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PFT’s Week Six picks

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For the Week Six picks, I’m hoping MDS makes like MRS (Matthew Rutledge Schaub) and throws a pick six.

Making that wish somewhat unrealistic is the fact that we disagree on only three games.

Last week, he was 9-5 and I was 8-6.  His lead now stands at three games:  52-25 to 49-28.

If I’m right on all three, I’ll catch him.  And, yes, he and I may be the only two people in the world who actually care.

Giants at Bears

MDS’s take: Florio has done me a big favor with his stubborn insistence on continuing to pick the Giants, and I’m hoping he keeps going with the theory that the Giants are due for a win. (The Washington Generals are due to beat the Harlem Globetrotters any game now, too.) The Bears’ defense is good at forcing turnovers, and the Giants’ offense is good at turning the ball over. That’s a good combination for Chicago.

MDS’s pick: Bears 28, Giants 13.

Florio’s take:  The Giants are due to win.  The Bears are due to not lose.  The Bears are the better team.  The Bears are playing at home.  Advantage Bears.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 24, Giants 17.

Packers at Ravens

MDS’s take: Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco both signed enormous contracts this offseason, but only one of them is earning his money. The struggling Ravens’ offense will have a good opportunity to put some points on the board against a Packers defense that’s missing Clay Matthews, but Rodgers will do more damage than Flacco as the Packers win a high-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Packers 31, Ravens 27.

Florio’s take:  It’s rock-scissors-paper time in Baltimore, where the Ravens defense is becoming the rock and the Packers’ offensive line is running with scissors.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 24, Packers 20.

Bengals at Bills

MDS’s take: The Bills’ defense is playing tough, physical football, and Kiko Alonso is my early pick for rookie of the year. If EJ Manuel were playing, I’d pick the Bills. Unfortunately, I just can’t pick a team to win a game when its starting quarterback was on the practice squad a week ago, and that’s what the Bills are doing with Thad Lewis starting. So I’ve got to go with the Bengals.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 16, Bills 13.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals can beat the teams they shouldn’t, and not the teams they should.  This is the weekend they need to turn it around, or they may not be getting beat in January.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 27, Bills 13.

Lions at Browns

MDS’s take: This is another game where a quarterback injury makes the difference. The Browns won all three games that Brian Hoyer started, and if Hoyer were still starting I’d pick Cleveland to make it four in a row. But with Brandon Weeden back under center, I think the Lions’ defensive line is going to wreak havoc against a quarterback who’s too slow to get rid of the football.

MDS’s pick: Lions 21, Browns 10.

Florio’s take:  The Browns have won three in a row, and they’re wrapping up a three-game home stand at the Factory of Gladness.  Without Calvin Johnson, the Lions aren’t the same team.  I’m guessing Johnson either won’t play or he’ll be too banged up to make a difference against a team that will come within a game of matching its 2012 win total after only six weeks.

Florio’s pick:  Browns 24, Lions 20.

Rams at Texans

MDS’s take: Houston has been playing some terrible football recently, but St. Louis is even worse. The Texans’ defense can shut down the Rams’ offense well enough that even another lousy game from Matt Schaub won’t lose it for Houston.

MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Rams 10.

Florio’s take:  Jeff Fisher returns to Houston with a team that has underachieved, to face a team that has underachieved.  Led by a quarterback who has underachieved.  (That applies to both teams.)  Even with the Texans battling against a home-field disadvantage, their defense is good enough to overcome whatever the quarterback does or doesn’t do.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 23, Rams 16.

Raiders at Chiefs

MDS’s take: Kansas City’s turnaround has been remarkable, and I’m particularly impressed with the aggressive defense the Chiefs are playing, led by the one-man wrecking crew that is Dontari Poe in the middle of the line. I like the way Terrelle Pryor is playing for the Raiders, but Poe is going to get in Pryor’s face all day and make him skittish with his passes.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 20, Raiders 9.

Florio’s take:  It’s been a long time since both teams in this storied rivalry were relevant.  The Chiefs are very relevant.  And very hard to beat at home.  It won’t be easy, but the Chiefs will finally have the same number of wins at 2012 Pro Bowlers.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 20, Raiders 17.

Panthers at Vikings

MDS’s take: Both of these teams seem like they should be better than their 1-3 records. If one of them is going to turn things around, I think it’ll be the one that has Cam Newton at quarterback, not the team that has Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel or Josh Freeman at quarterback.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 17, Vikings 14.

Florio’s take:  The chase to be the Vikings’ quarterback of the future begins on Sunday, as they host a team that thought it had one, but possibly doesn’t.  Losing coach lands on an even hotter seat.  Winner gets a heat reprieve, for at least a week.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 28, Panthers 21.

Steelers at Jets

MDS’s take: Say what you will about Rex Ryan, but the guy knows how to put together a good defense. He’s done it again this year, and coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is making strides with the offense, too. I still have a hard time seeing the Jets as a playoff contender, but they’ll be 4-2 after beating the woeful Steelers.

MDS’s pick: Jets 27, Steelers 7.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers are 0-5 and the Jets are 3-2 and many expected it to be the opposite.  The Jets have a strong front seven and the Steelers don’t have a strong offensive line and even though Pittsburgh beat the Giants last year in MetLife Stadium the Steelers are a shadow of what they were last year.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 17, Steelers 13.

Eagles at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: Even with Nick Foles in place of Michael Vick, this is a game Philadelphia should win without too much trouble. The Eagles’ schedule is getting a lot easier. They beat the winless Giants last week, they’ll beat the winless Buccaneers this week, and they get the Giants again in two weeks. An 8-8 record may be enough to win the NFC East, and when you look at their schedule it’s easy to see the Eagles getting to eight wins. They’ll get win No. 3 on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Buccaneers 13.

Florio’s take:  Chip Kelly and company continue to take advantage of a soft spot in the schedule by running circles around a team that won’t be able to keep up with the Eagles offense, regardless of whether Nick Foles or Mike Vick is running it.  If Vick doesn’t play, it’ll be the first time in league history that both starting quarterbacks in the same game are Napoleon Dynamite dopplegangers.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 30, Buccaneers 20.

Jaguars at Broncos

MDS’s take: There’s no doubt who will win, but if I were betting this game against the spread (and I’m not), I’d pick the Jaguars to keep it closer than the 28-point margin. The Broncos are coming off an exhausting battle with the Cowboys and probably won’t be at their best. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, the Broncos don’t have to be at their best to win this one.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 35, Jaguars 21.

Florio’s take:  Does watching this game count as rooting for the underdog or rubbernecking at a train wreck?  Survey says . . . . both.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 49, Jaguars 13.

Titans at Seahawks

MDS’s take: I’ve been impressed with the Titans all year, and they’re a better team than most people realize. But there’s no way Ryan Fitzpatrick is winning at Seattle.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 34, Titans 17.

Florio’s take:  It’s a shame Jake Locker is injured.  He’s missing the chance to come back to Seattle and have his team suffocated and his ear drums ruptured.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 24, Titans 10.

Saints at Patriots

MDS’s take: The best game of the week is in New England, where the Patriots need Rob Gronkowski to return against a surprisingly tough Saints defense. Even if Gronk is at full speed, however, I think Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham are a better pair right now than Tom Brady and Gronkowski, and I like the Saints to put up a lot of points.

MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Patriots 21.

Florio’s take:  The Saints proved that they can win away from home against a competent team like the Bears.  With an elite offense and a much-improved defense, why not a clean road sweep of the Super Bowl XX teams that played in New Orleans?

Florio’s pick:  Saints 27, Patriots 21.

Cardinals at 49ers

MDS’s take: The 49ers have put their stumbles behind them and are playing great football. The Cardinals are better than most of us expected, but there’s a clear NFC West pecking order, and the Cards are behind the Niners.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 31, Cardinals 10.

Cardinals at 49ers

Florio’s take:  Bruce Arians doesn’t “see the dominance” of the 49ers and Seahawks.  While the 49ers aren’t yet dominant this year, Arians probably won’t like what he sees.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 27, Cardinals 17.

Redskins at Cowboys

MDS’s take: Dallas’s defense is struggling, and Robert Griffin III may put up some big numbers. But Washington’s defense is struggling even more, and Tony Romo may put up some bigger numbers.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 35, Redskins 31.

Florio’s take:  Jerry Jones won’t be talking about moral victories come Monday.  He’ll have an actual victory.  You know, the kind where his team scores more points than the other.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 21, Redskins 13.

Colts at Chargers

MDS’s take: I’m amazed at the way the Colts keep shaking off injuries and finding ways to win. The Chargers are playing well on offense, but their secondary is a mess, and Andrew Luck should pick it apart.

MDS’s pick: Colts 34, Chargers 20.

Florio’s take:  The Chargers once were a thorn in Indy’s side.  The Chargers are now littered with thorns of their own, and the Colts have found a way in the post-Peyton era to blossom, no matter the amount of duress.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 24, Chargers 21.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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”

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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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NFL found 25 failures to remove players from 2012 through 2014

Edelman Getty Images

Earlier this week, the NFL gave the ATC spotter the power to stop the game action and insist on the removal of a player in distress.  It gives the spotter unprecedented authority, but it definitely was needed.

According to the league office, film study revealed 25 occasions in the last three seasons during which players in distress were not immediately removed from play.  (In a recent appearance on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent inadvertently said that the 25 plays came entirely from 2014.)

Vincent specifically confirmed that Patriots receiver Julian Edelman should have been removed from play for further evaluation after taking a blow to the head in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIX.  It nevertheless remains to be seen whether the ATC spotter will stop the action and remove a key player during crunch time of a postseason game.

NBC Sports Medicine Analyst Mike Ryan, a long-time NFL athletic trainer, explained during Friday’s PFT Live that it shouldn’t be an issue, because the spotter should at all times have player health and safety as the paramount concern.  Still, if the spotter removes, for example, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at a critical moment of the Super Bowl and Brady ends up being fine, the spotter will need to be ready to withstand the criticism that necessarily will come from the decision to send Brady to the sideline for at least one snap.

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