He was a limited participant in practice on Friday and Saturday.

Broncos wide receiver Cody Latimer is out due to a concussion. He also had been listed as questionable. The Broncos had previously listed outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware as out as he continues to recover from a forearm injury.

As expected, the Texans have defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (wrist) and linebacker John Simon (shoulder) active and available. They had been listed as questionable.

The Texans had listed four players — cornerback Kevin Johnson, linebacker Brian Peters, safety Quintin Demps and running back Jonathan Grimes — as out. The team announced that Corey Moore will start in place of Demps.

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Patriots waive Anthony Johnson

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

The Patriots waived defensive lineman Anthony Johnson on Monday.

Johnson had played in four games this season for the Patriots, starting one. He also served a previous short stint on the practice squad, and he could end up back on the team’s practice squad.

Johnson previously spent time with the Dolphins and Redskins. He first signed with the Patriots last May.

The Patriots also released safety Vinnie Sunseri from their practice squad.

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Cardinals have talked to Chandler Jones about a new contract

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Outside linebackers Chandler Jones #55 and Markus Golden #44 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrate after a tackle on the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones has played well this season, but when Arizona traded a second-round pick to acquire Jones this year, it hoped to get more than one good year from Jones. And that can only happen with a new contract.

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said after Sunday night’s game that he has talked to Jones’s agent about a new contract for Jones, who is in the final year of his rookie deal. Keim described the pass rush Jones provides as “something we have not had here in years,” and he hopes to keep that pass rushing presence in Arizona for years to come.

Keim didn’t say a deal is close, but the fact that the team and the player are talking is a sign that something may get worked out before March, when the Cardinals would need to either put the franchise tag on Jones or risk seeing him leave in free agency.

Jones has five sacks so far this season and had a sack and forced fumble in last night’s tie against the Seahawks. The Cardinals are going to need more big plays like that from Jones to get back into playoff contention, both this year and in future years.

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Redskins ST coach Ben Kotwica gave Lions fans more than they bargained for Sunday

BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 24:  Urinals hang on a wall in a newly-inaugurated gender-free toilet at the office building of the city's Senate Administration for Work, Integration and Women (Senatsverwaltung fuer Arbeit, Integration und Frauen) on November 24, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. The administration has converted four of its previously separate men's and women's toilets to gender-free toilets in a sign of respect towards Berlin's trans-gender community, who otherwise often face potentially uncomfortable decisions or confrontations in the use of public toilets.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images) Getty Images

When you gotta go, you gotta go and that presented a problem for Redskins special teams coach Ben Kotwica during Sunday’s game against the Lions.

Kotwica couldn’t really leave the field to answer nature’s call and no one wants a case of uromysitisis poisoning, so he followed the lead of many others over the years and found a spot on the sideline to take care of business. Unlike some of those others, Kotwica neglected to bring along another coach, player or team employee to act as a shield.

As a result, some Lions fans sitting close to the field got an eyeful as Kotwica relieved himself into a Gatorade cup — Is it in you? never seemed to be so fine a slogan –while standing next to a trash can on the sideline. A photo made its way to TMZ Sports along with a report that Kotwica was the second member of the staff to use that spot over the course of the game.

TMZ reached out to the team, which had no comment about something that happens frequently if not always in such plain sight of the paying customers.

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Kaepernick doesn’t think anthem protests affect ratings

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sidelines during their NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Commissioner Roger Goodell and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick likely don’t agree on much. But here’s one thing on which they occupy the same page: They believe the 2016 drop in TV ratings has nothing to do with the ongoing national anthem protests.

“I don’t know much about ratings and how they are affected and all of those things,” Kaepernick said after Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers, via Andy Furillo of the Sacramento Bee. “But I don’t understand why ratings would go down, fighting for justice for people, to try to stop oppression, especially in a league that is predominantly black.”

Goodell was blunt and concise last week when asked about the potential connection by reporters: “That it’s not a factor. It’s not having any significant impact on our ratings.”

On one hand, it’s strange to think that anyone would deprive themselves of something they enjoy because of the actions of a small handful of all players. On the other hand, how does the league know for sure that it’s not a factor? Many have said it is; they all can’t simply be exaggerating and embellishing the connection in order to push an anti-protest agenda that isn’t affecting ratings.

Absent meaningful and effective research by the league aimed at identifying all reasons for the reduction in TV ratings, there’s no way to rule out the anthem protests. But the league surely has no interest in legitimizing the connection between the ongoing anthem protests and the declining ratings, because the league has no power to stop the protests.

Moreover, acknowledging that an exercise of player rights could impact TV ratings would be an admission that the players have much more power than they ever dreamed they’d possess.

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