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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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PFT’s wild-card picks

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Yes, MDS barely won the regular-season competition. With that and a dollar he can buy a newspaper. If they still sell newspapers.

The contest re-sets for the postseason. We start with four games. We disagree on half of them.

For our picks and #analysis, keep reading.

Raiders at Texans

MDS’s take: If Derek Carr were starting, I’d definitely pick the Raiders. If Matt McGloin were starting, I’d probably pick the Raiders. But with Connor Cook starting? A rookie who has never started an NFL game? I think I’m going to have to take the Texans. I don’t have much faith in the Texans’ quarterback, Brock Osweiler, either. But the Texans’ strong defense should make life miserable for Cook in what probably won’t be a very entertaining game, unless you enjoy watching overmatched quarterbacks.

MDS’s pick: Texans 16, Raiders 9.

Florio’s take: The easy take is, “Connor Cook? Riiiiight.” The more complex analysis is that Brock Osweiler, re-installed as the starter after playing poorly enough to get the hook, may be worse not better for the experience of being benched. And the team may not find much motivation in the reality that a win likely means a return trip to New England, where the Texans lost 27-0 to a team that lacked Tom Brady. Throw in lingering rumors that coach Bill O’Brien could be on the way out, and the Texans become a unexpectedly shaky proposition to advance.

Florio’s pick: Raiders 20, Texans 16.

Lions at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Seahawks haven’t been the same team since Earl Thomas went down, but the Lions haven’t been the same team since Matthew Stafford injured a finger on his throwing hand. Seattle is a tough place to play, and the Lions haven’t played well in a month, so I’ll take the Seahawks.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 30, Lions 17.

Florio’s take: The down-and-up Seahawks are vulnerable, with alternating losses and wins over the last six games. But the Lions have lost three in a row to cap a season that includes no wins over a team that made it to the playoffs. While an upset isn’t out of the question, the safer choice is the home team, which has been very hard to beat at home in the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 27, Lions 17.

Dolphins at Steelers

MDS’s take: Pittsburgh did the smart thing last week, resting Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. With their three key players fresh, the Steelers should roll over an injury-plagued Dolphins team.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 31, Dolphins 17.

Florio’s take: Three times before, these teams have met in the playoffs. Each time, the winner of the game went to the Super Bowl. The Steelers seem to be better equipped to climb the playoff tree, especially with Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown all playing in a postseason game for the first time. While the Dolphins, who beat the Steelers handily during the regular season, seem to be on the cusp of annual contention, simply getting to the playoffs is an accomplishment that should be fully appreciated.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 31, Dolphins 23.

Giants at Packers

MDS’s take: Eli Manning has been a below-average quarterback this season, while an excellent Giants defense has won a lot of games despite the offense struggling. Unfortunately for the Giants, Aaron Rodgers may be playing better football right now than any quarterback the Giants have faced. I like the Packers to win on a cold day at Lambeau Field.

MDS’s pick: Packers 24, Giants 16.

Florio’s take: The best game of the weekend is the toughest one to pick. The Packers are performing arguably as well as they ever have, but “Postseason Eli” brings the kind of magical calm that can propel the Giants all the way to the Super Bowl. The wild card is receiver Odell Beckham Jr. In his first career playoff game, will he be dominant? Will he be motivated by the endless ESPN #hottakes regarding his day-off trip to Miami? Will he score a pair of touchdowns? Will he pretend to drop his pants and rub his rear end against the goalpost, in the ultimate homage to Randy Moss? Six straight wins have been impressive for the Packers, but the Eli-Odell factor can’t be ignored. If Beckham comes up big on the biggest stage, the Giants will be very hard to beat.

Florio’s pick: Giants 24, Packers 23.

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Playoff teams’ records vs. other playoff teams

AP

Here’s the record for each of this year’s playoff teams in games against other playoff teams:

Patriots: 4-1 (beat Dolphins, Texans, Steelers, Dolphins; lost to Seahawks)

Seahawks: 3-1 (beat Dolphins, Falcons, Patriots; lost to Packers)

Packers: 5-2 (beat Lions, Giants, Texans, Seahawks, Lions; lost to Cowboys, Falcons)

Cowboys: 3-2 (beat Packers, Steelers, Lions; lost to Giants, Giants)

Giants: 3-2 (beat Cowboys, Cowboys, Lions; lost to Packers, Steelers)

Chiefs: 3-2 (beat Raiders, Falcons, Raiders; lost to Texans, Steelers)

Falcons: 2-2 (beat Raiders, Packers; lost to Seahawks, Chiefs)

Steelers: 2-3 (beat Chiefs, Giants; lost to Dolphins, Patriots, Cowboys)

Texans: 2-3 (beat Chiefs, Lions; lost to Patriots, Raiders, Packers)

Dolphins: 1-3 (lost to Seahawks, Patriots, Patriots; beat Steelers)

Raiders: 1-3 (beat Texans; lost to Falcons, Chiefs, Chiefs)

Lions: 0-5 (lost to Packers, Texans, Giants, Cowboys, Packers)

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Playoff Power Rankings

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The regular season is over, which means that 20 teams are now 0-0. Which means that I have no interest in ranking those teams as the postseason looms.

But I do have interest in ranking the remaining playoff teams. Which I’ll do right now.

1. Patriots (14-2): The No. 1 seed in the postseason will see Matt McGloin, Connor Cook, Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage, Matt Moore, or a banged-up Ryan Tannehill in the divisional round. In other words, the Patriots will be hosting the AFC title game.

2. Cowboys (13-3): They need to root for the Lions to beat the Seahawks. Otherwise, the Giants or Packers will get a chance to beat the Cowboys in their own building in the divisional round.

3. Chiefs (12-4): They can spend the entire bye preparing for the Steelers, not because the Steelers definitely will win on Sunday but because a Dolphins upset would deliver Oakland or Houston to Kansas City.

4. Steelers (11-5): For the first time ever, the Steelers will play a postseason game with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell in the lineup.

5. Giants (11-5): “Postseason Eli” isn’t a very flashy name for a superhero who makes rare appearances, but there’s nothing flashy about the Giants quarterback so it works.

6. Falcons (11-5): An upset loss by the Cowboys in the divisional round could mean that the last game in the Georgia Dome would be the NFC title game.

7. Packers (10-6): They managed to win six in a row. They’re capable of winning four more in a row.

8. Dolphins (10-6): Next year at this time, the Dolphins could be sitting pretty with the No. 1 seed.

9. Seahawks (10-5-1): Upset alert in Seattle, where the team isn’t as good as it’s been and the wound is still oozing from the final play of Super Bowl XLIX.

10. Lions (9-7): They’re good enough to earn the right to go back to Dallas and lose by 21.

11. Raiders (12-4): Can Rich Gannon get in game shape by Saturday?

12. Texans (9-7): Can David Carr get in game shape by Saturday?

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Doug Whaley press conference excerpts regarding Rex Ryan and the coaching search

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[Editor’s note: On Monday, Bills G.M. Doug Whaley made himself available to the media for the first time all season. The Bills have circulated a full transcript of the lengthy session. PFT has edited the transcript to include relevant questions and answers relating to the decision to fire coach Rex Ryan and the search for a new coach.]

Q: A press conference of this consequence, why do we not have ownership or the team president here with you and why are you out here on your own?

A: As season-ending review of the football operation department, I speak for the ownership and the team president, and I speak for our football operation department.

Q: Doug, you said that you represent ownership so we haven’t had a chance to hear from Terry or Kim [Pegula] regarding Rex Ryan’s firing. Walk us through. Why was he fired? What was the thought process?

A: We had just finished our weekly phone conversation with Terry, myself, and Rex. Rex asked to speak to him privately. After that, I was informed that Rex would no longer be our coach. I wasn’t privy to the conversation so I cannot get into those details.

Q: Did his not making the playoffs have anything to do with his firing?

A: Again, I was not privy to the details of the conversation.

Q: Doug, you mentioned the last coaching search was done by committee approach. What was your personal recommendation in January of 2015 on Rex Ryan?

A: I will not get into that.

Q: So are you not responsible for the hiring of Rex Ryan? Was that not your guy?

A: It’s a Bills hire, so I’m part of it. Yes.

Q: Along those lines, why do you think they didn’t have faith in you to make that hire yourself? You’re the General Manager, that’s one of the jobs that a General Manager does. What gives you any more credibility now?

A: Back then, we’d have to talk to the Pegulas but we decided, as a group, that we would make it a committee approach and they would have the final say. This time, I have faith – the ownership has faith in me and I have faith in myself. We’ll see where it goes. And I understand the gravity of the situation and I understand that it’s falling square on my shoulders and I accept the challenge.

Q: But you not taking ownership of the previous thing, you know part of that committee — you said you don’t want to get into it. If you agreed with the hire —

A: I did.

Q: You agreed with it?

A: I did. It’s a Bills hire. Correct.

Q: Does that give you even less credibility now, then, considering what happened with the hire?

A: I’ll let you debate that but I would say that it was —

Q: Well, there’s a lot of debate about it.

A: Then we won’t debate it.

Q: Who was part of that committee two years ago?

A: It was myself, [team president] Russ Brandon, Kim and Terry Pegula.

Q: Will Russ be part of the committee this time?

A: With Russ’s expanded responsibilities with [Pegula Sports Entertainment], he will not be.

Q: My follow-up is because you just made a reference to Russ’s expanded role with [Pegula Sports Entertainment]. Is something new or are we just talking about the fact that —

A: Yeah, he’s in charge of all — yeah, I don’t even know what he’s in charge of. I just know he’s in charge of a lot.

Q: The decision to made Rex Ryan was made weeks ago I was told.

A: I’ll answer that one; then you have a lot more information than I did. I wasn’t privy to any part of Rex Ryan being fired until I was told by Terry Pegula.

Q: Really? Not even as the General Manager?

A: We usually have those discussions at the year-end evaluation along with all the players, all the staff, all my staff. So again, I wasn’t privy to that information so I can’t answer that and maybe you can shed some light on that. Now, according to Tyrod [Taylor], we’re still in the playoff hunt and until it’s zero, we’re trying to win every game so we’re trying to put the best team out there to win.

Q: Regarding an explanation to the fans, how can you speak for ownership if you were not privy to the details?

A: I can’t give you the particulars of what happened in that conversation. I can just tell you that I was informed that he would not be our head coach going forward.

Q: How does that happen though? You’re the G.M.

A: Because, again, we usually hold those conversations after the season. Season-end evaluation of not only coaching staff and my staff but players.

Q: You had no input?

A: Again, I was not privy to that conversation.

Q: You said you understand the narrative earlier when Rex was fired and you or ownership didn’t speak. Do you worry about how that makes the organization look when you are trying to appeal to prospective head coaches?

A: I don’t because there was going to be a narrative no matter what we had done that day. That painted us any picture that you guys wanted to paint us.

Q: Did you ever get the sense that Rex was in trouble with the Pegulas? Were you ever moved to maybe come to his defense?

A: I’ll have to say this again, we hold those conversations at the end of the year, usually for the evaluations. So I had no need to go and talk to them about Rex. We were focused on the season. We always focus on the game ahead.

Q: You had no word that he was in trouble though?

A: No.

Q: You didn’t know that he might get fired?

A: No.

Q: Speaking for ownership, have they communicated or given an explanation to you why, with regards to all of this, why they would only put out a statement and do not want to directly address the fans?

A: They haven’t talked to me about it and I don’t need them to talk to me about it.

Q: Just to be clear, you didn’t have full responsibility in the hiring of Rex, you didn’t have responsibility in the firing of Rex, you said you never had a hunch that he was on a hot seat with ownership. So to you as the G.M. of the team, is it frustrating that you don’t have that sort of power, any sort of say in the situation? Because on the outside looking in, it doesn’t look like you have much power here.

A: Everybody has a boss, and the Pegulas, when the hiring of Rex, it was a committee approach, Pegulas had to sign off on it. This one, I will lead the search, the Pegulas still have to sign off on it. The head coach reports to the Pegulas.

Q: As the head of football operations, it seems like you’re not making all of the football decisions. Some of those decisions are coming from the Pegulas and if they want to fire the coach, they’re the owners. Is that the owners job to be making football decisions, or do they have somebody—you—who runs the football department and if they succeed, congratulations. If they fail, you’re in trouble.

A: I mean it doesn’t matter, no matter what. It’s their organization, their franchise. So they’re going to have the ultimate stamp no matter what. If it’s on me in charge over the coach, or the coach and I at the same level, it’s still ultimately their decisions.

Q: Did you agree with the decision to fire Rex?

A: I won’t get — I’ll say this much, I haven’t even thought about it. My focus now is going ahead.

Q: You didn’t have any kind of ‘Well, OK I agree,” or ‘Wait a minute, I’m a football guy and you’re not football people. Maybe we should talk about this?’ Just to have a discussion?

A: That wasn’t in my thought process.

Q: So you have not thought about the decision to fire Rex Ryan?

A: I have not because my job is to go from the decision, and move this organization forward. So that would be wasted time, and I’d rather put that time and effort into going forward.

Q: So whether it was a good call or bad call, that never came up in your mind?

A: No. It’s onward and upward.

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Tracking the 2017 coaching/G.M. searches

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The regular season is over and the coaching carousel is spinning around the league.

The Rams, Jaguars and Bills didn’t wait for the end of the season to fire their coaches and the Chargers and 49ers didn’t wait long after the final whistle to do the same. The Broncos job opened up when Gary Kubiak stepped down, which left six openings before Black Monday even arrived.

We’ll be tracking all the interviews and signs of interest in candidates for head coaching jobs right here. We’ll also have all the people involved in General Manager searches.

Buffalo Bills

Fired Rex Ryan before final game of the season. Expected to interview interim head coach Anthony Lynn. Expected to interview Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. Asked for permission to interview Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. Have reportedly spoken to Eagles about interviewing offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Interviewed McDermott. Interviewed Lynn. Scheduled to interview Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard. Having a second interview with McDermott, who is expected to get the job. Offered the job to McDermott and announced that he accepted the job on January 11.

Denver Broncos

Gary Kubiak stepped down after the final game of the season. Requested permission to interview Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Will interview Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub and Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Hired Joseph as their head coach.

Indianapolis Colts

Fired General Manager Ryan Grigson on January 21 and made Jimmy Raye their interim G.M. Requested permission to interview Seahawks execs Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer. Requested interview with Vikings assistant G.M. George Paton. Requested interview with Packers exec Eliot Wolf. Requested interview with Chiefs exec Chris Ballard. Reportedly requested interview with Ravens exec Eric DeCosta, but the Colts announced Ballard, Kirchner, Fitterer, Raye, Paton and Wolf would be the only six people interviewing for the job.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Fired Gus Bradley with two games left in the regular season. Interim coach Doug Marrone is expected to be a candidate. Interviewed Tom Coughlin before final game of regular season. Scheduled for interview with Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. Scheduled interview with Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Scheduled interview with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Expected to interview Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith. Expected to interview Bills interim coach Anthony Lynn. Hired Marrone on a permanent basis and named Coughlin their executive vice president of football operations.

Los Angeles Rams

Fired Jeff Fisher with three games left in regular season. Will interview interim coach John Fassel. Expected to interview Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. Scheduled interview with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and would like to talk to Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Scheduled interview with Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay. Requested permission to talk to Jaguars interim coach Doug Marrone. Reportedly interested in Saints coach Sean Payton, but Payton said he’s staying in New Orleans. Requested permission to speak to Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Bills interim coach Anthony Lynn. Expected to interview Panthers assistant head coach Steve Wilks. Requested permission to interview Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. Interviewed McVay and Goodwin. Interviewed Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel. Scheduled a second meeting with McVay. Scheduled a second interview with Lynn. Hired McVay on January 12.

San Diego Chargers

Fired Mike McCoy after Week 17 loss. Requested permission to interview Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Requested permission to interview Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Requested permission to interview Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub. Requested permission to interview Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. Requested permission to interview Mike Smith. Requested permission to interview Chargers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. Interview with Joseph did not happen as Joseph was hired by the Broncos. Scheduled a second interview with Lynn. Hired Lynn on January 12.

San Francisco 49ers

Fired head coach Chip Kelly after Week 17 loss. Will interview Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. List of candidates also includes Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable, Bills interim coach Anthony Lynn, Jaguars interim coach Doug Marrone and Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Scheduled interview with Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Scheduled interview with Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay. Interviewed Lynn. Expected to interview Cable after Seattle’s Wild Card round game. Scheduled an interview with Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. McDaniels withdrew name from consideration. Shanahan is expected to be the team’s next coach.

Fired General Manager Trent Baalke after Week 17 loss. Requested permission to interview Chiefs exec Chris Ballard, but Ballard reportedly has declined. The 49ers also have interest in speaking with Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, Vikings assistant general manager George Paton and Seahawks co-player personnel directors Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer. Expected to interview Packers execs Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst. Scheduled interview with Riddick. Scheduled interview with Paton. Expected to interview Colts exec Jimmy Raye. Expected to interview Kirchner and Fitterer after Seattle’s Wild Card round game. Scheduled an interview with Panthers exec Brandon Beane. Scheduled an interview with Cardinals VP of player personnel Terry McDonough. Expected to hold second interviews with Gutekunst, Wolf and Paton. Wolf and Gutekunst pulled out of the running and signed new deals with the Packers. McDonough and Paton set to interview a second time on January 28.

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NFL morning after: Tom Brady’s impressive season

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Tom Brady had one of the great regular seasons in NFL history in 2007, throwing for 50 touchdown passes as the Patriots became the only 16-0 team the league has ever seen. It might seem silly to say anything Brady has done in the years since could possibly rate with that season.

And yet as Brady completed his 2016 season on Sunday, it occurred to me that I’m even more impressed with what Brady is doing this year than I was back in 2007.

Brady is 39 years old, ancient by the standards of an NFL player. He began this season by serving a four-game suspension for Deflategate, something that easily could have rattled him mentally. It would have been completely understandable if Brady had taken a huge step backward this year.

And yet Brady’s season was incredible: He threw 28 touchdown passes and only two interceptions, the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history. His passer rating of 112.2 was the second-best of his career. And he led the Patriots to an NFL-best record of 14-2.

Brady did all that without anything like the receiving corps he had in 2007, when Randy Moss was the NFL’s best deep threat and Wes Welker was the NFL’s best possession receiver. The Patriots’ receivers — Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola — are fine as far as they go, but they’re mostly pedestrian players who know their role in the Patriots’ offense. Rob Gronkowski is the NFL’s best tight end when he’s healthy, but Gronk only played with Brady in six games, and got hurt in two of them, with the second injury ending his season. Brady in 2016 didn’t have even close to the weapons that Brady in 2007.

When we talk about Brady’s career, we focus so much on his four Super Bowl rings that I think we may actually underrate how great a player he’s been in the regular season. On Sunday, Brady moved ahead of Dan Marino for fourth place in NFL history for regular-season passing yards. He’s also fourth all-time in regular-season passing touchdowns. He’s also the only player ever to win the regular-season MVP award unanimously.

He may win his third regular-season MVP award this year. If he does, he’ll be the oldest MVP in league history. What he has done this season, a season that started with him sitting at home, is nothing short of remarkable.

Here are my other thoughts from Sunday’s action:

Great on-field audio. The best TV moment of Week 17 was the way CBS got the on-field audio of Steelers defensive back Mike Mitchell yelling at the officials after he was flagged for a facemasking penalty. Mitchell felt that he had been the victim, not the perpetrator, of facemasking on the play, and he begged the officials to reconsider: “He grabbed mine! He grabbed mine! Oh, my god please look at it, sir! Please look at it! He grabbed mine!” Mitchell shouted. The NFL and the networks should work together on audio improvements to bring the fans at home more moments like that. Those are the moments that make the NFL the best show on television.

An ugly injury. It was horrible to see Cardinals running back David Johnson’s knee bend awkwardly underneath him in yesterday’s game against the Rams. Johnson was having one of the all-time great running back seasons: He had gained at least 100 yards from scrimmage in all 15 games heading into yesterday. It’s a terrible way for a season like that to end, with a player getting carted off the field. I can’t help but wonder if we’re going to start seeing teams that have already been eliminated from playoff contention, like the Cardinals, treat Week 17 more like the preseason, and not play their most important players, like Johnson. A serious injury at the end of one season can affect a player into the next season, and for the Cardinals, there was no benefit to having Johnson on the field at all.

Frank Gore did something special. Gore, the Colts’ veteran running back, topped 1,000 yards for the 2016 season — at the age of 33. That’s unheard of in today’s NFL. The only players 33 or older who have gained 1,000 rushing yards in a season previously were John Henry Johnson with Pittsburgh in the 1960s, Franco Harris with Pittsburgh in the 1980s and John Riggins with Washington the 1980s. Nowadays, NFL running backs are usually beaten up so badly that they can’t play at all by age 33. Gore continues not just to play, but to thrive.

The Cleveland Browns are on the clock. The Browns lost to the Steelers in overtime on Sunday, clinching the first overall pick in the process. But I was very impressed with how the Browns played. For all the talk that rebuilding teams could tank at the end of the season to get a high draft pick, the Browns were playing to win, not to clinch the first overall pick. The Steelers had to fight the Browns for 60 minutes, plus overtime, before ultimately getting the win. That’s to the credit of Hue Jackson and his team.

Terrelle Pryor is incredible. My favorite player on that Browns team is Pryor, the former Ohio State quarterback who switched positions to wide receiver and managed to top 1,000 receiving yards this season. That’s a remarkable achievement for a guy who’s still learning a new position. Pryor becomes a free agent this offseason. He could play on my team any time.

Have we seen the last of Sanchez? Mark Sanchez has received a lot of credit in Dallas this year for being a good veteran mentor to Dak Prescott. But the bottom line on Sanchez is that he just isn’t a good quarterback. He didn’t play well for the Eagles last year, looked so bad in the preseason that the Broncos cut him, and yesterday for the Cowboys he looked inept, going just 9-for-17 for 85 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Realistically, I’m not sure he’s even going to make an NFL roster next season, given the way he has played when given the opportunity in his last three NFL stops. Once a promising young player, Sanchez hasn’t amounted to much, and yesterday may have been his last NFL game.

The reining MVP was a huge disappointment. Last season, Cam Newton was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. This season he was a disaster. After throwing 35 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in 2015, Newton managed just 19 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions in 2016. Newton’s stats also included:
— A career-low 75.8 passer rating.
— A career-low 52.9 percent completion rate.
— A career-low 6.88 yards per pass.
— A career-low 359 rushing yards
— A career-low 3.99 yards per carry.
As we saw Brady play his best football, we saw Newton play his worst.

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Times, dates set for first two playoff weekends

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The NFL’s playoff schedule for the first two weeks has been set.

The postseason kicks off next Saturday, Jan. 7 with Oakland at Houston at 4:35 p.m., then Detroit plays at Seattle at 8:15 p.m.

Next Sunday, the Steelers host the Dolphins at 1 p.m., and the Packers host the Giants at 4:40 p.m.

The schedule for the divisional playoffs has also been set. On Saturday Jan. 14, Atlanta will host the 4:35 p.m. game, and New England will host the 8:15 p.m. game. The Falcons play the NFC’s highest-remaining seed; the Patriots will play the AFC’s lowest-remaining seed.

Kansas City will host the early game on Sunday Jan. 15, and Dallas will host the late game.

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Week 17 early inactives

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Every week we bring you all the inactives from the early games in one post, constantly updated with the latest information. Check back to see the full list as it becomes available a little more than an hour ahead of the 1 p.m. ET kickoffs.

Ravens at Bengals

Ravens: WR Keenan Reynolds, WR Vince Mayle, RB Buck Allen, LB Lamar Louis, G Ryan Jensen, T Rick Wagner, TE Crockett Gillmore

Bengals: QB Jeff Driskel, RB Jeremy Hill, LB Vontaze Burfict, G Christian Westerman, DT DeShawn Williams, TE Tyler Kroft, WR Jake Kumerow

Jaguars at Colts

Jaguars: WR Allen Hurns, RB Chris Ivory, DT Jordan Hill, TE Neal Sterling, QB Brandon Allen, RB Daryl Richardson, DE Chris Smith

Colts: WR Donte Moncrief, CB Darius Butler, CB Rashaan Melvin, LB Deiontrez Mount, OL Austin Blythe, DL Kristjan Sokoli, OL Jeremy Vujnovich

Patriots at Dolphins

Patriots: WR Danny Amendola, DB Cyrus Jones, WR Malcolm Mitchell, T LaAdrian Waddle, RB D.J. Foster, QB Jacoby Brissett, S Jordan Richards

Dolphins: QB Ryan Tannehill, CB Byron Maxwell, LB Jelani Jenkins, DE Mario Williams, WR Leonte Carroo, TE Dominique Jones, TE Thomas Duarte

Bears at Vikings

Bears: WR Daniel Braverman, S Deon Bush, DB Bryce Callahan, RB Ka’Deem Carey, LB Leonard Floyd, FB Paul Lasike, LB Pernell McPhee

Vikings: QB Taylor Heinicke, WR Stefon Diggs, WR Laquon Treadwell, RB Adrian Peterson, RB C.J. Ham, G Willie Beavers, G Alex Boone

Bills at Jets

Bills: QB Tyrod Taylor, WR Dez Lewis, CB Stephon Gilmore, T Cordy Glenn, TE Logan Thomas, TE Gerald Christian, DT Adolphus Washington

Jets: WR Brandon Marshall, CB Nick Marshall, LB Lorenzo Mauldin, LB Randell Johnson, OL Donald Hawkins, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, DL Steve McLendon

Cowboys at Eagles

Cowboys: CB Morris Claiborne, LB Justin Durant, T Tyron Smith, DE Demarcus Lawrence, DL Cedric Thornton, DL Terrell McClain, DL Tyrone Crawford.

Eagles: CB Dwayne Gratz, OL Josh Andrews, OL Dillon Gordon, OL Allen Barbre, DL Taylor Hart, WR Jordan Matthews, LB Mychal Kendricks

Browns at Steelers

Browns: QB Kevin Hogan, QB Josh McCown, OL Gabe Ikard, DL Stephen Paea, RB Darius Jackson, LB Cam Johnson, DB Trey Caldwell

Steelers: QB Ben Roethlisberger, S Robert Golden, RB Le’Veon Bell, C Maurkice Pouncey, WR Antonio Brown, TE Ladarius Green, DE Stephon Tuitt

Panthers at Buccaneers

Panthers: QB Derek Anderson, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, LB Jeremy Cash, T Dan France, DE Charles Johnson, LB Luke Kuechly, DT Paul Soliai

Buccaneers: QB Ryan Griffin, WR Bernard Reedy. T Leonard Wester, DT John Hughes, DT Channing Ward, G Caleb Benenoch, DE Will Gholston

Texans at Titans

Texans: CB Johnathan Joseph, RB Lamar Miller, FB Jay Prosch, LB John Simon, LB Brian Cushing, DE Jadeveon Clowney, QB Brandon Weeden

Titans: WR Kendall Wright, CB Jason McCourty, S Curtis Riley, LB David Bass, G Sebastian Tretola, TE Jace Amaro, DL Angelo Blackson

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Week 17 injury report roundup

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On the first day of 2017, the NFL’s regular season will come to an end with all 32 teams in action. Each of those teams submitted injury reports on Friday and we have all the particulars from those reports right here.

Questionable players are uncertain to play, doubtful players are unlikely to play and out should be self-explanatory. Players who are on active rosters and don’t appear below should be considered in the lineup barring any announcements on Saturday. The teams playing on Monday night won’t release their injury reports until Saturday and are not listed here.

With that housekeeping out of the way, here are all the injury reports for Sunday.

Ravens at Bengals

Ravens LB Zach Orr (neck) and T Rick Wagner (concussion) won’t play on Sunday and OL Alex Lewis (ankle) is listed as questionable.

WR A.J. Green (hamstring) will miss his sixth straight game for the Bengals. LB Vontaze Burfict (knee, concussion) and TE Tyler Kroft (knee, ankle) are doubtful to play and RB Jeremy Hill (knee) is listed as questionable.

Jaguars at Colts

Jaguars DT Jordan Hill (calf) is out for Sunday’s game. WR Allen Hurns (hamstring), RB Chris Ivory (hamstring), WR Marqise Lee (hip) and WR Neal Sterling (concussion) are considered questionable to play.

CB Darius Butler (concussion) will miss the finale for the Colts and WR Donte Moncrief (shoulder) will likely join him after getting a doubtful designation. LB Chris Carter (shoulder) and CB Rashaan Melvin (knee) are listed as questionable.

Patriots at Dolphins

The Patriots ruled out WR Danny Amendola (ankle) and CB Cyrus Jones (knee). WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee) should also be out on Sunday after being listed as doubtful. TE Martellus Bennett (ankle, shoulder), QB Tom Brady (thigh), LB Dont’a Hightower (knee) and WR Matt Slater (foot) make up the questionable contingent for the AFC East champs.

QB Ryan Tannehill (knee) remains out for Miami and they don’t expect to have LB Jelani Jenkins (knee) or CB Byron Maxwell (ankle) after listing them as doubtful. RB Jay Ajayi (shoulder), LB Spencer Paysinger (knee) and DE Mario Williams (ankle) are listed as questionable.

Bears at Vikings

The Bears expect LB Leonard Floyd (concussion) to miss another game after listing him as doubtful. S Deon Bush (ankle), CB Bryce Callahan (hamstring, knee), QB David Fales (right thumb), CB Cre’von LeBlanc (knee), T Bobby Massie (toe), LB Pernell McPhee (shoulder), CB Tracy Porter (knee, shoulder) and LB Willie Young (knee) all fell into the questionable category.

RB Adrian Peterson (knee, groin) was ruled out for the second straight week and may have played his final game with the Vikings. S Andrew Sendejo (knee) will also sit out. G Alex Boone (back), WR Stefon Diggs (hip) and WR Laquon Treadwell (ankle) drew doubtful tags on Friday while WR Charles Johnson (knee) is listed as questionable.

Bills at Jets

CB Stephon Gilmore (concussion) and T Cordy Glenn (back) will sit out for the Bills. LB Preston Brown (foot), LB Zach Brown (illness), TE Charles Clay (knee), G John Miller (hip), WR Sammy Watkins (foot) and DT Kyle Williams (back) are the group of questionable players for Buffalo.

The Jets ruled out LB Lorenzo Mauldin (ankle), DT Steve McLendon (hamstring) and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (hamstring). A doubtful tag leaves CB Nick Marshall (hamstring) likely to miss the game. WR Robby Anderson (hamstring), CB Juston Burris (knee), WR Brandon Marshall (hip, shoulder), RB Bilal Powell (knee), DT Sheldon Richardson (back), RB Brandon Wilds (hamstring) and DE Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle, knee) are questionable to play in the final game of a dismal season.

Cowboys at Eagles

The Cowboys ruled out seven players — CB Morris Claiborne (groin), DT Tyrone Crawford (shoulder, hamstring), LB Justin Durant (elbow), DE Demarcus Lawrence (back), DT Terrell McClain (ankle), T Tyron Smith (knee) and DT Cedric Thornton (ankle) — so they won’t have any tough decisions to make on their inactive list. CB Anthony Brown (concussion), DE Jack Crawford (foot), DE Randy Gregory (abdomen), G Ronald Leary (back), LB Sean Lee (knee) and RB Darren McFadden (illness) drew questionable designations.

Allen Barbre (hamstring) isn’t expected to play after the Eagles listed him as doubtful. LB Jordan Hicks (ankle), LB Mychal Kendricks (quadricep), WR Jordan Matthews (ankle) and G Isaac Seumalo (ankle) fell into the questionable category.

Browns at Steelers

The Browns will go for win No. 2 without the services of CB Trey Caldwell (hamstring). CB Joe Haden (neck, groin), LB Cam Johnson (groin) and RB Duke Johnson (ankle) are listed as questionable.

S Robert Golden (ankle), TE Ladarius Green (concussion) and DE Stephon Tuitt (knee) will get the week off for the Steelers in hopes of returning for playoff action. LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle) and TE Xavier Grimble (ribs) are listed as questionable.

Panthers at Buccaneers

The Panthers ruled out QB Derek Anderson (illness), so Joe Webb will be the option if Cam Newton (shoulder, questionable) doesn’t go the distance. DE Charles Johnson (foot) was also ruled out while TE Greg Olsen (elbow) and RB Jonathan Stewart (foot) were also deemed questionable to play.

DE William Gholston (elbow) is out for the Buccaneers. T Gosder Cherilus (groin, ankle) and CB Vernon Hargreaves (abdomen) are listed as questionable.

Texans at Titans

The Texans will bide their time before their playoff opener without the help of DE Jadeveon Clowney (elbow, wrist), RB Lamar Miller (ankle), RB Jay Prosch (ankle, knee) and LB John Simon (chest). They listed LB Brian Cushing (ankle) and CB Johnathan Joseph (ribs, shoulder, illness) as questionable to play.

CB Jason McCourty (chest) is listed as questionable and was the only Titans player to get an injury designation this week.

Saints at Falcons

Saints CB Ken Crawley (knee) is out after getting hurt in practice this week. Linebackers Dannell Ellerbe (foot) and Craig Robertson (shoulder) are listed as questionable.

The Falcons ruled out WR Taylor Gabriel (foot) and TE Austin Hooper (knee), but everyone else is good to go as they bid for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Raiders at Broncos

QB Derek Carr (ankle) and T Austin Howard (shoulder) are out as the Raiders try to lock up the AFC West and possibly the first seed in the conference. S Karl Joseph (toe) is doubtful to play while WR Amari Cooper (shoulder), WR Michael Crabtree (ankle), WR Andre Holmes (shoulder), DT Stacy McGee (groin), G Kelechi Osemele (ankle), RB Jalen Richard (shoulder), LB Perry Riley (hamstring) and LB Malcolm Smith (hamstring) have all been listed as questionable.

The Broncos will close out a disappointing season without TE A.J. Derby (concussion), S T.J. Ward (concussion), LB DeMarcus Ware (back), CB Kayvon Webster (concussion) and DE Derek Wolfe (neck). LB Brandon Marshall (hamstring) is listed as questionable.

Cardinals at Rams

D.J. Humphries (concussion) will miss the final game of the Cardinals season. WR John Brown (illness), CB Marcus Cooper (back, calf), LB Sio Moore (ankle) and DT Robert Nkemdiche (ankle) are listed as questionable.

The Rams don’t expect to have WR Kenny Britt (shoulder), T Rob Havenstein (ankle) and CB Lamarcus Joyner (ankle) after listing them as doubtful. WR Mike Thomas (hip) drew a questionable designation.

Chiefs at Chargers

Chiefs LB Justin Houston (knee) is out for the second straight week. CB Phillip Gaines (knee) and RB Spencer Ware (rib) are listed as questionable.

RB Melvin Gordon (hip, knee) and CB Craig Mager (shoulder) will not play for the Chargers and T King Dunlap (knee) is on track to join them on the bench after a doubtful tag. WR Jeremy Butler (ankle), G Orlando Franklin (shoulder), LB Denzel Perryman (knee) and C Matt Slauson (foot) are listed as questionable.

Seahawks at 49ers

Seahawks RB C.J. Prosise (shoulder) is out and the only player on the Friday injury report for the NFC West champs.

C Marcus Martin (ankle) and G Andrew Tiller (ankle) are out for the 49ers. CB Dontae Johnson (groin), CB Rashard Robinson (hamstring) and T Joe Staley (hamstring) drew questionable tags.

Giants at Redskins

S Nat Berhe (concussion) and DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) are out for the Giants. TE Jerell Adams (shoulder), LB B.J. Goodson (concussion), CB Janoris Jenkins (back) and CB Coty Sensabaugh (ankle) were designated as questionable.

TE Jordan Reed (shoulder) fronts a group of Redskins listed as questionable. DE Chris Baker (ankle), LB Will Compton (knee), RB Rob Kelley (knee), LB Ryan Kerrigan (elbow), G Spencer Long (ankle), LB Trent Murphy (foot) and LB Martrell Spaight (shoulder) join Reed in that group. S Su’a Cravens (upper arm), CB Quinton Dunbar (concussion) and T Vinston Painter (calf) have been ruled out.

Packers at Lions

Packers RB James Starks (concussion) is out again this week. WR Randall Cobb (ankle), LB Jayrone Elliott (hand), CB Damarious Randall (shoulder), LB Joe Thomas (back) and C J.C. Tretter (knee) received questionable designations.

RB Theo Riddick (wrist) will miss his fourth straight for the Lions and it looks like C Travis Swanson (concussion) will miss the NFC North title tilt as well after being listed as doubtful. LB DeAndre Levy (knee), WR Andre Roberts (shoulder) and CB Darius Slay (hamstring) are listed as questionable.

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PFT’s Week 17 picks

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MDS has tripled his lead in the season picks contest, moving from a one-game lead to a three-game lead.

In the final week of the season, we coincidentally disagree on three games. A sweep for me results in a tie. Which would sort of stink. But not as bad as losing would.

Last week, MDS got 10 games right and six wrong. I was a pathetic 8-8.

For all of the picks for the final week of the regular season, you should know what to do by now.

Ravens at Bengals

MDS’s take: With both teams eliminated from playoff contention it’s hard to know how hard either team will be playing, but I’ll pick Cincinnati to win at home in a close one.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 23, Ravens 21.

Florio’s take: A meaningless game has extra meaning for Steve Smith, who’ll “probably” be retiring. That will probably be enough to deliver victory for the Ravens.

Florio’s pick: Ravens 27, Bengals 20.

Jaguars at Colts

MDS’s take: The Jags surprisingly came out strong last week after the firing of Gus Bradley, but this week I think it’s the Colts who will turn in a strong effort and win going away.

MDS’s pick: Colts 24, Jaguars 13.

Florio’s take: The Doug Marrone bump lasts only one week, as the Colts try to ensure that Chuck Pagano will return for another non-winning season.

Florio’s pick: Colts 28, Jaguars 20.

Patriots at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Patriots are playing to clinch home-field advantage while the Dolphins, with a wild card berth locked up, don’t have a lot to play for. That’s a recipe for New England to win easily.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 28, Dolphins 14.

Florio’s take: Losing at Miami in Week 17 a year ago cost the Patriots the No. 1 seed and, eventually, a Super Bowl berth. Bill Belichick won’t let that happen again.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 31, Dolphins 23.

Bears at Vikings

MDS’s take: The Vikings have been a major disappointment down the stretch after starting 5-0, but they’ll close with a win against an overmatched Bears team.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 28, Bears 17.

Florio’s take: Has-Beens versus Never-Weres in a game that will determine only whether the Vikings finish with a losing record.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 17, Bears 14.

Bills at Jets

MDS’s take: It’s EJ Manuel vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Are you excited? I’m not, but I think the Bills can move the ball on the ground enough to win this one.

MDS’s pick: Bills 20, Jets 17.

Florio’s take: Even if the Jets don’t try (again), they should beat a Buffalo franchise that suddenly is one of the NFL’s most dysfunctional.

Florio’s pick: Jets 24, Bills 16.

Cowboys at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Cowboys insist they’re playing to win even though they don’t have to, with home-field advantage wrapped up. They should handle the Eagles.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 30, Eagles 20.

Florio’s take: The only question in this one is whether any Cowboys players will get injured. The Cowboys, too good to have a lapse and too loose to worry about what could go wrong, finish their perfect record against all teams not named the Giants.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 30, Eagles 24.

Browns at Steelers

MDS’s take: Even resting their starters, the Steelers should have enough to beat the Browns.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 17, Browns 13.

Florio’s take: The Browns got their one win of the year. Even without Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown, the Steelers should be able to keep Cleveland from doubling its win total.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Browns 20.

Panthers at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: The Bucs are effectively eliminated from the playoffs, but they are at least mathematically still alive and will, I think, play hard to finish the season strong.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 27, Panthers 20.

Florio’s take: The Bucs hope to finish a season of overachievement on a high note. The Panthers simply hope to finish the season.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 23, Panthers 17.

Texans at Titans

MDS’s take: The Texans may rest some players to get ready to host a playoff game next week, but even when doing that they should be able to beat a Matt Cassel-led Titans team.

MDS’s pick: Texans 17, Titans 14.

Florio’s take: The Titans are 1-4 in the division, 7-3 outside of it. Make that 1-5.

Florio’s pick: Texans 23, Titans 20.

Saints at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Falcons’ offense is rolling and the Saints’ defense is struggling. This one should be a beatdown.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 35, Saints 21.

Florio’s take: The Saints kept the Buccaneers out of the playoffs. The Saints won’t keep the Falcons out of the No. 2 seed.

Florio’s pick: Falcons 34, Saints 24.

Raiders at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Raiders are playing without Derek Carr, which is a huge blow, but with the Broncos alternating quarterbacks between Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian, I’m not optimistic about their offense. Oakland wins a close one to clinch the AFC West.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 17, Broncos 10.

Florio’s take: The Broncos could screw the Chiefs by laying down for the Raiders. Even if Denver doesn’t try, they’re good enough to overcome Matt McGloin.

Florio’s pick: Broncos 22, Raiders 17.

Cardinals at Rams

MDS’s take: Both of these teams are just playing out the string, but the Cardinals have at least looked like a competent team at times. Arizona shouldn’t have too much trouble here.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 30, Rams 12.

Florio’s take: Two teams that used to be in St. Louis play before an L.A. crowd that would prefer to see neither.

Florio’s pick: Cardinals 30, Rams 23.

Chiefs at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Chiefs need to win and have the Raiders lose in order to win the AFC West. Kansas City will hold up its end of the bargain.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 24, Chargers 10.

Florio’s take: San Diego says good riddance to the Chargers.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 27, Chargers 20.

Seahawks at 49ers

MDS’s take: The Seahawks have been struggling of late, but even a struggling Seattle team shouldn’t have too hard a time with the 49ers.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 31, 49ers 13.

Florio’s take: One last afternoon of Santa Clara traffic problems. That somehow won’t keep Seahawks fans from getting to the stadium.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 34, 49ers 17.

Giants at Washington

MDS’s take: The Giants say they’re playing to win, but Washington has so much more to play for that I see this one going Washington’s way.

MDS’s pick: Washington 24, Giants 20.

Florio’s take: It’s win and in for Washington. For the Giants, the game means nothing. And while coach Ben McAdoo is trying to create the impression that the Giants will play to win, their best play would be to play to get no one injured.

Florio’s pick: Washington 26, Giants 20.

Packers at Lions

MDS’s take: With the NFC North on the line, Aaron Rodgers will have a big game while Matthew Stafford will struggle.

MDS’s pick: Packers 34, Lions 17.

Florio’s take: The Lions, who have beaten one team that currently has a winning record, realized on Monday night that they don’t belong in the playoff field. Sunday night confirms it.

Florio’s pick: Packers 34, Lions 21.

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