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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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Slim chance Romo plays again this year

Tony Romo AP

On Friday, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will find out whether his left clavicle has indeed been fractured again. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the bone most likely has once again been broken.

If it’s broken, Romo won’t play again this year. But what if it’s not broken?

ESPN’s Ed Werder reports that Romo’s season is over regardless of the outcome of the CT scan. PFT has been told, however, that there’s still a slim chance Romo will return.

First, the collarbone would have to not be broken. Second, the Cowboys would have to win multiple games without Romo in order to make his return in three weeks or so relevant to the team’s effort to catch the Giants in the NFC East.

That’s a tall order, given that the Cowboys are 0-7 without Romo in 2015.

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Lacy rolling early, just misses blooper-reel play

Green Bay Packers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Eddie Lacy is running like he has something to prove, and the Packers have an early 7-0 lead on the Bears.

Lacy turned a short pass from Aaron Rodgers into a 25-yard touchdown with 5:15 left in the first quarter. After losing his starting job earlier this season amid struggles with injuries and his weight, Lacy looks fast and determined tonight.

The touchdown survived a review. Lacy flipped the ball backwards near the goal line, close enough that a second and third look were necessary to make sure the ball had crossed the goal line before he flung it backwards into the air.

It would have been the kind of blooper-reel play that lived for a long time.

Lacy has 6 carries for 48 yards. He had a 29-yard run on the game’s first possession but was stuffed on fourth and 2 as the Packers chose to be aggressive early in the game.

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Watch Bears-Packers on NBC Sports Live Extra

Aaron Rodgers AP

Not everyone is currently crowded around a TV. For those of you who aren’t, you can still see the Thanksgiving NFL nightcap.

The Bears-Packers contest can be seen at NBC Sports Live Extra. You also can watch the game by downloading the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

After a couple of snoozers to start the day, here’s hoping the Bears give the Packers all they can handle, while you keep giving your gullet all the food and drink it can handle. And then some.

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Source: “Most likely” a small fracture for Romo

Tony Romo AP

X-rays apparently were inconclusive. By Friday, an answer will emerge as to the status of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s twice-broken left collarbone.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, there’s “most likely” a small fracture in the bone.

After Thursday’s loss, Romo told reporters that the sensation was similar to his past experiences with breaking the bone. He’ll have a CT scan to determine whether the bone is indeed broken.

If it’s broken, Romo undoubtedly will be done for the year. If it’s not broken, it’ll be interesting to see when he returns — especially with the Cowboys at 3-8.

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Tony Romo: Shoulder “feels similar” to first broken collarbone

Tony Romo AP

Tony Romo’s immediate reaction gave no reason for optimism.

And while they’re not calling it yet, there’s not much reason for any.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he didn’t have any update on the injured left shoulder that knocked his quarterback out Sunday, but Romo didn’t seem confident, as he stood at the podium with his left arm in a sling.

Via Ed Werder of ESPN, Romo said “It feels similar” to the broken clavicle he suffered in Week Two against the Eagles, but that he wanted to wait for more tests tomorrow.

Romo landed hard on his shoulder near the end of the third quarter, as he was being tackled by Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. He immediately grabbed his left shoulder, in obvious pain.

Now the questions will turn to whether Romo returned too soon from what Jones said was six fractures. He was wearing extra padding to try to protect the area, but it clearly didn’t work.

And now, the Cowboys can’t expect to either.

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Panthers stay perfect with thorough thrashing of Cowboys

Luke Kuechly, Bene' Benwikere, Cole Beasley AP

The Panthers stayed undefeated, and made perhaps their most convincing case yet that their 11-0 record is not an accident.

And the Cowboys found out there was something worse than Tony Romo throwing three interceptions in the first half.

The Panthers rolled to a dominant 33-14 win over the Cowboys, whose nightmare season took another turn as Romo left late in the third quarter to get X-rays on his left clavicle.

While that dropped the Cowboys to 3-8, it also extinguished any hope they had of turning things around if Romo’s not going to be able to return. They had a bit of confidence when he came back last week and helped them snap a seven-game losing streak, which coincided with his absence from his first broken left clavicle.

But for the Panthers, it was a celebration long before Romo gave way to Matt Cassel.

They turned three Romo interceptions into 17 points in the first half and never looked back, sustaining drives in the second half with a powerful run game. They needed it, as the Cowboys played well enough defensively in the first half to keep it reasonably close.

But at this point, the Panthers’ formula is evident, as they won their 15th straight regular season game, dating back to last season. By the time they play their next game on Dec. 6, it will be 371 days since they last lost a regular season game (Nov. 30, 2014 at the Vikings).

They can run the ball, topping 100 yards as a team for the 22nd straight game.

They can pass-protect better than advertised, keeping a largely clean pocket for Cam Newton, and negating Greg Hardy’s effort at revenge. Newton was sacked just once, and Hardy made no impact on the game against his old team.

They can stop the run, limiting Dallas to 16 rushing yards in the first half and just 15 in the second.

And they can create takeaways, as they entered the week leading the league in turnovers created and points off turnovers. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly had a pair of interceptions, returning one for a score (after safety Kurt Coleman had a pick-six of his own).

It’s a formula that could carry them to the Super Bowl, and give them a serious chance at a 16-0 season. Their remaining five games are at New Orleans, at home against the Falcons, followed by back-to-back road games against the Giants and Falcons and their home finale against the Buccaneers.

While they were a Vegas underdog to start this week, it’s hard to see that being the case again, unless the oddsmakers see the trip to New York as a potential slip.

But even if they do lose a game at some point, they showed a national audience Thursday that their success is legitimate, and that they’re one of the two most dangerous teams in the league.

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Forte, Jeffery active for Thursday nightcap

Forte Getty Images

The Bears will have running back Matt Forte and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the lineup for Thursday night’s game at Green Bay.

Forte (knee) and Jeffery (groin) had been listed as questionable. Forte has missed the last three games, and rookie Jeremy Langford has played well in his place.

As previously announced, the Bears will be without tight end Martellus Bennett (ribs) and wide receiver Eddie Royal (knee). Bennett leads the Bears with 50 receptions, while Jeffery leads the team with 515 receiving yards.

Linebacker Pernell McPhee, who had also been questionable with a knee injury, will also play. Starting defensive Will Sutton was not on the injury report but is inactive.

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X-rays for Romo on left collarbone

Tony Romo AP

In the second game of the season, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo broke his left collarbone. In his second game back from the injury, he may have broken it again.

Via Tracy Wolfson of CBS, Romo currently is getting X-rays on the clavicle, which owner Jerry Jones recently suggested was broken in multiple places.

‘To give you an idea, if you ever want to make a picture of his positive competitive mentality, do it when he came back off a shoulder that had six fractures,” Jones said Sunday, after a 24-14 win at Miami. “OK? Six. OK!”

Regardless of whether it’s one break or more, the Cowboys are now facing life without Romo again, which would almost certainly bring an end to a season that started with such high expectations, after an unexpected surge to 12-4 in 2014.

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Panthers rolling, Tony Romo leaves game after shot to shoulder

Cam Newton, Randy Gregory AP

It looked like the Cowboys were going to trade field goals with the Panthers to open the second half.

But then they made another mistake, one that they can’t trace to Tony Romo, and the Panthers are pulling away.

After Cowboys rookie Byron Jones was flagged for leaping over the line on a field goal try, the Panthers kept the drive going and finally found the end zone on offense.

Cam Newton ran in from 4 yards out, giving the Panthers a 30-6 lead late in the third quarter.

But the news got worse for Dallas, as Romo went down on the next to last play of the third quarter, landing hard on his left shoulder. That’s the one with the broken collarbone that cost him seven games.

So as bad as the game is for the Cowboys, the news could be getting even worse.

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Greg Hardy not able to start the second half

hardy_1200 Getty Images

Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy wanted to prove to the Panthers they made a mistake letting him go.

But he hasn’t been able to make an impact on the game so far, and he wasn’t even on the field when the second half began.

Hardy didn’t record a statistic in the first half, the Panthers lead 23-3. Then when they came out for the second half, Hardy came out without a helmet, and took a seat on the bench.

Via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Hardy was taking oxygen on the sidelines during the first series of the second half. Hardy has dealt with asthma his entire career.

UPDATE 6:35 p.m. ET: Hardy returned to the field for the second possession.

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Tony Romo keeps throwing picks, Panthers lead 20-3

Tony Romo

The Panthers aren’t having as much success offensively as they’re accustomed to.

They might not need to do much more.

Luke Kuechly just returned an interception for a touchdown, the second pick-six of Tony Romo on the day, giving the Panthers a 20-3 lead in the second quarter.

Coupled with Kurt Coleman’s touchdown and then another pick by Kuechly, the Panthers are rolling in the late stages of the second quarter.

The big mistakes from Romo have undermined an otherwise good day by his defense, which has kept Cam Newton frustrated, forcing him to settle for a pair of field goals. But with the job the Panthers are doing on Romo (Dez Bryant still doesn’t have a catch), Newton will eventually end up smiling.

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Colts claim RB Boom Herron

Indianapolis Colts v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Colts claimed running back Boom Herron on Thursday, bringing back the player who emerged as their top running back in last year’s playoffs.

Herron was waived-injured by the Colts after he was injured in the final preseason game, then released with an injury settlement. He signed with the Bills and played four games before being waived Wednesday.

Running back Zurlon Tipton was waived to make room for Herron on the roster.

A sixth-round pick of the Bengals in 2012, Herron played five games for the Colts in 2013 after being signed off of the Bengals’ practice squad. He played in all 16 games and made three starts for the Colts last season. He ran well down the stretch, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, and ran 45 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns in the Colts’ three playoff games.

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Report: Patriots placing Dobson on IR

Aaron Dobson AP

An ankle injury has ended the season for Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson.

ESPN’s Field Yates reported Thursday that the team will place Dobson on injured reserve and replace him on the roster with safety Dewey McDonald.

Dobson suffered what was originally diagnosed as a high ankle sprain during last Monday’s win over the Bills. The Patriots are low on receivers with Julian Edelman out for an extended period, Danny Amendola dealing with a knee injury and Keshawn Martin dealing with a hamstring injury, so the loss of Dobson is significant even though he was not a starter.

The injury situation forced the Patriots to work out three wide receivers on Wednesday.

The Patriots claimed McDonald from the Colts earlier in the season. He’s been on and off the roster since then and is primarily a special teams player.

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Panthers start things off with a quick pick-six

Kurt Coleman AP

It’s hard to imagine not being able to see a Panthers player in these eye-popping blue uniforms they’re wearing today.

And yet, Tony Romo just did.

The Panthers took a quick 7-0 lead in Dallas, with Kurt Coleman picking off Romo and returning it for a touchdown.

The interception was Coleman’s fifth of the year for the Panthers, as he’s proven to be an excellent free agent pickup for a defense that continues to create turnovers.

They followed by forcing a quick three-and-out, establishing an early tone.

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Washington loses Chris Culliver to torn ACL in practice

Detroit Lions v Washington Redskins Getty Images

It’s getting harder for Washington to be thankful today.

According to John Keim of, Washington cornerback Chris Culliver is out for the season, after suffering a torn ACL in practice today.

Culliver joined the team in free agency in March, but hadn’t exactly lived up to his four-year, $32 million contract. He was also suspended a game earlier this season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

Washington is reasonably deep at the position, considering they’ve been working veteran DeAngelo Hall at safety. But with Culliver’s injury coming so late in the season, there will be some reasonable concern as to whether he’ll be ready for next year’s opener.

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