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Exploring the “teams couldn’t wait to get rid of” T.O. narrative

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Setting aside for now (but perhaps not for long) whether the not-so-subtle admonition from Hall of Fame quarterback and Hall of Fame voter Dan Fouts to Terrell Owens about criticizing the process proves that his omission from the Hall of Fame is less about whether he deserves a spot in Canton and more about whether the panel “likes” him, it’s time to unwrap an increasingly common theme. If the journalists on the selection committee who are opposed to Owens aren’t going to do it, then a sort-of journalist who will never be on the selection committee needs to.

Here’s a quick caveat: I’m not doing this because I “like” Terrell Owens. I’m ambivalent at best about him as a person. In 2013, he called me “Satan,” so depending on T.O.’s personal worship habits it’s safe to assume he doesn’t like me.

That said, I’d like to think after following the NFL for more than 40 years and working in this business for nearly 17, I know a Hall of Famer when I see one. Owens, in my opinion, is a Hall of Famer, and it’s not close.

I also have developed a very strong aversion over the years to BS. There seems plenty of it going around regarding Owens.

The biggest potential pile comes from the narrative that multiple “teams couldn’t wait to get rid” of Owens. First publicly articulated a year ago by Gary Myers of the New York Daily News when being properly grilled by Ross Tucker for specific proof that Owens was too disruptive to be enshrined, the presumption that the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills, and Bengals all lined up to dump Owens continues to emerge as a knee-jerk mantra for justifying keeping him out of Canton — and possibly as a pretext for the fact that the folks voting to snub him simply don’t like him.

This year, the “teams couldn’t wait to get rid” of Owens narrative is back. Fouts echoed it in explaining T.O.’s omission. So did Hall of Fame voter Ira Kaufman of JoeBucsFan.com.

“Teams couldn’t wait to get rid of him at his peak,” Kaufman said regarding Owens during a Wednesday appearance on Chris Russo’s SiriusXM radio show. “He was suspended twice, he was told, ‘We don’t want you around.’ The Eagles said, ‘Goodbye, we don’t want you. Get out of here.’ The 49ers said, ‘We don’t want to see you anymore. . . . This is about a guy who teams couldn’t wait to get rid of.”

That’s a gross oversimplification of the situation at best. It’s a flat-out misrepresentation at worst. (It’s not Ira’s fault; he’s simply passing along the things he’s being told by members of the committee who oppose Owens’ enshrinement.)

Lets’ start with the 49ers. Owens had the ability to void the final two years of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent in 2004. Based on some of the information gathered by PFT (i.e., sort-of journalism), it is believed that the 49ers would have gladly kept Owens beyond his eight years with the team if he hadn’t voided his contract. However, they weren’t interested in signing him as an unrestricted free agent, given that the team was young and rebuilding — and that it would have been very expensive to sign him in competition with the open market.

Ultimately, an error in the filing of the paperwork voiding his contract resulted in an effort by the 49ers to trade Owens to the Ravens, a grievance filed by the union, and a settlement that resulted in Owens being shipped to the Eagles under a seven-year, $42 million contract with a $10 million signing bonus. (The Ravens reportedly would have paid him $17 million to sign, but Owens reportedly wanted to play with Donovan McNabb, not Kyle Boller.)

Owens delivered immediately in Philadelphia, with 1,200 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in 14 regular-season games. He suffered a broken ankle during a December 19 win over the Cowboys, missed two regular-season games, missed two playoff games, and somehow returned for Super Bowl XXXIX, catching nine passes for 122 yards and arguably performing better than any other player on the field in a 24-21 loss to the Patriots.

Due to earn a base salary of $7.5 million in 2005 and looking for a more significant financial reward for his efforts in 2004, Owens asked for a raise. The Eagles, notorious at the time for putting their ability to manage the salary cap and to sign young players to long-term deals they would likely outperform over winning, refused. Repeatedly.

So Owens opted to utilize the leverage available to him. Instead of holding out, however, he chose be disruptive in the hopes of getting paid or getting traded to a team that would pay him. An ill-advised tactic to be sure, the reality is that the Eagles wanted to keep Owens under the terms of the contract he signed. Only after a season of squabbles and suspensions and grievances and exasperation did the Eagles give Owens his freedom.

If Owens hadn’t decided to take a stand and try to get the Eagles to adjust his contract based on what he did in 2004, the Eagles would have been happy to keep him around. Put simply, they “couldn’t wait to get rid” of Owens only after Owens made it clear that, without a new contract, he couldn’t wait to leave.

Beyond the 49ers and Eagles, it’s likewise a stretch to say teams “couldn’t wait to get rid of” Owens. In 2006, the Cowboys gladly embraced Owens, signing him to a three-year, $25 million deal. Two years later, the Cowboys didn’t cut him. They signed him to a new contract, worth $34 million over four years with a $12 million signing bonus.

Yes, the Cowboys cut Owens in 2009. But if they “couldn’t wait to get rid of” him, why did they sign him to a new deal following only two seasons with the team?

After leaving Dallas, Owens signed a one-year deal with the Bills, for $6.5 million. He wasn’t cut or suspended or otherwise gotten rid of before the contract ended and he became a free agent once again.

Ditto the following year, in Cincinnati. Owens signed a one-year deal, played one year for the Bengals, tore an ACL in the process, became a free agent again at the age of 37, and ultimately never played in another regular-season game.

To summarize, Owens spent eight years with the 49ers, and they would have kept him if he hadn’t had the ability to void the remaining years of his contract. He then spent two years with the Eagles, and they gladly would have extended the stay if he had gladly accepted the terms of a contract he quickly outperformed.

Owens then spent three years with the Cowboys, who ripped up the final year of a three-year deal and gave him a four-year contract one year before moving on. The Bills then signed him for a year, the Bengals signed him for a year, and that was that.

Was Owens a disruption at times? Yes. Should that be considered when assessing his Hall of Fame credentials? Yes, as long as the issues are being fully and properly fleshed out — and as long as the voters are considering the disruptions created by other players who made it to Canton in past years, including but not limited to the stabbing of a teammate in the neck with scissors on team property.

Absent an objective look at T.O.’s career and a comparison of his locker-room characteristics to other players who previously have made it to Canton, it appears that the narratives preventing Owens from enshrinement are nothing more than a lazy and convenient excuse for keeping Owens out, apparently because those who oppose him simply don’t care for him.

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2017 NFL Draft first-round order

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The 2016 season is over, and the order for the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft is set.

The entire draft order will be announced when compensatory picks are determined and awarded. The 2017 draft is April 27-29 in Philadelphia.

Three first-round picks have already been traded, two in trades involving the top of last year’s draft. The Browns will pick at No. 1 and also own the Eagles’ pick at No. 12. The Titans own the Rams’ pick at No. 5 and their own pick at No. 18, and the Eagles own the Vikings’ first-round pick at either No. 14 or No. 15 via the Sam Bradford trade last summer.

A coin flip will be held between the Colts and Eagles to determine pick Nos. 14 and 15 because the Colts and Vikings had the same record and their opponents had the same winning percentage. In the past, such coin flips have been held at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The full first-round draft order is below…

1. Cleveland
2. San Francisco
3. Chicago
4. Jacksonville
5. Tennessee (via the Rams)
6. New York Jets
7. Los Angeles Chargers
8. Carolina
9. Cincinnati
10. Buffalo
11. New Orleans
12. Cleveland (via the Eagles)
13. Arizona
14. OR 15. Indianapolis
14. OR 15. Philadelphia (via the Vikings)
16. Baltimore
17. Washington
18. Tennessee
19. Tampa Bay
20. Denver
21. Detroit
22. Miami
23. New York Giants
24. Oakland
25. Houston
26. Seattle
27. Kansas City
28. Dallas
29. Green Bay
30. Pittsburgh
31. Atlanta
32. New England

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Bill Belichick: Great champions get off the mat and win

AP

Patriots coach Bill Belichick used a boxing analogy he learned early in his coaching career to describe what his team did at Super Bowl LI.

Belichick paid tribute to his old boss, Bill Parcells, and said this morning that Parcells used to tell his teams that the greatest fighters are the ones who can win after they’ve been knocked down.

“One of the things coach Parcells said that always stuck with me is in boxing, the mark of a great champion is the one who can get up off the mat and win. It felt like that’s what we did last night,” Belichick said.

Belichick said he’s known his team was special since last offseason, when he saw their work ethic and their commitment.

“They earned it all the way, from OTAs to training camp, all through the regular season, 14 wins, three more in the playoffs, and we handled adversity all the way. I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” Belichick said. “They just compete and don’t stop competing, and we saw that last night. What everybody saw last night in the fourth quarter and overtime from the New England Patriots is what I’ve seen for the last seven months. I’m very proud to be the coach of this group.”

No one can dispute that these Patriots are great champions, and champions who can take a punch and hit back.

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Tom Brady filmed commercial with fifth ring before the Super Bowl

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Tom Brady does not worry about jinxes.

Brady, the Patriots’ quarterback who won his fifth Super Bowl ring on Sunday night, filmed a commercial showing him with his fifth ring before the game.

In the ad, for Shields MRI, Brady is asked to take off his jewelry before getting an MRI and takes off four Super Bowl rings. He’s then asked if that’s all and answers, “No, I forgot this one,” as he produces a fifth ring. “It’s kind of new,” he says.

When he’s told he’ll need a bigger locker for all his jewelry, Brady answers, “Roger that,” perhaps a tweak of Roger Goodell.

The commercial presumably would not have seen the light of day if the Patriots had lost Super Bowl LI. But some superstitious players wouldn’t have even filmed a commercial that presumed they would win the Super Bowl in advance. Brady was confident enough to do it.

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Tom Brady wins his fourth Super Bowl MVP award

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After an incredible 25-point comeback and a Super Bowl-record 466 passing yards, Tom Brady has become the first player ever to win four Super Bowl Most Valuable Player awards.

Brady was the obvious choice for Super Bowl LI MVP after the Patriots beat the Falcons 34-28. Brady had previously won the MVP award at Super Bowl XXXVI, Super Bowl XXXVIII and Super Bowl XLIX.

Joe Montana is the only other player with three Super Bowl MVPs.

It was a game that saw Brady set Super Bowl records for completions and yards and extend his career Super Bowl records in every major statistical category including touchdowns, completions, attempts and passing yards, as well as games played.

Brady is the first quarterback to win five Super Bowls as a starter, and joins Charles Haley as the only players at any position with five Super Bowl rings.

In an incredible career, Tom Brady has just had his crowning achievement.

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Patriots come back for incredible Super Bowl LI win

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Joe Montana might have had an argument. Before tonight.

Tom Brady just led the Patriots to a fifth Super Bowl title, with a 34-28 win in overtime against the Falcons which ought to cement his place as the coolest quarterback under pressure in the history of the game.

While running back James White plowed in with the game-winning touchdown run, it was Brady who defined the comeback.

No one had come back from more than 10 points in a Super Bowl, but no one has played Super Bowls the way Brady has.

He was 43-of-62 passing for 466 yards and two touchdowns. It was an incredible night of work after a flat first three quarters, which saw the Falcons build a 28-3 lead.

The Patriots won the coin toss and didn’t get the ball back, driving 62 yards in eight plays, leaving the Falcons looking gassed.

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PFT’s Super Bowl picks

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The Super Bowl arrives Sunday. Which means it’s time for me to quit going back and forth about who I think will win the game and finally make a pick and stick to it.

Whether MDS or I agree on the outcome of the Patriots-Falcons game doesn’t matter; he already has clinched the postseason contest, which is a nice bookend to his regular-season victory in our picks competition.

Still, everyone wants to get the last game of the season right, and either we both will — or we both won’t.

MDS’s take: The oddsmakers in Vegas are expecting this to be a high-scoring game, with the over-under set at 58.5, the highest ever for a Super Bowl. And I think it may be an even higher-scoring game than that.

Tom Brady and Matt Ryan aren’t just the media darlings during Super Bowl hype week, they’re the two best players in the NFL right now. Brady shook off his four-game Deflategate suspension to turn in what may have been his most impressive individual performance ever, while Ryan is expected to collect his first ever regular-season MVP award on Saturday night.

So how does this shootout play out? I see the Patriots and Falcons going back and forth in an exciting game, but the Patriots’ defense making a late fourth-quarter stop that turns out to make the difference. After a postseason full of dull games, I like the Patriots to win a classic at Super Bowl LI.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 35, Falcons 31.

Florio’s take: Patriots coach Bill Belichick has a history of concocting a defensive game plan that takes away what the opposing offense does best. It’s widely believed that, as it relates to the Falcons, Belichick will try to eliminate receiver Julio Jones.

Beyond Super Bowl XXXVI, where Belichick dared the Rams to run the ball and coach Mike Martz stubbornly didn’t, the template for this one possibly comes from Super Bowl XXV, when Belichick convinced the Giants defensive players that the way to outscore the Bills would be to let them run the ball.

“You guys have to believe me,” Belichick told his players, via David Halberstam’s The Education of a Coach. “If [Thurman] Thomas runs for a hundred yards, we win this game.”

It was hard sell, given that the team’s defense had been premised on shutting down the run. But Belichick got his players to embrace the strategy, and the Giants won the game by a single point.

While Belichick may not have spent the last two weeks lobbying the Patriots to let Devonta Freeman and/or Tevin Coleman to rush for more than 100 yards, Belichick is likely to ensure that the Atlanta passing game and running game won’t generate yardage in big chunks, forcing the Falcons to patiently work their way down the field and sustain drives and set up showdowns in the red zone, where New England’s defense has improved dramatically throughout the course of the season.

So it’s about more than taking away Jones. It’s about taking away quick-strike touchdown drives and shortening the game.

That’s why the New England offensive game plan will be critical, too. Running plays and short passes that simulate runs should be the preference, with Tom Brady showing the kind of patience that Belichick will try to force the Falcons to display. By keeping Matt Ryan and company on the sidelines for as long as possible, they’ll have fewer chances to wreak havoc or to get in the kind of a rhythm that has seen them rack up big leads in both playoff wins.

Ultimately, the goal will be to keep the game close and trust Brady and/or the defense to deliver with the championship on the line. That’s how the six prior Brady-and-Belichick Super Bowls have gone, with four of them going the way of the Patriots and the other two resulting in defeat only when Eli Manning managed two of the most impressive clutch throws the NFL has ever seen.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Falcons 24.

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Full list of 103 players entering 2017 draft early

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The NFL announced on Friday that 103 players have been granted early entry rights to the 2017 draft. The full list of those players appears below.

Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida

Budda Baker, S, Washington

Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

Garett Bolles, OT, Utah

Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida

Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State

KD Cannon, WR, Baylor

Devin Childress, WR, North Park

Michael Clark, WR, Marshall

Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

James Conner, RB, Pitt

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU

Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech

Jeremy Faulk, DT, Garden City CC

Tarean Folston, RB, Notre Dame

Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech

D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas

Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson

Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia

Davon Godchaux, DL, LSU

Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State

Isaiah Golden, DT, McNeese State

Jermaine Grace, LB, Miami

Derrick Griffin, WR, Texas Southern

Chad Hansen, WR, Cal

Charles Harris, DE, Missouri

Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech

Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming

Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech

Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina

Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

Titus Howard, DB, Slippery Rock

Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC

Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State

Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP

Josh Jones, S, N.C. State

Nazair Jones, DT, North Carolina

Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami

Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee

Tim Kimbrough, LB, Georgia

DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

Jerome Lane, WR, Akron

Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn

Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State

Keevan Lucas, WR, Tulsa

Marlon Mack, RB, USF

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

Josh Malone, WR, Tennessee

Damien Mama, OL, USC

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State

Isaiah McKenzie, WR, Georgia

Deon-Tay McManus, WR, Marshall

Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State

Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise State

Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma

Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE, Miami

Montae Nicholson, S, Michigan State

David Njoku, TE, Miami

Speedy Noil, WR, Texas A&M

Marcus Oliver, LB, Indiana

Aaron Peak, DB, Butler County CC

Jabrill Peppers, LB/S, Michigan

Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma

Elijah Qualls, DL, Washington

Devine Redding, RB, Indiana

Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

John Ross, WR, Washington

Travis Rudolph, WR, FSU

Artavis Scott, WR, Clemson

Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio State

Ricky Seals-Jones, WR, Texas A&M

Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland

David Sharpe, OL, Florida

Garrett Sickels, DE, Penn State

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama

Damore’ea Stringfellow, WR, Ole Miss

Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

Vincent Taylor, DT, Oklahoma State

Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford

Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

Darius Victor, RB, Towson

Khari Waithe-Alexander, DE, Southern Illinois

Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern

Charles Walker, DL, Oklahoma

Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin

Marcus Williams, S, Utah

Stanley Williams, RB, Kentucky

Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Howard Wilson, CB, Houston

Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida

Joe Yearby, RB, Miami

Ishmael Zamora, WR, Baylor

 

 

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PFT’s conference championship game picks

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The season is getting closer and closer to its final act. The last Sunday with more than one game has arrived, and MDS and I are separated by only one game with three left.

Last week, I correctly picked three of the four games. MDS was 2-2. He’s 6-2 and I’m 5-3 so far in the postseason.

This week, keep reading to see what we think about the two games that will determine the Super Bowl participants.

Packers at Falcons

MDS’s take: Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are playing the quarterback position better than anyone else in the league right now. So this game should be a shootout, with 300-plus passing yards from both quarterbacks, and 30 or so points for both teams. The difference, I think, will be the Falcons’ ability to make plays both on the ground and through the air. I expect Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman to combine for more than 100 rushing yards and to help the Falcons protect a late lead. The Falcons will win a close one and punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 33, Packers 30.

Florio’s take: Before Week One, I picked the Packers to get to the Super Bowl and win it. And then came the playoffs, where I had a chance to pick the Packers over the Giants, and didn’t. Next came the divisional round, where I had a chance to pick the Packers over the Cowboys. And didn’t. So now the Packers are one game away from making my September prediction at least half-accurate (the Ravens were my AFC choice), and I’m sorely tempted to pick against them again.

I’m stupid, but not that stupid. Aaron Rodgers has reached a higher level of performance, and he has sustained it regardless of who is running routes and catching passes. Yes, the Falcons have been great. The Falcons are good enough to advance. But in a toss-up game, I’ve got to go with the guy who made one of the best tosses we’ve ever seen to earn the spot in the NFC finals.

Florio’s pick: Packers 37, Falcons 31.

Steelers at Patriots

MDS’s take: Both of these teams’ offenses struggled in the divisional round, with the Patriots throwing as many interceptions in one game as they had thrown in 16 games of the regular season, and the Steelers failing to get to the end zone and winning on field goals. I think the AFC Championship Game may be a defensive struggle as well, perhaps with a defensive touchdown making the difference. In the end, I like the Patriots to win a close game and get to their seventh Super Bowl in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Steelers 20.

Florio’s take: Bill Belichick likely will try to take away Antonio Brown, forcing the Steelers to run the ball into a two-gap front that could make Le’Veon Bell hesitate a little more than he already does before hitting the hole. Forcing the Steelers to sustain drives without mistakes on one hand and moving the ball largely at will against a defense that Tom Brady traditionally has managed to crack adds up to the Patriots emerging from the game with at least one more point than the Steelers.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Steelers 20.

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Brady, Ben, Peyton are 14 of the last 16 AFC Super Bowl quarterbacks

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For the 14th time in the last 16 years, the AFC Super Bowl team will be quarterbacked by Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger or Peyton Manning.

That became certain when Brady’s Patriots and Roethlisberger’s Steelers won this weekend to meet in the AFC Championship Game. Either Brady will start his seventh Super Bowl, adding to his own NFL record, or Roethlisberger will start his fourth. Manning also started four.

The only other quarterback to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl in the last 13 years was Joe Flacco, whose team topped Roethlisberger’s Steelers to win the AFC North in 2012, then beat Manning’s Broncos in the divisional playoffs and Brady’s Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Before that, the last other quarterback to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl was Rich Gannon, whose 2002 Raiders dethroned Brady’s 2001 Patriots as reigning AFC champions.

Sunday will be, incredibly, the 11th time Brady has started in the AFC Championship Game. It will be Roethlisberger’s fifth AFC Championship Game. Manning also started five AFC Championship Games.

Since 2001, the Patriots have advanced to 11 AFC Championship Games, the Steelers six (five with Roethlisberger, one without), the Colts four (three with Manning, one without) and the Broncos three (two with Manning, one without). So counting this year, those four teams will have accounted for 24 AFC Championship Game appearances since the 2001 season, with the other 12 AFC teams accounting for a combined eight AFC Championship Game appearances.

Here’s a list of the starting AFC quarterbacks in the Super Bowl for every season in the 21st Century:

2001: Tom Brady, Patriots.

2002: Rich Gannon, Raiders.

2003: Tom Brady, Patriots.

2004: Tom Brady, Patriots.

2005: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers.

2006: Peyton Manning, Colts.

2007: Tom Brady, Patriots.

2008: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers.

2009: Peyton Manning, Colts.

2010: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers.

2011: Tom Brady, Patriots.

.2012: Joe Flacco, Ravens.

2013: Peyton Manning, Broncos.

2014: Tom Brady, Patriots.

2015: Peyton Manning, Broncos.

2016: Brady or Roethlisberger.

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Tom Brady adding to long list of postseason records

AP

When the Patriots face the Texans tonight, Tom Brady will break a record of his own just by stepping on the field, and then he’ll break more of his own records as the game goes on.

Brady will be playing in the 32nd postseason game of his career, which is the most in NFL history. He’s the first player ever to play the equivalent of two full seasons in the postseason. Here are all the career postseason records Brady owns:

Games played: Brady set the record of 31 last year, surpassing his old teammate Adam Vinatieri, who has played in 30 career postseason games. Tonight will be Brady’s 32nd career postseason game. Brady’s Patriots are 22-9 in the games he’s started; no other quarterback has been on the winning team more than 16 times.

Pass attempts: Brady has thrown 1,183 passes in the postseason, 156 more than second-place Peyton Manning. Brady will keep adding to that record tonight, and it’s a record no one will approach for many years, if ever: Ben Roethlisberger, with 540 career postseason passes, is second among active players, and he’s not even halfway to Brady’s total.

Pass completions: Brady owns the record with 738 postseason completions, 89 more than Peyton Manning. Again, no active player is close: Roethlisberger is second among active players with 334.

Yards gained: Brady has 7,957, which is 618 more than Peyton Manning. Roethlisberger is the active leader with 4,249.

300-yard games: Brady has 10 games of at least 300 yards passing, one more than Peyton Manning. Brady has thrown for at least 300 yards in each of his last three postseason games, and if he does it again tonight he’ll have four in a row, which would tie Dan Fouts for the most consecutive 300-yard postseason games.

Touchdown passes: Brady has 56 career postseason touchdown passes, 11 more than second-place Joe Montana. Aaron Rodgers is second among active players with 31.

Brady also owns the single-game postseason completion percentage at 92.9 percent, going 26-for-28 in a 2007 game against the Jaguars. And he co-owns the single-game postseason touchdown record, with six touchdowns in a win over the Broncos in 2011.

However, Brady also has to worry about setting one record he’d prefer not to set: Brady has thrown 28 career postseason interceptions, just two fewer than the all-time record holder, Brett Favre. When you play in as many postseason games as Brady has, you’re bound to throw a few picks. If he throws a few more, he’ll have one dubious record to go with all his extraordinary records.

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PFT’s divisional round picks

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I usually stink more than usual when it comes to picking playoff games, so I was relieved to go 2-2 last week. And then MDS went 4-0.

So with a two-game lead and only seven games left, I’m already screwed.

I can shave the deficit in half this week if the one game on which we disagree goes my way. For all of our picks for the divisional round, keep reading.

Seahawks at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Seahawks’ defense played well in shutting down the Lions last week, but the Falcons’ offense is a different animal. Matt Ryan played at an MVP level all season, and Julio Jones when healthy is the best receiver in the league. I’d like Seattle’s chances better if Earl Thomas were playing, but as it stands I’m having a hard time seeing the Seahawks’ secondary keeping the Falcons’ passing game in check.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 30, Seahawks 20.

Florio’s take: Seattle’s offensive instantly becomes more diversified with a potent Thomas Rawls and a healthy C.J. Prosise. But will that be enough against a Falcons offense that is as good as it’s ever been, with 9.3 average yards per pass and Matt Ryan performing at an MVP level? Ryan has struggled in past postseasons, but he’s never had a season like the one he had in 2016. With a defense that has improved quickly under head coach Dan Quinn, the Falcons can close out the Georgia Dome (unless Green Bay wins on Sunday) with a victory.

Florio’s pick: Falcons 24, Seahawks 21.

Texans at Patriots

MDS’s take: I can’t remember a more lopsided playoff game. The Patriots blew out the Texans during the regular season, and that was with third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett. With Tom Brady now back at the helm, I’ll be shocked if the Texans even keep this game close into the fourth quarter, let alone win.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 38, Texans 16.

Florio’s take: Yes, Houston lost 27-0 in New England against a Patriots team that lacked Tom Brady. Sure, the Texans are favored to lose by 16. Of course, the Patriots are more determined than ever to get back to the Super Bowl and win it. To reverse those dynamics (and to close the dramatic the talent gap), the Texans need to score early, pressure Brady consistently, and avoid mistakes on special teams. They need to. They won’t.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 31, Texans 10.

Steelers at Chiefs

MDS’s take: This is the toughest game to pick this weekend. The Steelers’ offense is rolling right now, and I’m tempted to pick them on the road in a small upset. But the well-rested Chiefs defense should at least be able to slow the Steelers’ offense down, if not stop it. And in what should be a close game, I think a big play from the Chiefs’ great special teams will be the difference.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 28, Steelers 27.

Florio’s take: The Steelers plastered the Chiefs in Week Four, but that game was at home. Meanwhile, the Steelers lost a couple of road games to inferior teams; what happens at Arrowhead Stadium against a Chiefs team that continues to be overlooked as it continues to win far more games than it loses? The determination of running back Le’Veon Bell and receiver Antonio Brown gives the Steelers a championship-caliber team. If quarterback Ben Roethlisberger really is fine after injuring his foot during garbage time of the wild-card round, the Steelers will be fine, too. Barely, but fine.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Chiefs 24.

Packers at Cowboys

MDS’s take: Aaron Rodgers will make some plays with both his arm and his legs, but Green Bay will likely be missing Jordy Nelson, and that’s a huge loss. I like Dak Prescott to put up big numbers against the Packers’ defense and the Cowboys to win a shootout.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 35, Packers 31.

Florio’s take: One of the greatest quarterbacks in history faces the quarterback of the future. It’s a baton that won’t pass easily, not with the way Aaron Rodgers has been playing. But Dallas is good enough that it’s won’t be a duel between signal-callers. It will be a methodical smothering of Green Bay’s defense with an offensive line and a running game that chews the clock and keeps Rodgers in the one spot where he can’t hurt them — on the sideline. Unlike the Giants, the Cowboys will be able to convert any temporary Packers offensive sputtering into significant points, making it even harder for Rodgers to close the gap when he inevitably finds the gas pedal and mashes it.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 30, Packers 22.

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NFL draft rules a raw deal for Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence

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If you’re watching tonight’s college football national championship game with an eye on seeing some future NFL stars, the first player you should look for is one who won’t be in the NFL until 2019.

Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence will be the most talented player on a field full of future NFL players when his team takes on Alabama tonight. But Lawrence is a true freshman, and NFL rules mandate that players must be out of high school for three years before they can turn pro, which means Lawrence will be toiling at the amateur level for two more seasons.

Lawrence will risk injury without earning the riches that a player of his talents should be allowed to earn. And there’s simply no reason that a 19-year-old adult shouldn’t have the right to earn a living at his chosen profession.

The NFL likes to claim that its draft rules protect young players who aren’t physically ready for the NFL. That’s preposterous. Lawrence is a 6-foot-5, 340-pound freakish athlete. He doesn’t need to be protected from anybody.

How freakish an athlete is Lawrence? Clemson says he runs the 40-yard dash in less than five seconds. At the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine, the biggest defensive lineman to break 5.0 seconds in the 40 was Javon Hargrave, now a rookie starting at nose tackle for the Steelers. Hargrave weighed in at 309 pounds — about 30 pounds lighter than Lawrence.

Lawrence knows people say he’s a future first overall pick in the draft, although he’s modest about it. When told by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports that an Alabama assistant coach had already proclaimed Lawrence the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, Lawrence shrugged it off.

“It doesn’t matter now. I’m just a freshman,” Lawrence said. “I have a lot of technique I need to work on. . . . Little things. My pad level lower, hand placement, reading blocks quicker.”

But, of course, those are things Lawrence could be learning from NFL coaches while making millions of dollars a year, instead of learning from college coaches while getting room, board and tuition. Lawrence should be allowed to decide for himself whether he’s better off staying in college or playing professionally, and NFL teams should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they think he’s ready.

Instead, the league office decides that he can’t be drafted this year, or next year. That’s a raw deal for a great player.

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Full 2016 NFL All-Pro voting

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Here are the full vote totals for the 2016 NFL All-Pro team, selected by 50 members of the media chosen by the Associated Press:

OFFENSE
Quarterback
Matt Ryan, Atlanta, 29; Tom Brady, New England, 15; Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, 5; Derek Carr, Oakland, 1.

Running Backs
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas, 47; David Johnson, Arizona, 3.

Tight End
Travis Kelce, Kansas City, 44; Greg Olsen, Carolina, 5; Rob Gronkowski, New England, 1.

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh, 43; Julio Jones, Atlanta, 30; Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants, 16; Mike Evans, Tampa Bay, 6; Jordy Nelson, Green Bay 5.

Flex
David Johnson, Arizona, 24; Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh, 18; Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants, 3; Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh, 1; Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona, 1; LeSean McCoy, Buffalo, 1; Jarvis Landry, Miami, 1; Travis Kelce, Kansas City, 1.

Left Tackle
Tyron Smith, Dallas, 27; David Bakhtiari, Green Bay, 8; Joe Thomas, Cleveland, 7; Trent Williams, Washington, 3; Jason Peters, Philadelphia, 2; Taylor Lewan, Tennessee, 1; Donald Penn, Oakland, 1; Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati, 1.

Right Tackle
Jack Conklin, Tennessee, 27 1-2; Mitchell Schwartz, Kansas City, 6; Marcus Cannon, New England, 6; Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay, 5 1-2; Zach Strief, New Orleans, 2; Ryan Schraeder, Atlanta, 2; Marcus Gilbert, Pittsburgh, 1.

Left Guard
Kelechi Osemele, Oakland, 47; Marshal Yanda, Baltimore, 2; James Carpenter, New York Jets, 1.

Right Guard
Zack Martin, Dallas, 40; David DeCastro, Pittsburgh, 5; Marshal Yanda, Baltimore, 4; Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati, 1.

Center
Travis Frederick, Dallas, 29; Alex Mack, Atlanta, 14; Rodney Hudson, Oakland, 5; Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh, 1, Brandon Linder, Jacksonville, 1.

DEFENSE
Edge Rushers
Khalil Mack, Oakland, 46; Vic Beasley Jr., Atlanta, 30; Cameron Wake, Miami, 3; Olivier Vernon, Miami, 3; Jadeveon Clowney, Houston, 3; Brandon Graham, Philadelphia, 3; Michael Bennett, Seattle, 2; Cameron Jordan, New Orleans, 2; Danielle Hunter, Minnesota, 2; Cliff Avril, Seattle, 2; Everon Griffen, Minnesota, 1; Joey Bosa, San Diego, 1.

Interior Linemen
Aaron Donald, St. Louis, 47; Damon Harrison, New York Giants 16; Ndamukong Suh, Miami, 12; Calais Campbell, Arizona, 7; Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay, 7; Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia, 6; Geno Atkins, Cincinnati, 5.

Linebackers
Bobby Wagner, Seattle, 48; Von Miller, Denver, 47; Sean Lee, Dallas, 41; Lorenzo Alexander, Buffalo, 4; Luke Kuechly, Carolina, 2; C.J. Mosley, Baltimore, 1; Zach Brown, Buffalo, 1; Zachary Orr, Baltimore, 1; Alec Ogletree, Los Angeles, 1; Dont’a Hightower, New England, 1; Bernardick McKinney, Houston, 1; Lavonte David, Tampa Bay, 1; Whitney Mercilus, Houston, 1.

Cornerbacks
Aqib Talib, Denver, 27; Marcus Peters, Kansas City, 23; Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants, 17; Malcolm Butler, New England, 8; Casey Hayward, San Diego, 8; Richard Sherman, Seattle, 7; Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota, 5; Chris Harris Jr., Denver, 4; Dominique-Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants, 1.

Safeties
Landon Collins, New York Giants, 47; Eric Berry, Kansas City, 31; Devin McCourty, New England, 4; Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay, 4; Earl Thomas, Seattle, 3; Harrison Smith, Minnesota, 3; Reggie Nelson, Cincinnati, 2; Kam Chancellor, Seattle, 2; Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia, 1; Eric Weddle, Baltimore, 1; Quintin Demps, Houston, 1; Darian Stewart, Denver, 1.

Defensive Back
Chris Harris Jr., Denver, 14; Dominique-Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants, 6; Malcolm Butler, New England, 5; Eric Berry, Kansas City, 3; Casey Hayward, San Diego, 3; Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia, 3; Patrick Peterson, Arizona, 2; Marcus Peters, Kansas City, 2; Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota, 2; Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay, 2; Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants, 2; Aqib Talib, Denver, 1; Darius Slay, Detroit, 1; Devin McCourty, New England, 1; Brent Grimes, Tampa Bay, 1; Richard Sherman, Seattle, 1; Eric Weddle, San Diego, 1.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Placekicker
Justin Tucker, Baltimore, 50.

Punter
Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles, 42; Marquette King, Oakland, 4; Pat McAfee, Indianapolis, 2; Brad Wing, New York Giants, 1; Sam Martin, Detroit, 1.

Kick Returner
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota, 41; Tyler Lockett, Seattle, 5; Tyreek Hill, Kansas City, 5.

Punt Returner
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City, 50.

Special Teamer
Matthew Slater, New England, 14; Nate Ebner, New England, 12; Dwayne Harris, New York Giants, 6; Justin Bethel, Arizona, 3; Matt Develin, New England, 3; Michael Thomas, Miami, 3; Chase Reynolds, Los Angeles, 3; Eric Murray, Kansas City, 2; Chris Maragos, Philadelphia, 1; Eric Weems, Atlanta, 1; Josh Bellamy, Chicago, 1.

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PFT’s 2016 awards

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In 29 days, the NFL will unveil the official 2016 awards. And, since it will happen the night before the Super Bowl, no one will care.

Speaking of things about which no one cares, here are the PFT 2016 awards.

In compiling them, I seek input from the full PFT staff. So blame them when you complain about the selections in the comments.

Offensive rookie of the year: Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. (Runners-up: Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill.)

Defensive rookie of the year: Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa. (Runners-up: Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones.)

Offensive player of the year: Cardinals running back David Johnson. (Runners-up: Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan, Saints quarterback Drew Brees.)

Defensive player of the year: Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack. (Runners-up: Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner.)

Comeback player of the year: Packers receiver Jordy Nelson. (Runners-up: Dolphins defensive end Cam Wake, Ravens receiver Steve Smith.)

Coach of the year: Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. (Runner-up: Dolphins coach Adam Gase, Patriots coach Bill Belichick.)

Executive of the year: Raiders G.M. Reggie McKenzie. (Runner-up: Jerry Jones/Stephen Jones, Cowboys, Lions G.M. Bob Quinn.)

MVP: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. (Runner-up: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.)

And that’s that. No dinner, no prize, no press release, no plaque, no commemorative pen or pencil. Just the satisfaction from knowing that a bunch of guys who don’t know what they’re talking about know how to post content to the Internet.

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