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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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Colts come back to beat Buccaneers, continue their roll

Gerald McCoy, Matt Hasselbeck AP

The Colts would clearly prefer to have Andrew Luck under center.

But they’re certainly making the best of things with his backup on the field.

The Colts pulled away for a 25-12 win over the Buccaneers, improving to 6-5 on the season.

But perhaps as importantly, they’re 4-0 in games started by 40-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who has kept them alive and atop the AFC South standings, tied with the Texans.

Hasselbeck completed 26-of-42 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns, playing the kind of clean game they needed while Luck’s out with a lacerated kidney.

The Buccaneers squandered some early momentum and continued signs of progress by quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw for 235 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

The Buccaneers fell to 5-6 on the season, a disappointing follow-up to wins over the Eagles and Cowboys.

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Raiders come back to beat Titans, who lose yet again at home

Seth Roberts AP

When it rains on the Titans, it pours. Especially in Nashville.

Playing in a driving rainstorm in the second half, the Titans were working on an impressive comeback before Marcus Mariota threw an interception to Raiders safety Nate Allen, allowing the Raiders to escape with a 24-21 win.

The win helped the Raiders improve to 5-6, but it was mostly another Titans loss at home. They’ve now dropped 11 straight at Nissan Stadium.

Mariota threw a pair of interceptions, overshadowing the work he did getting his team back into the lead after falling into a 17-6 hole in the third quarter. Until the Titans figure out a running game (44 yards on the day), it’s going to be hard for Mariota to do enough to make them valid.

And while it wasn’t a work of art, it was an excellent performance for Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Seth Roberts (his second) with 1:27 left.

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After rough start, Chiefs come alive to beat the Bills

Ronald Darby, Chris Conley AP

For the Chiefs, today’s game against the Bills was a lot like the 2015 season: A rough start and a great turnaround.

The Chiefs fell behind 16-0 today and looked like they were in serious trouble. But quarterback Alex Smith came alive and led a tremendous turnaround in what turned out to be a 30-22 Chiefs win.

Now Kansas City is on a five-game winning streak after starting the season 1-5. The Chiefs looked like their season was lost just a couple months ago, and now they look like they’re on their way to the playoffs.

Smith finished the game 19-for-30 for 255 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Spencer Ware, the Chiefs’ third-string running back who’s now a starter because of injuries to Jamaal Charles and Charcandrick West, topped 100 yards and ran hard all day.

The Bills were off to a fantastic start with Sammy Watkins having 158 receiving yards in the first half, but he didn’t catch any passes in the second half. The Chiefs’ defense deserves a lot of credit for the way it came back in the second half.

And the Chiefs deserve a lot of credit for the way they’ve turned their season around. They’re now AFC contenders.

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Hurns taken to hospital after concussion

Allen Hurns, Darius Butler AP

Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns was taken off the field via stretcher in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game vs. the Chargers and taken to a local hospital.

The team announced that Hurns suffered a concussion and was taken to the hospital for further evaluation.

Hurns hit his head on the turf while diving to make a catch. The game was stopped for several minutes while medical staff attended to Hurns. He flashed a thumbs up to the crowd as the stretcher left the field.

Hurns caught 4 passes for 42 yards in the game.

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Giants trying to rally late in Washington

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 29: Wide receiver Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants looks on before a game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on November 29, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

For three quarters of Sunday’s game, the Giants offense only seemed to be helping the Redskins’ chances of winning but the fourth quarter is playing out differently.

Odell Beckham made a diving catch of a 21-yard throw from Eli Manning in the end zone to cut Washington’s lead to 20-14 with just under five minutes left to play in the game. Beckham’s score came about five minutes after Manning and Rueben Randle hooked up on a 40-yard touchdown for the first Giants points of the game.

The Randle score came on fourth-and-16 after a Chris Baker sack that looked like it would be one of the final nails in the Giants’ coffin. The Beckham score came a few plays after Manning hit tight end Will Tye for 28 yards to convert another fourth down and the late escapes have put the Giants in position for a shot at one that would make the NFC East crown all but theirs.

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Dolphins on wrong side of rout in Meadowlands

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:  Chris Ivory #33 of the New York Jets carries the ball in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins on November 29, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The last time the Dolphins met the Jets, they fired their head coach after a lopsided loss.

Dan Campbell might want to make sure his luggage is on the flight home to Miami because the Dolphins are on the wrong end of the whipping stick again this Sunday. Chris Ivory ran through the Dolphins defense for a 31-yard touchdown with 9:29 left to play in the game and the Jets are on their way to a comfortable win with a comfortable 35-7 lead.

Ivory’s score was the first rushing touchdown of the game for the Jets, who have gotten their other four scores on Ryan Fitzpatrick touchdown passes. The Dolphins briefly looked like they had some life left in them when they cut the lead to 21-7 in the third quarter, but Fitzpatrick hit Brandon Marshall to cap a 10-play, 79-yard drive five minutes later to put the Jets back up three scores.

It is four scores now and the Jets are on their way to snapping a two-game losing streak.

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Vikings strengthen their playoff position with win in Atlanta

In a battle of two NFC playoff contenders, the Vikings looked like they’re postseason-ready, while the Falcons looked like they have some problems.

The Vikings’ 20-10 victory showed that Minnesota has a good defense and running game, a formula to win late in the season just the way Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wants. And the Falcons’ loss showed that Matt Ryan throws into coverage far too often for a quarterback who’s been in the NFL as long as he has.

Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson topped 100 yards for the NFL-high sixth time this year, giving him a total of 48 100-yard games in his career, the most among active players. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater didn’t have many big plays, but he was efficient as a passer and got rid of the ball quickly. It was a solid effort from the Vikings’ offense.

And it was a spectacular effort from the Vikings’ defense, which took advantage of some poor decisions by Ryan.The Falcons missed running back Devonta Freeman, although Tevin Coleman filled in well enough with 18 carries for 110 yards. The downside for Coleman is that his fumbling problems continued; Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr made a great play to chase Coleman down and knock the ball out of his hands at the end of a long run.

Overall, the Vikings looked like a team that can win games in the playoffs. Minnesota is 8-3 and in first place in the NFC North.

The Falcons, on the other hand, looked like a team that will struggle to make the playoffs. Although they’re still in prime position to earn a wild card berth at 6-5, the Falcons are stumbling down the stretch. If this was a playoff preview, only the Vikings looked like they belong.

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Texans win fourth straight, blow out Saints 24-6

J.J. Watt, Drew Brees AP

There might not have been a more disappointing team in the NFL over the first half than the Texans.

But it appears they’ve corrected course, and are back in line with what people expected of them this season.

The Texans kept the shackles on the Saints offense, pulling away for a 24-6 win.

It’s their fourth straight win, and keeps them atop the AFC South at 6-5.

Brian Hoyer threw for a pair of touchdowns and Alfred Blue ran for 77 yards and a score as the Texans played a methodical game, keeping the pressure on the Saints all day on both sides of the ball. They held the ball for 36:23, it just felt like more than that.

And while you can make jokes about the AFC South (it’s easy, trust us), the Texans are playing well enough to be legitimate playoff contenders regardless of address.

For the Saints, it continued a miserable season, as they’ve now lost three in a row to drop to 4-7 after a brief moment of competence in which they won three straight.

For a team that used to be able to count on a high-powered offense, the Saints managed 268 yards. And while some of that can be attributed to the Texans defense, the Saints clearly have multiple issues.

Quarterback Drew Brees topped the 3,000-yard passing yard mark, but he also failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in what seems like forever. The streak was actually just 45 games, but his failure to get into the end zone sums up a season of frustration.

Firing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn’t fix their leaky defense, as they allowed the Texans to move the ball consistently.

With the undefeated Panthers heading to their building next week, the Saints are left to only be a spoiler and play for pride, such that they’re able to do either of those things.

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League: Keenum case not closed, but there will be no discipline

Case Keenum AP

The Case Keenum case is closed. Unless it isn’t.

As it relates to the question of whether anyone will be disciplined for last week’s incident involving Rams quarterback Case Keenum, the league has confirmed to PFT that no one else will be disciplined, either. However, the NFL contends that the case has not been closed.

“The review continues with the union to see what can be learned to ensure protocols are followed by all involved,” the NFL told PFT via email. “This includes players, officials, the ATC and team medical staff.”

In future cases, discipline could indeed be imposed if/when a player with an apparent concussion is not promptly removed from play. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the unique confluence of events in this case contributed to the decision to not take action against anyone involved.

So, basically, the league is taking the position that it was nobody’s fault. The better view could be to determine based on the outcome that it was everybody’s fault. While an argument could be made that it’s not fair to make everyone responsible, that would be the most effective way to prevent something like this from happening again.

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Eifert suffers stinger with Bengals routing Rams

Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert suffered a stinger in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Rams.

The team announced that Eifert is doubtful to return. Even if he’s not seriously injured, the Bengals are up 31-7.

Eifert caught his 12th touchdown pass of the season in the second quarter, the most in the NFL.

He was limited to just one game last season by an elbow injury. His return and success have played a major role in the Bengals’ 8-2 start.

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Bruce Irvin in, Cary Williams out for Seahawks

498681178 Getty Images

The Seahawks listed linebacker Bruce Irvin as doubtful on their final injury report of the week as a result of the knee injury that kept him out of the lineup that week, but he is evidently feeling better than predicted on Sunday.

Irvin is on the 46-man roster for Sunday’s game against the Steelers despite the MCL sprain that made him unlikely to play 48 hours ago. He’ll be part of the effort to slow down Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the Steelers offense, but cornerback Cary Williams will not be involved.

Williams is a healthy scratch on Sunday, something that doesn’t come as a total surprise since he was benched during last week’s victory over the 49ers. Deshawn Shead replaced him last week and Jeremy Lane is active for the first time this season to give Seattle another option.

Running back Marshawn Lynch as ruled out after abdominal surgery last week. Wide receiver Paul Richardson, cornerback Tye Smith, linebacker Eric Pinkins, center Drew Nowak and offensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli round out the inactives.

For the Steelers, linebacker Ryan Shazier is active after being listed as questionable on Friday because of a knee issue. Quarterback Michael Vick, wide receiver Sammie Coates, cornerback Doran Grant, running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, linebacker Anthony Chickillo, tackle Byron Stingily and defensive end L.T. Walton are inactive.



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Dalton hot, Bengals rolling

A.J. Green, Neiko Thorpe AP

The Rams can’t score — and can’t stop Andy Dalton, either.

The Bengals lead, 31-7, and Dalton has thrown 3 touchdown passes. His second of the day to A.J. Green early in the third quarter made it a three-score game.

Green has touchdowns of 10 and 18 yards. It’s the eighth multiple-touchdown game of Green’s career.

Dalton’s other touchdown pass went to Tyler Eifert. The Bengals made it 31-7 on an interception return by Leon Hall.

The 8-2 Bengals have lost two straight. The 4-6 Rams look to be headed to their fourth-straight loss.

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Raiders up 17-6 on a rainy day in Nashville

Latavius Murray, Avery Williamson

The conditions aren’t conducive for offense in Nashville.

And while the Titans might not be either, the Raiders are doing enough to creep to a little margin.

The Raiders opened the second half with a solid-looking touchdown drive, with Derek Carr hitting Seth Roberts for a touchdown and a 17-6 lead.

The Raiders have outgained the Titans 286-132 at the moment, with Carr throwing for 238 of them, and Amari Cooper with 99 of those yards himself.

With steady rains beginning to hammer down, that might be enough offense for them, especially since the Titans only ran for 7 yards in the first half.

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Jets open up 14-0 lead on two Fitzpatrick touchdown passes

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:  Brandon Marshall #15 of the New York Jets makes the catch for the touchdown as  Brent Grimes #21 of the Miami Dolphins defends on November 29, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

In their last four losses, the Jets have managed just one touchdown in the first half of their games.

Sunday’s start was a much more pleasant one. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a touchdown pass in both quarters and the defense kept the Dolphins from generating any positive momentum on the way to a 14-0 halftime lead on their home field.

Miami, which lost center Mike Pouncey and wide receiver Rishard Matthews to injuries in the first half, has 81 yards through the first two quarters of the game. Just eight of those yards have come on the ground and Ryan Tannehill threw an interception in the red zone to destroy their best scoring opportunity of the first half. It’s the kind of performance we’ve been accustomed to seeing from Miami in recent weeks, but a welcome change of form for a Jets defense that’s sprung some leaks of late.

The same is true of the offensive performance. Fitzpatrick is 15-of-26 for 173 yards and has had a lot of success throwing to Brandon Marshall, who has gotten the better of Brent Grimes all day. Marshall caught one touchdown and rookie Devin Smith, who caught flak from Todd Bowles after big drops last week, caught the other with eight seconds to play in the half.

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Kirk Cousins sneak puts Giants in 17-0 halftime hole

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 29: Wide receiver DeSean Jackson #11 of the Washington Redskins celebrates with quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins after scoring a second quarter touchdown against the New York Giants at FedExField on November 29, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants came into Sunday with a chance to take a commanding lead in the NFC East, but there’s a good chance things are going to remain tight a little while longer.

The Redskins lead 17-0 at halftime after a Kirk Cousins quarterback sneak with 1:45 to play in the second quarter. Cousins appeared to have his second touchdown pass of the game on third down, but replay showed that Jamison Crowder’s knee was down just short of the end zone. Jay Gruden elected to go for it rather than take the field goal and Cousins was able to get just enough of the ball across the plane.

The Giants would get the ball again, but their offense continued to struggle and they punted after picking up one first down. With Geoff Schwartz lost to a broken leg, the Giants have backups across the interior of the line and the entire group has looked out of sorts through the first 30 minutes of the game.

The first two drives ended with interceptions off of the hands of Giants receivers and Eli Manning is 10-of-22 for 91 yards in the game. They’ve added just 32 yards on 10 rushes, so the issues run across the board offensively for the Giants thus far.

Cousins hit DeSean Jackson for a 63-yard touchdown and is 12-of-18 for 207 yards overall against a secondary that got Prince Amukamara back at corner while losing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the first half. He also hooked up with Matt Jones for a 45-yard gain to set up the second score, so big plays and a tight defense have the Redskins two quarters away from a share of first place with five weeks left to play.

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