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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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Titans restructure contract of tight end Craig Stevens

Craig Stevens Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans and tight end Craig Stevens have agreed to a restructured contract for the 2015 season.

According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, Stevens agreed to re-do the final year of his deal that was set to be worth $3.5 million.

The new deal will drop his salary closer to the $1.6 million he made with the team in 2014. Without a new deal, Stevens could have become a salary cap casualty.

Stevens has spent seven seasons with the Titans. He appeared in just five games last season before a thigh injury sent him to injured reserve and ended his season.

Stevens has appeared in 93 games with 48 catches for 603 yards and four touchdowns for Tennessee.

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Carson stadium would generate millions of dollars, create thousands of jobs

AP I MEX Mexico Money Found AP

The teams that hope to build an NFL stadium in Carson, California have commissioned an economic impact analysis of the project.  As expected, it would generate plenty of money — and plenty of jobs.

The Los Angeles County Development Corporation estimates that a venue shared by the Chargers and Raiders would create more than 16,000 jobs for the construction, and more than 13,000 jobs for all ongoing stadium-related activity.

The study also estimates that construction would generate $1.1 billion in local labor income and $118 million in state and local taxes.  The study estimates that, with two teams playing there, the stadium would generate $609 million per year in local labor income, and $60 million in state and local taxes.

The numbers aren’t surprising; the NFL has become a gigantic business operation, and a two-team stadium undoubtedly would churn out the cash.  The simple reality is that the proposed stadium in Inglewood, California likely would have a similar impact, if two NFL teams play there.

And so the question remains which stadium can win the race to get the appropriate clearances to break ground?  While the economic impact study doesn’t answer that question, it makes it even more clear that a return to L.A. by the NFL is closer than it’s ever been.

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Eddie LeBaron dies at 85

LeBaron Getty Images

Quarterback Eddie LeBaron, who made it to the NFL despite a five-foot, seven-inch, and 160-pound frame, died Wednesday at the age of 85, according to the Sacramento Bee.

A tenth-round pick in 1950, LeBaron played for Washington in 1952 and 1953, and from 1955 through 1959.  He went to Canada in 1954, and he finished his career with the Cowboys from 1960 through 1963.

Between being drafted and debuting in the NFL, LeBaron earned a Bronze Star in the Korean War.  He also was wounded twice in battle.

A member of the Washington Ring of Fame, LeBaron made it to three Pro Bowls in D.C., and another in Dallas.   He was the league’s rookie of the year in 1952.

After his playing career, LeBaron worked as a broadcaster with CBS.  He later became the G.M. of the Atlanta Falcons, and later and executive vice president with the franchise.  He was named the NFL’s executive of the year in 1980.

LeBaron also worked as a lawyer, obtaining his law degree in 1959.

He’s survived by his wife, Doralee.  Married 61 years, they have three sons and five grandchildren.

We extend our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.

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Top tight end Maxx Williams won’t attend the draft

maxxwilliams AP

The top two quarterbacks in this year’s draft, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, have both said they don’t plan to attend the festivities in Chicago. Now the top tight end is opting out as well.

Maxx Williams, regarded by many as the best tight end in the 2015 draft class, told KARE 11 that he intends to spend the weekend with his family instead of going to the draft.

Not every top prospect is skipping the event. West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White, a likely Top 10 pick, confirmed that he will be there. But in recent years, all the top picks have been there in person. That won’t be the case this year.

Officially, the NFL says each player can decide for himself whether to attend the draft. But the league might quietly ask players who say they’re not going to reconsider. The draft is the NFL’s biggest offseason event, and the league wants to use it to market its new stars. That’s harder to do when those new stars choose to stay home.

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Steve Bisciotti possibly commits tampering by saying Haloti Ngata could return in 2016

Steve Bisciotti Getty Images

Nose tackle Haloti Ngata spent nine seasons playing for the Baltimore Ravens and owner Steve Bisciotti said Wednesday that he doesn’t rule out the possibility of Ngata returning to Baltimore in 2016.

However, there’s a problem with that statement because Ngata is now a member of the Detroit Lions.

Bisciotti commenting on having interest in another team’s player is the definition of tampering.

The Lions elected not to pursue tampering charges against the Miami Dolphins for their pursuit of Ndamukong Suh at the start of free agency and they may elect not to pursue it again in this instance. It is a difficult matter to police anyway.

But Bisciotti surely appears to have committed tampering in this instance. He can certainly have a desire to reunite with Ngata in the future. He just can’t express that thought publicly with Ngata in a Lions uniform.

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Bisciotti: Ravens working on extension with Marshal Yanda

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Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said Wednesday the team is currently working on a contract extension for guard Marshal Yanda.

Yanda has been one of the best guards in the leagues over the last few seasons. He was made the Pro Bowl in four straight seasons and was name a first-team All-Pro for the first time in 2014.

Yanda is about to enter the final year of his contract with the Ravens with $5.5 million due in base salary.

Yanda has started 78 of a possible 80 games for the Ravens over the past five seasons. Yanda even started the final three games of the regular season and Baltimore’s playoff victory over Cincinnati at right tackle.

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Fourth defendant pleads guilty in Sean Taylor murder case

seantaylor

The fourth of five defendants charged in the 2007 murder of Sean Taylor has pleaded guilty.

Charles Wardlow entered his guilty plea in a courtroom in Miami today and was immediately sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Four down, one to go,” Taylor’s father, Pedro Taylor, told the Miami Herald after the sentencing.

Eric Rivera, who pulled the trigger on the shot that fatally wounded Taylor, was convicted last year. Rivera, who was 17 at the time he killed Taylor, was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Jason Mitchell, whom prosecutors say organized the planned burglary of Taylor’s home, was also convicted last year and sentenced to life in prison. Venjah Hunte pleaded guilty years ago and agreed to testify against the others. He got 29 years in prison.

The fifth defendant, Timmy Brown, is still awaiting trial.

Taylor was a star player for the Miami Hurricanes and Washington’s first-round draft pick in 2004, becoming a Pro Bowl safety in his third season. Today would have been Taylor’s 32nd birthday.

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Vikings sign Mike Kafka, Caesar Rayford

Mike Kafka Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings have signed quarterback Mike Kafka and defensive end Caesar Rayford.

Kafka’s agent, Mike McCartney, announced his signing with Minnesota while Rayford made his own announcement via his facebook page.

Both players took part in the NFL veteran combine in Arizona.

Kafka spent the 2014 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the third-string quarterback behind Josh McCown and Mike Glennon. Kafka has not appeared in a regular season game since 2011 when he played sparingly in four games for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Rayford was traded from Indianapolis to Dallas in 2013 after a standout preseason with the Colts. Rayford appeared in seven games for the Cowboys and recorded five tackles. He spent the 2014 split between playing in the CFL and the Arena League.

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Seahawks re-sign Will Tukuafu, Jesse Williams

Will Tukuafu Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks re-signed fullback Will Tukuafu and defensive tackle Jesse Williams on Wednesday.

Tukuafu was an unrestricted free agent following last season while Williams had been released in a salary related move in March.

Tukuafu was signed by Seattle during the season after Derrick Coleman broke a bone in his foot in pre-game warmups in St. Louis in October. He appeared in nine games for Seattle while playing both fullback and some defensive tackle as well.

Williams was a fifth-round pick by the Seahawks in 2013 but has missed the last two seasons due to knee injuries. Williams has only appeared in two preseason games in his two years with the team.

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Bengals unveil April Fool’s gag that takes shot at Browns

Bengals Getty Images

Sam Wyche probably got a kick out of this one.

On April Fool’s Day, the Cincinnati Bengals introduced a new logo and helmet. And the new logo and helmet are no different than the old logo.

Making the non-change change even more brilliant is the strong likelihood that the Bengals were taking a shot at the Browns, who recently pulled the sheet off a new helmet and logo that looked not much different than their prior helmet and logo.

So well played, Bengals. Well played.

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Dwight Lowery visited with Colts

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Colts re-signed safety Mike Adams, but they’re still in the market for more help at the position and had a veteran option in for a visit.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that veteran safety Dwight Lowery met with the team. Lowery played for the Falcons last year, but should be familiar to several members of the Colts organization after playing for the Jets and Jaguars during the first six years of his career.

Lowery made 15 starts while playing in every game for the Falcons last season and finished the year with 79 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a sack. He was also a starter during his three years with Jacksonville, although injuries limited him to 12 games during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

With Adams back in the fold, Lowery would likely compete to take over next to him with LaRon Landry and Sergio Brown both moving on from Indianapolis.

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Jamari Lattimore signs with Jets

Matthew Stafford, Jamari Lattimore AP

The Jets have added another player to their linebacking corps.

They announced the signing of former Packer Jamari Lattimore on Wednesday. Lattimore visited with the team last month.

Lattimore made the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and spent the last four years playing mostly on special teams and as a reserve in Green Bay. He did make five starts at inside linebacker last season, although the Jets will likely keep him as a depth option as long as David Harris and Demario Davis, their starters on the inside, are healthy.

Lattimore is the third Packers inside linebacker from last season to wind up with a new team this offseason. A.J. Hawk signed with the Bengals and Brad Jones landed in Philly after getting released by Green Bay.

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Bears re-sign CB Sherrick McManis

Jacksonville Jaguars v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The Bears have retained a backup defensive back and key special-teamer, reaching a one-year deal with cornerback Sherrick McManis, the club announced Wednesday.

The 27-year-old McManis appeared in 12 games as a Bears reserve in 2014, with the club crediting him with 13 special teams tackles. A Northwestern product, McManis has played in 39 games the last three seasons for Chicago after two seasons with Houston (2010-2011).

McManis’ ticket onto the roster figures to be tied to his versatility and experience. He could project as the Bears’ fourth or fifth cornerback and a core kicking game player.

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Stefen Wisniewski’s latest free agent visit with Patriots this week

Stefen Wisniewski Getty Images

The Patriots became leverage for Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain to get a better deal at home, but they won’t have to worry about that with their latest visitor.

According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, the Patriots hosted Raiders center Stefen Wisniewski on a visit this week.

Wisniewski is coming off shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, but has still drawn considerable interest. He’s had visits with the Seahawks, Buccaneers and Bears already, with others checking in.

The Raiders don’t need him after signing former Chiefs center Rodney Hudson to a big money deal, but plenty of others could use him and realize an upgrade (assuming he’s healthy).

While the number of visits and his injury history indicates he’s not yet ready to sign, the Patriots clearly think he could help.

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Texans sign Nate Washington

Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

The Texans have added another veteran wideout to the group of players vying for playing time alongside DeAndre Hopkins in their 2015 lineup.

The team announced Wednesday that they’ve agreed to a deal with former Titans wide receiver Nate Washington. Houston has also signed ex-Jaguar Cecil Shorts this offseason while losing Andre Johnson to the Colts in their game of AFC South receiver roulette.

Washington spent six seasons with the Titans, culminating with 40 catches for 647 yards and two touchdowns while making 11 starts for the team in 2014. Those numbers are in line with his usual production in Tennessee, outside of the 74-catch, 1,023-yard season in 2011 that stands as Washington’s most productive NFL season.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that it is a one-year deal worth $1 million with $30,000 in guaranteed money, which doesn’t leave the Texans with much reason to hold onto Washington should the 31-year-old look unable to help the team once they start on-field preparations for next season.

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