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PFT’s Week Nine picks

Chiefs Getty Images

Alas, I failed to gain any ground on MDS in Week Eight.  I didn’t lose any either.  We each went 10-3, splitting the two games on which we differed.

This week, we disagree on three games.  Which means I can cut his four-game lead down to one.  (I was always good at math.  Speling not so mutch.)

For the year, he’s 81-39, and I’m 77-43.

For a complete look at this week’s picks, just keep on reading.

Actually, I don’t care if you keep reading.  The click already has been registered.

Bengals at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Bengals are surging and the Dolphins are falling. I see Cincinnati winning big and NFL Network televising another Thursday night game that many fans will turn off at halftime. Also, never bet against a team that wears black and orange on Halloween.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 30, Dolphins 10.

Florio’s take:  This is precisely the kind of game that the Bengals can lose.  Road game against an overmatched opponent with four straight losses and general disarray.  But a skeptical nation will be watching this one while discreetly bogarting its children’s Halloween candy.  One of the best teams in the AFC will step up, or risk not being perceived as one of the best teams in the AFC.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 31, Dolphins 20.

Chiefs at Bills

MDS’s take: The Bills’ defense is good enough to hold the Chiefs’ offense in check, so this game should be close into the fourth quarter — certainly closer than you’d think for an 8-0 team facing a 3-5 team. I have a funny feeling a big play on special teams late in the game will give this one to the Chiefs.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 17, Bills 14.

Florio’s take:  It’s time.  The Chiefs have flirted with disaster the last two Sundays at home, narrowly beating the Texans and the Browns.  This week, the Chiefs go on the road, where they really haven’t been tested this year.  The Bills have easily beaten the Chiefs each of the last two years.  While this one won’t be a blowout, it’s time for someone to score more points than the last undefeated team in the NFL.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 23, Chiefs 20.

Falcons at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Falcons are finished. The Panthers are playing great football right now. Carolina has won three straight games by more than two touchdowns, and Sunday will make it four in a row.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 35, Falcons 17.

Florio’s take:  It’ll be interesting to see if the Panthers can recover from a 10-point deficit.  With the defense playing as well as it is, that may not happen any time soon.  With some tough games looming, the Panthers could get a tough test from a team fighting for its playoff life.  Based on how the Falcons played in Arizona last week, it won’t matter.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Falcons 17.

Vikings at Cowboys

MDS’s take: The Cowboys’ defense may be shellshocked after what Calvin Johnson did to them on Sunday, but there’s no way the Vikings’ terrible passing game is going to make big plays in Dallas. The Cowboys will probably only need to win eight games to win the NFC East, and they’ll earn their fifth win on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 27, Vikings 13.

Florio’s takeAdrian Peterson returns home to Texas to face a team that could really use him.  Even without him, they have enough firepower to defeat a Vikings team that could be worse than the 3-13 edition from 2011.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 35, Vikings 17.

Saints at Jets

MDS’s take: I expect Rex Ryan’s defense to rebound from last week’s disaster in Cincinnati and play well against the Saints’ offense, but I don’t expect Geno Smith to play much better than he did last week. As a result, the Saints win a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Saints 20, Jets 14.

Florio’s take:  It’s a Ryan twins reunion in New York.  Even though the Jets are doing better than expected, they aren’t good enough to close a major gap in talent one week after being blown out by the Bengals.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 30, Jets 17.

Titans at Rams

MDS’s take: The Rams were more competitive than I expected them to be in Monday night’s loss to the Seahawks, but the Kellen Clemens-led offense is going to be in a lot of low-scoring losses the rest of the season. That’s what I expect to happen when Jeff Fisher’s old team comes to town.

MDS’s pick: Titans 14, Rams 13.

Florio’s take:  The Titans play their first game ever without owner Bud Adams — and against long-time coach Jeff Fisher.  With Tennessee having two weeks to get ready and the Rams operating only six days after a physically and emotionally draining loss to the Seahawks, this could be the ugly result everyone expected on Monday night.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 27, Rams 13.

Chargers at Redskins

MDS’s take: Washington is just not a good team in any phase of the game: The offense still looks like it needs last year’s Robert Griffin III, the defense allows too many big plays in the passing game and the special teams are an absolute disaster. San Diego will put a lot of points on the board and win an easy one.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 31, Redskins 17.

Florio’s takePhilip Rivers owns a 5-1 record against Mike Shanahan.  The Chargers are rested and the Redskins are reeling after suffering a 38-point second-half barrage against the Broncos.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 24, Redskins 14.

Eagles at Raiders

MDS’s take: Everyone has spent so much time in the last couple weeks asking what’s wrong with Chip Kelly’s offense that a lot of people are overlooking all the problems with the Eagles’ defense. When you can’t even force a turnover against the Giants’ offense — and the Eagles’ defense couldn’t last week — you know something is wrong. Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor makes his share of mistakes, but the Eagles don’t have the defense to take advantage of those mistakes. Pryor will make enough big plays with his feet to win this one and make Kelly wish he had a quarterback like Pryor.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 20, Eagles 10.

Florio’s take:  The Raiders complete a rare two-game sweep of Pennsylvania’s pro football teams without ever having to leave the Bay Area.  All four NFC West teams will be at or above .500 come Sunday, thanks to their ability to pulverize the teams of the NFC East.

Florio’s pick:  Raiders 17, Eagles 9.

Buccaneers at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Buccaneers are playing as badly as any team in the NFL right now. Seattle is the toughest place to play in the league. The Seahawks can name their score.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 41, Buccaneers 13.

Florio’s take:  Two teams that entered the NFL together in 1976 couldn’t be more different in 2013.  While the Bucs still have the bragging rights that come from winning a Super Bowl, the Seahawks could be on course to match that achievement this year.  Tampa will be a minor speed bump along the path to New York

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 31, Buccaneers 10.

Ravens at Browns

MDS’s take: Browns quarterback Jason Campbell actually played well against the tough Chiefs’ defense, and the Ravens haven’t been playing well recently. Call me crazy, but I think the defending Super Bowl champions are going down in Cleveland.

MDS’s pick: Browns 20, Ravens 14.

Florio’s take:  The team that used to be the Browns has beaten the Browns 11 straight times.  If the Ravens can’t run that streak to 12, their five-year run of playoff berths could be ending, too.  Rested and re-focused, the Ravens will find a way, as they always seem to do when they need it most.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 20, Browns 10.

Steelers at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Patriots have had so many injuries that they feel like they’re going to fall apart at any moment, but there they are in their customary spot atop the AFC East. They’ll keep it going against the Steelers.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 27, Steelers 21.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers can win if they commit fully to the run, and if they can find a way to slow down a good-not-great New England offense.  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seems to be too determined to prove he’s still a franchise quarterback to buy in to a run-based attack, even if the team’s use of the Wildcat means that the Steelers no longer view him as a true game changer.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 24, Steelers 21.

Colts at Texans

MDS’s take: Case Keenum may provide the Texans a spark, and the Colts may be due for a letdown. I’m tempted to pick Houston to pull off an upset and snap their five-game losing streak, but I just can’t pull the trigger on it.

MDS’s pick: Colts 21, Texans 20.

Florio’s take:  Two weeks after Peyton Manning returned to his adopted home of Indianapolis, Andrew Luck returns to his real home of Houston.  The question is which Colts team will come with him — and whether Case Keenum can build on his near miss against the Chiefs from Week Seven.  I’ll say the one that lost to the Chargers, and yes.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Colts 20.

Bears at Packers

MDS’s take: In this week’s only matchup of teams with winning records, the Packers will strengthen their grip on the NFC North race with a win over the Bears. Both teams are banged up, but the Bears’ loss of Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs makes it tough for them to win anywhere. I certainly don’t see them winning in Green Bay.

MDS’s pick: Packers 34, Bears 17.

Florio’s takeJosh McCown, Luke McCown, Cade McNown.  Either way, it’s a McLoss, McDog.  Green Bay keeps rolling toward another division title, as long as the quarterback doesn’t join the injured list.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 35, Bears 21.

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Seahawks waive Travian Robertson

Seattle Seahawks v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Seahawks opened a roster spot Friday, waiving defensive tackle Travian Robertson, the club said.

A third-year pro from South Carolina, Robertson appeared in one game for the Seahawks after joining the club on November 18. The 26-year-old Robertson also appeared in 12 games as a reserve for Atlanta (2012-2013).

The Seahawks didn’t announce a corresponding move, leaving them one player under the limit.

The Seahawks have ruled out defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (ankle) and wideout Jermaine Kearse (hamstring) for Sunday’s game vs. St. Louis.  Cornerback Tharold Simon (shoulder), center Max Unger (knee, ankle), wideout Chris Matthews (hamstring) and tight end Cooper Helfet (ribs) are questionable for Seattle (11-4), which can clinch homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win over the Rams.

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Week 17 injury report roundup

Alex Smith, Cameron Heyward, Jason Worilds AP

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Saturday and Sunday. So, without further delay, the injury report roundup for Week 17 of the 2014 season.

Browns at Ravens

Connor Shaw starts at quarterback for the Browns with Brian Hoyer (shoulder/bicep) doubtful to play. Cornerback Joe Haden (shoulder) and defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (thumb) are questionable and defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (ankle) won’t play. The Ravens probably won’t have left tackle Eugene Monroe (ankle, questionable). Defensive end Chris Canty (ankle/thigh) and linebacker Terrell Suggs (back/thigh) are both questionable.

Jaguars at Texans

It looks like Jaguars defensive tackle Roy Miller (knee) will miss the season finale after being listed as doubtful. Tight end Garrett Graham (ankle), linebacker Mike Mohamed (concussion), wide receiver DeVier Posey (calf) and quarterback Tom Savage (knee) are all out for the Texans.

Chargers at Chiefs

The Chargers are in the playoffs with a win, but they’ll have to do it without running back Ryan Mathews (ankle, out). Wide receiver Keenan Allen (collarbone) is also likely to miss the game after being listed as doubtful. Center Chris Watt (ankle) is questionable. The Chiefs have their own small chance at a playoff bid, although it won’t be easy to get there without quarterback Alex Smith (lacerated spleen). Running back Jamaal Charles (hamstring/ankle) and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (shoulder) are both questionable, but expected to be in the lineup.

Jets at Dolphins

An illness has made its way through the Jets this week and left defensive tackle Damon Harrison, safety Dawan Landry and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who also has a toe injury, questionable to play on Sunday. Center Nick Mangold (ankle) and wide receiver Percy Harvin (ribs, ankle) are also questionable. Defensive end Derrick Shelby (ankle), linebacker Jelani Jenkins (foot) and tackle Dallas Thomas (foot) are questionable for the Dolphins.

Bears at Vikings

Quarterback Jimmy Clausen (concussion) is out, which means Jay Cutler is back in charge of the Bears Offense. Safety Chris Conte (back) and kicker Robbie Gould (quad) are also out while defensive end Jared Allen (ribs) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (knee) are questionable. Vikings linebackers Anthony Barr (knee) and Brandon Watts (hamstring) are out and Chad Greenway (knee) is questionable after missing practice all week. Tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle) is also questionable.

Bills at Patriots

The Bills have been stout on defense all year, but they don’t expect to have defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (knee) or cornerback Stephon Gilmore (concussion) after listing them as doubtful. Running back Jonas Gray (ankle) and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring) are out for New England and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) is questionable.

Eagles at Giants

Cornerback Bradley Fletcher (hip) was in danger of losing playing time even before the Eagles listed him as questionable. Giants linebacker Devon Kennard (toe) will miss the final game of a rookie year that saw him come on late and rookie running back Andre Williams (shoulder) is questionable.

Saints at Buccaneers

Saints left tackle Terron Armstead (neck) remains out of the lineup and defensive tackle John Jenkins (abdomen) is questionable. Buccaneers LB Mason Foster (Achilles) is doubtful and safety Dashon Goldson (shoulder) is questionable.

Colts at Titans

The Colts ruled out tight end Dwayne Allen (knee), right tackle Gosder Cherilus (groin) and linebacker Bjoern Werner (hamstring). Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) and linebacker Jerrell Freeman (hamstring) were both listed as questionable and guard Hugh Thornton (knee) is probable to make his return to the lineup. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger (shoulder), left tackle Taylor Lewan (ankle), defensive tackle Sammie Hill (foot) and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (hamstring) are all questionable for the home side.

Cowboys at Redskins

Running back DeMarco Murray (hand, illness) is probable to play in a game that could see him set the single-season Cowboys rushing record. Right tackle Doug Free (ankle) is doubtful and linebacker Dekoda Watson (hamstring) is out. Redskins defensive end Jason Hatcher (knee) is doubtful for the matchup with his old team. Left tackle Trent Williams (shoulder), defensive end Stephen Bowen (ankle/illness) and linebacker Keenan Robinson (knee) are listed as questionable.

Panthers at Falcons

The Panthers have just two injuries heading into the NFC South title game. Linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle) is questionable and running back DeAngelo Williams (hand) is probable. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (oblique) and running back Steven Jackson (thigh) are questionable, but Jackson looks unlikely to play. Cornerbacks Robert McClain (illness) and Josh Wilson (hamstring) are also questionable for Atlanta.

Raiders at Broncos

The Raiders listed rookie linebacker Khalil Mack (hamstring), tackle Menelik Watson (foot, ankle) and cornerback T.J. Carrie (ankle) as questionable. Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) and wide receiver Denarius Moore (knee, ankle) are out. Linebacker Brandon Marshall (knee) is out for Denver while safety T.J. Ward (neck) and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (hip) are questionable. Quarterback Peyton Manning (thigh) is probable.

Lions at Packers

Running back Joique Bell (Achilles) and wide receiver Calving Johnson (ankle) are probable for the Lions. Everyone else is available for the Lions except for defensive tackle Nick Fairley (knee). Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (calf) is good to go for the Packers, who have again ruled out cornerback Davon House (shoulder).

Rams at Seahawks

Cornerback E.J. Gaines (concussion) is doubtful for the Rams, who are in good health otherwise. The Seahawks ruled out wide receiver Jermaine Kearse (hamstring), but left tackle Russell Okung (chest) is expected to play after being listed as probable. Tight end Cooper Helfet (ribs), wide receiver Chris Matthews (hamstring), cornerback Tharold Simon (shoulder) and center Max Unger (knee, ankle) are questionable.

Cardinals at 49ers

Quarterback Drew Stanton (knee) won’t play for Arizona, leaving Ryan Lindley to start for the second straight week. Linebacker Larry Foote (knee) is doubtful and safety Deone Bucannon (knee), tight end John Carlson (calf), guard Jonathan Cooper (wrist) and defensive tackle Dan Williams are questionable. Running back Carlos Hyde (ankle), wide receiver Stevie Johnson (knee) and safety Eric Reid (concussion) have been ruled out for the 49ers. Cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring), linebacker Ahmad Brooks (thumb), cornerback Perrish Cox (shoulder) and wide receiver Bruce Ellington (hamstring) have been listed as questionable.

Bengals at Steelers

The Bengals listed wide receiver A.J. Green (biceps) as probable for the AFC North title decider. Cornerback Adam Jones (illness), linebacker Emmanuel Lamur (hamstring), cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris (illness), safety Reggie Nelson (illness), cornerback Terence Newman (illness) and wide receiver James Wright (knee) will all be weekend calls after drawing questionable tags. The Steelers hope to get safety Troy Polamalu (knee) and cornerback Ike Taylor (shoulder, forearm) back in the secondary after listing them as questionable.

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Andre Johnson’s not up on all this pay cut talk

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Getty Images

It’s a good thing Christmas is over, because the next family reunion might not be so pleasant for one NFL wide receiver.

After Andre Johnson’s uncle/adviser Andre Melton told the Houston Chronicle that Johnson “doesn’t mind having a pay cut,” Johnson himself had a different take.

Who said that?” Johnson said, via Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com, who was then helpful enough to point out it was good old Uncle Andre.

“Really?” Johnson said. “I don’t know where that came from. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

Johnson’s $10.5 million base salary might need adjusting for him to have a future with the Texans, but he said he hasn’t had any conversations about it.

“I never made any statements about no pay cut or anything because nobody ever approached me about a pay cut,” Johnson said. “Like I said, I’ll cross that bridge whenever it comes. . . .

“I don’t know where that story came from. It wasn’t, did it say that I said it? I can’t speak for nobody else. I only can speak for what I say. I didn’t make that statement.”

Now it’ll be interesting to see how many more statements his uncle makes, or whether he gets thrown out to the curb with the old Christmas tree.

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Tough break: Sharp bettors reportedly backed K.C. before Smith’s injury

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

More than any other factor, injuries to starting quarterbacks move point spreads.

No surprise, then, that the Chargers-Chiefs point spread moved about a field goal toward San Diego on Friday after Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith was ruled out with a lacerated spleen.

The Chiefs, who were 3.5- to 4-point favorites vs. the Chargers, are now just one-point favorites at most Nevada sports books, per VegasInsider.com line movement records.

However, here’s a more interesting element of the story: per Micah Roberts of “The Linemakers” of the Sporting News, professional bettors wagered on Kansas City just before Smith’s injury was announced this morning, driving up the point spread. Then, the Smith injury news hit, and down the line went, leaving early bettors with tickets at the higher prices in an unenviable spot.

It’s clear sharp bettors had no idea Smith was hurt; if they knew he were out and wanted to play the Chiefs all the same, they would have waited to get a better price.

“It’s one of the strangest examples of bad time timing I’ve seen,” William Hill U.S. head bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich told Roberts. “It was a legitimate move by sharp money on the Chiefs. They were moving it everywhere. This is just another example of the crazy stuff that routinely happens in Week 17.”

Chase Daniel will start in place of Smith for Kansas City (8-7), which needs a win, a Baltimore loss vs. Cleveland and a Houston loss or tie vs. Jacksonville to make the postseason.

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Houston, Watt, Dumervil vie for Deacon Jones Award

Justin Houston AP

The Deacon Jones Award, which goes to the player who leads the NFL in sacks, is a three-man race.

Kansas City’s Justin Houston leads the NFL with 18.0 sacks heading into Week 17. He’s followed closely by Houston’s J.J. Watt at 17.5, and Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil at 17.0. One of them will almost certainly finish the season as the sacks leader; fourth place Connor Barwin, at 14.5 sacks, is probably out of range.

Watt led the league in sacks in 2012 and Dumervil led the league in 2009, but the Deacon Jones Award was only created last year after the death of Jones, a Hall of Famer recognized as not only one of the greatest pass rushers ever but as the man who originated the term “sack.” The inaugural winner last year was Robert Mathis of the Colts.

Houston might seem to be the favorite to earn the award because he currently has the lead, but Watt and Dumervil are well positioned to pass him on Sunday. Houston will face Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who has only been sacked 29 times in 15 games this season. Watt gets to feast on Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, who has been sacked 50 times in 13 games, while Dumervil faces Cleveland’s Connor Shaw, an undrafted rookie playing in his first game on Sunday.

Houston, Watt and Dumervil are all playing for a spot in the playoffs on Sunday as well, so they’re probably not thinking much about individual recognition. But one of them will get the recognition that comes with the top spot on the sack list for the 2014 season at the end of the day on Sunday.

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Todd Gurley will make himself available for the NFL Draft

Todd Gurley AP

Georgia running back Todd Gurley won’t be drafted quite as high now as he would have two months ago.

But after seeing his season ended with a knee injury, he’s not taking a chance on further devaluing of his draft stock.

According to Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt confirmed the anticipated news Friday, saying: “He’ll be moving on.”

Had Gurley declared his intentions when he was suspended for making money off his signature, he’d have likely been a first-rounder. But the torn ACL he suffered in November will cause his stock to plummet.

With memories of Marcus Lattimore’s failed attempt to make it in the NFL fresh in the minds of the league, it’s hard to know how high a pick someone will be willing to gamble. The 49ers rolled the dice with a spare fourth-rounder on the former South Carolina back, who never regained his pre-injury form.

Gurley’s not going to risk such a repeat injury, however, making the only fiscally responsible decision he could.

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William Hayes, Alec Ogletree draw fines after fight with Giants

Alec Ogletree, Andre Williams AP

Earlier this week, Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree said he hadn’t heard from the league about a fine for his late hit on Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham that helped touch off a brawl that led to three ejections in the 37-27 Giants win.

Perhaps the fine letter was on Santa’s sleigh because Ogletree has been fined for the hit. PFT has confirmed with the league that Ogletree was fined $8,268 for hitting Beckham and taking him to the ground out of bounds, something the Giants took issue with in a way that led to punches being thrown. Giants wide receiver Preston Parker and defensive end Damontre Moore were ejected along with Rams defensive end William Hayes.

Hayes has been fined $10,000 for his actions, which is less than the $15,000 penalties handed down to each of the Giant miscreants. Beckham was also fined $10,000 for kicking at Ogletree during the mayhem on the sideline.

With Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and Rams defensive end Eugene Sims also drawing $16,537 fines for roughing the passer, the game wound up being a costly one for several players on both sides.

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49ers send Alex Boone to IR, sign Trindon Holliday

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Alex Boone got a late start on the 2014 season thanks to a holdout that kept him out of training camp and his year is coming to an early end as well.

Boone won’t play in the team’s final game of the year after being placed on injured reserve because of a knee problem. There’s no indication that the injury will force Boone to miss any offseason work, so he should be back on the field in the spring to play out the final year of the contract he reworked before reporting to work with the 49ers this season.

Boone made 14 starts this year and was named as a Pro Bowl alternate. The 49ers also placed safety Ray Ventrone on injured reserve with a groin injury.

To fill the open roster spots, the 49ers signed kick returner Trindon Holliday and cornerback Cameron Fuller. Holliday spent the summer with the Giants before eventually being released off of injured reserve and played one game with the Buccaneers before getting his walking papers in November. Fuller was promoted from the practice squad.

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Eugene Monroe unlikely to play on Sunday

San Francisco 49ers v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

It looks like the Ravens will be without both of their starting offensive tackles against the Browns on Sunday.

The team listed left tackle Eugene Monroe as doubtful to play in the regular season finale because of an ankle injury that left him in a walking boot after last Sunday’s loss to the Texans. That designation is used for players that have a 25 percent chance of playing and, as you’d expect, most players given that tag wind up inactive on Sunday.

The Ravens placed right tackle Rick Wagner on injured reserve with a foot injury early in the week, so they’re looking at a lot of shuffling up front. James Hurst played in place of both tackles last week and the Ravens has him at left tackle with Marshal Yanda at right tackle and John Urschel at right guard at one point. That could be the alignment again this weekend, although left guard Kelechi Osemele has also played some tackle.

Baltimore will open the day with a shot at a Wild Card spot in the AFC. They need to beat the Browns and have the Chargers lose to claim that berth.

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Cards could get Warner, but only by cutting him

Warner Getty Images

It remains unlikely that former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner will return to the team after five years away.  And it wouldn’t be easy for them to get him, if he perhaps decided while under the influence of egg nog to expose his noggin to further physical contact.

But it wouldn’t be impossible.  Sure, it’s too late for the Cardinals to reinstate Warner from the reserve/retired list.  But there’s a way to make it happen.

Per a league source, the Cardinals could release Warner from the reserve/retired list and then re-sign him.  However, Warner would first pass through waivers, which would allow any other team to disrupt the arrangement by making a claim for his contract.

That’s precisely what happened 12 years ago, when Deion Sanders wanted to unretire and climb aboard the Oakland bandwagon.  After Washington released Sanders from the reserve/retired list, the Chargers (coached at the time by former Washington coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose arrival prompted Sanders to quit in the first place) claimed Sanders on waivers, short-circuiting Deion’s desire to help the Raiders win a Super Bowl.

Any other team could do the same thing to the Cardinals, if they were to release Warner’s rights.  The Rams and coach Jeff Fisher could be inclined to do it, especially after that 8-8 remark from Bruce Arians a couple of weeks ago.

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Arians announces Lindley will start Sunday, doesn’t rule out Stanton for playoffs

Ryan Lindley AP

The Cardinals are turning back to Ryan Lindley at quarterback.

Lindley, not rookie Logan Thomas, will get the start Sunday at San Francisco, head coach Bruce Arians said Friday, per Darren Urban of AzCardinals.com.

Thomas did not practice well on Wednesday, opening the door for Lindley to get a second consecutive start, Arians indicated, according to the club’s website. Lindley struggled mightily in the Cardinals’ Week 16 loss to Seattle.

In other Cardinals QB news, Arians is optimistic Drew Stanton will be available for the postseason, according to AzCardinals.com. Stanton recently had surgery to combat an infection in his knee, which has seemingly clouded his status going forward.

UPDATE 3:45 p.m. ET: Of Stanton, Arians said, per Urban: “He’s on schedule for next week.”

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DeMarco Murray good to go for Sunday

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray was out of commission because of an illness on Christmas, but he was back to work on Boxing Day.

Murray participated in practice on Friday and drew a probable tag on the injury report, leaving him in line to play against Washington in the regular season finale. The Cowboys have locked up the NFC East title and will likely wind up as the third seed, but they can grab a first-round bye with the right combination of results.

Owner Jerry Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan that the possibility was enough for the Cowboys to go all out with Murray and everyone else healthy enough to play.

“It would be a catastrophe if we walked up there and, for whatever the reason, of our own volition, of our own decision making, pulled back a little bit and then had a chance to get that first-round bye,” Jones said, via the team’s website.

Assuming Jason Garrett sticks to the plan laid out by the guy signing the checks, Murray should end Sunday as the Cowboys’ new leader in single-season rushing yards. He’s 29 yards behind Emmitt Smith, who ran for 1,773 yards in 1995.

Right tackle Doug Free is doubtful to play with the ankle injury that kept him out last week. Jermey Parnell will likely start again.

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Bears extend Roberto Garza through 2015

Chicago Bears v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Bears found something to like about the 2014 season.

The team announced Friday that they have signed center Roberto Garza to a one-year contract extension. Garza signed a one-year deal to return to the Bears before the start of the season and the team’s obviously been pleased with the work he’s done on the field this season.

Next year will be Garza’s 15th in the NFL and his 11th with the Bears. He has started all but five of the team’s games since the start of the 2006 season and will join kicker Robbie Gould as the longest-tenured members of the organization if linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman both leave the team.

Garza will be turning 36 next year, so the Bears should probably have an eye out this offseason for a player who can follow Garza in the middle of the line.

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Robert Griffin III practices, expected to play against Cowboys

Robert Griffin III AP

Washington won’t be adding to the list of backups or backup-to-the-backup quarterbacks starting this weekend.

According to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, Griffin was able to practice Friday with no soreness in his right shoulder, per coach Jay Gruden.

Griffin was limited Wednesday, but is now expected to be ready to start in Sunday’s finale against the Cowboys.

“The big thing was we wanted to make sure he didn’t have a lot of pain when he threw and he didn’t today, so that’s the great thing,” Gruden said. “He looked good, made all the throws today. I think everything’s all systems go with him.”

He should also have protection, as left tackle Trent Williams practiced in a limited role after missing the previous two practices with a shoulder injury. He’s listed as questionable, but said he expects to play as well.

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Mike McCarthy: No concerns about Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Backup quarterbacks are going to be starting in several games with playoff implications this weekend, but the matchup between the Lions and Packers won’t be one of them.

Matthew Stafford has no injury issues for the Lions and any worries about Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s calf have disappeared along with the cookies left for Santa Claus. Rodgers practiced again for the Packers on Friday and drew a probable listing on the injury report that sounded like a definite when coach Mike McCarthy addressed the quarterback’s status.

“I don’t have any concerns today based on conversations with Aaron and how he’s feeling,” McCarthy said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Tomorrow a big indicator, just watching him move around and do different things. I don’t have high concern.”

There aren’t any real injury concerns for the Packers headed into their NFC North title game with the Lions. Cornerback Davon House is out with a shoulder injury for the third straight game and the team’s been targeting the postseason for his return to the lineup. Everyone else is probable or not listed on the injury report at all.

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