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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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Jets land Chris Johnson with two-year deal

chrisjohnson AP

The deal looked likely when he made his first trip, and spent the night.

And now Chris Johnson is a Jet.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Jets have agreed to terms with the former Titans running back on a two-year deal.

He adds an explosive element to the offense for a team that sorely needs them (though they still need them in the passing game).

The short deal gives the 28-year-old back a chance to re-establish himself, with perhaps a chance at another deal.

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Clay Matthews: Julius Peppers is going to create a lot of opportunities for me

Clay Matthews AP

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews is feeling good on a couple of fronts these days.

Matthews’ thumb is feeling better after a pair of injuries led to season-ending surgery in December and the opposite side of the Packers defense is looking more imposing after they signed Julius Peppers following Peppers’ departure from the Bears. Matthews thinks Peppers’ arrival is going to lead to more chances to get to the quarterback.

“This guy’s [6-7], 290. I’m 6-4 on a good day and 255,” Matthews said, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today. “They’re going to double the big guy, and that leaves plenty of opportunities for me. I haven’t had too many one-on-one opportunities, and when you do, you’re expected to win — at least in our locker room — the majority of the time, because that’s supposed to be a mismatch.”

A healthy Matthews should win a fair amount of those battles and he said that he doesn’t expect to do much at OTAs to limit the risk of a third injury to his thumb. He expects to be all systems go for training camp and a pairing with the best pass rusher he’s had across from him in Green Bay.

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Jadeveon Clowney’s visiting the Lions, for some reason

2014 NFL Combine Getty Images

Jadeveon Clowney won’t be doing a lot of extra workouts for teams, because frankly, he doesn’t need to.

But that’s not stopping him from seeing more of America than he needs to.

According to Tim Twentyman of the Lions official website, Clowney was visiting Detroit today.

That’s interesting on a few fronts: A) Because Michigan ain’t exactly Aruba this time of year and B) the Lions pick 10th in the upcoming draft.

People can malign Clowney’s work ethic all they want, the guy’s not slipping to the 10th spot, so his decision to visit with the team picking 10th is curious.

Unless they’re not planning on picking 10th.

With big numbers at the top of their salary cap, and perhaps sensing some pressure to win now, the Lions may be considering a move. It would be a strong statement to pair a premier edge rusher with Ndamukong Suh, and allow the Lions to attack in multiple ways.

Or maybe Clowney’s just a big Tigers fan.

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Glazer returns to duty after serious health scare

Glazer Getty Images

Many of you have noticed that FOX’s Jay Glazer hasn’t been around much lately.  He has a very good reason for that.

On the first day of free agency, Glazer nearly died.

He appeared earlier today on The Dan Patrick Show to discuss the serious health scare that resulted from outpatient surgery.  Glazer separately explained the situation by phone to PFT.

“I went in for a routine back deal,” Glazer said.  “Nothing big.  Dissolving a piece of a disc that broke.  Something that was real easy took a turn.”

After being given anesthesia, Glazer vomited into the face cradle.  The stomach contents ended up in his lungs, and the acid burned the tissue.

Glazer started convulsing, and the doctors revived him.  He was rushed to a local hospital, where he spent four days recovering from aspiration double pneumonia.

He didn’t realize the gravity of the situation at the time.  Once Glazer was out of the woods, doctors explained that the outcome could have been much more dire.

“It could go one of two ways,” Glazer said, “and for a while I was going the wrong way.”

He has struggled for more than a month to get healthy.  The damage to his lungs has caused Glazer to have good days followed by setbacks.  He wanted to attend the league meetings in Orlando, but the flight would have required the use of an oxygen tank.  Doctors also feared that his oxygen levels could plummet at altitude, and that he could have a heart attack.

Even now, Glazer is far from 100 percent.  As his heart works harder to pump oxygenated blood from his lungs, his resting pulse rate has been 115.

Still, he’s going to attempt to work this weekend for FOX, returning to action for UFC coverage.  He has yet to be able to return to his MMA training business, to the disappointment of NFL players like Kyle Long, Chris Long, and Jared Allen — and draft hopefuls like UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr and UCLA defensive end Cassius Marsh.

Last week, Glazer was scheduled to work out with Barr, but Glazer decided he should wait.  Glazer instead tried nine minutes of shadow boxing instead.  His oxygen level dropped, his heart rate went up, and Glazer ended up in his doctor’s office once again.

Glazer hopes to return to his NFL duties soon, making calls and chasing scoops and attending next month’s draft in New York City.

I look forward to seeing him there, and to having him do one of his typical Glazer things, like stick a thumb into my throat or lift me off the ground or put me in a headlock.  Even during the worst days of his ordeal, Glazer was still doing Glazer things.

“I wanted candy,” he said of his hospital stay.  “I unhooked myself, and I told the nurse I was talking a walk.  I convinced the guys who were with me to take me downstairs to the gift shop.  I went in and bought $230 worth of chocolate.  In my gown with my ass hanging out.

“To this day I have no idea what happened with the $230 worth of chocolate.”

So if you were wondering where Glazer has been, now you know.  And the next time you’re trying to fight off a craving for chocolate, think of Glazer in his hospital gown, with his ass hanging out.

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Report: Ravens, Patriots and Jets among teams showing most interest in Michael Sam

Michael Sam AP

Michael Sam isn’t going to be a first-round pick next month, but his expected selection in the later rounds of the draft will be noteworthy all the same.

Sam’s public acknowledgement that he’s homosexual earlier this year leaves him poised to become the NFL’s first openly gay player, a milestone that isn’t likely to get him picked on the first two days of the draft. Sam had 11.5 sacks at Missouri in 2013, but there were questions about how well he’d transition to the NFL even before a poor showing at the combine in February.

Sam did better at his pro day and Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports several teams have maintained interest in Sam over the last few months. Wilson lists the Ravens, Patriots, Jets, Falcons, Colts and Browns as the clubs that have displayed the most interest in Sam.

It’s a wide range of teams and predicting how the late rounds of a draft will play out is something of a fool’s errand, so it’s hard to read much into what that means for Sam’s future beyond the fact that he still seems likely to be selected. As with every other player picked closer to the end of the draft than it’s beginning, what comes after that will be based on his ability to buck the negative predictions about his NFL future.

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Dexter McCluster making positive early impression on Titans

Dexter McCluster AP

There’s no sign of buyer’s remorse about Dexter McCluster in Nashville.

McCluster signed a three-year, $9 million deal with the team as a free agent and he’s getting positive reviews from his teammates early in the offseason program. Linebacker Shaun Phillips said that “he’s excited to see our offense work with someone like that” after years of facing McCluster in the AFC West and wide receiver Nate Washington suggested McCluster’s in line for a big role in the offense.

“Amazing. I’ve seen his feet. I’ve seen his quickness. I think he’s going to bring some true playmaking ability to not only our run game, but our pass game,” Washington said, via the Tennessean. “I’m pretty sure coach [Ken] Whisenhunt has some tricks up his sleeve to put him in some positions and make some plays.”

Whisenhunt has talked about getting McCluster the ball as a running back, something the Chiefs rarely did over the last two seasons, and that could lead to a role similar to the one that Danny Woodhead played for the Chargers last season. Woodhead had 182 touches and there’s playing time for the taking with Chris Johnson out of the picture, most of which would go to McCluster if the offseason optimism sustains itself into September.

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Packers had some interest in Freeman if Flynn didn’t stay

Josh Freeman AP

As it turns out, Matt Flynn and Josh Freeman were two men for two jobs.

But they could have easily reversed roles, as it turns out.

Flynn decided yesterday to stay with the Packers, and Freeman just took advantage of the void in New York to agree with the Giants moments ago.

But according to Adam Caplan of ESPN, the Packers had some interest in Freeman as well, if Flynn had decided to sign with the Giants instead.

It’s interesting, but not surprising. The Packers were willing to take a look at Vince Young last summer, so bringing in a former first-rounder as a backup wouldn’t have been out of character. And there are plenty of people around the league who think Freeman can be salvaged.

Freeman looked like a wreck once the Bucs decided he wasn’t their guy, and his stint with the Vikings was ill-considered and poorly executed.

But there are still tools there, and the Packers would have offered him a chance to work and improve without the pressure of having to take over a mess of a team.

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Josh Freeman agrees to contract with Giants

Tampa Bay Bucaneers v New England Patriots Getty Images

Josh Freeman is Eli Manning’s new backup quarterback.

Shortly after news broke that Freeman and the Giants were close, Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reported that the two sides have agreed to terms.

The Giants were the opponent for Freeman’s only start in a Vikings uniform, and Freeman was terrible: He completed just 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception, and the Vikings lost 23-7. But the Giants must have seen something that day — and in Freeman’s body of work with the Buccaneers — to make them think he has potential.

Freeman will compete with 2013 fourth-round draft pick Ryan Nassib and veteran Curtis Painter for the right to serve as the No. 2 quarterback behind Manning, and Freeman will probably enter training camp as the favorite to win the backup role. At age 26, there’s still time for Freeman to show that he has what it takes to be a starter, but that won’t happen in New York as long as Manning is around.

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Report: “Many in football” believe Browns will take Derek Carr

2014 NFL Combine Getty Images

Perhaps as much as any other team, the Browns are expected to take a quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft.

According to a published report, there’s sentiment in league circles that Cleveland has zeroed in on one particular passing prospect.

Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman reports the Browns “love” Fresno State’s Derek Carr and that “many in football” believe Cleveland will take him with the second of their two first-round picks (No. 26).

PFT’s most recent mock draft has Carr headed to Cleveland, but at No. 4, not No. 26.

Carr, like numerous other QB prospects, has worked out for Cleveland.

Were the Browns to take Carr with their second first-round pick, it would mark the third time in seven years in which they had used the latter of two No. 1 selections on a quarterback. They took Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden 22nd overall in 2007 and 2012, respectively.

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Giants, Josh Freeman getting close to a deal

Minnesota Vikings v New York Giants Getty Images

Free agent quarterback Josh Freeman is finally getting close to finding a new home.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that Freeman and the Giants are working toward a deal that should be completed within the next day or so.

That Freeman is about to sign with the Giants, where Eli Manning is firmly established as the starter, suggests that he hasn’t received any offers from any teams even willing to let him compete for a starting job. That’s quite a downfall for the 26-year-old Freeman, who in his second NFL season, in 2010, threw 25 touchdown passes and only six interceptions and looked like one of the best young quarterbacks in the league.

But Freeman was a major disappointment last season, both in Tampa Bay and in Minnesota, and he has a long way to go to rehabilitate his image. In New York he’ll compete with Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib to be the No. 2 quarterback, but he won’t see the field as long as Manning is healthy.

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Peyton Manning says Montee Ball’s ready to do more

Montee Ball, Robert Steeples AP

Peyton Manning’s been around long enough to know that rosters are always going to change.

But he gave his blessing to one of the Broncos’ young players, who will have to carry a bigger share of the load next season.

Manning told reporters that second-year back Montee Ball was ready to replace the departed Knowshon Moreno.

“I thought Montee had a great year,” Manning said. “I thought he learned a lot in his first year. In my past, I’ve seen a lot of development in guys from their first year to their second year. There is no question with the loss of Knowshon—who was just nothing short of awesome for us this past year and was a great teammate—that Montee is going to have more responsibilities and I think he will answer that challenge.

“I think he has the work ethic, I think he has the mental capabilities to handle the workload and I look forward to having a full offseason with him. He didn’t have a full one last year because of being a rookie so I look forward to getting even closer with him as far as being on the same page.”

Ball got himself in the doghouse with early fumbles, but was able to return to a larger role in the playoffs. Earning the trust of Manning is not insignificant for him, and his future role.

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PFT Live: Jets talk with Manish Mehta, PFT Planet calls and tweets

chris-johnson-Titans-300x225 Getty Images

The Jets hosted running back Chris Johnson on a visit on Tuesday, but Johnson left without signing a contract with the team.

On Wednesday’s edition of PFT Live, Mike Florio will welcome Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News as a guest to discuss the possibility that Johnson will wind up in the Jets’ backfield for the 2014 season. Mehta reported that the Jets won’t “overpay” for Johnson and we’ll see what kind of parameters they’re working with for a potential deal.

We’ll also delve into some draft talk during Mehta’s visit and we can do a lot more if that’s what PFT Planet wants to hear about. Florio will again be fielding your questions during the show, so send them in on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or give a call to 888-237-5269 during the show to let us know what’s on your mind.

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

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Peyton Manning on Super Bowl loss: “You have to move forward”

Peyton Manning AP

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has been relatively quiet this offseason, but when he spoke at an event in Denver this morning, he said his focus is putting the Broncos’ ugly performance in the Super Bowl behind him.

You have to move forward. You have to kind of reestablish your identity as the 2014 team; 2013 was a good season in a lot of ways, there’s no question,” Manning told USA Today. “It did not end the way we wanted it to, but we have to build off that and try to take it a step further, try to finish. There’s no question, we kind of have to start over and reestablish the chemistry on this team with all the new players. That’s important, and that really starts on Monday.”

Part of moving forward is a roster shakeup that has seen several veterans leave.

“We lost some great players and some great friends,” Manning said. “It’s been a real pleasure to play the last two years with Champ [Bailey] and Knowshon [Moreno], Eric [Decker], Wesley Woodyard, Chris Kuper retiring, Zane Beadles has been great. . . . That’s the worst part about football, when you form some friendships with these guys and really put a lot of hard work in, and just the business side comes into play.”

The good news for Manning is that the free agents who arrived, including defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib, safety T.J. Ward and receiver Emmanuel Sanders, give the Broncos a good chance of getting back to the Super Bowl. And playing better than they did two months ago.

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Some draft talk with Corey Chavous

Chavous Getty Images

Of all the self-styled draft experts, few have actually worked for NFL teams.  Even fewer have lasted as employees with NFL teams.

Even fewer have played for NFL teams.  Only one has played in the NFL at a high level, while devoting his free time to studying the next wave of incoming players for fun.

Corey Chavous, who spent 11 seasons in the NFL, now runs DraftNasty.com.  He joined PFT Live by phone on Tuesday to talk about some of the bigger names in the 2014 draft pool.

So for Corey’s take on the top-shelf quarterbacks, the Jadeveon Clowney versus Khalil Mack question, the conundrum of first-round receivers being busts, and the player most likely to be a candidate for the Hall of Fame, click the thing in the thing below.

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Golden Tate thinks he’ll be a “more explosive” Lance Moore in Joe Lombardi’s offense

Golden Tate AP

Wide receiver Golden Tate hasn’t played a game as a member of the Lions yet, but a couple of weeks of offseason work has led him to think that their offense will prove to be an excellent fit for his skills.

Tate said that he has been watching film of the Saints’ offense over the last few years to get a sense of what offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who joined the Lions after serving as the quarterbacks coach in New Orleans, is going to do in Detroit. Tate said he thinks it will be a better fit for his skills than the offense in Seattle and explained why he’s feeling that way.

“I watched some tape on the Saints over the last few years and just looking at that — I haven’t talked to coach Lombardi that much — I see myself being a Lance Moore type of player, but just more explosive and able to do a few more things,” Tate said, via the team’s website. “That’s exciting, because Lance Moore caught a lot of balls and he’s a terrific player that did a lot for the Saints. That’s kind of how I see myself having the best receiver in the league [Calvin Johnson], and one of the best to ever to play the game, opposite of me or sometimes on the same side.”

Tate averaged four catches a game for the Seahawks last season, the highest total of his career thus far, and Moore had at least that many in four of the six years that he played in the majority of the Saints’ regular season games. Tate figures to see more snaps than Moore did in New Orleans and see more advantageous matchups than he saw in Seattle with Johnson on the other side, which should add up to numbers as good or better than Moore put up in his best days with New Orleans.

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