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PFT’s Week 11 picks

McCown AP

The good news?  I picked up two games on MDS last weekend.  The bad news?  I’m still behind by five.

The worst news?  Since we only disagree on two games this week, I don’t have much of a chance of narrowing the gap.

For the week, I was a measly 8-6.  Which means MDS was a pathetic 6-8.  (Almost as pathetic as my 5-8 from Week Nine.)

For the year, he’s 95-52 on the season, and I’m 90-57.

For all our picks — and based on our recent performances we suggest doing the opposite, for amusement purposes only — read on.

Colts at Titans

MDS’s take: The Colts and Titans had the two worst performances in the NFL on Sunday. Losing to the Rams by 30 is humiliating, and losing to the Jaguars by any amount is even worse. Now they have to shake it off on a short work week. The 4-5 Titans can pull to within a game of the Colts in the AFC South with a win, but I trust Indianapolis to rebound from last week more than I trust Tennessee.

MDS’s pick: Colts 24, Titans 20.

Florio’s take:  But for Gary Kubiak collapsing at halftime and the Texans plummeting into disarray with a 24-6 lead, the Colts would be 1-3 over the last four weeks.  Even worse, they lost by 30 at home to the Rams.  While that’s a lot to recover from on a short week, the Titans lost to the Jaguars — and they’ve lost their starting quarterback.  Again.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 20, Titans 17.

Jets at Bills

MDS’s take: I haven’t been able to figure out the Jets all season, so why should now be any different? On paper they look to me like a better team than the Bills, and yet I think the Buffalo defense can give Geno Smith fits and lead the Bills to a low-scoring win.

MDS’s pick: Bills 9, Jets 6.

Florio’s take:  The Jets break their win-one-lose-one trend by facing a team that has lost plenty, along with the interest of its fans.  Geno Smith moves to 2-0 against the only quarterback drafted in front of him.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 24, Bills 16.

Ravens at Bears

MDS’s take: The Bears’ playoff hopes took a huge hit with last week’s loss to the Lions, while the Ravens’ playoff hopes stayed alive with last week’s win over the Bengals. This week things will go in the other direction. The way to beat the Bears is to run the football, and the Ravens are terrible at running the football. The Bears will take this one.

MDS’s pick: Bears 27, Ravens 17.

Florio’s take:  No more excuses for Joe Flacco.  While his weapons are diminished, so is the Chicago defense.  And the Bears have once again resorted to Josh McCown.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 23, Bears 17.

Browns at Bengals

MDS’s take: This is a big game in the AFC North. If the Browns win they’ll be just half a game behind the Bengals, and they’ll own the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Browns are playing good football recently and the Bengals are struggling, and this has all the makings of a huge win for Cleveland and yet . . . I just can’t pick the Browns. A.J. Green will make enough big plays to win this one.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 28, Browns 20.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals are unbeaten at home.  But they haven’t played at home since losing Geno Atkins for the year.  And the Browns finally have found a quarterback.  A Cleveland sweep would throw the AFC North into complete disarray, but it’s time for the Bengals to reverse the slide.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 27, Browns 20.

Raiders at Texans

MDS’s take: This should be Sunday’s ugliest game, as neither team is particularly good in any phase. The one compelling aspect of this matchup is that both teams have young quarterbacks who have shown flashes of talent. I’ll trust a healthy Case Keenum to make a few more big plays than Terrelle Pryor on a bum knee, and that will be the difference.

MDS’s pick: Texans 27, Raiders 20.

Florio’s take:  It’s the Sam Rosen-Bill Maas game of the week.  And if the Texans can’t find a way to break a seven-game slide against a slumping team that is getting close to the point where Matt McGloin should get a tryout, the Texans may not win another game this year.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 24, Raiders 14.

Cardinals at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Jaguars turned in one good game against the Titans, but they won’t make it two in a row. The Cardinals’ defense is too good and the Jaguars’ offense is too bad for this game to be close.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 21, Jaguars 6.

Florio’s take:  The Jaguars surprised the Titans.  The Jaguars won’t be surprising anyone else this year.  Especially not the playoff contenders with great defenses.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 24, Jaguars 9.

Chargers at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The locker-room distractions are an issue for the Dolphins, but a bigger issue on Sunday is that the Dolphins just don’t have the kind of defense that matches up well with the Chargers’ passing attack. San Diego will put a lot of points on the board in Miami.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 34, Dolphins 24.

Florio’s take:  The up-and-down Chargers face the down-and-out Dolphins.  If Miami can’t beat the Bucs, it’s hard to see them beating the Chargers.  Or pretty much anyone.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 28, Dolphins 20.

Redskins at Eagles

MDS’s take: Philadelphia is rolling with Nick Foles right now, and he should put up more big numbers against a bad Washington secondary. When these teams played in the Monday night opener Philadelphia jumped out to an early lead and Washington couldn’t catch up, and I see this game going the same way.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 30, Redskins 23.

Florio’s take:  The Eagles haven’t won at home since September 30, 2012.  And yet they’re 5-5.  The Redskins are 3-6 for the second straight year.  And yet they think they can once again turn things around.  More importantly, the third-round pick from 2012 is currently looking a lot better than the second overall selection from last year.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 30, Redskins 20.

Lions at Steelers

MDS’s take: This could be a trap game for Detroit, which is celebrating being in first place this late in the season for the first time since the pre-Matt Millen era. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, an old and slow defense can’t keep up with the Lions’ offense for four quarters. Look for the Lions to get off to a sluggish start but put the Steelers away late.

MDS’s pick: Lions 31, Steelers 20.

Florio’s take:  The Lions haven’t won in Pittsburgh since Bobby Layne was the quarterback.  Of the Lions.  A full 58 years and four days later, the Lions are good and the Steelers are bad and yes it’s that simple.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Steelers 21.

Falcons at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: The Bucs are a bad team, but they’re not as bad as people think. There’s a lot of talent on that defense, and Mike Glennon is playing solid football as a rookie quarterback. The Falcons are on a path from first to worst in the NFC South, and a loss in Tampa Bay will show just how far Atlanta has fallen.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 21, Falcons 20.

Florio’s take:  It’s the Battle for the Basement, Part II.  The Falcons have done nothing to show that they’ll be able to beat the Bucs, or anyone, on the road.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 21, Falcons 13.

49ers at Saints

MDS’s take: The 49ers’ offense is struggling mightily, while the Saints’ offense is exploding. Hard for me to see the 49ers going to New Orleans and winning.

MDS’s pick: Saints 31, 49ers 17.

Florio’s take:  Last year, Colin Kaepernick cemented his grip on the starting quarterback job by beating the Saints in New Orleans.  This year, the questions regarding whether the Niners kept the wrong guy will intensify.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, 49ers 24.

Vikings at Seahawks

MDS’s take: This will be an easy win for the Seahawks, who continue their march to the No. 1 seed in the NFC. I’ll be surprised if the Vikings keep it close.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 41, Vikings 10.

Florio’s take:  Regardless of whether Percy Harvin plays (or doesn’t) for the Seahawks or whether he was playing for the Vikings, it won’t matter.  The Seahawks are far superior, and they’re playing where they never lose.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 27, Vikings 10.

Packers at Giants

MDS’s take: A couple weeks ago this looked like an easy win for the Packers. Now Aaron Rodgers is hurt, and Seneca Wallace is hurt too, and the Giants are playing better, and all of a sudden it looks like an easy win for the Giants.

MDS’s pick: Giants 24, Packers 13.

Florio’s take:  Scott Tolzein vs. non-Eli Eli Manning.  Is there anything else on TV then?

Florio’s pick:  Giants 24, Packers 17.

Chiefs at Broncos

MDS’s take: The pressure in this game is on the Broncos.  If the Chiefs, who already have a one-game lead in the division, were to win on the road at Denver, they’d establish themselves as the clear favorites to win the AFC West. But I expect the Broncos to turn in one of their best games of the season and win this one handily.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 35, Chiefs 20.

Florio’s take:  The Colts provided the blueprint . . . for holding the Broncos to 33 points.  The Chiefs have the defense to do the same thing.  As long as they can score 34.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 33, Chiefs 27.

Patriots at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Patriots’ offense is getting better after a rough start to the season, but they’re running into a buzz saw in Carolina, where the Panthers’ defense has been outstanding. Carolina will win a tough, physical game.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 24, Patriots 10.

Florio’s take:  The Panthers have the ability to do to Tom Brady what the Giants did to Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI.  And they will.  Repeatedly.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 20, Patriots 13.

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North rolls to 34-13 victory in Senior Bowl

Ameer Abdullah AP

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah garnered Most Outstanding Player honors as the North pulled away to a 34-13 victory in Saturday’s Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.

One of the more well-regarded backs in the Class of 2015, Abdullah (5-8, 198) gained 73 yards rushing on just seven carries and added four receptions on 40 yards for the North, which was led by the Titans’ coaching staff.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty (North) paced all passers with 123 yards on 9-of-13 attempts, though he was picked once. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion added 79 yards on 9-of-13 passes for the North, including a touchdown pass to Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack.

Yale running back Tyler Varga scored a pair of fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns for the North, which outscored the South 24-6 after halftime. Minnesota running back David Cobb (11 carries, 69 yards) added the North’s other TD.

Northern Iowa running back David Johnson tallied the South’s lone touchdown, a 19-yard first-quarter score. Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson led the South with 118 yards passing on 8-of-15 attempts.

The Jaguars coached the South team. Jacksonville selects third in the upcoming draft, with Tennessee picking second.

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Oddsmaker: Super Bowl line won’t reach a field goal

Las Vegas Strip Exteriors Getty Images

The defending-champion Seahawks remain one-point underdogs to New England at the majority of Nevada sports books.

And the price has even inched up a little at one notable book.

As Micah Roberts of “The Linemakers” of Sporting News notes, Wynn Las Vegas moved Seattle to a 1.5-point underdog on Saturday, becoming the first Nevada sports book to go that high.

However, Wynn oddsmaker John Avello told Roberts that “we’re not seeing anyone rush to the windows” to back Seattle, even at the higher price.

Avello, for his part, told “The Linemakers” he suspects “those looking to bet large” on the Seahawks are hoping the line hits a field goal, but the veteran Las Vegas oddsmaker doesn’t believe that will happen.

“I could see 2 or maybe even 2.5, but not 3,” Avello said, according to “The Linemakers.”

The Seahawks opened as slight favorites on Sunday night, but Patriots money drove the line toward New England, which is now favored at numerous hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, including the MGM and Caesars properties.

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Saints reach deal with CFL CB Delvin Breaux

Division Finals - Montreal Alouettes v Hamilton Tiger-Cats Getty Images

The Saints are signing a CFL star with Louisiana ties.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, New Orleans has reached a deal with ex-Hamilton Tiger-Cats cornerback Delvin Breaux.

In his second season with Hamilton, the 25-year-old Breaux (6-1, 196) was voted to the CFL’s 2014 All-Star squad.

A serious neck injury prevented Breaux, a one-time LSU signee, from playing college football, but he caught on with the Arena Football League’s New Orleans VooDoo in 2012 before joining Hamilton.

Breaux had workouts with 13 NFL clubs, ESPN reported.

The Ticats released Breaux on Saturday, which presumably allows him to join New Orleans.

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NFL warns Marshawn Lynch a crotch grab will cost 15 yards

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The threat of fines has not deterred Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch from grabbing his crotch after scoring touchdowns. But the threat of a 15-yard penalty might.

The NFL wants Lynch to know that officials will be on the lookout and ready to assess a 15-yard penalty if Lynch does it again. NFL V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio that the Seahawks have been warned that if Lynch makes an obscene gesture at any time during Super Bowl XLIX, the Seahawks will be penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Blandino told Paolantonio that if Lynch grabs his crotch after scoring a touchdown, “that means they will kick off from the 20 yard line.”

That’s where the Seahawks would have kicked off after Lynch scored a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game. If the officials had seen Lynch grab his crotch, he would have been penalized.

Lynch got away with it that time. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will probably tell Lynch in no uncertain terms that he can’t risk it in the Super Bowl. If Lynch wants to pay a fine out of his own paycheck, that’s his business. If he hurts the team, that’s another story.

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Over-Under on Doug Baldwin’s Super Bowl catches: four

Doug Baldwin AP

Welcome to Day Two of PFT’s Prop Challenge, where we analyze one of the hundreds of Super Bowl XLIX proposition bets set by Las Vegas oddsmakers and let you vote upon what side you would take — hypothetically, of course.

On Day One, we took a closer look at the Over-Under on Patriots wideout Brandon LaFell’s Super Bowl receiving yards, which the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook sets at 50.5 yards.

With a little more than 5,000 votes in our poll, OVER 50.5 yards for Brandon LaFell in Super Bowl XLIX leads by a 55-45 margin.

So on to the next order of business.

As promised, the second prop is a Seahawks one. And it’s also a receiving-related gamble.

Linemaker William Hill U.S. sets the Over-Under on Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin’s receptions at four.

The OVER, interestingly enough, is even money, meaning bettors will double up on a winning bet.

The UNDER, however, is -120, meaning bettors have to bet $12 to win $10.

In short, OVER four catches is set to entice.

Again, we turn to you. Including the playoffs, Baldwin averages 4.2 catches per contest, and he’s exceeded four catches seven times. In his last five postseason games, Baldwin has caught 22-of-28 passes thrown his way, including all five targets in Super Bowl XLVIII.

On the other hand, Baldwin faces a strong New England secondary headlined by standout cornerback Darrelle Revis, one of the game’s very best at his position.

Which way to go — OVER or UNDER four catches for Doug Baldwin? Cast your vote and tell us in the comments.

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Belichick’s explanation invites scrutiny, analysis, testing

Pesci

By offering a detailed explanation of the things the Patriots do to prepare their footballs for games and the pressure changes that occur inside the bladders contained in those footballs, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has thrown down the gauntlet to anyone who would doubt his version of reality.

And now the media outlets that spent the week comparing balls inflated to 12.5 PSI with balls inflated to 10.5 PSI will parse through Belichick’s words, copy his recipe, and try it on their own footballs.  With actual scientists, not a football coach, reporting the results.

On one hand, Belichick deliberately has set up what the lawyers call a “battle of the experts.”  It happens in a trial when one side brings in a witness with specialized knowledge who tells one story based on the physical evidence and the other side brings in a witness with specialized knowledge who tells the exact opposite story based on that same evidence.

That reality makes Belichick’s My Cousin Vinny reference even more appropriate.  In that film, Mona Lisa Vito testified as an expert witness who obliterated the testimony from the dude who played the prosecutor in the Seinfeld finale.  In real life, there’s a chance that Belichick will be the guy who played the prosecutor in the Seinfeld finale — and that a looming litany of scientists and engineers and other highly-educated folks will duplicate the variables contained in Belichick’s explanation, come to their own conclusions, and eventually reprise Joe Pesci’s two-sentence opening statement from the trial at which Ms. Vito testified:

“Everything that guy just said is bullsh-t.  Thank you.”

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Belichick now has the ammunition to get his team ready to beat Seattle

Belichick AP

During an epic, unexpected, and entirely bizarre Saturday press conference, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he was “embarrassed” to admit the amount of time he’d spent in recent days on football air pressure.

In the end, it could be time well spent.

As he turns his focus to the Super Bowl after a week that has been marred by #DeflateGate, Belichick now has everything he needs to motivate his players to have the game of their lives against Seattle.

“This is the kind of thing that he is able to manipulate minds with,” one league source said.  “‘Us against the world. . . .  ‘No one thinks you can win unless we cheat.’ . . .  ‘The world is calling us cheaters.’ . . .  ‘They don’t think we belong here.'”

The ultimate prediction from the source?  “The Patriots are going to slaughter the Seahawks.”

That said, the Seahawks are pretty good.  And they’ve been able to make good use of the past six days.

“This was an excellent week for us,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Friday.  “We did it just the way we wanted to.  We practiced as though we were playing a game this week so we got all the installation in as we always do so we’re ready to go.”

Carroll also realizes that he has been able to allow his team to focus fully on the task at hand.

“It’s a big deal for them,” Carroll said of the lingering ball-deflation controversy.  “I know they’re dealing with it.  It isn’t for us at all. It has no bearing on anything.”

But if Belichick is able to better press his players’ buttons because of the pending investigation and widespread accusations, it will definitely have a bearing on Carroll’s team in eight days.

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Bill Belichick quotes science, My Cousin Vinny in bizarre presser

Belichick AP

The Patriots raised the bar on the normal Friday afternoon news dump, calling a 2:30 p.m. ET press conference on the Saturday before the Super Bowl.

And after making reporters wait 35 minutes, it was coach Bill Belichick taking the podium, to tell reporters, “I believe 100 percent we have followed every rule to the letter.”

Belichick detailed their process for preparing balls for game day, and he said their process of getting balls ready raised the air pressure by one pound per square inch. He then talked about putting his quarterbacks through a series of tests to see if they could tell the difference in balls at different air pressure.

He insisted the balls weren’t prepared in a heated room, or treated in any unique way.

There was a lot of scientific bluster from Belichick, none of which explained why 11 of his 12 balls weren’t in compliance but all 12 of the Colts’ were.

He even quoted the movie My Cousin Vinny, saying he was “no Mona Lisa Vito,” in terms of ball knowledge compared to Marisa Tomei’s character’s mechanical knowledge.

“I’m embarrassed to talk about the amount of time I’ve put into this, relative to the challenge in front of us,” Belichick said.

In many ways, we all are.

But it’s hard to tell after this press conference that we’re any closer to knowing what happened.

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Matthew Slater: NFLPA has “instructed” Patriots players to “reserve comment” on deflation investigation

Matthew Slater AP

The NFL’s football-deflation investigation figures to be much discussed at the Super Bowl.

However, the discussion might go on without Patriots players contributing much.

At a Saturday morning press conference, Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater said the NFL Players Association had recommended New England players not publicly address the issue.

“I’d love to get into that with you, but we have been instructed by our union as players to reserve comment on this situation,” Slater said. “It’s an ongoing investigation, so in order to protect our players, we’re going to go ahead and not talk about that.”

Slater’s response was to a question about “Deflategate” and how the NFL might prevent such a controversy from occurring again.

Slater, 29, is the Patriots’ player representative. He is regarded as one of the NFL’s top special teams coverage players.

No matter the NFLPA’s recommendations, the “Deflategate” questions will come at the Super Bowl. Moreover, it’s likely Patriots players would politely parry them away all the same.

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Pete Carroll declares the Earl Thomas injury to be “over”

Thomas Getty Images

The official injury report, which had Seahawks safety Earl Thomas participating in practice on a limited basis on Friday, suggests that the player is still dealing with a shoulder injury suffered in the first half of the NFC title game.  The team’s head coach says Thomas isn’t.

“It’s over,” Carroll told reporters on Friday.  “It’s over, really.  It was two days of him being very uncomfortable with the setting and it’s over now.  He was back in action and in full flow today.”

Discomfort is only part of the problem for Thomas, as former NFL athletic trainer and NBC Sports Medicine Analyst Mike Ryan said on Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio.  Ryan explained it’s not about pain but range of motion, if Thomas will be wearing a harness to stabilize the shoulder he dislocated.  Ryan said that could make it difficult for Thomas to reached over his head with his hands and arms — which could hamper his ability to deal with a tall pass-catcher like Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

For all of Friday’s show (really, I didn’t pick this topic for the sole purpose of pushing the on-demand stream), click the show logo in the top right corner of the page or the NBC Sports Radio logo in the right rail.  Other guests included Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe and ESPN, Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

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Report: Colts LB Andrew Jackson arrested on suspicion of DUI

Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

A Colts player was reportedly cited for a potential DUI charge.

According to Fox 59 in Indianapolis, inside linebacker Andrew Jackson was cited for suspicion of DUI and reckless driving early Friday morning in Kentucky. He was released later in the day, per the report.

A sixth-round pick of the Colts in the 2014 draft, the 22-year-old Jackson appeared in 13 regular season games and all three playoff contests for Indianapolis as a reserve. He played collegiately at Western Kentucky.

Per NFL guidelines, Jackson could face league discipline, depending upon the outcome of the case.

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Jets tab Pepper Johnson as defensive line coach

New Orleans Saints Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Getty Images

Pepper Johnson is staying in the AFC East.

The Jets have hired Johnson as their defensive line coach, the team said Saturday morning.

The 50-year-old Johnson coached the Bills’ defensive line in 2014. Previously, he was a Patriots assistant for 14 seasons (2000-2013).

This is Johnson’s second stint with the Jets organization. His final two playing seasons were with the club as a player under coach Bill Parcells (1997-1998).

Johnson interviewed for the Giants’ defensive coordinator role this offseason, but he did not get the job. Afterwards, Johnson told the New York Daily News that he feels “bottled up” at this stage of his coaching career having yet to be a coordinator.

“I have a lot of knowledge and a lot of information that I feel like I just have to keep to myself,” Johnson said, per the Daily News.

However, by taking the Jets’ job, Johnson again gets to work with a top-caliber defensive line. Moreover, his expertise and experience should make him an asset to new head coach Todd Bowles’ staff.

And most of all, he stays in the NFL coaching ranks, which is a good thing, for not having a position would necessitate getting back into the league, which takes time and can stall career momentum.

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Saturday morning one-liners

Valet Getty Images

On this day in 1994, the Bills won their fourth and final (so far) AFC title, with a 30-13 victory over Kansas City and Joe Montana.

Former Dolphins QB Damon Huard says an unnamed former punter on the team routinely overinflated balls, in the years before the “K” ball.

In high school, Patriots LB Akeem Ayers resisted the charms of Seattle coach Pete Carroll in picking UCLA over USC; Ayers has never beaten Carroll in the player’s college or pro career.

New Jets G.M. Mike Maccagnan wants to bury the hatchet with WFAN’s Mike Francesa.  (Francesa seems to think that maybe the Jets want to bury it in his head.)

It’s unusual that new Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo didn’t review film of QB Johnny Manziel before taking the job.  (Especially since it would have taken about five minutes.)

The Steelers hope to apply more pressure to opposing quarterbacks.

The Ravens won’t be raising ticket prices in 2015, for the second straight year.

With all teams gathering in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, it became clear the Bengals have it better than most.

The Colts see themselves as the Bulls and the Patriots as the Pistons.

Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis is in an ugly custody dispute, which turned uglier once the child’s porn-star mother learned Lewis is trying to get full custody.

Titans QB Charlie Whitehurst admits to taking air out of footballs; “[T]hey’re more fun to throw.  You can tell a difference.”

Offseason front-office shuffling became official for the Texans on Friday.

J.J. Watt endorses the Broncos’ decision to lure defensive line coach Bill Kollar from Houston.

The Chiefs won’t be signing CFL WR Duron Carter, son of Cris.

Raiders WR Tim Brown realizes he’d have a better chance at Canton if he’d left the Raiders for a team with a franchise quarterback.

Chargers G.M. Tom Telesco says the team is at the midway point of its draft preparations.

Cowboys QB Tony Romo says questions about air pressure in footballs should be directed not to the coach but to the ball boys and the quarterback.

Giants CB Walter Thurmond, who tore a pectoral muscle in Week Two, would like to return in 2015.

Washington G.M. Scot McCloughan is looking at “the whole package” when drafting a player.

Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News determined that the Eagles had the best special teams in 2014.

Denver LB DeMarcus Ware thinks the Bears have gotten a great coach in John Fox.

Lions CB Rashean Mathis hopes to play one more year.

Packers FB John Kuhn wants to stay in Green Bay, but the impending free agent intends to test the market.

Despite being only one win away from securing a Super Bowl title with Seattle, DT Kevin Williams intends to retire as a member of the Vikings.

Panthers QB Derek Anderson apparently doesn’t think #DeflateGate is funny, either.

Players who previously played for Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan remain in his corner.

New Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian says it wasn’t easy to leave the University of Tennessee.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan wore a wire at Pro Bowl practice.

It now appears that Dick LeBeau won’t be joining the Cardinals.

Rams G.M. Les Snead seemed to be paying extra attention to offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl.

From acting with Tony Soprano to working with Tony Sparano, 49ers defensive coordinator Eric Mangini pulls off the rarest of combinations.

Before being signed by the Seahawks on January 5, DT Landon Cohen was working as a valet parker in South Carolina.

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Romo is pressing Jerry to re-sign DeMarco and Dez

Tony Romo, Jerry Jones AP

Tony Romo wants Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray to remain in Dallas. Jerry Jones knows that.

Romo made sure Jones knows the importance of re-signing the Cowboys’ top wide receiver and top running back. Romo told KESN-FM that he’s been talking to Jones “pretty consistently” about re-signing both.

“I think everybody understands how great these guys are and how lucky we are to have them,” Romo said, via the Dallas Morning News. “Any time you get talented guys where you can put more than two on one side of the ball, you get three, four, if you’re lucky enough to ever get five, it’s one of those things where if you can put a group like that together you can make a run and be very difficult for teams to deal with for years. I think that’s what you’re trying to build ultimately is to have sustained success. We have an opportunity to have that.”

Romo didn’t say anything about taking a pay cut to help the Cowboys fit both Bryant and Murray under the salary cap, but one of the things that will help create some cap space is if Romo restructures his contract, as he’s expected to do. Jones is still hoping he can build a Super Bowl team with Romo at the helm, and so Jones would be willing to push some of Romo’s cap hit to future years if that helps the Cowboys win now.

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First Hernandez murder trial could start Tuesday

Hernandez AP

With jury selection nearly complete, the first murder trial against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez could begin as soon as Tuesday, with opening statements.

Via the Associated Press, Judge E. Susan Garsh has cleared a pool of 53 potential jurors.  The judge individually questioned the jurors in search of potential bias, a hardship that would prevent them from serving on a lengthy trial, or any other valid reason to be excused.

The lawyers for the prosecution and for Hernandez will be permitted to eliminate 18 potential jurors each from the panel.  The goal will be to have 18 jurors (12 main jurors and six alternates) in place for Tuesday.

If my math is correct (and it rarely is), Judge Garsh will need to clear one more juror to allow 36 to be stricken by the parties.  With only 53, striking 36 would leave 17.

Hernandez is accused of killing Odin Lloyd in June 2013.  Hernandez faces two other murder charges from an incident in July 2012.

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