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NFL morning after: J.J. Watt remains the NFL’s best defensive player

J.J. Watt AP

In the 1996-97 NBA season, Michael Jordan averaged an NBA-high 29.6 points a game and played in all 82 games as the Chicago Bulls went a league-best 69-13, and everyone knew he was the best basketball player in the world. But Jordan didn’t win the MVP that year. The award went instead to Karl Malone, mostly because Jordan had just won his fourth MVP the year before and the voters figured it was time to give the award to someone else.

I have a feeling the same thing is going to happen to Texans defensive end J.J. Watt with the defensive player of the year award this season. I’m not sure if Watt is going to win the trophy for the third time this season, but I am sure Watt is the NFL’s best defensive player. If Watt doesn’t win the award this year, it’s mostly because the voters think it would be nice to see a little variety rather than giving it to Watt for the third time in the last four years. It’s not because there’s actually a better defensive player than Watt.

Are there other candidates? Sure. Josh Norman and Luke Kuechly have both had good years for the Panthers. Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones has had a good year. If you’re looking for a dark horse candidate, Ziggy Ansah of the Lions has really come on of late.

But none are as good as Watt. In yesterday’s win over the Saints, Watt logged two sacks and two tackles for loss and was hitting Drew Brees as he passed all day. The Texans’ 24-6 win was the first time the Saints have ever failed to score a touchdown in any game with Brees as their quarterback. Watt now leads the league with 13.5 sacks, and he has 70.5 sacks in his 75 career games. Since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, only Reggie White has reached 70 sacks faster.

It’s entirely possible, however, that Watt won’t win the defensive player of the year. It’s an award that the voters like to spread around. White — who played 15 NFL seasons and is regarded by many as the best defensive player ever — only won it twice. But whether Watt gets another trophy to put on the mantel in his luxury log cabin is unimportant. We all know who the NFL’s best defensive player is.

Watt was the most impressive player on the field on Sunday. Here are my other thoughts:

What, exactly, has Jeff Fisher done in St. Louis? When you look at where the Rams were before Fisher became their head coach in 2012, where they’ve been over the last four years and where they are now, what has Fisher accomplished? Following yesterday’s 31-7 loss to the Bengals, the Rams are 4-7 on the season and 24-34-1 overall with Fisher as their coach. In his 21 seasons as a head coach in the NFL, Fisher has finished with a winning record six times. Fisher got testy with reporters after yesterday’s game, but Fisher really should look in the mirror. It’s completely reasonable to ask why his job should be safe.

Adrian Peterson continues to amaze. If you can’t root for Peterson anymore because he was convicted of abusing his son last year, I can’t blame you. Being a great player and being a great person are two unreleated things, and Peterson is a great player despite his personal flaws. Yesterday he gained 158 yards on 29 carries, giving him six 100-yard games this season, a league high, and 48 100-yard games in his career, the most among active players. Peterson’s Hall of Fame career is going strong, and the Vikings are heading toward the playoffs.

Tevin Coleman’s problems with fumbling continue. Coleman, the Falcons’ rookie running back, fumbled four times last year at Indiana, which was a concern heading into the draft. Now he has lost three fumbles this season in just 78 touches. If Coleman can’t hold onto the ball, he’s not going to last long in the NFL.

I love Mike Tomlin’s two-point conversion strategy. There are 31 NFL coaches who only go for two when they need it, and then there’s Tomlin, who goes for two any time he thinks there’s a matchup advantage. That’s the smart strategy, and the Steelers tied an NFL record yesterday with their sixth two-point conversion of the season.

The NFL’s catch rules had me feeling sorry for Mike Carey. Carey, the former Super Bowl referee who quit his job as a ref to work as an analyst for CBS, was thoroughly confused by close calls during the Steelers-Seahawks game. The NFL’s catch rules are confounding, and Carey couldn’t figure out the calls, and it was a little rough having to watch him be so wrong before such a large audience.

Washington showed everyone. Heading into this season, we all thought the NFC East was a three-team race among the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys, and that Washington was a distant fourth. Instead, it’s Washington in first place after Week 12. Jay Gruden said after yesterday’s win over the Giants that he knew what kind of team he had: “I’ve had a good idea,” Gruden said, “it’s just a matter of showing everyone else how far they’ve come.” They showed everyone, alright. The NFC East is a bad division, but someone has to make the playoffs, and it’s looking like that “someone” will be Washington.

The AFC playoff race just got more interesting. The Patriots appeared poised to walk away with home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. But the Broncos’ win last night dropped New England to 10-1 and improved the Broncos to 9-2. With the Bengals also at 9-2, the race for home-field advantage in the AFC may go down to Week 17.

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Week 12 early inactives

Ryan Tannehill, Mario Williams AP

Every week we bring you all the inactives from the early games in one post, constantly updated with the latest information. Check back often to see the full list as it becomes available.

Vikings at Falcons

Vikings: S Harrison Smith, CB Trae WaynesQB Taylor Heinicke, LB Edmond Robinson, C Nick Easton, OT Jeremiah Sirles, DE Justin Trattou

Falcons: K Matt Bryant, RB Devonta Freeman, WR Leonard Hankerson, CB Phillip Adams, C James Stone, T Bryce Harris, DE Malliciah Goodman

Rams at Bengals

Rams: T Andrew Donnal, CB Trumaine Johnson, DE Robert Quinn, T Isaiah Battle, DE Ethan Westbrooks, QB Case Keenum, K Greg Zuerlein

Bengals: WR Mario Alford, LB Paul Dawson, TE C.J. Uzomah, DT Marcus Hardison, DT Pat Sims, DE Margus Hunt, T Cedric Ogbuehi

Saints at Texans

Saints: LB Dannel Ellerbe, LB David Hawthorne, CB Damian Swann, QB Garrett Grayson, DT Kaleb Eulls, G Mike McGlynn, DE Phillip Hunt

Texans: QB Brandon Weeden, WR Jaelen Strong, S Rahim Moore, CB A.J. Bouye, G Oday Aboushi, TE Garrett Graham, DT Jeoffrey Pagan

Buccaneers at Colts

Buccaneers: DE George Johnson, S Keith Tandy, QB Ryan Griffin, WR Donteea Dye, DE Kourtnei Brown, G Ali Marpet, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Colts: QB Andrew Luck, T Anthony Castonzo, WR Phillip Dorsett, G Todd Herremans, LB Bjoern Werner, S Mike Adams, LB Sio Moore

Chargers at Jaguars

Chargers: G D.J. Fluker, S Adrian Phillips, CB Greg Ducre, LB Kavell Conner, DT Damion Square, T King Dunlap, LB Cordarro Law

Jaguars: LB Dan Skuta, RB Bernard Pierce, WR Neal Sterling, S Craig Loston, OL Luke Bowanko, RB Joe Banyard, DT Michael Bennett

Bills at Chiefs

Bills: WR Marcus Easley, DE Mario Williams, G John Miller, QB Josh Johnson, OL Cyrus Kouandjio, DT Kyle Williams, OL Ryan Groy

Chiefs: DE Allen Bailey, LB Dee Ford, WR De’Anthony Thomas, G Ben Grubbs, DL David King, QB Aaron Murray, RB Charcandrick West

Dolphins at Jets

Dolphins: T Ju’Wuan James, TE Brandon Williams, LB Chris McCain, TE Jake Stoneburner, WR Matt Hazel, T Ulrick John, LB James-Michael Johnson

Jets: CB Darrelle Revis, QB Bryce Petty, OL Ben Ijalana, S Dion Bailey, OL Dakota Dozier, WR Kenbrell Thompkins, DL Josh Martin

Raiders at Titans

Raiders: LB Neiron Ball, CB Keith McGill, RB Taiwan Jones, C Rodney Hudson, OL Khalif Barnes, WR Rod Streater, TE Gabe Holmes

Titans: RB Dexter McCluster, DT Al Woods, CB Cody Riggs, G Jeremiah Poutasi, WR Andrew Turzilli, LB Derrick Morgan, DT Mike Martin

Giants at Redskins

Giants: C Weston Richburg, G Justin Pugh, TE Larry Donnell, WR Geremy Davis, S Cooper Taylor, CB Leon McFadden, DE George Selvie

Redskins: S Trenton Robinson, QB Robert Griffin III, CB Deshazor Everett, LB Keenan Robinson, DE Frank Kearse, G Arie Kouandjio, TE Je’Ron Hamm

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Week 12 injury report roundup

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 15:  Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks carries the ball during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field on November 15, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) Getty Images

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday. So, without further delay, the injury report roundup for Week 12 of the 2015 season.

Vikings at Falcons

Defensive end Everson Griffen (hip, shoulder), safety Harrison Smith (knee) and cornerback Trae Waynes (ankle) all drew questionable tags for the Vikings. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (left shoulder) is probable. The Falcons will go without kicker Matt Bryant (right quadricep), running back Devonta Freeman (concussion) and wide receiver Leonard Hankerson (hamstring), but everyone else on the 53-man roster is expected to play.

Rams at Bengals

Rams coach Jeff Fisher said the team is planning to start Nick Foles at quarterback, but Case Keenum (concussion) still has a chance to play after drawing a questionable tag. Tackle Rob Havenstein (calf), cornerback Trumaine Johnson (thigh), defensive end Robert Quinn (hip, back) and kicker Greg Zuerlein (right groin) join Keenum with that designation. Tackle Andrew Donnal (knee) won’t play. The Bengals didn’t have cornerback Adam Jones (foot) or defensive tackle Pat Sims (knee) last week, but hope to have them this time after listing them as questionable.

Saints at Texans

The Saints return from their bye week without the services of linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hip), linebacker David Hawthorne (thigh) and cornerback Damian Swann (concussion). Three other linebackers — Stephone Anthony (lower leg), Ramon Humber (hamstring) and Hau’oli Kikaha (ankle) — are probable. The Texans have 16 players on their injury report, but all are expected to play. That group includes quarterback Brian Hoyer (concussion), linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (wrist) and running back Alfred Blue (back).

Buccaneers at Colts

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder) is set to have his absence from the Buccaneers lineup continue after drawing a doubtful designation. Defensive end George Johnson (calf) and safety Keith Tandy (concussion) are out this week and guard Ali Marpet (ankle) is questionable. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo (knee) will join wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (ankle) and quarterback Andrew Luck (kidney, abdomen) on the Colts inactive list. Safety Mike Adams (ankle) is doubtful while cornerback Gregory Toler (groin) and linebacker Erik Walden (foot) are questionable.

Chargers at Jaguars

Guard D.J. Fluker (concussion) won’t be in the lineup for the Chargers, but wide receiver Malcom Floyd (shoulder) is probable a couple of weeks after tearing his labrum. Left tackle King Dunlap (ankle) is doubtful and defensive tackle Corey Liuget (foot) is questionable. The Jaguars have ruled linebacker Dan Skuta (groin) out for this weekend. Safety Craig Loston (ankle), running back Bernard Pierce (calf) and wide receiver Neal Sterling (illness) are listed as doubtful.

Bills at Chiefs

The Bills will play without wide receiver Marcus Easley (concussion), guard John Miller (ankle), defensive end Mario Williams (foot) and defensive tackle Kyle Williams (knee), who will have season-ending surgery. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor (right shoulder) is set to start. The Chiefs listed tight end Travis Kelce (groin, ankle) and running back Charcandrick West (hamstring) as questionable. Defensive end Allen Bailey (calf), linebacker Dee Ford (back), guard Ben Grubbs (neck) and wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas (concussion) have been ruled out.

Dolphins at Jets

The Dolphins are optimistic that wide receiver Jarvis Landry (knee) can play after being listed as questionable. They also listed linebackers Jelani Jenkins (ankle), Koa Misi (abdomen), Spencer Paysinger (neck) and Kelvin Sheppard (hamstring) as questionable and ruled out right tackle Ja’Wuan James (toe) again this week. The Jets will play without cornerback Darrelle Revis (concussion) and don’t expect to have safety Dion Bailey (ankle, doubtful). Center Nick Mangold (hand) and defensive end Sheldon Richardson (hamstring) are probable.

Raiders at Titans

Raiders center Rodney Hudson (ankle) is doubtful, which likely leaves Tony Bergstrom to start on Sunday. Linebacker Neiron Ball (knee) and cornerback Keith McGill (ankle) were ruled out. The Titans won’t have running back Dexter McCluster (knee) or defensive tackle Al Woods (ankle), but wide receiver Kendall Wright (knee, probable) is expected to return to action.

Giants at Redskins

The Giants will likely be down two starting offensive linemen with guard Justin Pugh (concussion) out and center Weston Richburg (ankle) doubtful. Linebacker Mark Herzlich (quad) and tight end Larry Donnell (neck) are also out, but cornerback Prince Amukamara (pectoral) is expected to return. The Redskins lost cornerback Chris Culliver to a torn ACL and MCL this week and two other corners — Bashaud Breeland (hamstring, illness) and Deshazor Everett (hamstring) — are questionable. Safety Trenton Robinson (hamstring) won’t play.

Cardinals at 49ers

The Cardinals will be down two defensive tackles after ruling Cory Redding (ankle) and Frostee Rucker (ankle) out. Safety Deone Bucannon (concussion), guard Jonathan Cooper (knee), wide receiver Michael Floyd (hamstring), cornerback Patrick Peterson (ankle) and defensive tackle Ed Stinson (groin) are all questionable. Running back Carlos Hyde (foot) remains out for the 49ers and linebacker Ahmad Brooks (concussion/toe) is questionable.

Steelers at Seahawks

Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier (knee) and tight end Matt Spaeth (knee) will be game-time decisions after being listed as questionable. The Seahawks don’t expect to get linebacker Bruce Irvin (knee) back this week and running back Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) and wide receiver Paul Richardson (hamstring) have already been ruled out. Center Patrick Lewis (ankle, knee) is questionable.

Patriots at Broncos

Patriots wide receivers Danny Amendola (knee) and Keshawn Martin (hamstring) are both questionable as the team prepares to play without Julian Edelman (foot) again this week. Linebacker Jamie Collins (illness) returned to practice Friday, but is doubtful to face the Broncos. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware (back) will miss another game for Denver and guard Evan Mathis (ankle, questionable) will have his status updated over the weekend. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (ankle, finger) is probable after missing last week.

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AFC playoff picture: Patriots closing in on clinching

Bill Belichick AP

The Patriots haven’t clinched a playoff berth just yet, but they may do it as soon as Sunday. And they may clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs soon after that.

At 10-0, the Patriots have a whopping five-game lead in the AFC East, and a two-game lead over the rest of the conference. New England can clinch the AFC East with a win and a Jets loss on Sunday, and New England can also open up a three-game lead in the conference with only five games to play, if the Patriots beat the Broncos and the Bengals get upset by the Rams.

So barring something unforeseen, the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through New England. Here’s how the whole conference shapes up:

1. Patriots (10-0): They may not go 16-0, but they’ll be heavy favorites in all of their remaining games.

2. Bengals (8-2): Cincinnati owns the conference record tiebreaker with the Broncos for now, but the real tiebreaker between the two will be settled when they meet on December 28.

3. Broncos (8-2): The Broncos’ schedule isn’t easy, with remaining games against the Patriots, Bengals and Steelers.

4. Colts (5-5): Indianapolis has the head-to-head tiebreaker edge over Houston in the AFC South.

5. Steelers (6-4): Pittsburgh probably can’t catch Cincinnati in the AFC North, but the Steelers have the inside track on the wild card race.

6. Chiefs (5-5): Kansas City wins the tiebreaker over Houston and Buffalo based on winning percentage in conference games.

7. Texans (5-5): Houston has looked like a mess for much of this season, but the Texans still have a real shot at winning the AFC South.

8. Bills (5-5): Buffalo owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets.

9. Jets (5-5): After winning four of their first five, the Jets have now lost four of their last five.

10. Raiders (4-6): A three-game losing streak has Oakland looking like a long shot.

11. Jaguars (4-6): Jacksonville is only a game out in the AFC South and has an easy schedule the rest of the way. It wouldn’t be a shock to see a playoff game in Jacksonville.

12. Dolphins (4-6): Their brief turnaround under interim head coach Dan Campbell now feels like a long time ago.

13. Ravens (3-7): The Joe Flacco injury ends any glimmer of hope they had of a late-season playoff push.

14. Browns (2-8): Just playing out the string, and now they won’t even get a long look at Johnny Manziel.

15. Chargers (2-8): At this point San Diego is just trying to get enough healthy players to finish the season.

16. Titans (2-8): Tennessee is only three games out in the AFC South, but there’s no realistic chance of the Titans making the playoffs.

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PFT’s Week 12 picks

Matthew Stafford AP

The good news? After a crappy Week 10 performance, I finished about .500 in Week 11. The bad news? Not by much.

It was 8-6 for me, 9-5 for MDS, and now we’re tied with six weeks to go.

With six disagreements this week (the most of the year, by far), this is the weekend when separation could happen. If definitely will begin on Thursday, where we disagree on one of the three Thanksgiving Day games.

For the year, we’re both 101-59, a success rate of 63.12 percent.

Eagles at Lions

MDS’s take: The Eagles looked terrible on Sunday and the Lions looked pretty good, but Detroit’s offense still isn’t making many big plays, and I think Philly can win a close, low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 17, Lions 14.

Florio’s take: The Lions are hot, and the Eagles are on the verge of an implosion. With Jim Caldwell earning a chance to keep his job (and possibly to emerge with power over personnel) and Mark Sanchez likely starting again for Philly, Detroit could be halfway to .500 after a 1-7 disaster.

Florio’s pick: Lions 24, Eagles 17.

Panthers at Cowboys

MDS’s take: In their last 28 games, the Cowboys are 16-3 when Tony Romo starts and 0-9 when he doesn’t. Unfortunately for Dallas, Romo now has to face perhaps the best defense in the NFL in the Panthers, and a loss on Thanksgiving will seal the Cowboys’ fate.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 20, Cowboys 13.

Florio’s take: The playoffs start for the Cowboys on Thursday. If so, they’ll be one and done. The Panthers are better than most will realize or admit, and Cam Newton will relish the opportunity to dance for a national audience that is dabbing the gravy from its collective chin.

Florio’s pick: Panthers 30, Cowboys 27.

Bears at Packers

MDS’s take: Green Bay’s offense does miss receiver Jordy Nelson, but Aaron Rodgers should be able to get back on track against a weak Bears defense. The Packers will cruise.

MDS’s pick: Packers 34, Bears 17.

Florio’s take: They’re retiring Brett Favre’s number, which will give his successor (and one-time in-house rival) extra motivation to avoid losing a second straight home game to a division rival.

Florio’s pick: Packers 31, Bears 21.

Vikings at Falcons

MDS’s take: This is a huge game in the NFC wild card race, as the Vikings and Falcons would currently be the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds in the conference. I like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to have a big day in what should be an exciting game.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 28, Vikings 27.

Florio’s take: The Vikings had one bad game in their last six. The Falcons have had one good game in their last six. The Vikings have the better team on both sides of the ball, and (most importantly) it’s not really a big game for Minnesota. Which means they won’t stain their purple pants yellow.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 26, Falcons 18.

Rams at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Bengals went through a tough stretch the last couple weeks, but the Rams have been a brutally bad team on offense recently, and that should be just what Cincinnati needs to win a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 13, Rams 6.

Florio’s take: After two straight losses, the Bengals are close to reacquiring the same, old “same old” prefix. Fortunately for Cincinnati, the Rams are falling apart at a much more dramatic and profound rate.

Florio’s pick: Bengals 31, Rams 15.

Saints at Texans

MDS’s take: When they’re not starting Ryan Mallett, the Texans are a pretty good team: They went 1-3 with Mallett starting, but they’re 4-2 in their other six games. Brian Hoyer should have a big game against the Saints’ bad defense, and the Texans will move to 6-5.

MDS’s pick: Texans 24, Saints 20.

Florio’s take: After two straight wins, it’s time to believe in the Texans. After two ugly losses, it’s time to not believe in the Saints. Which probably means the Saints will find a way to surprise us. Nevertheless, if the Texans are going to be a factor in the AFC South, they need to win this one.

Florio’s pick: Texans 24, Saints 20.

Buccaneers at Colts

MDS’s take: Both of these teams are coming off road wins last week and fighting for playoff berths, which makes this a pretty good game. I think the Colts will improve to 4-0 in games Matt Hasselbeck starts.

MDS’s pick: Colts 24, Buccaneers 17.

Florio’s take: The Colts are shaky and the Bucs are gaining confidence by the week. If Jameis Winston can stay healthy (which given his style of play could be a big if), Tampa Bay could find itself in the postseason.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 26, Colts 23.

Chargers at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Jaguars remain right in the thick of things in the AFC South, while the Chargers are so beaten up that they’re just struggling to find 46 healthy bodies to throw out there on Sunday. Jacksonville should take this one and improve to 5-6.

MDS’s pick: Jaguars 30, Chargers 13.

Florio’s take: The Chargers are falling apart. The Jaguars are surprisingly competitive. Advantage: Team that is still playing for a playoff berth.

Florio’s pick: Jaguars 23, Chargers 13.

Bills at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Chiefs are on a four-game winning streak and have won all four games handily. Despite a slow start, Kansas City has a good chance of making the playoffs, and they’ll knock off a potential wild-card rival with a win over the Bills.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 21, Bills 20.

Florio’s take: The Bills have a short-week trip to a hostile environment, against one of the hottest teams in the league. Kansas City has come too far after a 1-5 start to stumble now.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 27, Bills 17.

Dolphins at Jets

MDS’s take: Remember when Dan Campbell had turned the Dolphins around? That feels like a long time ago. The truth is, the Campbell Dolphins aren’t much different from the Joe Philbin Dolphins.

MDS’s pick: Jets 21, Dolphins 17.

Florio’s take: Previously, the Jets got Joe Philbin fired. New Dolphins coach Dan Campbell will show his appreciation by beating the Jets, who have fallen apart after a 4-1 start.

Florio’s pick: Dolphins 20, Jets 17.

Raiders at Titans

MDS’s take: The Raiders have taken a step backward after looking like playoff contenders early in the season, but they should still be good enough to win at Tennessee, where the Titans are the NFL’s only winless home team.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 38, Titans 24.

Florio’s take: The Titans aren’t as bad as their record indicates, and the Raiders have suddenly lost their way. It’s time for Marcus Mariota to pick up his third win.

Florio’s pick: Titans 27, Raiders 20.

Giants at Washington

MDS’s take: The winner of this game is in first place in the NFC East. It’s going to be a close, tough game that the Giants will pull out in the fourth quarter.

MDS’s pick: Giants 24, Washington 23.

Florio’s take: New York makes its final push to win the division, and to hold off the Cowboys. Washington will have little or no chance to capture the title with a loss.

Florio’s pick: Giants 23, Washington 17.

Cardinals at 49ers

MDS’s take: The Cardinals are closing in on the NFC West crown and will take another step in that direction with another division road win.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 28, 49ers 17.

Florio’s take: Arizona beat Colin Kaepernick by 40 points. Blaine Gabbert will fare better, but not much.

Florio’s pick: Cardinals 40, 49ers 17.

Steelers at Seahawks

MDS’s take: This is close to a must-win game for the Seahawks for an NFC wild card berth, and it’s a big game for the Steelers for an AFC wild card berth as well. I think Seattle, playing at home, will turn in a good defensive effort and win a close one.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 20, Steelers 17.

Florio’s take: Seattle needs another win, badly. Thomas Rawls has given the offense a huge boost, and the bye week gave them more time to figure out how to use Jimmy Graham. The Steelers remain viable contenders in the AFC, but it won’t be easy to pull out this one.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 27, Steelers 24.

Patriots at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Broncos made the right call by replacing Peyton Manning with Brock Osweiler, but neither quarterback would lead Denver to a win over New England.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Broncos 14.

Florio’s take: Gary Kubiak struggled against the Patriots during his time with the Texans, but he had the Patriots on the ropes in January as the offensive coordinator of the Ravens. Based on how well the Broncos played last time they hosted an unbeaten team on Sunday Night Football, and given how well Brock Osweiler fits the Kubiak offense, it could be time for New England’s run of perfection to end.

Florio’s pick: Broncos 27, Patriots 23.

Ravens at Browns

MDS’s take: The late-season Monday night slate has a lot of ugly games, and this is the ugliest. I like the Johnny Manziel-led Browns to beat the Matt Schaub-led Ravens.

MDS’s pick: Browns 20, Ravens 16.

Florio’s take: The King of the Pick Six is back, leading a team with seven losses in 10 games. It gives the Browns a rare chance to get a win in an even rarer Monday night appearance.

Florio’s pick: Browns 13, Ravens 10.

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PFT’s Week 12 power rankings

James White, Danny Amendola, Bacarri Rambo AP

1. Patriots (10-0; last week No. 1): Unlike 2007, they’re not routinely blowing people out. Like 2007, they’re winning every single game.

2. Panthers (10-0; No. 2): Never before has a 10-0 team been taken less seriously.

3. Cardinals (8-2; No. 3): The team that can’t lose in prime time barely won.

4. Bengals (8-2; No. 4): The team that struggles to win in prime time barely lost.

5. Packers (7-3; No. 6): Thanks to Aaron Rodgers, more than a few Vikings currently have personal problems at home.

6. Broncos (8-2; No. 7): Brock Osweiler got a win on his 25th birthday; he’ll get a few more before he turns 26.

7. Steelers (6-4; No. 8): This is perhaps the one team that could keep New England out of the Super Bowl.

8. Vikings (7-3; No. 5): Is a one-and-done playoff appearance better than not going to the playoffs at all?

9. Seahawks (5-5; No. 10): Meet the new Beast Mode. Same as the old Beast Mode.

10. Chiefs (5-5; No. 20): The team that embarrassed the Pats last year could get another crack at them in the playoffs.

11. Giants (5-5; No. 15): That Week One debacle could end up haunting Tom Coughlin after Week 17.

12, Bills (5-5; No. 9): With only three catches, Sammy Watkins is gonna be upset. Again.

13. Raiders (4-6; No. 11): “They can never take away that we were once 4-3.”

14. Colts (5-5; No. 18): If Adam Vinatieri and/or Matthew Hasselbeck can hang around a few more years, they could get a “Colt 45” endorsement deal.

15. Texans (5-5; No. 19): Ryan Mallett oversleeping may have been the best thing that happened to this team.

16. Jets (5-5; No. 12): Revis Island has been obliterated by a TsNukami©.

17. Falcons (6-4; No. 13): When is it fair to ask whether Matt Ryan is a top 25 quarterback?

18. Buccaneers (5-5; No. 23): It’s possible that the top two picks from the 2015 draft will both be closer to Peyton Manning than Ryan Leaf.

19. Cowboys (3-7; No. 30): For the Cowboys, the playoffs officially start on Thursday.

20. Bears (4-6; No. 14): The Bears won’t be feeling thankful about playing in Green Bay on the night they retire Brett Favre’s jersey.

21. Rams (4-6; No. 16): When a team prefers a potentially concussed Case Keenum to a lucid Nick Foles, that’s not good for the team — or for Foles.

22. Dolphins (4-6; No. 17): It’s going to be a long December at Sun Life Stadium, with four games there in the last five weeks of the season.

23. Jaguars (4-6; No. 25): Two wins in five days isn’t bad for a team that hasn’t been winning many more than two games  in entire seasons.

24. Lions (3-7; No. 26): Maybe more struggling teams will start firing their General Managers during the season.

25. Washington (4-6; No. 21): Maybe they should fire their defensive coordinator and hire Rob Ryan.

26. Eagles (4-6; No. 22): Chip Kelly’s approach to acquiring NFL quarterbacks apparently was inspired by the inscription on the Statue of Liberty.

27. Saints (4-6; No. 24): The Saints defense is so bad that the bye still scored 25 points against it.

28. Ravens (3-7; No. 31): A disastrous 2015 will now spill over into 2016.

29. 49ers (3-7; No. 27): The 49ers put their quarterback on injured reserve. They’re now trying to figure out how to do the same thing with their coach.

30. Titans (2-8; No. 29): They’re still not out of it, which tells you everything you need to know about the AFC South.

31. Chargers (2-8; No. 28): As the Chargers prepare to try to move to L.A., they could have a hard time beating either of the local college teams there.

32. Browns (2-8; No. 32): Maybe Johnny Manziel’s punishment for last month’s incident was to make him the starter.

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NFC playoff picture: Panthers in control, Cowboys in last place

Jerry Jones, Jerry Richardson AP

When the Panthers play the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, it will match up the No. 1 team in the NFC and the No. 16 team in the NFC.

And yet it doesn’t look like the blowout that you’d usually associate with the best team in the conference facing the worst team in the conference. Because the Cowboys, now that Tony Romo is back, aren’t the worst team in the conference — and are still playoff contenders.

In any other NFC division, the Cowboys would be toast right now. But in the NFC East, they’re two games back with six games to play. If they can beat the Panthers on Thursday — a big if — the Cowboys could make a late run to the playoffs.

Here’s how the NFC playoff race looks through Week 11:

1. Panthers (10-0): Carolina has a four-game lead in the NFC South.

2. Cardinals (8-2): Arizona has a three-game lead in the NFC West.

3. Packers (7-3): Green Bay owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with Minnesota in the NFC North.

4. Giants (5-5): No one in the NFC East has a winning record, but the Giants are the one team in the division without a losing record.

5. Vikings (7-3): Minnesota has the inside track for the wild card, but Sunday’s home loss to the Packers makes the NFC North a tough row to hoe.

6. Falcons (6-4): Atlanta has almost no chance of catching Carolina in the NFC South, but a game lead over everyone else in the wild card race.

7. Buccaneers (5-5): Last year the Bucs were the worst team in the NFL. This year they’re in playoff contention. Things change fast in the NFL. The Bucs own the tiebreaker with the Seahawks thanks to a better conference record.

8. Seahawks (5-5): The Seahawks will be a team no one wants to play if they make the playoffs, but for now they’re still a game back.

9. Washington (4-6): Washington is only a game behind the Giants in the NFC East and owns the conference record tiebreaker over all the other 4-6 NFC teams.

10. Rams (4-6): The Rams are on a three-game losing streak, and with the Bengals and Cardinals as their next two opponents, they’ll probably be 4-8 and out of the playoff picture in two weeks.

11. Eagles (4-6): Philadelphia sure didn’t look like a playoff team on Sunday, but the Eagles are only a game out in the NFC East.

12. Saints (4-6): A wild card berth is a long shot unless the defense can engineer a dramatic turnaround.

13. Bears (4-6): They’re a playoff long shot, but they can play spoilers by beating the Packers on Thanksgiving.

14. Lions (3-7): Detroit is on a two-game winning streak, but it’s too little, too late. The Lions do have the conference record tiebreaker over both the 49ers and the Cowboys.

15. 49ers (3-7): San Francisco owns the tiebreaker over Dallas, based on strength of victory.

16. Cowboys (3-7): They’ll probably need to run the table with Tony Romo to win the NFC East.

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Week 11 early inactives

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Every week we bring you all the inactives from the early games in one post, constantly updated with the latest information. Check back often to see the full list as it becomes available.

Colts at Falcons

Colts: QB Andrew Luck, WR Phillip Dorsett, S Mike Adams, LB Sio Moore, OL Denzelle Good, G Todd Herremans, LB Bjoern Werner

Falcons: WR Nick Williams, CB Phillip Adams, C James Stone, DE Malliciah Goodman, S Robenson Therezie, T Bryce Harris, LB Joplo Bartu

Rams at Ravens

Rams: QB Sean Mannion, RB Tre Mason, CB Christian Bryant, TE Justice Cunningham, T Isaiah Battle, T Rob Havenstein, DE Robert Quinn

Ravens: WR Joe Morgan, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, RB Terrance West, CB Cassius Vaughn, TE Chase Ford, G Kelechi Osemele, TE Nick Boyle

Redskins at Panthers

Redskins: TE Anthony McCoy, QB Robert Griffin III, WR Rashad Ross, S Trenton Robinson, LB Keenan Robinson, DE Frank Kearse, G Arie Kouandjio

Panthers: WR Philly Brown, CB Charles Tillman, RB Brandon Wegher, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, G Andrew Norwell, WR Kevin Norwood, DE Wes Horton

Broncos at Bears

Broncos: WR Emmanuel Sanders, QB Peyton Manning, LB DeMarcus Ware, DB Lorenzo Doss, TE Richard Gordon, DL Vance Walker, OL Sam Brenner

Bears: RB Matt Forte, WR Alshon Jeffery, WR Eddie Royal, S Antrel Rolle, CB Jacoby Glenn, T Nick Becton, DL Ziggy Hood

Raiders at Lions

Raiders: CB Dexter McDonald, RB Roy Helu Jr., LB Neiron Ball, OL Matt McCants, WR Rod Streater, TE Gabe Holmes, TE Lee Smith

Lions: LB Travis Lewis, DT Jermelle Cudjo, DT Khyri Thornton, WR TJ Jones, T Cornelius Lucas, T Corey Robinson, TE Tim Wright.

Jets at Texans

Jets: QB Bryce Petty, WR Kenbrell Thompkins, CB Dee Milliner, S Dion Bailey, OL Dakota Dozier, OL Ben Ijalana, DE Sheldon Richardson

Texans: QB Brian Hoyer, RB Chris Polk, CB Kareem Jackson, S Rahim Moore, LB Akeem Dent, OL Oday Aboushi, TE Garrett Graham

Cowboys at Dolphins

Cowboys: WR Brice Butler, CB Morris Claiborne, RB Trey Williams, LB Mark Nzeocha, OL Ron Leary, TE Geoff Swaim, DE Ryan Russell

Dolphins: LB Jelani Jenkins, TE Jake Stoneburner, OT Ja’Wuan James, CB Tony Lippett, LB Spencer Paysinger, WR Matt Hazel, T Ulrick John

Buccaneers at Eagles

Buccaneers: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, DE Josh Shirley, DE George Johnson, G Ali Marpet, QB Ryan Griffin, WR Donteea Dye, S Kimario McFadden

Eagles: QB Sam Bradford, RB Ryan Mathews, CB Denzel Rice, LB Emmanuel Acho, OL Josh Andrews, OL Tanner Hawkinson, DE Brandon Bair

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Week 11 injury report roundup

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 15:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos reacts against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 15, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Chiefs defeated the Broncos 29-13.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday. So, without further delay, the injury report roundup for Week 11 of the 2015 season.

Colts at Falcons

We’ve known for a while that the Colts would be without quarterback Andrew Luck (abdomen, kidney) and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (ankle) and safety Mike Adams (ankle) was added to the list on Friday. Linebacker Josh McNary (groin) is questionable and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (hamstring) is probable. Safety Robenson Therezie (hamstring) won’t play for the Falcons, but the rest of the 53-man roster is healthy heading into the weekend.

Rams at Ravens

Rams defensive ends Chris Long (knee) and Robert Quinn (knee) are both questionable and tackle Rob Havenstein (calf) is doubtful. The Ravens don’t expect to have tight end Nick Boyle (foot, doubtful) and guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) has been listed as questionable.

Redskins at Panthers

Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (migraine headaches) is questionable after missing last week’s Redskins win. Linebacker Keenan Robinson (shoulder) is also questionable and safety Trenton Robinson (hamstring) will not play. It looks like the Panthers will play without wide receiver Corey Brown (shoulder) and cornerback Charles Tillman (knee) after listing them as doubtful. They’ll definitely be without guard Andrew Norwell (hamstring).

Broncos at Bears

Quarterback Peyton Manning (foot, rib cage) and linebacker DeMarcus Ware (back) were ruled out by the Broncos early in the week. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (ankle, finger), defensive end Antonio Smith (hip) and defensive end Vance Walker (shoulder) are all listed as questionable. The Bears have two questionable players on offense — wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (groin) and running back Matt Forte (knee) — and two on defense — linebackers Pernell McPhee (knee) and Shea McClellin (knee) — this week. Wide receiver Eddie Royal (knee) won’t play.

Raiders at Lions

Raiders center Rodney Hudson (ankle) is questionable after missing last week’s game. Linebacker Neiron Ball (knee) is out and tight end Lee Smith (wrist) is doubtful. Lions defensive tackle Gabe Wright (ankle) won’t play while safety Don Carey (back) and cornerback Nevin Lawson (concussion) are listed as questionable.

Jets at Texans

The Jets will wait and see if defensive end Sheldon Richardson (hamstring) can play after listing him as questionable. Cornerback Buster Skrine (shoulder, hand) is also questionable, safety Dion Bailey (ankle) has been ruled out and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (left thumb) is probable after having surgery last Friday. Quarterback Brian Hoyer (concussion) and cornerback Kareem Jackson (ankle) won’t be in the lineup for Houston, but linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (back) and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (knee) are probable. Linebacker Akeem Dent (hamstring) and running back Chris Polk (hamstring) are questionable.

Cowboys at Dolphins 

The biggest injury news for the Cowboys doesn’t appear on the injury report since quarterback Tony Romo (collarbone) hasn’t been officially activated yet, but he’ll start for the first time since Week Two. Running back Darren McFadden (groin) is questionable and wide receiver Dez Bryant (knee, foot) is probable. Wide receiver Brice Butler (hamstring), cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring, ankle) and defensive end Ryan Russell (abdomen) have been ruled out. Dolphins linebackers Jelani Jenkins (ankle) and Spencer Paysinger (neck) are doubtful while Koa Misi (abdomen) is questionable. Right tackle Ja’Wuan James (toe) remains out of the lineup.

Buccaneers at Eagles

Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (knee) is questionable after missing the last three games. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder) got the same designation, but coach Lovie Smith indicated he won’t play. The Bucs may be short on defensive ends with George Johnson (calf) out, Josh Shirley (calf) doubtful and Jacquies Smith (ankle) questionable. Guard Ali Marpet (ankle) and center Evan Smith (knee) are also questionable. The Eagles will start Mark Sanchez at quarterback after ruling out Sam Bradford (concussion, left shoulder). Running back Ryan Mathews (concussion, groin) will also miss the game and left tackle Jason Peters (back) is questionable after missing the last two games.

Chiefs at Chargers

Defensive end Allen Bailey (calf) and guard Ben Grubbs (neck) have been ruled out for Kansas City. The Chiefs have left the door open for questionable safety Tyvon Branch (foot, thigh) and linebacker Ramik Wilson (ankle). Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd (shoulder) is out this week. Guard D.J. Fluker (concussion), tight end Ladarius Green (ankle) and defensive tackle Corey Liuget (foot) are listed as questionable.

Packers at Vikings

The Packers ruled out wide receiver Jared Abbrederis (rib, chest) and Ty Montgomery (ankle) is questionable. Safety Micah Hyde (hip) and guar T.J. Lang (shoulder) are also questionable while quarterback Aaron Rodgers (right shoulder) is probable. So is Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (left shoulder), but safety Robert Blanton (back) and tackle Matt Kalil (toe) are questionable for Sunday.

49ers at Seahawks

49ers running back Carlos Hyde (foot) remain out of the lineup and wide receiver Anquan Boldin (hamstring) is questionable to return to action. Linebacker Navorro Bowman (shoulder) is probable to play his first game in Seattle since suffering a serious knee injury in the NFC Championship game in 2014. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) is questionable, but coach Pete Carroll said he expects Lynch to play. Linebacker Bruce Irvin (knee) and wide receiver Paul Richardson (hamstring) have been ruled out.

Bengals at Cardinals

Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson (back), cornerback Adam Jones (foot) and defensive tackle Pat Sims (knee) are all doubtful to play on Sunday night. Right tackle Andre Smith (concussion) is probable to return to the lineup. The Cardinals ruled out defensive tackle Cory Redding (ankle) and guard Jonathan Cooper (knee) is doubtful to play. Guard Mike Iupati (neck, concussion) is listed as questionable, but coach Bruce Arians said he will start. Wide receivers John Brown (hamstring) and Michael Floyd (hamstring) are also questionable.

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Charlie Batch’s 186-yard, two-pick game has ESPN’s best QBR ever

charliebatch Getty Images

There’s a risk of beating a dead horse when you talk about QBR, ESPN’s proprietary statistic that was rolled out with great fanfare four years ago as the “one stat that measures the totality of a quarterback’s performance.” I said plenty about QBR last week, and perhaps no more needs to be said.

But today I decided to dig a little deeper into what is, according to QBR, the greatest game any quarterback has ever played: Charlie Batch’s 186-yard, two-interception performance against the Buccaneers in 2010.

Really. Under “All-Time Best Games” on’s QBR page, the top game on the list is an utterly forgettable game that Batch played in place of the suspended Ben Roethlisberger in 2010. I couldn’t comprehend how 186 yards and two interceptions could add up to the greatest game ever played, with a 99.9 QBR on a scale of 0-100, but then again I didn’t remember exactly what Batch did in that game, and I know ESPN claims that QBR benefits from tape analysis that includes dropped passes and performance under pressure and other things that the traditional stats overlook. So I decided to re-watch Batch’s game and see how it looked.

Thanks to’s Game Pass, it’s easy to go back and watch old games. So I did. And what I saw was not the greatest game any quarterback had in NFL history. Not even close. I’m sure Charlie Batch doesn’t think it was the greatest game in NFL history. I’m sure Charlie Batch’s mom doesn’t think it was the greatest game in NFL history. No sane person could possibly think it was the greatest game in NFL history. Only ESPN’s super-secret QBR formula could possibly arrive at the conclusion that it was the greatest game in NFL history.

Batch’s first pass of the game was absolutely terrible. He hit Aqib Talib in stride, right between the numbers — which is not a good thing because Talib played for the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers’ offense couldn’t do anything with the great field position Batch gave up with his interception, but the Bucs did kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. Shortly after that, CBS showed a split screen of Talib and Batch and called them “the hero and the goat.”

So how did Batch go from goat to G.O.A.T., at least according to QBR? I have no earthly idea, because ESPN doesn’t make its QBR formula public. But there was certainly nothing in the rest of Batch’s play that day that suggested a “Greatest Of All Time” performance.

The Steelers’ second possession ended in a three-and-out when Batch dumped off a pass to running back Mewelde Moore, and Moore dropped it. QBR apparently doesn’t penalize Batch for the drop, but even if Moore had caught the ball, he was very unlikely to pick up the first down. Why doesn’t QBR penalize Batch for throwing a third-down pass well short of the line to gain? I don’t know, you don’t know, no one knows except the people who calculate QBR, and they’re not saying.

Batch finally had a big play on the Steelers’ third possession, a 45-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace. That pass undoubtedly did a lot to bolster Batch’s QBR, but it really shouldn’t have: Wallace was well covered, Batch probably shouldn’t have thrown to him, and it only turned into a touchdown because Wallace made a great play on the ball while Buccaneers rookie safety Cody Grimm (a backup who was only playing because starting safety Tanard Jackson was suspended) lost sight of the ball and didn’t know where it was until Wallace caught it in the end zone.

As Steve Tasker, who was serving as the color commentator on the game for CBS, put it: “That ball’s up for grabs, and Grimm can’t make a play on it because he didn’t turn around and look for it. They had it covered, they just couldn’t make the play.”

That was the first “big play” Batch made in the game: A ball he threw into coverage that only turned into a touchdown because the defensive back lost sight of it.

Soon after that, Batch threw his second touchdown pass, another deep ball to Wallace in the end zone. That pass was even worse: Batch underthrew it, Talib reached up and grabbed it, and then somehow the ball bounced off Talib’s hands and into Wallace’s hands for another touchdown.

“The Bucs had it covered,” Tasker said on the broadcast. “Talib has his hands on it and tips it right to Wallace. That goes from being a pick-off in the end zone to a touchdown, just like that. . . . Talib’s got to be looking at himself going, ‘You got to be kidding me.’ He was right on that play and all of a sudden it’s a touchdown.”

When ESPN rolled out QBR, it boasted that the use of film study improved QBR because it could weed out things like dropped passes, which count against a quarterback’s stats but aren’t the quarterback’s fault. But what good is film study if it gives credit to Batch for two long touchdown passes, without noticing that both passes were thrown into coverage and could just as easily have been intercepted?

It’s not that Batch was terrible in his “all-time greatest” QBR game: On Batch’s third and final touchdown pass of the day, he did a nice job of buying himself some time and then finding an open Hines Ward in the end zone for a touchdown. It was a good play by Batch, but no better a play than we see quarterbacks make every Sunday — certainly not a play that screams “Greatest game in NFL history!”

That was Batch’s final touchdown pass of the game. He did throw another interception, again right into the hands of a defender: Buccaneers linebacker Quincy Black intercepted it with ease.

“He just throws it right to him. Quincy Black wasn’t moving anywhere,” Tasker said on the broadcast.

Why didn’t that interception count against Batch’s QBR? Maybe because QBR is “clutch-weighted,” which means it places greater importance on plays that come late in close games, and Batch’s second interception came after the Steelers had already taken a big enough lead that the game was in hand. But the Steelers’ big lead in that game was mostly attributable to their defense, which totally shut down Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, who was benched after throwing a pick-six. Does Batch really deserve more credit on his QBR just because his defense shut down the other team’s quarterback?

To review, in that Steelers-Buccaneers game, Batch threw 17 passes. Two of them were interceptions thrown directly into the hands of the opposing defense. Two of them were long touchdown passes that easily could have been intercepted if the defensive backs had done their jobs. One was a legitimately good touchdown pass. On the other passes, Batch went 9-for-12 for 90 yards.

Does that sound to you like the greatest game any quarterback has ever played in NFL history? If it does, there might be a place for you in ESPN’s analytics department.

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PFT’s Week 11 picks

Tony Romo AP

First, the bad news. I was a horrendous 6-8 last week in my effort to pick games. (I won’t use the torn plantar fascia in my plant foot as an excuse, or the rib injury that I didn’t disclose until game day but that required an MRI this morning.) The good news? MDS was even worse, hitting on only five of 14 and giving me a one-game lead through 10 weeks.

This week, we disagree on three of the games.

For the year, I’m 93-53 (63.6 percent), and MDS is 92-54 (63.0 percent).

Titans at Jaguars

MDS’s take: Don’t look now, but the Jaguars are threatening to turn the AFC South into a three-team race. Jacksonville faces an easy schedule down the stretch, starting with what should be an easy win over the Titans.

MDS’s pick: Jaguars 24, Titans 14.

Florio’s take: It’s Star Trek uniform night, thanks to the Nikefication of the NFL. And here’s the spot where I’d make a few Star Trek references if I knew anything about the show. No one knows anything about the AFC South, a division that the winner of this game could still win. Given the state of the AFC South, the loser still will have a chance to win it, too. Edge to the home team. And because I always preferred Captain Kirk to Mr. Spock.

Florio’s pick: Jaguars 24, Titans 20.

Colts at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Colts went 2-0 with Matt Hasselbeck the last time Andrew Luck was out, but against a team with a good offense like Atlanta’s, I don’t think a Hasselbeck-led Indianapolis offense will be able to put enough points on the board.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 20, Colts 13.

Florio’s take: Both teams had two weeks to prepare for this one, which should give them a chance to iron out some of the problems from the first nine weeks of the season. Despite recent struggles, quarterback Matt Ryan remains at a level above Matthew Hasselbeck.

Florio’s pick: Falcons 27, Colts 20.

Rams at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Rams’ offense has problems that a quarterback change could fix, but only if the Rams had a backup quarterback who’s better than Nick Foles. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced Case Keenum is any better than Foles, and the Ravens will win.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 21, Rams 14.

Florio’s take: A quarterback who never will be elite takes on the one who used to be. The Rams are playing for a shot at the postseason; the Ravens are playing for respect. While the Rams remain more talented, it feels like they’re in the midst of their annual underachievement period.

Florio’s pick: Ravens 20, Rams 16.

Washington at Panthers

MDS’s take: Kirk Cousins had a big game against the terrible Saints defense. He’ll have a rough game against the excellent Panthers defense. Carolina is going to 10-0.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 28, Washington 14.

Florio’s take: With each win, Carolina is going to face stronger and stronger efforts to supply their first loss. As the Panthers guard against a letdown, they need look no farther than Cincinnati’s struggles against the Texans on Monday night. While Kirk Cousins looked great last weekend, it happened both at home and against the worst defense in the league.

Florio’s pick: Panthers 27, Washington 17.

Broncos at Bears

MDS’s take: A few weeks ago it would have sounded crazy to say the Bears would beat the Broncos. But things change quickly in the NFL. Brock Osweiler’s first start will be a loss.

MDS’s pick: Bears 24, Broncos 17.

Florio’s take: Chicago coach John Fox has plenty of incentive to beat the team that fired him, and he knows the personnel in Denver well enough to make it happen. Besides, the Bears are on the fringes of playoff contention in the NFC, with a realistic shot at catching the Packers or the Falcons for a wild-card berth.

Florio’s pick: Bears 23, Broncos 17.

Raiders at Lions

MDS’s take: The Lions turned in by far their best performance of the season with last week’s win in Green Bay, and the Raiders are on a two-game losing streak. That makes it tempting to pick Detroit. But I just don’t think the Lions’ offense will put many points on the board in this game, and the Raiders will win a close one.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 20, Lions 14.

Florio’s take: The Raiders are running out of chances to remain in contention for the postseason, and the Lions are hoping to build on last week’s unlikely win at Green Bay. In this one, the edge goes to the team that still has a realistic chance of playing beyond Week 17.

Florio’s pick: Raiders 27, Lions 20.

Jets at Texans

MDS’s take: This is a surprisingly relevant game to the AFC playoff race, as the Texans are tied for the South lead and the Jets are tied for the second wild card spot. I like the Jets’ defense to get things back on track and shut down the Texans.

MDS’s pick: Jets 14, Texans 10.

Florio’s take: If the Texans win, will J.J. Watt make a Yukon Cornelius reference when discussing Ryan Fitzpatrick? Unfortunately, we’ll never find out. How you all doin’?

Florio’s pick: Jets 23, Texans 13.

Cowboys at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Cowboys are 2-0 with Tony Romo and 0-7 without him. Now that Romo is back, I think they’ll get back to their winning ways — though probably too late to make a run in the NFC East.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 21, Dolphins 20.

Florio’s take: Good news: Tony Romo is back. Bad news: The rest of the roster is still there. It may sound harsh, but they lost seven straight games. They’ll expect to win this one easily, and the Dolphins won’t cooperate.

Florio’s pick: Dolphins 30, Cowboys 23.

Packers at Vikings

MDS’s take: The Vikings have a huge opportunity to establish themselves as the favorites in the NFC North. With a win on Sunday, they’ll have a two-game lead and the tiebreaker advantage over the Packers. I think Green Bay is going to get things turned around, however, and get back on top in the division.

MDS’s pick: Packers 24, Vikings 20.

Florio’s take: As the Vikings prepared to face the Rams, folks said, “Win this one, and we’ll believe in you.” Then, after beating the Rams and preparing to face the Raiders, folks said, “Win this one, and we’ll believe in you.” Now, as the Vikings prepare to face the Packers after bearing the Raiders, folks are saying, “Win this one, and we’ll believe in you.” Come Monday, folks will say, “Well, the Packers stink now, anyway.”

Florio’s pick: Vikings 34, Packers 19.

Buccaneers at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Bucs have an enormous opportunity to establish themselves as contenders for an NFC wild card spot down the stretch. But I’m just not convinced that Tampa Bay’s offense will be able to get many points on the board in Philly.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 17, Buccaneers 10.

Florio’s take: To Eagles fans who complained about Sam Bradford — after Sunday, maybe you won’t.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Eagles 23.

49ers at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The 3-6 49ers are only a game behind the 4-5 Seahawks in the standings, but there’s a huge gulf between these teams in the quality of their play. Seattle should cruise to an easy win.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 35, 49ers 14.

Florio’s take: The Seahawks are desperate. Blaine Gabbert is still the 49ers quarterback. Any questions?

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 20, 49ers 6.

Chiefs at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Chiefs have quietly strung together a series of impressive wins after a very slow start. They’ll keep it going against a Chargers team that has fallen apart as a result of injuries.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 28, Chargers 20.

Florio’s take: The Chiefs are moving in the right direction. The Chargers are moving to L.A. And they otherwise aren’t very good right now.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 27, Chargers 20.

Bills at Patriots

Bengals at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Cardinals’ offense is firing on all cylinders, and Arizona will earn its second consecutive Sunday night victory.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 31, Bengals 20.

Florio’s take: If the Bengals had  ditched the cutesy stuff against Houston and just relied on their offensive talent, they may have won. Neither approach may matter against a Cardinals team that has both the talent and an attitude.

Florio’s pick: Cardinals 29, Bengals 21.

MDS’s take: The Bills will play better defense against the Patriots than they did the first time these teams played, but New England will score just enough to pull out a close win that goes down to the wire.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 23, Bills 20.

Florio’s take: If the injuries keep piling up for the Patriots, they may eventually lose a game. For now, not.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 34, Bills 21.

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PFT’s Week 11 power rankings

Tom Brady AP

1. Patriots (9-0; last week No. 1): Even without Julian Edelman, the Patriots may have cleared the last major hurdle on their schedule.

2. Panthers (9-0; No. 3): If the No Fun League doesn’t throw a flag on Cam Newton’s celebrations, why should anyone else?

3. Cardinals (7-2; No. 4): The team that once perpetually sucked now has a quarterback who is willing to do the “suck it” gesture.

4. Bengals (8-1; No. 2): To say the Red Rifle played last night like a Red Ryder BB Gun is sort of an insult to BB guns.

5. Vikings (7-2; No. 7): With Green Bay and Denver losing, it was impossible to keep a team that doesn’t feel like it has earned top-five status out of the top five.

6. Packers (6-3; No. 5): From R-E-L-A-X to R-E-F-L-U-X.

7. Broncos (7-2; No. 6): Peyton Manning’s “health” will hinge in large part on Brock Osweiler’s play.

8. Steelers (6-4; No. 8): To recover from his foot injury, Ben Roethlisberger drank a lot of milk. We already can tell he’s eaten a lot of cookies.

9. Bills (5-4; No. 16): The Bills will go as far as LeSean McCoy can take them.

10. Seahawks (4-5; No. 10): The Legion of Boom is now getting blown up on a regular basis.

11. Raiders (4-5; No. 11): Even with two straight losses, the Raiders could be a factor in the AFC.

12. Jets (5-4; No. 12): To say that the honeymoon is over for Todd Bowles would be to assume that Jets fans ever really gave him one.

13. Falcons (6-3; No. 13): The window is closing on what once seemed to be a sure-fire return to the playoffs.

14. Bears (4-5; No. 26): It probably would have been easier for John Fox to get his revenge against John Elway if they hadn’t benched Peyton Manning.

15. Giants (5-5; No. 15): Ryan Mallett would fit in well with this team; neither knows how to manage a clock.

16. Rams (4-5; No. 9): It’s one thing to play down to the level of the competition. It’s another to play grossly below it.

17. Dolphins (4-5; No. 19): The Dan Campbell-to-Canton train is back on the tracks.

18. Colts (4-5; No. 18): It’s a dead heat with Houston, and the Colts will for now be led by that quarterback who was “literally on his deathbed.”

19. Texans (4-5; No. 25): T.J. played like an M.F., and then J.J. acted like an A.H.

20. Chiefs (4-5; No. 22): Yes, beating Peyton Manning and the Broncos is currently worth only a two-spot bump.

21. Washington (4-5; No. 21): Washington could end up being the least bad of four horrible NFC East teams. Hooray?

22. Eagles (4-5; No. 14): To all those Eagles fans who had been complaining about Sam Bradford: Enjoy his backup.

23. Buccaneers (4-5; No. 23): Jameis Winston already has more wins as a rookie than Peyton Manning mustered. #justsayin.

24. Saints (4-6; No. 17): Rob Ryan likely will be waiting a little longer than five minutes for his next job.

25. Jaguars (3-6; No. 28): Even if they outscore Tennessee on Thursday night, the Grey Poupon uniforms already make the outcome a loss.

26. Lions (2-7; No. 32): Maybe Jim Caldwell should be the new leader of the franchise.

27. 49ers (3-6; No. 27): Somehow, they’re only one game in the standings behind the Seahawks.

28. Chargers (2-7; No. 31): There could be a record number of teams with franchise quarterbacks looking for new coaches.

29. Titans (2-7; No. 30): Chip Kelly can’t get to Nashville soon enough.

30. Cowboys (2-7; No. 20): This year’s quest for gloryhole has gone down the drain.

31. Ravens (2-7; No. 24): The old Browns and the new Browns have cornered the market on the bottom of the barrel.

32. Browns (2-8; No. 29): The Factory of Sadness already has started its holiday production schedule.

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NFL morning after: Rob Ryan and the worst pass defense ever

Sean Payton, Rob Ryan AP

The NFL record for touchdown passes in a season won’t be broken this year. Or at least not the record for touchdown passes in a season that you’re familiar with, the one set by Dan Marino in 1984, then broken by Peyton Manning, broken by Tom Brady, and broken by Manning again. That record — Manning’s 55 touchdowns in 2013 — is safe.

But there’s another passing touchdown record that probably will be broken this season: The record for most touchdown passes allowed by a defense. The current record is 40, set by the Denver Broncos in 1963. (The Broncos were an American Football League team, but the NFL adopted all of the AFL’s records when the leagues merged.) The Saints are on pace to obliterate that dubious record.

Yesterday the New Orleans defense gave up four touchdown passes to Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins in the Saints’ 47-14 loss. That upped the Saints’ defensive total this year to 28 touchdown passes allowed this year, in 10 games. The Saints are now on pace to allow 45 touchdown passes this season, easily beating that 1963 Broncos record.

Two weeks ago Eli Manning had six touchdowns and no interceptions against the Saints. Last week Marcus Mariota had four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Saints. The Saints are the first defense in NFL history to allow four touchdowns and record no interceptions in three consecutive games. In all, the Saints have intercepted just four passes this season, given up 44 completions of 20 yards or more and 13 completions of 40 yards or more (both league highs), and the average passer rating against the Saints is 116.6. Aaron Rodgers is the NFL’s all-time record holder with a career passer rating of 105.8. The Saints are making the average passer they face look better than Aaron Rodgers.

There’s plenty of blame to go around between the players and the coaching staff, but the man who deserves the bulk of the blame for that is Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. When you watch the Saints’ defense play, you’re left wondering what in the world they practice all week, what in the world their game plans look like, what in the world they’re calling. The Saints don’t just look bad, they look utterly incompetent. That’s on Ryan.

Because he’s the son of Buddy Ryan (the legendary architect of the 46 defense) and the brother of Bills coach Rex Ryan (a pretty good defensive coach himself), Rob Ryan has been reasonably well-regarded in the NFL and always finds a job somewhere. The last time he was fired, he famously promised he’d find a new job in five minutes.

But the reality is, unlike his brother and father, Rob has never really proven that he’s much of a defensive coordinator. Rob Ryan has been a defensive coordinator in Oakland, Cleveland, Dallas and now New Orleans, and those defenses have never been particularly good.

Of course, he’s never had a defense as bad as the one he has in New Orleans right now. This might be the worst defense the NFL has ever seen.

Here are my other thoughts on Sunday’s games:

Lions fans can finally stop hearing about Green Bay. Every single year, when the Lions play at Green Bay, the TV announcers are sure to beat the viewers over the head with the fact that the Lions haven’t won there since 1991. The last time the Lions won at Green Bay, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton had just announced he was running for president. That is, the last time until yesterday, when the Lions finally pulled one out. Detroit is going nowhere this year, but winning in Green Bay for the first time in 24 years means the streak of futility is over, and one good thing has come of this Lions season.

We should appreciate Tony Romo. Wins and losses are overused as a quarterback stat, but they do illustrate just how important Romo is in Dallas. The Cowboys started the season 2-0 with Romo as the starter, and then Romo got hurt — and now the Cowboys are 2-7. Dallas is 0-3 with Brandon Weeden at quarterback and 0-4 with Matt Cassel after yesterday’s loss to the Buccaneers. Other teams can win with their backup quarterbacks (the Colts are 2-0 with Matt Hasselbeck in place of Andrew Luck, and the Steelers are 2-1 with Michael Vick in place of Ben Roethlisberger), but the Cowboys have fallen apart without Romo. He’s one of the best players in the NFL.

Johnny Manziel should be the Browns’ starter the rest of the year. Manziel was far from perfect in the Browns’ 30-9 loss to the Steelers yesterday. But Manziel did complete 33 of 45 passes for 372 yards and also make plenty of plays with his legs. He looked like he has some promise, and the Browns need to stick with him the rest of the year and let him show what he can do. There’s no reason to go back to Josh McCown except that Browns coach Mike Pettine is a stubborn man who wants to stick with his preferred quarterback. If Pettine goes back to McCown, he’s putting his own stubbornness ahead of the long-term well-being of the franchise.

Elvis Dumervil had the bonehead play of the year. Dumervil had two sacks for the Ravens yesterday against the Jaguars, but what will be remembered is his facemasking penalty as time expired. If Dumervil had grabbed Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles and pulled him down by his jersey, it would have ended the game. Instead, Dumervil pulled Bortles down by his facemask, which extended the game for one untimed play because the game can’t end on a defensive penalty. The penalty moved the Jaguars into field goal range, and the one untimed play was the Jaguars’ game-winning field goal as time expired. Dumervil’s mistake cost the Ravens the game.

Peyton Manning was awful. Manning is one of my all-time favorite players, but he simply looked like he has nothing left yesterday. He completed five passes and threw four interceptions. It wasn’t just the worst game of Manning’s career, it was one of the worst games any quarterback has ever had in NFL history: He’s the first NFL quarterback since 1986 to have five or fewer completions and four or more interceptions in a game. I want to see Manning go out on top, but at Manning’s age, when you lose it, you don’t get it back. At this point, just about the only thing that could give Manning a shot at looking like the Manning of old is playing against the Saints. And the Saints aren’t on the schedule.

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Week 10 early inactives

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Middle linebacker Sean Lee #50 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on September 29, 2013 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Getty Images

Every week we bring you all the inactives from the early games in one post, constantly updated with the latest information. Check back often to see the full list as it becomes available.

Jaguars at Ravens

Jaguars: S James Sample, LB Dan Skuta, DT Michael Bennett, RB Joe Banyard, RB Toby Gerhart, C Luke Bowanko, DE Chri Smith

Ravens: WR Breshad Perriman, WR Joe Morgan, CB Tray Walker, S Terrence Brooks, OL Ryan Jensen, DL Kapron Lewis-Moore, T De’Ondre Wesley

Lions at Packers

Lions: LB Travis Lewis, DT Jermelle Cudjo, DL Khyri Thornton, WR T.J. Jones, T Cornelius Lucas, T Corey Robinson, TE Tim Wright

Packers: RB Eddie Lacy, QB Brett Hundley, WR Ty Montgomery, CB Ladarius Gunter, G Lane Taylor, LB Andy Mulumba, TE Kennard Backman

Dolphins at Eagles

Dolphins: T Ja’Wuan James, CB Brent Grimes, LB Spencer Paysinger, C Sam Brenner, T Ulrick John, WR Matt Hazel, TE Brandon Williams

Eagles: T Jason Peters, G Josh Andrews, S Jerome Couplin, QB Thad Lewis, RB Kenjon Barner, LB Emmanuel Acho, DE Brandon Bair

Browns at Steelers

Browns: CB Joe Haden, S Donte Whitner, G Joel Bitonio, QB Josh McCown, DB Justin Gilbert, WR Dwayne Bowe, TE E.J. Bibbs

Steelers: LB Terence Garvin, LB James Harrison, TE Matt Spaeth, S Shamarko Thomas, QB Mike Vick, RB Isaiah Pead, T Byron Stingily

Bears at Rams

Bears: RB Matt Forte, LB Pernell McPhee, WR Eddie Royal, DL Ziggy Hood, C Hroniss Grasu, S Harold Jones-Quartey, WR Deonte Thompson

Rams: DE Chris Long, QB Sean Mannion, S Christian Bryant, TE Justice Cunningham, OL Andrew Donnal, DT Doug Worthington, DE Matt Longacre.

Cowboys at Buccaneers

Cowboys: LB Sean Lee, WR Brice Butler, CB Corey White, RB Trey Williams, G Ron Leary, TE Geoff Swaim, DE Ryan Russell

Buccaneers: WR Vincent Jackson, G Ali Marpet, DE Jacquies Smith, QB Ryan Griffin, S Major Wright, S D.J. Swearinger, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Panthers at Titans

Panthers: G Andrew Norwell, WR Brenton Bersin, DB Dean Marlowe, RB Brandon Wegher, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, WR Kevin Norwood, DT Dwan Edwards

Titans: CB Jason McCourty, WR Kendall Wright, RB David Cobb, CB Perrish Cox, G Quinton Spain, DE Ropati Pitoitua, DT Mike Martin

Saints at Redskins

Saints: LB Dannell Ellerbe, LB David Hawthorne, LB Ramon Humber, CB Damian Swann, QB Matt Flynn, DT Kaleb Eulls, T Tony Hills

Redskins: QB Robert Griffin III, WR Andre Roberts, LB Keenan Robinson, DL Frank Kearse, G Arie Kouandjio, CB Quinton Dunbar, TE Anthony McCoy

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NFL statement on stadium security

Unknown Getty Images

[Editor’s note: In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, the NFL has issued a statement regarding security measures at the various American stadiums where games are played. The full statement appears below.]

The safety of our fans, stadium personnel, and teams at all NFL games is our priority, and security at our games is robust.  Our procedures have been certified and designated by the Department of Homeland Security since 2008 as effective anti-terrorism technology. All NFL clubs use mandatory metal detector screening and multiple layers of perimeter security external to the stadium to safeguard fans and the stadium from explosive threats.

Following the events in Paris on Friday, we are closely monitoring events and have been in communication with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, which have informed us that there are no known threats against NFL stadiums.

In addition to our standard procedures described above, there will be an increased security and law enforcement presence both inside and outside stadiums in the parking lots of our stadiums this weekend.  We have been in contact with clubs hosting games to reinforce our standard procedures and the league’s best practices.

We strongly recommend that fans do not bring bags with them to the stadium. If it is essential to bring a bag, it must be in compliance with the clear bag policy which requires that it be made of clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and not exceed 12″ x 6″ x 12.”  It is important that all fans comply with these requirements, and we appreciate their efforts to cooperate with these security measures.

The NFL and team security departments work closely with stadium operation personnel and federal, state, and local law enforcement to provide a safe experience for the more than 17 million fans who annually attend NFL games. The NFL and its teams continually evaluate and improve our comprehensive security plan.

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