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PFT’s Week Eight picks

Dez Getty Images

It would be fair to call Week Eight the first unofficial lull of the 2013 season.  Six teams are off, including the defending Super Bowl champions.  The other Super Bowl team has been exiled to London, for a friendly against the Jaguars.

Of the 13 games on the slate, some of the worst teams will play in prime time.  Tonight, it’s the winless Bucs.  Sunday night, the hapless Vikings.  Monday night, the listless Rams.

Throw in recent Monday night game between Minnesota and the Giants and technically the evening kickoff in London and it’s as bad a five-game cluster of football under the lights that the NFL ever has seen.

But we’ll still watch, because it’s the NFL.  And it’s on TV.  And in three-and-a-half months it’ll be gone until next September.

I’ll be paying particular attention to two of the games, since MDS and I disagree on the outcomes.  Our full slate of Week Eight picks appears below.

Last week, I swept the two games on which we differed, finishing 10-5 to his 8-7.  For the year, he’s now 71-36, and I’m 67-40.

Panthers at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: Looking at the Buccaneers’ remaining schedule, this actually appears to be one of their more winnable games, at home on a short week against a .500 team. But the Panthers have been playing good football, and they’re not going to get tripped up in Tampa.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 21, Buccaneers 6.

Florio’s take:  The Panthers have been taking care of business against bad teams.  They get another chance to do it on Thursday night, against one of the worst teams.  The next challenge for Carolina will be to beat a good team.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Buccaneers 17.

Cowboys at Lions

MDS’s take: This is a tough one. The Lions are favored and I rarely pick against a team with a winning record at home. But the Lions’ secondary was leaving receivers wide open all day against the Bengals, and Tony Romo and Dez Bryant should be able to put up big numbers in Detroit. Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ defense looked outstanding last week against Philadelphia. I see the Cowboys winning a close game.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 28, Lions 27.

Florio’s take:  A shootout could be coming at Ford Field, and the Lions know their margin for error is shrinking.  The Cowboys, at 4-3 and in the NFC East, won’t have a margin for error until late December.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 38, Cowboys 35.

49ers at Jaguars

MDS’s take: This is an easy one. The 49ers are playing tough, physical football on both sides of the ball, while the Jaguars are making mistakes all over the place. The fans in London are going to see the Jaguars and be horrified at the idea that this is the quality of football the NFL plans to send across the pond on a regular basis. (Next year the Jaguars “host” the Cowboys at Wembley Stadium, and we can already pencil in the Cowboys as 14-point favorites in that game.)

MDS’s pick: 49ers 34, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take:  The good news?  Folks in Jacksonville don’t have to witness this “home” game in person.  The bad news?  It’ll be on TV.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 40, Jaguars 13.

Browns at Chiefs

MDS’s take: I keep thinking the Chiefs are ripe for an upset, and then I keep looking at their schedule and thinking they’re a lot better than every team they’re going to play, at least until the Broncos come to town on November 17. Jason Campbell might be a better option than Brandon Weeden, but the Browns just aren’t good enough on offense to move the ball effectively against that tough Chiefs defense.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 20, Browns 10.

Florio’s take:  The Chiefs continue their tour of backup quarterbacks.  A loss feels inevitable before the home-and-home showdowns with the Broncos, but it’s not likely to happen this week.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 27, Browns 13.

Dolphins at Patriots

MDS’s take: With all their injuries, I don’t think the Patriots are any better than the Dolphins on either offense or defense. But I do think the Patriots are a lot better than the Dolphins on special teams, and I look for a big play in the kicking game to be the difference.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 17, Dolphins 13.

Florio’s take:  The two teams that most (like us) assumed would be battling for supremacy in the division are now struggling to stay competitive.  The Dolphins don’t have the running game to take advantage of the Pats’ porous post-Wilfork run defense, or the offensive line to keep Patriots defenders off of Ryan Tannehill.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 24, Dolphins 20.

Bills at Saints

MDS’s take: Buffalo has a better defense than most people realize, and the Bills’ pass rush is going to give Drew Brees a tough time. But the Bills’ offense will struggle in front of a hostile New Orleans crowd, and the Saints will win in a closer game than most people are expecting.

MDS’s pick: Saints 23, Bills 20.

Florio’s take:  With or without tight end (receiver) Jimmy Graham, the Saints are too tough to beat in their own building, even though the Bills are looking better than anyone thought they would.  As long as Drew Brees can avoid getting flattened by Mario Williams, the Saints should continue to strengthen their grip on the NFC South.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 35, Bills 20.

Giants at Eagles

MDS’s take: The NFC East is so bad that the Giants could get themselves into the division race with a win in Philadelphia. I don’t see it happening, though. Monday night’s win was about as ugly a win as an NFL team can earn, and the Giants still look like a lousy team.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Giants 13.

Florio’s take:  The Eagles haven’t been much more this year than the best of some bad teams.  They’ll get another chance to do it on Sunday, and in the process snap a nine-game home losing streak.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Giants 17.

Steelers at Raiders

MDS’s take: The Steelers have a history of dropping games on the road against bad Raiders teams, but I don’t think it will happen this time. Pittsburgh looks like it’s turning things around and should roll against a Raiders team that isn’t playing particularly well in any phase of the game.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 24, Raiders 10.

Florio’s take:  Another week, another once great rivalry that has lost its luster.  Pittsburgh is starting to get on a roll; the Raiders aren’t as bad as we thought they’d be but still not good enough.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Raiders 13.

Jets at Bengals

MDS’s take: This doesn’t exactly have the feel of a huge game, but it’s one of only two this week matching up two teams with winning records. Give the Jets a lot of credit for getting to 4-3, but I’m still not convinced that they’re actually a good team. The Bengals should take this one and solidify their status as one of the top teams in the AFC.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 27, Jets 17.

Florio’s take:  The Jets have beaten the Bengals four straight times, and nine out of 10 dating back to 1992.  The trend gets reversed on Sunday, thanks to the fact that Cincinnati has the superior team on both sides of the ball.  Hopefully the locals will realize that, and buy up the remaining tickets.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 24, Jets 13.

Falcons at Cardinals

MDS’s take: I think the Falcons are better than their 2-4 record suggests. And I don’t think the Cardinals are any better than their 3-4 record suggests. So I’m tempted to take Atlanta in a slight upset. But the Falcons’ injuries on offense, combined with the impressive way the Cardinals’ defense is playing, makes me believe Arizona will win a close, low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 14, Falcons 13.

Florio’s take:  At 1-4, the Falcons knew they weren’t dead yet.  At 3-4 after Sunday, they’ll be in position to chase a wild-card berth in the NFC.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 27, Cardinals 17.

Redskins at Broncos

MDS’s take: If Peyton Manning wants to shake off last week’s disappointing loss in Indianapolis, he could hardly have picked a better defense to do it against than Washington’s, which has struggled all season and will now be without suspended starting strong safety Brandon Meriweather. This won’t be close.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Redskins 17.

Florio’s take:  Mike Shanahan returns to Denver, the Mile High location of his mile-long house.  At least he’ll still have that after the game.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 48, Redskins 21.

Packers at Vikings

MDS’s take: Everyone is focusing so much on the Vikings’ problems at quarterback that hardly anyone has noticed how bad the Vikings’ defense is. Aaron Rodgers should have a field day, and the Vikings’ offense will continue to struggle no matter who’s playing quarterback.

MDS’s pick: Packers 31, Vikings 13.

Florio’s take:  Since 1992, the Packers have had three starting quarterbacks:  Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Flynn (twice).  In that same time, the Vikings have had Rich Gannon, Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Daunte Culpepper, Todd Bouman, Spergon Wynn, Gus Frerotte, Brad Johnson (again), Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Gus Frerotte (again), Tarvaris Jackson, Brett Favre, Joe Webb, Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman, and Christian Ponder (again).  That pretty much sums up the state of this rivalry for the past 21 years.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Vikings 10.

Seahawks at Rams

MDS’s take: Pity Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens having to take on that nasty Seahawks defense in his first start in two years. It’s going to get ugly in St. Louis.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 34, Rams 6.

Florio’s take:  After the Rams have moved and people in St. Louis are tempted to lament the fact that their NFL franchise is gone, they’ll be able to look back on this game, and it will make them feel a little bit better.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 38, Rams 13.

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Patriots officially add veteran WR, another to practice squad

Damaris Johnson AP

The Patriots addressed their shortage of healthy pass catchers Tuesday with a host of roster moves.

The team signed veteran wide receiver Damaris Johnson to the active roster and wide receiver Austin Hill to the practice squad. The Patriots also claimed running back Trey Williams off waivers from the Cowboys and placed rookie defensive lineman Trey Flowers on injured-reserve.

Earlier Tuesday, the Patriots and tight end Rob Gronkowski released a statement regarding Gronkowski’s knee injury. It said he suffered no structural damage and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

Wide receiver Chris Harper was cut Monday, a day after he misplayed a punt in a loss to the Broncos. The Patriots played that game without wide receiver Danny Amendola and will be without Julian Edelman for an indefinite period of time.

The addition of Johnson should fill the punt return role. Johnson previously played for the Eagles and Texans.

Williams is an undrafted rookie who was with the Redskins prior to spending a month with the Cowboys. The 6’3 Hill is an undrafted rookie who’s bounced around rosters and gives the Patriots a healthy receiver on the practice squad to play on the scout team.

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Panthers, Patriots, Bengals can clinch playoff spots this week

Jamie Collins, Andy Dalton AP

No NFL team has clinched a playoff berth yet, but three teams can punch their playoff tickets on Sunday.

The Panthers have the clearest path to the playoffs: If they beat the Saints on Sunday, they win the NFC South. The Panthers can also win the NFC South even if they lose, as long as the Falcons lose to the Buccaneers. And the Panthers can clinch a playoff spot even if they lose and the Falcons win, as long as the Seahawks lose or both the Cardinals and Packers lose.

The Patriots also have a fairly clear path to the playoffs: If the Patriots win and the Jets lose, the Patriots win the AFC East. The Patriots can also clinch a playoff berth even if the Jets win, as long as the Patriots win and either the Chiefs or Steelers lose.

The Bengals need more help: Cincinnati can’t clinch the AFC North this week, but the Bengals can clinch a playoff berth with a win, a Texans loss, a Colts loss and either a Jets loss or both a Broncos win and a Chiefs loss.

Bottom line: The Panthers will probably get their playoff ticket punched this weekend, the Patriots need a little help and the Bengals need a lot of help.

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Seahawks sign Chase Coffman, drop Drew Nowak

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 23:  Chase Coffman #86 of the Tennessee Titans leaps over Kemal Ishmael #36 of the Atlanta Falcons in the second half of a preseason game at the Georgia Dome on August 23, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jimmy Graham is done for the season after tearing the patellar tendon in his knee, leaving the Seahawks in need of some more depth at tight end for the final five weeks of the regular season and what they hope will be more football in the postseason.

They acquired that depth on Tuesday by signing Chase Coffman as a free agent. Coffman entered the NFL as a third-round pick of the Bengals in 2009 and has also spent time with the Buccaneers, Falcons and Titans over the course of his career. He had four catches for 42 yards in one appearance for the Titans this season, but has been out of the league since being released at the end of October.

Luke Willson tops the depth chart at tight end with Graham out of the lineup and the Seahawks also have Cooper Helfet on the roster.

To make room for Coffman, the Seahawks released center Drew Nowak. Nowak opened the season as the team’s starter at center and made seven starts up front before giving way to Patrick Lewis. Nowak’s standing dropped to the point that he was inactive the last three weeks and the Seahawks will continue to use Lemuel Jeanpierre as Lewis’s backup.

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Chip Kelly to Eagles players: I’m here as long as they’ll have me

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 08:  Head coach Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles talks with players during warm-ups prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys on November 8, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

While addressing rumors linking him to a departure from the Eagles, Chip Kelly said Monday that he was “totally committed” to remaining the coach in Philadelphia.

Kelly also said that he didn’t feel a need to directly address the chatter with the team’s players because “a lot of times we just chuckle and laugh” about them. Kelly reversed course on that Tuesday, however.

Running back Kenjon Barner said that Kelly told the team “as long as they have me here, I’m here” during a morning meeting. Barner added that he thought it was a good thing for Kelly to put any worries in the locker room at ease.

“I think giving the younger players some confidence and some reassurance is good,” Barner said, via “I’m sure there were some young players [that were wondering about Kelly leaving]. It’s only human nature. You hear certain things, of course, you’re going to question certain things. Chip did kind of put that all to rest today during the meeting just by reassuring everybody.”

As plenty of other people have mentioned in the last few days, coaches have been known to say one thing and then do something different when it comes to speculation linking them to other jobs. For now, though, Kelly remains adamant that the only place he sees himself in 2016 is the City of Brotherly Love.

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Pats, Gronk say he has bone bruise, is “week-to-week”

Rob Gronkowski AP

The Patriots and tight end Rob Gronkowski issued a joint statement Tuesday afternoon regarding the knee injury Gronkowski suffered during the Patriots’ first loss of the season last Sunday in Denver.

The statement said Gronkowski has a bone bruise/sprain in his right knee and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. No timetable for his return was offered, and the statement said any timetable reported “prior to that final determination would be speculative.”

So, Bill Belichick really doesn’t want a bunch of questions about Gronkowski’s knee.

With Julian Edelman out indefinitely and Danny Amendola having missed last week’s game, Tom Brady and the Patriots clearly need Gronkowski in the lineup. The 10-1 Patriots host the reeling Eagles this week before playing at the Texans Dec. 13.

Gronkowski has 57 catches for 931 yards and 9 touchdowns this season.

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Cardinals give Chris Johnson IR/return designation

Chris Johnson, NaVorro Bowman AP

The Cardinals placed running back Chris Johnson on injured-reserve/designated for return Tuesday, two days after Johnson suffered a fractured tibia.

The IR/return designation means Johnson must miss a minimum of eight weeks. He’d be eligible to return only if the Cardinals make the Super Bowl.

Johnson would be eligible to return to practice in six weeks, so if he’s progressing and the Cardinals are still playing the team could try to have him ready for the Super Bowl.

His loss is a significant one. Johnson is fourth in the NFL with 814 rushing yards this season and has been a big part of the 9-2 Cardinals’ offense.

The injury is also a potentially expensive one for Johnson, 30, who signed with the Cardinals during training camp. He had a $2 million incentive that would have been reached had he run for 1,300 yards and made the Pro Bowl.

With Andre Ellington dealing with a toe injury, rookie David Johnson is likely the No. 1 back, at least for now. Stepfan Taylor was already on the active roster, and Kerwynn Williams was promoted from the practice squad after Johnson was moved off the active roster Tuesday.

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Broncos bring back Josh Bush

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 17:   Josh Bush #20 of the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on September 17, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos saw safety T.J. Ward go down with an ankle sprain in their victory over the Patriots and he’s expected to miss some time, which likely led to a roster move they announced on Tuesday afternoon.

Denver signed safety Josh Bush to the 53-man roster and released tight end Richard Gordon. If Bush does play in place of Ward this week, it wouldn’t be the first time.

Bush opened the season with the Broncos and played 17 defensive snaps in the season opener when Ward was serving a one-game suspension. He spent two more weeks with the team before getting released and spent a week on the Bills’ roster a bit later in the year. Bush also played two games for the Broncos in 2014 and played in 35 games for the Jets from 2012-2014.

Gordon saw action in one game for the Broncos this year and has been inactive the last four weeks as Owen Daniels, Vernon Davis and Virgil Green have gotten the playing time at tight end.

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Dolphins cut C.J. Mosley, sign Patriots practice squader

C.J.Mosley, Earl Mitchell, A.J. Francis AP

The Dolphins were running out of healthy defensive tackles, so they cut one of the injured ones.

Via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins waived defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, who was dealing with a calf injury. To fill his roster spot, they signed defensive tackle Robert Thomas off the Patriots’ practice squad.

Mosley signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins in June, reuniting with his former Lions teammate Ndamukong Suh.

Prior to bringing in Thomas, Suh was their only healthy defensive tackle, since Jordan Phillips (shoulder) and Earl Mitchell (calf) are ailing.


The Dolphins also brought back center Jacques McClendon, giving them some depth there after Mike Pouncey’s foot injury. They released linebacker James Michael Johnson for that roster spot.


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Report: Morelli’s crew reassigned to Eagles-Patriots game

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 04:  Referee Pete Morelli shields his eyes from the sun during the first half of the NFC Wild Card Playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on January 4, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots fans are getting upset. Or, as the case may be, more upset.

In confirming the PFT report that referee Pete Morelli’s crew has been removed from Sunday night’s game between the Colts and Steelers, the Associated Press also reports that Morelli and crew have been reassigned to the game between the Eagles and Patriots.

The move comes at a time when plenty of Patriots fans have become convinced that the NFL and/or the referees are out to get the Patriots, presumably for #DeflateGate. Fueling the theory is, among other things, a regional Sports Illustrated cover featuring Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler throwing a pass in the foreground — and Patriots defensive lineman Dominique Easley being blatantly held in the background.

Then there’s Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski agreeing with the assessment that he’s being targeted for offensive pass interference penalties.

The burgeoning belief overlooks the fact that the Patriots won 10 games to start the season. But maybe that’s the genius of it.

Regardless, if the reaction will be that dramatic after the team’s first loss in 11 games, it’ll be a lot worse if they lose in the postseason.

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Cam Newton: We won’t be “lured in” by talk of undefeated season

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 26:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after a play against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 26, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers are the last team with a chance to go undefeated this season, but a 16-0 record was a topic that coach Ron Rivera didn’t feel much like discussing after they improved to 11-0 on Thanksgiving.

Rivera said last week that thinking about going 16-0 means “you are not focusing on the details” that have contributed to Carolina’s strong start to the season. That message seems to be resonating with his quarterback.

Cam Newton said Tuesday, via Steve Reed of the Associated Press, that the team won’t be “lured in” by talk of an undefeated season, calling it “ink for the media” that isn’t of concern to Panthers players.

We don’t use any ink in these parts, but we’re willing to take a look at Carolina’s chances of running the table all the same. They play at New Orleans, face Atlanta twice, take a trip to Jersey to face the Giants and close with a home game against Tampa in Week 17. It’s neither an underwhelming schedule nor one larded with creampuffs, leaving the Panthers with a decent chance at getting through unscathed if they keep playing at the level they’ve been at through the first three months of the year.

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Patriots signing Damaris Johnson to fill return job

New York Jets v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Patriots showed no patience with the last returner to make a mistake, so the new guy better know where the bar is set.

According to Mike Reiss of, the Patriots are signing receiver/return man Damaris Johnson.

He’ll replace Chris Harper, whose muffed punt Sunday night turned the tide against the Broncos and cost him his job Monday.

Johnson, who entered the league as an undrafted rookie from Tulsa, spent two seasons with the Eagles and last year with the Texans. He hasn’t been able to find work this year, but has averaged 25.1 yards per kickoff return and 9.5 yards per punt return.

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Giants sign Adam Gettis, place Geoff Schwartz on IR

LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 29: Offensive lineman  Adam Gettis #73 of the Washington Redskins blocks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedExField on August 29, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

With injuries riddling their offensive line, the Giants have added a healthy player from the Raiders practice squad.

The Giants announced Tuesday that they have signed Adam Gettis and placed Geoff Schwartz on injured reserve. Schwartz fractured his leg in last Sunday’s loss, which means he’s seen his season come to an early end for the second year in a row.

Gettis is familiar to the Giants after spending the last few weeks of last season and all of the offseason with the team. He spent some time on their practice squad earlier this year before being released and signing with Oakland. Gettis was a fifth-round pick of the Redskins in 2012 and saw action in 13 games for them in 2013, but has never made any starts at the NFL level.

Schwartz’s injury came in a game that the Giants played without left guard Justin Pugh and center Weston Richburg. Coach Tom Coughlin said he hoped to have at least one back for this week, although the nature of their injuries — Pugh is in the concussion protocol and Richburg has a high ankle sprain — makes that far from a sure thing.

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Browns confirm Josh McCown is out for the season

Josh McCown AP

Browns quarterback Josh McCown’s season is over.

McCown suffered a season-ending broken collarbone on Monday night against the Ravens, coach Mike Pettine announced today.

That means the Browns are down to two quarterbacks on the roster: Austin Davis, who stepped in for McCown after the injury last night, and Johnny Manziel, who was demoted to third string after a video of him partying emerged last week.

Will the Browns stand by their decision to make Manziel ride the bench because of his off-field problems? Or will they decide that they simply have no choice but to put Manziel on the field and see what he can do, even if they’re not pleased with the way he conducts himself off the field?

That’s the question Pettine will continue to face for as long as he refuses to anoint Manziel as the starter. As much as the Browns are disappointed with the way Manziel has conducted himself, the fact remains that they spent a first-round draft pick on him. If they’re not going to play him now, maybe they should just acknowledge that he’s never going to play in Cleveland.

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Mike Mularkey wants to see more from Titans receivers

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 29: Dorial Green-Beckham #17 of the Tennessee Titans catches a touchdown pass over Neiko Thorpe #31 of the Oakland Raiders at Nissan Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

At 2-9, the Titans are going to spend the next five weeks playing out the string in hopes of taking some steps toward better days in 2016 and beyond.

One way to do that would be to continue building the offense around quarterback Marcus Mariota, who hasn’t done anything to make the team regret selecting him with the second overall pick in this year’s draft. To that end, interim coach Mike Mularkey thinks that wide receivers Kendall Wright and Dorial Green-Beckham need to start making more plays when the ball comes their way.

Mularkey added that he is looking for normal catches not “Odell Beckham catches” from the two wideouts, who have 46 catches between them this season.

“We had chances, Marcus is giving these guys chances,” Mularkey said, via the team’s website. “But we’re not making the plays … It’s the go routes outside that it just feels like we’re getting hit on them, and we’re not hitting ‘em. We have to make a play on those plays, because [Marcus] is giving us a chance to make them. They’re getting called, and they’re getting called to the right guys. We’re giving DGB a chance, and I’d like to see him with his size to go up and pluck that thing out of the air … I’d like to see [Wright] do the same thing.”

Wright, who missed three games with a knee injury before returning against the Raiders last Sunday, said earlier this season that he was “beyond frustrated” by the opportunities he was getting on offense. Mularkey’s comments show that there’s some frustration on both sides when it comes to the wideouts this season, although there’s a pretty good chance that changing the results will fall on a different coach in 2016.

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Report: Jamie Collins plans to play this week

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 29:  Chandler Jones #95 and Jamie Collins #91 of the New England Patriots react during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on October 29, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots had a hard time stopping the run last Sunday night after Dont’a Hightower was forced out of the game with a knee injury.

Jamie Collins was already sidelined with the illness that’s kept him from playing the last four weeks and the Broncos took advantage to the tune of 136 yards on 17 carries once Hightower joined him on the shelf. Hightower reportedly has a sprained MCL, so he may not be able to go against the Eagles this week but Collins’s health is moving in the right direction.

Collins returned to practice last Friday for the first time since becoming ill and Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports that the linebacker plans to play this week.

Collins has been a major part of the Patriots’ defense against both the run and pass this season, making 51 tackles and sacking quarterbacks 4.5 times while also forcing three fumbles. New England would welcome that kind of production back under any circumstances, but they’ll be especially happy to see him if Hightower isn’t given a green light.

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