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PFT’s Week Six picks

Suggs Getty Images

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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Peyton Manning shouts “Romo!” before snap, hands off

Peyton Manning AP

As Denver tried to run out the clock in the final three minutes of Thursday night’s game vs. San Diego, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning barked signals near the line of scrimmage.

Then, he shouted a word — a surname, it sure seemed — that caught the attention.

“Romo!” Manning barked, as this NFL.com clip confirms.

A few seconds later, Manning handed off to tailback Juwan Thompson, who gained five yards up the middle, giving Denver its final first down in a 35-21 victory.

Was “Romo” a reference to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo? Or was it a nod to Giants pitcher Sergio Romo? Or could it be a shout out to United Kingdom clothier The Romo Group?

Anyways, in the final minutes, Manning was also heard barking “Elway! Elway!” before the snap. This would figure to be a reference to former Broncos quarterback / current G.M. John Elway. “Apple!” and old-standard “Omaha!” were also yelled by Manning.

These 21st century microphones sure are powerful.

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Jahleel Addae says he had a stringer, not a concussion

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Getty Images

San Diego Chargers safety Jahleel Addae appeared to come up woozy after a play in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s game against the Denver Broncos.

Addae charged up to deliver a hit to Broncos running back Juwan Thompson and came away from the play noticeably affected.

It appeared as though Addae may have suffered a concussion on the play. However, Addae says he was evaluated on the sidelined and cleared to return to the game.

According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Addae said he suffered a stringer on the play instead.

Addae had four tackles for the Chargers in the 35-21 loss to Denver.

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Manning, Sanders lead Broncos to 35-21 victory over Chargers

Sanders Getty Images

Peyton Manning tossed three touchdown passes to Emmanuel Sanders, Juwan Thompson rushed for two scores and the Denver Broncos cruised to a 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night.

Ronnie Hillman also rushed for 109 yards for Denver as the Broncos offense looked in fine form against the Chargers.

Manning connected with Sanders for touchdowns of 2, 3, and 31 yards as the Broncos took a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter. Thompson’s first score of the night extended the score to 28-7 with 7:34 left to play in the third quarter.

Sanders finished with nine catches on the night for 120 yards and three touchdowns while Demaryius Thomas also eclipsed the 100-yard mark with eight grabs for 105 yards for Denver.

The Broncos completely shut down the rushing offense of the Chargers Thursday night and forced Philip Rivers to do everything for San Diego offensively. Branden Oliver carried 13 times for just 36 yards on the night with Donald Brown carrying once for 8 yards. Rivers was the Chargers leading rusher due to one 17-yard scramble until Oliver broke a 23-yard run on the game’s final play.

Rivers 4-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates to cap a 12-play, 80-yard drive gave the Chargers some life. However, the Broncos answered right back with another touchdown drive to extend the lead to 35-14.

Rivers and Gates hooked up again on a 10-yard touchdown to again cut the deficit to 14 points with 9:31 left to play. A missed 53-yard field goal by Brandon McManus gave the Chargers a change to further cut down Denver’s lead, but Rivers was intercepted by Rahim Moore to all but seal the win for Denver.

San Diego had some questionable officiating decisions go against them that significantly hurt their chances. A fumble by kick returner Andre Caldwell was overturned upon replay review despite video showing the ball being ripped out of Caldwell’s hands by San Diego before his elbow hit the ground. In addition, the Broncos scored a fourth quarter touchdown one play after an interception by Eric Weddle in the end zone was negated by a defensive holding penalty on Marcus Gilchrist.

But Denver was clearly the better team on Thursday night and appears to clearly be the best team in the AFC right now.

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Chargers cut Denver’s lead to 28-14

Antonio Gates AP

After three straight Denver touchdowns turned a 7-7 game into a 28-7 deficit for San Diego on Thursday night, the visiting Chargers finally counter-punched.

Antonio Gates‘ four-yard fourth-down TD pass from Philip Rivers cut the Broncos’ lead to 28-14 with 2:39 left in the third quarter in Denver. The touchdown capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive highlighted by a leaping 26-yard reception by Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd. However, Floyd appeared to suffer an arm injury on the play and went inside for medical treatment.

Rivers has completed 24-of-34 passes against the Broncos with a pair of scores, but nothing has come easy for San Diego, which has largely dinked-and-dunked in the passing game.

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Malcom Floyd heads to locker room after impressive catch

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Getty Images

San Diego Chargers receiver Malcom Floyd made a stellar reception leaping between two Denver Broncos defenders.

Floyd landed hard after hauling the pass and headed into the locker room shortly after with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.

Floyd caught two passes for 42 yards on the night for San Diego, the final one covering 26 yards before heading inside to get further evaluation.

The Chargers announced that Floyd was probable to return to the game, which is a big boost for San Diego as they attempt to rally from a 14-point deficit late in the third quarter.

UPDATE 11:00 p.m. ET: Floyd returned to the game for the Chargers on their ensuing offensive possession.

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Manning to Sanders for third TD of night extends Broncos lead

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Peyton Manning connected with Emmanuel Sanders on a 3-yard touchdown pass to extend the Denver Broncos lead to 21-7 over the San Diego Chargers in the third quarter.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

It was the third touchdown of the night between Manning and Sanders. The two players hooked up for a 2-yard touchdown and a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give the Broncos a 14-7 lead at halftime.

Manning led Denver on a six-play, 51-yard scoring drive with the touchdown to Sanders extending the Broncos lead.

Sanders has six catches for 92 yards and three scores on the night for Denver. Manning is 18 of 25 for 221 yards.

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Danny Smith: Dri Archer going through “growing pains” as returner

Dri Archer AP

As a third-round pick and the fastest player in the 40-yard dash at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine,  rookie Dri Archer will get every chance to become a return ace for the Steelers.

However, it’s been a rough go on kickoffs thus far for the Kent State product.

In five regular season games, Archer has returned just 1-of-9 kickoffs beyond his own 20-yard-line, and he’s yet to even reach the 25 on any return. He also has one punt return for two yards.

Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith believes Archer is going through “growing pains” as he learns his craft, especially as it pertains to using other elements of his game than speed. But he also believes the 5-foot-8, 173-pound Archer is “going to be a good football player” once everything clicks.

“There are a lot of fast guys working at McDonald’s that can’t play this game. There just is,” Smith said Thursday, according to the club. “There are a lot of things that you have to do, and he’s learning those things, and it’s a maturation process.

“I love the guy. I’ll never give up on him because he works.”

Smith believes Archer “presses” with an eye on making a big play, something the long-time special teams coach believes is to be expected.

But Smith also expects Archer to break out at some point.

“As soon as that kid makes a big play we’ll all be jumping on the bandwagon,” Smith said. “We’ll all be celebrating, ‘Hey he’s what we thought he was.’ It will come. It really will. I’ve seen it too many times. (It’s) because of his work habits and because of his athleticism and because of his want to I think he’s going to be fine. And the sooner the better.”

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Broncos dodge bullet, with help from officials

McAulay Getty Images

After the Chargers knotted Thursday night’s game at seven, Broncos kick returner Andre Caldwell appeared to fumble the ensuing kickoff at the Denver 26.  The ruling on the field was indeed a fumble, with a recovery by Chargers tight end Ladarius Green.

All turnovers are subject to replay review.  After referee Terry McAulay went under the hood, with real-time assistance from V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino, McAulay reverse the ruling on the field:  “After review, the runner’s elbow was down and in complete control over the football.”

But that’s not what the video showed.  The ball was being ripped out before the elbow hit.

The ruling on the field becomes even more important in this situation.  Because the officials determined a fumble had happened, McAulay needed to see indisputable visual evidence that it hadn’t.  If anything, the clear, indisputable visual evidence showed that it had.

In other words, the evidence was strong enough to overturn a ruling on the field that Caldwell hadn’t fumbled.  Instead, the evidence erroneously was determined to be indisputable that the ball wasn’t coming out.

UPDATE 10:07 p.m. ET:  NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino has defended the decision on Twitter.  “On the fumble that was reversed the forearm was down before ball came loose,” Blandino said. “Forearm down before elbow.”  The movement of the ball before the forearm is down would seem to prevent a finding of indisputable visual evidence that the ruling of a fumble was incorrect.  Former NFL referee Mike Carey has repeatedly said during the CBS broadcast that, in his view, the outcome of the replay review was incorrect.

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Chargers even things up on Allen’s first touchdown catch of the year

Allen Getty Images

If Chargers receiver Keenan Allen ever becomes a free agent, he should sign with the Broncos.  Because in his third career game in Denver, Allen has now scored his fifth touchdown.

No. 5 in Denver also was Allen’s first of the season, coming at the tail end of a 13-play, 84-yard drive.

Allen already has seven catches for 47 yards.  Quarterback Philip Rivers has completed 15 of 17 passes, for 118 yards.

The game is tied at seven, with 3:07 left in the first half.

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Peyton moves the mark to 511

Manning Getty Images

Another game, another football to be sent to Canton.

After 15 minutes of football with no scoring, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw his 511th career touchdown pass early in the second to receiver Emmanuel Sanders.  It came on third and goal from the two, capping a drive fueled largely by a 38-yard catch by Sanders but the Broncos in business at the San Diego 31.

Manning has completed 10 of 12 passes for 109 yards in three drives.  The Denver defense has forced a pair of punts from the Chargers.

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Week Eight skill-position injury report — Thursday

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

The following are the skill-position players listed on the Thursday injury report. Key fantasy starters are bolded.

The final injury report for Sunday games will be released Friday, with the Monday-night injury report released Saturday.

All information is from the NFL and clubs excluding the Rams’ injury statuses, which were cited from Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Byes: Giants, 49ers.

DID NOT PRACTICE

Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe)

Bills RB Fred Jackson (groin).

Bills WR Chris Williams (illness).

Bills WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring).

Broncos WR Rodney Smith (hamstring).

Cardinals TE Troy Niklas (ankle).

Chiefs WR Donnie Avery (groin). — OUT

Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin).

Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle).

Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew (foot).

Lions TE Eric Ebron (hamstring).

Lions TE Joseph Fauria (ankle).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle).

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

Panthers WR Corey Brown (concussion).

Raiders TE David Ausberry (foot).

Ravens TE Owen Daniels (knee).

Ravens WR Steve Smith (not injury related).

Saints RB Khiry Robinson (forearm).

Saints RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder).

Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman (foot). — OUT

Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle). — OUT

Seahawks WR Bryan Walters (concussion).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin).

LIMITED PARTICIPATION

Bears TE Martellus Bennett (hamstring).

Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (ribs).

Bills WR Marcus Easley (knee).

Buccaneers QB Josh McCown (right thumb).

Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson (rib).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (knee).

Cardinals WR Josh Brown (ankle).

Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (ribs).

Chiefs WR Junior Hemingway (hamstring).

Colts TE Jack Doyle (knee).

Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee).

Dolphins TE Dion Sims (neck).

Eagles RB Darren Sproles (knee).

Falcons WR Harry Douglas (foot).

Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring).

Jets WR Greg Salas (ankle, wrist).

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle).

Packers RB James Starks (ankle).

Patriots WR Matt Slater (shoulder).

Raiders FB Marcel Reece (quad).

Raiders WR Vincent Brown (hamstring).

Rams WR Kenny Britt (ankle).

Rams RB Benji Cunningham (knee).

Saints TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

Titans QB Jake Locker (right hand).

Titans RB Shonn Greene (hamstring).

Titans TE Taylor Thompson (knee)

Washington QB Robert Griffin (ankle).

FULL PARTICIPATION

Bengals TE Kevin Brock (neck).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (groin).

Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray (hand).

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (shoulder).

Dolphins WR Brandon Gibson (knee).

Eagles RB Chris Polk (hamstring).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (ankle).

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart (foot).

Jets RB Bilal Powell (foot).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (ankle).

Lions RB Theo Riddick (hamstring).

Patriots QB Tom Brady (ankle).

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (non-injury).

Seahawks RB Robert Turbin (shoulder).

Seahawks TE Luke Willson (groin).

Vikings TE Chase Ford (foot).

Washington RB Alfred Morris (ankle).

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Urlacher say Cutler isn’t getting the job done

Cutler Getty Images

When the Bears traded for quarterback Jay Cutler, former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said Cutler is a “pussy.”  Unless he didn’t.

On Wednesday, Urlacher didn’t call Cutler a guy who is succeeding at the position.

“We say it every year how talented Jay is, how much talent he has,” Urlacher told The Kap and Haugh Show.  “But the NFL is not a talent contest.  It’s a winning contest.  You want to win football games, that’s what it comes down to.

“If your quarterback can’t make plays in certain situations for you to win games, he’s not getting the job done.”

With $54 million guaranteed, Cutler undoubtedly is being paid to get the job done.

“Financially, he is one of the elite guys in the NFL,” Urlacher said.  “You look at his contract, he was paid like an elite quarterback. . . .  He just hasn’t produced like an elite quarterback. You look at the Bradys, the Mannings, the Rodgerses, the Breeses.  Those guys win every year.  Even with no one around them.  [Aaron] Rodgers has no offensive line, he wins.  [Tom] Brady has no receivers, he wins.

“You look at Jay, he’s got Brandon [Marshall], Alshon [Jeffery], Matt [Forte] and a great offensive line, Martellus Bennett and they can’t seem to put it together for some reason.  I’m not sure if it’s his fault, but for some reason they can’t seem to figure it out.”

If it’s not Cutler’s fault, then whose fault is it?  Cutler is far and away the highest-paid player on the team, so it’s on him to produce at a level that will help the team win games.

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Jason Verrett active for Chargers vs. Broncos

Jason Verrett, Brice Butler AP

The Chargers are thin at cornerback tonight against the Broncos, but not as thin as they feared.

Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett is active and will play tonight despite a shoulder injury that led to fears in San Diego that he wouldn’t be able to go. That’s a big positive for the Chargers, who are without cornerback Brandon Flowers after he suffered a concussion Sunday. The Broncos are not an opponent you want to face while thin at cornerback, so having Verrett on the field is big.

In addition to Flowers, the Chargers’ inactives are CB Steve Williams, RB Ryan Mathews, RB Donald Brown, LB Manti Te’o, LB Jerry Attaochu and DE Cordarro Law.

The Broncos’ inactives are RB Montee Ball, DB Omar Bolden, RB Kapri Bibbs, LB Steven Johnson, OL Ben Garland, OL Michael Schofield and DL Mitch Unrein.

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Rex sees improvement from Geno

rexgeno AP

Jets coach Rex Ryan thinks quarterback Geno Smith has improved since his Week Five benching.

Ryan told reporters today that while Smith’s improvements might not be apparent on the outside, they’re clear within the Jets. Ryan said he thinks Smith is growing as a quarterback and is ready to have a big game Sunday against the Bills.

“I just think he’s starting to see it,” Ryan said. “Whether the improvement are noticed by everybody or not, I’ve noticed the improvements that he’s making. Again, I think the arrows going up. Yeah, huge task in front of him this week, but I’m confident in him.

Smith has seven interceptions this season, but Ryan said Smith’s interceptions haven’t necessarily been as bad as it might look.

“If you just take the last three games, alright, yeah he’s got two interceptions in those games, but one was like, desperation against Denver, where we’re just trying to get it out of the end zone, just throw one up, we had to score,” Ryan said. “And so, we threw a pick there. We threw one, San Diego the last play of a two-minute, just a Hail-Mary type situation, so that’s it. So, I think he’s getting better protecting the football and that’s a big thing. I think his poise in the pocket’s been better and I think the fact that he was able to use his legs is another reason why I’m so confident in him.”

Despite pulling Smith for the second half of the loss to the Chargers, Ryan has given no indication that Smith might be in danger of losing his job to Michael Vick on a permanent basis. Ryan is going to trust Smith to keep improving, and perhaps help Ryan save his job.

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Gerhart practices fully on Thursday, but Robinson likely to start for Jaguars

Toby Gerhart AP

After a full practice on Thursday, Jaguars tailback Toby Gerhart looks on track to return after missing two games with a foot injury.

However, Gerhart might not return to his role as the Jaguars’ primary back Sunday vs. Miami.

According to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley indicated Thursday that while Gerhart will play, Robinson will likely be the starter at the outset of Week Eight.

“I would look to see Denard – he’s probably the guy that we’re going with and you’ll see Toby get quite a few reps,” Bradley said, per the Times-Union.

On Thursday’s PFT Live, Robinson deferred to Bradley on the matter of whether he would start against Miami.

“Hopefully, he’ll give me a chance to start again, and we’ll continue to move forward,” Robinson said.

Gerhart rushed for just 123 yards on 48 carries in Jacksonville’s first five games, dealing with ankle and foot injuries along the way. Robinson, meanwhile, racked up 127 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in his try as the Jaguars’ featured back in Sunday’s victory vs. Cleveland.

Thus, it wouldn’t be surprising if Robinson continued to have a big role in the backfield. And if Gerhart can stay healthy and recapture his best form, the Jaguars’ ground game will be stronger for it, which will certainly help first-year quarterback Blake Bortles.

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