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49ers hire QB guru George Whitfield as an intern

WHIT AP

George Whitfield has made a name for himself working with individual quarterbacks, tutoring some of the game’s biggest stars.

Now, he’s working with a team, and a coach who has his own reputation for working with passers.

Via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, Whitfield will work with the 49ers as an intern through training camp.

“I thought it’d be beneficial for us to have him here,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “There’s no carte blanche, but we agree on a lot of things. Haven’t found anything we disagree on. So it’s not like we’ve turned our quarterbacks over to George, but he’s going to augment and assist and I think it’ll be beneficial for us, beneficial for him and should be a win-win. Always looking for that.”

Whitfield has worked with quarterbacks from Cam Newton to Andrew Luck and most recently Johnny Manziel, polishing their skills for draft preparation. Now he’s going to be another voice for Colin Kaepernick, whom the 49ers are still trying to develop after his big contract.
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Jets place Nick Mangold on injured reserve

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 02:  Brandon Marshall #15 of the New York Jets celebrates a second quarter touchdown with teammates Nick Mangold #74 and Brent Qvale #79 of the New York Jets against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on October 2, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

A report on Thursday morning had the Jets shutting center Nick Mangold down for the season after he got a second opinion on the ankle injury that’s kept him out of four games this season.

The Jets confirmed that’s the case later in the day by placing Mangold on injured reserve. Wesley Johnson is expected to start in Mangold’s place and the Jets signed safety Doug Middleton off the practice squad to take his place on the roster.

The eight games Mangold played this year are by far the least he’s ever played during an NFL season. Mangold played at least 14 games in each of his first 10 years with the team and he started all of them to become a fixture under three different Jets coaches.

Some have suggested that the Jets may look to bring in another coach after this disappointing season comes to an end, but the Jets will have a decision to make on Mangold whether they part ways with Todd Bowles or not. Mangold is set to make $8.475 million in salary and bonuses next season, which is a lot for a player turning 33 in January who plays for a team in need of widespread improvements to their personnel.

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Jadeveon Clowney practiced Thursday, considered day-to-day

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 16: Robert Turbin #33 of the Indianapolis Colts dives for extra yardage as Brian Cushing #56 of the Houston Texans makes the tackle in the fourth quarter during the NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on October 16, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans practiced without defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on Wednesday because of the elbow and wrist injuries that kept him from playing against the Packers last Sunday, but the news from Thursday’s practice was more positive.

Clowney was able to get on the field with his teammates, a development that brightens his chances of playing against the Colts in a game that quarterback Brock Osweiler said the Texans “must win.” Coach Bill O’Brien isn’t ruling Clowney in or out of the game at this point, however.

“He practiced today. I would still put him in the day-to-day,” O’Brien said.

Clowney started the first 11 games of the year for the Texans, a number that’s equal to the amount of starts he made during his first two injury-filled seasons. He has been a key part of their defense against both the run and pass and was missed as the unit broke down late in Green Bay.

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With injured finger, Derek Carr no longer lining up under center

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders looks to pass against the Buffalo Bills during their NFL game at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on December 4, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Two weeks ago, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr dislocated his right pinkie finger while taking a snap from under center. He briefly left the field to get his finger checked out, and hasn’t taken a snap from under center since.

Carr operated exclusively out of the pistol and shotgun formations after returning to that game two weeks ago and all of last week, and Bob Holtzman of ESPN reported today that the Raiders are expecting to operate exclusively out of the shotgun and pistol tonight against the Chiefs.

There was a time when a quarterback playing a full game without taking a single snap from under center would have been unthinkable. In today’s NFL, that’s actually not all that noteworthy. It’s not at all unusual for a quarterback to take most of his snaps out of the shotgun, and Carr taking all of his snaps out of the shotgun won’t dramatically affect the offense.

When Carr hurt his finger two weeks ago, he returned to the game wearing a glove on his throwing hand. Last week he didn’t wear a glove but did have the pinkie heavily taped. Given tonight’s freezing temperatures, Carr might go back to wearing a glove, and it’s worth keeping an eye on his injured hand. But the shotgun formation probably won’t have a huge effect on the Raiders’ offense.

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Sheldon Richardson says he’s appealing fine for late hit on Andrew Luck

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 02: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks makes a pass against Sheldon Richardson #91 of the New York Jets in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 2, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

In Monday night’s blowout loss to the Colts, Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson didn’t have any tackles, sacks or any other positive plays that showed up on the stat sheet at the end of the night.

He did have one 15-yard penalty for hitting Colts quarterback Andrew Luck with what officials judged to be a late hit after a scramble down the sideline. Richardson didn’t specify the fine amount, but the NFL’s schedule of fines for this season calls for $9,115 penalty for a first offense.

Richardson said, via Brian Costello of the New York Post, that he plans to appeal the fine.

One of the reasons why Richardson’s impact was limited against the Colts is that he played a season-low 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. Coach Todd Bowles chalked it up to the team’s game plan, which continued a fitful season for Richardson. He was suspended for the opener and spent the first quarter of another game on the bench after being disciplined by Bowles.

Jets right tackle Breno Giacomini also said that he received a fine from the league after being penalized for unnecessary roughness in Monday’s loss.

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Jets shutting down Nick Mangold after second opinion

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 05:   Nick Mangold #74 of the New York Jets waits to be introduced against the Indianapolis Colts before their game at MetLife Stadium on December 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Apparently, the word from Charlotte was not what the Jets were hoping for.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Jets are shutting down center Nick Mangold, after he got a second opinion on his ankle today from Dr. Robert Anderson today.

Mangold came back after a four-game absence, but wasn’t able to finish Monday’s game against the Colts.

And while there’s a ceiling on how much a 3-9 team will miss any player over the last four, there is reason to wonder about Mangold’s future there.

He’ll turn 33 in January, and he’s due nearly $8.5 million next year ($6.075 million in base salary and a $2.4 million roster bonus). That’s a lot of money for an aging center, and it could put his future there in jeopardy.

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Carson Wentz trying to avoid frustrations that come with losing

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 4:  Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles throws a shovel pass during the third quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

If you think it seems like forever ago when rookie quarterback Carson Wentz led the Eagles to a 3-0 start, imagine how it must be for Carson Wentz.

The No. 2 overall pick only saw five losses in college, so the fact he’s 5-7 at the moment may be wearing on him a bit, even though he’s trying to stay positive.

“It’s frustrating. Nobody likes losing. Especially in this business, as a quarterback, I’m wired to be a winner. I hate losing,” Wentz said, via Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News. “But at the same time, it doesn’t affect us going forward . . . We’re going to come in and prepare and be the same, win or lose, because I think that’s what it takes to be great. You can’t waver, you can’t change how you approach things, you can’t change how you go about your business, win, lose or draw.

“But at the same time, yeah, without a doubt, we don’t like losing around here.”

They’ve done too much of that lately, losing three straight during a stretch when Wentz has thrown six of his 11 interceptions. But even though this is the time of year when the rookie wall is a very real and tangible thing.

“I feel good,” Wentz said. “I think it comes down to, do you love it enough? I think if you love the game and you’re around it, you enjoy the grind. You attack it and it’s kind of part of the process.

“For me, there’s no more school to go to during the day, it’s just football, all day, every day, and I love that. It’s been a lot of fun, and by no means is it wearing on me in a negative way.”

Of course, he’s only been in Philadelphia a few months. There’s still plenty of time for that.

 

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Report: Falcons “optimistic” Julio Jones plays this week

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 3:  Wide receiver Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons hauls in a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Ryan in front of cornerback Vernon Hargreaves #28 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the third quarter of an NFL game on November 3, 2016 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) Getty Images

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is dealing with a turf toe injury he picked up in last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs and it’s keeping him from his regular practice schedule for the second straight day on Thursday.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said that Jones took part in the team’s walkthrough, but will only be working on the side when the team practices. Jones didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice either, but his limitations don’t appear to be souring the team’s hopes of having him against the Rams this Sunday.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Falcons are “optimistic” about Jones’ chances of being on the field. Jones has not missed a game since the 2014 season.

Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is also out of practice on Thursday and Quinn said earlier in the week that he’s further away from playing than Jones. Taylor Gabriel and Justin Hardy would be options to accompany Jones or fill in for him in the event the optimism fades in the next few days.

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Tom Brady practices Wednesday, knee is “feeling good”

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots gestures during the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots didn’t file an injury report on Wednesday, because they don’t play until Monday. But they practice they did, and quarterback Tom Brady was able to participate despite a knee injury that has been limiting his practice time in recent weeks.

“I’m feeling good, so it was good to be out there,” Brady told reporters on Thursday. “I always enjoy being out there at practice. I’d much rather be practicing than getting treatment. It was good to be out there. It was a productive day and we’ve got to have a productive week, too.”

They need to have a productive week because they face the Ravens, and Brady agrees with the assessment that they currently have the best defense in the NFL.

“They’re the first-rated defense in the league so no one has done a better job over the course of the season than them,” Brady said. “I think they do things really well in a lot of areas, so they’re good in first-down defense, good in third-down defense, third-and-short, good on the goal line, good in the red area. They contest every yard, so I think that’s the mark of a good defense. They don’t give you anything easy. You have to earn it. I think they do a good mix with their scheme and also with their personnel, so we’re prepared for a 60-minute game. That’s what we’re practicing for.”

The Patriots have struggled at times with the Ravens in the playoffs, but New England holds an all-time edge of 7-1 in the regular season. To lock down the No. 1 seed in the postseason (which could entail a return visit from the Ravens with higher stakes), the Patriots need a Monday night win.

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Roethlisberger: Ladarius Green is a weapon for us

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 04:  Ladarius Green #89 of the Pittsburgh Steelers cannot come up with a pass while being defended by Eli Apple #24 of the New York Giants in the second half during the game at Heinz Field on December 4, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tight end Ladarius Green’s time with the Steelers got off to a bad start as offseason ankle surgery kept him from getting on the field in training camp and during the first half of the season.

Green was signed in hopes that he would help fill the role left vacant by Heath Miller’s retirement, but the team had to look in other directions while Green recovered. While that wasn’t the plan, the Steelers survived to remain in the mix for the division title and Green finally made it into a game in Week 10.

Recent results have shown Green was worth the wait. He has nine catches for 177 yards and a touchdown in the last two games, giving the Steelers another valuable piece in the passing game. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said that touchdown came on a play the team had yet to practice with Green, which he takes as a sign that their chemistry is heading in the right direction.

“For me to call it and him to execute it flawlessly speaks volumes for the work he has put in mentally,” Roethlisberger said, via the team’s website. “To not get that rep physically, but mentally be ready to do it, able to do it, be the actor, the fake block and then make the play. That is just awesome on his part. … I have all of the faith in the world in him and what he can do. He is a weapon for us.”

With Martavis Bryant suspended, Markus Wheaton on injured reserve and Sammie Coates dealing with a hand injury, the Steelers have had a hard time finding consistent complements to Antonio Brown this season. Green has shown signs of changing that the last two weeks and more of the same will serve the Steelers well as they push for the playoffs.

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Brian Robison on NFL officiating: Something needs to be done

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 6:  Brian Robison #96 of the Minnesota Vikings runs on to the field on November 6, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the Vikings lost on Thursday night in part because of a controversial no-call on a hit to Sam Bradford, Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said, “I’m sick and tired of the reffing in this league.”

A week later, Robison has calmed down a bit. But he said this morning on PFT Live that he’s still convinced that the NFL simply must do something to improve the officiating.

“A lot of people thought I was just commenting on that one particular play, which in the heat of the moment I kind of was, but my comments were on the league as a whole,” Robison said. “I’ve seen it on tape, different things and there’s no calls. I don’t know what needs to be done, but I feel like something needs to be done.”

Robison thinks the league might be able to give the on-field officials more help with another official who’s monitoring the game on television, beyond the replay reviews the league already has.

“The game moves very fast, and sometimes you have to have the right angle in order to be able to see it. A lot of times we get told, ‘I didn’t see it,'” Robison said. “It’s something that needs to be looked into in the offseason.”

Robison says he isn’t sure whether he will be fined by the league for his criticism of the officials.

“I haven’t yet. We may find out today. I think normally the league sends it out on Thursday,” Robison said.

If the NFL fines Robison, that would be the wrong move. It’s one thing to fine players who call out individual officials by name, or question officials’ integrity. But all Robison is saying is that across the board, the league should prioritize improving officiating. It’s hard to disagree with that.

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Ezekiel Elliott investigation still “active and ongoing”

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 1: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball during pregame warmups before facing the Minnesota Vikings on December 1, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the never-ending NFL news cycle, stories bubble up before being pushed to a rear burner, forgotten until the next time the lid begins to softly rattle against the rim of the pot.

For Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, the simmering continues when it comes to his pending domestic violence investigation. The NFL tells PFT that the investigation is “active and ongoing.”

The league continues to explore five alleged incidents in six July days involving Elliott and a former girlfriend. As part of the probe, the NFL also has considered an alleged incident from February. That becomes ominous not because Elliott could separately be punished for it (because it happened before he was drafted by Dallas, he can’t be) but because it could be used as an aggravating factor in the determination of the punishment to be imposed for whatever happened in July.

Put simply, the February incident has no relevance if nothing is going to be done about the July incidents.

But there’s a possibility that the February incident could help the league resolve an apparent credibility contest regarding the things that did or didn’t occur in July. If the claims made about Elliott regarding February can be independently corroborated, the league may be more likely to conclude that the alleged victim is telling the truth about July, too.

With no jury and no beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard of proof criminal charges were not filed against Elliott), the league essentially can do whatever it wants. And with the test being whether it’s more likely than not that the misconduct happened, the NFL can find a violation simply by coming to the conclusion that the alleged victim is telling something closer to the truth than Elliott is.

The NFL also can take as much time as it wants to resolve the case, and with only four weeks left in the regular season, it seems unlikely that anything will happen until the offseason, at the earliest. Whether other players on other teams would get the same consideration doesn’t matter; the Cowboys have proven to be the cure for the league’s ratings woes, so it makes little sense to rush to judgment regarding a running back who has emerged as one of the most important pieces of a possible championship team.

Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. The league knows it gains nothing by moving too quickly, especially since the process already has lasted this long.

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Washington shuts first-rounder down for the year in hopes of healthy 2017

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 18: Wide receiver Josh Doctson #18 of the Washington Redskins misses a catch against cornerback Morris Claiborne #24 of the Dallas Cowboys in the second half at FedExField on September 18, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Some injuries on the offensive line necessitated Washington using its designated for return from IR spot on center Kory Lichtensteiger, but it also came with the recognition that first-round pick Josh Doctson needs more time.

By preparing to activate Lichtensteiger, the team pulled the plug on the rookie wide receiver, who played just two games this season because of a lingering Achilles injury.

It is disappointing for all of us,” coach Jay Gruden said, via the team’s official website. “You know, we had high hopes for him coming out of TCU and the talent that he has and he’s disappointed but these things happen. There’s been a lot – if you look around the league, there’s a lot of first-rounders that didn’t get up and running this year for whatever reason and a lot of draft picks. So he’s just one of the guys that we have to take good care of.

“We have to make sure we get to the bottom of his injury and hopefully this gives his mental state of mind some peace that he can go out and rehab it and get it well for OTAs.”

The 22nd overall pick, Doctson was placed on IR in October, with hopes that time would help him return to the field. But when center Spencer Long suffered a concussion last week, the reality was they couldn’t wait for what might be a luxury, when more pressing needs existed.

And with the team’s top two wideouts potential free agents (DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon), they’re potentially going to need Doctson at 100 percent next year.

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Terrell Suggs has healthy respect for that guy at QB for the Patriots

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens sacks Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots during the first quarter of the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoffs game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

The man they call T-Sizzle is apparently unwilling to say the name of the guy he’s playing against Monday night.

Via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs expressed the appropriate respect for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, but at no point in an interview yesterday did he actually use the words “Tom Brady.”

When asked about Tom Brady becoming the winningest quarterback in league history last week, he replied: “He’s pretty good. Like I said, wins are wins and numbers are numbers. Numbers don’t lie. He’s pretty good.”

Asked if he didn’t want to talk about Tom Brady, he replied: “I’m like Marshawn Lynch. I know why I’m here. It’s a big game this week. We’re playing a good team. It’s going to be fun.”

Asked if he wasn’t going to say Tom Brady’s name, Suggs said: “I mean, it’s going to be fun. We’re going to have fun. It’s going to be an interesting game. We accept the challenge.”

Suggs has taken to referring to Brady as the “quarterback from New England” or “the pretty boy from up north” in recent years. But he understands the place the Patriots occupy in the football world.

“I mean, how many Super Bowls do they got? They got, like, four or five and played in, like, six or seven,” Suggs said. “You can’t do nothing but respect that. Wins are wins and championships are championships.”

Even if you won’t say Tom Brady.

Tom Brady. Tom Brady. Tom Brady.

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PFT’s Week 14 picks

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 13:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers emerges from the tunnel before their game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Bank of America Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tie, apparently, is the operative word this week in the NFL. As in Cam Newton didn’t have one. And as in the PFT picks competition does.

With MDS prevailing 4-3 in a whopping seven disagreements, it’s all knotted up with four weeks left.

For the week, MDS generated an 11-4 record, and I was 10-5.

This week, the tie will be broken based on the outcome of the game involving the guy who didn’t wear a tie. For all takes and predictions, scroll baby scroll.

Raiders at Chiefs

MDS’s take: This is one of the best Thursday night games we’ve ever had, as the winner will have the inside track in the AFC West and perhaps even home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. I think the Raiders will just freeze, baby, on a cold night in Kansas City, and the Chiefs will win a defensive struggle.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 17, Raiders 13.

Florio’s take: It’s tempting to look at Oakland’s record and assume that 10-2 will become 11-2, especially since the Raiders play so well away from home and have become an NFL darling with their best year by far since 2002. But the Chiefs have an opportunity to swipe the division, given their 26-10 win over the Raiders from October. It will be cold and it will be loud and the Chiefs have an opportunity to position themselves to make a Super Bowl run.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 24, Raiders 21.

Steelers at Bills

MDS’s take: The Bills’ running attack gives them the chance to play a ball-control offense and beat the Steelers on the ground. But I see the Steelers getting a couple big plays from Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown and winning a close one.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 24, Bills 23.

Florio’s take: The Steelers are surging and the Bills are shell-shocked after last Sunday’s 24-9 lead quickly became a 38-24 loss. The only question now is who’ll stay and who’ll go after the Bills once again fail to make it to the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 30, Bills 20.

Broncos at Titans

MDS’s take: The Titans’ surprisingly good offense against the Broncos’ unsurprisingly great defense will be a lot of fun to see. I think the Broncos’ offense will struggle and Marcus Mariota will do just enough with his arm and his legs to win a close game.

MDS’s pick: Titans 14, Broncos 13.

Florio’s take: If the Titans only could handle the teams in their division, they’d be a lock for the postseason. As it stands, they’ll need another signature win to even have a shot at the postseason. With an extra week to get ready and with the Broncos struggling (relative to 2015), give the home team the edge.

Florio’s pick: Titans 24, Broncos 17.

Washington at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Eagles are cratering down the stretch after showing a lot of promise early on. Washington needs a win here, and will get one.

MDS’s pick: Washington 27, Eagles 20.

Florio’s take: Seasons of promise for both teams have disintegrated, but Washington still has hope. And more talent. And a chance to still make it to the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Washington 27, Eagles 23.

Cardinals at Dolphins

MDS’s take: A week ago I would have said the Dolphins were the much better team here, but the Cardinals turned in a good performance last week while the Dolphins turned in a miserable game. Still, I think the Dolphins have more to play for and should bounce back.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 24, Cardinals 20.

Florio’s take: It may not be easy for the Dolphins to forget what happened in Baltimore. But the Cardinals just don’t have the horses this year, and the Dolphins continue to have an unlikely window of opportunity to get to the postseason.

Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Cardinals 23.

Chargers at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Panthers looked terrible on Sunday night and I’m tempted to declare that they’ve written off the season. But I have a feeling Ron Rivera will have his team focused for a much better game this week, and they’ll pull out a win at home.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 28, Chargers 21.

Florio’s take: Philip Rivers returns to North Carolina, the state where he played college football. (Hopefully, he’ll pick his bolo tie.) That reality coupled with pride and a desire to save Mike McCoy’s job could be the difference in this one, especially with the Panthers simply playing out the string in the hopes of a reset to 0-0.

Florio’s pick: Chargers 27, Panthers 20.

Bengals at Browns

MDS’s take: With each passing week it gets harder to justify picking the Browns to win. They appear to be holding a one-way ticket to 0-16.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 30, Browns 17.

Florio’s take: If the Browns don’t win this one, they may not win at all this season. The Bengals bounced back against the Eagles, and the Bengals realize the stakes involved: The last thing they want to do is to be the first team to lose to the Browns since the 49ers nearly one year ago to the day.

Florio’s pick: Bengals 26, Browns 17.

Bears at Lions

MDS’s take: This is one of those games where a Lions choke isn’t out of the question: It’s a game they should win, but the Lions aren’t a team with a great track record of winning the games they should win. And yet I have a feeling that they’ll manage to pull this game out, even if I also have a feeling it’s going to be closer than expected.

MDS’s pick: Lions 20, Bears 17.

Florio’s take: The biggest mystery about this game is how did the Bears beat the Lions when they met the first time?

Florio’s pick:  Lions 30, Bears 20.

Texans at Colts

MDS’s take: After falling behind the Texans early in the season, the Colts now look like the team that should win the AFC South. They’ll take a big step in that direction on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Colts 31, Texans 21.

Florio’s take: The Texans historically don’t play well in Indianapolis. More recently, the Texans haven’t been playing well anywhere. In the quest to lose at home in the wild-card round or get blown out in the divisional round, the Colts have the edge. Hooray?

Florio’s pick: Colts 24, Texans 20.

Vikings at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Vikings have struggled mightily after getting off to a hot start, but playing the Jaguars should cure what ails them.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 20, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take: If the Vikings can’t beat the Jaguars, the Vikings have no business being in the playoffs. Then again, the Vikings arguably already have no business being in the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, Jaguars 17.

Jets at 49ers

MDS’s take: This might be the ugliest game of the year. Both teams looked terrible last week, but the 49ers at least still seem to be trying to win, while the Jets are openly talking about planning for next year. That gives the 49ers the advantage this week.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Jets 10.

Florio’s take: The only important question regarding this one is whether there will be more people on and around the field than there are in the stands.

Florio’s pick: 49ers 13, Jets 9.

Saints at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: The Saints were still in the NFC South race until they laid an egg against the Lions last week. The Buccaneers are now fighting for a playoff spot, and they’ll get a big win on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Saints 17.

Florio’s take: At a time when the Raiders are the best they’ve been since making it to the Super Bowl in 2002, the Buccaneers are the best they’ve been since they won the Super Bowl in 2002.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 31, Saints 27.

Falcons at Rams

MDS’s take: The Falcons’ defense isn’t very good, and it could cost them the division. But the Jared Goff-led Rams offense won’t be able to take advantage.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 24, Rams 14.

Florio’s take: “We don’t make excuses, [insert latest excuse].”

Florio’s pick: Falcons 28, Rams 17.

Seahawks at Packers

MDS’s take: This is the most intriguing game of the week to me. Is Aaron Rodgers all the way back and ready to attack a Seahawks secondary that’s missing Earl Thomas? Can the Packers’ defense slow down Thomas Rawls and a good Seahawks running game? I think this will be a higher-scoring game than most expect, with the Seahawks coming out on top.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 34, Packers 31.

Florio’s take: Green Bay’s last two wins were, in hindsight, not very impressive. The Eagles have slumped to 2-7, and the Packers didn’t exactly steamroll an overmatched Texans team. The Seahawks have the pass rush to overcome the absence of safety Earl Thomas, and the offense to take pressure away from the defense.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 24, Packers 20.

Cowboys at Giants

MDS’s take: The injury to Jason Pierre-Paul will hit the Giants hard, and the Cowboys’ offense should have a big night as they march toward clinching home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 30, Giants 20.

Florio’s take: Yes, the Giants beat the Cowboys in Week One. But the Cowboys have gotten a lot better since then, and they realize the importance of not giving the Giants an opening to swipe the division.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 20, Giants 17.

Ravens at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Patriots’ offense will slip without Rob Gronkowski, but I see New England’s defense doing a good job against Joe Flacco in a hard-fought and close game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 20, Ravens 17.

Florio’s take: The Ravens give the Patriots fits in New England in the postseason. During the regular season, the Pats know how to take care of their rivals from Baltimore.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 24, Ravens 21.

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RG3 will start this Sunday

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 27:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Cleveland Browns looks on during warmups prior to the game against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Browns coach Hue Jackson said on Wednesday that he wanted to see how Robert Griffin III did in practice this week before making his decision about who will start at quarterback.

By the time Thursday rolled around, Jackson had seen enough to make the call. The Browns announced on Thursday morning that Griffin will be in the starting lineup against the Bengals this Sunday.

It will be Griffin’s second start of the season. He started the season opener for Cleveland, but has missed the last 11 games after breaking a bone in his left shoulder during that loss to the Eagles. He resumed practicing over the last few weeks and will now return to the lineup with hopes of leading the team to their first victory of the season.

He’ll also be trying to prove his worth as a starter after losing his job in Washington to Kirk Cousins in 2015 and landing in Cleveland as a free agent this offseason. He’s under contract with the Browns for next season, so a good close to the year could put him ahead in the battle for the job in 2017.

Griffin’s injury history and the play of the Browns’ offensive line are among the reasons why that’s a hard bet to make, but Griffin will get his chance to prove otherwise starting on Sunday.

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