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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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NFL wary of putting Seahawks home games in prime-time due to recent blowouts

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks will host the Green Bay Packers on Thursday, Sept. 4 for the kickoff of the 2014 NFL season. However, it’s the only time this year the defensive Super Bowl champions will be at home for a nationally televised prime-time game.

The Seahawks have four prime-time games on their schedule this season. But after the season opener against the Packers, Seattle has to play on the road for their remaining three nationally televised games. The Washington Redskins host the Seahawks on Monday Night Football in Week 5. The Seahawks play in San Francisco against the 49ers on Thanksgiving night in Week 13, and will travel to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday Night Football in Week 16. The latter two games will be televised on NBC.

According to a league source, the NFL was wary of putting Seahawks home games on in prime-time due to their track record of blowouts in nationally televised games played in Seattle the last several seasons.

The last three times Seattle has hosted a prime-time matchup, the games have been extremely uncompetitive. The Seahawks hammered the divisional-rival 49ers 42-13 and 29-3 in Sunday night game the last two seasons. They also beat the New Orleans Saints 34-7 on Monday night in December.

In addition, Seattle beat the Philadelphia Eagles 31-14 at home on Thursday night in 2011. The only close game played against the Seahawks in prime-time in Seattle the last three seasons was the 14-12 loss by the Packers in Sept. 2012 that ended on a somewhat memorable play.

While Seattle fans surely enjoyed those outcomes, the theoretically highly compelling games turned out to be duds to a national audience.

The Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles all host three prime-time games in 2014. Fifteen more teams host two prime-time games. The defending champion Seahawks only get one at home.

So while the Seahawks still get plenty of national exposure as defending champions should with four scheduled nationally televised games, they won’t get the chance to host more than their season opener in the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field.

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No grand prize winner in Rams schedule contest

Tennessee Titans v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

The St. Louis Rams were willing to pay a cold, hard $100,000 in cash if someone could correctly guess every aspect of their 2014 schedule before the lineup was officially released on Wednesday evening.

Much like Warren Buffett’s $1 billion contest to correctly predict the outcome of every NCAA Tournament game, the Rams contest also went by the wayside without a grand prize winner.

However, not everyone will walk away empty-handed.

Per a team release, two fans from Jefferson City, Mo. tied for second place and will be offered season tickets for the entirety of the 2014 season.

The contest required fans to pick all 16 games and the bye week in order. It also stipulated that entrants needed to correctly pick the day on which all games will be played.

Four entries had streaks of four consecutive weeks correctly predicted. Only one entry was able to correctly guess as many eight games correct in the week those games will actually be played.

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Seahawks executive Scot McCloughan resigning to tend to personal matters

San Francisco 49ers 2009 Headshots

The Seattle Seahawks are losing a key member of their front office staff.

A source confirmed to PFT that Seahawks’ senior personnel executive Scot McCloughan is resigning from his position in order to tend to personal matters that require his attention. The move was first reported by Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com.

McCloughan joined the Seahawks in 2010 in a supporting role to general manager John Schneider. McCloughan had previously been the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers before stepping down following the 2009 season. McCloughan’s departure from San Francisco was also to tend to a “private personal matter.”

McCloughan has been a key figure in building the rosters of both of the NFC West’s powerhouse teams.

McCloughan drafted Dashon Goldson, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Joe Staley and Patrick Willis during his time with the 49ers as GM and VP of football operations. He then helped identify key players for Seattle such as Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner that allowed Seattle to win their first Super Bowl in February.

It’s a big blow to the Seahawks personnel department. McCloughan intends to build his own independent scouting service to work from home so he can be around his family.

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Nevada sports book makes Eagles biggest favorites of Week One

Chicago Bears v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

About an hour after the regular season schedule was released Wednesday night, the LVH Las Vegas Hotel and Casino had already installed favorites and underdogs for the opening week games.

Jacksonville is the biggest Week One underdog on the LVH SuperBook board. The Eagles are 11-point favorites over the visiting Jaguars in the season opener for both clubs.

No other club is favored by more than a touchdown, and only the Broncos and Bears are favored by more than six points. Denver is a seven-point favorite vs. Indianapolis, while Chicago is a 6.5-point favorite vs. Buffalo.

All but three home teams are favored in Week One. The only home underdogs are the Cowboys (vs. the 49ers), the Buccaneers (vs. the Panthers) and the Dolphins (vs. the Patriots).

Finally, the Seahawks are five-point favorites vs. Green Bay in the opening game of the regular season.

Here are the LVH’s Week One lines:

Thursday, September 4

Green Bay at Seattle (-5)

Sunday, September 7

New Orleans at Atlanta (-2)

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-2.5)

Buffalo at Chicago (-6.5)

Washington at Houston (-2.5)

Tennessee at Kansas City (-5.5)

New England (-3.5) at Miami

Oakland at N.Y. Jets (-4.5)

Jacksonville at Philadelphia (-11)

Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-5)

Minnesota at St. Louis (-5)

San Francisco (-3.5) at Dallas

Carolina (-2.5) at Tampa Bay

Indianapolis at Denver (-7)

Monday, September 8

N.Y. Giants at Detroit (-4)

San Diego at Arizona (-3.5)

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Marcus Trufant set to retire after signing deal with Seahawks

St. Louis Rams v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Cornerback Marcus Trufant is set to retire as a member of the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday after spending the entirety of his 10-year career with his hometown franchise.

The team announced Wednesday that Trufant had re-signed with the team with the intention of announcing his retirement at an 11 a.m. PT press conference on Thursday.

Trufant grew up in nearby Tacoma, Wash. and attended Washington State University. He was selected by the Seahawks with the 11th overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft and played the next 10 seasons with the Seahawks. Trufant was selected to the Pro Bowl and was named a first-team All-Pro in 2007. He racked up 85 tackles and seven interceptions that season for Seattle in his best season as a professional.

The Seahawks made the playoffs seven of Trufant’s 10 seasons on the roster and won the NFC West five times with an appearance in Super Bowl XL in 2005.

Trufant spent time in training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season before being released. He finishes his career with 644 tackles, 21 interceptions, five forced fumbles and two touchdowns.

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Packers-Saints provide this year’s World Series alternative

2011-world-series

Before 2010, the NFL avoided scheduling Sunday night games on the days reserved for the World Series.  That year, the league decided to challenge baseball directly.

In every year since then, the NFL has scheduled a Sunday night game against the World Series.  This year, the Packers visit the Saints for the Sunday night of Week Eight, against what likely will be Game Four of the World Series.

Then, the next night, the Redskins face the Cowboys in Dallas on Monday Night Football.  The game will be played against what likely will be Game Five of the Fall Classic, which has in recent years taken a back seat to the Boys of Fall.

It’s too bad Mark Cuban never bought a baseball team.

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Rams have a shot at a good start

Tavon Austin AP

In our Week 17 analysis, we mentioned the need for the Rams and Cardinals to stand up to the NFC West’s power duo of Seattle and San Francisco if they are to compete for playoff spots.

Moreover, it would behoove the Rams and Cardinals to start well, too.

For the Rams, a 3-0 record headed into their Week Four bye isn’t an impossible dream. To begin their season, the Rams have home games against Minnesota (Week One) and Dallas (Week Three) and a road trip to Tampa Bay (Week Two). These opponents aren’t pushovers, but they are teams the Rams can defeat on their best. With games at Philadelphia (Week Five) and vs. Seattle and San Francisco (Weeks Six and Seven) right after the bye, St. Louis needs to sock away some early victories.

The Cardinals, like the Rams, get their bye in Week Four. And like St. Louis, Arizona has two home games before the break. The bad news? One of those home games is against San Francisco in Week Three. The Monday-night Week One opener vs. San Diego could be tricky. So could the trip to face the Giants in New Jersey six days later. Then, after the bye, the Cardinals travel to Denver in Week Five.

Many teams’ preseason plans have been ruined by less-than-ideal starts. It’s no different than a bad break in the Kentucky Derby. Sure, talented closers can win after early stumbles, but getting good position right off the bat is preferable.

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Week 16 features Saturday doubleheader

Saturday

Officially, Week 16 launches with a Thursday night game in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars will host the Titans.  But the real action gets rolling on Saturday, when the league brings back the concept of the late-season Saturday doubleheader.

One game starts in the late afternoon, and the other kicks off on Saturday night.

The broadcast antitrust exemption prevents the NFL from broadcasting Friday and Saturday games from early September through early December.  By late December, Fridays and Saturdays are fair game.

On December 20, the 49ers host the Chargers and the Redskins host the Eagles.  Kickoff times are 4:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network and 8:15 p.m. ET on CBS, with an NFLN simulcast.

It’s a mini-flex concept; the league will select the better of the two games for the national broadcast audience.  Ultimately, the decision will hinge on how well the teams are doing after 15 regular-season weekends.

For now, the showdown between DeSean Jackson’s new team and his old team appears to be the more intriguing game.  That could change by late December.

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Week Nine brings 16th Brady-Manning matchup

Peyton Manning, Tom Brady AP

Death, taxes and Peyton Manning facing off against Tom Brady.

Whether Manning has been with the Colts or the Broncos, annual games against Patriots teams quarterbacked by Tom Brady have been all but certainties since 2001 and, assuming everyone’s healthy, 2014 won’t be any different. The Broncos will travel to New England in Week Nine for a late afternoon matchup at Gillette Stadium.

The Broncos won the last game between the two teams last January in the AFC Championship Game as Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns to send the Broncos. Denver wasn’t so lucky in the regular season meeting with New England when they blew a 24-0 halftime lead and lost 34-31 on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal in overtime.

Brady’s teams have won 10 of the 15 previous meetings with Manning’s clubs and most have been entertaining matchups. With Darrelle Revis, DeMarcus Ware added to the rivalry and Aqib Talib switching sides, this year’s has a good chance of measuring up.

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Collin Klein heads to Canada

Klein Getty Images

Vince Young may not want to go to Canada to continue his football career.  Ditto for Tim Tebow.

Collin Klein has no such qualms.

The former Kansas State star, who was undrafted and overlooked by the NFL last season, has signed a two-year deal with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes.

He joins former NFL receiver Chad Johnson, who signed with the Alouettes last week.

Klein was invited last year to the Texans’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, the Texans liked Klein — but not enough to sign him to the 90-man offseason roster.  He has refused to consider playing other positions.  The CFL will give him a chance to show that he can play quarterback at the professional level.

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Raiders have a tough road in 2014

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Now that the Raiders’ official schedule has been released, maybe fans and players will temper expectations that were increased by a run on veteran free agents.

Regardless of the dates and times for the games, it was known that the Raiders would play three games against the Super Bowl XLVIII teams, five games against conference finalists from 2013, nine games against 2013 playoff teams, and 12 against teams with non-losing records from a year ago.

The specific configuration of games makes it even worse.  If that’s possible.

Three of the first four games will involve 10:00 a.m. local time kickoffs, with a Week One game at the Jets, a Week Three game at the Patriots, and a Week Four “home” game against the Dolphins in London.  Week Two features a visit from the Texans, who were 2-14 last year but who are expected to be considerably better in 2014.

Then comes the bye.  And then comes the boom.

Chargers.  Cardinals.  At Browns.  At Seahawks.  Broncos.  At Chargers.  Chiefs.  At Rams.  49ers.  At Chiefs.  Bills.  At Broncos.

For a team with a coach and G.M. widely believed to be on the hot seat, maybe owner Mark Davis should consider how difficult this season will be before making a final assessment.

Given this slate of games, anything better than 5-11 should be regarded as a major accomplishment.

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Chris Johnson returns to Tennessee in Week 15

Chris Johnson AP

Wednesday night’s schedule release told us the dates and times of games during the 2014 regular season, but we already knew which games would be road contests because of the system the NFL uses to decide opponents from year to year.

Because of that, we knew that running back Chris Johnson would face his former teammates at some point this season. And now we know that the game will come in Week 15 when the Jets travel to Nashville for a 4:05 date with the Titans.

By that point in the year, we’ll have a pretty good idea if the Jets’ decision to sign Johnson paid off handsomely or not. If it did, there’s a pretty good chance that the meeting will have playoff implications for the Jets and the Titans could also find themselves in the mix for a playoff spot if things break right in Ken Whisenhunt’s first year as head coach,

The Titans beat the Jets 38-13 at LP Field in Week Four last season. It wasn’t that game that convinced the Jets to sign Johnson as he was held to 21 yards on 15 carries while Jake Locker threw three touchdown passes before leaving with an injury.

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Bears, Cowboys play on back to back Thursdays

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When the NFL decided to expand the post-Week One Thursday night package to 14 games and to play three games on Thanksgiving, a potential competitive disadvantage was created.  With 17 total short-week games, two teams potentially would be playing twice on a Sunday and then on a Thursday.

The NFL avoided that problem by scheduling two of the teams that will play on Thanksgiving to play on the following Thursday.

The Cowboys, who host the Eagles on Thanksgiving, and the Bears, who travel to Detroit on Thanksgiving, will play in Chicago on the following Thursday.

Some players complain about playing Thursday games after playing on Sunday.  Others like it, citing a less intense week of work before the Thursday game and a mini-bye on the back end.  For the Cowboys and Bears, their mini-bye will be delayed by a week, which is more fair than expecting two of the NFL teams to twice play a pair of games with only three days of rest.

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Week 17 matchups: Raiders hoping to be in on the drama this time

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Getty Images

As per recent custom, the NFL has scheduled 16 divisional games for the final Sunday of the 2014 regular season.

Here is the entire slate of Week 17 games to be played on December 28, with a quick initial take on each of the contests. The NFL will “flex” one of these games to be televised on NBC on the final Sunday of 2014:

1 p.m. Eastern games

Carolina at Atlanta — The Panthers swept this series a season ago.

Cleveland at Baltimore — The Browns haven’t won a season finale since 2009.

Dallas at Washington — The Cowboys have played for the NFC East title in regular season game No. 256 in each of the last three seasons.

Indianapolis at Tennessee — The Titans hope to play beyond the final regular season game for the first time since 2008.

Detroit at Green Bay — The teams haven’t met in Green Bay in a season finale since 2011. Does the term “The Matt Flynn Game” mean anything to you?

Jacksonville at Houston — The Jaguars have lost their last seven Week 17 road games dating back to 2005.

San Diego at Kansas City — These teams played two competitive, enjoyable games a season ago.

N.Y. Jets at Miami —  Both teams are clearly under pressure to pick it up in 2014. This seems like it will be an interesting matchup no matter the circumstances.

Chicago at Minnesota — Don’t forget — the Metrodome is gone, and these teams are meeting outdoors in Minneapolis on the last Sunday in December. Snow game? Yes — yes, please.

Buffalo at New England — The Patriots have been quite skilled at taking care of business before Week 17 commences.

Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants — The Giants finish at home for the fourth straight year. They are 3-0 in those season finales.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh — This figures to be a bear of a game for the Bengals no matter the circumstances. Cincinnati faltered in its trip to Heinz Field a season ago.

New Orleans at Tampa Bay — The Buccaneers have lost six straight to New Orleans.

4:25 p.m. Eastern games

Oakland at Denver — If the Raiders are in striking range of a playoff spot, their offseason plan will have been a success. But if they are playing out the string once again . . .

Arizona at San Francisco — This is the kind of game the Cardinals will need to win to break through in the ultratough NFC West.

St. Louis at Seattle — This is the kind of game the Rams will need to win to break through in the ultratough NFC West.

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The boos might be brrrrrrs when Jared Allen returns to Minnesota

Bears Allen Football AP

Bears defensive end Jared Allen expects to get booed when he goes back to Minnesota.

Of course, the fans there will have to be extra loud to be heard through all the layers of clothing.

The Bears close the regular season at Minnesota on Dec. 28, which ought to be fairly chilly considering the Vikings are playing outdoors at the University of Minnesota this year.

The two teams play in Chicago on November 16.

Ordinarily with a player of Allen’s age (32), you’d worry about him wearing down late in seasons. But he’s played a remarkable number of snaps and remained productive, so odds are he’ll have something in store for his old team.

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