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Week 16 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. That usually happens on Sunday, but Christmas has caused a schedule change and Saturday will be the busiest day of the football week. 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.

Dolphins at Bills

Dolphins: QB Ryan Tannehill, CB Byron Maxwell, LB Jelani Jenkins, WR Leonte Carroo, DB Jordan Lucas, TE Thomas Duarte, TE Dominique Jones

Bills: LB Lerentee McCray, QB Cardale Jones, WR Dez Lewis, T Cordy Glenn, TE Logan Thomas, TE Gerald Christian, DT Jerel Worthy

Falcons at Panthers

Falcons: LB De’Vondre Campbell, TE Austin Hooper, WR Nick Williams, RB Terron Ward, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, S Dashon Goldson, OL Wes Schweitzer

Panthers: DE Ryan Delaire, LB Luke Kuechly, LB Jeremy Cash, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, DT Kyle Love, WR Brenton Bersin, T Dan France

Redskins at Bears

Redskins: S Su’a Cravens, CB Quinton Dunbar, QB Nate Sudfeld, RB Matt Jones, C Kory Lichtensteiger, OL Vinston Painter, TE Jordan Reed

Bears: G Eric Kush, CB Cre’von LeBlanc, RB Ka’Deem Carey, S DeAndre Houston-Carson, FB Paul Lasike, LB Jonathan Anderson, WR Daniel Braverman

Chargers at Browns

Chargers: RB Melvin Gordon, T King Dunlap, CB Craig Mager, C Max Tuerk, TE Asante Cleveland, WR Jeremy Butler, DL Kaleb Eulls

Browns: QB Kevin Hogan, QB Josh McCown, RB Darius Jackson, OL Gabe Ikard, DL Tyrone Holmes, DL Stephen Paea, DL Gabe Wright

Vikings at Packers

Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson, FB Zach Line, G Brandon Fusco, WR Laquon Treadwell, QB Taylor Heinicke, G Willie Beavers, DE Stephen Weatherly

Packers: LB Jayrone Elliott, RB James Starks, WR Randall Cobb, QB Joe Callahan, CB Josh Hawkins, C J.C. Tretter, T Kyle Murphy

Titans at Jaguars

Titans: CB Jason McCourty, WR Tre McBride, CB D’Joun Smith, DB Curtis Riley, LB David Bass, G Sebastian Tretola, TE Jace Amaro

Jaguars: WR Allen Hurns, DT Jordan Hill, WR Arrelious Benn, RB Denard Robinson, LB Sean Porter, WR Neal Sterling

Jets at Patriots

Jets: LB Lorenzo Mauldin, DT Steve McLendon, QB Christian Hackenberg, RB Matt Forte, T Donald Hawkins, WR Jalin Marshall, DT Brandin Bryant

Patriots: WR Danny Amendola, LB Dont’a Hightower, RB D.J. Foster, WR Matthew Slater, QB Jacoby Brissett, T LaAdrian Waddle, CB Justin Coleman

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Week 16 injury report roundup

Week 15 kicked off on Thursday with an Eagles win and it continues with 12 more games on Saturday as most of the league plays a day earlier than normal because of Christmas. There will be two games on Christmas day as well, which means 28 teams turned in their final injury reports of the week on Friday.

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.

Dolphins at Bills (Saturday)

The Dolphins listed LB Jelani Jenkins (knee, hand) and CB Byron Maxwell (ankle) as doubtful to play and QB Ryan Tannehill (knee) remains out. S Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle), LB Kiko Alonso (hamstring, hand), T Jermon Bushrod (shoulder), CB Bobby McCain (knee, hand) and DE Mario Williams (ankle) are listed as questionable.

Bills LB Lerentee McCray (concussion) is out and T Cordy Glenn (back) will likely join him after drawing a doubtful tag. LB Preston Brown (foot), TE Charles Clay (knee), RB Jerome Felton (foot), G John Miller (hip), WR Sammy Watkins (foot), DT Kyle Williams (back) and DT Jerel Worthy (shoulder) are listed as questionable.

Falcons at Panthers (Saturday)

Falcons WR Julio Jones (toe) is set to return after avoiding an injury designation on Friday. DT De’Vondre Campbell (concussion) and TE Austin Hooper (knee) will not play, however.

DE Ryan Delaire (knee) is the only Panthers player ruled out and the only one with an injury designation this week. It’s not been announced whether LB Luke Kuechly (concussion) will play at this point.

Redskins at Bears (Saturday)

Redskins TE Jordan Reed (shoulder) is questionable after missing practice all week. DE Chris Baker (ankle), LB Will Compton (knee), LB Terence Garvin (illness), LB Ryan Kerrigan (elbow), QB Colt McCoy (illness) and LB Martrell Spaight (shoulder) got the same designation. S Su’a Cravens (upper arm) and CB Quinton Dunbar (concussion) have been ruled out.

G Eric Kush (concussion) is out for the Bears. Chicago listed CB Bryce Callahan (knee), RB Ka’Deem Carey (shoulder), QB David Fales (right thumb), CB Cre’von LeBlanc (knee), DE Cornelius Washington (back) and LB Willie Young (knee) as questionable to play.

Chargers at Browns (Saturday)

The Chargers will play without RB Melvin Gordon (hip, knee) again this week. CB Craig Mager (shoulder) is listed as doubtful while WR Jeremy Butler (ankle), T King Dunlap (knee) and G Orlando Franklin (illness) are questionable to play in Cleveland.

Browns LB Dominique Alexander (abdomen, groin) and TE Randall Telfer (ankle, knee) are questionable as the team tries for its first win of the year.

Vikings at Packers (Saturday)

The return of Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (knee, groin) hit a snag and he’s been ruled out along with G Brandon Fusco (concussion), RB Zach Line (concussion) and WR Laquon Treadwell (ankle). WR Stefon Diggs (hip) and S Harrison Smith (ankle) are listed as questionable.

QB Aaron Rodgers (calf) and LB Clay Matthews (shoulder) are off the injury report for the Packers. WR Randall Cobb (ankle), LB Nick Perry (hand), CB Damarious Randall (shoulder) and C J.C. Tretter (knee) are listed as questionable while LB Jayrone Elliott (hand) and RB James Starks (concussion) have been ruled out.

Titans at Jaguars (Saturday)

CB Jason McCourty (chest) will be missing from the Titans secondary. LB Sean Spence (ankle) is listed as questionable.

The Jaguars ruled out WR Arrelious Benn (concussion), DT Jordan Hill (calf), WR Allen Hurns (hamstring), LB Sean Porter (hamstring), RB Denard Robinson (ankle) and WR Neal Sterling (concussion).

Jets at Patriots (Saturday)

Jets LB Lorenzo Mauldin (ankle) and DT Steve McLendon (hamstring) will not play in New England. RB Matt Forte (knee, shoulder) is unlikely to play after getting a doubtful tag. WR Brandon Marshall (shoulder, back), RB Khiry Robinson (lower leg) and DE Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) are listed as questionable.

QB Tom Brady (thigh) was limited in practice all week and listed as questionable, but is expected to be in the Patriots lineup. TE Martellus Bennett (ankle, shoulder), LB Dont’a Hightower (knee), S Jordan Richards (knee) and WR Matt Slater (foot) are also listed as questionable while WR Danny Amendola (knee) is out.

Colts at Raiders (Saturday)

Colts LB Chris Carter (shoulder) has been ruled out for Christmas Eve. CB Rashaan Melvin (knee) and T Joe Reitz (back) are listed as questionable.

Wide receivers Amari Cooper (shoulder) and Michael Crabtree (finger) are listed as questionable, but are expected to play. S Karl Joseph (toe) and DT Stacy McGee (ankle) will not play. G Kelechi Osemele (ankle), LB Perry Riley (hamstring), LB Malcolm Smith (hamstring) and DT Dan Williams (foot) have also been listed as questionable.

49ers at Rams (Saturday)

The 49ers listed CB Dontae Johnson (groin) and T Joe Staley (hamstring) as doubtful, leaving them unlikely to play in L.A. DT Glenn Dorsey (knee, ribs) and C Marcus Martin (ankle) are questionable.

S Maurice Alexander (concussion), CB Lamarcus Joyner (ankle) and WR Mike Thomas (hip) are doubtful for the Rams, so they’ll probably have time to practice their carols during the game. WR Bradley Marquez (knee) is listed as questionable.

Buccaneers at Saints (Saturday)

Tackles Gosder Cherilus (groin, ankle) and Demar Dotson (concussion) will not play for the Bucs, which leaves undrafted rookie Leonard Wester in line to start at right tackle. DE William Gholston (elbow) is also out while DT Gerald McCoy (foot) is questionable.

Saints CB Delvin Breaux (shoulder) is out for Saturday’s game. LB Dannell Ellerbe (foot), RB John Kuhn (hip), LB Craig Robertson (shoulder) and C Max Unger (foot) are listed as questionable.

Cardinals at Seahawks (Saturday)

The Cardinals ruled out CB Marcus Cooper (back, calf) and T D.J. Humphries (concussion). WR John Brown (illness) and CB Brandon Williams (back) are both listed as questionable.

A brief Seahawks injury report has RB C.J. Prosise (shoulder) ruled out and no one else given an injury designation.

Bengals at Texans (Saturday)

The Bengals will have G Clint Boling (shoulder), LB Vontaze Burfict (knee, concussion), TE Tyler Eifert (back) and  TE Tyler Kroft (knee, ankle) on Santa watch after ruling them out Saturday night’s game. WR A.J. Green (hamstring), RB Jeremy Hill (knee) and DE Michael Johnson (shoulder) are listed as questionable.

CB Johnathan Joseph (ribs) and RB Lamar Miller (ankle) are listed as questionable for the Texans and make up the entire injury report.

Ravens at Steelers (Sunday)

CB Jimmy Smith (ankle) is out again for the Ravens and LB Kamalei Correa (ribs) will join him on the inactive list. LB Anthony Levine (toe), T Alex Lewis (ankle), WR Steve Smith (thigh) and DE Brent Urban (illness) are all listed as questionable.

Steelers S Shamarko Thomas (concussion) will miss the game. The team hasn’t ruled out WR Sammie Coates (hamstring) or TE Ladarius Green (concussion), but their doubtful tags make it unlikely that they’ll play. LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle), WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot), DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle) and DE Stephon Tuitt (knee) are listed as questionable.

Broncos at Chiefs (Sunday)

The Broncos have ruled out TE A.J. Derby (concussion), TE Virgil Green (concussion), LB Brandon Marshall (hamstring) and S T.J. Ward (concussion). DE Derek Wolfe (neck) is questionable after leaving last week’s game.

LB Justin Houston (knee) didn’t practice at all this week and the Chiefs have listed him as questionable. CB Phillip Gaines (knee) also didn’t practice, but he’s been ruled out.

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PFT’s Week 16 picks

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We’re finding out groove as the season moves toward a conclusion; in Week 15, MDS and yours truly each went 12-4.

He still leads by one game with 32 to go, and we disagree on two for Week 16.

For all picks on all Week 16 games, I think you know what to do by now.

Giants at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Giants are still in contention for the NFC East and are fighting for playoff positioning, while the Eagles have nothing to play for. Hard to go against the Giants here.

MDS’s pick: Giants 23, Eagles 17.

Florio’s take: Bitter rivals moving in different directions meet for the final Thursday night poopfest game of the year. The Giants’ offseason changes have paid off, the Eagles’ haven’t (yet), and New York have every incentive to continue to put the heat on their mutual enemy in Dallas.

Florio’s pick: Giants 24, Eagles 17.

Dolphins at Bills

MDS’s take: This is a tricky one. The Dolphins are still competing for a wild card berth while the Bills, though mathematically still alive, are really just playing out the string. And yet I think the Dolphins, without Ryan Tannehill, may struggle on a cold day in Buffalo. I like the Bills in a close, defensive struggle.

MDS’s pick: Bills 17, Dolphins 16.

Florio’s take: Miami is closing in on a playoff berth with their new coach, and the Bills are closing in on another new coach. If Rex is going to go, he’s going to go out swinging — and that could be bad news for the Dolphins.

Florio’s pick: Bills 23, Dolphins 17.

Jets at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Patriots struggled to beat the Jets last time. They won’t struggle this time.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 33, Jets 14.

Florio’s take: Last year, a pair of losses to the Jets and Dolphins kept the Patriots from securing the No. 1 seed and, in turn, making it to the Super Bowl. They won’t let it happen again.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 40, Jets 17.

Titans at Jaguars

MDS’s take: This Titans team has been hard to pick all season, but I can’t see them struggling with the Jaguars on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Titans 24, Jaguars 13.

Florio’s take: It’s a trap game for the Titans. Which is a major improvement; not long ago, the Titans were the trap game.

Florio’s pick: Titans 23, Jaguars 10.

Vikings at Packers

MDS’s take: The Vikings’ fall from the last undefeated team has been extraordinary, and the fall will finish when the Packers officially eliminate the Vikings on Saturday at Lambeau Field.

MDS’s pick: Packers 23, Vikings 9.

Florio’s take: The Packers are surging, the Vikings are stinking. And Green Bay is moving closer to a playoff appearance that a month ago seemed like a long shot at best.

Florio’s pick: Packers 31, Vikings 13.

Chargers at Browns

MDS’s take: The Browns’ march to the first overall pick in the draft and the second 0-16 season in NFL history continues.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 21, Browns 14.

Florio’s take: Two chances remain for the Browns to avoid 0-16. The Chargers, good but far from great, could be vulnerable. But with the Browns losing 14 in a row, why assume the trend will end now?

Florio’s pick: Chargers 27, Browns 21.

Washington at Bears

MDS’s take: I like the way the Bears are still competing with Matt Barkley running the offense and rookie Jordan Howard showing once again that you can find great value with a late-round running back. But as hard as the Bears fight, they usually fall short, and they’re going to again on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Washington 21, Bears 20.

Florio’s take: Washington is 1-3 since Kirk Cousins’ “how you like me now?” moment. The Bears have more punch than they get credit for. Chicago screws up its draft position with a morale-building win led by Matt Barkley.

Florio’s pick: Bears 24, Washington 20.

Falcons at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Falcons’ offense has played great for the last two weeks without Julio Jones. Now they face a tougher test against the Panthers, but I see Atlanta keeping it going.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 28, Panthers 20.

Florio’s take: The Panthers relish the spoiler role, and Cam Newton has a track record of success in December. But the even-shorter week, Newton’s busted shoulder, and the ongoing absence of Luke Kuechly could make it hard for the Panthers to take a chunk out of Atlanta’s chances of winning the division.

Florio’s pick: Falcons 27, Panthers 20.

Colts at Raiders

MDS’s take: The Colts are clinging to their slim playoff hopes, but those hopes will come to an end as the Raiders take another step toward a first-round bye.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 24, Colts 17.

Florio’s take: If the Colts team that beat the Vikings shows up in Oakland, that could be trouble for the Raiders. But they surely can’t put it all togetherr in two straight weeks, can they?

Florio’s pick: Raiders 23, Colts 20.

Buccaneers at Saints

MDS’s take: The Bucs’ defense shut the Saints’ offense down last time, but this time I think Drew Brees has a big game and the Buccaneers are dealt a big loss.

MDS’s pick: Saints 30, Buccaneers 23.

Florio’s take: The Saints get a couple of chances to play spoiler against NFC South rivals who are contending for the division title. Unfortunately for the home team, the Bucs continue to be the real deal.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 27, Saints 24.

Cardinals at Seahawks

MDS’s take: This should be an easy win for Seattle as it marches toward a first-round playoff bye.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 34, Cardinals 20.

Florio’s take: After five quarters that resolved nothing earlier this year, the Seahawks will more than make up for a sluggish Sunday night in Arizona. As long as they don’t throw from the one.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 31, Cardinals 17.

49ers at Rams

MDS’s take: In their last 18 games, the 49ers are 2-0 against the Rams and 0-16 against the rest of the NFL. Can the 49ers make it 3-0? I don’t think so. The Rams’ defense should shut Colin Kaepernick down.

MDS’s pick: Rams 13, 49ers 10.

Florio’s take: If two NFL teams play a game and no one gives a crap, does it make a sound?

Florio’s pick: Rams 16, 49ers 13.

Bengals at Texans

MDS’s take: Tom Savage gets the start in place of Brock Osweiler, which should be an upgrade for the Texans. I think Houston will win a Christmas Eve night game that most of America will ignore.

MDS’s pick: Texans 23, Bengals 20.

Florio’s take: The last time a team benched Brock Osweiler it won the Super Bowl. That’s not likely to happen a second time.

Florio’s pick: Texans 22, Bengals 16.

Ravens at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers can clinch the AFC North with a win, and I think they’ll do just that, on the strength of their defense shutting down Joe Flacco.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 17, Ravens 9.

Florio’s take: If you’re dreaming of a Black Christmas, tune in on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET and you’ll get one.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 15, Ravens 13.

Broncos at Chiefs

MDS’s take: With the Raiders likely winning on Christmas Eve, the Chiefs will have to win on Christmas Day to keep pace in the AFC West. I think they’ll do just that.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 24, Broncos 16.

Florio’s take: The Chiefs deliver the dagger to Denver in prime time.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 24, Broncos 13.

Lions at Cowboys

MDS’s take: Dallas clinches home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win, while the Lions will have to move on to a Week 17 NFC North title game with a loss.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 27, Lions 17.

Florio’s take: The last Monday night game of the year could be one of the best, with plenty of playoff implications and a Texas native trying to avenge a playoff loss in Dallas from two years ago. For the Lions to earn a rematch in January, they’ll need to beat Green Bay six days later.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 27, Lions 17.

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2017 Pro Bowl rosters announced

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The NFL on Tuesday announced 88 players who have been selected to play in the Pro Bowl.

The 2017 Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 29 in Orlando. After three years the game returns to the traditional AFC vs. NFC format.

Below is a list, by position, of players selected for the game…


Tom Brady, Patriots
Derek Carr, Raiders
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

Dak Prescott, Cowboys
Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Matt Ryan, Falcons


Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
LeSean McCoy, Bills
DeMarco Murray, Titans
Kyle Juszczyk, Ravens

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
Devonta Freeman, Falcons
David Johnson, Cardinals
Mike Tolbert, Panthers


Antonio Brown, Steelers
Amari Cooper, Raiders
A.J. Green, Bengals
T.Y. Hilton, Colts

Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
Julio Jones, Falcons
Mike Evans, Buccaneers


Travis Kelce, Chiefs
Delanie Walker, Titans

Greg Olsen, Panthers
Jordan Reed, Redskins


Joe Thomas, Browns
Donald Penn Raiders
Taylor Lewan, Titans
Marshal Yanda, Ravens
Kelechi Osemele, Raiders
David DeCastro, Steelers
Rodney Hudson, Raiders
Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers

Tyron Smith, Cowboys
Trent Williams, Redskins
Jason Peters, Eagles
Zack Martin, Cowboys
Brandon Scherff, Redskins
T.J. Lang, Packers
Travis Frederick, Cowboys
Alex Mack, Falcons


Khalil Mack, Raiders
Cameron Wake, Dolphins
Jadeveon Clowney, Texans
Geno Atkins, Bengals
Ndamukong Suh, Dolphins
Jurrell Casey, Titans

Everson Griffen, Vikings
Cliff Avril, Seahawks
Michael Bennett, Seahawks
Aaron Donald, Rams
Gerald McCoy, Buccaneers
Fletcher Cox, Eagles


Von Miller, Broncos
Lorenzo Alexander, Bills
Brian Orakpo, Titans
Dont’a Hightower, Patriots
C.J. Mosley, Ravens

Vic Beasley, Falcons
Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins
Thomas Davis, Panthers
Bobby Wagner, Seahawks
Luke Kuechly, Panthers


Chris Harris, Broncos
Aqib Talib, Broncos
Marcus Peters, Chiefs
Casey Hayward, Chargers

Janoris Jenkins, Giants
Patrick Peterson, Cardinals
Richard Sherman, Seahawks
Xavier Rhodes, Vikings


Devin McCourty, Patriots
Reggie Nelson, Raiders
Eric Berry, Chiefs

Landon Collins, Giants
Harrison Smith, Vikings
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Packers


Colts punter Pat McAfee
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker
Chiefs return specialist Tyreek Hill
Patriots kick coverage specialist Matthew Slater

Rams punter Johnny Hekker
Falcons kicker Matt Bryant
Vikings return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson
Giants kick coverage specialist Dwayne Harris

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Week 16 playoff scenarios

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The time left in the regular season is growing short and that could leave several teams around the league celebrating playoff berths along with Christmas this weekend.

The Cowboys and Seahawks have already clinched playoff berths in the NFC. Dallas can clinch the NFC East title and the top seed in the conference with a win or a Giants loss while the Seahawks, who have won the NFC West, can clinch a bye with a win, a Lions loss and a Falcons loss or tie.

In the AFC, the Patriots and Raiders are in the playoffs. The Patriots have won the AFC East and clinched a bye, leaving them to try for the No. 1 overall seed in the conference. They’ll get it with a win and a Raiders loss/tie and can also clinch the top seed with a tie and an Oakland loss. The Raiders, meanwhile, can sew up the AFC West with a win and a Chiefs loss/tie or with a tie and a Chiefs loss.

The scenarios for the rest of the teams with playoff berths on the line this weekend are below:


The Giants book passage to the playoffs with a win, but have other routes available. They’ll also get in with a Packers loss/tie, a Lions loss/tie, a Buccaneers loss/tie or a Falcons loss.


The NFC North will belong to the Lions if they win and the Packers lose/tie or if they tie and the Packers lose. If they don’t win it, the division title will be up for grabs when the two teams face off in Week 17.

Detroit can also punch its ticket with a win and a Buccaneers loss/tie, with a tie and a Buccaneers loss or by tying while the Bucs tie and the Falcons win. They will also get in should the Buccaneers lose while the Redskins lose/tie and the Falcons win.


Atlanta will win the NFC South with a win and a Buccaneers loss/tie or with a tie and a Bucs loss.

A win plus a loss or tie by either the Lions or Packers will clinch at least a Wild Card. They could also wrap up a playoff spot if they tie and the Lions tie, with a Packers loss and Redskins loss/tie on Saturday or by winning and clinching the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Lions.


The Packers have one path to clinching a playoff spot this weekend and it’s a convoluted one. It calls for them to win while clinching the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Buccaneers and for the Redskins and Falcons to lose/tie their games.


The Bucs are in the playoffs if they win while the Packers, Lions and Redskins all lose. If the Lions and Packers lose and the Redskins tie, they can also get in by clinching the strength of victory tiebreaker over Detroit.


If the Steelers beat the Ravens, they win the AFC North.


The Chiefs missed their first chance to clinch a berth, but will get in with a win or tie against the Broncos on Sunday night. A Ravens loss or tie also gets them in.


A Texans win coupled with a Titans loss makes Houston the AFC South champs for the second straight year.


The Dolphins will be a Wild Card team if they win and the Broncos lose or tie against Kansas City. Should the Dolphins tie the Bills, they can also get in if the Ravens and Broncos lose and either the Texans or Titans lose or tie their games.

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Week 16 Power Rankings

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1. Patriots (12-2; last week No. 1): The defense may not be as bad as believed, but it still needs plenty of work.

2. Cowboys (12-2; No. 3): “We need to bench Dak Prescott” once again yields to “we need to rest Dak Prescott.”

3. Giants (10-4; No. 4): It’ll be time to apply an asterisk to Super Bowl XLII if it turns out someone was shouting “throw it to Tyree!” into a walkie-talkie.

4. Raiders (11-3; No. 5): Based on Sunday’s crowd, maybe the Raiders should be moving to San Diego.

5. Chiefs (10-4; No. 2): As it stands, the Chiefs could be getting a chance to lose to the Titans again in the wild-card round.

6. Seahawks (9-4-1; No. 8): “Poopfest” accurately describes the involuntarily bodily reaction from punter Jon Ryan once the ball started to slip from his grasp during his run.

7. Lions (9-5; No. 6): The Lions fans who were shouting down a likely Week 17 NFC North title game have suddenly gotten very quiet.

8. Falcons (9-5; No. 10): Matt Ryan is on the fairly short list of MVP candidates, even as the Falcons are on the fairly long list of teams that aren’t viewed as legitimate Super Bowl candidates.

9. Steelers (9-5; No. 11): All I want for Christmas is to see Mike Tomlin trip a Ravens player during a kickoff return.

10. Dolphins (9-5; No. 12): The Broncos didn’t want Adam Gase to coach the team, and in his first year as a head coach he may keep the Broncos out of the playoffs.

11. Titans (8-6; No. 17): They’re the best team people go out of their way to not pay attention to.

12. Buccaneers (8-6; No. 7): As poorly as Sunday night went, the Bucs still had a chance to win the game.

13. Broncos (8-6; No. 9): That “sub-optimal, near replacement-level” quarterbacking from 2015 is suddenly looking pretty good.

14. Packers (8-6; No. 13): Before Week One, I picked the Packers to make it to the Super Bowl. I’m suddenly feeling a lot better about that.

15. Ravens (8-6; No. 15): Before Week One, I picked the Ravens to make it to the Super Bowl. I’ve been feeling ambivalent about that for most of the year.

16. Texans (8-6; No. 16): So who’s the next quarterback the Texans will give a big pile of money to without even meeting?

17. Washington (7-6-1; No. 14): “How you like me now?” Not too much.

18. Colts (7-7; No. 20): Sunday’s win over the Vikings is the kind of win that Jim Irsay envisioned when drafting Andrew Luck and hiring Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano.

19. Vikings (7-7; No. 18): Sunday’s loss to the Colts is the last thing the organization envisioned. Ever.

20. Bills (7-7; No. 19): Rex Ryan is the only person in Western New York who doesn’t know he’s getting fired.

21. Panthers (6-8; No. 24): Happy Holidays, Josh Norman.

22. Saints (6-8; No. 26): It took a while, but the annual “Sean Payton may be leaving” story finally arrived.

23. Bengals (5-8-1; No. 21): The Steelers continue to treat the Bengals like an orange-headed stepchild.

24. Cardinals (5-8-1; No. 22): Carson Palmer should quit on the Cardinals before the Cardinals quit on Carson Palmer.

25. Eagles (5-9; No. 23): “Hey, we’ve won four more games that Chip Kelly.”

26. Chargers (5-9; No. 25): Stay classy, San Diego security guard.

27. Jets (4-10; No. 27): Maybe Woody Johnson and Rex Ryan will become the new George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin.

28. Rams (4-10; No. 28): Jeff Fisher wants to coach against the Rams. The Rams also want that to happen please.

29. Bears (3-11; No. 29): How many moral victories does it take to qualify for the moral playoffs?

30. Jaguars (2-12; No. 30): It would be a good idea for players to get used to showing up at least five minutes early for meetings.

31. 49ers (1-13; No. 31): It would be a good idea for players to get used to fans not showing up for games.

32. Browns (0-14; No. 32): As it turns out, Hue Jackson’s challenge flag was in Jeff Fisher’s coat.

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NFC playoff picture: Packers rise as Lions drop

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The same four teams that were in the lead in NFC divisional races after Week 14 remain there in Week 15, but there’s been a change in fortunes for the Lions.

Losing to the Giants didn’t knock the Lions out of the lead in the NFC North, but the loss along with wins for the Seahawks and Falcons dropped them from the No. 2 seed to the No. 4 seed. Their drop could become more severe in the next couple of weeks.

The Lions will be in Dallas next Monday night and then they’ll close out the regular season by hosting the surging Packers. Four straight wins have left the Packers just outside the playoff picture and two more will make them the division champs. They will host the Vikings on Christmas Eve and a win in that game could also vault them into a Wild Card spot as much remains up for grabs in the NFC.

1. Cowboys (12-2): A win next Monday night seals the deal on the division and home field throughout the playoffs.

2. Seahawks (9-4-1): They’ve won the division and can’t gain the top seed, so they’ll be trying to nail down a bye week.

3. Falcons (9-5): They’re a game up on the Buccaneers after a second straight win without Julio Jones‘ help.

4. Lions (9-5): Further stumbles would put making the playoffs in doubt.

5. Giants (10-4): They’d lose a three-way tiebreaker to the Lions and Buccaneers, but can avoid such a nightmare by winning one more game.

6.Packers (8-6): Slightly ahead of Bucs thanks to strength of schedule tiebreaker, but two wins and the Packers know they’re in as NFC North champs.

7. Buccaneers (8-6): The Redskins loss pushed them back up a bit, but they’ll need to take care of their own business to stay in the playoff mix.

8. Redskins (7-6-1): They aren’t out of it, but Monday night’s loss was a big blow.

9. Vikings (7-7): The team that got ransacked by the Colts looked nothing like a playoff squad.

10. Saints (6-8): With the Buccaneers and Falcons on tap, the Saints can still impact the playoff race.

11. Panthers (6-8): With the Falcons and Buccaneers on tap, the Panthers can still impact the playoff race.

12. Cardinals (5-8-1): It will be Bruce Arians’ first losing season in Arizona.

13. Eagles (5-9): The Cowboys would love it if Philadelphia can get a win against the Giants on Thursday night.

14. Rams (4-10): By closing with the 49ers and Cardinals, the Rams will at least avoid a lot of attention to close out a dismal season.

15. Bears (3-11): Matt Barkley’s been more fun to watch than his predecessors at quarterback this season.

16. 49ers (1-13): The first draft pick remains in play for the 49ers.

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NFL morning after: Credit the bad teams that keep competing

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If you watched the Dolphins-Jets game on Saturday night, you saw a team that had quit: The Jets simply didn’t look like they were competing, didn’t look like they cared, didn’t look like professional football players.

I hate watching games like that. It feels like such a waste. If you’re a Jets fan, and you pay a small fortune for season tickets, and that was one of the eight home games your team gave you, you should be furious. Especially considering the previous home game, a Monday night loss to the Colts, was just as ugly. It’s one thing to pay your hard-earned money to watch your favorite team lose. It’s quite another to watch your favorite team fail to even compete, which is what the Jets are doing.

But the Jets aren’t the team I want to talk about today. I’m more interested in the teams that aren’t very good, don’t have anything to play for and are still playing hard. Those are teams I find myself feeling a lot of respect for at the end of the season.

I’m talking about a team like the Bears. They’re not a good team, by any stretch of the imagination. They weren’t even a good team when they had their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler. They’re certainly not a good team now that they’re down to their fourth-string quarterback, Matt Barkley. But they played very hard in yesterday’s loss to the Packers, with seemingly nothing to play for. They took a good Packers team down to the wire, kicking a game-tying field goal in the final minutes before ultimately losing on a Packers field goal as time expired. The Bears easily could have quit on this season, but in their last five games they’ve played hard every week: They’re just 1-4 in their last five games, but the four losses were all one-possession games against teams competing for a playoff spot. And the win was a 20-point beatdown of a terrible 49ers team (a team that really has quit on the season). The Bears are not a good football team, but they are a competitive football team.

And I’m talking about a team like the Jaguars. I’ve said plenty about what a bad coach I think Jacksonville’s Gus Bradley is, and I think he deserved to be fired after the game, but he had his last-place team coming out playing hard yesterday against the first-place Texans. Jacksonville jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the second quarter before falling to earth and ultimately losing 21-20. Bradley was saddled with a bad quarterback in Blake Bortles, and he didn’t do enough to build a defense that can win despite the bad offense, and for those reasons firing him was appropriate. But I respect that his team is still treating these games like they matter.

It gets a little sad at this time of year to think about how little football we have left: In two weeks, the regular season will be over. We should enjoy every one of these remaining games. But there’s nothing enjoyable about watching the teams that look like they’re not really trying anymore, the way the Jets looked Saturday night or the way the Rams looked Thursday night. I can’t say the Bears and the Jaguars have been particularly fun to watch this season, but I can say they made their games yesterday more fun than I was expecting. I give them credit for that.

Here are my other thoughts from Sunday:

Randy Moss is still bitter toward Colin Kaepernick. The most interesting thing I heard during the hours of Sunday morning pregame shows was Moss, on ESPN, talking about how he still resents Kaepernick, his teammate on the 49ers in 2012. Moss pointed out that on the 49ers’ last drive of their Super Bowl XLVII loss to the Ravens, he got open in the end zone for what could have been a game-winning touchdown — except that Kaepernick never looked in Moss’s direction. “That was my dad gum Super Bowl ring!” Moss shouted. I had forgotten about that play, but Moss will never forget that play. It was fascinating to hear an all-time great player talk about how bitterly he resents a missed opportunity. For all the great moments of Moss’s career, that’s a low moment he’ll never get over.

Tucker is terrific. On a rainy day in Baltimore, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker didn’t just make a 53-yard field goal, he made it with several yards to spare and dead center between the uprights. He later drilled a 47-yarder and went 3-for-3 on extra points. For the season, Tucker is now Tucker has missed just one of his 59 kicks, and that one came when New England’s Shea McClellin leaped over the line to block his field goal. Tucker is a perfect 10-for-10 on field goals 50 yards or longer, and not only does he make those kicks but he makes them look easy: I don’t think I’ve seen a single Tucker kick this year that wouldn’t have been good on the narrower goal posts they use in arena football. With 10 field goals beyond 50 yards this year, Tucker is tied for an NFL single-season record. What Tucker is doing is extraordinary.

A big year for LeGarrette Blount. On Sunday Blount scored his 15th rushing touchdown of the season, making him the first player since Arian Foster in 2012 to score 15 rushing touchdowns in a year. It’s hard to remember this now, but before the season there were reports that Blount was in danger of getting cut. Instead, he’s been a very important player on a Patriots team that’s competing for a championship.

Jordan Howard looks like a special player. Howard, the Bears’ rookie running back, had 90 yards rushing and 23 yards receiving yesterday. It was his eighth game this season with at least 100 yards from scrimmage. No one expected this kind of performance from Howard when he was selected in the fifth round out of Indiana in this year’s draft, but he’s been excellent. In fact, for as great as Ezekiel Elliott has been in Dallas, I think Howard would be having the same kind of year if he were playing in a good offense like the Cowboys’, instead of like a bad offense like the Bears’.

The Packers’ secret weapon. Ty Montgomery was a wide receiver until a few weeks ago. Yesterday, at his new position of running back, he had 16 carries for 162 yards and two touchdowns. It’s incredible what Montgomery is doing at a new position. The Packers could still miss the playoffs, but they could also be one of the most dangerous teams in the NFC if they make it, and Montgomery’s addition to the offense is a big part of the reason.

Texans should admit their mistake. Houston coach Bill O’Brien did the right thing by benching Brock Osweiler during Sunday’s win over the Jaguars. But after backup Tom Savage led the Texans to a come-from-behind win, O’Brien said he hasn’t decided who his starter will be going forward. That’s ridiculous. It’s obvious that the Texans made a mistake when they signed Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million contract this offseason, and the sooner they admit that mistake, the sooner they can move on. Savage should start the rest of the season, and in the offseason the Texans need to decide whether Savage is the man to lead their team, or whether they need to acquire yet another quarterback. Osweiler is not the answer.

Credit Pederson for a gutsy call. With the Eagles trailing 27-20 and four seconds remaining, Carson Wentz scored a touchdown to bring the Eagles to within a point of the Ravens. Instead of kicking the extra point and playing for overtime, Eagles coach Doug Pederson went for the two-point conversion and the win. It didn’t work, the Eagles failed to convert and the Ravens won 27-26, but I liked the decision anyway. Entering Sunday’s games, two-point conversions were successful 48.9 percent of the time this season, while extra points were successful 93.7 percent of the time. So a two-point conversion gave the Eagles a 48.9 percent chance of winning, while an extra point gave them just a 46.9 percent chance of winning, if you assume they’d have a 50-50 chance of winning in overtime. Mathematically the move made sense, and it also made sense from the simple perspective of an Eagles team that had no realistic chance of making the playoffs: If your team isn’t going anywhere, take some chances and play for the win. The coaches who do that are the coaches I respect.

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AFC playoff picture: Patriots clinch a bye, again

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The AFC East belongs to the Patriots, again.

For the eight consecutive year, the Patriots have won their division, and for the seventh consecutive year, the Patriots have earned a first-round playoff bye. That’s an extraordinary run of dominance, something unmatched in NFL history. Although the Patriots won three of their four Super Bowls from 2001 to 2004, they’ve actually been a more consistently great team over the last seven years than they were early in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era.

So the Patriots will be major players in the AFC playoffs again. Here’s how the rest of the playoff picture shapes up:

1. Patriots (12-2): The clear favorites to get to the Super Bowl again.

2. Raiders (11-3): Clinched a playoff berth today.

3. Steelers (9-5): Pittsburgh leads the AFC North heading into the big Christmas game against Baltimore.

4. Texans (8-6): Despite Brock Osweiler playing so badly he was benched, Houston remains atop the AFC South.

5. Chiefs (10-4): The loss to the Titans was costly, dropping Kansas City from a first-round bye to a wild card team.

6. Dolphins (9-5): Miami is looking like a playoff team, even without Ryan Tannehill.

7. Ravens (8-6): If they beat the Steelers on Christmas Day, the Ravens own the head-to-head tiebreaker and would lead the AFC North.

8. Titans (8-6): Tennessee still controls its destiny, thanks to a Week 17 meeting with Houston.

9. Broncos (8-6): The defending champions now look like long shots to make the playoffs.

10. Bills (7-7): Buffalo isn’t totally out of it, but it’s hard to envision a scenario in which the Bills make the playoffs.

11. Colts (7-7): They looked good in a beatdown of the Vikings, but it will be hard to catch the Titans and Texans.

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Walkie-talkie scandal further undermines #DeflateGate outcome

The Giants unwittingly, and ironically, have done plenty in the past two Sundays to exonerate the Patriots for #DeflateGate. Yes, Giants co-owner John Mara is believed to have lobbied (along with others) for unreasonably stiff punishment of the Patriots. And, yes, the conduct of the team Mara owns in consecutive games has helped the punishment seem even more unreasonable than it was.

As to #DeflateGate II, the Giants forced the NFL into a clumsy, awkward spot by complaining about Pittsburgh footballs under circumstances that could have been easily explained by natural deflation on a cold day. The NFL couldn’t say that without indirectly clearing the Patriots, so the NFL initially circled the wagons — and then eventually veered off script with a comment that later had to be described as the product of a misstatement.

As to the walkie-talkie scandal, the looming decision to give the Giants a relative slap on the wrist for a blatant and brazen violation of a known rule shows how bizarre it was to hammer the Patriots for a rule that was, essentially, the exact opposite.

Regarding the Giants, coach Ben McAdoo broke a rule that is clear and known and obvious. Every year, all 32 teams are reminded of it. There is no ambiguity or confusion or lack of clarity. The walkie-talkie is present on the sideline, it can be used only by the backup quarterback, it can be used only for listening not speaking, and the coach can never, ever touch it.

Badly breaking this bright-line rule clearly undermines the integrity of the game; if not, all 32 teams wouldn’t get a reminder of the rule every single year. The violation gives the coach a chance to talk to the quarterback under circumstances that would permit the communications to occur beyond the cutoff when the play clock hits 15 seconds.

As to #DeflateGate, there was nothing clear or known or obvious. The rule book contains a permitted range of inflation (12.5 PSI to 13.5 PSI) because it always has. It’s been in the rule book for so long that no one really knows where it came from or how it got there.

Before January 2015, the NFL never paid any attention to the question of whether teams intentionally or accidentally were using footballs that deviated from the acceptable range. Former NFL official and supervisor of officials Jim Daopoulos explained in the early days of #DeflateGate on PFT Live that football inflation had never before been an issue or a consideration. The use during the AFC championship game of two gauges that varied by 0.4 PSI underscored the fact that football air pressure was regarded as anything but a laboratory science.

Speaking of science, the fact that the NFL didn’t know that air pressure drops in footballs on cold days further highlights the reality that the entire subject resided in one of the league’s various blind spots, with no specific procedures or warnings or memoranda or anything else aimed at sealing off an avenue for chicanery and clearly and plainly explaining to teams what is and isn’t permitted on a regular basis.

Coupled with the fact that the evidence of tampering with the footballs was inconclusive at best, the decision to hammer the Patriots while not hammering the Giants becomes even more glaring and more obviously the result not of a genuine desire to protect and promote the integrity of the league but to find a way to justify punishing a team that has consistently excelled, that is repeatedly suspected of cheating (because how else can other coaches explain to their owners the dominance of the Patriots?), and that has a coach who lacks the people skills to make others inclined to give him a break or the benefit of the doubt.

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Week 15 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.

Eagles at Ravens

Eagles: RB Darren Sproles, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai, WR Paul Turner, CB Dwayne Gratz, DE Steven Means, OL Allen Barbre, DT Taylor Hart

Ravens: CB Jimmy Smith, RB Buck Allen, LB Lamar Louis, OL Ryan Jensen, OL Alex Lewis, TE Crockett Gillmore, LB Za’Darius Smith

Browns at Bills

Browns: QB Josh McCown, QB Kevin Hogan, RB Darius Jackson, DB Trae Elston, OL Gabe Ikard, DL Tyrone Holmes, DL Xavier Cooper

Bills: LB Lerentee McCray, T Cordy Glenn, QB Cardale Jones, RB Reggie Bush, WR Dez Lewis, TE Logan Thomas, TE Gerald Christian

Packers at Bears

Packers: RB James Starks, LB Nick Perry, WR Trevor Davis, C J.C. Tretter, T Kyle Murphy, LB Jordan Tripp, CB Josh Hawkins

Bears: WR Eddie Royal, CB Bryce Callahan, DT Eddie Goldman, CB Johnthan Banks, S DeAndre Houston-Carson, OL Matt McCants, TE MyCole Pruitt

Steelers at Bengals

Steelers: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, S Shamarko Thomas, WR Demarcus Ayers, QB Zach Mettenberger, RB DeAngelo Williams, RB Daryl Richardson, T Brian Mihalik

Bengals: WR A.J. Green, QB Jeff Driskel, S Derron Smith, LS Tyler Ott, OL Christian Westerman, TE C.J. Uzomah, DE Wallace Gilberry

Jaguars at Texans

Jaguars: WR Allen Hurns, RB Denard Robinson, G Chris Reed, C Luke Bowanko, DE Chris Smith, QB Brandon Allen, CB Josh Johnson

Texans: G Jeff Allen, LB John Simon, LB Whitney Mercilus, S Don Jones, TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, QB Brandon Weeden, CB Johnathan Joseph

Titans at Chiefs

Titans: LB Sean Spence, WR Tre McBride, DB Curtis Riley, LB David Bass, G Sebastian Tretola, TE Jace Amaro, DE Angelo Blackson

Chiefs: CB Phillip Gaines, QB Tyler Bray, DB Kenneth Acker, RB Knile Davis, OL Mike Person, TE Ross Travis, DL Kendall Reyes

Colts at Vikings

Colts: G Denzelle Good, OL Joe Reitz, WR Donte Moncrief, DT Arthur Jones

Vikings: G Brandon Fusco, S Harrison Smith, CB Trae Waynes, WR Laquon Treadwell, QB Taylor Heinicke, G Willie Beavers, DE Stephen Weatherly

Lions at Giants

Lions: C Travis Swanson, RB Theo Riddick, WR T.J. Jones, QB Jake Rudock, OL Cornelius Lucas, DE Corey Lemonier, DL Stefan Charles

Giants: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, QB Ryan Nassib, WR Tavarres King, S Nat Berhe, LB Deontae Skinner, T Will Beatty, DT Robert Thomas

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Week 15 injury report roundup

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Week 15 kicked off on Thursday with a Seahawks win and it continues with 14 more games on Saturday and Sunday, which means that the 28 teams in those games submitted their final injury reports of the week on Friday.

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.

Dolphins at Jets (Saturday night)

QB Ryan Tannehill is the only Dolphins player ruled out for Saturday night. S Isa Abdul-Quddus (neck), T Branden Albert (wrist), LB Kiko Alonso (hamstring, hand), T Jermon Bushrod (shoulder), LB Jelani Jenkins (knee, hand), CB Bobby McCain (hand), LB Spencer Paysinger (thigh), G Anthony Steen (toe) and DE Mario Williams (ankle) are all listed as questionable.

The Jets ruled out LB Mike Catapano (knee), LB Lorenzo Mauldin (ankle), DT Steve McLendon (hamstring) and CB Buster Skrine (concussion). RB Khiry Robinson (leg) and T Brent Qvale (hamstring) are listed as doubtful while TE Brandon Bostick (ankle), WR Quincy Enunwa (ribs), RB Matt Forte (knee), WR Brandon Marshall (knee, foot, back) and DE Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) drew questionable tags.

Eagles at Ravens

Eagles RB Darren Sproles (concussion) and T Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) will miss Week 15. OL Allen Barbre (hamstring), TE Brent Celek (stinger), WR Dorial Green-Beckham (abdomen), LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (illness) and WR Jordan Matthews (ankle) are listed as questionable.

CB Jimmy Smith (ankle) is the lone Ravens player ruled out ahead of Sunday. TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), LB Anthony Levine (toe), T Alex Lewis (ankle) and CB Jerraud Powers (concussion) drew questionable tags.

Browns at Bills

LB Dominique Alexander (abdomen, groin) is the only Browns player with an injury designation and he’s listed as questionable.

Bills LB Lerentee McCray (concussion) is out and T Cordy Glenn (back) will likely miss the game as well after being listed as doubtful. LB Zach Brown (ankle), TE Charles Clay (knee), WR Sammy Watkins (foot) and DT Kyle Williams (back) are listed as questionable.

Packers at Bears

The Packers listed LB Nick Perry (hand) and RB James Starks (concussion) as doubtful. WR Randall Cobb (ankle), LB Kyler Fackrell (hamstring), LB Blake Martinez (knee), RB Christine Michael (illness), CB Damarious Randall (groin), RB Aaron Ripkowski (back), QB Aaron Rodgers (calf) and C J.C. Tretter (knee) are likelier to play after drawing questionable tags.

Wide receivers Eddie Royal (toe) and Marquess Wilson (groin, foot) are out for the Bears. CB Johnthan Banks (ankle), CB Bryce Callahan (knee) and DT Eddie Goldman (ankle) are listed as questionable.

Steelers at Bengals

There are only two Steelers with injury designations and both WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot) and S Shamarko Thomas (concussion) have been ruled out.

Bengals DE Wallace Gilberry (calf) and WR A.J. Green (hamstring) are listed as doubtful, so it would be a surprise if either plays this weekend. LS Clark Harris (groin), S Derron Smith (thigh), TE C.J. Uzomah (calf) and WR James Wright (knee) are listed as questionable.

Jaguars at Texans

The Jaguars ruled out WR Allen Hurns (hamstring), G Chris Reed (toe) and RB Denard Robinson (ankle) for Sunday’s game. WR Shane Wynn (hamstring) is the only player listed as questionable.

The Texans will continue their push for the AFC South title without G Jeff Allen (concussion), TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (concussion), S Don Jones (illness) and LB John Simon (chest). RB Tyler Ervin (ribs), CB Johnathan Joseph (ribs) and LB Whitney Mercilus (back) are listed as questionable.

Titans at Chiefs

Titans LB Sean Spence (ankle) has been ruled out. LB David Bass (groin), DT Jurrell Casey (foot) and DT Karl Klug (achilles) are listed as questionable.

The Chiefs ruled out CB Phillip Gaines (knee) and LB Derrick Johnson (Achilles). LB Justin Houston (illness, knee) and DE Kendall Reyes (wrist) drew questionable designations on Friday.

Colts at Vikings

The Colts will play without T Denzelle Good (concussion), DT Arthur Jones (groin), WR Donte Moncrief (hamstring) and T Joe Reitz (back) in Minnesota. Questionable tags mean we’ll wait to find out about TE Dwayne Allen (hip), WR Phillip Dorsett (groin), S T.J. Green (ankle) and DT Zach Kerr (concussion).

Brandon Fusco (concussion), S Harrison Smith (ankle), WR Laquon Treadwell (ankle) and CB Trae Waynes (concussion) have been ruled out by the Vikings. CB Mackensie Alexander (abdomen), RB Matt Asiata (ankle) and C Joe Berger (concussion) are listed as questionable.

Lions at Giants

Thanks to a doubtful tag, it looks like the Lions will be without RB Theo Riddick (wrist) again this week. DE Ziggy Ansah (shoulder), TE Eric Ebron (knee), LB DeAndre Levy (knee), CB Darius Slay (hamstring) and RB Zach Zenner (concussion) are all questionable while C Travis Swanson (concussion) is out.

S Nat Berhe (concussion), LB Keenan Robinson (shoulder) and RB Shane Vereen (concussion) are questionable for the Giants. DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) remains out after having surgery.

Saints at Cardinals

The Saints ruled out LB Stephone Anthony (knee) and CB Delvin Breaux (shoulder). S Shiloh Keo (hamstring), RB Daniel Lasco (hamstring, knee), LB Craig Robertson (shoulder) and C Max Unger (foot) are listed as questionable.

D.J. Humphries (concussion) will not play for the Cardinals. The team also listed WR John Brown (illness), CB Marcus Cooper (back) and TE Jermaine Gresham (knee) as questionable.

49ers at Falcons

49ers WR Torrey Smith (concussion) is out and T Joe Staley (hamstring) is likely to miss a second straight game after drawing a doubtful tag.

DE Adrian Clayborn (knee), CB Jalen Collins (knee), WR Julio Jones (toe), S Robenson Therezie (ankle) and WR Nick Williams (concussion) will miss the game for the Falcons.

Patriots at Broncos

WR Danny Amendola (ankle) remains out for the Patriots. TE Martellus Bennett (ankle, shoulder), CB Malcolm Butler (hip), LB Dont’a Hightower (knee), S Jordan Richards (knee), LB Elandon Roberts (hamstring), CB Eric Rowe (hamstring) and WR Matt Slater (foot) got questionable tags.

LB Brandon Marshall (hamstring) is out for the Broncos while LB Todd Davis (rib cage) is questionable.

Raiders at Chargers

The Raiders won’t have LB Shilique Calhoun (knee), S Karl Joseph (toe) or DT Stacy McGee (ankle) in San Diego. WR Amari Cooper (shoulder), WR Michael Crabtree (finger), DE Darius Latham (ankle), G Kelechi Osemele (knee), LB Perry Riley (hamstring) and LB Malcolm Smith (hamstring) are listed as questionable.

RB Melvin Gordon (hip, knee) was ruled out and the Chargers don’t expect to have CB Craig Mager (shoulder) after listing him as doubtful. WR Jeremy Butler (ankle) and G Orlando Franklin (rib) are listed as questionable.

Buccaneers at Cowboys

LB Lavonte David (hamstring) and DT Gerald McCoy (foot) are a pair of key Buccaneers defenders listed as questionable. S Chris Conte (chest), DT Sealver Siliga (calf) and TE Luke Stocker (ankle) drew the same tag while T Demar Dotson (concussion) has been ruled out.

WR Dez Bryant (back) and LB Sean Lee (knee) headline a long list of questionable Cowboys. S Barry Church (forearm), DE Jack Crawford (foot), LS L.P. Ladouceur (knee), G Ronald Leary (back), CB Orlando Scandrick (foot, not injury related), T Tyron Smith (back, knee), DT Cedric Thornton (ankle) and S J.J. Wilcox (thigh) got the same designation. CB Morris Claiborne (groin), T Chaz Green (back) and DE Demarcus Lawrence (back) are out.

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Giants raised PSI concerns during, not after, Steelers game

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The NFL initially addressed DeflateGate II with a perfunctory statement that seemed on the surface to dispute the notion that the Giants raised concerns about the air pressure in Steelers footballs when the two teams met in Pittsburgh on December 4. The NFL perhaps should have rested its case on the Giants filing “no formal complaint.”

On Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell said just enough about the situation to make it clear that: (1) the Giants definitely raised a concern with the league about air pressure in the Pittsburgh footballs; and (2) the NFL definitely did nothing about it.

Before Goodell responded to media questions on the issue at the press conference held in connection with the Dallas ownership meetings, it was believed based on the initial report from FOX that the Giants had expressed their concerns after the game. Obviously, there’s nothing the NFL can do to investigate PSI suspicions after a game, because there’s no way to know what the pressure in all Steelers footballs was after the game.

As it turns out, the Giants made their concerns known before the game ended.

“The Giants had asked us about it during the game,” Goodell told reporters. “We went back. We checked that. They were properly followed. All of the league protocols were being properly followed and there’s no further follow up on that. The teams didn’t follow up and we didn’t follow up any further because we were comfortable that the protocols were followed.”

In January 2015, the Colts had similar concerns about footballs used by the Patriots. At that point, the league office mobilized on the spot to check the air pressure in each of the New England footballs and, supposedly given the constraints of halftime, only some of the Indianapolis footballs. In the Giants-Steelers situation, the league did nothing to check the air pressure in the footballs, despite the Giants’ beliefs that the balls were underinflated.

So why not take possession of the footballs used by both teams and test them immediately after the game ended? The official position as explained by the Commissioner is that there was no need to do anything because the pre-game protocols were followed.

“What you do is you test the balls before the game, and the officials always maintain of those footballs from that point on,” Goodell said. “We went back and we checked with the officials to make sure they checked the proper inflation. They did that. The balls were retained in their control from that point on. So the protocols were followed all the way.

If that’s a sufficient explanation, why then does the NFL conduct halftime PSI spot checks? If the pre-game protocols are followed and if the chain of custody is undisturbed based on changes made by the league after DeflateGate I, there’s no reason to ever check football PSI after the start of a given game.

Of course, in this case, it’s now clear that the Giants tested the PSI levels of two Pittsburgh footballs. It’s clear because Goodell necessarily admitted that the Giants tested the PSI levels when explaining why the measurements taken by the Giants weren’t taken seriously.

“That’s why you don’t rely on somebody else testing them,” Goodell said. “They are using a different device. Somebody else is testing them. They have to be tested by the officials who use the same device to make sure there is accuracy in that.”

And that, friends, is called a smoking gun.

The gun is emitting white puffs because DeflateGate I proceeded even though two different gauges were used by the officials before the game — and those gauges varied by roughly 0.4 PSI. To make matters worse, the experts with a reputation for massaging science to meet the needs of their clients discarded the best recollection of referee Walt Anderson regarding the use of the varying gauges, arguably in order to make the evidence fit neatly inside the “someone deflated the footballs” box.

As I’ve said many times in the past, Ted Wells should have concluded based on the varying gauges and the rest of the proof that the evidence was inconclusive as to whether anyone tampered with the footballs. Goodell’s comments regarding the unreliability of the Giants’ PSI gauge supports that view, conclusively.

The league apparently is willing to assume the risk that Patriots fans and agitators will once again wave the “Free Brady” flag in the aftermath of DeflateGate II. After all, the rants of people like me and Ben Affleck are predictable and relatively easy to ignore.

Besides, circling the wagons and denigrating the doubters presents a much better alternative to gathering up the footballs used by both teams in the Giants-Steelers game after the final gun sounded, measuring the air pressure in every football, and realizing given the Ideal Gas Law that ALL OF THE FOOTBALLS would have been under 12.5 PSI — and possibly in the exact same range as the footballs used by the Patriots in the 2014 AFC championship game.

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PFT’s Week 15 picks

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With three weeks left, MDS has taken the lead.

By correctly picking the Panthers to beat the Chargers, he finished 12-4. I picked the Chargers, which has left me at 11-5 and one game back with 48 more games to pick.

This week, we disagree on two of the prime-time games, including the biggest game of the weekend. Every pick for Week 16 appears below.

Rams at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Jeff Fisher era is over, but the losing is not. The Seahawks aren’t playing their best football right now, but they’re playing well enough that they should easily dispatch a Rams team that’s been through a rough week.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 24, Rams 10.

Florio’s take: Jeff Fisher’s non-excuse for losing this one would be that the Rams fired their head coach only three days before the game.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 35, Rams 13.

Dolphins at Jets

MDS’s take: Despite losing Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins will remain in the playoff hunt thanks to their easy schedule. They shouldn’t need Tannehill to beat the Jets.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 20, Jets 10.

Florio’s take: Matt Moore was the team MVP in 2011, and he has the experience to get it done with limited time to prepare. The Jets got an unlikely win in San Francisco; they can take another night off, like they did against the Colts.

Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Jets 17.

Packers at Bears

MDS’s take: The Bears are playing better than anyone could have expected given that three quarterback injuries have left them with Matt Barkley, who wasn’t even on the roster four months ago. Still, they’re not playing well enough to beat the Packers.

MDS’s pick: Packers 21, Bears 17.

Florio’s take: The Bears would surely love to play spoiler for their biggest rivals, but the Packers are firing on all cylinders. And a one-legged Aaron Rodgers would still run rings around a fully-functioning Matt Barkley.

Florio’s pick: Packers 31, Bears 17.

Jaguars at Texans

MDS’s take: The Texans aren’t a particularly good team, but they keep finding ways to beat their divisional opponents, and that should be enough to win the AFC South.

MDS’s pick: Texans 24, Jaguars 14.

Florio’s take: The Texans are making a push for another short stint in the playoffs. The Jaguars had a short stint with relevance in 2016.

Florio’s pick: Texans 27, Jaguars 13.

Browns at Bills

MDS’s take: If Rex Ryan wants to avoid Jeff Fisher’s fate, beating the Browns is a must. He’ll have his players ready to play.

MDS’s pick: Bills 27, Browns 10.

Florio’s take: It would be fitting for the suddenly dysfunctional Bills to become the first team to lose to the Browns in more than a full year. And if this one were being played in Cleveland, the Browns would be the pick. The Bills will find a way to win this one, despite their best efforts to find ways to lose it.

Florio’s pick: Bills 23, Browns 16.

Eagles at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Ravens are still fighting for a playoff spot, while the Eagles appear to be pretty much out of fight. I like Baltimore to win this one handily.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 30, Eagles 13.

Florio’s take: Baltimore knows that stakes: Run the table, get to the playoffs. They’ll have an easier time against the team from the eastern side of Pennsylvania.

Florio’s pick: Ravens 23, Eagles 10.

Titans at Chiefs

MDS’s take: In a game with AFC playoff implications for both teams, I like the Chiefs to maintain first place in the AFC West with a solid victory.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 27, Titans 17.

Florio’s take: It’ll be 11 degrees on Sunday in Kansas City. For a young quarterback who grew up in Hawaii, that’s probably too much for an overachieveing team to handle.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 20, Titans 10.

Lions at Giants

MDS’s take: This may be the most intriguing game on the schedule. Both the Lions and the Giants still have an outside shot of earning home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. But both teams are still at risk of missing the playoffs entirely as well. I’ll pick the Giants to win a close game at home.

MDS’s pick: Giants 24, Lions 23.

Florio’s take: A pair of 9-4 teams get together with plenty at stake. The Lions will keep it close, but home-field advantage plus the confidence that comes from sweeping the Cowboys is the difference for the Giants.

Florio’s pick: Giants 24, Lions 20.

Colts at Vikings

MDS’s take: The Colts threw away their best chance to win the AFC South last week. This week I think the Vikings will finish them off, while keeping their own playoff hopes alive.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 17, Colts 13.

Florio’s take: A pair of underachieving teams meet in a de facto elimination game. Both eventually will be eliminated. The Colts get eliminated a little sooner.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 31, Colts 17.

Steelers at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Steelers are closing in on the AFC North title, and they should take care of business in Cincinnati.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 37, Bengals 21.

Florio’s take: The Bengals have improved in recent weeks, but the Steelers are hitting their stride and the Bengals are simply playing out the string. This time around, the Steelers won’t need a pair of 15-yard penalties to snatch a season-extending win.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 30, Bengals 20.

Saints at Cardinals

MDS’s take: Both of these teams have had disappointing seasons: When the schedule came out, few thought this would be a meaningless game in the NFC playoff race. I think the Cardinals are playing a little harder down the stretch, however, and will pull out this game at home.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 21, Saints 14.

Florio’s take: Pride is on the line, but not much more, as a pair of potential contenders punch another stop on their way to getting the season over with. David Johnson is the difference.

Florio’s pick: Cardinals 27, Saints 24.

49ers at Falcons

MDS’s take: This is the easiest game on the board to pick, as the Falcons are fighting for the NFC South title and the 49ers are a mess.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 38, 49ers 14.

Florio’s take: An old-school NFC West rivalry isn’t nearly as compelling as it once was, with the 49ers losing 12 in a row. The Falcons can’t afford a hiccup, given the unlikely ascension of the Buccaneers.

Florio’s pick: Falcons 27, 49ers 17.

Patriots at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Broncos’ excellent pass defense should hold Tom Brady in check, but the Patriots’ defense won’t yield many points, and New England will win a close, low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 16, Broncos 13.

Florio’s take: The Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Patriots have struggled in Denver, but Trevor Siemian falls closer to the Danny Kannell/Tim Tebow category than Jake Plummer/Peyton Manning/pre-Texans Brock Osweiler.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 27, Broncos 20.

Raiders at Chargers

MDS’s take: I’m tempted to pick the Chargers in the upset, as I think they’re better than their record suggests, while the Raiders aren’t quite as good as their record suggests. But with the Raiders playing for the playoffs and the Chargers playing for nothing, I’ll say Oakland makes a big play in the fourth quarter to turn the game.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 24, Chargers 21.

Florio’s take: In their final visit to San Diego, the Raiders give the locals another reason to not be upset about the team’s looming relocation.

Florio’s pick: Raiders 27, Chargers 17.

Buccaneers at Cowboys

MDS’s take: The Bucs are one of the hottest teams in football right now, but I think Dak Prescott is going to bounce back from a rough game last week and turn in a big game this week.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 31, Buccaneers 24.

Florio’s take: The Buccaneers have made far more accomplished quarterbacks look like rookies this year. What will they do to a rookie? We’ll know it when we see it.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Cowboys 23.

Panthers at Washington

MDS’s take: Carolina is long since out of it, while Washington remains in the thick of the playoff race. Washington will be motivated to turn in a big performance in a must-win game.

MDS’s pick: Washington 28, Panthers 20.

Florio’s take: With their own playoff hopes dashed, the Panthers would love to do the same to Josh Norman’s.

Florio’s pick: Panthers 30, Washington 24.

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Week 15 playoff scenarios

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The Cowboys are the only team that has officially booked a spot in the postseason, but more than half the field could be filled by the time Week 15 comes to an end.

Six other teams are in position to lock down playoff spots while the Cowboys will take a second shot at wrapping up the NFC East. Last Sunday’s loss to the Giants means that a win alone won’t be enough to maket that happen, however.

The Cowboys will need to win while the Giants lose or tie to wrap up the division. They could also wind up with the No. 1 seed in the NFC if they beat the Buccaneers on Sunday night, but only if the Giants and Lions tie earlier in the day.

The Lions can lock up the NFC North with a win and a Green Bay loss or tie in their game against the Bears. The Lions would also win the division if they tie while the Packers lose and the Vikings lose or tie against the Colts. The Lions can’t clinch a playoff spot without clinching the division, although beating the Giants would put them close to doing so.

If the Giants beat the Lions while the Redskins lose to Carolina, the Vikings lose or tie and the Packers lose or tie, they will clinch a playoff spot.

The Seahawks have a straightforward playoff outlook this week. If they beat or tie the Rams, they win the NFC West. They’d also win the division if the Cardinals lose or tie their home game against the Saints.

The Patriots are also in the straightforward category. If they beat or tie the Broncos, they will be both the AFC East champs and a first-round bye. They’d also win the division if the Dolphins lose or tie and a Dolphins loss or tie mixed with either a Steelers loss or tie or a Chiefs win would also give them the bye.

A Chiefs win would confirm their spot in the playoffs and that’s also true for the Raiders, but neither team can lay claim to the AFC West crown this weekend. There are four other scenarios that end with the Chiefs in the playoffs and eight alternative routes for the Raiders to take to the postseason, although the front door would certainly be the easiest path for both teams.

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