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PFT Live: Packers talk with Tyler Dunne, Week Five picks

Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson AP

The Packers kick off Week Five with a home game against the Vikings on Thursday night and we’ll be looking ahead to the action during Thursday’s edition of PFT Live.

Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will join Mike Florio to discuss what the Packers need to do to win for the second straight week. They’ll talk about quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s strong performance last weekend, the Packers’ readiness for facing Teddy Bridgewater (in the event his ankle feels well enough) and the overall state of the defense in Green Bay.

Florio and MDS will also discuss who they think will win the Packers-Vikings clash along with the other games that will be kicking off on Sunday and Monday. MDS holds a two-game edge on Florio through four weeks, although neither man really set the world on fire with their September prognostications.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Philip Rivers named September’s best offensive player in AFC

Philip Rivers AP

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers rebounded in 2013 after a couple of off years and he’s climbed even higher in the first four weeks of this season.

Rivers has thrown for 1,155 yards and nine touchdowns while completing 70.1 percent of his passes as the Chargers have followed a season-opening loss with three straight victories.

His play has drawn some early MVP discussion, but he’ll have to settle with being the AFC’s top offensive player in September for now. Rivers was named the winner of the monthy honor on Thursday in a choice that’s pretty difficult to argue with given Rivers’s level of play.

“It’s always appreciated and an honor, but like always, I think it’s more of a reflection of the team this month,” Rivers said, via the team. “It’s an honor collectively because as a unit and a team we’ve put together three really good weeks. From a passing game standpoint, it takes every guy to make it go. The guys up front, the running backs and all the guys getting open in a hurry making tough catches have done that over the last month.”

Rivers will try to extend his franchise record with a touchdown pass in a 25th straight game against the Jets this weekend.

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DeMarco Murray runs off with NFC offensive player of the month

Junior Galette, DeMarco Murray AP

There have been many calls in recent years for the Cowboys to make more of a commitment to the running game, but they have gone largely unheeded until this year.

The Cowboys ran the ball early and often with DeMarco Murray over the first month of the season. It has paid off for the team, which has gone 3-1 to confound some predictions of doom, and it has paid off for Murray.

Murray has run for 534 yards on 99 carries, which leaves him more than 100 yards ahead of the next best rusher in the first four weeks of the season. Murray added 68 receiving yards and scored five touchdowns, all of which was enough to make him the NFC offensive player of the month for September.

With his contract expiring after the season, Murray has found the right time to kick his game up to another level. If he can avoid the injury issues that have cost him time in each of the last two seasons, he could run away with the rushing title on his way to free agency.

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Marqise Lee will miss third straight game

Jacksonville Jaguars v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Jaguars have been shorthanded at wide receiver all season and that’s not going to change against Pittsburgh in Week Five.

Cecil Shorts aggravated the hamstring injury that kept him out earlier this season against the Chargers last weekend and is expected to be out of the lineup for at least this week’s game as he tries to get things healed up once and for all. If he is on the sideline, he’ll have company from Marqise Lee.

The second-round pick has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury of his own and the team ruled him out for this week on Wednesday. As with Shorts, there’s not much point in playing Lee if there’s a chance of further aggravation to the injury but all the missed time is going to make it hard for Lee to get much out of his rookie year. He missed time during the summer as well and all the injury issues are likely to slow down his transition to the professional game.

Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson and Mike Brown will be joined at receiver by Ace Sanders, whose suspension has come to an end, when they face the Steelers this Sunday.

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Roethlisberger: Blake Bortles is “a young me”

Blake Bortles AP

Heading into the draft, there were plenty of people comparing Blake Bortles to Ben Roethlisberger and the similarities haven’t been lost on the Steelers quarterback.

Both players are tall, big quarterbacks who have shown an ability to use their feet to avoid pass rushers and salvage plays. Roethlisberger calls Bortles, who will be on the opposite sideline this Sunday, “a young me.”

“I liked him coming out,” Roethlisberger said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I thought he was the most ready and a guy that I thought could be the best, just because I think the things he does: He can extend plays, he can stay in, he can throw the ball, he can throw on the run. He is an impressive-type young player. He makes some rookie mistakes but he also makes some plays that you don’t expect rookies to make in a good way.”

Bortles, who shares an agent with Roethlisberger, said he’s modeled some things in his game after Roethlisberger, but points out that there’s a long way to go from being a rookie to winning two Super Bowls.

The similarities extend beyond their playing styles and builds. Both players were expected to spend most, if not all, of their rookie seasons on the bench before winding up in the starting lineup before the first month of the season was out. Bortles made his first start last week in the Jaguars’ fourth game of the season, which was a game longer than it took for Roethlisberger to take over for Tommy Maddox in Pittsburgh during the 2004 season.

The biggest difference in the two situations is the team around the quarterback. Roethlisberger benefitted from playing on a veteran club with talent while Bortles is on an 0-4 Jaguars team that’s still finding its shape under the stewardship of coach Gus Bradley and General Manager Dave Caldwell. Those differences are significant, but things should be looking up in Jacksonville as long as Bortles continues to progress despite the weaknesses just about everywhere else on the roster.

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Antrel Rolle: Losing virginity helping Prince Amukamara on the field

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Over the years, some have espoused the belief that athletes shouldn’t have sex in the days before competition because it will sap them of strength that they will need on the field.

Giants safety Antrel Rolle doesn’t seem to be a believer in that notion. Rolle was asked about cornerback Prince Amukamara’s strong start (two interceptions and 25 tackles thus far) to the season and said that he thinks Amukamara’s offseason marriage is the reason for his improved play. Amukamara is a devout Christian who said he abstained from sex before marriage — perhaps his teammates were just doing a variation on the cold shower when they dumped Amukamara in an ice-filled tub a couple of years ago — and Rolle believes the change in the bedroom has carried over to the field.

“There are a lot of things different about Prince. For one, he’s married, so he’s [enjoying some things that he wasn't experiencing before he's married]. For a man, that could definitely help him out. For a man … I’m just being honest … it’s helping him out. He walks around with a little more swagger, which is something that we need, which is something that we love,” Rolle said, via NJ.com.

If Tim Tebow still harbors any hope of an NFL career, it might be time to dust off his former touchdown celebration and put a ring on it.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin has also pointed out the improvement in Amukamara’s play, although he unsurprisingly failed to join Rolle in attributing it to Amukamara’s embrace of carnal knowledge. There’s a pretty good chance that Amukamara’s play has improved because he’s more experienced on the field and because the Giants have improved the cornerback group as a whole, but that’s not nearly as interesting a rationale for the upturn in play from the fourth-year cornerback.

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Derek Carr thinks he’ll be ready to play after bye week

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The Raiders fired coach Dennis Allen this week and named Tony Sparano as their interim coach, a decision that has overshadowed everything else going on with the Raiders this season.

Sparano will coach his first game when Oakland returns from their bye for a Week Six game against the Chargers and one of the things he’ll have to figure out is who will be starting at quarterback. Derek Carr suffered a high ankle sprain and an MCL sprain in last Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, injuries that would suggest at least a little bit of time out of the lineup.

That’s not what Carr is thinking. The quarterback said Wednesday that he is “doing a lot better” and that he doesn’t think he’ll be forced to miss the game against San Diego.

“We’re taking it [a] day at a time,” Carr said, via CSNBayArea.com. “But knowing myself, I’ll be ready — that’s my answer, that’s my goal. I’ve just got to continue to work hard to get ready.”

Matt Schaub returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the last two games and the trip to London while dealing with a family matter. He and Matt McGloin would be Sparano’s options if Carr can’t go, but they won’t be needed if the rookie is correct about how quickly he’s healing.

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Sammy Watkins: Ball comes out faster with Kyle Orton

San Diego Chargers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Bills handed the keys to the offense to quarterback Kyle Orton this week and it hasn’t taken long for Orton’s teammates to notice the differences from the way things ran with EJ Manuel.

Wide receivers Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins have both picked up on the new things that Orton brings to the table. Woods noted Orton’s “directness” and the way he tells the other members of the offense what to look for when they break the huddle and line up for the play. Watkins has noticed that as well and also pointed out some other ways that Orton’s experience has revealed itself during recent practices.

“We just had a different approach to practice. [Orton] demands what he wants out of us,” Watkins said, via ESPN.com. “He’s more of a veteran guy. The way he talked, the way he handles business, the way he looks at plays and breaks down defenses, it’s kind of different than EJ. He reads it quicker, the ball is coming out faster. That’s just some things that we have to adjust to.”

Orton wasn’t taking the bait when it came to questions about what he will do better than Manuel, but the comments from the wide receivers suggest that Orton’s going to be more advanced when it comes to reading defenses and more able to direct his younger teammates in the offense. Both should benefit the Bills as long as Orton’s physical abilities are up to snuff.

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Ndamukong Suh won’t talk about 2015

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh can become a free agent after the season and a report last weekend indicated that Suh was unlikely to remain with the Lions once the offseason does arrive.

That report had New York, Chicago and Dallas listed as preferred destinations, but Suh didn’t stick around to answer any questions about it or anything else after Detroit’s victory over the Jets. Suh reportedly was in such a hurry that he wore the same undershirt he wore during the game onto the team bus, but Suh said that wasn’t true when he met the media on Wednesday.

Suh said he that he “always” takes a shower after games and that it would be “bad hygiene” to do anything else. Attempts to turn the discussion toward his 2015 plans were less successful, however. Suh said he was happy to answer questions about this week’s matchup with the Bills, but only about the matchup with the Bills.

“I cannot address that [report] just from the simple fact that I have not spoken to any reporter about it or any reporters about supposedly what has come out,” Suh said, via the Detroit Free Press.

Suh and the Lions have tabled talks on a new deal until after the season, which doesn’t leave Suh much to talk about on the 2015 front at the moment. That won’t stop speculation or questions from bubbling to the surface, but it does seem they’ll go unanswered for a few more months.

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Knee injury keeps Kyle Williams out of practice

Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

The Bills have had one of the stingiest run defenses in the league through the first four weeks of the season, but they were missing one of the major cogs in that effort when they kicked off practice for Week Five.

Defensive tackle Kyle Williams didn’t participate because of the knee injury he suffered in last Sunday’s loss to the Texans. Beyond saying that Williams’s experience meant that he didn’t have to practice in order to play, coach Doug Marrone didn’t offer much insight into Williams’s condition.

“I just heard that we’re going to see how it progresses. He’s been around, he’s walking around here,” Marrone said, via ESPN.com. “That’s the doctors. When they release him, they release him, and when they don’t … I don’t have a feel. All I know is how it progresses, I’ll know more as the week goes.”

History says that no one should expect Marrone to be more forthcoming as the week goes on, so Williams’s practice status will be the best guide to predicting whether or not he’ll be in the lineup against the Lions. Stefan Charles and Corbin Bryant are the backup options in the event Williams doesn’t play.

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Brandon Marshall gets in a full practice

Brandon Marshall AP

On Monday, Bears coach Marc Trestman said that the team would take a long look at wide receiver Brandon Marshall in practice this week to determine whether he would benefit from missing a game to let his injured ankle fully heal.

Based on Wednesday’s practice, the signs are pointing in the other direction. Marshall practiced in full for the first time in a few weeks, a development that Trestman appreciated.

“It was good to get him back at full speed today,” Trestman said, via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune.

Trestman chalked up an interception in last week’s game against the Packers to poor communication between Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler, which led to questions about whether that difficulty was because Marshall hasn’t been on the practice field all that much of late. If Marshall’s ankle holds up well after Wednesday’s practice, that issue should disappear and Marshall’s targets — 12 in the last two weeks — should rise against the Panthers this weekend.

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Jake Locker practices, says wrist feels fine

Tennessee Titans v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

It looks like the Titans will have quarterback Jake Locker back in the lineup this Sunday.

Locker missed last Sunday’s loss to the Colts with a right wrist injury, forcing Tennessee to turn to Charlie Whitehurst and Zach Mettenberger. Locker was back at practice on Wednesday, however, and got in a full session.

Locker said after practice that his wrist felt fine and that he’s ready to lead the offense against the Browns. Locker also said that he knows he needs to pick up his game after two dismal outings before the injury.

“When you are not winning and things are not going the way you’d like them to go, I’ve always believed the first place you have to look is at yourself, and it is no different in this situation,” Locker said, via the Tennessean. “Just the details, executing the details in a play can make a big difference. And making a tough throw. It is not always going to be wide open and you have to find ways to complete contested passes in this league, and we have to do a better job of that.”

The next 12 games will have a lot to do with more than just how the Titans fare in 2014. They should go a long way toward determining what kind of future Locker has as an NFL starter and more of what we’ve seen this season in terms of performance and health won’t be the ticket to a bright one.

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Jeff Fisher names Austin Davis starting quarterback in St. Louis

Austin Davis AP

The Rams have taken their time naming a starting quarterback for their last two games, but they’re returning from the bye week with a new approach.

Coach Jeff Fisher announced on Wednesday that Austin Davis will make his third straight start against the Eagles this Sunday. Fisher actually went a bit further than that and said that Davis is the team’s starter moving forward.

Even though Fisher has said in the past that Shaun Hill was the team’s starter once he’d recovered from the quad injury that knocked him out of the season opener, it’s not a surprising decision from Fisher. Davis has completed over 72 percent of his passes since taking over the job while throwing three touchdowns and three interceptions, numbers that merit more of a look to see what kind of quarterback he can be over a longer term for a team that will probably be looking for a new starter come the offseason.

That starter could be Davis, he could be a backup or he could be a placeholder for a rookie, but there’s more to learn about Davis than there is about Hill no matter how things might play out in 2015.

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Carson Palmer misses practice to see shoulder specialist

Carson Palmer, Bruce Arians AP

The optimism that Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer expressed about his ability to play against the Broncos in Week Five appears to be evaporating by the day.

Earlier this week, coach Bruce Arians said that Wednesday would be a big day for Palmer to show that the nerve issue in his right shoulder has healed enough for him to return to the lineup after missing the last two games. It’s Wednesday, but things haven’t developed as Palmer would have hoped.

Arians said, via Darren Urban of the team’s website, that Palmer was excused from the team’s practice so he could go see a specialist about his shoulder. Arians explained that Palmer threw a lot late last week while the Cardinals were on their bye and that his condition has regressed since then.

That points to another start for Drew Stanton, who quarterbacked the team to victories over the Giants and 49ers before the team went on their bye week.

Arians added that the team doesn’t consider Palmer a candidate for season-ending injured reserve because they don’t feel that the quarterback is suffering from a long-term injury. He didn’t rule out injured reserve with the designation to return, however, and one imagines that possibility could grow based on what Palmer learns during his visit to the specialist.

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Jets expect Dee Milliner back this week

New York Jets v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Jets defense has had cornerback Dee Milliner in the lineup for part of one game in September because of ankle and quad injuries, but it appears October will be getting off to a better start.

Coach Rex Ryan said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, at Wednesday’s press conference that Milliner will play against the Chargers this Sunday. Milliner last played in Week Two against the Packers, but left the game early after his sprained ankle tightened up in the third quarter.

There’s no word on how expansive a role Milliner might play against San Diego, but any help will be welcomed as the Jets try to slow down Philip Rivers. The Jets have rushed the passer well through the first four weeks and have posted the highest percentage of sacks per drop backs in the league, but opposing offenses have found plenty of places to go with the ball if the rush doesn’t get home.

Milliner can’t fix that all by himself, but his healthy presence should alleviate some of the problems. Safety Calvin Pryor, who left last Sunday’s game with a thigh injury, took part in practice and is also on track to play this week.

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