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PFT’s Week Ten picks

Divisional Playoffs - Seattle Seahawks v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Usually Florio writes the introductions to our weekly PFT picks segments. But with the thorough beating I’ve been giving him in our weekly picks, it’s time for me to take the reins.

Neither one of us had a great week picking games last week, but I went 3-for-3 on the games about which we disagreed. For Week Nine, I went a mediocre 8-5. Florio went a worse-than-mediocre 5-8. That makes me 89-44 on the season, and Florio 82-51.

The good news for Florio is that this week we disagree on a whopping six games, meaning he could close the gap all the way down to one game. Then again, the good news for me is that we disagree on a whopping six games, meaning I could widen the gap all the way up to 13 games, which would be a nearly insurmountable margin through ten weeks.

Read on to see where we agree, where we disagree, and whether Florio is ready to concede that I’m the superior NFL prognosticator.

Redskins at Vikings

MDS’s take: Thursday night’s game matches up two bad teams, but Washington is playing a little bit better recently and is motivated by the slight chance of getting back into the NFC East race. Minnesota is going nowhere but last place in the NFC North.

MDS’s pick: Redskins 24, Vikings 20.

Florio’s take:  The Vikings are teetering on giving up as Washington is inching toward making a run at a second straight division title.  At this rate, some Vikings fans may want to implode the Metrodome with the team inside it.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 24, Vikings 20.

Seahawks at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Seahawks haven’t been playing particularly well recently, but they’re playing well enough to beat bad teams. That will continue in Atlanta, where the Falcons have totally collapsed.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 17, Falcons 10.

Florio’s take:  Seattle returns to the scene of its January playoff loss, and these two teams couldn’t be in more different situations.  But the Seahawks recently have been flirting with upsets, and beating the Seahawks in November likely will be the closest the Falcons get to another playoff win in 2013.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 20, Seahawks 17.

Bengals at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Bengals are going to struggle down the stretch because they’re missing their two best defensive players, tackle Geno Atkins and cornerback Leon Hall. Unfortunately, the Ravens can’t get out of their own way on offense, and with this loss we can pretty much write off the defending champs.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 20, Ravens 17.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals are a different team away from home, and the Ravens now have their backs firmly against the wall.  I’m still not ready to give up on a team that has made it to the playoffs five straight times.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 27, Bengals 20.

Lions at Bears

MDS’s take: With the NFC North currently in a three-way tie, this game is huge. I think the Lions, who beat the Bears handily in Detroit, will make it a season sweep and take a big step toward winning their first division title since Barry Sanders was a Lion.

MDS’s pick: Lions 27, Bears 24.

Florio’s take:  With Aaron Rodgers injured, the NFC North could be up for grabs.  While the Lions may be better than the Bears, the Bears have the home-field edge and the boost that comes from knocking off the Packers.  With or without Jay Cutler, the Bears get it done at home, where they’ve beaten the Lions seven of eight times.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 17, Lions 13.

Eagles at Packers

MDS’s take: If both of these teams had their starting quarterbacks, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick Aaron Rodgers’s Packers over Michael Vick’s Eagles. But the Seneca Wallace vs. Nick Foles quarterback matchup makes it a lot tougher to call. This one could go either way, but I think the Eagles’ defense has enough holes in it for Packers running back Eddie Lacy to have a big day, and the Packers to overcome the loss of Rodgers.

MDS’s pick: Packers 21, Eagles 17.

Florio’s take:  Philly is 4-1 on the road, 0-4 at home.  More importantly, they head to Lambeau to face a team that has lost its franchise quarterback for a month.  The injuries finally have caught up with the Packers, who’ll suffer the rare indignity of losing twice at home in six days.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 30, Packers 23.

Rams at Colts

MDS’s take: The Colts don’t always look great, but they usually find a way to win. The Rams don’t always look terrible, but they usually find a way to lose. Form will hold in Indianapolis.

MDS’s pick: Colts 27, Rams 17.

Florio’s take:  The family that once owned the Rams now hosts them, and the Rams limp into town with a backup quarterback and a season of failed expectations.  The Colts are rolling, and it’ll take a better team than the Rams to knock them off.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 28, Rams 17.

Raiders at Giants

MDS’s take: Both of these teams stink, but the Giants have been playing competitively recently, while the Raiders are coming off an ugly blowout loss. Throw in the Giants’ home-field advantage, and this looks like a pretty clear third consecutive win for New York.

MDS’s pick: Giants 30, Raiders 20.

Florio’s take:  The Giants are climbing in to the NFC East hunt just as the Raiders are fading out of the chase for the No. 6 seed in the AFC.  While the Raiders have shown periodic flashes of a promise, the Giants have won two in a row, and they’re gradually getting healthier.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 28, Raiders 17.

Bills at Steelers

MDS’s take: With EJ Manuel back against a bad Steelers defense, I like the Bills to go on the road and pull the upset.

MDS’s pick: Bills 24, Steelers 17.

Florio’s take:  The struggling Steelers are playing for pride.  There’s a chance that may not be enough.  If they lose this one, it really could be time to clean house.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 17, Bills 13.

Jaguars at Titans

MDS’s take: The Titans are coming off a big win and are, at 4-4, in the AFC playoff hunt. That’s especially true because they still get to play the Jaguars twice. Tennessee will have no trouble with the worst team in the league coming to town.

MDS’s pick: Titans 34, Jaguars 7.

Florio’s take:  The Titans continue to make a play for a postseason appearance.  The Jaguars continue to compete for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 34, Jaguars 9.

Panthers at 49ers

MDS’s take: Both of these teams have been playing good football, and if the playoffs started today (which they don’t) the 49ers and Panthers would be the two NFC wild card teams. This should be a tough, physical football game and should show off two of the NFL’s most talented young quarterbacks. I like the 49ers to win in an exciting game.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 30, Panthers 27.

Florio’s take:  The Panthers have beaten five teams with a combined 8-33 record.  Their next two foes are a combined 13-4.  And they’ll each have an extra week to prepare.  And the 49ers are one of the best teams in the league right now.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 24, Panthers 13.

Texans at Cardinals

MDS’s take: I like the spark that Case Keenum has provided the Texans, but the Cardinals’ defense is a lot better than most people realize, and Keenum is in for a rough day in Arizona.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 17, Texans 13.

Florio’s take:  The Cardinals deserve more credit than they’ve gotten.  They can get plenty by delivering what would amount to a knockout punch to the Texans.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 23, Texans 20.

Broncos at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Chargers are one of the many AFC teams in the hunt for the final wild card spot, and if they could pull off the upset of the Broncos they’d firmly establish themselves as playoff contenders. But it won’t happen. The Chargers’ defense just isn’t good enough to keep the Broncos in check.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 42, Chargers 27.

Florio’s take:  Last year, the Broncos used a Monday night comeback for the ages in San Diego to launch an 11-game winning streak.  This year, the up-and-down Chargers have the talent to pull the upset — and they just might.  If they can hold the Broncos under 40 points.  But they can’t.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 41, Chargers 34.

Cowboys at Saints

MDS’s take: This could be an NFC playoff preview, as the Cowboys lead the East and the Saints lead the South. Unfortunately for Dallas, it’s also going to be a preview of the beatdown the Cowboys can expect to get in the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Saints 28, Cowboys 14.

Florio’s take:  Rob Ryan gets his revenge against the team that made him a scapegoat in January.  Especially since the Cowboys can’t/won run the ball and can’t/won try to take away what the opponent does best on offense.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 31, Cowboys 21.

Dolphins at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: It’s the battle of the team whose players get bullied in the locker room against the team whose players get infected in the locker room. Even aside from the off-field issues, this is an ugly Monday night game in a season that seems to have had an inordinate number of ugly prime time games. I see the Dolphins’ defense keeping the score down enough to win a close one.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 17, Buccaneers 14.

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins already have won a game since the Jonathan Martin situation began to unfold.  Like the 2007 Patriots post-Spygate, the situation could pull the team together in an us-against-the-world approach.  But there are still four days to go until the Dolphins and Bucs play, and the off-field distraction could intensify.  It’s fitting that a team like Tampa gets a crack at Miami when it’s dealing with as big a mess as any that Greg Schiano and company have faced this year.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 20, Dolphins 14.

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Report: Kyle Orton reaches deal with Bills

Kyle Orton AP

He’s back.

Veteran quarterback Kyle Orton has reached a one-year deal with the Bills, ESPN.com’s James Walker reported Friday night.

In July, the Cowboys released Orton, who was said to be considering retirement. At the time, Dallas owner Jerry Jones indicated the 31-year-old quarterback wasn’t done playing just yet.

Jones was apparently right.

With 70 NFL starts to his credit, Orton is likely to displace Jeff Tuel as the top backup to Bills starter EJ Manuel. The more interesting discussion point, though, is whether Orton could eventually push Manuel, who had an up-and-down summer.

Before joining Dallas in 2012, Orton had stints with Chicago (2005-2008), Denver (2009-2011) and Kansas City (2011). He has completed 1,326-of-2,265 passes for 15,019 yards with 83 TDs and 59 interceptions in his NFL career.

The Bills’ reported addition of Orton is their latest attempt to solidify their depth behind Manuel, who missed six games a season ago as a rookie. Tuel, Dennis Dixon and Thad Lewis were the backups to begin the summer, but only Tuel remains of that trio. The Bills also parted ways with ex-Bears quarterback Jordan Palmer on Friday.

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Jack Crawford indicates he will be released by Raiders

Oakland Raiders v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Raiders are reportedly set to release one of their 2012 draft picks.

Via Instagram, defensive end Jack Crawford indicated Friday night that the club had parted ways with him.

“Wish the best for all my teammates I went to battle with and will always have a place in my heart for the #RaiderNation for giving two of the best years of my life,” Crawford wrote.

The 25-year-old Crawford was a fifth-round pick out of Penn State. He appeared in 19 games in his first two seasons with Oakland, notching 18 tackles. He recorded one tackle in Oakland’s preseason finale vs. Seattle on Thursday. Crawford was listed as the Raiders’ third-string left defensive end.

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Seahawks to release Terrelle Pryor

Pryor AP

The Rams’ patience may have paid off.

Per a league source, the Seahawks will release quarterback Terrelle Pryor.  A 2011 third-round supplemental pick of the Raiders, Pryor will hit the waiver wire, since he doesn’t yet have four years of experience.

The Rams could very well be interested in Pryor, who has shown flashes of potential at the position.  He was unable, however, to beat out Tarvaris Jackson as the backup to Russell Wilson.

Pryor appeared in 11 games with nine starts last year for the Raiders, who traded him to Seattle in the offseason.

If Pryor clears waivers, he will become a free agent.

Whether by waivers or free agency, the Rams could use a veteran presence behind Shaun Hill.  The only other quarterback currently on the active roster, Austin Davis, has no NFL regular-season experience.

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Packers lose lineman Aaron Adams for the year with ACL/MCL

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The Packers are going to be in the market for more offensive line help.

According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, the Packers have lost tackle Aaron Adams to a torn ACL and MCL.

Adams, who spent last year on their practice squad, had a chance to make the team as a backup. But he blew out his knee on the second play from scrimmage Thursday night, and will be placed on injured reserve.

They’ll be without projected starting center J.C. Tretter for the first month of the season with a knee injury, so they’re short on depth at the moment.

That makes some degree of move likely, whether it’s a waiver claim, a trade or a signing.

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Derek Carr or Matt Schaub? Dennis Allen not ready to say

derekcarr AP

Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr played well in the preseason finale on Thursday night. But did he play well enough to unseat Matt Schaub as the starter? Coach Dennis Allen isn’t saying.

Allen said today that Schaub was not at the facility because of “a personal issue,” and Allen doesn’t know whether Schaub’s sore elbow is feeling any better. As a result, Allen isn’t prepared to say whether Schaub will be ready to go for Week One.

“I think the biggest thing is I want to be able to check on Matt and see where Matt is health-wise,” Allen said. “Like I said, he was making some progress last week, threw on the side with the trainers. I feel like he’ll be ready to go, but I think we need to see how he’s doing Monday when he gets in here.”

So before Allen can say whether Schaub will start, Allen needs to see whether Schaub is healthy. And that won’t happen until Monday at the earliest.

But if preseason performance is any indication, Carr should start over Schaub regardless of Schaub’s health: Carr completed 66.7 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and one interception in the preseason, while Schaub completed just 51.1 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and one interception. (For that matter, based on the preseason, third-string quarterback Matt McGloin should move ahead of Schaub on the depth chart, too.) Allen acknowledged that he was happy with the way Carr played in the preseason finale.

“There’s a lot of things that factor into the decision making process, but I will say that I was very pleased with what I saw out of Derek Carr last night,” Allen said.

The quarterback play in Oakland hasn’t been pleasing very often in recent years. Carr has shown promise, and that might be enough to give him the Week One nod.

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Report: Bills sign long-snapper Sanborn to three-year extension

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The Bills have signed one of their core special teams players to a new contract.

The club announced Friday it had signed long-snapper Garrison Sanborn to a contract extension. According to Aaron Wilson of National Football Post, Sanborn received a three-year deal averaging $1.1 million per season. Sanborn is now under contract for the next four seasons, Wilson reported.

A Florida State product, the 29-year-old Sanborn has appeared in every game in the last five seasons for Buffalo. According to NFLPA data, Sanborn is slated to make $895,000 in salary in 2014.

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Rex Ryan would make the Clemson trip again

Rex Ryan AP

A year ago, Jets coach Rex Ryan took some criticism when he left town on the day of final roster cuts to attend the Clemson-Georgia game and see his son, a walk-on receiver at Clemson. This year, Clemson again plays Georgia on the day that final roster cuts are due, and Ryan won’t be making the trip.

But that’s not because Ryan has any regrets. In fact, Ryan told reporters today that he would make the Clemson trip over again, and the only reason he’s not going to the game this year is that his son isn’t going to the game either. Seth Ryan is nursing a broken collarbone and isn’t traveling with his teammates to Georgia, but if he were playing, his dad would be there.

“I am not going to discuss my situation and things like that,” Rex Ryan said. “But, it’s safe to say if my son was playing in the game I probably would have been there again. But he, unfortunately, is not on the travel team right now. He is still injured, so I am not going to go watch.”

On this call, Ryan is right: A quick trip to see his son isn’t dereliction of duty, it’s the right thing to do.

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Eagles trying to trade receiver Damaris Johnson

New York Jets v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Some guys you know are going to be gone, so you can go ahead and cut them on Friday.

But if a team thinks a guy they don’t need might have value, you can bet they’re going to wait until the last minute.

According to Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com, the Eagles are trying to trade wide receiver Damaris Johnson.

The Eagles are deep enough at receiver they probably wouldn’t be able to/want to keep Johnson.

He’s undersized, but he’s also shown enough as a special teamer and a wideout that he might interest someone. He caught 19 passes for 256 yards for the Eagles last year, and might be worth the obligatory conditional late round pick to someone.

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Report: James Harrison not likely to sign with Cardinals

James Harrison AP

A notable ex-Steeler doesn’t appear to be headed to Pittsburgh West.

Free agent outside linebacker James Harrison isn’t likely to sign with the Arizona Cardinals at this time, Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Parise told Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic the two sides couldn’t reach agreement on a deal.

“Couldn’t make the numbers work,” Parise said, according to the Republic.

The 36-year-old Harrison appeared in 15 games (10 starts) for Cincinnati in 2013, notching 30 tackles. His best seasons came with the Steelers, for whom he was a five-time Pro Bowler.

Current Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians was a Pittsburgh assistant for much of Harrison’s tenure with the club, and Arizona has been a landing spot for other ex-Steelers in recent years. But for now, Harrison won’t be added to that list.

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Redskins cut eight players

Andre Roberts, Richard Crawford AP

The Redskins began cutting their way to 53 players on Friday by parting ways with eight members of the roster.

That group includes cornerback Richard Crawford, who was a 2012 seventh-round pick of the team. He played 10 games as a rookie, recording 18 tackles and an interception while also returning eight punts for an average of 19.5 yards per return. He missed all of last season with a knee injury and retains practice squad eligibility thanks to this year’s change in the rules.

Washington also waived safety Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, guard/center Tevita Stevens, tight end Ted Bolser, punter Robert Malone, center Kevin Kowalski, wide receiver Lee Doss and defensive tackle Robert Thomas.

The Redskins roster now stands at 67 players, leaving 14 more moves to make before Saturday’s deadline.

 

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Josh Gordon hasn’t ruled out litigation, yet

Gordon AP

A lawyer who apparently isn’t too busy to check out PFT (and we appreciate that) has floated an intriguing theory about the out-of-the-blue decision by Browns receiver Josh Gordon to seek permission to play in the land of Labatt Blue.

Did Gordon ask to play in Canada knowing that the request would be denied, so that he in turn could bolster an effort to seek an injunction preventing the implementation of his suspension via a lawsuit challenging the suspension?

Those facts would help show what the law calls “irreparable harm,” one of the key factors that must exist for a court tell a party who wants to do something to not do it until the case has ended.  Gordon currently is caught in a vise, unable to play for the Browns and also not permitted while suspended to play for anyone else.  While that may not win the day, it’s one of those real-world facts that could cause a judge to conclude that Josh has gotten jobbed.

Of course, none of that is relevant unless and until Gordon sues.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Gordon’s legal team is still exploring the possibility of filing suit.

Time is running out.  Practice in advance of the Week One game at Pittsburgh begins on Wednesday.  Courts will likely be shut down until Tuesday, given the holiday weekend.  If Gordon wants to get an order allowing him to practice and play, he needs to move a lot more quickly than, say, the NFL did in resolving his appeal.

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Tyrann Mathieu will tackle in practice this week

Tyrann Mathieu AP

The Cardinals activated safety Tyrann Mathieu from the PUP list on August 19, leaving the date of his regular season debut as the biggest question left to answer in Mathieu’s return from a torn ACL.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he wanted to see Mathieu play in the preseason finale if he was going to face the Chargers on the first Monday night of the season. Mathieu didn’t play in that game, but Arians left the door open for Mathieu to play because the second-year man will take part in tackling drills during Arizona’s padded practice next week.

“I wasn’t kidding,” Arians said regarding his earlier comments about Mathieu playing in Week One. “We’ll see how he tackles, though.”

Mathieu is hopeful that Arians, General Manager Steve Keim and the medical staff will feel that he’s ready to hit the field, but Darren Urban of the team’s website marks himself down as “doubtful” that we’ll be seeing Mathieu against Philip Rivers and company. Even if he misses that game, it shouldn’t be too long before Mathieu is back in the Cardinals secondary.

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Greg Jones released by Saints

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Saints brought veteran fullback Greg Jones aboard early in camp after Erik Lorig went down with a leg injury, but he won’t be helping to open holes or protect Drew Brees this season.

Nick Underhill of the Baton Rouge Advocate reports that Jones has been released as the team starts the process of paring the roster down to 53 players.

With Lorig’s status for the regular season still up in the air as he continues to battle his injury, the Saints opted to go with Austin Johnson over Jones at fullback. It’s a somewhat surprising development because Johnson entered the NFL as a linebacker in 2012.

Johnson had played fullback during his first two years at the University of Tennessee, but tried and failed to make the Ravens on defense. The Saints signed him last year, moved him back to offense and he spent the year on the practice squad.

Jones has played 10 seasons in the NFL, nine with the Jaguars and the 2013 campaign with the Texans, so his experience may be appealing to teams looking for a different fullback.

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Rams cut 17 players, but none of them were Michael Sam

Michael Sam AP

Michael Sam became the reality show of the NFL Draft weekend, as the nation waited to see if someone would draft an openly gay player.

It appears draft weekend could turn out the same way.

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, the Rams have cut 17 players today, but none of them were Sam.

Among the cuts were defensive linemen Kourtnei Brown and Deantre Harlan, along with sixth-round quarterback Garrett Gilbert and seventh-round tackle Mitchell Van Dyk.

That would move them to 58, with five cuts to go to the limit.

And the world will be watching to see if Sam makes history.

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Aldon Smith’s case rockets through the NFL legal system

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

For Browns receiver Josh Gordon, the wheels of NFL justice moved sssslowly.  He became aware of the one-year suspension in early May, at the latest.  His appeal hearing ended on August 4.  He learned his fate on August 27.

For 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith, things moved much more quickly.  He was sentenced on multiple weapons charges and DUI on July 18.  He met with the Commissioner in early August.  Now, barely three weeks later, the process has been fully and finally resolved, with Smith suspended under both the personal-conduct policy and the substance-abuse policy.

While some have reported that Aldon Smith exhausted his appeal rights, the more likely explanation is that he waived them as part of the punishment under both policies.  For Smith, no mention was made of appeal rights in the NFL’s announcement; for Ravens running back Ray Rice, the suspension was imposed under the personal-conduct policy, and the announcement expressly declared that he has the right to appeal it.

Also, for any discipline under the substance-abuse policy, the player is entitled to an appeal hearing like the one Gordon had, followed by a potentially protracted wait for a ruling.  In the interim, the player is entitled to play.

Given the speed with which this one moved, and given the potentially complicated interplay between the two policies, it’s reasonable to deduce that Smith waived his appeal rights — possibly in exchange for the league’s decision to allow him to continue to come to the facility while suspended, a courtesy that is available to players suspended for less than a year under the substance-abuse policy but not to players suspended under the personal-conduct policy.

Who knows?  The consideration extended to Smith in exchange for apparently waiving his appeal rights could extend to a potential reduction of the suspension, if he manages to stay out of trouble.  Based on his history, that could be a fairly large if.

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