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PFT’s Week Eight picks

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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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Bucs beating up Browns in all three phases

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston throws a pass against the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter of an NFL football game Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) AP

The Browns’ night got off to a decent enough start when they forced a field goal on the first Buccaneers possession and then kicked one of their own after a 44-yard pass to Josh Gordon offered a reminder of what the wideout can do when he’s in the lineup.

Things have gone downhill from there. Jameis Winston has two touchdown passes, Adam Humphries returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown and Robert Griffin III has been sacked four times as Tampa has built a 27-3 second quarter lead at home.

Winston has had plenty of time to throw the ball most of the night and he’s capitalized on big gains to Humphries, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, including a 34-yard touchdown to Evans in the second quarter. The run game hasn’t been quite as effective, but Winston’s 12-of-18/232-yard line makes up for any sluggishness on the ground.

The defense has kept the Browns in check and the Browns haven’t helped with errors of their own. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor has an offensive pass interference, tackle Austin Pasztor wiped out a first down with a holding penalty and center Cameron Erving hasn’t looked good in the middle of Cleveland’s line.

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Rough half for starting QBs, but that Tom Brady kid on the bench is OK

New England Patriots' Jimmy Garoppolo (10) is hit by Carolina Panthers' Thomas Davis (58) as he throws a pass during the first half of a preseason NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) AP

It’s a good thing the Patriots had that Tom Brady kid coming off the bench.

Because otherwise, the starting quarterbacks in Charlotte had a pretty rough night.

Cam Newton threw two interceptions on a listless night for the Panthers offense, and Jimmy Garoppolo made sure people would miss Brady when his four-game suspension was over.

Garoppolo was 5-of-9 for 37 yards passing, doing nothing to inspire confidence with what he had with the starting offense (minus tight end Rob Gronkowski, because it’s the preseason).

Brady came in late in the first quarter and gave the Patriots a brief spark, leading a touchdown drive. But on the whole, he wasn’t great either, 3-of-9 for 76 yards in the first half.

Newton’s side was even worse. In his first six series, the Panthers had three three-and-outs, two picks and a dropped fourth-down conversion attempt. He was 8-of-20 passing for 62 yards in the first half, a forgettable night for the MVP.

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Terron Armstead, Cam Heyward, Marcus Gilbert all leave early with injuries

New Orleans Saints tackle Terron Armstead (72) shows off his dance moves during the NFL football teams training camp in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Tilley) AP

The Steelers and Saints have both seen some key members of their lineups depart with injuries in the first half of their game at the Superdome.

Saints left tackle Terron Armstead left the game shortly after picking up a holding penalty and went back to the locker room. There’s been no announcement from the team about his status and Tony Hills has been manning the left side of the line since his departure.

The Saints also saw tight end Michael Hoomanawanui carted off with what looked like a left leg injury.

On the Steelers side, defensive end Cam Heyward was carted off with a bag of ice on his right ankle and right tackle Marcus Gilbert has departed with an elbow injury. Safety Shamarko Thomas was also ruled out for the rest of the night after suffering a groin injury.

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Steelers starting offense looks just fine in first preseason action

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) works against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) AP

The Steelers rested many of their key offensive players in the first two weeks of the preseason, but there’s no sign of rust in Week Three.

The Steelers have scored touchdowns on both of their possessions in the first half and they’ve looked quite good doing it. Ben Roethlisberger used no huddle for most of the opening 15-play, 74-yard march to the end zone and capped the drive by evading the rush and tossing a four-yard score to tight end Jesse James.

The Saints forced the Steelers into a third down quickly on the next Steelers possession, but Antonio Brown beat Saints corner De’Vante Harris for a 57-yard score that extended Pittsburgh’s lead to 14-0.

Roethlisberger is 12-of-17 for 148 yards, Le’Veon Bell has run twice for 15 yards and caught a pass for 13 more and six different players have caught passes already in a performance that should leave the Steelers feeling full of confidence about their offense heading into the regular season.

UPDATE 8:44 p.m. ET: And that’s all the Steelers needed to see from Roethlisberger. Landry Jones is in the game for the third Steelers possession.

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Washington loses Ryan Kerrigan, Keith Marshall to injuries

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 12:  Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan #91 of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 12, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 30-20.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Injuries are always a problem in the preseason. But when they come at the same position, teams have to worry.

As such, Washington’s may have to start looking for running backs and pass-rushers.

The team announced that rookie running back Keith Marshall would not return tonight, after suffering a sprained elbow in their preseason game against the Bills.

Coupled with outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan leaving with a groin injury, it’s a rough night for Washington. The team announced that Kerrigan would not return.

Starting running back Matt Jones isn’t going to play again in the preseason because of a shoulder sprain, leaving them short on numbers.

Rookie Robert Kelly’s going to get plenty of work now, and he seems to be doing his part to earn the backup job, and potentially more.

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Buccaneers make a field goal, lose a wideout to injury

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 26:  Kicker Roberto Aguayo #19 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up before the start of an NFL game against the Cleveland Browns on August 26, 2016 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) Getty Images

Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo’s night got off to a good start.

After their opening drive stalled inside Cleveland territory, the Buccaneers sent Aguayo into the game to try a 48-yard field goal that was watched a bit more closely than many other preseason field goal attempts. Aguayo has missed two field goals and an extra point already this offseason, but he nailed the kick to put the Bucs up 3-0 on Friday night.

Jameis Winston moved the team with nice throws to Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans before things slowed down as they neared the red zone.

The news hasn’t been all good for the Bucs thus far, however. Wide receiver/kick returner Donteea Dye is out for the rest of the game after hurting his hamstring, which will provide more opportunities for Kenny Bell and other wideouts trying for spots at the back end of the depth chart.

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Mike Scifres hurt, Panthers could be in punter market (if they weren’t)

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 11: Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers looks on in the first quarter of a preseason NFL game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

At a time when other teams are looking for things like quarterbacks, the Panthers have what can fairly be considered a first-world problem.

But it looks like they’re going to need to find a punter.

Their competition for the job has been less-than-inspired to begin with, and now they may have an injured one.

Veteran Mike Scifres is out for the rest of the game after he took a shot to the knee, though he stayed in the game to hit a stirring 21-yarder. Scifres has been dealing with injury throughout the preseason, so it’s hard to tell if he’s winning or not, or whether they were just banking on a known commodity.

The only other punter on the roster is Kasey Redfern, whose primary qualification seems to be that he went to Wofford, where the Panthers have training camp. He recently replaced Swayze Waters, whose primary qualification seemed to be that he was named Swayze.

It was possible (likely even) that the Panthers were going to be looking for punters prior to the regular season anyway, but Scifres’ condition may have forced the issue.

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Sam Bradford urges everyone not to overreact to the preseason

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford warms up prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright) AP

In last year’s third preseason game, Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford went 10-for-10 for 121 yards and three touchdowns as the Eagles blew out the Packers to improve to 3-0.

“Last year after the third preseason game, everybody thought we were going to the Super Bowl,” Bradford said today.

The Eagles did not, in fact, go to the Super Bowl. Or the playoffs. Bradford said people need to understand that the preseason — even the third game of the preseason, when starters usually play the longest — doesn’t mean much.

“But there’s very little game-planning that goes into preseason — I’m sure Green Bay didn’t game plan to stop us last year; they probably hadn’t even practiced our offense,” Bradford said. “Obviously it was nice to go out there and execute the way we did in that third preseason game, but I don’t think anyone in our locker room really bought into the fact that because we looked great in a preseason game, it was going to be easy during the regular season.”

So as the Eagles prepare for tomorrow night’s third preseason game, Bradford knows that an impressive win doesn’t mean they’re heading for the Super Bowl. Everyone else should know that, too.

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Bosa, Chargers need to commit to compromising, now

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Defensive lineman Joey Bosa #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts as he walks off the field after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 44-28 in the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s been two days since the Chargers opted to take the gurgling impasse with Joey Bosa public, backing the player and his agents into a corner and making it much harder for a reasonable deal to be finalized. NFL Media, partially owned by the Chargers and entirely owned by franchises that could find themselves in similar situations in the future, seems to be slanting coverage in a subtle (or not-so-subtle) effort to pressure Bosa and, ideally, to drive a wedge between Bosa and his agents, with the goal of having Bosa roll out of bed one day with a decision to take the offer that’s on the table.

Making matters worse is the reality that plenty of current and former players are doing the bidding of The Boss, adding to the pressure on Bosa by suggesting that his reluctance to take the pending offer amounts to a reluctance to play football.

But every argument directed at Bosa (e.g., he’s not haggling over much money at this point) can be directed at the team, and the idea that “Bosa must not want to play for the Chargers” easily can be phrased as “the Chargers must not want Bosa to play for them.”

The divide continues to spring from the team adhering to franchise precedent and Bosa adhering to top-three-in-the-draft precedent. Without much separating the two sides (at least until the Chargers vowed to shrink their offer), each side is sitting back, folding its arms, and saying, “What’s the big deal?”

Here’s what needs to happen. The two sides need to get in a room and commit to negotiating until a deal is done.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because we consistently took the same position about the Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick. When two sides who disagree commit to engaging in good-faith negotiations, a spirit of compromise and practicality takes over, and a middle ground is reached.

It happens all the time in civil litigation, where parties that despise each other submit to efforts to settle their claims in good faith with the intent of working out their differences and, despite the animosity, they routinely do. Even with apparent anger between Bosa and the Chargers, a genuine effort to get together and strike a deal will most likely get a deal done.

At this point, one side needs to be big enough to make the call, and the other side needs to be big enough agree to give it a try. Once that happens, the deal will be 95 percent complete.

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Report: Jimmy Garoppolo to start Friday night

New England Patriots quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo, left, and Tom Brady, right, walk on the field following an NFL football training camp practice with the Chicago Bears Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) AP

It will reportedly feel like 2001 all over again in Charlotte on Friday night.

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports that, barring a last-second change or scissor accident, Jimmy Garoppolo will get the start against the Panthers in the Patriots’ third exhibition game of the summer. Tom Brady is also expected to play, so he will be coming off the bench to get his first playing time of the preseason.

It’s been a long time since Brady has been in that role, but the circumstances for the Patriots make it a sensible way to go about their business.

Garoppolo has a chance to start a game on the road against a good defense, just as he will in Week One against the Cardinals, and he gets to prepare for the game as the starter. That’s not insignificant for a player who will be making his first NFL start in that game and coach Bill Belichick has called getting Garoppolo ready the No. 1 priority for the offense.

Brady has plenty of experience on that front and whatever time he sees on Friday will be to get him on the field before he serves his four-game suspension to start the season. One bit of worry could be Brady seeing time alongside backups, but there’s no word on when Brady will be in the game and what kind of playing time the rest of the first team is expected to see against Carolina.

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Teams begin preparing for glut of cut players

73101766202155_Fuse_Getty-Images_crop Getty Images

Currently, NFL rosters have up to 90 players. On Tuesday, the maximum drops to 75. Four days later, the limit reduces to 53.

My calculator tells me (assuming I entered the information correctly) that up to 1,184 roster moves will be made over the next eight days. Most of those will come from the termination of contracts or the placement of players on waivers. Teams are preparing for the coming glut of cuts by, for example, contacting agents to find out which of their clients are on the bubble.

It’s a common practice, and as a practical matter it’s happening now. Because very soon plenty of guys will be looking for jobs, and plenty of teams will be looking to upgrade their 53-man rosters by grabbing guys cut by other teams.

Regardless of how it all works out, more than 1,000 guys who currently are playing in the NFL and very much want to do so will soon be told they can’t. Plenty more would currently love to be on a 90-man roster but still can’t get a shot (thank heavens I read this one more time before hitting “publish,” because I had a word other than “shot” in there).

Hopefully, the media will keep this dynamic in mind before making a big deal about a handful of guys who choose to leave football before football chooses to tell them to leave. Far more will be leaving football before they want to.

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Falcons announce five roster cuts

Atlanta-Falcons-helmet-Al-Messerschmidt-Getty-Images-jpg Getty Images

The Falcons announced five roster cuts Friday as they began the process of trimming their roster to 75 players by next week’s deadline.

Waived by the team were wide receiver David Glidden, defensive end Efe Obada, fullback Will Ratelle, cornerback Jordan Sefon and guard Jordan Walsh. All but Obada were undrafted rookies signed by the Falcons last spring. Obada spent some time with the Cowboys last season.

The moves put the Falcons’ roster at 84 players.

All teams must trim their rosters to 75 by Aug. 30, then to the regular season size of 53 by Sept. 3.

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Jeremy Maclin, Lamarcus Joyner fined $9,115 after ejections

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, left, and Los Angeles Rams cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, right, scuffle during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Los Angeles. Both players were ejected. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang) AP

Preseason ejections aren’t the most common thing in the world, but there were a pair of them in last week’s game between the Chiefs and Rams.

Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and Rams cornerback Lamarcus Joyner were both ejected from the game after getting into a scuffle late in the first half of last weekend’s game in Los Angeles. In another reminder that it is still the preseason, referee Tony Corrente announced Joyner as No. 20 of St. Louis, eliciting a round of boos from the Rams’ new home crowd.

It may have been a practice game, but the league issued real fines in response to the pushing and shoving.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that both players have been fined $9,115 for striking an opponent. That fine is this year’s minimum penalty on the fine schedule used by the league while offenses judged to be more serious, like Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed roughing Vikings quarterback Shaun Hill last week, will cost $18,231 or more.

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Andy Reid predicts more kickoff returns “than ever”

Generated by  IJG JPEG Library Getty Images

The “most dangerous play” in the game is about to get even more dangerous. And the NFL has 13 days to keep that from happening.

The five-yard change to the touchback rule was supposed to reduce kickoff returns, by enticing the receiving team to take a knee. The opposite outcome is expected, with the kicking team opting to try to pin the opposing team inside the 25.

“I think these special teams coaches are smart guys,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told PFT Live on Friday. “They’re popping the ball up, so we might have more returns than we’ve ever had. It’s crazy. I’m not sure it’s the same thing the league was trying to get, but that’s what we’re getting right now. These kickers are so accurate and they can put it right down there within the five yard line and the goal line and force you into a return and then your coverage teams have got to do their thing. Special teams coaches and coverage teams have the confidence that if the kicker does that then they can keep them within that 25-yard area or actually within that 20-yard area. So I think your probably gonna see more returns than ever.”

PFT previously reported that a change to the rule would happen during the season only under extraordinary circumstances. But if there’s reason to believe that something extraordinary is coming (i.e., more returns than ever), why not change the rule back before Week One of the regular season arrives?

Given the one-year nature of the rule, it will take 24 owners in the offseason to extend the rule beyond 2016. But 24 owners can decide right not to scrap the rule for 2016. Given the very real likelihood that the new rule won’t have the intended effect, why in the world wouldn’t they?

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Report: Concerns raised about Ezekiel Elliott’s pattern of behavior

FILE - This Aug. 19, 2016 file photo shows Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott laughing as he talks with teammates on the sideline in the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Miami Dolphins in Arlington, Texas. Elliott appears set for his preseason debut at Seattle after the running back taken fourth overall by the Cowboys missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins, file) AP

Like many people on out-of-town visits to states where marijuana is legal, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott decided to check out a pot store while he was in Seattle for last night’s preseason game. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wasn’t happy about that.

But beyond that, the Cowboys organization is apparently concerned about the way Elliott handles himself off the field. Ed Werder of ESPN reported today that there are concerns about “a pattern of disturbing behavior” from Elliott.

Werder didn’t detail what behavior was involved in that pattern, but far more concerning than entering a legal marijuana store is that there’s an investigation in Columbus, Ohio, into an allegation of domestic violence. The Columbus city attorney’s office said a month ago that there’s an “open investigation” into that allegation. There has been no update to that story since.

Frankly, it feels a little ridiculous to even be talking about visiting a legal marijuana store when there’s also an investigation into a domestic violence allegation. The latter is a serious concern, while the former is something that shouldn’t even be the NFL’s business. After Werder’s report aired on ESPN, his colleague, former NFL running back Merril Hoge, said somebody should sit Elliott down and tell him, “Nobody’s ever played with drugs and won.” But that’s silly. Many people who have smoked marijuana have become Hall of Fame football players and had success in other fields, up to and including becoming president of the United States. (And it’s also worth noting that there’s not even any evidence that Elliott actually used marijuana. He may have simply been curious to see how a legal marijuana store operates.)

The domestic violence allegations against Elliott are, indeed, concerning. The marijuana issue is nothing.

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