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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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Michael Vick: Percy Harvin “won’t be a monster” with Jets

Percy Harvin AP

Negative stories have accompanied wide receiver Percy Harvin out of both Minnesota and Seattle, leading some to wonder if the Jets are going to get a player who helps them on the field more than he becomes a divisive figure off of it.

The top two quarterbacks on the depth chart would surely prefer that Harvin’s impact come on the field and both of them say that they are confident that Harvin’s troublemaking won’t be an issue on his new team. Geno Smith said that he guarantees Harvin “cleans his act up while he’s here” and Michael Vick said the one-time participant in Vick’s football camps sent a similar message.

“He won’t be a monster here,” Vick said, via the New York Post. “He won’t be a monster here. I can assure all the fans of that…That won’t take place here.”

Vick didn’t offer many specifics as to why Harvin won’t be a monster, but his own experience with facing a moment when his future football career hinged on being a good teammate and doing the right thing could account for the optimistic view. Vick was able to do that and the Jets figure to give Harvin every chance to show he can make the same commitment because their offense could use someone who creates trouble for defenses without causing any for the Jets.

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Bears need a leader to emerge

Trestman Getty Images

As the Bears try to break free from a 3-4 start that we all now know receiver Brandon Marshall regards as unacceptable, it seems they’re desperately in need of one thing they don’t have — a leader who can bring the locker room together.

Marshall seems to be trying; the question is whether his teammates will respond to his locker-room tirade and public comments aimed at getting the team to fulfill its potential. Quarterback Jay Cutler either isn’t wired or inclined to even make an effort to lead the team.

Then there’s coach Marc Trestman, whose position that folks should be “non-judgmental” and “accepting” of post-game popping off from players could result in more of the same. Trestman faces the biggest test of his still-young tenure as head coach. Can Trestman command the locker room and impose his will on the players?

John Mullin of CSN Chicago joined Wednesday’s PFT Live to discuss these issues. And Mullin pointed out a key apples-to-apples fact that currently isn’t lost on Bears fans — G.M. Phil Emery picked Trestman over Bruce Arians in early 2013, and Arians has done a much better job to date, arguably with less overall talent.

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Left side of Ravens offensive line closing in on return

Eugene Monroe AP

The Ravens can score a big divisional win when they face the Bengals this Sunday and their chances of having the starting left side of their offensive line in the lineup are looking pretty good.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele were both full participants in practice on Wednesday, which should have them on track to get on the field Sunday barring any setbacks in the next couple of days. Monroe has missed four games after having arthroscopic knee surgery and said he’s feeling healthy after his full return to work.

“Yeah, it gets frustrating after a while being in a training room every day,” Monroe said, via the Baltimore Sun. “Missing out on games, man, that was really the first stretch of my career where I was out for consecutive weeks. It was different, but it was needed. I needed to get healthy, and now that’s happened. I’m just glad to be back out there. I feel real good about it.”

Neither player was missed all that much the last two weeks as the Ravens outscored the Bucs and Falcons 77-24 in a pair of easy victories, but their return will be welcomed with a trip to Pittsburgh coming up a week after the Ravens visit Cincinnati.

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Andre Johnson rides to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s defense

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When Texans receiver Andre Johnson was staying away this offseason, amid reports he was disturbed about the team’s rebuilding phase, it was natural to assume he wasn’t happy with the quarterback, or lack thereof.

But even as coach Bill O’Brien said Ryan Fitzpatrick made some bad reads and missed Johnson for some big gains recently, the veteran receiver came to the defense of the journeyman quarterback.

“When you don’t win, everybody needs to look at themselves and see what they can do better,” Johnson said, via Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle. “We all need to pick our play up, fix the mistakes we’re making and do what we need to do to win. You can’t dwell on one person or one guy. Head coaches and quarterbacks are going to get the bulk of the criticism because of the positions they’re in.”

Johnson said if anything, “better communication” would fix the problems between himself and his quarterback.

“He has a tough job, a lot to think about on every play,” Johnson said. “You just have to communicate with him, let him know what you’re seeing, stuff like that. Everybody makes mistakes. I make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.”

Of course, if Johnson really wanted more open lines of communication with Fitzpatrick, he had an offseason full of chances to build them, but he declined.

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After being sent home, Revis returned to facility to apologize to Belichick

Revis AP

In New England, the best way to get a day off is to show up late.

But it’s still not regarded as a good thing when Patriots coach Bill Belichick sends a player home for being tardy. After that happened on Tuesday to cornerback Darrelle Revis, Revis was sufficiently contrite that he later returned to the facility to personally apologize to Belichick, via Tom Curran of CSN New England.

Revis reportedly overslept. And Belichick has a history of telling guys who fail to arrive on time to take the day off.

Curran also reports that John Geiger, who serves as the cornerback’s business manager, deleted at the request of Revis tweets that criticized the initial report from Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.

There’s no reason to believe that Revis will face any further discipline, especially as the Patriots prepare to face a Bears team that has several talented pass catchers.

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Anthony Dixon gets first crack, but expects timeshare with Bryce Brown

Anthony Dixon AP

The Bills lost their top two running backs to injury last Sunday, leaving Anthony Dixon to carry the load on the ground against the Vikings.

Dixon was the first back up at Wednesday’s practice and all indications are that he will be in the same position when the Bills meet the Jets this Sunday. Dixon doesn’t think that means he’s going to be a workhorse, however. Bryce Brown is expected to be active for the first time since Buffalo traded a fourth-round pick for him and the team is expected to see what he can do as well.

“Me and Bryce are going to do it together as a combination,” Dixon said, via the Buffalo News. “That’s pretty much how we’re going to get it done. We’re going to compete this week and see who’s got a feel for the plays that [offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett] wants to run, and then on Sunday, we’re going to go with it.”

Dixon said that he wants to “be a hammer” when he gets the ball, which should cast Brown into the home run hitter role that C.J. Spiller was trying to fill before he broke his clavicle. The Jets aren’t the most forgiving defense for their first foray into a shared backfield, but, on paper, the complementary relationship looks like one that shouldn’t lead to too big a change in Buffalo’s offensive approach.

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Kessler and Ginsberg plan to interrogate Goodell

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Roger Goodell’s bad Wednesday has extended into Thursday.

Last night, the appeal officer jointly selected by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to handle the Ray Rice appeal hearing determined that the Commissioner will be required to testify. PFT later learned that there are no pre-set limits on the questioning, and that the interrogator will be longtime NFL nemesis Jeffrey Kessler.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, more recent NFL nemesis Peter Ginsberg also intends to question Goodell.

Ginsberg, who was retained directly by Rice, has handled several cases in recent years against the NFL, including the StarCaps litigation that delayed for many months the suspensions of former Vikings defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams. Ginsberg also represented former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma in the bounty case, which ultimately resulted in former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturning all player suspensions — including Vilma’s one-year banishment from the sport.

Ginsberg’s intent to interrogate Goodell doesn’t mean it will be open season on the Commissioner, with Kessler and Ginsberg flailing away at the witness like a WWE tag-team wrestling combo. The NFL’s lawyers will be protecting Goodell with the right to object to any and all questions, and former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones surely won’t allow the witness to be asked the same questions repeatedly or to be badgered by either or both lawyers.

Regardless, the challenge gets a little more challenging if Goodell has to answer questions from both Kessler and Ginsberg.

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Jeremy Kerley goes Oprah: You get a Bentley, and you get a Bentley, …

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Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley just came into a windfall, and he was ready to share the wealth yesterday.

“Yeah, man, I’m going to buy Bentleys for everybody,” Kerley said, via Darryl Slater of NJ.com.

He was kidding, we think. But just in case, I prefer black.

Kerley should be feeling good, however, after signing a four-year deal worth up to $16 million, with $5.4 million guaranteed. Considering his stats in recent years, that’s a pretty good deal comparable to other slot receivers in recent free agency periods.

He said he was happy to get a deal done before needing to hit free agency, as his rookie contract expired this year.

“It feels good,” he said. “It was just good for me and my family, so we got that out of the way. Now it’s just time to go play. It’s been back and forth (on contract negotiations with the Jets) for a little while, but I’m glad that it got done at the time that it got done. It feels good to be here for hopefully another four years. . . .

“I thought that this is a place I call home. I’ve been feeling good since I’ve been here. I didn’t really think about free agency. That’s just how I felt.”

And when all his teammates find their new rides in the parking lot, they’ll feel pretty good about him staying too.

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Ike Taylor returns to practice

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

It’s been a little more than a month since Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor broke his forearm in a collision with teammate Lawrence Timmons and it appears things have been healing well since then.

Taylor was back on the practice field Wednesday for the first time since getting injured. Taylor was only doing individual drills and said he was a “mutant” when asked if he was recovering ahead of the 6-8 week timeline originally laid down. Even if he’s eligible for membership in the X-Men, Taylor won’t be playing in a game until doctors say his surgically repaired arm is up for the task.

“There’s no timetable. It’s all on the bone, and as soon as the doctors feel it’s strong enough, they’ll give me the OK,” Taylor said, via USA Today. “When the doctor says the bone is good enough for me to go back out there and play, then, we’re going to roll with it.”

Linebacker Ryan Shazier, who was injured in the same game as Taylor, may return to the lineup this weekend and linebacker Jarvis Jones is eligible to play on November 30 against the Saints. They should have a defense pretty close to full strength for the stretch run, although being shorthanded against the Colts and Ravens the next two weeks may leave them with a diminished position when that stretch run gets underway.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Austin Davis AP

The Bills know they need to keep QB Kyle Orton on his feet more.

Ever since their QB controversy, the Dolphins have liked what they’ve seen from Ryan Tannehill.

Patriots QB Tom Brady is trying to be more mobile (whatever).

The Jets are still alarming popular in Alabama.

The Ravens are getting healthier on the offensive line.

Injuries have made a mess of the Bengals’ run defense.

The Browns expect C John Greco to man the middle for another week.

The Steelers didn’t have to go no-huddle as often against the Texans, since they grabbed a quick lead.

Texans rookie OLB Jadeveon Clowney is getting closer to a return.

The Colts got good news from WR Reggie Wayne’s MRI.

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart appears ready to return.

The Titans added TE Richard Gordon.

The Broncos are a perfect example of where the TE position is heading.

The Chiefs were impressed with their latest secondary changes.

Raiders CB D.J. Hayden is doing more and more in practice.

Chargers OLB Dwight Freeney’s hoping to catch up with an old friend — Broncos QB Peyton Manning.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett seems to be benefitting from not calling plays.

Giants S Stevie Brown is bouncing back after a rough stretch of games.

Eagles replacement C David Molk better be ready to see anything this week in Arizona.

Washington coach Jay Gruden said he’ll make his QB decision today.

The Bears have communication issues on both sides of the ball.

Lions DT Ndamukong Suh said there’s no bad blood with the Falcons.

Packers RB Eddie Lacy is excited about going home.

Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t been excelling on the deep ball.

Falcons WR Julio Jones is looking forward to some man-to-man coverage.

The Panthers had to shuffle their nickel defense.

The Saints’ search for a second CB has been a disaster from the start.

Buccaneers DE Michael Johnson is frustrated by a lingering ankle injury.

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington is carrying the weight of the offense.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz warns fans not to go overboard over QB Austin Davis.

The 49ers are counting on an improved offense in the second half of the season.

The Seahawks are springing unsuspected leaks on pass defense.

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Hoyer: I don’t even think about getting benched for Manziel

hoyermanziel AP

Rookie quarterback Derek Carr is the starter in Oakland. Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles is the starter in Jacksonville. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is the starter in Minnesota. And now rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger is the starter in Tennessee. But rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel is firmly planted on the bench in Cleveland.

The man keeping Manziel on the bench, Brian Hoyer, says he’s not worried about that changing. Hoyer said he’s confident in what he’s doing for the Browns, even after Sunday’s ugly loss to the Jaguars, and he believes the coaches are committed to him.

“I don’t even think about it to be honest with you,” Hoyer said, via ESPNCleveland.com. “I know what goes into my preparation. I know that talking to my coaches, that’s the farthest thing on my mind. Yeah, I don’t doubt that [coach Mike Pettine] has my back. I also know that if you have one bad game, I think that people are just going to be calling for your job already. That’s just the way it goes. But I know within this building I feel more than comfortable.”

Hoyer did have one bad game, and people are calling for his job, and Hoyer isn’t happy about that.

“Three weeks ago everyone was saying Tom Brady was done with,” Hoyer said. “He’s the greatest quarterback of all time. He had one bad game, and people are throwing him under the bus. I think when you see that even the great ones have bad games you know you’re going to have a few. Yeah, it sucks. You don’t want to go out there and not perform well. Obviously, we prepare our butts off all week to go out there and execute and play the best of our ability, but sometimes you have a situation where you don’t play great, and the other team plays well. It’s a bad combination. For me, really of all the games I’ve ever played, that was the worst I’ve ever felt after one.”

Hoyer will feel even worse if he has another game as bad as Sunday’s. If he plays like that again this week and the Browns lose to the Raiders, Hoyer will surely lose his job to Manziel.

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DeMarco Murray shows offensive linemen some love

Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray AP

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is the first player in league history to open a season with seven straight 100-yard rushing games and he knows that he hasn’t been gaining all of those yards all by himself.

Murray is running behind what’s been the most impressive offensive line in the league and he recognized their efforts in a material form on Wednesday. Starting linemen Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Doug Free returned to their lockers to find brand new iMac desktop computers waiting for them.

“That just shows how much respect he has for us, how much he appreciates us, so it’s a great gift,” Leary said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The computers retail for $1,300 and such gifts usually come at the end of a big season, as when Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin bought Rolexes for Jets linemen after leading the league in rushing but it seems Murray wanted to get a jump on things in light of his historic start to the year. It’s not a bad way to keep the linemen motivated, either. If seven 100-yard games get you a computer, what will Murray do if he cracks the 2,000-yard mark for the season?

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Bengals trying to teach Vontaze Burfict to play safer (so he can play)

Vontaze Burfict AP

The Bengals are obviously better on defense when Vontaze Burfict is on the field.

But they might want him to play differently in the future, in hopes of actually staying there more often.

Burfict’s reckless, head-first style has resulted in him finishing one game this year, between a concussion, last week’s “cervical strain” and other vaguely diagnoses “head injuries.”

He does us no good sitting on the sideline after five snaps every week,”  Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said, via Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. “It does us no good. It does us more harm than good. So he’s got to learn how to do [tackle better] for him and the team and everybody involved.”

Of course, trying to teach an adult NFL player to do things differently at this stage in his career might be difficult.

“I tell him to keep his face up,” Guenther said. “I tell him that he’s my quarterback. Like you need to tell a quarterback to slide and to not get hit, I tell him to keep his head up so he can stay in the game. When he starts the game and he comes out, it affects everything. It affects me, it affects the unit, it affects the linebacking crew. . . .

“I’ve said this a million times: He’s my quarterback on the field,” Guenther said of Burfict. “I communicate with him, ‘Hey, tell the corner this.’ And he knows exactly what I’m thinking. Being his [former] position coach, I’ve trained the guy. It’s easier when you have a guy that you’ve trained who can understand that these are the ins and outs of what I’m thinking about. He settles the group down when he’s playing. He brings energy.”

They have other injuries at linebacker which complicate things as well, but when he leaves the game, it puts the formation-setting responsibilities on backup Vincent Rey.

Guenther’s point is a valid one, and they do need to re-train Burfict to keep him on the field. But much like Marvin Lewis’s tone-deaf remarks about concussions, it almost sounds like the Bengals are as worried about having a valuable employee available to play as much as they are about Burfict’s health and welfare.

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Lions started game-planning for the Falcons weeks ago

Lions London Football AP

Not only are the Lions five hours ahead of you right now, they’re also weeks ahead in terms of game-planning for the Falcons.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions adjusted the way they prepared for this game because of the time difference and travel lag. In addition to talking to military officers and a sleep specialists about the adjustment, they also changed the way they prepared a game-plan.

Coaches were given the option of staying late on Fridays and Saturdays, typically the shortest afternoons of the week, to work ahead on Falcons tape as opposed to cramming this week while they were flying and getting adjusted to the new schedule.

(Jets quarterback Geno Smith was not apparently consulted on this.)

“It does take quite a bit of preparation and time and you hope it doesn’t take away from the preparation of the present team that you were playing,” Caldwell said. “And I don’t think it hurt us a bit in that regard.”

In fact, the Lions have won two in a row, so any time they took away from previous weeks to get ready for the Falcons was obviously not a hindrance.

That allowed them to set up shop at a resort there, and have what amounts to a normal week of practice.

“You always have a few glitches here and there, but for the most part, it’s in place,” Caldwell said. “We have to work through a few bugs and I think we’ve gotten those worked out. But the difference is, anytime you relocate it’s bit of a challenge, right, logistically? But if you can adapt and adjust, you’ll be better for it. Our guys adjust very, very well.”

They didn’t talk to players about the Falcons at all until this week, but the fact coaches were willing to buck the “one game at a time” mantra shows an impressive flexibility on Caldwell’s part.

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Rams sticking with running back by committee approach

Tre Mason, Tharold Simon AP

Jeff Fisher is channeling his inner Mike Shanahan with his handling of the running backs for the St. Louis Rams.

Zac Stacy entered last week as the Rams leading rusher and had started the first five games of the year for St. Louis. Against the Seattle Seahawks, Stacy didn’t get a single carry as the Rams turned to Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham instead.

Mason rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries for St. Louis while Cunningham caught five passes for 46 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield.

According to R.B. Fallstrom of the Associated Press, that approach of spreading the workload around will continue for the Rams going forward.

“Zac could get 25 carries this week. He’s been a little banged up,” Fisher said. “We clearly have significant depth at the position.”

Stacy rushed for 973 yards as a rookie but has gotten off to a slower start this season. He’s rushed for 240 yards on 61 carries through the first five games. He was limited on the injury report with an ankle injury last week though he was listed as a full participant.

Mason looked promising in his first extended action against Seattle, though he did fumble on one of the Rams final offensive plays to potentially give the Seahawks a chance to win in the closing seconds.

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