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Week 14 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.

Steelers at Bills

Steelers: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, S Shamarko Thomas, QB Zach Mettenberger, G Ramon Foster, RB DeAngelo Williams, DT Javon Hargrave, RB Daryl Richardson

Bills: LB Lerentee McCray, DT Kyle Williams, QB Cardale Jones, TE Logan Thomas, TE Gerald Christian, RB Jonathan Williams, WR Dez Lewis

Chargers at Panthers

Chargers: CB Brandon Flowers, RB Ronnie Hillman, NT Ryan Carrethers, TE Asante Cleveland, C Max Tuerk, T Tyreek Burwell, WR Geremy Davis

Panthers: LB Luke Kuechly, LB David Mayo, DE Charles Johnson, T Tyler Williams, DT Kyle Love, TE Chris Manhertz, RB Cameron Artis-Payne

Bengals at Browns

Bengals: WR A.J. Green, DE Wallace Gilberry, TE C.J. Uzomah, G Christian Westerman, LS Clark Harris, S Derron Smith, WR James Wright

Browns: QB Kevin Hogan, QB Josh McCown, OL Gabe Ikard, OL Shon Coleman, DL Tyrone Holmes, DB Trae Elston

Bears at Lions

Bears: WR Marquess Wilson, WR Eddie Royal, DB De’Vante Bausby, DB Johnthan Banks, DB DeAndre Houston-Carson, DL CJ Wilson, T Mike Adams

Lions: RB Theo Riddick, WR T.J. Jones, QB Jake Rudock, LB Thurston Armbrister, C Travis Swanson, OL Cornelius Lucas, DL Khyri Thornton

Texans at Colts

Texans: CB Johnathan Joseph, QB Tom Savage, LB John Simon, RB Tyler Ervin, WR Braxton Miller, OL Josh Walker, DL Ufomba Kamalu

Colts: CB Patrick Robinson, S Clayton Geathers, OL Austin Blythe, OL Denzelle Good, DL Zach Kerr, LB LaVar Edwards, LB Robert Mathis

Vikings at Jaguars

Vikings: S Harrison Smith, C Joe Berger, DT Sharrif Floyd, CB Marcus Sherels, LB Edmond Robinson, QB Taylor Heinicke, T Rashod Hill

Jaguars: RB Chris Ivory, C Brandon Linder, WR Allen Hurns, RB Denard Robinson, S Peyton Thompson, OL Jeremiah Poutasi, QB Brandon Allen

Cardinals at Dolphins

Cardinals: WR Marquis Bundy, S Tyrann Mathieu, CB Tharold Simon, G Cole Toner, DT Olsen Pierre, DT Robert Nkemdiche, DT Ed Stinson

Dolphins: CB Xavien Howard, LB Kiko Alonso, DE Mario Williams, C Mike Pouncey, LB Jelani Jenkins, TE Thomas Duarte, WR Rashawn Scott

Eagles at Redskins

Eagles: G Brandon Brooks, WR Dorial Green-Beckham, RB Kenjon Barner, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, OL Dillon Gordon, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai, DL Taylor Hart

Redskins: QB Nate Sudfeld, WR Rashad Ross, RB Matt Jones, S Will Blackmon, G Spencer Long, DL Anthony Lanier, G Shawn Lauvao

Broncos at Titans

Broncos: QB Austin Davis, WR Jordan Norwood, DB Lorenzo Doss, LS Casey Kreiter, LB Brandon Marshall, OL Connor McGovern, G Billy Turner

Titans: WR Kendall Wright, DT Jurrell Casey, TE Jace Amaro, G Sebastian Tretola, DB Curtis Riley, LB Justin Staples, RB David Fluellen

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Week 14 injury report roundup

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Week 14 kicked off on Thursday with a Chiefs win and it continues with 14 more games on 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.

Steelers at Bills

Steelers WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot) and S Shamarko Thomas (concussion) have been ruled out. DT Javon Hargrave (concussion) is unlikely to play after being listed as doubtful. K Chris Boswell (abdomen), G Ramon Foster (chest) and RB DeAngelo Williams (knee) are listed as questionable.

Bills TE Charles Clay (knee), T Cordy Glenn (back), WR Sammy Watkins (foot), DT Kyle Williams (back) and WR Robert Woods (knee) drew questionable tags. Coach Rex Ryan said Watkins and Woods will play, but Williams was a Friday addition to the injury report after his back locked up on Thursday night. LB Lerentee McCray (concussion) will not play.

Chargers at Panthers

The Chargers ruled out CB Brandon Flowers (concussion). They listed LB Jatavis Brown (knee) and G Orlando Franklin (knee) as questionable.

Panthers LB Luke Kuechly, S Kurt Coleman and CB Daryl Worley are all questionable due to concussions, although all three progressed through the protocol enough to practice this week. DE Mario Addison (foot) is also questionable while DE Charles Johnson (hamstring), LB David Mayo (concussion) and T Daryl Williams (ankle) have been ruled out.

Bengals at Browns

DE Wallace Gilberry (calf), WR A.J. Green (hamstring), S Derron Smith (thigh), TE C.J. Uzomah (calf) and WR James Wright (knee) will all sit out for the Bengals. LS Clark Harris (groin) is listed as questionable.

The Browns return from their bye week without any players listed with injury designations.

Bears at Lions

The Bears don’t expect to have T Mike Adams (back) or WR Eddie Royal (toe) after listing them as doubtful. LB Jonathan Anderson (hamstring), CB Johnthan Banks (ankle), WR Josh Bellamy (shoulder) and WR Marquess Wilson (groin) received questionable tags.

It looks like LB DeAndre Levy (knee) may play for the first time since Week One. He’s officially listed as questionable along with DE Ziggy Ansah (ankle), S Don Carey (hamstring), TE Eric Ebron (knee), WR Marvin Jones (quadricep), RB Theo Riddick (wrist), RB Dwayne Washington (ankle) and LB Tahir Whitehead (knee). C Travis Swanson (concussion) will not play.

Texans at Colts

DE Jadeveon Clowney (elbow, wrist) and LB Brian Cushing (back, ankle) are listed as questionable, but the Texans expect to have both in the lineup. Coach Bill O’Brien said there’s a “remote” possibility CB Johnathan Joseph (ribs) plays, although he’s also listed as questionable rather than doubtful. RB Tyler Ervin (ribs), WR Braxton Miller (shoulder), QB Tom Savage (right elbow), LB John Simon (chest) and WR Jaelen Strong (ankle) have been ruled out.

The Colts ruled out S Clayton Geathers (neck), T Denzelle Good (concussion), DT Zach Kerr (concussion), LB Robert Mathis (bicep) and CB Patrick Robinson (groin). LB Curt Maggitt (concussion) is listed as questionable.

Vikings at Jaguars

The Vikings won’t have C Joe Berger (concussion), DT Sharrif Floyd (knee) or S Harrison Smith (ankle) in the lineup this week. LB Edmond Robinson (hamstring) and CB Marcus Sherels (rib) drew questionable designations.

WR Allen Hurns (hamstring), DE Jared Odrick (shoulder), RB Denard Robinson (ankle), TE Julius Thomas (back) and S Peyton Thompson (ankle) will not play for the Jaguars on Sunday. The team listed RB Chris Ivory (hamstring), G Brandon Linder (ankle) and LB Dan Skuta (elbow) as questionable.

Cardinals at Dolphins

S Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder) will miss another game for the Cardinals. WR John Brown (illness), LB Markus Golden (hamstring), DT Robert Nkemdiche (elbow) and CB Tharold Simon (ankle) have all been listed as questionable, although coach Bruce Arians said Friday that he expects them to play.

The Dolphins listed LB Kiko Alonso (hand, hamstring), LB Jelani Jenkins (knee, hand) and DE Mario Williams (ankle) as doubtful to be in the lineup Sunday. S Isa Abdul-Quddus (neck), T Branden Albert (wrist), RB Kenyan Drake (knee), CB Xavien Howard (knee), DT Earl Mitchell (back), QB Matt Moore (right shoulder), WR DeVante Parker (back), LB Spencer Paysinger (ankle), G Anthony Steen (shoulder, foot) and C Kraig Urbik (knee) make up a long list of players deemed questionable.

Redskins at Eagles

TE Jordan Reed (shoulder) headlines a list of Redskins players listed as questionable that also includes DE Chris Baker (ankle), TE Derek Carrier (knee), LB Will Compton (hip), DE Ricky Jean Francois (foot, knee), G Shawn Lauvao (groin), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), G Brandon Scherff (ankle) and LB Preston Smith (groin). S Will Blackmon (concussion, thumb), DE Anthony Lanier (shin) and C Spencer Long (concussion, stinger) have been ruled out.

WR Dorial Green-Beckham (abdomen), RB Ryan Mathews (knee) and WR Jordan Matthews (ankle) drew questionable tags from the Eagles. T Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) will miss another game.

Broncos at Titans

The Broncos say they’ll make a call on QB Trevor Siemian (foot) on Saturday after listing him as questionable.WR Bennie Fowler (knee) is also listed as questionable and Denver ruled out LS Casey Kreiter (calf) and LB Brandon Marshall (hamstring).

DT Jurrell Casey (foot) is the only Titans player with an injury designation. He’s listed as questionable.

Jets at 49ers

Antonio Allen (concussion), T Breno Giacomini (back, calf, shoulder), WR Jalin Marshall (concussion), LB Lorenzo Mauldin (ankle), DT Steve McLendon (hamstring) and RB Khiry Robinson (lower leg) make up a long list of Jets that have been ruled out of Sunday’s proceedings. DE Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) is listed as questionable.

49ers T Joe Staley (hamstring) is in line to miss his first game since the 2010 season after being listed as doubtful. DT Quinton Dial (elbow) and LB Aaron Lynch (ankle) each drew questionable tags.

Seahawks at Packers

The Seahawks ruled out LB Brock Coyle (foot), DE Damontre Moore (foot), RB C.J. Prosise (shoulder) and RB Will Tukuafu (concussion). LB Michael Morgan (hip) is listed as questionable.

Packers linebackers Kyler Fackrell (hamstring) and Nick Perry (hand) won’t play on Sunday. CB Ladarius Gunter (illness), G T.J. Lang (foot), LB Blake Martinez (knee), LB Clay Matthews (shoulder), CB Damarious Randall (groin, illness) and C J.C. Tretter (knee) will have their statuses determined over the weekend after being listed as questionable.

Falcons at Rams

WR Julio Jones (toe) is questionable for the Falcons while DE Adrian Clayborn (knee) and WR Mohamed Sanu (groin) have been ruled out. T Jake Matthews (knee) and S Robenson Therezie (ankle) are also listed as questionable.

The Rams listed RB Benny Cunningham (neck) as doubtful. CB E.J. Gaines (thigh) and DE Robert Quinn (concussion) are listed as questionable.

Saints at Buccaneers

The Saints listed T Terron Armstead (quadricep, knee), RB Mark Ingram (toe, knee), G Senio Kelemete (hip), S Shiloh Keo (hamstring), RB Daniel Lasco (hamstring), LB Craig Robertson (shoulder), WR Michael Thomas (foot) and C Max Unger (foot) as questionable.

Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy (foot) is listed as questionable, just as he was before playing last weekend. S Chris Conte (chest), T Demar Dotson (concussion), WR Adam Humphries (concussion) and TE Luke Stocker (ankle) have been ruled out while C Evan Smith (knee) is also questionable.

Cowboys at Giants

Cowboys S Barry Church (forearm), DE Jack Crawford (foot), LB Justin Durant (hamstring), DE Demarcus Lawrence (back), CB Orlando Scandrick (foot, not injury related) and T Tyron Smith (back) are listed as questionable for the NFC East matchup. CB Morris Claiborne (groin), T Chaz Green (back) and S J.J. Wilcox (thigh) have been ruled out.

DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) will be a big absence for the Giants on Sunday night. S Nat Berhe (concussion) and LB Mark Herzlich (concussion) have also been ruled out. DT Johnathan Hankins (quadricep), WR Dwayne Harris (ankle), DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee), G Justin Pugh (knee) and CB Coty Sensabaugh (ribs) are listed as questionable.

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PFT’s Week 14 picks

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Tie, apparently, is the operative word this week in the NFL. As in Cam Newton didn’t have one. And as in the PFT picks competition does.

With MDS prevailing 4-3 in a whopping seven disagreements, it’s all knotted up with four weeks left.

For the week, MDS generated an 11-4 record, and I was 10-5.

This week, the tie will be broken based on the outcome of the game involving the guy who didn’t wear a tie. For all takes and predictions, scroll baby scroll.

Raiders at Chiefs

MDS’s take: This is one of the best Thursday night games we’ve ever had, as the winner will have the inside track in the AFC West and perhaps even home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. I think the Raiders will just freeze, baby, on a cold night in Kansas City, and the Chiefs will win a defensive struggle.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 17, Raiders 13.

Florio’s take: It’s tempting to look at Oakland’s record and assume that 10-2 will become 11-2, especially since the Raiders play so well away from home and have become an NFL darling with their best year by far since 2002. But the Chiefs have an opportunity to swipe the division, given their 26-10 win over the Raiders from October. It will be cold and it will be loud and the Chiefs have an opportunity to position themselves to make a Super Bowl run.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 24, Raiders 21.

Steelers at Bills

MDS’s take: The Bills’ running attack gives them the chance to play a ball-control offense and beat the Steelers on the ground. But I see the Steelers getting a couple big plays from Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown and winning a close one.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 24, Bills 23.

Florio’s take: The Steelers are surging and the Bills are shell-shocked after last Sunday’s 24-9 lead quickly became a 38-24 loss. The only question now is who’ll stay and who’ll go after the Bills once again fail to make it to the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 30, Bills 20.

Broncos at Titans

MDS’s take: The Titans’ surprisingly good offense against the Broncos’ unsurprisingly great defense will be a lot of fun to see. I think the Broncos’ offense will struggle and Marcus Mariota will do just enough with his arm and his legs to win a close game.

MDS’s pick: Titans 14, Broncos 13.

Florio’s take: If the Titans only could handle the teams in their division, they’d be a lock for the postseason. As it stands, they’ll need another signature win to even have a shot at the postseason. With an extra week to get ready and with the Broncos struggling (relative to 2015), give the home team the edge.

Florio’s pick: Titans 24, Broncos 17.

Washington at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Eagles are cratering down the stretch after showing a lot of promise early on. Washington needs a win here, and will get one.

MDS’s pick: Washington 27, Eagles 20.

Florio’s take: Seasons of promise for both teams have disintegrated, but Washington still has hope. And more talent. And a chance to still make it to the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Washington 27, Eagles 23.

Cardinals at Dolphins

MDS’s take: A week ago I would have said the Dolphins were the much better team here, but the Cardinals turned in a good performance last week while the Dolphins turned in a miserable game. Still, I think the Dolphins have more to play for and should bounce back.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 24, Cardinals 20.

Florio’s take: It may not be easy for the Dolphins to forget what happened in Baltimore. But the Cardinals just don’t have the horses this year, and the Dolphins continue to have an unlikely window of opportunity to get to the postseason.

Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Cardinals 23.

Chargers at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Panthers looked terrible on Sunday night and I’m tempted to declare that they’ve written off the season. But I have a feeling Ron Rivera will have his team focused for a much better game this week, and they’ll pull out a win at home.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 28, Chargers 21.

Florio’s take: Philip Rivers returns to North Carolina, the state where he played college football. (Hopefully, he’ll pick his bolo tie.) That reality coupled with pride and a desire to save Mike McCoy’s job could be the difference in this one, especially with the Panthers simply playing out the string in the hopes of a reset to 0-0.

Florio’s pick: Chargers 27, Panthers 20.

Bengals at Browns

MDS’s take: With each passing week it gets harder to justify picking the Browns to win. They appear to be holding a one-way ticket to 0-16.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 30, Browns 17.

Florio’s take: If the Browns don’t win this one, they may not win at all this season. The Bengals bounced back against the Eagles, and the Bengals realize the stakes involved: The last thing they want to do is to be the first team to lose to the Browns since the 49ers nearly one year ago to the day.

Florio’s pick: Bengals 26, Browns 17.

Bears at Lions

MDS’s take: This is one of those games where a Lions choke isn’t out of the question: It’s a game they should win, but the Lions aren’t a team with a great track record of winning the games they should win. And yet I have a feeling that they’ll manage to pull this game out, even if I also have a feeling it’s going to be closer than expected.

MDS’s pick: Lions 20, Bears 17.

Florio’s take: The biggest mystery about this game is how did the Bears beat the Lions when they met the first time?

Florio’s pick:  Lions 30, Bears 20.

Texans at Colts

MDS’s take: After falling behind the Texans early in the season, the Colts now look like the team that should win the AFC South. They’ll take a big step in that direction on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Colts 31, Texans 21.

Florio’s take: The Texans historically don’t play well in Indianapolis. More recently, the Texans haven’t been playing well anywhere. In the quest to lose at home in the wild-card round or get blown out in the divisional round, the Colts have the edge. Hooray?

Florio’s pick: Colts 24, Texans 20.

Vikings at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Vikings have struggled mightily after getting off to a hot start, but playing the Jaguars should cure what ails them.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 20, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take: If the Vikings can’t beat the Jaguars, the Vikings have no business being in the playoffs. Then again, the Vikings arguably already have no business being in the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, Jaguars 17.

Jets at 49ers

MDS’s take: This might be the ugliest game of the year. Both teams looked terrible last week, but the 49ers at least still seem to be trying to win, while the Jets are openly talking about planning for next year. That gives the 49ers the advantage this week.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Jets 10.

Florio’s take: The only important question regarding this one is whether there will be more people on and around the field than there are in the stands.

Florio’s pick: 49ers 13, Jets 9.

Saints at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: The Saints were still in the NFC South race until they laid an egg against the Lions last week. The Buccaneers are now fighting for a playoff spot, and they’ll get a big win on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Saints 17.

Florio’s take: At a time when the Raiders are the best they’ve been since making it to the Super Bowl in 2002, the Buccaneers are the best they’ve been since they won the Super Bowl in 2002.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 31, Saints 27.

Falcons at Rams

MDS’s take: The Falcons’ defense isn’t very good, and it could cost them the division. But the Jared Goff-led Rams offense won’t be able to take advantage.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 24, Rams 14.

Florio’s take: “We don’t make excuses, [insert latest excuse].”

Florio’s pick: Falcons 28, Rams 17.

Seahawks at Packers

MDS’s take: This is the most intriguing game of the week to me. Is Aaron Rodgers all the way back and ready to attack a Seahawks secondary that’s missing Earl Thomas? Can the Packers’ defense slow down Thomas Rawls and a good Seahawks running game? I think this will be a higher-scoring game than most expect, with the Seahawks coming out on top.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 34, Packers 31.

Florio’s take: Green Bay’s last two wins were, in hindsight, not very impressive. The Eagles have slumped to 2-7, and the Packers didn’t exactly steamroll an overmatched Texans team. The Seahawks have the pass rush to overcome the absence of safety Earl Thomas, and the offense to take pressure away from the defense.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 24, Packers 20.

Cowboys at Giants

MDS’s take: The injury to Jason Pierre-Paul will hit the Giants hard, and the Cowboys’ offense should have a big night as they march toward clinching home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 30, Giants 20.

Florio’s take: Yes, the Giants beat the Cowboys in Week One. But the Cowboys have gotten a lot better since then, and they realize the importance of not giving the Giants an opening to swipe the division.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 20, Giants 17.

Ravens at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Patriots’ offense will slip without Rob Gronkowski, but I see New England’s defense doing a good job against Joe Flacco in a hard-fought and close game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 20, Ravens 17.

Florio’s take: The Ravens give the Patriots fits in New England in the postseason. During the regular season, the Pats know how to take care of their rivals from Baltimore.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 24, Ravens 21.

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Rams’ Johnny Hekker having the greatest punting season ever

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Rams coach Jeff Fisher took some criticism yesterday when he said, “We’re on a record-setting pace with our punt team.” For the coach of one of the worst teams in the league to boast about punting doesn’t sit well with some football fans.

But here’s the thing: Rams punter Johnny Hekker really is having a great season. He’s having perhaps the greatest season of any punter in NFL history.

Net punting average is the single most important stat to use to evaluate a punter, and by that measure Hekker is having the best season ever, and it’s not even close. Hekker is already the only punter in NFL history to finish a season with a net average of over 44 yards, setting the league record for net punting average at 44.2 yards in 2013,. But this year Hekker isn’t just over 44 yards, he’s over 45 yards: If he stays at his current pace of 45.8 yards, he’ll obliterate his own record.

And Hekker is consistently putting opposing teams in bad field position: He already has 40 punts inside the 20-yard line this season, by far the most in the league and within striking distance of the NFL record of 46. At his current pace, Hekker will finish the season with 53 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Perhaps most amazingly, Hekker is nailing all those punts inside the 20 without kicking any too far: He has just one touchback this season. A ratio of 40 punts inside the 20 to one touchback is preposterous.

So laugh if you must at Fisher propping up his punting team. But know this: Fisher’s punter is having the best punting season ever.

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AFC playoff picture: Divisional races remain tight outside of the East

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Barring an epic flop, the Patriots are going to win the AFC East for the 14th time in the last 16 seasons.

There isn’t anything close to that much clarity in any of the other divisions in the AFC. The Raiders currently hold the top seed in the conference, but they are just a game up on the Chiefs with a Thursday matchup at Arrowhead Stadium looming as a major factor in deciding the AFC West.

Neither of the other divisions have a team with even that slim a lead heading into the final four weeks of the season. The Ravens and Steelers are both 7-5 with a Christmas Day game on the schedule while the Texans’ three-game losing streak leaves them with a 6-6 record. The Titans have the same mark and the Colts made it a three-way dance by beating the Jets on Monday night.

In other words, there’s a lot to sort out in the AFC.

LEADERS
1. Raiders (10-2): More late heroics have Oakland on top, but it will be fleeting if they can’t win in Kansas City.

2. Patriots (10-2): The Patriots could end Week 14 with both a division title and a first-round bye.

3. Ravens (7-5): Four home wins in the last five weeks have righted the ship in Baltimore, but they’re closing out the year by going on the road three of the next four weeks.

4. Texans (6-6): Houston will be hosting the Super Bowl, but the Texans need to find themselves in a hurry if they’re going to have any shot of playing in it.

5. Chiefs (9-3): A win on Thursday gives them a big tiebreaker advantage with a season sweep of the Raiders.

6. Broncos (8-4): They survived in Jacksonville and will be in the playoffs if they win out, although that’s a big if with the Titans, Patriots, Raiders and Chiefs left on the schedule.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
7. Dolphins (7-5): Their winning streak and their time in playoff position ended in Baltimore, so Miami will need some help from others to climb the ladder again.

8. Steelers (7-5): Three straight double-digit wins have the arrow pointed up for Pittsburgh.

9. Colts (6-6): After beating the Jets, they’re in position to make a run at the division crown.

10. Titans (6-6): A bye week offered some rest for Tennessee ahead of their final playoff push.

11. Bills (6-6): Blowing a 15-point lead in the final 24 minutes might have been the last gasp for Buffalo’s playoff aspirations.

12. Chargers (5-7): It was a long shot before they lost a home game to the Bucs.

13. Bengals (4-7-1): They looked better on Sunday than they have in weeks, but that has more to do with draft positioning than the playoff race at this point.

14. Jets (3-9): They were mathematically eliminated on Monday night.

15: Jaguars (2-10): When your quarterback calls the year “the biggest nightmare possible,” there’s not much left to say.

16: Browns (0-12): Four chances left to avoid a winless season in Cleveland.

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NFC playoff picture: Buccaneers making a move

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If the playoffs started today, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be in. How many people saw that coming?

With yesterday’s win over the Chargers, the Bucs now have a 7-5 record and a half-game lead over Washington in the wild card race. Tampa Bay also has a good chance at catching Atlanta in the NFC South, although the 7-5 Falcons currently have the tiebreaker advantage.

Here’s how the whole NFC looks with four games to go:

LEADERS
1. Cowboys (11-1): With a three-game lead in the NFC East, Dallas has already clinched at least a wild card and appears poised to earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

2. Seahawks (8-3-1): The NFC West race is all but over.

3. Lions (8-4): Detroit has a two-game lead in the division with four to play.

4. Falcons (7-5): Atlanta is in danger of losing what looked like a comfortable division lead.

5. Giants (8-4): Sunday’s loss probably ruined any hope the Giants had of winning the division.

6. Buccaneers (7-5): Keep winning and they’re in the playoffs.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
7. Washington (6-5-1): That tie game in London is starting to loom large.

8. Vikings (6-6): Currently owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Green Bay.

9. Packers (6-6): If they win out they only need the Lions to lose once between now and the Week 17 finale.

10. Cardinals (5-6-1): Sunday’s win is probably too little, too late.

11. Saints (5-7): Losing to the Lions at home sealed their fate.

12. Eagles (5-7): Both the offense and the defense have declined significantly since a promising start.

13. Panthers (4-8): A blowout loss to Seattle ended the reigning NFC champions’ hopes.

14. Rams (4-8): Yet another non-winning season for Jeff Fisher.

15. Bears (3-9): At least they’re better than the 49ers.

16. 49ers (1-11): At least they’re better than the Browns.

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NFL morning after: Two-point play could change two seasons

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One of the most fun things that can happen on an NFL Sunday is seeing something you’ve never seen before. And did we ever see that yesterday in Atlanta.

For the first time in NFL history, a defensive two-point conversion proved to be the game-winning score in a one-point game. I love the new two-point conversion rule, which allows the defense to score two points by running back a blocked extra point or offensive turnover, but when it passed last season, I figured it was something we might wait a decade to see decide a game.

Instead, yesterday in Atlanta it did decide the game. And it may have changed the course of both teams’ seasons.

When the Falcons scored a touchdown to take a 28-27 lead over the Chiefs with less than five minutes remaining, it appeared that they had taken control. They then lined up to go for two, and that was the right decision, as it gave them a chance to take a lead big enough that a field goal wouldn’t beat them. But Chiefs safety Eric Berry stepped in front of Matt Ryan’s pass, intercepted it and raced all the way to the end zone, giving the Chiefs the 29-28 margin they would win by.

That was the first time a team has ever won by a point on a defensive two-point conversion. Add in the blocked extra point return that gave the Broncos a 25-23 win over the Saints earlier this season, and we’ve now had two games changed by that seemingly relatively minor rules change.

In the case of Chiefs-Falcons, it could easily change both teams’ seasons as well. Both teams are locked in close, competitive playoff races, and it’s entirely possible that we’ll look back at the end of the season and say that one two-point play was the reason the Falcons missed the playoffs, or the reason the Chiefs won the AFC West and earned a bye week rather than just getting into the playoffs as a wild card.

The whole point of the new extra point rule was to make extra points competitive football plays again, and part of a competitive football play is that the defense has an opportunity to score. Adopting that rule was a great move by the NFL, and it made for a great ending in Atlanta on Sunday.

Here are my other thoughts from yesterday’s action in the NFL:

Jeff Fisher gets a new contract? Really? The news that broke Sunday morning that Rams coach Jeff Fisher has signed a contract extension is baffling to me. Shouldn’t a coach have to win to get a new contract? Yesterday’s 26-10 loss to the Patriots clinched Fisher his seventh consecutive non-winning season. His last winning season was with the 2008 Titans. And shouldn’t a coach have to show progress to get a new contract? Fisher’s record in his first season as the Rams’ coach was 7-8-1, and he still hasn’t improved upon that in five years on the job. It’s shocking that Rams owner Stan Kroenke is OK with this.

‘Member the Wentz Wagon? Early in the season, Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz was the toast of the NFL, with even President Obama and Vice President Biden singing his praises. Lately he’s been a mess: Yesterday he had about the least-impressive 308-yard game you could imagine, needing 60 passes to get there and throwing three interceptions, with more potential interceptions dropped. Don’t get me wrong, it’s way too early to say Wentz won’t be a good NFL quarterback. But it was also way too early to proclaim him a future star when he was being showered with praise a couple months ago.

There’s a major downside to NFL Sunday Ticket. I’ve had DirecTV for 13 years, and as long as DirecTV has a monopoly on the NFL Sunday Ticket package, I’ll keep it. Having Sunday Ticket revolutionizes your experience as an NFL fan. But there is a major down side to the service: DirecTV’s signal is dependent on good weather. Yesterday in Chicago, where I live, my signal was out for most of the day because of some light snow. I was far from the only one; many fans posted on social media that their DirecTV went out because of snow in their area. Sports fans are so accustomed to technology improving our fan experience in ways we never could have imagined a few decades ago that it sometimes feels like a rude awakening to realize that there are, in fact, limitations to this technology.

Colin Kaepernick had one of the worst games in NFL history. In a loss to the Bears yesterday, Kaepernick was benched in the fourth quarter for Blaine Gabbert — but not before he got sacked five times, while managing just four passing yards. With that stat line, Kaepernick became the first quarterback in NFL history to get sacked five times while gaining fewer than five passing yards. It was a horrendous performance, and for those trying to excuse Kaepernick by blaming the snow, I’ll point out that Bears quarterback Matt Barkley turned in a good game in the same weather. Kaepernick was very, very bad, on a day that started with reports that he was looking to strike it rich in free agency after the season.

The Jaguars remain a mess. I feel like I’m flogging a dead horse when I write about the Jaguars, but every week they find a new way to lose and lose ugly. Yesterday they lost to the Broncos even though the Broncos punted a whopping 11 times. Jacksonville’s offense is so incompetent that you can beat them even if you keep giving them the ball because you know it’s just a matter of time before Blake Bortles throws another pick-six. This team is downright awful.

The Lions won comfortably, for once. After trailing in the fourth quarter of their first 11 games, the Lions maintained a lead throughout the fourth quarter in New Orleans yesterday, improving to 8-4 in the process and firmly establishing themselves as the favorites in the NFC North. If the Lions beat the Bears at home next week and the Packers at home in Week 17, they’d clinch the division regardless of any other results the rest of the season.

I liked the individuality on players’ shoes. Most of the time, the league strictly limits personal messages from players. But yesterday, the league let players put individual messages on their shoes. I thought it was great, especially how many players chose to promote charities they’ve worked with and donated money to. I don’t know what horrible thing Roger Goodell imagines will happen if he allows players to do that every week, but I’d like to see the league relax its uniform rules. The league was wise to make extra points and two-point conversions more interesting, and now it would be wise to make the players’ uniforms more interesting.

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Week 13 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.

Chiefs at Falcons

Chiefs: WR Jeremy Maclin, QB Tyler Bray, CB Phillip Gaines, RB Knile Davis, LB Dadi Nicolas, OL Mike Person, TE Ross Travis

Falcons: DE Adrian Clayborn, S Sharrod Neasman, RB Terron Ward, CB Deji Olatoye, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, OL Trevor Robinson, OL Wes Schweitzer

Dolphins at Ravens

Dolphins: C Mike Pouncey, CB Jordan Lucas, CB Xavien Howard, LB Jelani Jenkins, T Bryce Harris, WR Rashawn Scott, TE Thomas Duarte

Ravens: TE Crockett Gillmore, G Alex Lewis, RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, CB Chris Lewis-Harris, RB Buck Allen, LB Kamalei Correa, OL Ryan Jensen

49ers at Bears

49ers: QB Christian Ponder, CB Marcus Cromartie, RB Mike Davis, LB Aaron Lynch, DT Tony Jerod-Eddie, OL John Theus, TE Je’Ron Hamm

Bears: QB Jay Cutler, WR Eddie Royal, CB De’Vante Bausby, CB Deiondre’ Hall, OL Cornelius Edison, DL Jonathan Bullard, S Adrian Amos

Eagles at Bengals

Eagles: RB Ryan Mathews, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai, WR Jordan Matthews, DE Steven Means, OL Josh Andrews, OL  Dillon Gordon, DT Taylor Hart

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

Texans at Packers

Texans: LB Jadeveon Clowney, RB Tyler Ervin, LB John Simon, WR Jaelen Strong, QB Tom Savage, OL Oday Aboushi, OL Josh Walker

Packers: G T.J. Lang, LB Kyler Fackrell, C J.C. Tretter, CB Makinton Dorleant, LB Blake Martinez, WR Trevor Davis, DL Christian Ringo

Broncos at Jaguars

Broncos: QB Trevor Siemian, LS Casey Kreiter, WR Bennie Fowler, WR Marlon Brown, G Connor McGovern, DB Lorenzo Doss, G Billy Turner

Jaguars: WR Allen Hurns, RB Chris Ivory, DE Jared Odrick, QB Brandon Allen, CB Josh Johnson, OL Jeremiah Poutasi, TE Julius Thomas

Rams at Patriots

Rams: WR Tavon Austin, QB Sean Mannion, DB Steve Williams, T Pace Murphy, OL Rodger Saffold, TE Temarrick Hemingway, DE Robert Quinn.

Patriots: S Jordan Richards, WR Matthew Slater, RB D.J. Foster, DL Woodrow Hamilton, OL LaAdrian Waddle, DT Darius Kilgo, CB Justin Coleman

Lions at Saints

Lions: LB DeAndre Levy, WR Marvin Jones, LB Tahir Whitehead, S Don Carey, T Cornelius Lucas, OL Joe Dahl, QB Jake Rudock

Saints: T Terron Armstead, RB Daniel Lasco, LB Sam Barrington, RB Marcus Murphy, WR Jake Lampman, OL Landon Turner, CB De’Vante Harris

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Week 13 injury report roundup

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Week 13 kicked off on Thursday with a Cowboys win and it continues with 13 more games on Sunday, which means that the 26 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.

Chiefs at Falcons

The Chiefs listed LB Dee Ford (hamstring), LB Justin Houston (shoulder), WR Jeremy Maclin (groin), DT Dontari Poe (back) and DE Kendall Reyes (knee) as questionable. Poe didn’t practice at all this week.

DE Adrian Clayborn (knee) is out for the Falcons and LB Paul Worrilow (illness) is listed as questionable on a short injury report.

Dolphins at Ravens

C Mike Pouncey (hip) is out again this week, but Dolphins coach Adam Gase expressed optimism about getting T Branden Albert (wrist) and G Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) back. They’re listed as questionable along with LB Kiko Alonso (hamstring), T Jermon Bushrod (calf), RB Kenyan Drake (knee), LB Jelani Jenkins (knee, hand), DT Earl Mitchell (back) and WR DeVante Parker (back). CB Xavien Howard (knee) is listed as doubtful.

TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), T Alex Lewis (ankle) and RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh) are out for the Ravens. RB Buck Allen (non football injury) is listed as doubtful while WR Kamar Aiken (thigh) and CB Jimmy Smith (back) are listed as questionable.

49ers at Bears

Questionable listings for LB Aaron Lynch (ankle) and WR Quinton Patton (concussion) account for the entire 49ers injury report.

QB Jay Cutler (shoulder) is headed for injured reserve, but isn’t there yet so the Bears ruled him out. S Adrian Amos (foot), LB Leonard Floyd (concussion), CB Deiondre’ Hall (ankle), WR Eddie Royal (toe), G Josh Sitton (ankle) and LB Willie Young (knee) are listed as questionable for Chicago.

Eagles at Bengals

Eagles RB Ryan Mathews (knee) and T Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) will not play on Sunday. WR Jordan Matthews (ankle) is listed as questionable.

WR A.J. Green (hamstring) remains out for the Bengals. DE Wallace Gilberry (calf) and S Derron Smith (thigh) have both been ruled out. LS Clark Harris (groin) and TE C.J. Uzomah (calf) are on track to being ruled out as well after drawing doubtful tags.

Texans at Packers

The Texans won’t have RB Tyler Ervin (ribs), LB John Simon (chest), WR Jaelen Strong (ankle) this weekend. They listed RB Alfred Blue (calf), DE Jadeveon Clowney (elbow, wrist), LB Brian Cushing (back) and S Andre Hal (illness) as questionable.

QB Aaron Rodgers (hamstring) was limited in practice all week and is listed as questionable. Linebackers Blake Martinez (knee), LB Clay Matthews (shoulder) and Jake Ryan (ankle) are also listed as questionable. LB Kyler Fackrell (hamstring) and CB Demetri Goodson (knee) will not play and neither G T.J. Lang (foot) nor C J.C. Tretter (knee) is expected to play after being listed as doubtful.

Broncos at Jaguars

The Broncos ruled out WR Bennie Fowler (knee), LS Casey Kreiter (calf) and QB Trevor Siemian (foot).

WR Rashad Greene (achilles), WR Allen Hurns (hamstring), RB Chris Ivory (hamstring) and DE Jared Odrick (shoulder) have been ruled out by the Jaguars. TE Julius Thomas (back) is unlikely to play after being listed as doubtful and DE Yannick Ngakoue (ankle) drew a questionable designation.

Rams at Patriots

The Rams don’t expect to have WR Tavon Austin (chest) in New England after listing him as doubtful. C Tim Barnes (foot), T Andrew Donnal (hip), DE Robert Quinn (concussion) and T Rodger Saffold (hand) are listed as questionable.

S Jordan Richards (knee) joins TE Rob Gronkowski (back) as Patriots who will not play this weekend. TE Martellus Bennett (ankle, shoulder), QB Tom Brady (knee), S Nate Ebner (concussion), WR Julian Edelman (foot), DE Trey Flowers (shin), DT Woodrow Hamilton (illness), WR Chris Hogan (back), LB Elandon Roberts (jaw) and WR Matt Slater (foot) are this week’s group of questionable players.

Lions at Saints

Lions DE Ziggy Ansah (ankle), S Don Carey (hamstring), WR Marvin Jones (thigh), LB DeAndre Levy (knee), RB Theo Riddick (ankle) and LB Tahir Whitehead (knee) are all listed as questionable for Sunday’s game in New Orleans.

RB Mark Ingram (toe) is questionable for the Saints after returning to practice on Friday. T Terron Armstead (knee, quadricep) and RB Daniel Lasco (hamstring) have been ruled out.

Bills at Raiders

The Bills took full use of the questionable designation this week by using it on LB Lorenzo Alexander (ankle), S Sergio Brown (hamstring), TE Charles Clay (knee), DT Marcell Dareus (abdomen), RB Mike Gillislee (hamstring), T Cordy Glenn (back), WR Marquise Goodwin (wrist), S James Ihedigbo (ankle), G Richie Incognito (neck), G John Miller (shoulder) and WR Sammy Watkins (foot). They veered away by ruling out CB Ronald Darby (concussion), WR Percy Harvin (illness) and WR Robert Woods (knee).

CB D.J. Hayden (hamstring) is ruled out and the team will be placing him on injured reserve. DT Darius Latham (ankle), DT Stacy McGee (ankle) and LB Shilique Calhoun (knee) have also been ruled out. CB David Amerson (knee), WR Michael Crabtree (ankle), C Rodney Hudson (knee), RB Latavius Murray (ankle), G Kelechi Osemele (knee), LB Perry Riley (hamstring) and LB Malcolm Smith (hamstring) are listed as questionable.

Redskins at Cardinals

The Redskins won’t have DL Anthony Lanier (shin) or TE Jordan Reed (shoulder) this weekend. CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle), LB Terence Garvin (shoulder), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee), LB Trent Murphy (ankle), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), LS Nick Sundberg (back) and RB Chris Thompson (illness) were all listed as questionable.

S Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder) isn’t expected to play for the Cardinals thanks to a doubtful listing. WR John Brown (illness) is questionable as he continues to look for an answer to problems caused by his sickle cell trait.

Giants at Steelers

The Giants ruled out S Nat Berhe (concussion), LB Mark Herzlich (concussion), DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee) and G Justin Pugh (knee). Offensive linemen Brett Jones (calf) and Marshall Newhouse (knee) are both questionable after missing last week.

The Steelers ruled out WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot) and RB DeAngelo Williams (knee), but have no one else with an injury designation this week.

Buccaneers at Chargers

S Chris Conte (chest) and C Evan Smith (knee) were ruled out by the Buccaneers. DT Gerald McCoy (foot), TE Brandon Myers (hip), RB Jacquizz Rodgers (foot) and S Ryan Smith (shoulder) are listed as questionable.

Chargers LB Jeremiah Attaochu (foot), LB Jatavis Brown (knee) and CB Brandon Flowers (concussion) are out this weekend. TE Asante Cleveland (concussion, knee), DT Tenny Palepoi (shoulder) and WR Tyrell Williams (shoulder) drew questionable tags.

Panthers at Seahawks

The Panthers ruled out DE Mario Addison (foot), S Kurt Coleman (concussion), LB Luke Kuechly (concussion) and T Daryl Williams (ankle) on Friday.

DE Michael Bennett (knee) is expected back for the Seahawks, but drew a questionable tag. DE Damontre Moore (foot), RB Troymaine Pope (ankle) and TE Luke Willson (knee) are listed the same way. LB Brock Coyle (foot), RB C.J. Prosise (shoulder), WR Paul Richardson (hamstring) and LB Jordan Tripp (thigh) have been ruled out.

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PFT’s Week 13 picks

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And then there was one.

As in one game separating MDS and yours truly in the full-season picks contest. He swept the two disagreements from Week 12, and now with seven disagreements in 15 games this weekend, things are about to get interesting. For him and me and pretty much no one else.

Last week, MDS went 13-3 and I was 11-5. So at least we both no longer stink as much as we used to.

Cowboys at Vikings

MDS’s take: The Vikings were the NFL’s last undefeated team this season. After Thursday night, they’ll be a .500 team.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 24, Vikings 16.

Florio’s take: If the Vikings don’t win this one, their chances of qualifying for the postseason, where they’d eventually be blown out, drop considerably. With voice of the Vikings (as well as PA and Florio podcast cohort) Paul Allen convinced the home team will win, I’ll humor him on this one. Especially since, if he’s wrong, I’ll have a tangible reason for reminding him of it on a regular basis, indefinitely. Besides, the Cowboys may now assume that they’re facing the likes of the Browns, 49ers, and Bears again, given the absence of coach Mike Zimmer.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 24, Cowboys 20.

Chiefs at Falcons

MDS’s take: A good interconference game between two teams that would be in the playoffs today. I’ll take the home team in a close one.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 20, Chiefs 17.

Florio’s take: For the second time this year, the Falcons face a team that played nearly five full quarters in the prior game. This time, however, the Atlanta foe got a full week to recover. And the Chiefs as of right now are better than the Bucs were a months ago.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 27, Falcons 23.

Lions at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints’ offense is firing on all cylinders and the Lions’ defense is struggling. I see the Saints winning a high-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Saints 35, Lions 31.

Florio’s take: That string of eleven games decided by seven points or less could be ending for the Lions, and not in a good way.

Florio’s pick: Saints 31, Lions 21.

Rams at Patriots

MDS’s take: This is the easiest game on the board to pick. The Rams will get their eighth loss of the season, ensuring their 13th consecutive non-winning season.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Rams 10.

Florio’s take: Bill Belichick has outscored Jeff Fisher 104-7 in their last two meetings. It likely won’t be much better this time around.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 34, Rams 13.

Broncos at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Broncos are in danger of missing the playoffs, but when a team needs a win, a game at Jacksonville is just what the doctor ordered.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 27, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take: Twenty years ago, the Jaguars scored a major playoff upset over a championship-caliber Broncos team. This time, it would be an even bigger surprise if Jacksonville wins.

Florio’s pick: Broncos 27, Jaguars 17.

Texans at Packers

MDS’s take: Aaron Rodgers should carve up the Texans’ defense, and Brock Osweiler won’t be able to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Texans 17.

Florio’s take: The Pack is/are back. Brock Osweiler is/was a misplaced investment. Green Bay can/should/will move to 6-6, and possibly to within striking distance of first place in the division.

Florio’s pick: Packers 30, Texans 20.

Eagles at Bengals

MDS’s take: Both teams are well outside playoff contention, but this isn’t a bad matchup. I see a hard-fought game decided on a Mike Nugent missed extra point.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 21, Bengals 20.

Florio’s take: The Eagles, after starting the year 3-0, have lost six of eight. The Bengals are bad this year but not so bad that they’d lose at home to a rookie quarterback with a rookie head coach that has struggled for most of the last two months.

Florio’s pick: Bengals 23, Eagles 16.

Dolphins at Ravens

MDS’s take: The strength of the Ravens is their run defense, and I think they’ll shut down Jay Ajayi, put pressure on Ryan Tannehill and win a close game.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 16, Dolphins 13.

Florio’s take: Once upon a time, a Dolphins team on a long losing streak beat the Ravens. Nine years later, the Dolphins are riding an unlikely six-game winning streak. And the Ravens once again can be involved in the termination of a Miami-related streak.

Florio’s pick: Ravens 20, Dolphins 16.

49ers at Bears

MDS’s take: This game only matters for draft positioning. The Bears will win, which keeps the 49ers alive for the first overall pick.

MDS’s pick: Bears 20, 49ers 17.

Florio’s take: San Francisco’s offense is finding its stride, even if it hasn’t found many wins. Against an overmatched Chicago team, that changes. If only for a day.

Florio’s pick: 49ers 31, Bears 23.

Bills at Raiders

MDS’s take: The Bills may need to run the table to get to the playoffs. After the Raiders beat them on Sunday, Rex Ryan’s job security will be hanging by a thread.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 24, Bills 21.

Florio’s take: The Raiders play up and down to the level of the competition, which gives Buffalo an opening to steal this one — especially if the Raiders are peeking ahead at their Thursday night showdown in Kansas City.

Florio’s pick: Bills 27, Raiders 24.

Giants at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Giants still have a chance to catch the Cowboys in the NFC East, but they’ll probably have to win out to do it. And that hope will be dashed in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 24, Giants 23.

Florio’s take: An old-school rivalry dating back to 1933, the Giants are 44-29-3 against the Steelers. The Rooneys needs this one a little more than that Maras, who are closing in on a wild-card berth and have a very rough road to the NFC East title.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 30, Giants 24.

Washington at Cardinals

MDS’s take: Although the Cardinals are one of the NFL’s most disappointing teams this season, I think their defense can hold Kirk Cousins in check and win a close game.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 17, Washington 14.

Florio’s take: Washington had extra time and Washington has extra incentive and the Cardinals are sliding out of contention, with their coach calling players out for being selfish.

Florio’s pick: Washington 34, Arizona 21.

Buccaneers at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Bucs have surged recently and gotten themselves back into the playoff race, but I see Joey Bosa making Jameis Winston’s life miserable and San Diego winning a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 16, Buccaneers 13.

Florio’s take: It gets no easier for a Tampa Bay team riding a pair of signature wins. The Chargers would be a postseason shoo-in if they played in three or four other divisions, and the Bucs will need to find another way to get themselves in the right frame of mind to take down the Chargers. Knowing that the Falcons have lost earlier in the day (if the Chiefs prevail in Atlanta) could be the kick Tampa Bay needs.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 23, Chargers 20.

Panthers at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Seahawks are the better team in all three phases of the game and should beat the Panthers comfortably.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 24, Panthers 14.

Florio’s take: One of the best rivalries in recent years has instantly been reduced to rubble. The Seahawks need to get back on the right track, and the Panthers have been on the wrong track all year.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 31, Panthers 20.

Colts at Jets

MDS’s take: With Andrew Luck back against a bad Jets secondary, the Colts should win this one and — if the Texans lose — move into a three-way tie in the AFC South.

MDS’s pick: Colts 30, Jets 20.

Florio’s take: It’s a rematch of Super Bowl III, and I can guarantee you won’t stay awake through all of it.

Florio’s pick: Colts 23, Jets 20.

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Week 13 Power Rankings

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1. Cowboys (10-1; last week No. 1): The biggest threat to the No. 1 seed resides in their own division.

2. Raiders (9-2; No. 2): Playing down to the level of the competition could make Oakland a one-and-done playoff participant, if they’re not careful.

3. Patriots (9-2; No. 4): Avocado ice cream apparently has magical healing powers. Unless it’s the toppings.

4. Giants (8-3; No. 5): The Giants are possibly doing well enough to get Todd Bowles fired.

5. Chiefs (8-3; No. 8): Tyreek Hill could be Dante Hall, Priest Holmes, and Dwayne Bowe rolled into one player.

6. Seahawks (7-3-1; No. 3): If the road to the Super Bowl doesn’t go through Seattle, the Seahawks likely won’t be playing there.

7. Falcons (7-4; No. 7): With the Buccaneers rising, the Falcons’ margin for error is shrinking.

8. Broncos (7-4; No. 6): If the Broncos can’t trust their defense, can any team trust its defense?

9. Lions (7-4; No. 10): With visits to the Saints, Giants, and Cowboys upcoming, those close games could be ending, soon.

10. Dolphins (7-4; No. 11): Has any six-game winning streak ever been more overlooked nationally?

11. Washington (6-4-1; No. 9): They may be better than they were a year ago. Unfortunately, the rest of the division is, too.

12. Bills (6-5; No. 14): The NFL is better when Rex Ryan is in it, and the Bills may be doing enough to ensure that he will be.

13. Buccaneers (6-5; No. 20): It may not happen this year or next year, but the Buccaneers will win a Super Bowl with Jameis Winston at quarterback.

14. Packers (5-6; No. 15): Two games behind the Lions and one game behind the Vikings, the schedule says that the Packers are still the favorites to win the division.

15. Ravens (6-5; No. 17): When the field goal kicker is the best player on the team, that says a lot about the kicker. Or not a lot about the rest of the team.

16. Steelers (6-5; No. 18): All I want for Christmas is a Steelers-Raiders playoff game.

17. Texans (6-5; No. 12): Good news/bad news — they finally broke the cycle of winning the games they should and losing the games they should.

18. Vikings (6-5; No. 13): “Playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game.”

19. Titans (6-6; No. 21): A late bye week gives them extra time to get ready for what would be a signature win over the Broncos.

20. Eagles (5-6; No. 16): The silver lining in their 2-6 slide could be that Jim Schwartz won’t get hired as a head coach elsewhere.

21. Chargers (5-6; No. 25): The worst team in the AFC West continues to prove that it would be the best team in three or four other divisions.

22. Saints (5-6; No. 26): Bounty penalty for the team, a pair of second-round picks. Lost revenue for Sean Payton, more than $7 million. Ramming it sideways up the rear end of Gregg Williams, priceless.

23. Colts (5-6; No. 19): Jim Irsay prefers championships to Star Wars statistics. He now has neither.

24. Bengals (3-7-1; No. 22): “At least we’re the best team in Ohio, if you leave out the Buckeyes.”

25. Cardinals (4-6-1; No. 23): They were supposed to be better. They’re worse. Much, much worse.

26. Panthers (4-7; No. 24): OK, it’s finally time to insert the fork.

27. Rams (4-7; No. 27): Given the scrap with Eric Dickerson, they’re actually 4-8.

28. Jets (3-8; No. 28): Woody Johnson is five weeks away from pressing the reset button, again.

29. Bears (2-9; No. 29): If no one pays attention to their game against the 49ers, will it make a sound?

30. Jaguars (2-9; No. 30): What was supposed to be a big step up from 5-11 has been a major step back.

31. 49ers (1-10; No. 31): The Titans suddenly look very smart for not reuniting Chip Kelly with Marcus Mariota.

32. Browns (0-12; No. 32): The last, best chance to win a game comes when the Bengals visit after the bye.

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Ravens propose a bonus point for kickoffs through the uprights

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The NFL has tinkered with kickoffs in recent years, attempting to reduce the number of high-speed collisions on returns and make the game safer. But now the Baltimore Ravens are proposing a radical rule change on kickoffs that goes far beyond tinkering.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh and kicker Justin Tucker said this week that they want the NFL to adopt a new rule that would give the kicking team one point for putting a kickoff through the uprights.

“A kicker with a strong leg would be in favor of it. The idea would be that if you split the uprights on a kickoff you get a point,” Tucker said on the Dan Patrick Show.

Kickoffs come from the 35-yard line in the NFL, which would be the equivalent of a 75-yard field goal. The NFL record for the longest field goal is 64 yards, so it might seem unlikely that any kicker would make one from 75. But kickoffs go farther for a few reasons: They’re off a tee, rather than off the ground. The kicker places the ball exactly how he wants it, so there are no concerns about a bad snap or a bad hold. With no one rushing, the kicker can get a longer running start toward the ball. And with no worry of having the kick blocked, the kicker can kick with a lower trajectory, which allows the ball to travel farther.

Add all those things up, and Tucker thinks he’d be able to put it through the uprights about 20 percent of the time.

“Maybe one out of every five if the weather’s alright and the field is good,” Tucker said.

There’s never been anything like that rule in NFL history, although the Canadian Football League has a one-point kick of its own, known as a rouge, for a kick that goes into the end zone and is not run out. That’s about the most similar thing to the Ravens’ proposal as has ever existed in pro football. Obviously, Tucker and Harbaugh are motivated in part by selfish reasons: Tucker is the best kicker in the NFL, so the Ravens are the team that would likely benefit the most from such a rule change (although the Broncos would probably lead the league in kickoff points, as the high altitude in Denver would make kickoffs through the uprights easier).

But Tucker isn’t just looking for gimmicks to help strong-legged kickers like himself; he said he would oppose a proposal to make field goals from beyond 60 yards worth four points. And I like the Ravens’ idea for three reasons Tucker didn’t mention:

It’s good for player safety. When the NFL moved the touchback to the 25-yard line, the goal was to reduce kickoff returns. But that rule hasn’t made much of a difference because some teams now kick high and short in an effort to avoid touchbacks. The Ravens’ proposal would certainly reduce the number of kickoff returns: Teams would have a strong incentive for their kicker to kick it as deep as possible to try to get that bonus point, and when those kickoffs fell short of the goal posts, the returners would usually stay in the end zone because they’d be backed up near the end line.

It’s exciting for late-game strategy. Under current rules, we’ve grown accustomed to a seven-point lead meaning a touchdown and extra point can tie, an eight-point lead meaning a touchdown and two-point conversion can tie, and a nine-point lead meaning a two-possession game. This would change things. Now you could trail by seven and take the lead with a touchdown, extra point and kickoff point. Or trail by eight and take the lead with a touchdown, two-point conversion and kickoff point. And a nine-point game would be particularly exciting: You score a touchdown late in the game down by nine. Do you go for two and try to tie the game with a kickoff point? Or do you kick the extra point and try to win the game with an onside kick followed by a field goal?

It could feature an exception to the goaltending rule. The NFL currently has a rule against goaltending on field goals and extra points: A player who jumps up and touches a ball as it is about to go through the goal posts in an attempt to block a field goal is flagged for goaltending, a 15-yard penalty. But that rule shouldn’t apply to kickoff points, because it would be great to reward a kickoff returner who’s athletic enough to leap up and swat away a kick that’s 10 or 11 feet in the air. And in a late-game situation where one point is the difference in the game, a team could put in its best goaltender to try to block a kickoff point: How exciting would it be to see the Seahawks, in a tie game in the final minute, send Jimmy Graham back to jump up and block the kickoff from going through the uprights?

This idea is very, very unlikely to be implemented. But that’s because the NFL is a fundamentally conservative and traditional league that doesn’t like to try radical new ideas. Sometimes, however, radical new ideas are brilliant. This is a rule the NFL should adopt.

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NFC playoff picture: Packers remain in the race

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Monday night was a must-win game for the Packers, and they won.

Green Bay went to Philadelphia and looked more like the good team we’ve expected the Packers to be, and less like the mess they’ve been recently. More importantly, the Packers showed that they still have a chance in the NFC North.

Although the Packers still need some help to catch the Lions, they’ve now got a good chance of still being alive in the playoff race when they head to Detroit for Week 17.

Here’s how the whole playoff race looks:

LEADERS
1. Cowboys (10-1): They’re the clear favorites to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, although they’ve got the Giants in the rear-view mirror.

2. Seahawks (7-3-1): Seattle struggled on Sunday, but the Seahawks have the NFC West all but clinched.

3. Lions (7-4): Who thought Detroit would be just a half game out of a bye through 12 weeks of the season?

4. Falcons (7-4): Need to keep winning to stay ahead of the surging Bucs.

5. Giants (8-3): Having already beaten the Cowboys head-to-head once, the Giants are still within shouting distance of the top of the NFC East.

6. Washington (6-4-1): A long shot to win the division, but the favorites for the last wild card spot.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
7. Buccaneers (6-5): They’re still in the mix for both the NFC South and a wild card.

8. Vikings (6-5): After starting 5-0, the Vikings are falling apart. Can they save their season by upsetting the Cowboys on Thursday night?

9. Saints (5-6): A big game against Detroit on Sunday will have playoff implications for both teams.

10. Packers (5-6): They might have to run the table to win the division. If they keep playing like they played Monday night, that’s a possibility.

11. Eagles (5-6): Monday night’s loss means they’re out of it.

12. Cardinals (4-6-1): It’s been a hugely disappointing season in Arizona.

13. Panthers (4-7): The reigning NFC champions are way back in the pack this year.

14. Rams (4-7): Jeff Fisher’s team needs to win most of its remaining games just to get to some 7-9 B.S.

15. Bears (2-9): The only question left is whether they can play spoiler by upsetting a division rival — or whether they can improve their draft pick by losing to the 49ers.

16. 49ers (1-10): Mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

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AFC playoff picture: Say hello to the Dolphins

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There’s nothing like a long winning streak to change the feeling around a team and that’s certainly the case for the 2016 Miami Dolphins.

A 1-4 start to the season seemed to promise more of the same for a team that has been to the playoffs only once since the start of the 2002 season, but things turned around in Week Six. The Dolphins thumped the Steelers at home that Sunday and they haven’t looked back.

Sunday’s win over the 49ers leaves them at 7-4 and in possession of a Wild Card spot in the AFC as we move into December. The final five weeks will bring further tests for Adam Gase’s club, starting with next Sunday’s trip to Baltimore for a game that could have tiebreaker implications in that Wild Card race, but the last six weeks have provided plenty of reason to think the Dolphins can navigate them.

LEADERS

1. Patriots (9-2): A trip to Denver remains on the schedule, but three of the final five are at home as the Patriots try to ensure they’ll stay there throughout the AFC playoffs.

2. Raiders (9-2): While everyone would surely love to rehash the Tuck Rule, the Raiders still have a chance to direct the AFC playoffs through Oakland in what might be one of the city’s last chances to host such games.

3. Ravens (6-5): Beating the Bengals keeps the Ravens up, but a rematch with the Steelers may wind up determining the AFC North.

4. Texans (6-5): The Texans flopped against the Chargers and the AFC South remains a tight contest.

5. Chiefs (8-3): If Kansas City makes it to the postseason, Sunday night’s comeback win will be a big reason why they got a ticket.

6. Dolphins (7-4): Now would be a bad time for the Dolphins to come back to Earth.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

7. Broncos (7-4): A trip to Jacksonville next week offers a chance to get back on track, but Denver’s fate will be determined by games against the Patriots, Chiefs and Raiders to close out the regular season.

8. Steelers (6-5): Win out and the Steelers are in as division champs, although a hot Giants team could throw a wrench into that plan next week.

9. Bills (6-5): Buffalo has bounced back with two straight wins, but their uphill climb starts with a trip to Oakland next week.

10. Titans (6-6): The Titans are 1-3 in the AFC South and their failure to win in their backyard is the reason why they aren’t in first place right now.

11. Colts (5-6): The Thanksgiving loss hurt because passing both the Texans and Titans is a tall order over five weeks.

12. Chargers (5-6): San Diego wouldn’t be anyone’s choice of an opponent in the playoffs, but they probably aren’t going to get there.

13. Bengals (3-7-1): They need to win out while the Ravens and Steelers simultaneously combust, which likely means their playoff run is over.

14. Jets (3-8): The biggest question left for the Jets is whether Christian Hackenberg gets a look at quarterback before the year is out.

15. Jaguars (2-9): We may have reached Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley’s last stand.

16. Browns (0-12): They’re down to four chances to avoid matching the 2008 Lions.

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NFL morning after: Gus Bradley and the problem of the process

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Gus Bradley has been an abject failure as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. There are 154 coaches in NFL history who have coached at least 59 games. Bradly, who fell to 14-45 in his tenure in Jacksonville with Sunday’s loss, ranks 154th with a .237 winning percentage.

Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells liked to say that you are what your record says you are. If Parcells is right, then Bradley is the worst head coach in NFL history.

When the Jaguars started this season looking like the same lousy team they were in Bradley’s first three seasons as head coach, Bradley insisted that the team just needs to “Stick to the process.” That’s a common refrain in football, but it raises a big question: What if your process is flawed?

The problem with sticking with the the process is that if you have a bad process, you’re sticking with something that isn’t working. Ask a Detroit Lions fan about that: The Lions stuck with team President Matt Millen far longer than most observers thought they should have, and when they finally fired him in 2008 they were in the midst of the first 0-16 season in NFL history. That’s the problem with sticking with the process. It only works if your process works. And if you keep sticking with your process when your results are as bad as Bradley’s were in his first three seasons (4-12 in his first year, 3-13 in his second year, 5-11 in his third year and now 2-9 in his fourth year), you’re simply setting your franchise back.

It’s also worth noting that the coaches who insist that they have a “process” they must “stick to” often don’t, in fact, stick to their process. Bradley doesn’t trust the process when it suits him to shift gears. This year, Bradley fired offensive coordinator Greg Olson in the middle of the season (a day after claiming he wouldn’t make any changes to his staff) because the offense wasn’t working out. In 2014, Bradley abandoned a plan to have Blake Bortles spend his entire rookie season on the bench because veteran starter Chad Henne got off to a slow start. Why didn’t Bradley stick with the process then? Probably because for most losing teams, “the process” isn’t as well thought out as they’d like us to believe.

This is not a “fire Gus Bradley” column because I assume it goes without saying that Bradley will be fired at the end of the season, if not before. Instead, this is a column about why all teams really need to scrutinize whether “the process” is working, and not just stick with it for the sake of sticking with it.

Is the process working in Cleveland? It might be: Just because they’re 0-12 this year doesn’t mean the Browns’ analytical approach won’t eventually yield a championship. It’s too early to judge the Browns because a big part of the Browns’ plan this year was to acquire future draft picks in trades. Until we see who the Browns take with those future draft picks, we don’t know if the Browns were smart or dumb to take this approach. On the other hand, no one should just blindly accept the Browns’ process simply because the Moneyball guys seem smart. If you’re a Cleveland fan, you should want to see real, tangible signs of progress next year, not just the kind of “process” talk that Bradley served up in Jacksonville after he went 4-12 in Year 1 and 3-13 in Year 2.

I admired what the Eagles did last year when they realized Chip Kelly wasn’t panning out as their head coach: They fired him, then brought in new people who would undo a lot of his personnel moves by trading away players like Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso. When Kelly was fired, some said the Eagles were being rash, and that Kelly needed more time to build his kind of football team. I didn’t buy that: Kelly wasn’t getting results, so he got fired. That’s the way it works in the NFL, and the Eagles’ new regime is showing progress this year.

There are a few NFL teams, like the Patriots and Seahawks, that have a proven winning philosophy. But there are a lot of NFL teams that like to talk about their “process” despite having little or nothing in the way of tangible results. Maybe we need to be patient with those teams. But in cases like Bradley’s, there’s such a thing as too much patience.

Here are my other thoughts from Sunday:

Colin Kaepernick was brilliant on the field, not so much off it. Kaepernick put up an outstanding effort in defeat yesterday for the 49ers, throwing for 296 yards and rushing for 113 yards and becoming the first player in NFL history to top 295 passing and 110 rushing in the same game. It was a fantastic effort that gives me hope that Kaepernick can once again become a Pro Bowl-quality quarterback in the NFL some day. Unfortunately, Kaepernick was loudly booed in Miami because of some very foolish comments he made about Fidel Castro. If Kaepernick wants to be a great NFL quarterback, I think he has the talent to do it. If he wants to be both a quarterback and an activist, he’d be wise to become more informed.

Sean Payton must hate Gregg Williams. Payton, the Saints’ head coach, lost a year of his career when he was suspended for a bounty program orchestrated by Williams, who was then the Saints’ defensive coordinator. Payton and Williams have rarely spoken of each other publicly since then, but Payton was coaching like a man who wanted to humiliate his former assistant yesterday. Williams is now the Rams’ defensive coordinator, and Payton pulled out all the stops yesterday as the Saints beat the Rams 49-21. The Saints’ seventh and final offensive touchdown came on a trick play 50-yard touchdown pass by wide receiver Willie Snead in the fourth quarter. When you call a trick play 50-yard touchdown with your team already winning 42-21 in the fourth quarter, you’re humiliating your opponent. Payton humiliated Williams yesterday.

Joey Bosa is awesome. Bosa, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, is a one-man wrecking machine for the Chargers. In yesterday’s win over the Texans he hit quarterback Brock Osweiler as he was passing twice, was in on a sack, had two tackles behind the line of scrimmage and had seven total tackles. Bosa is already one of the best defensive players in the NFL, and he’s only 21 years old.

Cam Newton is one of the best red zone runners ever. I don’t just mean one of the best red zone running quarterbacks ever. I mean one of the best red zone running players ever. With his rushing touchdown yesterday, Newton now has at least five rushing touchdowns in all six of his NFL seasons. He’s the only player in the NFL who has had at least five rushing touchdowns in each of the last six seasons. Not only has no other quarterback done it, but no running back has done it, either.

Here’s a funny fourth quarter stat. Two NFL teams have trailed in the fourth quarter of every game this season: The Browns, who lost to the Giants yesterday to fall to 0-12. And the Lions, who beat the Vikings on Thanksgiving to improve to 7-4 and take over sole possession of first place in the NFC North.

Jamie Collins‘ effort is pathetic. Want to know why Bill Belichick traded Collins to the Browns, even though many on the outside thought Collins was one of the Patriots’ best linebackers? Watch Collins’ lack of effort on an Odell Beckham touchdown in the Browns’ loss to the Giants yesterday. Collins didn’t even try to make a tackle. Collins is a talented player, but a player who refuses to hustle is a player who’s more trouble than his talent is worth.

Justin Tucker’s incredible season continues. Tucker, the Ravens’ kicker, became the first player in NFL history to have three 50-yard field goals in the first half of a game yesterday when he nailed kicks from 52, 54 and 57 yards in the first half. Tucker went 4-for-4 yesterday and is now 27-for-27 on the season. He’s also perfect on extra points and is the only kicker in the league who hasn’t missed a kick this season.

Roberto Aguayo’s terrible season continues. Aguayo, the Buccaneers’ kicker, missed a 48-yard field goal attempt in the first half yesterday against the Seahawks, and his season-high this year is still just 43 yards. There are 31 kickers in the NFL who have made a field goal of at least 45 yards this season, and Aguayo is not one of them. The Bucs traded up into the second round of the draft to select Aguayo, which would be a highly questionable decision even if he were a great kicker. As it is, Aguayo is the worst kicker in the NFL. That draft pick was a huge mistake.

All in all, Matt Barkley was better than expected. Barkley, the onetime USC star whose NFL career has been a major disappointment, got the first start of his career for the Bears on Sunday and actually looked pretty good. The Bears lost, but Barkley was excellent in the fourth quarter and threw what would have been a game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, if receiver Josh Bellamy hadn’t dropped it in the end zone. The Bears are a team that desperately needs to find the right “process,” because they’re 2-9 in Year 2 of G.M. Ryan Pace and coach John Fox. Perhaps they’ve inadvertently stumbled into a promising young quarterback. Sometimes, good luck is as important as a good process.

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