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PFT’s Week Seven picks

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Down three games with three disagreements last week, I envisioned forging a tie with MDS in the PFT picks contest.

And of course he swept me.

Now down six — six! — through six weeks, I’ve got a chance to cut the margin to four (or see it grow to eight) based on two disagreements this week.

MDS went 11-4 for the week; I was a mere 8-7.  He’s now 63-29 for the year, and I’m 57-35.

Read on for this week’s prognostications.

Seahawks at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Seahawks on the road are always a precarious pick, and I’m tempted to choose Arizona in an upset. But Carson Palmer is just throwing too many bad passes for an opportunistic Seattle secondary not to give him trouble. The Seahawks’ defense will lead the way in this one.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 14.

Florio’s take:  Somebody in the league office hates the Cardinals.  In a four-day span, they will have played both the 49ers and the Seahawks.  Arizona held its own against the Niners, and Arizona will do the same against the Seahawks.  But two moral victories in less than a week won’t do much to propel a team toward the postseason.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 20, Cardinals 14.

Buccaneers at Falcons

MDS’s take: A year after earning home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, Atlanta is all but out of the playoff race already this season. But a bad Tampa Bay team coming to town should be just the thing to get the Falcons their second win of a disappointing season.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 20, Buccaneers 10.

Florio’s take:  The game that many thought would help determine first place (for now) in the NFC South will determine last place in the division (for now, and possibly for longer).  The Falcons had an extra week to get ready, the Buccaneers continue to be in disarray, and the home team still has enough talent to pull out the win.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 27, Buccaneers 17.

Rams at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Rams are coming off a dominant win over the Texans and are, at 3-3, a lot better than most people thought they’d be. But Carolina is playing excellent defense, and St. Louis is playing mediocre offense, and so I like the Panthers to win a low-scoring game at home.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 17, Rams 9.

Florio’s take:  Here’s a game that likely will be underrated but could produce a potential wild-card contender in the NFC.  Both teams have been inconsistent, and both teams won in Week Six over franchises currently in a funk.  Edge goes to the home team, as long as the Panthers can get the upper hand early.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Rams 21.

Bengals at Lions

MDS’s take: Overall the Bengals are a more talented team than the Lions, and a good Cincinnati secondary is going to make things tough for Detroit’s offense. But the Lions have played well at home and the Bengals have been shaky on the road, and so I’m going to take the Lions.

MDS’s pick: Lions 20, Bengals 17.

Florio’s take:  Usually, the Bengals play up and down to the level of the competition.  This week, the competition level is roughly equivalent.  And the Lions won in Cleveland, where the Bengals lost handily.  Oh, and Calvin Johnson appears to be getting healthy.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Bengals 20.

Chargers at Jaguars

MDS’s take: Despite major injury issues, San Diego is a better team than just about anyone expected. Playing in the same division as the only two undefeated teams in the NFL makes it unlikely that the Chargers will make the playoffs, but they will get over .500 with an easy win in Jacksonville.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 28, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take:  Yes, I’m tempted to pick the upset here.  The Chargers have beaten three teams that are supposedly better than San Diego, and they’ve lost to three teams that are supposedly worse.  Plus, they’re traveling across the country on a short week to play a team that gave the Broncos more of a game than anyone would have imagined.  Then I’m reminded of the overall quality of the Jacksonville roster.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 28, Jaguars 10.

Texans at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Texans totally melted down on Sunday, and now they’re traveling to play a Kansas City team that’s playing defense as well as anyone in the league. This could get ugly.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 31, Texans 7.

Florio’s take:  The Chiefs are what the Texans were supposed to be.   Swarming defense, competent offense, and undefeated through six weeks.  This could be Correction Sunday for the Chiefs, but not at the place that cranked up 137.5 decibels last weekend — and not against a team that could be dialing up Case Keenum at quarterback.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 27, Texans 17.

Bills at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Bills’ pass rush could provide real problems for Ryan Tannehill, and if EJ Manuel were healthy I’d like the Bills to go to Miami and pull an upset. But with Thad Lewis as the starting quarterback, I don’t think the Bills will put many points on the board in Miami.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 20, Bills 13.

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins have had two weeks to prepare for Thad Lewis and company.  While Lewis looked good against the Bengals, he’s and several teammates are a little banged up.  Maybe Miami coach Joe Philbin ultimately will get a shot at his former pupil in Green Bay — you know, the one-hit wonder in whom Philbin had zero interest.  Which should have told Seattle and Oakland everything they needed to know.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 27, Bills 20.

Patriots at Jets

MDS’s take: The Patriots have been dealing with injuries all year, and Jerod Mayo is their most significant injury yet. New England is ripe for an upset. Unfortunately, the Jets looked absolutely terrible on Sunday against the Steelers, and they just don’t look like they have the weapons on offense to pull the upset.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 17, Jets 7.

Florio’s take:  The Jets almost beat the Patriots in Foxborough in Week Two.  Since then, New England has lost Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo for the season.  Aqib Talib could miss the game, and even if Rob Gronkowski plays how much can be expected after a nine-month layoff.  Some will call this an upset.  Under these precise circumstances, it really isn’t.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 20, Patriots 17.

Cowboys at Eagles

MDS’s take: In the battle for first place in the NFC East, I like Nick Foles to keep the Eagles’ offense running smoothly and create a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia. The suspect Dallas defense is going to have a tough time keeping up with Philadelphia’s big-play offense.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 35, Cowboys 28.

Florio’s take:  Whether Nick Foles or Mike Vick or Matt Barkley, Chip Kelly’s offense is poised to run rings around a more-porous-than-expected Dallas defense.  And Philly’s defense quietly has improved to the point where it can keep the Cowboys in check, especially with DeMarco Murray missing this one.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 31, Cowboys 21.

Bears at Redskins

MDS’s take: Chicago has been beating bad teams all season, with wins over the Vikings, Steelers and Giants. That trend will continue for another week in Washington.

MDS’s pick: Bears 21, Redskins 20.

Florio’s takeRobert Griffin III is getting better, but he’s still not close to the guy he was last year.  Ditto for the team.  In 2012, Washington dug out of a 3-6 hole.  This year’s start could be even worse.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 26, Redskins 17.

49ers at Titans

MDS’s take: With Jake Locker out and Ryan Fitzpatrick in, the Titans are just not going to beat a good team like the 49ers. San Francisco is over its early-season hiccup and is now beginning its long march toward challenging Seattle for NFC West supremacy.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 34, Titans 17.

Florio’s take:  The Titans perform well at home against teams from the NFC, and they played well on the road last Sunday in one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.  But the 49ers have hit their stride in recent weeks, with a balanced offense and a defense that still has punch, even without Aldon Smith.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 24, Titans 17.

Browns at Packers

MDS’s take: I don’t think Brandon Weeden is as terrible as some people make him out to be, and I don’t think Brian Hoyer was ever going to be Cleveland’s long-term answer at quarterback. Still, the Browns have looked like a team that finds ways to win with Hoyer at quarterback, and a team that finds ways to lose with Weeden at quarterback. That will continue on Sunday, when an injury-riddled Packers team will capitalize on some Cleveland mistakes.

MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Browns 24.

Florio’s take:  That three-game winning streak will quickly be forgotten when the losing streak reaches two.  Despite the injuries, the Packers continue to deliver on both sides of the ball.  The turnaround from a 1-2 start continues.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Browns 24.

Ravens at Steelers

MDS’s take: I’ve gone back and forth on this one a few times, but in the end I think Baltimore’s defensive front is too much for the injury-depleted Steelers offensive line. The Ravens win a close, hard-fought, defensive struggle.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 17, Steelers 16.

Florio’s take:  The defending champs visit Pittsburgh for the first time since hoisting the latest Lombardi.  If the Steelers can run like the Packers did against Baltimore and throw the ball smartly and quickly, the home team in this tarnished (for now) rivalry can hold serve.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 13, Ravens 10.

Broncos at Colts

MDS’s take: In one of the marquee games of the season, Peyton Manning will remind the Colts that they cut one of the best players in NFL history a year and a half ago. Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offense will score plenty of points against a mediocre Denver defense, but Manning and Co. will score even more.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 48, Colts 38.

Florio’s take:  Peyton Manning’s homecoming acquired some extra levels of intrigue this week, thanks to Colts owner Jim Irsay.  While some think Irsay took a shot at Peyton to get inside his head and other thinks Irsay was simply being Irsay, the man some call the best regular-season quarterback in NFL history will further cement his legacy.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 49, Colts 24.

Vikings at Giants

MDS’s take: One of the worst Monday night games in recent years will be memorable for Josh Freeman’s first start with the Vikings, and for the Giants’ first win of the season.

MDS’s pick: Giants 21, Vikings 13.

Florio’s take:  Eleven days to get ready.  Home game.  National audience.  Bad defense.  Quarterback rushed to the field for his first start with the team.  If the Giants can’t win this one, they may not win any.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 35, Vikings 27.

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No 2011 draft picks expected to hold out from training camp

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When the rookie wage scale grossly restricted the money earned by players taken at the top of the 2011 draft, a theory emerged that once players became eligible for new contracts after their third NFL seasons, plenty of the men who became quality players would hold out until receiving the money they didn’t get upon entering the league in order to prevent busts from being unduly overpaid.

So far, that theory has busted.  No members of the 2011 draft class are poised to hold out, even though none of the first-round picks has received a second contract.

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, a fifth-round pick that year, has gotten a massive payday.  But he’s the rare exception.  First-rounders like Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Tyron Smith, and J.J. Watt (pictured) are waiting — and they’re waiting very patiently.

In fact, only one 2011 draft pick has taken a stand this offseason.  Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston boycotted the offseason program and a mandatory minicamp.  He’s still expected to report this week for Chiefs’ training camp, especially since he is only a season away from free agency, unlike the first-rounders whose hands are tied by the fifth-year option.

The situation will further bolster the idea that the NFL won big in the last CBA, even though the truth remains that the NFLPA got the best deal it could given a rank-and-file that didn’t want to miss a paycheck.  As a result, the paychecks will continue to smaller for for all rookies drafted from 2011 through the end of the decade, whether superstar or half-a-star.

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Pettine says Browns aren’t inclined to cut Josh Gordon

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The Browns might not have wide receiver Josh Gordon for part or all of the 2014 season, but that doesn’t mean the club will be severing his employment.

Head coach Mike Pettine told the Akron Beacon Journal the club doesn’t intend to release Gordon, who was arrested on a DWI charge in early July. The 23-year-old Pro Bowl wide receiver, under contract for two more seasons, was already facing a potential suspension under the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

“Josh is a Cleveland Brown. We want to do what’s best for him,” Pettine told the Beacon Journal‘s Nate Ulrich in a story published Monday. “We have a player that potentially needs help. Whether it’s him or whether it’s anybody else that wears the uniform, if we can help, we’ll help. We want to make our decisions always, what’s best for the player, and you try to marry it with what’s best for the team.

“So that’s why I don’t think that cutting him, while it may have worked for some other people, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the best option here. It might be the worst option for both — for us and for him. We’re going to wait and see what happens and then act accordingly.”

Pettine told the Beacon Journal the club expects some clarity on Gordon’s disciplinary status in the next two weeks. The wide receiver reportedly could be in line for a yearlong ban.

“I’ve heard everything, all the possibilities, so it’s just gotten to the point where it is what it is. We’ve planned for everything, and we’re ready to go,” the Browns’ head coach told the newspaper.

In the short term, the Browns would count on Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin, Nate Burleson and Travis Benjamin, among others, to pick up the slack if Gordon were ruled out for an extended stretch.

In the longer term, though, an ideal Cleveland offense would have Gordon as the go-to target for a clear-cut starting quarterback. But those are just hopes for now.

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Pettine: Browns to name starting QB by third preseason game

Johnny Manziel AP

Johnny Manziel or Brian Hoyer?

According to coach Mike Pettine, we’ll have a winner of the Browns’ QB derby in about a month.

In a Q&A published Monday, Pettine told the Akron Beacon Journal the club will pick a starting quarterback by Cleveland’s August 23 preseason game vs. St. Louis.

“I don’t know if I’ll set a date and kind of paint ourselves into a date, but it will be sooner than the third preseason game,” Pettine told Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal.

Teams typically play their starters more in the third exhibition game than in any of the other preseason contests, so if the Browns stick to the plan, the No. 1 quarterback will get an extended stint with the first-team offense in an important dress rehearsal for Cleveland.

Hoyer, a sixth-year pro who attended high school in Cleveland, will try to hold off the rookie Manziel, a first-round pick and the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.

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Marvin Jones tweaked ankle working out with Andy Dalton

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The Bengals’ list of players on the non-football injury list surprisingly included receiver Marvin Jones, with an ankle injury.

Per a league source, Jones is day-to-day due to a tweaking of the ankle that happened at the post-OTA passing camp arranged by quarterback Andy Dalton.  Jones had an issue with the ankle in 2013.

It’s a minor injury, and Jones currently is expected to practice this week.  Which is great news for the Bengals, especially in light of the significant potential that Jones flashed at times in 2013 as a complement to A.J. Green.

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Sammy Watkins gives Bills a mild scare

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Teams that play in the Hall of Fame game get to open camp a week or so earlier than most other teams.  Which gives the teams that play in the Hall of Fame game extra practice time.

Which, when coming before other teams have opened camp, makes those teams the center of media attention.  Which, when one of their hottest young players gets injured, sets Twitter ablaze.

On Monday, Bills rookie receiver Sammy Watkins, based on simultaneous tweets from roughly a dozen or more media accounts, caught a ball in traffic and emerged with an injury.  Some said he was dazed.  Others said he appeared to have a cut on his forehead or eye.

After practice, coach Doug Marrone told reporters that Watkins had been poked in the eye.  It’s one of the risks of football practice, especially when a guy is willing to go over the middle.

“He shows that,” Marrone said regarding Watkins’ fearlessness.  “He’s made a very good career for himself, in college, being able to go over the middle. That’s always a big test when you get to this level to make sure you can come over the middle.  He’s a fearless player and, again, at the same time you have to be smart when you do that.”

Luck is also a factor.  On Monday, Watkins and the Bills got lucky.

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Seahawks have 99-percent season-ticket renewal rate

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It’s good to be the defending NFL champions.

The Seattle Seahawks have announced that all tickets for the 2014 regular season have been sold, thanks in large part to a franchise-record 99-percent renewal rate on season tickets.

The team capped season tickets at 63,000.  Another 12,000 members of the 12th man have joined the Blue Pride season-ticket waiting list.

It’s hardly a surprise, given the passion of the fan base, the performance of the team in 2013, and the potential for the Seahawks to become the first team in a decade to win back-to-back Super Bowl crowns.

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Giants sign guard John Sullen

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With stalwart guard Chris Snee electing to retire, the Giants added to their numbers at the position on Monday, signing John Sullen, a first-year pro from Auburn. The signing of Sullen was disclosed in the NFL’s daily personnel notice.

Sullen (6-6, 340) signed with the Bengals after the 2013 NFL Draft. He appeared in three preseason games with Cincinnati before being waived on August 31.

Sullen will take the roster spot of the 32-year-old Snee, who officially was released with a failed physical designation. The 11th-year guard has hip and elbow injuries.

In another roster move Monday, the Giants waived wide receiver Kris Adams from the reserve/physically unable to perform list after he failed a physical. Adams suffered a broken leg last year.

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Favre denies he’s worried about getting booed at Lambeau Field

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Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said recently that Brett Favre has not committed to a jersey retirement ceremony at Lambeau Field in part because “He wouldn’t want to come back to be booed.” But Favre says that’s not the case.

“I’ve heard that was a concern of mine, and I’m here to tell you I’m not,” Favre said on ESPN 1000. “I’m not worried about that. I’m well aware that you can’t please everyone. Not everyone’s going to like you regardless, and you know what, so be it. But I think the 16 years that I had in Green Bay speaks for itself.”

Favre was booed off the field the last time he played at Lambeau with the Vikings, but he thinks he’d be cheered if he returned to have his green and gold No. 4 jersey retired.

“I have played with other teams, but I will be remembered as a Packer,” Favre said. “I feel that. I think the true Packer backers, which there are tons out there, feel the same way. I’m not the first player to play for other teams or rivals. . . . As time goes by, that’s how I will be remembered, as a Packer, and that’s how I want to be remembered.”

Favre believes that most Packers fans remember him fondly, even if they didn’t much like the way he left.

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Report: Eagles’ Keelan Johnson arrested for assaulting police officer

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Eagles safety Keelan Johnson has been arrested after an altercation with police at a bar in Tempe, Arizona.

Johnson was charged with assaulting a police officer, passively resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, according to Arizona news station KTAR.

Police say Johnson was standing in front of a bar at 2 a.m. after an acquaintance was involved in a fight. As police detained Johnson’s acquaintance, Johnson shouted at officers. He was told to step back and then, according to police, when an officer tried to move him back, Johnson shoved the officer and a scuffle ensued. The report said Johnson appeared to be intoxicated.

The 24-year-old Johnson signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona State last year, then signed with the Eagles when the Dolphins cut him at the end of the preseason. Johnson played in two games for the Eagles last season.

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Aaron Dobson, Tommy Kelly to start camp on PUP list

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The Patriots lost defensive tackle Tommy Kelly to a torn ACL early last season and it looks like they’ll wait a little bit longer before letting him cut loose in a full training camp practice.

Field Yates of ESPNBoston.com reports that Kelly is one of five players who will start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Wide receiver Aaron Dobson, whose return from foot surgery was generating optimism he’d be ready on day one, is also headed to the list along with cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, special teams ace Matt Slater and rookie wide receiver Jeremy Gallon.

You’ll likely notice that neither tight end Rob Gronkowski nor defensive tackle Vince Wilfork are on that list, although they could still be given the designation at any point before taking part in a practice.

Yates also reports that first-round pick Dominique Easley will start his first camp on the Non-Football Injury list after tearing his ACL at Florida last season. Running back Roy Finch, linebacker Deontae Skinner and tackle Chris Martin are also headed to the NFL list. Those players and the ones on the PUP list can be activated at any point in camp.

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Texans tackle Brennan Williams fails physical

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Any time a team has multiple picks in the first three rounds, it’s a chance to restock their roster with cheap, high-end talent.

The Texans now have nothing left from the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Texans have waived offensive tackle Brennan Williams with a failed physical designation.

Williams missed all of his rookie season after microfracture surgery, and it appears the Texans aren’t going to wait for him to get well any longer.

Along with former LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery (who was cut last year, reportedly for smoking marijuana the night before a game), the Texans have nothing to show from the 89th and 95th picks.

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Patriots sign defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna

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The Patriots signed rookie defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna on Monday, the club said.

In a corresponding roster move, New England waived rookie Seali’i Epenesa, a defensive lineman from UCLA.

This is the second NFL stint for the 25-year-old Manumaleuna, who signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in May. The Giants waived him on June 19.

Manumaleuna (6-2, 305) notched 144 tackles (17 for loss) in 56 collegiate games for BYU. In New England, it’s possible he could get looks as a 4-3 defensive tackle and as a 3-4 defensive end.

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Jon Beason only Giant on physicaly unable to perform list

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For a team with lots of pending medical questions entering training camp, only one is going to keep a guy off the field from the start of Giants training camp.

According to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, Giants linebacker Jon Beason is the only player who will begin camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Beason is coming off a foot injury, and there’s no clear word on his timetable. But he didn’t need surgery, which leaves the door open for him to return for the regular season opener.

Left tackle Will Beatty, guard John Jerry and wide receiver Mario Manningham will be limited as they come back from injuries, but the fact they’re not on PUP is a good sign.

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Agent: Cowboys sign WR Dezmon Briscoe

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The Cowboys have signed a wide receiver who’s flashed some playmaking ability in his NFL career.

According to agent Erik Burkhardt, the Cowboys have reached a deal with Dezmon Briscoe, who’s hauled in 43 passes for 502 yards and seven touchdowns since entering the NFL in 2010.

A Dallas-area native, the 24-year-old Briscoe was with Washington last summer. The club waived-injured him with a shoulder ailment in August.

Briscoe has had NFL stints with Cincinnati (2010), Tampa Bay (2010-2012) and Washington (2012-2013). His best season came in 2011, when he caught 35 passes for 387 yards and six TDs for the Buccaneers.

Briscoe will compete for a reserve role with Dallas, which had 10 receivers before bringing him into the fold. The Cowboys begin training camp on Wednesday.

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Bengals have crowded house on PUP, NFI

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Maybe it would have been easier for the Bengals to list the players they haven’t put on the Physically Unable to Perform or Non-Football Injury lists.

As the team that has gone to the playoffs three straight times prepares to defend its AFC North crown, the Bengals will not have the services of 12 players who have been placed on the PUP or NFI list.

On PUP, which means they can’t pass a physical because of a past football injury while in the NFL, are defensive tackle Geno Atkins (knee), guard Clint Boling (knee), linebacker Marquis Flowers (hamstring), cornerback Leon Hall (Achilles), punter Kevin Huber (neck), receiver Colin Lockett (hamstring), defensive tackle Zach Minter (back), defensive tackle Devon Still (back), and receiver Ryan Whalen (hamstring).

On NFI, which means something happened away from the team facility, are receiver Marvin Jones (ankle), cornerback Onterio McCalebb (knee), and quarterback AJ McCarron (shoulder).

Jones, who participated in the offseason program, apparently injured the ankle during the down time after OTAs.  It’s unclear how long any of the 12 players will be unavailable to practice in advance of the 2014 season.

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