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Making sense of the NFL playoff picture, with 16 games to go

Russell+Wilson+Seattle+Seahawks+v+Denver+Broncos+OxajuAhdvFol Getty Images

Here’s a look at the most likely playoff seeds in the AFC and NFC, heading into the final Sunday of the 2013 NFL season:

AFC
Home-field advantage: Denver, with a win on Sunday or a New England loss. New England would clinch home-field advantage with a win and a Denver loss.

2 seed: New England, with a win on Sunday or losses by the Bengals and Colts. Cincinnati and Indianapolis are both still in the hunt for the 2 seed but need help. Denver would fall to the 2 seed with a loss and a New England win.

3 seed: Cincinnati, assuming the favored teams win on Sunday. The Bengals could still move up to the 2 seed or drop to the 4 seed, and so could the Colts.

4 seed: Indianapolis, assuming the favored teams win on Sunday. The Colts could still move all the way up to the 2 seed, but they need to win and the Patriots and Bengals both need to lose.

5 seed: Kansas City has clinched the 5 seed. The Chiefs are the only playoff team with nothing to play for on Sunday.

6 seed: Miami, if all the favored teams win on Sunday. Baltimore needs to upset Cincinnati and needs either the Dolphins or Chargers to lose. San Diego needs to win and needs Baltimore and Miami both to lose. Pittsburgh needs to win while Miami, Baltimore and San Diego all lose. If Pittsburgh, Miami, Baltimore and San Diego all lose, the Ravens get the 6 seed.

NFC
Home-field advantage: Seattle, with a win on Sunday or a 49ers loss. Carolina can still earn home-field advantage with a win, a Seattle loss and a San Francisco win. San Francisco can still earn home-field advantage with a win and losses by both the Seahawks and the Panthers.

2 seed: Carolina clinches the NFC South and a first-round bye with a win or a New Orleans loss. New Orleans would clinch the NFC South and the 2 seed with a win and a Carolina loss. San Francisco would be the 2 seed with a win, a Seahawks loss and a Panthers win.

3 seed: Philadelphia clinches the 3 seed with a win on Sunday. If the Eagles lose, the 3 seed would either be the Bears (if they beat the Packers) or the Cowboys (if the Packers beat the Bears).

4 seed: Green Bay will be the 4 seed with a win at Chicago on Sunday, a win the Packers are now favored to get with Aaron Rodgers back. Chicago will be the 4 seed if it beats Green Bay and Philadelphia beats Dallas. The Cowboys will be the 4 seed if they beat the Eagles and the Bears beat the Packers.

5 seed: San Francisco will be the 5 seed with a win and a Seahawks win. If the 49ers win and the Seahawks lose, the Seahawks will be the 5 seed. If the 49ers lose and the Saints win, the Saints will be the 5 seed and the 49ers will be the 6 seed.

6 seed: New Orleans will be the 6 seed with a win and a 49ers win. If the Saints win and the 49ers lose to the Cardinals, the Saints will be the 5 seed and the 49ers will fall to the 6 seed. If the Cardinals beat the 49ers and the Saints lose to the Buccaneers, the Cardinals will be the 6 seed and the Saints will be out of the playoffs.

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Mike Zimmer’s listening to the doctors as he comes back from eye surgery

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 14: Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer watches the action during the second quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 14, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. The Lions defeated the Vikings 16-14. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) Getty Images

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer might have been wearing a patch, but he could still see what the Vikings were doing wrong in practice.

He still can see everything with one patch over his eye,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said, via Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “If you made a mistake, he still sees it — ‘I see that!’ I’m like, ‘Wait a minute!’ ”

That Zimmer’s back on the job already after having his fourth eye procedure Friday isn’t surprising. But he said during his weekly interview on KFAN that he’s following doctor’s orders carefully. He’s expected to travel with the team to Jacksonville this week but said there was “still a lot to be determined” regarding the health of his right eye.

“I understand the seriousness of the issue and what it is,” Zimmer said. “If they tell me it’s in my best interest to sit in the box during the game or in my best interest to not go to the game, or there’s a possibility of losing my eyesight in this eye, then I’m going to listen to them.

“I think there’s a lot of speculation out there that says I’m not doing what the doctors are telling me to do, and I don’t believe that’s right.”

He said doctors told him to not look up, instead limiting him to “horizon, down,” He also needs to limit his physical activity as he recovers.

He’s continued to work through four procedures to repair a detached retina, and skipped last Thursday’s game. But he was back at Tuesday’s walk-through with a white patch over his eye.

And apparently, he can still see problems with his good eye, which is a good sign.

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Todd Bowles: Jets’ problem was bonehead mistakes, not effort

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 17:  Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets smiles while watching his team warm up prior to the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 17, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

After Monday night’s beatdown at the hands of the Colts, the Jets were criticized for a lack of effort. But coach Todd Bowles said after watching the tape that he thinks his players were hustling.

He admits, however, that his players made a lot of stupid mistakes to contribute to an ugly loss.

“I thought the effort was a lot better, but I thought we made some bonehead mistakes that cost us,” Bowles said.

Asked to clarify what the bonehead mistakes were, Bowles answered, “Probably too many to mention, because there was a lot of people that made them, whether it was offense or defense or on special teams. We had busts that we normally don’t have, and there were certain things that we didn’t execute. We didn’t execute at all.”

Bowles said the bonehead mistakes extended to everyone on the team.

“I don’t think anybody played well,” Bowles said.

Bowles is surely right about that. And if he can’t find a way to fix those bonehead mistakes he may find himself looking for work in four weeks.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots warms up prior to their NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots QB Tom Brady leads the league with a 113.1 passer rating.

Dolphins LB Kiko Alonso has recovered four fumbles, most in the NFL this season.

Bills RB LeSean McCoy is averaging a career-high 5.5 yards a carry this season.

Although he was benched before the fourth quarter on Monday night, Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has still thrown the most fourth quarter interceptions in the NFL this season.

Ravens K Justin Tucker’s great season includes a perfect 8-for-8 on field goals 50 yards and longer.

Bengals K Mike Nugent has missed five extra points this season.

Steelers WR Antonio Brown has led the league in catches the last two years and is tied for the league lead this year.

After having several close losses early in the season, the Browns have lost four straight games by at least 14 points.

Colts QB Andrew Luck has been sacked an NFL-high 36 times.

Texans QB Brock Osweiler has more than doubled his interception total, from six with the Broncos last year to 13 in Houston this year.

Titans RB DeMarco Murray’s 4.6-yard average is a full yard per carry better than he had in Philadelphia last year.

Jaguars QB Blake Bortlespasser rating has declined from 88.2 last year to 76.9 this year.

Broncos OLB Von Miller leads the league with 12.5 sacks.

Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill has an NFL-high 374 punt return yards.

Raiders QB Derek Carr has thrown 470 passes and been sacked just 12 times. (His brother is jealous.)

Chargers CB Casey Hayward is leading the league with seven interceptions.

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott has 37 rushing first downs this season, most in the NFL.

Eagles QB Carson Wentz had seven touchdowns and one interception in his first five games. He has five touchdowns and 10 interceptions since then.

Giants WR Odell Beckham has over 1,000 receiving yards this season. No one else on the Giants even has 500 receiving yards.

Washington QB Kirk Cousins has 36 passes of 25 yards or longer, the most in the NFL.

Bears RB Jordan Howard has had a good rookie season, but he has also dropped an NFL-high seven passes.

Lions QB Matthew Stafford has a career-high 178 rushing yards.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has seven touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three games.

Vikings QB Sam Bradford’s 97.5 passer rating this season is a career high.

Falcons MLB Deion Jones is the NFL leader in interception return yards, with 132.

Saints QB Drew Brees has an NFL-high 30 touchdown passes.

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans has 64 receiving first downs, most in the NFL.

Panthers QB Cam Newton has a career-low 80.6 passer rating this season.

ESPN’s QBR ranks 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick as the worst passing quarterback and best running quarterback in the NFL.

Rams P Johnny Hekker has landed 40 punts inside the 20-yard line, by far the most in the NFL.

Seahawks MLB Bobby Wagner has an NFL-high 127 tackles.

Cardinals RB David Johnson has topped 1,000 rush yards and 700 receiving yards this season, something no player had done since Le’Veon Bell in 2014.

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Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick playing with plantar fasciitis

Orlando Scandrick AP

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick will have to manage an injured left foot through the remainder of the season.

According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Scandrick is dealing with plantar fasciitis that has limited his availability recently.

Scandrick was relegated to only playing in nickel situations against the Minnesota Vikings last Thursday. He played just 54 out of 74 snaps against the Vikings as Anthony Brown started in his place opposite Brandon Carr.

It’s very frustrating,” Scandrick said. “But there is nothing I can do. I doubt it gets better until the off-season. The only treatment is rest. And I can’t get that at this time. It’s not a long-term health issue. But it’s unfortunate. I knew the first year back (from last year’s ACL injury) would be difficult and things like this would pop up. I’ve just got to get through this season.”

Despite the limited snaps, Scandrick had a season-high seven tackles against Minnesota.

If the Cowboys can lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC, Scandrick may be able to get the rest he needs to improve the issue for the postseason run. Dallas has a 2.5 game lead over Seattle in the race for the top seed. It could give Scandrick as many as three weeks off to rest his foot before the Cowboys begin preparation for their Divisional Round matchup.

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Who’s the coach of the year so far?

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 03:  Head coach Jack Del Rio of the Oakland Raiders shakes hands with head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs following the Chiefs 23-17 victory over the Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Every team has played 12 games, and four games remain. (That is the limit of my mathematical ability.)

So with 75 percent of the season done, who’s the coach of the year so far?

It’s the question of the day for Wednesday’s PFT Live.

Vote, comment, vote, comment, lather, rinse, repeat. And then tune in at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio and/or 7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN.

Guests include former NFL linebacker and current FOX college and pro analyst Chris Spielman and former NFL tight end and current ESPN college and pro analyst Anthony Becht.

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Harrison Smith’s season in doubt due to high ankle sprain

New York Jets v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

Vikings safety Harrison Smith could miss an extended period of time due to a high ankle sprain, the Pioneer Press reported Tuesday.

Smith has a grade 3 sprain and will miss at least this week’s game at Jacksonville.

The report said Smith could miss the rest of the season and might eventually need surgery. That will be determined over the coming weeks.

He originally suffered the injury on Nov. 20 and aggravated it in each of the last two games, the report said. He left the stadium after last Thursday’s game vs. the Cowboys with his left foot and ankle in a protective boot.

Smith, a former first-round pick, made his first Pro Bowl last season. He hasn’t missed a start this season.

The 6-6 Vikings are two games behind the Lions and tied for second with the Packers in the NFC North.

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Jets take a look at four long snappers

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 16:  Long snapper Rick Lovato #59 of the Green Bay Packers looks on while taking on the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets worked out four long snappers on Tuesday, a league source told PFT.

The four were Rick Lovato, Zach Triner, Daniel Dillon and Kameron Canaday. Lovato recently filled in as an injury replacement for the Redskins. He also snapped in two games and two playoff games for the Packers in 2015.

Dillon and Canaday were both on the offseason roster with the Cardinals last spring as undrafted free agents. Triner got a tryout with the Texans last spring.

The 3-9 Jets are playing for next year, and having four long snappers in could have been about looking forward to next year. Tanner Purdum, who’s been the team’s regular long snapper since 2010, is in the final year of his contract.

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Report: Gholston dealing with ankle sprain

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 23:  William Gholston #92 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts after a sack of Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Buccaneers defensive end William Gholston is dealing with an ankle sprain, and his status for Sunday’s game vs. the Saints is uncertain, ESPN.com reported Tuesday.

The report said Gholston left last Sunday’s game at San Diego on crutches and with a protective boot on his left ankle.

Gholston is the only Buccaneers’ defensive lineman to start every game this season and leads the defensive line unit in tackles. He has 2.5 sacks on the season.

Gholston, a fourth-round pick in 2013, has missed just one game since early in his rookie season.

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NFL: We haven’t announced anything about Randy Gregory

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 26: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers runs against Demarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys in the second half as Randy Gregory #94 of the Cowboys and Greg Olsen #88 of the  Panthers look on at AT&T Stadium on November 26, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

The mystery of Randy Gregory’s ability to return to practice continues.

First, Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com reported that the Cowboys defensive end is eligible to return to practice Wednesday, in advance of the completion of his eligibility to play in Week 16. Next, Breer reported that the NFL has informed Gregory that he can’t return to practice on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys declared through the website they own and operate that “the NFL has announced he will not be eligible to practice with the team until his suspension has been completed.”

Said the NFL to PFT: “We didn’t announce anything” about Gregory. “We haven’t commented at all today on his status . . . [and] we don’t have a comment.”

So, basically, Gregory won’t be at practice before Week 16. Unless he will be.

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Chargers talking to L.A. Coliseum about playing there in 2017

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 06:  Brian Quick #83 of the Los Angeles Rams can't hold on to the ball for an incomplete pass against the Carolina Panthers in the the second quater of the game at the Los Angeles Coliseum on November 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) Getty Images

If you thought the playing surface looked a little rough with both USC and the Rams playing there in 2016, it could get a lot rougher in 2017.

Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today explains that the Chargers are talking to the L.A. Coliseum Commission about playing there next season.

“In light of the vote of the people of San Diego, it’s back on the table in earnest,” L.A. Coliseum Commission President Mark Ridley-Thomas said, via Schrotenboer. “So the appropriate amount of due diligence continues to be done, and we will see if in fact we can strike a deal.”

The StubHub Center, a much smaller venue, reportedly has been identified as another potential location. Which gives the Chargers two options. Which gives the Chargers leverage in the discussions with both venues.

There’s likely more than meets the eye on this one, given the game of four-dimensional chess currently being played in connection with the future locations of the Chargers and Raiders. Still, with little more than a month to go before the Chargers’ window of opportunity for an L.A. move closes, the Chargers need to be making arrangements for next year, because if they announce an intention to move to L.A., they’ll move immediately.

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NFL says Gregory “not in compliance,” not eligible to return to practice yet

Randy Gregory AP

Suspended Cowboys pass rusher Randy Gregory will not be allowed to return to practice this week, according to the Cowboys.

Per Albert Breer of the MMQB.com, the NFL informed Gregory he was “not in compliance” and therefore can not practice with his teammates on Wednesday. The Cowboys confirmed that report on their official website, claiming that the NFL announced that Gregory would not be returning to practice.

Gregory is currently serving a 14-game suspension. Breer had reported earlier Tuesday that Gregory would be eligible to return to practice this week.

But Gregory isn’t eligible to play until Week 16, and at least for now that’s when he’ll be eligible to be on the practice field. The MMQB report said Gregory is currently appealing a ruling regarding a failed drug test that would result in another suspension of at least a year.

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Broncos work out T.J. Yates, Bernard Pierce

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 20:  T.J. Yates #6 of the Houston Texans runs with the ball against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 20, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

The list of 12 players the Broncos worked out Tuesday included quarterbacks T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree, PFT has learned.

The Broncos could just be looking at options for down the road or emergency situations, but the team having two quarterbacks in is notable because starting quarterback Trevor Siemian missed last week’s win at Jacksonville with a sprained left foot. His status for this week at Tennessee remains uncertain.

The Broncos have two other quarterbacks on the roster. Rookie Paxton Lynch started last week and struggled, while Austin Davis served as his backup.

Yates had two stints with the Texans over the last four years and one with the Falcons. He started two games for the Texans last year before suffering a torn ACL last December. Renfree got into two games as the Falcons’ backup last season.

Two other notable offensive players were among the workout group, running back Bernard Pierce and wide receiver Keshawn Martin. Pierce played three seasons with the Ravens and last year with the Jaguars. He went to camp with the Jets last summer but ended up on the team’s injured-reserve list and eventually was released with an injury settlement.

The Broncos claimed veteran back Justin Forsett Monday after Kapri Bibbs, who had been serving as the team’s No. 2 back, suffered a high ankle sprain last Sunday.

Martin never missed a game in his first three seasons with the Texans, then cracked the Patriots’ wide receiver rotation last season. He played in one game with the 49ers this season before being released. The Texans drafted Martin in the fourth round in 2012, when current Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak held the same position in Houston.

The Broncos also worked out wide receivers Davonte Allen, Hunter Sharp, DeAndre Carter and Corey Washington; running back Zac Brooks; and offensive linemen Michael Brewster, Reese Dismukes and Cyril Lemon.

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Is Frank Gore a Hall of Famer?

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 05:  Frank Gore #23 of the Indianapolis Colts runs the ball against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

With Colts running back Frank Gore climbing even higher on the all-time rushing list, it’s becoming more and more clear that he’ll eventually have a bust in Canton.

With 749 rushing yards in 2016, Gore has leapfrogged seven players, moving from No. 15 all the way to No. 8.

With 470 yards to go until he passes Eric Dickerson, Gore likely will remain in his current spot until next year, if he plays another season. With 891 more yards, he’ll pass Dickerson, Jerome Bettis, and LaDainian Tomlinson for No. 5 on the list.

Even if Gore doesn’t gain another yard, he likely has done enough to get to the Hall of Fame, especially since there isn’t a long list of running backs with Canton-worthy credentials waiting to get in. (Tomlinson is the only retired running back with a real shot.) Beyond Gore and Adrian Peterson (who has 11,725 career yards), no active player has 10,000 yards. (Chris Johnson has 9,537, and Matt Forte has 9,386.)

If the voters will be looking for running backs to add to the Hall of Fame, Gore and Peterson are the primary two whose names will come up over the next decade. And it may be only those two for the next two decades, unless DeMarco Murray (6,231) can continue to churn out big yards over the next few years and Ezekiel Elliott does for another 10 years or so what he’s doing as a rookie.

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Kaepernick says he’s made no decisions about 2017

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 04:   Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers stands on the sidelines in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Amid at least one report that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will void his contract for 2017, Kaepernick says that the notion that he knows what he will do next season isn’t true.

“I haven’t made any decisions on that,” Kaepernick told reporters on Tuesday. “Those decisions will come after the season.”

Even so, it makes sense for Kaepernick to elect to void 2017 — especially since he has no guaranteed money in 2017. Exercising his right to void the contract will give the 49ers a limited window of exclusive negotiating rights, followed by an opportunity to hit the open market.

As explained on Sunday, the 49ers won’t know whether they want Kaepernick until they know who will be making the decisions about the roster. If G.M. Trent Baalke stays, will he want Kaepernick? If Baalke goes, will the new G.M. want Kaepernick?

Will coach Chip Kelly want Kaepernick? Will a new coach want him, if Kelly goes?

There are too many variables at this point to know what will happen with Kaepernick in 2017. From a business standpoint, however, it makes no sense for him to not void his contract.

Speaking of business, his national anthem protest will be a factor in his future, too. Right or wrong, teams will consider his stance regarding kneeling for the anthem when deciding whether to add him to the team.

Another factor will be his performance down the stretch, especially after a lackluster showing in Chicago on Sunday. He’ll be starting against the Jets in Week 14; if he rebounds and continues to play well over the balance of the season, he will draw more interest.

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Seahawks officially place Earl Thomas on IR

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 07:  Free safety Earl Thomas #29 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates after helping break up a touchdown play in the final moments against the Buffalo Bills at CenturyLink Field on November 7, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks made some previously reported roster moves official Tuesday and placed Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas on the season-ending injured-reserve list.

Thomas suffered a broken tibia in last Sunday’s win over the Panthers, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday that Thomas wouldn’t be able to return this season.

As previously reported, the Seahawks addressed their depth following the loss of Thomas by signing safety Jeron Johnson. The team also officially announced the signing of fullback Marcel Reece.

Rookie running back George Farmer was waived. Farmer had been called up from the practice squad two weeks ago when the Seahawks were dealing with a bunch of running back injuries. Fellow rookie running back Troymaine Pope returned to action last week.

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