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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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Jake Matthews expects to play this week

Jake Matthews AP

Falcons rookie tackle Jake Matthews was forced to the sideline for the team’s loss to the Bengals last Sunday because of a sprained ankle and the prospect of another missed game loomed with Atlanta scheduled to face the Buccaneers this Thursday.

Matthews is hoping things don’t play out that way. He was able to practice in a limited fashion on Monday and is expected to be a full participant on Tuesday as the Falcons ramp up quickly during the short week. Matthews said it will take “a lot more healing” before he’s definitely ready to play, but it is something he expects to happen in time for him to return to the lineup on Thursday.

“I’m expecting to play,” Matthews said, via the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “I know that I personally think I’ll be ready to play. But we’ll see how the week of practice goes and we’ll see what coach [Mike Smith] has to say.”

Gabe Carimi played in Matthews’s place against Cincinnati in what was a rough day for the entire Falcons offense after they sparkled in the season-opening win over the Saints.

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NFL could intervene soon in Hardy case

Hardy Getty Images

As the Panthers struggle with the question of whether to let defensive end Greg Hardy play in the wake of a judge’s finding that he committed domestic violence, the Panthers may soon be off the hook.

Per a league source, the NFL could soon be intervening in the Hardy case, suspending Hardy without pay for violating the personal-conduct policy.

Previously, the NFL had decided not to penalize Hardy because Hardy’s legal case has not been resolved.  He still hasn’t had a trial before a jury; his trial before a judge was under North Carolina criminal procedure was so preliminary and cursory that a transcript isn’t prepared unless the defendant chooses to hire a court reporter.  (In this case, Hardy did.)

As of Monday, the transcript hadn’t been prepared.  It would be prudent for the NFL to see the transcript before making a decision about Hardy.  But Hardy may not get that luxury as the post-Rice NFL struggles with the balance between due process in court and taking decisive action against misconduct.

In the end, the Panthers may get the luxury of not having to continue to tiptoe through a P.R. minefield, and they may not have to pay Hardy to not play.

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Gruden predictably claims he didn’t prefer Cousins to Griffin

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At his Monday press conference, Washington coach Jay Gruden displayed a moment of candor, opting not to insist that Robert Griffin III definitely will be reinstalled when healthy.  Instead, Gruden addressed the hypothetical that backup Kirk Cousins could play his way into a quarterback controversy by saying, “We’ll cross that bridge when that comes.”

Gruden was predictably less candid after the press conference, when asked about the notion that the coaching staff wanted Cousins over Griffin in the first place.

“As far as the idea that Gruden somehow preferred Cousins over Griffin,” ESPN’s John Keim said on SportsCenter this morning, “I asked the first-year head coach about that after his press conference Monday and Gruden said, ‘That’s just not true.’  I told him, ‘I assume if it had been the case, he would have already been in there.’  To which Gruden replied, ‘It’s funny how that works.'”

That exchange implies that Gruden could have chosen to go with Cousins instead of Griffin, if that’s what Gruden wanted.  And that ignores the reality that Gruden simply didn’t have that luxury.  Gruden took the job knowing that Griffin is the guy.  The organization has made a huge investment in Griffin, and the organization wasn’t ready before Week One to even entertain the possibility of using Cousins instead of Griffin.

That was Joe Theismann’s point; the organization didn’t allow a quarterback competition to exist, but if a competition had existed, Cousins would have won it.

In the immediate aftermath of the Griffin injury, we reported that the coaching staff believes Cousins provides the better option to win.  Despite Gruden’s words and Keim’s unusual effort to vouch for Gruden’s position, we stand by that.

After all, pretty much everyone not on the coaching staff feels that way, too.  Moving forward, we’ll all see whether Cousins can prove that everyone was right.

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Dennis Allen: We’ve got to get better fast

Oakland Raiders v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Raiders were pummeled by the Texans on Sunday, dropping them to 0-2 and leading safety Charles Woodson to sum up the state of his team by saying “we suck.”

Coach Dennis Allen didn’t frame things in the same way Monday but said that he understood Woodson’s frustration with the way the team is performing. Allen said that the team is going to look at “everything” as the team tries to make some quick improvements.

“We’re two weeks into the season,” Allen said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “At the same time, you don’t want to bury your head in the sand. We’ve got to get better. We need to do it fast.”

Allen may not be around much longer if that doesn’t happen. A report out of Oakland on Monday has the Raiders already making contingency plans if they fire Allen, who is 8-26 in two-plus years as the team’s coach, during the season.

There are easier ways to kick off a turnaround than a road game in New England, but the Raiders have to take what the schedule’s given them and make the best of it because more of the same is going to make for another ugly season.

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Lions lose another cornerback

Detroit Lions Rookie Minicamp Getty Images

It’s two weeks into the season and the Lions have already lost two nickel cornerbacks.

Nevin Lawson, who stepped in for Bill Bentley after Bentley tore his ACL, had surgery on dislocated toes in Charlotte after Sunday’s loss to the Panthers and coach Jim Caldwell said Monday that the team is not expecting to have Lawson back in the lineup this season.

“Now how long it’s going to be, I’m not certain as of yet,” Caldwell said, via the Detroit Free Press. “The doctors say they’ll look at him before they release him. He’s still there. He’ll be back in a day or so. They’ll give us a prognosis on the injury. I would not anticipate that he’ll be back this year. But hopefully, he’ll heal quickly.”

Lawson’s injury leaves the team with just three healthy cornerbacks and Caldwell said that there will be additions to the roster. They could come from the practice squad, where they have Mohammed Seisay, or it could come from the signing of a veteran like Champ Bailey or Dimitri Patterson. There’s an open roster spot after the team dropped safety Nate Ness and putting Lawson on injured reserve would open up another one as the Lions try to keep a full complement of cornerbacks on the depth chart.

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Rihanna is not a fan of CBS pulling her song last week

Rihanna AP

Rihanna apparently does not love the way CBS lies.

The pop singer said this morning on Twitter that she did not appreciate the league pulling her song “Run This Town” from last week’s pregame show.

“CBS you pulled my song last week, now you wanna slide it back in this Thursday? NO, F— you! Y’all are sad for penalizing me for this,” she wrote.

Then she followed with “The audacity…”

Rihanna has something in common with Janay Rice, in that she was the victim of a high-profile domestic violence case.

That, coupled with the need to give the opening week broadcast a more serious tone, led CBS to pull the musical number.

Apparently, they won’t be going back to it.

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Brandon Meriweather returns, says he’ll hit within rules

Brandon Meriweather AP

When Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather returned from a suspension last season, he said that he would “just play and whatever happens happens” when asked about altering his game to account for the league’s rules against hitting defenseless receivers in the head and neck.

That approach didn’t quite work out for Meriweather this summer as he drew a two-game suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith during the preseason. Meriweather’s suspension has come to an end and now he’s signing a different tune about what he needs to do to avoid a third suspension for the same kinds of infractions.

“I have no choice but to consciously tell myself to do it now,” Meriweather said, via the Washington Post. “It’s nothing I’m willing to chance. I’m not trying to get kicked out of the league just to hit somebody hard. It’s just something I’m going to have to do.”

Meriweather also said that he wouldn’t tone down his aggressiveness and it may be hard to combine that mentality with hits that avoid the strike zone that the league wants Meriweather and other defensive players to avoid.

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Tom Brady is not interested in your social activism

Tom Brady AP

It’s not hard to find an image of Tom Brady, whether it’s in his role as the quarterback of the Patriots or on one of his many advertising opportunities.

But he said Monday he’s not interested in using his platform as an agent of social change.

During an interview with WEEI, Brady did his best to avoid saying much of anything about Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson, or anything else.

I try to stay in my lane. All of those things, none of it’s really my business or my control,” Brady said, via Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal. “I’ve just been focusing on the games and what I can do better. The things that are taking place on other teams or league-wide decisions, those are a different pay grade than me.”

Asked if he could be a spokesman for any of the issues for the players, Brady said that wasn’t his role.

“I certainly have a lot of personal feelings toward all those things, but it’s just, there’s nothing I can do,” he said. “If I make a comment about it, there’s nothing I can do to make a difference. The owners of the league, the commissioner of the league, the teams themselves, the players that are involved, they’re the ones that are speaking on it. It’s not really my responsibility to speak out about those things, because there are a lot of other people doing the talking.

“I really don’t want to be involved in any of those things. I try to live and make the best decisions possible on and off the field and represent our organization and represent my family as best I can. Those things are happening. I just don’t want my name mentioned in any of those situations that are happening.”

While Brady’s certainly within his rights to mind his own business, the idea that there’s nothing he can do is well short of the truth.

Athletes have used their platforms for causes in the past, with tremendous results. And if the league was serious about changing its image as it relates toward domestic violence or other issues, they’d be wise to ask players such as Brady to help spread the word that putting your hands on women and children was not OK.

It’s one thing for a player such as Terrance Knighton to speak out, but when the players with the loudest voices stay silent, it’s easy for the message to be lost.

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Chuck Pagano: It “sure looked like” a penalty on key interception

Chuck Pagano AP

The Colts faced a third-and-9 from the Eagles’ 22-yard line with just over five minutes left on Monday night, which seemed to leave them with at least a chance to kick a field goal and go up 30-20.

They never got that chance. Andrew Luck’s pass to T.Y. Hilton wound up in the hands of Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, the Eagles went down to tie the game and ultimately wound up as 30-27 winners in a game that the Colts once led comfortably.

There were questions about the play call after the game, but also about contact between Hilton and Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin that left Hilton on the turf as Jenkins grabbed the ball. On a weekend when illegal contact, holding and pass interference calls loomed large in many games, there was no flag and Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he thought there should have been one after the game.

“I think I had the same view as you did. It sure looked like it on the Jumbotron. We’ll look at the tape,” Pagano said in comments distributed by the team.

The ensuing Eagles drive featured a horse collar penalty on safety LaRon Landry for a tackle on LeSean McCoy that led to spirited disagreement from Colts defenders who thought Landry only grabbed McCoy’s jersey.

Hilton said he felt he would have caught the pass without the contact, although safety Mike Adams focused on his own failure to stop Darren Sproles when asked about the impact that the officiating decision had on the final outcome. The Colts also got the ball back later in the quarter and were forced to punt before the Eagles drove for the winning kick and they’ll have to deal with being 0-2 just the same as if they’d been beaten without any questionable calls.

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Rice appeal will include request that Goodell recuse himself from case

Goodell Reuters

On Sunday, multiple sources told PFT (and eventually others) that Ray Rice would appeal his indefinite suspension on Monday.  On Monday, one source told PFT that the timetable had been delayed by a day.

The source said that multiple factors influenced the decision to wait until the final day of the appeal period, including a decision to submit with the appeal a written request that Commissioner Roger Goodell relinquish his authority over the appeal of personal-conduct policy cases.

Apart from Goodell already having prejudged the question of whether Rice told the team and the league the truth regarding what happened in that elevator, Goodell will be a witness, whose version of the events and other key questions will have to be considered by the hearing officer for accuracy and credibility.  In most cases, there’s no factual dispute over what happened; the issue is simply one of discipline.  In this case, Rice and, presumably, Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome will testify that Rice didn’t lie.  Others apparently believe he did.

That conflict shouldn’t obscure the question of whether the NFL knew or should have known what the video showed, even if Rice or anyone else on his behalf downplayed the violence that knocked out Janay Palmer Rice.  Whether it was an open hand, a closed hand, a shove, a push, an elbow, or any other specific type of blow, Rice strike her hard enough to knock her out.  The NFL knew that, the NFL apparently didn’t bother to stop and think what that looked like, the NFL suspended him only two games for it, and the NFL arguably shouldn’t be permitted to suspend him again for something he’s already been suspended for.

Rice’s ultimate argument will be that his second suspension had nothing to do with new evidence, and everything to do with the NFL bending to the will of public pressure, starting with the initial suspension of only two games and reaching critical mass once that video emerged eight days ago.  Regardless of what anyone thinks of Rice, he has rights — and it’s important that the rights of all players to not be disciplined multiple times for the same infraction be respected.

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49ers demand an explanation of Kaepernick language penalty

kaepernick Getty Images

The 49ers are flabbergasted that Colin Kaepernick was given a 15-yard penalty on Sunday for using inappropriate language, and they’re demanding an explanation.

Kaepernick has insisted he didn’t say anything profane or offensive, and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he wishes the league would tell him what it thinks Kaepernick said, because Harbaugh didn’t hear Kaepernick say anything and the officials didn’t tell Harbaugh what they heard.

I didn’t overhear that,” Harbaugh said. “[Officials] didn’t come back and tell me.”

Side judge Laird Hayes, who threw the flag, stood by it. The NFL doesn’t have a George Carlin-style list of words you can never say on the football field, but the league did make appropriate language on the field a point of emphasis this season, and players were warned that officials would strictly enforce the rule against using inappropriate language, which falls under unsportsmanlike conduct.

“He knows what he said,” Hayes said. “It was the right call.”

But the player Kaepernick appeared to be jawing with, Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston, said he didn’t hear Kaepernick say anything inappropriate. Hayes was apparently the only one who heard anything. Unfortunately for the 49ers, Hayes was the one with the flag in his pocket.

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McCoy says Eagles would be in trouble without Sproles

Sproles Getty Images

Eagles workhorse running back LeSean McCoy became a second fiddle on Monday night, with veteran newcomer Darren Sproles having a night for the ages in Indianapolis.  If that’s bothering McCoy like a waiter getting a 20-cent tip, McCoy isn’t saying so.

“To be honest, he’s helping me out,” McCoy told reporters after the game regarding whether he’s unhappy that Sproles’ output is reducing McCoy’s opportunities.  “Without Sproles, we’d be in some trouble.  I need to get my thing together.  I feel like I’m not playing to my level where I should be playing.  Tonight it was an average, above average game where he carried us again.  It’s good to have that because when you get that type of attention from the defense, other guys are making plays, and he’s doing it.  I don’t mind at all, and the other thing is I don’t feel as tired or as beat up.  I had about 20 carries, two passes, not too many carries, just enough to be effective.”

McCoy had 24 touches, via 20 carries for 79 yard and four receptions for 23.  Take away McCoy’s 21-yard run on a key third-and-15 that kept alive the game-tying touchdown drive, however, and McCoy had a decidedly un-Shady night running the ball, 23 tries for 58 yards.

I need to get my thing together.

Hardly eloquent but entirely accurate, McCoy knows that, given what he’s getting paid, a 21-yard run and 58 yards on 23 others won’t cut it.  Especially when the guys coach Chip Kelly is specifically acquiring to run his offense are looking better than they ever have at any point in their careers.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

Kyle Fuller, Derek Carrier AP

Bills starters like making an impact on special teams.

Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor wants the blame for any offensive struggles.

Penalties are a thorn in Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s paw.

Timeout snafus aside, Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg pushed a lot of the right buttons in Week Two.

The Ravens like using S Matt Elam in the slot.

The Bengals defense has responded well to new coordinator Paul Guenther.

Browns coach Mike Pettine smoked a victory cigar on Sunday.

The Steelers are looking for more from young defenders.

S D.J. Swearinger’s nose for the ball is a plus for the Texans.

Colts TE Jack Doyle discusses his first NFL touchdown.

There were 21 missed tackles by the Jaguars in Week Two.

Titans WR Justin Hunter hasn’t had the expected breakout.

The Broncos will take another shot at stopping Russell Wilson this week.

Seven starters are missing from the Chiefs lineup.

Raiders coach Dennis Allen thinks QB Derek Carr can be “special.”

Confidence is running high for the Chargers.

The Cowboys have shown a strong belief in the running game.

A call for more help from the Giants receivers.

Said Eagles Chip Kelly of a second second half comeback, “The one thing about this team is they’re really grounded, and it just means we’re 2-0. And it also means we have to execute better on both sides of the ball in the first half. You’re not going to make a living being 17 down in this league.”

Examining QB Kirk Cousins’s fit in the Redskins offense.

Bears WR Brandon Marshall wants rookie CB Kyle Fuller thinking big.

The Lions are showing confidence in K Nate Freese finding his stride.

Rookie WR Davante Adams had an impact in the Packers win.

Vikings T Matt Kalil had a rough day against the Patriots.

Falcons WR Roddy White is dealing with a hamstring injury during a short week.

The Panthers regret not rotating guards in Week Two.

Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis can’t “sugarcoat” an 0-2 start.

The Buccaneers feel their offensive line is starting to click.

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington still has pain in his foot, but it hasn’t stopped him from contributing.

A call for the Rams to stick with QB Austin Davis.

The 49ers added a tight end to the practice squad.

Coach Pete Carroll said the Seahawks are “quiet and serious” coming off their loss to the Chargers.

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Amazingly, Texans asked if this week is a trap game

Bill O'Brien AP

There might not be a bigger surprise among the seven undefeated teams in the NFL than the Texans.

So while they’re happy about their start, they’re certainly new enough to success that they’re not in a position to overlook anyone.

That’s why it was sort of funny when rookie coach Bill O’Brien was asked about the possibility of a trap game this week against the winless Giants.

A trap game for the Houston Texans? I certainly hope not,” O’Brien said, via Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle. I certainly hope that we don’t think about traps or backdoors or I don’t even know what.

“One thing that’s always stood out to me about this league is that every week is a challenge. … And so if you fall into any type of trap, thinking that, ‘OK, we beat the Oakland Raiders, so naturally we’re going to go out there and beat the New York Giants,’ I mean that’s crazy — that’s absolutely crazy.”

Of course, the Texans were 2-0 this time last year, and then wheeled off 14 straight losses. That’s how O’Brien ended up in that chair to begin with, so he knows better than to take anything for granted.

 

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Dolphins not making plans for suspended players yet

Miami Dolphins OTA Getty Images

If a deal on the league’s new drug policy crosses that magical threshold from “close” to “done” this week, several players are set to return to teams with their suspensions shortened or commuted.

But the Dolphins aren’t making plans on having either outside linebacker Dion Jordan or safety Reshad Jones back on the field this week against the Chiefs.

I haven’t heard anything,” coach Joe Philbin said, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “We’re operating under the premise that the suspensions are going to stand until I hear different.”

Likewise, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he’s not going to spend game-planning time considering someone who isn’t available to him yet.

“Unless we know that they’re practicing, we can’t waste practice time on what ifs,” Coyle said. “We have to go out there and get guys ready to play. When guys haven’t been practicing, generally they don’t play very good when they first come back.”

The Dolphins will have to cut a pair of players to bring Jones and Jordan back into the fold, assuming the deal gets done. Having agreed to an hGH deal three years ago, there’s no telling how long that will be.

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