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PFT’s Week 17 picks

Charles Tillman, Eddie Lacy AP

After a pathetic, season-worst 6-10 showing by yours truly and a four-game sweep by MDS, I was tempted to try to guess which team he’d pick for each of the 16 games to end the regular season, and then hope for the best.

But the spirit of this game is to try to get as many games right as possible, even if my outcome from last week would suggest that the better approach for me would be to select a winner — and then to do the opposite.

This week, we disagree on three games, which means MDS will win the regular-season competition by at least nine games.

For the year, MDS has generated a record of 157-83.  I’m 145-95.

The only good news is that it all resets to 0-0 for the postseason picks competition.

Panthers at Falcons

MDS’s take: Give the Falcons credit for playing competitive football against good teams, as they did on Monday night against the 49ers. This Atlanta team hasn’t quit. But the Panthers’ defense should shut down the Falcons’ offense as the Panthers clinch the NFC South.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 20, Falcons 10.

Florio’s take:  The Panthers need a win to nail down the No. 2 seed.  An immature, undisciplined team would stumble in this spot.  If nothing else, the 2013 Panthers have proven that they are both mature and disciplined.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 27, Falcons 20.

Packers at Bears

MDS’s take: As of the time I’m making this pick I don’t know if Aaron Rodgers is playing, so this is a tough one. But I’ll go with the Bears to clinch the NFC North in a high-scoring affair.

MDS’s pick: Bears 31, Packers 27.

Florio’s take:  If Aaron Rodgers can play, the Packers have a chance to peak in January.  If they can get to January.  If Rodgers plays on Sunday, the Packers will get to January.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Bears 30.

Ravens at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Ravens suffered a huge letdown last week against the Patriots, and I see the defending champions’ season ending on Sunday in Cincinnati.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Ravens 14.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals need a win and some help in order to secure the No. 2 seed.  The Ravens need a win and some help to extend their streak of playoff appearances to six.  While the Bengals are unbeaten at home, the Ravens have the greater incentive and enough talent to capitalize.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 20, Bengals 17.

Jaguars at Colts

MDS’s take: The Jaguars aren’t going down without a fight, but the Colts showed last week against the Chiefs that they’re real contenders. Indianapolis will win this one and head into the playoffs with a full head of steam for a likely rematch with Kansas City.

MDS’s pick: Colts 34, Jaguars 20.

Florio’s take:  Indy is building some momentum in the hopes of advancing beyond the wild-card round.  The Jaguars have shown enough progress to create plausible hope for 2014 — if they can find a decent quarterback.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 30, Jaguars 20.

Jets at Dolphins

MDS’s take: Last week the Dolphins laid an egg, while the Jets kept fighting despite having no shot at the playoffs. This week, however, I think the Dolphins’ pass rush will get to Geno Smith and Miami will win a low-scoring game and the right to play in the first round of the playoffs, probably at Cincinnati.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 20, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  After his first season as Jets coach, Rex Ryan gave the finger to a Miami MMA crowd.  On Sunday, in perhaps his final act as Jets coach, he can give a figurative finger to Fins fans by knocking the home team out of the playoffs.  Rex will pull out all the stops, and the Dolphins will follow two wins in games they should have lost with two losses in games they should have won.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 23, Dolphins 20.

Lions at Vikings

MDS’s take: After appearing to be in control of the NFC North for much of the season, the Lions have gone into free fall. The fall will continue in Minnesota.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 24, Lions 17.

Florio’s take:  The final game at the Metrodome coincides with what likely will be the final game of Jim Schwartz’s tenure and Lions coach.  Adrian Peterson won’t let his team exit its 31-year home with anything other than a victory to cap a lost season.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 31, Lions 23.

Bills at Patriots

MDS’s take: Buffalo isn’t going anywhere, but the Bills’ defense is a lot better than most people realize, as the Dolphins found out the hard way last week. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Bills pull off the upset, but I expect the Patriots’ defense to shut down the Bills’ offense to win a close, low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 14, Bills 10.

Florio’s take:  The Pats still have a shot at securing the No. 1 seed — and also at having to play in the wild-card round.  Either way, a home loss wouldn’t be the best way to embark on a playoff run in a wide-open AFC.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 38, Bills 20.

Buccaneers at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints are a bad road team but a good home team. That’s a bad thing to be if you’re going to the playoffs as a wild card, but in New Orleans on Sunday, the Saints will clinch a playoff berth.

MDS’s pick: Saints 27, Buccaneers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Saints could end the day as the No. 2 seed.  The Saints also could end the day out of the playoffs.  If Carolina wins earlier, forcing the Saints to leave the Superdome in the wild-card round, they may be tempted to not delay the inevitable.  Coach Sean Payton won’t let that happen.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 27, Buccaneers 13.

Redskins at Giants

MDS’s take: Both of these teams stink, but Washington is a much lower level of stink. This game will be ugly, and the Giants will win.

MDS’s pick: Giants 23, Redskins 16.

Florio’s take:  The Giants hoped to finish their season with a win at MetLife Stadium in February.  They’ll have to settle for finishing their season with a win at MetLife Stadium in late December.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 28, Redskins 17.

Browns at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers dug a deep hole for themselves with their lousy start to the season, but they’re playing good football now. They probably won’t get all the help they need to make the playoffs, but the Steelers will take care of business against the Browns.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 34, Browns 13.

Florio’s take:  If the Steelers get to the playoffs, they’ll be tough to beat.  But not as tough as they’ll be to beat in the game that can help get them to the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 34, Browns 17.

Texans at Titans

MDS’s take: The Texans will clinch the first overall pick in the draft by losing to the Titans. And draft order is the only reason to pay any attention to this game.

MDS’s pick: Titans 20, Texans 13.

Florio’s take:  New Houston meets old Houston at a time when both Houstons have a problem too big for one meaningless game to fix.  If Mike Munchak is leaving after more than 30 years with the Oilers/Titans franchise, he’s going out with a win.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 24, Texans 17.

49ers at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Cardinals have had an impressive season, and there’s a good team being assembled in Arizona. I think the Cardinals will make a big statement by defeating the playoff-bound 49ers, although Arizona won’t get the help it needs to make the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 20, 49ers 17.

Florio’s take:  Arizona finishes laying the foundation for a run at the top of the division in 2014.  The 49ers will be happy to get out of Arizona healthy enough to function the following weekend.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 20, 49ers 17.

Broncos at Raiders

MDS’s take: With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs on the line, Denver will cruise to an easy win in Oakland.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 38, Raiders 14.

Florio’s take:  With 265 yards passing on Sunday, Peyton Manning emerges from the 2013 season with the record for passing touchdowns and passing yards.  With more points than the Raiders on Sunday, the Broncos emerge from the 2013 season with the No. 1 seed, again.  What they do with it remains to be seen.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 41, Raiders 20.

Chiefs at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC and are therefore the only playoff team with nothing to play for. As a result, I think they’ll take it easy on Sunday and the Chargers will cruise to a win.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 30, Chiefs 20.

Florio’s take:  By the time this one starts, the Chargers will know whether a win gets them in the playoffs.  Chances are they’ll be done.  But with the Chiefs likely resting starters, the Chargers will finish on the right side of .500.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 31, Chiefs 21.

Rams at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Rams are playing competitively and this won’t be easy for the Seahawks, but Seattle will be highly motivated to win this one and clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 31, Rams 20.

Florio’s take:  Last Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals gave the Seahawks a much-needed wake-up call.  They’ll answer the bell by roughing up the Rams and locking up the No. 1 seed.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 27, Rams 10.

Eagles at Cowboys

MDS’s take: Even with Tony Romo I’d lean toward the Eagles to take this one, but with Romo’s back injury this looks to me like a game the Eagles take to clinch the NFC East.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 31, Cowboys 17.

Florio’s take:  With or without Tony Romo, the Cowboys don’t have the defense to once again hold Philly to three points — especially without Sean Lee available.  Another year, another 8-8 finish, another loss in the de facto NFC East championship game.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Cowboys 23.

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NFLPA thanks Judge Berman, points out Goodell’s record in court

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As you might imagine, the NFLPA was rather pleased by Judge Richard Berman’s ruling which overturned Tom Brady’s #DeflateGate suspension.

And in their celebration, they were careful to note that this was merely the latest loss in court for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

“The rights of Tom Brady and of all NFL players under the collective bargaining agreement were affirmed today by a Federal Judge in a court of the NFL’s choosing,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement. “We thank Judge Berman for his time, careful consideration of the issue and fair and just result.

“This decision should prove, once and for all, that our Collective Bargaining Agreement does not grant this Commissioner the authority to be unfair, arbitrary and misleading. While the CBA grants the person who occupies the position of Commissioner the ability to judiciously and fairly exercise the designated power of that position, the union did not agree to attempts to unfairly, illegally exercise that power, contrary to what the NFL has repeatedly and wrongfully claimed.

“We are happy for the victory of the rule of law for our players and our fans. This court’s decision to overturn the NFL Commissioner again should signal to every NFL owner that collective bargaining is better than legal losses. Collective bargaining is a much better process that will lead to far better results.”

That’s a fairly strong gloat at a moment when the league is reeling, from a loss even bigger than the Saints alleged bounty scandal and bigger than anything involving Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson or Greg Hardy.

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PFT Live: Ben Volin, Peter King, Kurt Warner

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The ruling is in and Tom Brady’s suspension is off.

As you can imagine, Judge Richard Berman’s decision to wipe out the Patriots quarterback’s four-game suspension will be a major focus of Thursday’s PFT Live. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports and Peter King of will join Mike Florio to discuss the ruling, whether the NFL will appeal and more fallout from a major victory for Brady and the NFLPA on Thursday.

We’ll also be talking to two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner during the show and Florio will also be visiting with PFT Commenter, so we’ll get several opinions about the long-awaited decision.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour by clicking right here.

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Brady will face reeling, remade Steelers defense

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

After Thursday’s court ruling that a few people are talking about, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be in the lineup Sept. 10 when the Patriots open the season vs. the Steelers.

That’s not great news for a Steelers defense that’s been retooling on the fly and has gotten gashed in the preseason. In four preseason first halves the Steelers have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 80 percent of their passes while compiling an interception-free 122.3 quarterback rating.

The Steelers have a new defensive coordinator in Keith Butler and are transitioning to a new scheme following the firing of Dick LeBeau last winter. It’s just the preseason, but the Bills last weekend racked up 542 yards on seven plays of 20 yards or longer against the Steelers.

The Bills.

“(Our players) need the experience together, and even if it is experience of failing, it is better than not being out there,” Butler told reporters this week. “You have to put some stock in the preseason because you have to see who can do what and you evaluate like that.”

It’s not all about scheme and what’s new. The Steelers ranked 18th in total defense last season, 27th against the pass, and their 33 sacks were 10 fewer than they recorded the previous season.

Before next week, the Steelers are hoping for reinforcements from within. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons has been out three weeks with a toe injury; defensive end Stephon Tuitt twisted his ankle during the third preseason game against the Packers, an injury initially feared to be significant; and safety Mike Mitchell has battled a sore hamstring and a twisted ankle that has forced him to miss most of the preseason.

The Steelers visited with former Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor one day after his release, but the team’s medical staff reportedly doesn’t believe Taylor’s knee is healthy enough. The team drafted outside linebacker Bud Dupree in the first round last spring and cornerback Senquez Golson in the second, but Golson is out for the year with a shoulder injury. Cornerback Brandon Boykin was added in an Aug. 1 trade with the Eagles.

So, Butler and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will take what they have seen and the players who are available and get to work this weekend on defending the Brady-led Patriots. Preseason results are quickly forgotten, but a remade defense trying to keep up with Brady in the first game figures to be a tall task.

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Berman cites Jets K-ball case in ruling wiping out Brady’s suspension

Jay Feely, DeMaurice Smith AP

Among the grounds that Judge Richard Berman used to come to his decision to wipe out Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension was the lack of notice of potential discipline from the league to Brady.

In his ruling, Berman lays out some of the cases that led him to that conclusion. Those include Brett Favre’s fine (and no suspension) for failing to cooperate with a league investigation and previous cases of violations of equipment policy that led to no punishment for players. One of those cases was the Jets’ attempted use of unapproved kicking balls in a 2009 game against the Patriots. An equipment employee was suspended, but no players were investigated for being “generally” or specifically aware.

Berman notes that the NFLPA pointed out that includes then-Jets kicker Jay Feely, who stood to gain the most from using the balls and, by the logic used by the NFL in regard to Brady, would have been the likeliest player to be aware of any improprieties. Feely was in Berman’s court on Monday as part of the NFLPA’s executive committee and revealed that he discussed that case with Brady.

“We talked about the similarities in that case and the differences in the way the NFL responded,” Feely said. “I didn’t get in trouble. I had no culpability in that case.”

Berman’s ruling makes it clear that he saw merit in the argument that both the investigation and Brady’s punishment were handled arbitrarily by booting the NFL’s suspension the way Feely used to boot the football.

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Brady gets a slam-dunk win

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptqxndi0njk5mwvjmte3yzmwmdczndrmotjhytvinwvm AP

The 40-page ruling is out, and it’s clear that the win for Tom Brady was a slam dunk. Or maybe a ball-deflating Gronk spike.

Judge Richard M. Berman delivered a near-total victory for Brady and the NFL Players Association, finding that the NFL can’t suspend Brady for knowledge of a deflation scheme because Brady was not placed on proper notice of the possibility of a suspension for such conduct. Judge Berman also adopted the observation from former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in the Saints bounty scandal regarding the fact that the NFL has never before suspended a player for obstructing an NFL investigation.

So basically Brady can be fined at most for the two infractions, but he cannot be suspended.

It’s a complete and total win for Brady and the NFLPA (with one exception noted below). Judge Berman also found that Commissioner Roger Goodell should have allowed the NFLPA to call general counsel Jeff Pash to testify at the appeal hearing, and that Goodell should have given the NFLPA equal access to the files generated by “independent” investigator Ted Wells.

The only good news for the NFL is that Judge Berman stopped short of addressing the question of whether Goodell was “evidently partial” in the appeal process or whether Goodell improperly delegated his initial authority to punish Brady to executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent.

The NFL has the right to appeal the decision. We’ll have more on how that process works in a later post. For now, I have to go make sure PFT Commenter isn’t taking any liberties with my farm animals.

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Report: Judge Berman overturns Brady suspension

Tom Brady AP

The #DeflateWait is over. (Credit to Trey Wingo for the name.)

According to the Associated Press, Judge Richard M. Berman has “nullified” the four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The ruling has not yet been released, and it’s unclear whether the suspension has been permanently wiped clean or whether the case has been sent back for a second hearing.

The NFL has appeal rights, but it’s highly unlikely that the league would be able to block Brady from playing next Thursday night against the Steelers.

More to come. Throughout the day. And beyond.

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Jen Welter: Maybe more female coaches could help limit domestic violence cases

Jen Welter AP

Jen Welter’s time as a coaching intern with the Cardinals has come to an end after what she called a “great time” that lacked “an ‘uh oh’ moment” that would have made having a female coach look like potential trouble for teams who might consider adding one as an intern or permanent member of their staff in the future.

Welter said that Cardinals players were “receptive” to her this summer and that the experience left her wondering if there’s a way that female coaches could help teams off the field as well. Welter noted during an interview with Katie Couric of Yahoo that while domestic violence is a societal problem rather than just one in the NFL, there’s an opportunity for the league to do better and she wonders if female coaches could help on that front.

“We put them up as role models so people are watching, and for good or for bad there’s an opportunity to deal with this,” Welter said. “I think if you saw the reaction that maybe my players had to having a female coach and loving it… maybe there’s a need for more of that. You have an opportunity to make them better men and not just better football players, and ultimately that is the goal.”

That may be part of the goal, but no football coaches are going to be employed long if they aren’t getting their players better and winning games. Off-field problems are embarrassing, but plenty of football coaches at all levels of the game have survived them as long as their teams have succeeded on the field.

That’s not to say that she’s wrong about a potential benefit, especially when suspensions for domestic violence crimes can hurt a team’s chances of winning. It’s just that it would take more female coaches and a lot more time to prove any correlation, and there aren’t many coaches that have enough of the latter to make exploring it a high priority.

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No league punishment for Jamison Crowder after abuse allegation

Jamison Crowder AP

Given the current state of professional football in Washington, even the absence of bad news is considered good news.

According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, a league spokesman said that Washington wide receiver Jamison Crowder would not face league discipline for the allegation of domestic violence he faced in June.

The fourth-round pick from Duke was accused of hitting a former girlfriend in a post on his own social media account, but his agent denied the allegations and said he was hacked.

The post was deleted, and no charges were filed against Crowder. The fact the league turned up nothing through it’s own investigation lends credence to the agent’s denial.

Crowder missed the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury, but caught a touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins last week.

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Jon Gruden: Kirk Cousins has to take better care of the football

Jon Gruden, Jay Gruden AP

The brother of Washington coach Jay Gruden says quarterback Kirk Cousins had better learn to stop throwing so many interceptions.

“He’s just got to prove he can take better care of the football,” Jon Gruden said on an ESPN Monday Night Football conference call. “You saw it last year. When he was on, he was on. That performance, at Philadelphia, against Jacksonville was unbelievable at times. But he proved that the turnovers, the inconsistency weren’t good enough.”

No quarterback has turned the ball over more often than Cousins in the last two seasons, and Jon is right that his brother’s new starting quarterback simply has to improve.

But Jon, who has been a Cousins fan since before his brother was Washington’s coach, thinks Cousins will improve.

“I liked Cousins coming out of Michigan State for the same reason a lot of coaches did,” Jon Gruden said. “He was a three‑time captain. He had prototype size. I think now that he is the starter and is going to get the majority of the reps, he has a chance to tune‑up the offense to suit his strengths and the things that he likes. There will be more input and more opportunities to reverse things and get things right. I don’t care what anybody says, I think repetition is the mother of learning. You have to have that for your quarterback.”

Cousins hasn’t had many reps with the first-string offense in his NFL career. He’ll get those reps now. How long he lasts as the starter will depend largely on how often he throws interceptions.

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“PFT Commenter” visits PFT on Thursday


I didn’t piece him together in a lab with a variety of mismatched body parts and the brain of Abby Normal. But PFT (more specifically, the comments section of PFT) spawned at some point in the not-too-distant past the Twitter parody account known as PFT Commenter.

And PFT Commenter has donned his best Frankenstein blazer as he prepares to storm the castle on Thursday.

Yes, PFT Commenter is a real person. He’s coming to West Virginia for a real visit to PFT headquarters. In exchange for inviting him to my office (which is also my home), I’m now among the very few who know his true identity. I’ve vowed to tell no one. I’ve honored that promise so far, in part because I already have forgotten his real name.

Mr. Commenter reached out to me with a request to visit in order to observe how football takes are made, or something, as part of a season preview he’s writing for SB Nation. After doing my due diligence on the man behind the Colbert-style football faςade (at least I think it’s a faςade), I decided to invite him to join me for PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, and then to hang out for a bit after the show ends.

So if you were looking for another reason to listen to PFT Live today, dial us up at Sirius 213, XM 202, or at noon ET for the three-hour extravaganza, which will definitely be a different kind of experience for me, for PFT Commenter, and for pretty much everyone.

The best part of the visit from PFT Commenter is that it’s made PFT Live producer Rob “Stats” Guerrera extremely nervous about what may happen once the man with the hottest taeks in football gets his hands on a microphone.

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Lions president says they’re “looking for greatness”

Detroit Lions Training Camp Getty Images

The Lions have had good seasons before, just not often in succession.

But after going 11-5 last year, team president Tom Lewand thinks this is the team that can not just equal last year’s mark, but better it.

“It’s not sustaining it; it’s building on it,” Lewand said, via Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News. “That’s the important thing. Sustaining it gives sort of an impression that we’re comfortable with what happened last year. I think as coach (Jim Caldwell) has acknowledged several times, it was a very good season for us, but not a great one.

We’re looking for greatness.”

Of course, last year marked their best finish since 1991, and they haven’t had consecutive winning seasons since 1993-95. And this offseason was marked by star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s departure in free agency, but they still have high hopes.

“The critical piece is, don’t rest on our laurels,” Lewand said. “Look at the things that we did well and continue to do them; look at the things we can improve on and do those better. It sounds simple, but it’s true.”

For the Lions, simply being above .500 would be an accomplishment, but they don’t want to think that way.

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Chiefs keep investing in backup QBs, extend Tyler Bray

Kansas City Chiefs v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Chiefs are continuing to invest in the quarterback position, beyond Alex Smith.

Backup Tyler Bray has agreed to a two-year, $1.925 million contract extension through 2017, Field Yates of ESPN reports. Although the deal contains no guarantees, it’s a great deal for Bray in one respect: The Chiefs are agreeing to pay Bray’s $510,000 salary this year, even though Bray is on the non-football injury list because he tore his ACL this offseason. Teams are under no obligation to pay players who suffer non-football injuries, but the Chiefs think enough of Bray’s potential that they’re willing to pay him as part of a longer deal to keep him in the fold.

Kansas City isn’t shy about spending money on backup quarterbacks. No. 2 quarterback Chase Daniel costs $4.8 million this year, making him the second-most expensive backup quarterback in the NFL, second only to Washington’s Robert Griffin III. The Chiefs are also slated to pay Aaron Murray $563,000 this year, in addition to the $15.6 million Smith will count against their cap.

Although he hasn’t gotten on the field in the NFL yet, Bray is a talented quarterback who showed off a good arm in his college career at Tennessee. Right now he’s buried on the depth chart, but if he eventually becomes the starter in Kansas City, this will look like a great deal for the team.

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Peyton Manning visits PFT

Peyton Manning AP

Wednesday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN included a visit from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who could be on the front end of his last NFL season.

Manning said that he still enjoys training camp, something that not all franchise quarterbacks (especially those with five-letter last names including an “F” and a “V”) can say. Manning also talked about the differences between timing in practice and timing in games when making throws to receivers like Cody Latimer and Jordan Norwood and Manning’s reduced practice reps under new coach Gary Kubiak.

The full, eight-minute interview, including plenty of stuff that was omitted from the show due to time constraints, appears below.

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Pagano: Colts better have “somebody fast enough” for when Tyrod Taylor runs

Tyrod Taylor AP

When Bills coach Rex Ryan discussed the team’s ultimate decision about a starting quarterback this summer, he said he was planning to keep the identity of the starter for Week One under wraps until as close to the game as possible.

The idea was to keep the Colts from getting any edge when it came to planning to face the Bills offense, but Ryan had a “change of heart” this week and opted to announce publicly that Tyrod Taylor is the team’s starter. That confirmed what was already reported and Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who was in Baltimore when Taylor joined the Ravens, confirmed that the information is being put to use in practices.

“It doesn’t mean that they couldn’t throw another guy in there at some point during the course of that game, but you can kind of hone in on what you want to do, especially from a pass-rush standpoint, if you have a pure pocket passer that is not mobile, can’t run around, you’re probably going to go after him a certain way,” Pagano said, via “If you’ve got a guy that’s as athletic and mobile as Tyrod is, then you have to plan accordingly.”

One part of that plan is to be prepared for when Taylor tucks the ball and runs with it. Pagano said the team “better get a package in to have somebody fast enough” to run down Taylor when he takes off and runs the ball.

Another issue for the Colts will be replacing Arthur Jones on the defensive line against a Bills team that’s expected to run the ball a lot this season. The health of LeSean McCoy may be an issue, but teams haven’t needed a running back of McCoy’s pedigree to have success running on the Colts the last couple of years.

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LaVar Arrington points to “weird phenomenon” in D.C. that makes a player ordinary

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 24:  Linebacker LaVar Arrington #56 of the Washington Redskins looks on against the New York Giants at FedExField on December 24, 2005 in Landover, Maryland. The Redskins defeated the Giants 35-10. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) Getty Images

While the current dysfunction in D.C. has manifested itself in plenty of new and unusual ways, the current sense that the franchise can’t get anything right currently flows from the circumstances surrounding a guy who seemed like the right man for the present and future only three years ago. But that dysfunction has been there long before the arrival of Robert Griffin III.

Fifteen years ago, the team entered the 2000 season with a Dream Team of free agents and a pair of top-three draft picks in Chris Samuels and LaVar Arrington, causing many to presume that another Super Bowl run was coming. The team didn’t even make the playoffs, and it feels as if the organization has never fully recovered from a failure that in most corners of the NFL has been long forgotten.

Arrington, who now works for NFL Media, hasn’t forgotten it. And he sees similarities to his career in Washington and the career of the team’s current quarterback.

“Every year that the Hall of Fame inductees go in and I watch it, I just sit there and I think about, I gave my best years to dysfunction,” Arrington told Sportsnet 590 The Fan, via Scott Allen of the Washington Post. “It just kind of bothers me a little bit . . . because it’s like if you had the structure in place to have success, my track record kind of speaks for itself. Guys that have come in there, Robert Griffin III, guys that have been there, their track records speak for themselves. How does a guy go from being special on every level, and then they come to the Redskins and it’s gone? The magic is gone. I can’t explain it. It’s almost a weird phenomenon, and I hate that I’m a statistic of that weird phenomenon.”

With the chances of success in Washington now seemingly destroyed, where could Griffin thrive?

“A different profession, probably,” Arrington said. “For me, I look at it like this: Once you’ve damaged somebody the way he’s damaged right now, I just think that it will be a long shot for him to turn out to be what he was and what people expected and anticipated him to be.”

Arrington may be right, but for now there seems to be no inclination to cut the cord on a guy to whom the franchise owes $3.249 million in 2015, whether he’s on the roster or not. Besides, if Griffin goes elsewhere and thrives, that would only punctuate the notion that it’s not about any given player, but that it’s about the “weird phenomenon” to which Arrington alluded.

Still, at some point the effort to justify a mistake becomes an even bigger mistake. It’s now clear that three first-round picks and a second-round pick shouldn’t have been invested in Griffin. The best thing the team can do is to cut him.

And the best way to handle that would be to tell Griffin that the team will cut him the moment he’s cleared to play following a concussion suffered two weeks ago. Currently, a $16.1 million injury-guaranteed salary for 2016 creates a potent temptation to exit from football not by admitting failure but by pointing to a head injury that, if he’s never cleared to play, would give Griffin nearly $20 million over the next two years.

The best move for a team that hasn’t made many good ones in recent years would be to flip that incentive around, tap into his lingering (if not flickering) confidence that he could thrive elsewhere, and tell him that, the moment he’s cleared by an independent neurologist to play, he’ll be released — freeing the team of the potential $16.1 million obligation for 2016 and giving Griffin a chance to pick his next team after he inevitably clears waivers.

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