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PFT’s Week 16 picks

Titans AP

I entered the week eight games behind MDS.  I exited the week eight games behind MDS.

And now I have only 32 games left to make up an eight-game gap.

But it’s not time to surrender.  A sweep this week gets me halfway to a tie, since we disagree on four games.

We each went 9-7 in Week 15.  For the year, he’s 147-77.  I’m 139-85.

All picks appear below.  As they always do.

Dolphins at Bills

MDS’s take: Going to Buffalo in December won’t be an easy road trip for Miami, as the Bills’ defense is playing well. But it’s hard to pick a team with nothing to play for against a team that just needs to win out to make the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 24, Bills 20.

Florio’s take:  Buffalo already beat the Dolphins in Miami.  With Thad Lewis at quarterback.  Lewis is back at quarterback, and the rematch occurs in Buffalo.  But the weather won’t be all that frightful, and the Dolphins have come a long way since losing to the Bills in October.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 27, Bills 17.

Saints at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Saints looked lousy away from home last week, and I expect them to look lousy away from home again this week. That’s bad news in New Orleans, because losing this game likely means losing the division, which in turn means the Saints will spend the postseason on the road.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 23, Saints 17.

Florio’s take:  New Orleans squandered a chance to nail down the division and secure a bye by losing badly to the Rams.  The Panthers now get them outside in Charlotte for the biggest game at Bank of America Stadium in a long time.  A win puts Carolina in the driver’s seat that the Saints squandered, and the Panthers have the defense to disrupt Drew Brees’ timing.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 27, Saints 20.

Vikings at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Vikings are actually looking like a decent team with Matt Cassel at quarterback, while the Bengals turned in a lousy effort last week against the Steelers. But with the Bengals suddenly in danger of missing the playoffs, Marvin Lewis will have his team ready for a big game.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 34, Vikings 21.

Florio’s take:  Relegated to spoiler, the Vikings have played that role well, tying the Packers, beating the Bears, and upending the Eagles.  But Cincinnati hasn’t lost at home this year, and they are one of the best teams in the league when properly focused.  They’ll be focused on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 24, Vikings 13.

Broncos at Texans

MDS’s take: The Broncos are two wins away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Texans are two losses away from clinching the first overall pick in the NFL draft. Both teams will get halfway there on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 35, Texans 10.

Florio’s take:  In 2012, Peyton Manning wanted to come to Houston.  But the Texans didn’t want him.  On Sunday, Houstonians will get to see what they’ve been missing.  A lot.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 42, Texans 20.

Titans at Jaguars

MDS’s take: This game is utterly meaningless unless you care who comes in second place in the AFC South. I’ll take the Titans to win a close one.

MDS’s pick: Titans 24, Jaguars 21.

Florio’s take:  The Titans aren’t in the losing business.  In Jacksonville, they’ll be in the not winning business.  If they’re really lucky, they’ll be in the tying business.

Florio’s pick:  Jaguars 30, Titans 27.

Colts at Chiefs

MDS’s take: In this likely preview of a wild card playoff game in two weeks, the surging Chiefs will prove that they’re a whole lot better than the slumping Colts.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 35, Colts 17.

Florio’s take:   They seem to be locked in as the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds, but the Chiefs still have some incentive to play hard.  If they win and the Broncos stumble only once, the No. 1 seed remains within reach for a team that won only two games in 2012.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 28, Colts 20.

Browns at Jets

MDS’s take: Neither of these teams is any good on offense, but the Jets are decidedly better on defense and special teams, and I’ll pick them on the strength of that.

MDS’s pick: Jets 17, Browns 13.

Florio’s take:  The 2014 preseason has begun for both teams.  Flip a coin.  Throw a dart.  Light a match.

Florio’s pick:  Browns 17, Jets 10.

Bears at Eagles

MDS’s take: The NFC North leaders visit the NFC East leaders in a game that figures to showcase the weaknesses of Chicago’s defense. I expect Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy to have a huge game as the Eagles roll to a big win.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 28, Bears 17.

Florio’s take:  Even with linebacker Lance Briggs expected to be back for the Bears, Chicago doesn’t have the defense to slow down LeSean McCoy and the rest of the Philly offense.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 31, Bears 24.

Buccaneers at Rams

MDS’s take: Both of these teams have shown more fight late in the season than I expected, so this game may be interesting to watch even though it doesn’t mean anything to the playoff race. I like the Rams, who are a last place team in the NFC West but would be contenders in the NFC North.

MDS’s pick: Rams 27, Buccaneers 20.

Florio’s take:  The consistently inconsistent Rams stunned the Saints last week.  And so it would be fitting for the Rams to stumble against the Bucs, especially with a trip to Seattle looming.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 24, Rams 21.

Cowboys at Redskins

MDS’s take: Dallas’s D is terrible, but Washington is terrible on offense, defense, and special teams. Advantage: Cowboys.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 34, Redskins 20.

Florio’s take:   The Cowboys are coming apart, and the Redskins have nothing to lose.  Especially since they’ve already lost their first-round draft, which pick belongs to the Rams.  Kirk Cousins riddles the Dallas defense and London Fletcher lifts the Washington defense in his final home game.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 35, Cowboys 31.

Giants at Lions

MDS’s take: The Lions have choked away their NFC North lead, but they at least have a slight chance to get to the playoffs. The Giants, on the other hand, are playing like a team that just wants this bad season to be over with already.

MDS’s pick: Lions 34, Giants 20.

Florio’s take:  It would be fitting for the Lions to blow another game they need to win.  But they play the Giants.  And the Giants aren’t good.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 30, Giants 20.

Cardinals at Seahawks

MDS’s take: Give Arizona a lot of credit for staying in the NFC playoff race a lot later into the season than most people expected, but the Seahawks will crush the Cardinals’ hopes on Sunday and ensure that the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Seattle.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 35, Cardinals 14.

Florio’s take:  The best team to not make the playoffs will give the Seahawks a great tuneup for their coming playoffs games.  While the Cardinals have done great things this year, no one will be beating Seattle in its own building.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 24, Cardinals 10.

Steelers at Packers

MDS’s take: With the Packers now having a clear path to the NFC North title, they’ll take care of business against an inconsistent Steelers team.

MDS’s pick: Packers 24, Steelers 20.

Florio’s take:  The last time the Packers rallied for a playoff spot, they beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl.  While the Super Bowl is a long way away, a win over the Steelers could at least propel the Pack toward a fifth straight postseason berth.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Steelers 31.

Raiders at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Chargers still have an outside shot at a wild card, and if they somehow get into the playoffs I think they’d be a dangerous team. It probably won’t happen, but they will take care of business against a Raiders team that has nothing left to play for.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 38, Raiders 20.

Florio’s take:  Even if the Chargers don’t make it to the playoffs (and they likely won’t), they’re laying the foundation for future competitiveness.  The Raiders aren’t.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 30, Raiders 17.

Patriots at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Patriots have been the better team for most of this season, but the Ravens are playing their best football at the right time, while New England is struggling. I like the Ravens to win a tough, physical, low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 14, Patriots 13.

Florio’s take:  The Ravens have won four in a row.  The Patriots have suffered one too many injuries to remain highly competitive.  Baltimore moves another big step closer to a sixth straight playoff appearance.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 22, Patriots 17.

Falcons at 49ers

MDS’s take: In the most lopsided game of the week, the 49ers will roll to an easy win, while the Falcons will wish this disaster of a season could end already.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 45, Falcons 7.

Florio’s take:  The last game at Candlestick Park comes against an opponent that is neither nimble nor quick.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 35, Falcons 21.

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Harvin says Jets have told him to be himself

Harvin AP

Jets receiver Percy Harvin met the New York media for the first time on Monday.  And while he wasn’t pressed as aggressively as the New York media’s reputation would suggest, Harvin elaborated much more on his circumstances than when he faced a strong of slo-pitch softballs from the media operation owned by the Jets.

Harvin opted not to delve into the events that resulted in the stunning trade that sent him from Seattle to New York.  “All I am is I’m moving forward,” Harvin said.  “I’m leaving what’s in the past in the past.”

On whether he’s a good teammate, Harvin said, “All I can say is judge me off of what you see.”

So what will we see?  Harvin said that management “told me to just come here and be myself.”  (Which reminds me of Bill Cosby’s take on cocaine.)

“I’m definitely not a perfect person,” Harvin said.  “I have a lot of things I wish I would have done a little differently.  I’m moving forward.  I’m learning from those lessons.”

He hopes to put the lessons to use for more than the next nine games.  “It’s definitely a place I want to be for a long time,” Harvin said.

“I just feel good here.  I feel welcome.  I’m ready to go.”

He’s ready to play for coach Rex Ryan.  “I love him,” Harvin said.  “Love him, love him.”

That’s good news for Rex.  Because Harvin reportedly has had multiple confrontations with coaches he didn’t love, love.

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Raiders veterans not sure how to get team moving in the right direction

Tony Sparano AP

The Raiders lost again on Sunday, running their record to 0-6 for the first time in 52 years and continuing a 12-game losing streak that extends into last season.

Among the many things to dislike about the outcome was the fact that the Raiders failed to build on the previous week’s gains on offense while the defense struggled to get off the field after spending the previous week concentrating on improving their play on third down. The Cardinals converted 60 percent of their third down tries, which was even worse than the NFL-worst 51 percent that the defense had given up coming into Week Seven.

“I don’t know how to take that … not being able to get it done,” safety Charles Woodson said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m not sure where to go with it at this point.”

Woodson’s veteran teammates share his confusion about how to move forward at this point in the season. Defensive tackle Antonio Smith said the team tries to fix things every week, only to be left “wondering why it ain’t working” on gameday. It’s the kind of thing that can make a team want to close up shop, but cornerback Carlos Rogers vowed to keep fighting and keep his teammates fighting in the weeks to come.

Even with that fight, though, he knows that better days aren’t guaranteed for a team that hasn’t won in a very long time.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Rogers said.

The Raiders will be in Cleveland next weekend for their next shot at finding a formula that works.

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Lions add Kellen Davis

Kellen+Davis+DOjoqPnGYGSm Getty Images

Kellen Davis will continue his NFL career in London.  Technically.

As the Lions prepare to face the Falcons at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, Detroit has added the veteran tight end to the roster.

A pair of tight ends missed Sunday’s win over the Saints.  Joseph Fauria has an ankle injury, and rookie Eric Ebron has a hamstring problem.

Davis spent five years with the Bears, joining the Seahawks for 2013.  He was cut by the Giants before the start of the 2014 regular season.

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Cowboys give game ball to TE coach Mike Pope after beating his former team

Gavin Escobar AP

When the Bills beat the Lions, they carried defensive coordinator and former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz off the field at the end of the game.

The Cowboys didn’t carry anyone off the field at the end of their victory over the Giants on Sunday, but they did recognize that the win meant a little bit extra to one member of the organization. Mike Pope joined the team as their tight ends coach in the offseason after his long tenure with the Giants came to an end with a pink slip.

Pope had been an assistant with Bill Parcells, Jim Fassel and Tom Coughlin, making him part of every Giants team that has ever gone to the Super Bowl, but that history wasn’t enough for him to survive the housecleaning that the Giants did after the offense stumbled badly last season. Pope got some payback when tight end Gavin Escobar caught two touchdowns on the way to a 31-21 win that he’ll get to remember by looking at the game ball the team gave him after the final whistle.

“He spent a lot of time in New York with that team, so to be over on this side and get that win surely means a lot to him. You try to say it’s never personal, but for him to come down here and have success — especially against the Giants — was big,” tight end Jason Witten said, via the New York Post. “We knew he wanted to win this one. This was his big game, and he really wanted it. You know he was loving this after it was over.”

Giants tight end Larry Donnell had a key fumble in the second half of the game, a development that Pope might not have been able to stop if he were still with Giants but one that probably didn’t make the win feel any less sweet for him either.

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Jaguars lose Paul Posluszny for the season to torn pectoral

Le'Veon Bell, Paul Posluszny AP

The Jaguars got their first win of the season yesterday, but they didn’t get to celebrate for long.

Via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, veteran middle linebacker Paul Posluszny suffered a torn pectoral muscle yesterday and will be out for the year.

That’s a huge blow for a young team that was beginning to show signs of life after an 0-6 start, taking the leader out of the middle of the defense.

It’s a big loss,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “That will be a difficult one.”

Posluszny will have surgery this week, and will be placed on injured reserve.

Bradley also said that defensive end Andre Branch suffered a groin injury, and would miss about six weeks.

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Calvin Johnson will make trip to London with Lions

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The Lions have played without wide receiver Calvin Johnson for the last two weeks, but the door will remain open for his return in Week Eight even though the team will be playing a long way from home.

The team leaves for London on Monday night to begin their week of preparations for next Sunday’s game against the Falcons and coach Jim Caldwell told reporters, including Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, that Johnson will be making the trip with the team.

There have been suggestions that the team would hold the wide receiver out until after their Week Nine bye, but that clearly hasn’t been set in stone. Johnson worked out on the field before the team took on the Saints, but his high ankle sprain wasn’t well enough for him to return to action. If he can progress over the next few days and practice with the team later this week, the result may be a different one come Sunday.

While the Lions offense hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in the two games without Johnson or the two games he played at considerably less than 100 percent, they have found that there’s a way to move the ball without Johnson being the centerpiece of the offense. Keeping that mentality while getting the talented wideout back in the lineup should help the Lions as they move into the second half of the season.

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Orakpo done for the year with torn pec

Orakpo

Brian Orakpo’s second annual contract year has not ended well.  The Washington linebacker, who had been struggling while playing under the $11.45 million franchise tag, suffered a torn pectoral muscle on Sunday against the Titans, per a league source.

Orakpo will be placed on injured reserve, ending his 2014 season.

A torn pec ended Orakpo’s 2012 season after only two games.  Healthy for 15 games last year, 10 sacks from the 2009 first-round pick prompted Washington to use the franchise tag.  A second application of the tag would cost $13.74 million.

Thus, Orakpo will undoubtedly hit the open market — and he’ll likely stay with Washington only if they offer him more than he could get elsewhere.

If it’s over for Orakpo in Washington, it ends with 71 games, 40 sacks, and a playoff appearance that was earned with Orakpo missing every game beyond Week Two.

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Panthers offensive line taking a beating, getting MRIs

Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Panthers had to clear the decks to keep an offensive line on the field yesterday, and don’t know yet who will be available this week.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said that starting left tackle Byron Bell (elbow) and right guard Trai Turner (knee and ankle) were getting MRIs today, to determine the extent of their injuries.

When they left yesterday’s seal-beating in Green Bay, the Panthers had to turn to a pair of undrafted rookies, Canadian tackle David Foucault and guard Andrew Norwell.

Considering an injury to left guard Amini Silatolu had backup Fernando Velasco on the field anyway, the Panthers line was a real hash by the end of the day. And it’s not as if they were the 1980s Washington Hogs to begin with.

Quarterback Cam Newton has played well for most of the season, but their lack of talent up front has impacted the way they run and pass, and appears that it will continue to be a problem.

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Idzik thinks acquisition of Harvin could be a coup for the Jets

John Idzik AP

Percy Harvin is at work with his new teammates on the Jets today, and the man who brought him to town thinks that’s a big deal.

“This could be a potential coup for the Jets,” General Manager John Idzik said at a press conference today.

There’s no doubt that Harvin has the talent to significantly upgrade the Jets’ offense, as well as their special teams. But Harvin had the talent to upgrade the Vikings and the Seahawks, too, and both teams ultimately decided that he wasn’t worth the headaches. So why will it be different in New York?

Idzik said the Jets have high standards, and that “acting like a Jet” will be a requirement of Harvin and everyone else, but the Jets believe Harvin has what it takes to improve their team. Idzik stressed that the Jets are still committed to developing their offense around quarterback Geno Smith, and bringing Harvin in gives Smith a big weapon.

The Jets are 1-6 and an extreme long shot to make the playoffs, which makes them an odd destination for a star player in a mid-season trade. But Idzik said the Jets don’t think it’s too late for them to go on a run and get to the postseason.

If that happens, Idzik will look brilliant for making this move. But if the Jets keep losing, and if Harvin turns out to be a locker room cancer, this could be a coup in which Idzik and Rex Ryan are overthrown.

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Fred Jackson hopes to return from groin injury within a month

Fred Jackson AP

Fred Jackson was one of two Bills running backs to leave Sunday’s 17-16 win over the Vikings with an injury, but the outlook for his injured groin is better than the one C.J. Spiller got for a broken collarbone.

Spiller is expected to miss the remainder of the season, but Jackson is going to try to make it back faster than the four-week timetable he’s been given by doctors.

“It’s not as bad as it could have been,” Jackson said on WGR 550, via ESPN.com. “It’s typically a four-week injury. But we’ll try to do some things to get it sped up. I like to think of myself as somebody who can come back before typical. It’s just gonna be on me to get in there and rehab and see the team doctors and do what it is they want me to do.”

The Bills will use Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown as their primary ball carriers until Jackson is ready to return to the lineup. Brown has yet to play a regular season game for the Bills in his first season with the team and Dixon ran for 51 yards after the injuries pressed him into an expanded role against Minnesota.

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PFT Live: Bills talk with Tim Graham, Jaguars talk with Mike Dempsey

Sammy Watkins AP

The Bills won in thrilling fashion on Sunday when Kyle Orton hit Sammy Watkins for a touchdown just before time expired to lift Buffalo to a 17-16 victory over the Vikings.

On Monday’s edition of PFT Live, we’ll talk about that contest with Tim Graham of the Buffalo News. Graham and Mike Florio will discuss Orton’s play since taking over the starting job, the injuries to running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson and any changes that might be on the horizon now that the team has been sold to Terry Pegula.

The Jaguars also won on Sunday and it’s notable even though it didn’t come down to the very end of the game. Mike Dempsey of 1010XL in Jacksonville will be on the show to talk to Florio about rookie quarterback Blake Bortles‘ progress, how the plan put in place last year is coming together and what to look for in the coming weeks from the Jags.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Blake Bortles admits he had a bad game in Jaguars’ first win

bortles AP

Quarterbacks shouldn’t be judged by wins and losses, and Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles may be the prime example.

The Jaguars won their first game on Sunday, but Bortles is the first to admit he played badly: Bortles completed 17 of 31 passes for 159 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions. He now has an NFL-high 10 interceptions, an average of two a game since he took over for the benched Chad Henne.

Bad, not good,” Bortles said of his performance. “The defense and offensive line and running game won this game, no doubt about it. Anybody can see that. Obviously, I’m not happy with the way I played, but I’m extremely happy with the outcome of the game.”

Bortles really isn’t ready to be an NFL starter, and the Jaguars have known that for months. That’s why Henne started the season, and the coaches initially said Bortles would sit out his rookie year. Unfortunately, Henne was so bad that the coaching staff felt it had no choice but to bench him, and Bortles is going through growing pains.

For now, the primary focus of the coaches is to make sure Bortles doesn’t lose confidence. Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said that when Bortles came off the field hanging his head after an interception, Fisch gave him a pep talk.

“I told him, ‘That’s not going to be the last pick you ever throw so move on,’” Fisch said. “We weren’t going to sit there and just go through each pick. We can talk about that [Monday].”

If Bortles keeps throwing interceptions at this rate for the rest of the season, he’ll finish 2014 with 28 picks. That’s terrible. But it’s also the same number of interceptions that Peyton Manning threw as a rookie. Sometimes a young quarterback just has to go through growing pains, and that’s what Bortles did on Sunday.

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Browns waive starting fullback Ray Agnew

Ray Agnew, J.T. Thomas AP

The Browns have released one of their offensive starters.

The club announced Monday it had waived rookie Ray Agnew, who started Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville, playing 18 snaps on offense and catching one pass for three yards. An undrafted free agent from Southern Illinois, the 23-year-old Agnew had started all six games for Cleveland, rushing twice for two yards and catching two passes for 15 yards.

To replace Agnew, the Browns called up rookie fullback Kiero Small, who was a seventh-round pick of Seattle in May. The Browns added Small (5-8, 244) to their practice squad before the start of the season. The 23-year-old Small played collegiately at Arkansas.

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Rams are regarded as the favorites to move to L.A.

Cunningham AP

Two weeks ago, we sparked a flurry of reports and quotes and boasts and ultimately concerns regarding the return of the NFL to Los Angeles, reporting that the league believes one or two teams will move there within the next 12-24 months.

Of the three teams viewed as the most likely to move — the Rams, Raiders, and Chargers — the team viewed by the NFL as most likely to make the move is the Rams.

If it’s the Rams, the most likely location for a new stadium becomes the land owner Stan Kroenke purchased last year at Hollywood Park.  AEG’s proposed downtown stadium is believed to hinge on owner Philip Anschutz purchasing a significant piece of the anchor tenant.

The Rams currently have a year-to-year arrangement at the Edward Jones Dome.  They can leave without financial consequence after the coming season, and every season thereafter.

The powers-that-be in St. Louis reportedly are working on a proposal of a new open-air stadium in St. Louis.  It could be a legitimate effort to keep the team.  Or it could be an effort to diffuse criticism that the local politicians didn’t try hard enough to keep him.

But what about San Diego’s threat to oppose the relocation of any team to the L.A. market?  Per a league source, those concerns likely would be resolved, possibly with the Chargers getting a larger slice of the relocation fee than other teams receive.

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Drew Brees feels like he let the Saints down

New Orleane Saints v Detroit Lions Getty Images

For most of the Saints’ visit to the Lions, it looked like the team would buck their recent history of struggling away from the Superdome.

They led by 13 points in the fourth quarter, their defense was keeping the Lions in check and it looked like it would just be a matter of running out the clock for their third win of the season. That’s when things fell apart.

A Golden Tate 73-yard touchdown brought the Lions within a score and Drew Brees threw an interception on the next possession to set the Lions up for their game-winning score.  Some wondered if the team should have been running the ball instead of throwing it at that point in the game and several members of the team said that there was plenty of blame to go around, but Brees wanted most of it for himself.

“The worst feeling in professional sports is when you feel like you let your team down. And that’s the way I feel right now,” Brees said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “You’ve gotta know when to take a chance, when to try to fit a ball in there, or when to throw it away, take a sack, scramble, whatever it might be, and make sure the ball stays in your hands. And unfortunately that’s a critical time of the game where a turnover cannot happen, and I’m responsible for that. That one’s on me.”

One thing or another has gone wrong just about every time the Saints have played on the road in the last few years, which has left them with 10 losses in their last 12 road trips. That has to change if the 2-4 Saints are going to turn their season around and the improvement is going to have to come from everyone, not just Brees.

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