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PFT’s Week 15 picks

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Last week, I managed to claw a chunk out of the three-game lead MDS developed the prior weekend. This week, there’s no way I can gain ground.

In picking the outcomes of the 16 games coming up in Week 15, MDS and I agree on each and every game.

Yes, I was tempted to change a couple of my picks while loading them in. But it’s critical to maintain the integrity of and public confidence in this contest. Given our performance this year, it’s pretty much all we have going for us.

For the week, I was 11-5 and MDS was 10-6. For the year, he’s 132-76 (63.4 percent), and I’m at 130-78 (62.5 percent).

Buccaneers at Rams

MDS’s take: Both of these teams have some good young players who have shown flashes of promise this season. On Thursday night, I think the best young players on the field will be Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley, both of the Rams, and St. Louis will win a close, low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Rams 17, Buccaneers 14.

Florio’s take: It could be the last game ever played in St. Louis, at least until the next time they pilfer a team from another city. The uniforms look like ketchup and mustard; the outcome could be be something that no one relishes. (Try the veal. With relish.)

Florio’s pick: Rams 24, Buccaneers 20.

Jets at Cowboys

MDS’s take: The Jets’ pass defense is good. The Cowboys’ pass offense is not. Dallas will be shut down offensively.

MDS’s pick: Jets 20, Cowboys 6.

Florio’s take: When the schedule came out, it seemed likely that this late-season prime-time game would have postseason implications for one of the two teams involved. We just thought it would be the other team.

Florio’s pick: Jets 23, Cowboys 13.

Chiefs at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Chiefs are playing some of the best football in the league right now, and the Ravens are playing some of the worst. Kansas City should win this one easily.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 35, Ravens 14.

Florio’s take: For a trap game to be a trap game, the trap has to be sufficiently potent to operate as a trap. The Ravens are missing the spring, and the cheese has gone rancid.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 30, Ravens 13.

Texans at Colts

MDS’s take: Neither of these teams is any good, but someone has to win the AFC South, and I think it’s going to be Houston.

MDS’s pick: Texans 21, Colts 20.

Florio’s take: The Texans have never won in Indianapolis. Ever. Then again, the Texans have never played the Colts on their home field after Indy gave up 96 points in back-to-back games. Even with T.J. Yates at quarterback, it’s time for the Texans to do what they’ve never done before.

Florio’s pick: Texans 20, Colts 17.

Falcons at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Falcons are cratering, and the Jaguars are improving. This would have seemed crazy a couple months ago, but the Jaguars are the better team right now and should win at home.

MDS’s pick: Jaguars 24, Falcons 17.

Florio’s take: It’s battle of former Seahawks defensive coordinators, and essentially a playoff elimination game. With the Jaguars winning by 35 and the Falcons losing by 38, how can I pick Atlanta? (And now Atlanta will win.)

Florio’s pick: Jaguars 30, Falcons 23.

Bears at Vikings

MDS’s take: If the Vikings win out, they win the NFC North. I’m not sure if they’re going to do that, but they’re at least going to stay in contention with a win over the Bears.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 24, Bears 23.

Florio’s take: Not a great opponent? Check. Not a prime-time game? Check. It’s looking like 150 yards or more for Adrian Peterson, a ninth win, and a big step closer to the No. 6 seed.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, Bears 20.

Titans at Patriots

MDS’s take: The easiest game on the board to pick. Even with the Patriots struggling through several injuries, they shouldn’t have any trouble with an overmatched Titans team.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 31, Titans 20.

Florio’s take: In 2009, the Patriots beat the Titans 59-0. Could this be worse? Maybe, but I’ll play it a little more safely.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 45, Titans 10.

Panthers at Giants

MDS’s take: The Giants desperately need this win. The Giants have a history of beating undefeated teams in big games. Could they do it? Well, they could . . . but I don’t think they will. The Panthers will survive in a close game.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 20, Giants 17.

Florio’s take: The Giants could beat the Panthers, and it wouldn’t be a shock. But Carolina seems to be firing on all cylinders, the Giants are too inconsistent, and the Panthers likely will be able to take New York’s best shot, if the Giants are able to apply it.

Florio’s pick: Panthers 34, Giants 20.

Bills at Washington

MDS’s take: Does anyone want to win the NFC East? Someone has to, but I have a feeling that there will be a three-way tie for first at 6-8 after Washington loses on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Bills 21, Washington 20.

Florio’s take: They have the same record, but the Bills are the better team on both sides of the ball. If they uncharacteristically play with discipline, they should be able to pull back to .500.

Florio’s pick: Bills 23, Washington 20.

Packers at Raiders

MDS’s take: The Raiders turned in an impressive second-half comeback win over the Broncos on Sunday, but I don’t think they can do it two weeks in a row. The Packers’ offense is going to be too much for the Raiders’ defense.

MDS’s pick: Packers 28, Raiders 21.

Florio’s take: Oakland stole one last week despite having a pathetic offensive output in the first half. The Packers, fully emerged from their November slumber, should be able to avoid letting the Raiders steal one like they did in Denver.

Florio’s pick: Packers 27, Raiders 16.

Browns at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Seahawks may be playing the best football of any team in the NFL right now. They’re going to destroy the Browns.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 41, Browns 10.

Florio’s take: Yes, Johnny Manziel has played in more hostile environments. But not with a talent gap like this one.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 44, Browns 20.

Broncos at Steelers

MDS’s take: Brock Osweiler got more credit than he deserved when Denver won a few games after he took over for Peyton Manning. The Broncos will lose their second straight game on Sunday, and we’ll start hearing calls for Manning to return.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 28, Broncos 17.

Florio’s take: Brock Osweiler or Peyton Manning, it doesn’t matter. The Steelers offense has found its groove, making it good enough to outscore a Denver team that relies on its defense to support a so-so offense.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 34, Broncos 21.

Dolphins at Chargers

MDS’s take: There’s very little reason for anyone to care about this game, but I figure Philip Rivers will play pretty well and San Diego will win.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 23, Dolphins 20.

Florio’s take: If the Chargers can’t find a way to make it work for what could be the last game they ever play in San Diego, maybe they should fold, not move.

Florio’s pick: Chargers 27, Dolphins 21.

Bengals at 49ers

MDS’s take: If Andy Dalton were healthy, I’d say Cincinnati wins this one easily. With Dalton injured, however, I think Cincinnati will struggle for four quarters before pulling out a late, close win.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 20, 49ers 17.

Florio’s take:  A week after losing a trap game to the Browns, the 49ers are reminded that they are the trap game. The Bengals are good enough, even with A.J. McCarron, to avoid stepping in it.

Florio’s pick: Bengals 20, 49ers 13.

Cardinals at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Eagles have played much better on defense and special teams the last couple weeks, but their offense remains problematic. I don’t think they can score enough to keep up with the excellent Cardinals offense.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 31, Eagles 21.

Florio’s take: The Cardinals are the new America’s Team, with five prime-time games this year. They’re 4-0 so far. Make it five.

Florio’s pick: Cardinals 30, Eagles 26.

Lions at Saints

MDS’s take: The NFL schedule makers probably thought this would be a Monday night matchup of two teams fighting for NFC playoff spots, but they thought wrong. It’s a game that there isn’t much reason to watch, but one the Saints should win.

MDS’s pick: Saints 28, Lions 24.

Florio’s take: Tanks fer nuttin’, April schedule release.

Florio’s pick: Saints 24, Lions 17.

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Five more teams can clinch playoff berths this week

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 23:   Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers greets Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Minnesota Vikings on the field after defeating the Minnesota Vikings 21-24 on November 23, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

We already know that the Panthers, Cardinals and Patriots will make the playoffs. By Sunday night, we may know the identity of five more playoff teams, as the Bengals, Broncos, Packers, Seahawks and Vikings all have playoff-clinching scenarios for Week 15.

Here are all of this week’s playoff scenarios:

Patriots: New England has already clinched the AFC East and can clinch a first-round bye with a win and either a Broncos loss or a Bengals loss.

Bengals: Cincinnati clinches the AFC North with a Steelers loss. Cincinnati also clinches a playoff spot with a win, or a Jets loss, or a Chiefs loss.

Broncos: Denver clinches the AFC West with a win and a Chiefs loss. Denver also clinches a playoff berth with a win, or with a Jets loss.

Panthers: Carolina has already clinched a first-round bye and will clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win and a Cardinals loss.

Cardinals: Arizona clinches the NFC west with a win or a Seahawks loss. There’s also a scenario in which Arizona clinches the NFC West even if the Cardinals lose and the Seahawks win, which would require the Bengals and Saints to win while the Cowboys and Steelers lose. The Cardinals clinch a first-round bye if they win and the Packers lose.

Packers: Green Bay clinches a playoff berth with a win. Green Bay can also clinch a playoff berth with a loss, if the Buccaneers lose and either Washington or the Giants lose.

Seahawks: Seattle clinches a playoff spot with a win and a Buccaneers loss, plus either a Giants loss or a Washington loss, or a Falcons loss and a Vikings loss and a Packers loss.

Vikings: Minnesota clinches a playoff spot with a win and a Buccaneers loss, plus a loss by either Washington or the Giants, and a loss by either the Falcons or Seahawks.

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PFT’s Week 15 Power Rankings

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1. Panthers (13-0; last week No. 1): The only way Cam Newton isn’t the NFL’s MVP if is they change the meaning of the acronym to something like “Mint Veal Pancreas.”

2. Cardinals (11-2; No. 4): The new America’s Team is 4-0 in prime time, with another date on Sunday Night Football looming.

3. Patriots (11-2; No. 5): Every time Tom Brady runs with the ball, I expect to hear John Facendas voice. Then I realize it’s not actually slow motion.

4. Packers (9-4; No. 6): If Mike McCarthy is a genius for taking back play-calling duties, was he an idiot for giving them up?

5. Seahawks (8-5; No. 7): Cam Newton will be the MVP — and Russell Wilson could be the Super Bowl MVP.

6. Broncos (10-3; No. 2): It would be a good idea for the receivers and tight ends to stop dropping passes before Uncle Peyton starts throwing them again.

7. Steelers (8-5; No. 9): The most dangerous team in the AFC could still be watching the playoffs from home.

8. Chiefs (8-5; No. 8): Apparently, they were the best 1-5 team in NFL history.

9. Bengals (10-3; No. 3): Andy Dalton will finally prove his value to the Bengals through his inability to play.

10. Jets (8-5; No. 10): IK Enemkpali should be named team MVP.

11. Vikings (8-5; No. 11): Well, at least there’s now a chance they won’t get embarrassed in their one-and-out playoff appearance.

12. Raiders (6-7; No. 16): With Khalil Mack and Derek Carr, the future’s so bright that the logo will need a sunglass monocle.

13. Eagles (6-7; No. 18): Chip Kelly may not have called LeSean McCoy last week. Chip definitely should give him a call this week.

14. Washington (6-7; No. 19): Just when they stop winning at home, they figure out how to start winning on the road.

15. Giants (6-7; No. 20): Monday night’s game wasn’t a playoff game, but Eli Manning performed like it was.

16. Bills (6-7; No. 12): Doug Marrone got seven losses without LeSean McCoy or Tyrod Taylor.

17. Texans (6-7; No. 14): To have a chance at winning the division, they simply need to win in a city where they have never, ever won.

18. Buccaneers (6-7; No. 15): The Bucs are a lot better, but they’re still not good enough.

19. Bears (5-8; No. 17): Don’t worry, Robbie Gould. You’ll have a chance to miss key field goals with another team next year.

20. Colts (6-7; No. 13): Chuck Pagano says the team hasn’t quit. Imagine how ugly that 51-16 loss to the Jaguars would have looked if the team had.

21. Jaguars (5-8; No. 28): Hanging 51 points on the Colts could be the dam-breaking win the Jaguars needed.

22. Falcons (6-7; No. 21): If a vote of confidence is bad, is a vote of “complete confidence“worse?

23. Dolphins (5-8; No. 22): The uniform of the team from the ’70s looked good on Monday night. Players who play like those teams would look even better.

24. Rams (5-8; No. 27): And now it’s time for the late-season surge that will persuade ownership to stick with the status quo.

25. Saints (5-8; No. 29): Ending Carolina’s unbeaten streak would have been nice. Putting a fork in Tampa Bay’s playoff chances will be the consolation.

26. Lions (4-9; No. 23): At least ownership won’t have a tough decision to make about Jim Caldwell.

27. Cowboys (4-9; No. 25): Maybe the Cowboys should have signed the quarterback they’ll see on Saturday night, when the Jets come to town.

28. Ravens (4-9; No. 26): All the Ravens wanted for Christmas was to not have to play the Steelers at home on a Sunday night.

29. Browns (3-10; No. 32): The Factory of Sadness had an uncharacteristic holiday-season shutdown.

30. 49ers (4-9; No. 24): The 49ers fell victim to a trap game? The 49ers are the trap game.

31. Chargers (3-10; No. 31): How bad would this team be without Philip Rivers?

32. Titans (3-10; No. 30): Remember the Titans II: Forget the Titans.

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NFC playoff picture: Three-way tie in the East

Bashaud Breeland, DeMarco Murray AP

The NFC East stinks, but that’s a good thing for football fans: If that weren’t the case, the NFC playoff race would be boring.

We basically know all the playoff teams other than the NFC East winner: The Panthers and Cardinals are already in, the Packers are all but in, and the Seahawks and Vikings have a two-game lead over the rest of the wild card field with three games to play.

So as we review the NFC playoff picture, the one big question mark is which team will win the East:

LEADERS
1. Panthers (13-0): They’ve already clinched a first-round bye and could clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as soon as Sunday.

2. Cardinals (11-2): Arizona would win a tiebreaker with Carolina, but that would require Carolina to lose two games, which is exceedingly unlikely.

3. Packers (9-4): Green Bay has a one-game lead over Minnesota in the NFC North.

4. Washington (6-7): They own the tiebreaker over both the Giants and Eagles, based on a head-to-head win against the Eagles and a better division record than the Giants.

5. Seahawks (8-5): Seattle is playing as well as anyone right now, but the Seahawks will likely have to win three straight road games in January to get back to the Super Bowl.

6. Vikings (8-5): If Minnesota wins out, it wins the NFC North, thanks to a Week 17 date with Green Bay.

LONG-SHOT WILD CARD CONTENDERS
7. Buccaneers (6-7): Tampa Bay is now an extreme long shot to make the playoffs.

8. Falcons (6-7): Atlanta has cratered since starting 5-0.

NFC EAST CONTENDERS
9. Eagles (6-7): Philadelphia controls its destiny, needing only to win out with a Week 16 game against Washington.

10. Giants (6-7): New York has a tough road ahead, finishing with Carolina, Minnesota and Philadelphia. The Giants are a long shot.

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AFC playoff picture: Patriots in, five good teams vie for four spots

Rob Gronkowski, Sylvester Williams AP

Here are the three things you need to know about the AFC playoff race: The Patriots are in. Five good teams are vying for four other playoff spots. And someone has to win the AFC South.

This is the way the playoff race shapes up through Week 13:

LEADERS
1. Patriots (11-2): New England has clinched a playoff berth and has the inside track for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

2. Bengals (10-3): For now Cincinnati has the tiebreaker over Denver, but that will be decided when the teams meet in Week 16.

3. Broncos (10-3): If Denver wins out it gets a first-round bye.

4. Colts (6-7): Someone has to win the AFC South, and right now that “someone” looks like the Colts — potentially with third-stringer Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback.

5. Chiefs (8-5): Kansas City owns the conference record tiebreaker over the Jets and Steelers

6. Jets (8-5): New York currently owns the AFC record tiebreaker over Pittsburgh.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
7. Steelers (8-5): If Pittsburgh wins out it’s in the playoffs, even if the Jets and Chiefs win out, too.

AFC SOUTH CONTENDERS
Texans (6-7): Houston can move into first place with a win in Indianapolis on Sunday.

Jaguars (5-8): Jacksonville is a long shot, but if the Jaguars can get to 8-8, that may be enough to win their terrible division.

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NFL morning after: League should crack down on fake injuries

Von Miller AP

During Sunday’s Raiders-Broncos game, an Oakland pass along the sideline was ruled a completion, but Denver thought the receiver failed to get both feet inbounds. The Broncos wanted to have time to check the replay and throw the challenge flag as the Raiders were lining up to run the next play, so Broncos linebacker Von Miller did the one thing a player can always do to get the officials to halt the game: He said he was injured.

Specifically, Miller flopped onto the ground, holding his leg. It was a bad acting job that Dan Fouts, calling the game on CBS, immediately called out as a fake injury. But it had its desired effect: The officials stopped the game for Miller’s “injury,” and the Broncos successfully challenged the play.

Some people laugh that stuff off as gamesmanship, but the fact is that it’s cheating. And it’s a particularly insidious kind of cheating because it exploits the NFL’s player safety rules, which say that a game must be stopped when a player is hurt.

What can the NFL do about it? For starters, it can fine both Miller and the Broncos. The league has taken that step once before, when the Steelers were fined $35,000 and Emmanuel Sanders was fined $15,000 in 2012 because Sanders pretended to be hurt to give the Steelers’ offense time to change a play without a delay of game penalty. Those fines are a good first step toward cracking down on fake injuries, but they’re insufficient. That’s just not enough money to discourage an NFL team or player from faking an injury. Steeper fines and the loss of draft picks would go a long way toward sending the message that fake injuries won’t be tolerated.

The NFL could also change the rules on how injured players are handled. Currently, the rule is that if the clock stops to give a player medical attention on the field, that player must sit out one play. A rule requiring the player to sit out the rest of that possession would make players a lot less likely to fake an injury, and would have the added benefit of ensuring that team medical personnel have enough time to diagnose and treat injured players on the sideline.

What the NFL can’t do is have referees throw penalty flags on injury fakers. There’s just no way for a ref to know for sure, in the heat of the moment, that a player is faking. A 15-yard penalty would be the easiest way to stop fake injuries, but that’s just not going to happen.

So what the NFL will have to start doing is handling fake injuries through the league’s disciplinary process. The Broncos and Miller should be hearing from the league this week.

Here are my other thoughts from Sunday:

Calvin Johnson is the NFL’s most expensive decoy. The Lions are paying Megatron $20 million a year, by far the most that any NFL receiver gets paid. And yet they’re barely using him in their offense: Yesterday he caught one pass. There’s simply no excuse for allocating that much cap space to a player you don’t even use. The new G.M. in Detroit next year will have a tough decision to make about whether the Lions can continue to justify Johnson’s enormous contract.

The Colts are terrible, and could still make the playoffs. The Colts have lost their last two games by a combined score of 96-26. Yesterday they were obliterated, 51-16, by a bad Jaguars team. And yet it’s still entirely possible that Indianapolis will win the AFC South. This is an absolutely awful division.

Todd Gurley remains incredible. Gurley had 16 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns in yesterday’s win over the Lions, and his 49-yard run was his fifth run of 40 or more yards this season, the most in the NFL. There was some talk in recent weeks that he had hit a rookie wall, but Gurley is still the best rookie in the NFL.

Marcus Mariota had one big play in defeat. Last Sunday, Mariota was brilliant. Yesterday, Mariota struggled through much of the Titans’ 30-8 loss to the Jets. But Mariota did catch a 41-yard touchdown pass on a trick play. That makes him the only player in the NFL this year who has a touchdown run, a touchdown pass and a touchdown catch.

The AFC wild card race is heating up. The Chiefs, Jets and Steelers all won yesterday to improve to 8-5, and they’re going to have a very interesting three-way race for the two AFC wild card spots. The Chiefs appear to have the best chance because their remaining three games are against three bad teams, the Ravens, Browns and Raiders. The Jets still have to play the Patriots (as well as the Cowboys and Bills), while the Steelers still have to play the Broncos (as well as the Ravens and Browns). A pretty good team is going to get left out.

An awful injury for Thomas Rawls. Rawls, the Seahawks’ undrafted rookie running back who burst out of nowhere as a replacement for and even an improvement on Marshawn Lynch, suffered a season-ending broken ankle yesterday. Rawls’s rookie season ended with 147 carries for 830 yards, a 5.65-yard average that is the second best in NFL history for a rookie running back who had at least 140 carries. Only Maurice Jones-Drew, who averaged 5.67 yards a carry as a rookie in 2006, had a higher average as a rookie.

Andy Dalton’s injury changes everything. The Bengals had a real shot at the Super Bowl and Dalton was playing at a very high level, but Dalton’s likely season-ending broken thumb is devastating for Cincinnati. It was a terrible Sunday on the injury front, both the real kind and the fake kind.

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Week 14 early inactives

Justin Houston AP

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

Seahawks at Ravens

Seahawks: RB Marshawn Lynch, DE Demarcus Dobbs, DT Jordan Hill, WR/QB B.J. Daniels, CB Tye Smith, S Steven Terrell, OL Kristjan Sokoli

Ravens: QB Matt Schaub, TE Crockett Gillmore, WR Marlon Brown, CB Tray Walker, TE Richard Gordon, DT Carl Davis, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

Falcons at Panthers

Falcons: DT Paul Soliai, RB Terron Ward, CB Akeem King, S Charles Godfrey, C Gino Gradkowski, T Bryce Harris, DE Malliciah Goodman

Panthers: CB Charles Tillman, WR Brenton Bersin, DE Ryan Delaire, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, DB Dean Marlowe, WR Kevin Norwood, RB Brandon Wegher

Redskins at Bears

Redskins: LB Perry Riley, RB Chris Thompson, S Jeron Johnson, QB Robert Griffin III, WR Andre Roberts, OL Arie Kouandjio, TE Je’Ron Hamm

Bears: LB Pernell McPhee, CB Bryce Callahan, S Antrel Rolle, RB Antone Smith, OL Nick Becton, WR Cameron Meredith, DL Ziggy Hood

Steelers at Bengals

Steelers: WR Jacoby Jones, QB Mike Vick, RB Jordan Todman, DE L.T. Walton, WR Sammie Coates, LB Anthony Chickillo, T Byron Stingily

Bengals: WR Mario Alford, CB Adam Jones, LB Paul Dawson, T Jake Fisher, DT Marcus Hardison, DE Will Clarke, DT Brandon Thompson

49ers at Browns

49ers: TE Vance McDonald, LB Michael Wilhoite, WR DeAndrew White, LB Aaron Lynch, CB Chris Davis, OG Brandon Thomas, OL Ian Silberman

Browns: CB Joe Haden, CB Justin Gilbert, WR Andrew Hawkins, WR Taylor Gabriel, DB Pierre Desir, OL Gabe Ikard, WR Dwayne Bowe

Colts at Jaguars

Colts: T Anthony Castonzo, QB Andrew Luck, LB Jerrell Freeman, LB Daniel Adongo, S Winston Guy, CB Greg Toler, LB Erik Walden

Jaguars: LB Paul Posluszny, WR Rashad Lawrence, CB Demetrius McCray, DE Ryan Davis, OL Luke Bowanko, WR Bryan Walters, TE Nic Jacobs

Chargers at Chiefs

Chargers: WR Dontrelle Inman, WR Stevie Johnson, G D.J. Fluker, QB Brad Sorensen, LB Kavell Conner, DB Greg Ducre, DL Sean Lissemore

Chiefs: LB Justin Houston, S Husain Abdullah, DE Mike DeVito, WR De’Anthony Thomas, QB Aaron Murray, DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches, OL Jeff Allen

Titans at Jets

Titans: WR Kendall Wright, LB Derrick Morgan, DT Mike Martin, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, OT Jamon Meredith, and DE Ropati Pitoitua, RB Bishop Sankey

Jets: CB Marcus Williams, QB Bryce Petty, WR Kenbrell Thompkins, G Dakota Dozier, S Dion Bailey, G Ben Ijalana, S Ronald Martin

Bills at Eagles

Bills: RB Karlos Williams, CB Stephon Gilmore, LB Nigel Bradham, CB Ron Brooks, T Seantrel Henderson, QB Josh Johnson, DE LaVar Edwards

Eagles:QB Thad Lewis, WR Jonathan Krause, DB Denzel Rice, DL Steven Means, LB Brad Jones, OG Tanner Hawkinson, DL Brandon Bair

Lions at Rams

Lions: WR Lance Moore, OT LaAdrian Waddle, DL Jermelle Cudjo, OT Corey Robinson, DL Gabe Wright, TE Tim Wright, DB Bill Bentley

Rams: T Andrew Donnal, QB Sean Mannion, DB Janoris Jenkins, C Brian Folkerts, DL Matt Longacre, K Zach Hocker

Saints at Buccaneers

Saints: G Jahri Evans, DT John Jenkins, WR T.J. Graham, QB Garrett Grayson, DB Chris Owens, LB David Hawthorne, DE Phillip Hunt

Buccaneers: DE Jacquies Smith, QB Ryan Griffin, LB Jeremiah George, OT Demar Dotson, TE Brandon Myers, LB Josh Shirley, DL George Johnson

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Looking at the potential coaching vacancies for 2016

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With four games left in the regular season (for all but the two teams who played on Thursday night), Black Monday is only 23 days away. And so it’s not too early (heck, it’s never too early) to consider which of the 32 most coveted jobs in football will soon be available — and which coaches will be applying for membership in Jon Gruden’s Fired Football Coaches Association.

Two of those jobs already are available. The Dolphins fired Joe Philbin and the Titans fired Ken Whisenhunt during the season. Their replacements most likely haven’t done enough to earn the full-time position; besides, the Rooney Rule requires a full-blown search before Dan Campbell or Mike Mularkey, respectively, would be hired.

So let’s look at the rest of the potential vacancies (in no particular order), with the understanding that what happens during the next four games will, in most situations, have a major impact on whether a change is made.

Buffalo: The honeymoon with Rex Ryan had ended before last weekend’s win over the Texans, which may have set the stage for a second honeymoon. Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, it’s highly unlikely that Ryan would be one-and-done in Buffalo. (If any big changes are made, it’s more likely that the team replaces G.M. Doug Whaley.)

Cleveland: Many believe it’s a foregone conclusion that owner Jimmy Haslam will make another coaching change. An ugly loss on Sunday against the 49ers could hasten it, especially after Mike Pettine opted to publicly question this week whether the organization is unified.

Indianapolis: Chuck Pagano remains in the final year of his contract, with an extension unlikely. To get a new deal to keep the job that Pagano has said on multiple occasions will be his last, it’s unclear how far he needs to take the Colts. Securing a playoff berth is critical to his chances. Pagano also likely has to win in the wild-card round at home. A competitive loss at Denver, Cincinnati, or New England in the divisional round could be enough to stay. A blowout at that level (or the next) possibly won’t be.

Jacksonville: Most NFL owners have become increasingly impatient. Hall of Fame G.M. Ron Wolf recently blamed it on 1996, when both the Panthers and Jaguars made it to the conference-championship round in only their second seasons of existence. For Gus Bradley, season three with the Jaguars has entailed four wins in 12 games. But owner Shad Khan has remained uncharacteristically patient. That likely will get Bradley another year to make the Jaguars into a contender again.

San Diego: With a move to L.A. looming, the Chargers will need a spark for the entire franchise. Mike McCoy hasn’t provided much of a spark this year, and the team has gradually fallen apart. Once word emerged that the G.M. hired in the same cycle as McCoy received a new contract and McCoy didn’t, the chances of a change became much greater.

Giants: If Tom Coughlin and company fail to get to the playoffs again, the franchise’s streak of 16 games only will run to four years. Those two Lombardi Trophies from 2007 and 2011 still gleam, but how many years of futility will they justify? The Giants seem to be hoping Coughlin chooses to jump before being forced to push him, but at least a nudge could be coming if the NFC East title doesn’t return to New Jersey.

Philadelphia: It appears that owner Jeffrey Lurie won’t be firing Chip Kelly and that Kelly won’t be bolting for a college job. The one lingering unknown arises from what could happen if the Titans call the Eagles and inquire about the compensation necessary to get Kelly and quarterback Marcus Mariota together again.

Detroit: The apparent plan to hire a G.M. and then to let the G.M. make a decision about Jim Caldwell could buy Caldwell valuable time. By the time a G.M. is on the job, it could be too late to find a viable replacement for the head coach, giving Caldwell a chance to prove to the new boss that Caldwell is the right guy for the job.

Atlanta: As 5-0 has melted into 6-6, a failure to turn it around could prompt owner Arthur Blank to make dramatic changes to the organization. Last year, there was concern that Blank would press the reset button. This year, he finally could, even if it means parting ways with Dan Quinn after only one year (who then would immediately become a candidate to become the new coach in Miami, where his former agent, Mike Tannenbaum, runs the show).

New Orleans: No one quite knows what will happen when the dust settles for the Saints. Does Sean Payton want to move on? Does the organization want him to? Will the Saints play it cool in the hopes of getting a draft pick or two in trade for a guy whom they may be moving on from anyway? At this point, no one really knows. For Payton, however, this could be the best year to land with another team that has a good-to-great quarterback, because several teams that fit the description will be looking.

St. Louis: From 4-3 to 4-8, the speculation has gone from swirling to defeaning that the Rams will be hiring a new coach if they move to L.A. But Fisher likely was hired in part because of his expertise in leading a franchise to a new city, as he did when the Oilers moved to Tennessee and became the Titans. For Fisher, a move to L.A. will be a homecoming, which could enhance the connection as the Rams reunite with Los Angeles. Like everything else with Rams coach Stan Kroenke, no one knows what the man known as Silent Stan will do.

San Francisco: Even if the front office and ownership were inclined to admit that they shouldn’t have fired Jim Harbaugh and promoted Jim Tomsula, the franchise has won enough games this year to justify not making that admission and giving Tomsula one more year. Come 2016, that could change.

Wild card: On one hand, I’m covering my ass in the event that one of the vacancies comes from a city not listed above. On the other hand, nearly every year a change that no one saw coming occurs. I won’t speculate on where that could happen this year. After all, we need to not see it coming.

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Week 14 injury report roundup

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Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday. So, without further delay, the injury report roundup for Week 14 of the 2015 season.

Seahawks at Ravens

Running back Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) remains out for the Seahawks, who don’t expect to have defensive tackle Jordan Hill (toe) after listing him as doubtful. Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe (concussion) won’t play while wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) are doubtful. Quarterback Matt Schaub (chest) is questionable after missing practice all week.

Falcons at Panthers

Defensive tackle Paul Soliai (calf) has been ruled out and kicker Matt Bryant (quad) was placed on injured reserve, but everyone else on the Falcons roster is expected to play. Panthers cornerback Charles Tillman (knee) and wide receiver Brenton Bersin (groin) are doubtful, but Carolina is otherwise healthy.

Redskins at Bears

Safety Jeron Johnson (hamstring), linebacker Perry Riley (foot) and running back Chris Thompson (shoulder) are out for the Redskins. Tight end Derek Carrier (ankle), defensive end Jason Hatcher (neck, ankle), wide receiver Andre Roberts (knee) and linebacker Keenan Robinson (shoulder) are all listed as questionable. The Bears ruled out wide receiver Marquess Wilson (foot) and linebacker Pernell McPhee (knee) is doubtful. Linebacker Sam Acho (shoulder), cornerback Bryce Callahan (quadricep), tight end Zach Miller (ribs), cornerback Tracy Porter (ankle), safety Antrel Rolle (knee) and wide receiver Eddie Royal (knee) all drew questionable tags.

Steelers at Bengals

The Steelers have no players listed as anything other than probable. Bengals cornerback Adam Jones (foot) is doubtful and was still in a walking boot on Friday. Cornerback Leon Hall (back) and safety George Iloka (groin) are questionable, but tight end Tyler Eifert (neck, probable) is expected to return to the lineup.

49ers at Browns

49ers running back Carlos Hyde (foot), tight end Vance McDonald (concussion) and linebacker Michael Wilhoite (ankle) won’t play in Cleveland. Cornerback Tramaine Brock (foot), linebacker Aaron Lynch (concussion) and wide receiver Torrey Smith (back, toe) may play after being listed as questionable. It’s another week without cornerback Justin Gilbert (concussion), cornerback Joe Haden (concussion) and wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (concussion) for the Browns. They’ll decide on tight end Gary Barnidge (ankle), wide receiver Travis Benjamin (shoulder), wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion), wide receiver Brian Hartline (hip) and wide receiver Marlon Moore (ribs) closer to game time.

Colts at Jaguars

The Colts ruled out left tackle Anthony Castonzo (knee), linebacker Jerrell Freeman (hamstring, ribs) and quarterback Andrew Luck (abdomen, kidney). Linebacker Daniel Adongo (not injury related) will also miss the game. Linebacker Erik Walden (foot) is doubtful while safety Colt Anderson (ankle), center Khaled Holmes (fibula), linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (quadricep) and cornerback Greg Toler (knee) all were listed as questionable. Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (ankle) is probable to return to the lineup after an extended absence. Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny (hand) is out after having surgery this week, but wide receiver Allen Hurns (thigh, concussion) is expected back.

Chargers at Chiefs

The injury bug continues to bite the Chargers with cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee), wide receiver Dontrelle Inman (neck), wide receiver Steve Johnson (groin) and defensive tackle Corey Liuget (foot) all out this week. Guard D.J. Fluker (concussion) is questionable. The Chiefs ruled out safety Husain Abdullah (concussion), defensive end Mike DeVito (concussion, shoulder), linebacker Justin Houston (knee) and wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas (concussion). Guard Jeff Allen (ankle) is questionable.

Titans at Jets

Linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (knee), defensive tackle Mike Martin (knee), linebacker Derrick Morgan (shoulder) and wide receiver Kendall Wright (ribs) won’t be in the lineup for the Titans. Wide receiver Tre McBride (abdomen) is questionable. Cornerback Darrelle Revis (concussion, probable) is expected back for the Jets and they will make a game-time decision on cornerback Marcus Williams (knee, questionable).

Bills at Eagles

Bills running back Karlos Williams (shoulder), cornerback Stephon Gilmore (shoulder), cornerback Ron Brooks (concussion/neck) and linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle) have been ruled out. Right guard John Miller (knee) is questionable, but coach Rex Ryan said he’ll play. The Eagles don’t have anyone listed as out, doubtful or questionable and everyone practiced on Friday. Let’s hear it for sports science!

Lions at Rams

The Lions went the questionable route with defensive end Ziggy Ansah (hamstring, elbow), wide receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle), linebacker Travis Lewis (ankle), wide receiver Lance Moore (ankle), tackle Michael Ola (knee), safety Glover Quin (ankle), defensive tackle Caraun Reid (ankle) and center Travis Swanson (ankle). That makes up their entire injury report. The Rams ruled out tackle Andrew Donnal (knee) and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (concussion) is expected to be out as well after drawing a doubtful tag. Safety T.J. McDonald (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve Friday and defensive end Robert Quinn (back) will be joining him at some point.

Saints at Buccaneers

Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (concussion) was cleared and is probable to play. Guard Jahri Evans (ankle) and defensive tackle John Jenkins (concussion) have been ruled out, though. The Bucs are banged up on defense. Defensive end Jacquies Smith (hamstring) is out, defensive end George Johnson (calf) is doubtful and linebacker Lavonte David (ankle) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand) are questionable.

Raiders at Broncos

The Raiders ruled out safety Nate Allen (knee) and linebacker Neiron Ball (knee), but linebacker Khalil Mack (knee), center Rodney Hudson (ankle) and wide receiver Amari Cooper (foot) are all probable to play. Linebacker Danny Trevathan (concussion) and safety T.J. Ward (ankle) will join quarterback Peyton Manning (foot) on the inactive list this week. Running back C.J. Anderson (ankle), safety Omar Bolden (hamstring), safety David Bruton (knee), wide receiver Andre Caldwell (quadricep), tight end Vernon Davis (concussion), wide receiver Bennie Fowler (ankle) and running back Ronnie Hillman (foot) are all questionable, although Hillman is expected to play and start on Sunday. Twelve Broncos are probable, including linebacker DeMarcus Ware (back).

Cowboys at Packers

The only player ruled out for the Cowboys is quarterback Tony Romo (left shoulder), but this season has shown that to be plenty. Everyone else is good to go for Dallas. The Packers don’t expect to have center Corey Linsley (ankle, doubtful) and listed right tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle), wide receiver Ty Montgomery (ankle) and linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder) as questionable to play.

Patriots at Texans

Wide receiver Julian Edelman (foot) practiced with the Patriots Friday, but his game return won’t come this weekend. Tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) also practiced this week and drew a questionable tag. Wide receiver Danny Amendola (knee), tight end Scott Chandler (knee), safety Patrick Chung (foot), cornerback Justin Coleman (hand), linebacker Dont’a Hightower (knee), guard Josh Kline (shoulder) and wide receiver Matt Slater (stinger) are also questionable. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt broke his hand this week in practice, but is probable along with 15 other Texans players.

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Iger says biggest obstacle to Chargers/Raiders stadium is NFL approval

Bob Iger AP

Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Bob Iger recently agreed to join the effort to build an L.A.-area football stadium that would be shared by the Chargers and Raiders if the NFL approves the project.

At this point, Iger sees formal NFL approval as the biggest remaining obstacle to getting the stadium built.

“The path to building the stadium and playing the first game there is very smooth,” Iger told PFT during a 10-minute phone conversation on Thursday evening from his office at Disney headquarters in Burbank.

Although Iger has yet to officially join the project (because the project has yet to be approved), Iger is taking an active role in lining up the votes. Iger said he has had conversations with specific owners to provide his perspective on the ability of the Chargers and Raiders to thrive in Los Angeles, based on the fact that Iger has lived most of his adult life in L.A. and that he runs a large business there.

So how certain is Iger that at least 24 owners will approve the Carson project?

“I don’t want to give you odds or throw numbers around in terms of possibilities,” Iger said. “I believe there’s real momentum in the NFL to get something done on a more timely basis.”

Iger said the stadium would be ready to go in 2019, and he declined to provide details on where the teams would play from 2016 through 2018. He said that both teams would carry the name “Los Angeles”; some (i.e., me) had speculated that the Chargers might adopt the label “Southern California” in an effort to capture San Diego within the regional reach of the team. Iger said he has considered alternatives to L.A., but that it would be both the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Raiders playing in Carson.

As to the question of whether both teams would remain in the AFC West, Iger said that would be up to the NFL. When word of the proposed Chargers/Raiders project first emerged earlier this year, the thinking was that one team would move to the NFC West. The challenge becomes finding a team to move from the NFC West to the AFC West.

Iger said the Chargers and Raiders realize that the league could decide to move one of the teams to the NFC. Both are willing to go along with whatever the league decides; they do not currently have an agreement between them regarding which franchise would change conferences.

Regardless of the division to which they are assigned, the Chargers and Raiders would be vying for eyeballs and dollars in the same market. Iger compared the looming competition in L.A. to the Giants and Jets in New York.

“I never had a sense they were competing in a negative way,” Iger said regarding the two New York teams, calling it a “healthy competition” that builds fan interest. Iger also pointed to the “huge unsatisfied demand” for NFL football in L.A., and that the return of the league after two decades would have a “very theatrical” impact, even if two teams play there.

Soon, the owners will likely decide on an L.A. solution. What if the Chargers and Raiders secure permission to leave their current markets but fail to get the 24 votes needed to relocate to L.A.?

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Iger said.

That bridge could be coming as soon as January 13.

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PFT’s Week 14 picks

Mike Tomlin, Marvin Lewis AP

The tie has been broken. Unfortunately.

Last week, MDS got lucky with the Packers over the Lions and I didn’t get as lucky as I should have with the Saints over the Panthers and I foolishly trusted the Raiders over the Chiefs. He’s now up three with four weeks to go.

The good news is we disagree on three more games this week, which gives me a chance to tie things up. The bad news is that there’s a chance I’ll be down six soon.

For the year, MDS is at 122-70 (63.5 percent), and I’m at 119-73 (61.9 percent).

For this week’s picks, keep reading.

Vikings at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Vikings are probably going to make the playoffs, but I think they’re trending in the wrong direction. The Cardinals, however, may just be the best team in the NFC, the Panthers’ undefeated record notwithstanding. Arizona should win this one comfortably.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 31, Vikings 17.

Florio’s take: The Seahawks exposed the Vikings on Sunday. The Cardinals will expose them even more. And it doesn’t help that four starters are missing on defense.

Florio’s pick: Cardinals 41, Vikings 13.

Falcons at Panthers

MDS’s take: A couple months ago, the two late-season Falcons-Panthers games looked like they’d be two of the marquee games of the year. Instead, the Falcons have gone into free-fall, and this looks like a blowout.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 35, Falcons 20.

Florio’s take: This game would have been a lot more compelling if played when both teams were 5-0. Now? Not.

Florio’s pick: Panthers 24, Falcons 14.

Washington at Bears

MDS’s take: Washington has played some ugly football on the road this year (and at home on Monday night) and I see that continuing in Chicago on Sunday. Someone has to win the NFC East, but Washington looks like it’s poised to botch a golden opportunity.

MDS’s pick: Bears 27, Washington 24.

Florio’s take: Washington is 0-5 on the road. Make that 0-6.

Florio’s pick: Bears 24, Washington 17.

Steelers at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Steelers look to me like they’re poised to become the best team that misses the playoffs. A Cincinnati win will make it that much harder for Pittsburgh to reach the postseason.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Steelers 17.

Florio’s take: It’s a key game for both teams, but for reasons unrelated to the AFC North crown. The Steelers’ offense is more diverse than it was when they last met, and the Cincinnati defense is a bit banged up. Since they may not cross paths in the postseason, let’s give the edge to the team that needs the win in order to even qualify for the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 24, Bengals 21.

49ers at Browns

MDS’s take: Johnny Manziel vs. Blaine Gabbert. Can you feel the excitement? I think Johnny Football will make a couple big plays with his legs and a couple big plays with his arm, and that should be enough.

MDS’s pick: Browns 21, 49ers 20.

Florio’s take: Eric Mangini returns to Cleveland, with a team that just stole a win in Chicago against a much better Bears team. Johnny Manziel or not, the Browns simply aren’t good enough, and the dysfunction the organization once again is displaying will make it hard to win another game this year. The good news is that they’ll finally be able to screw up another No. 1 overall draft pick.

Florio’s pick: 49ers 20, Browns 13.

Colts at Jaguars

MDS’s take: A 40-year-old backup quarterback isn’t going to keep playing at a high level forever, and the Colts found that out the hard way last week in Pittsburgh. I think it’ll happen again on Sunday in Jacksonville.

MDS’s pick: Jaguars 24, Colts 14.

Florio’s take: The Jaguars have slid out of contention in the AFC South, but they’re not dead yet. And they could be good enough to finish what they started earlier this year, when the Jaguars nearly beat the Colts in Indianapolis.

Florio’s pick: Jaguars 27, Colts 21.

Chargers at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Chiefs are playing some of the best football in the league right now, and the Chargers are playing some of the worst. This should be easy.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 42, Chargers 17.

Florio’s take: The Chiefs, winners of six in a row, won’t be losing to a Chargers team that has fallen apart as the season has gone on.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 30, Chargers 20.

Titans at Jets

MDS’s take: Marcus Mariota’s development has been impressive this season, but the Jets’ defense is going to give him a lot of trouble. The Jets should win this one comfortably.

MDS’s pick: Jets 34, Titans 21.

Florio’s take: It’s a trap game for the Jets, like the one they nearly blew to the Jaguars earlier this year. It would be fitting if the Jets find a way to blow it, but with a playoff berth within their grasp, they should be able to beat a team that is inferior at every position — except perhaps the most important position on the field.

Florio’s pick: Jets 27, Titans 20.

Bills at Eagles

MDS’s take: Are the Eagles the team that got blown out in back-to-back weeks by the Buccaneers and Lions, or the team that won at New England? I’m going to bet that last week’s win was an anomaly, and the Eagles will be back to their losing ways on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Bills 20, Eagles 17.

Florio’s take: LeSean McCoy returns to Philadelphia, and coach Rex Ryan loves to indulge players with a chip on their shoulders. McCoy undoubtedly will be a captain for the game, and he surely will be a major part of the game plan. If the Eagles can shut him down, the Eagles can win the game.

Florio’s pick: Eagles 27, Bills 23.

Lions at Rams

MDS’s take: Neither of these teams is going anywhere, but the Lions have been showing more fight than the Rams, so I’ll go with Detroit in a game you won’t want to watch.

MDS’s pick: Lions 14, Rams 13.

Florio’s take: The Rams are closing in on a potential departure from St. Louis. The Lions are trying to recover from one of their most deflating regular-season losses in years. Most importantly, Detroit currently is the better team.

Florio’s pick: Lions 24, Rams 20.

Saints at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: It’s mid-December, and the Bucs are right in the thick of the NFC playoff race. That’s a credit to Lovie Smith’s ability to get his defense going, and Jameis Winston’s development. I expect Winston to have a big game against a bad Saints defense.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 31, Saints 20.

Florio’s take: The Bucs beat the Saints in New Orleans, and it won’t be easy for the Saints to recover from nearly knocking off the Panthers. Especially with the Bucs looking at a potential playoff berth.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 30, Saints 24.

Raiders at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Raiders have the better young quarterback in the Derek Carr vs. Brock Osweiler matchup, but the Broncos have the better defense, and that’s why they’ll win this game.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 20, Raiders 10.

Florio’s take: This will be the only apples-to-apples comparison between Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. Manning beat the Raiders, but played poorly. Osweiler could move another step toward keeping the job by beating the Raiders, and playing well.

Florio’s pick: Broncos 31, Raiders 21.

Cowboys at Packers

MDS’s take: Give the Cowboys credit for finding a way to win ugly in Washington, but they won’t be able to do it in Green Bay.

MDS’s pick: Packers 28, Cowboys 13.

Florio’s take: The Packers dodged a cannonball last Thursday night, and they should be able to close out the season with another division title, especially against a Cowboys team that lucked into a Monday night win in Washington.

Florio’s pick: Packers 28, Cowboys 17.

Seahawks at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Seahawks’ offense is playing some excellent football with Russell Wilson’s passing and Thomas Rawls‘ rushing. They shouldn’t have much trouble beating Baltimore.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 35, Ravens 14.

Florio’s take: Question . . . Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen? Answer . . . Does it matter?

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 27, Ravens 9.

Patriots at Texans

MDS’s take: The injuries to Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman have made Tom Brady look human, but on Sunday Bill Belichick should have a good game plan to stop Brian Hoyer, and the Patriots should win a close one.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 23, Texans 17.

Florio’s take: Whether Bill Belichick was outcoached or simply outcoached himself against the Eagles, Belichick won’t let it happen again — especially against a former Belichick assistant and in prime time.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Texans 20.

Giants at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Giants have found a way to lose games they should have won so many times this year that I can’t be confident picking them. But I will pick them, in a close game that they somehow don’t throw away late.

MDS’s pick: Giants 17, Dolphins 16.

Florio’s take: Eventually, Tom Coughlin may be retiring in Florida. His retirement (or otherwise) could be hastened in Florida. Assuming they can hold a fourth-quarter lead (which could be a stretch), the Giants should be able to outscore the Dolphins.

Florio’s pick: Giants 23, Dolphins 16.

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Grubman: It’s unfair to raise Kroenke’s net worth in assessing public contributions

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The extended, 40-plus-minute radio interview of NFL executive V.P. Eric Grubman by Bernie Miklasz of 101 ESPN in St. Louis started with a claim from Grubman that none of the three cities faced with losing their teams have submitted “compelling proposals.” The discussion later had a compelling exchange between Grubman and Miklasz regarding the question of whether a reduction in the public contribution for a new stadium from $400 million to $300 million should prevent a deal being done with St. Louis.

Citing the $7.2 billion net worth of Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Miklasz said this: “I would think that if I were a gentleman who cared about this city and who benefited when the Rams moved here to take advantage at the time [of] an incredibly prosperous lease at the Edward Jones Dome and now sees the city less than 25 years later trying desperately to raise $400 million [in] public money to get everything done and understand that an effort has really been made on my behalf, even if it wasn’t the ideal situation, I would like to think that I’d be the kind of person to say, ‘You know what? The city has tried. This is the second new facility. There’s been an amazing commitment of public money, if you talk about the two facilities. My product has been lousy, really lousy. I have not engaged the fan base, I have not exactly cultivated goodwill. These people in my home state are really, really making an effort. And, yes, there may be flaws. It may not be everything that I want. But I have a conscience, and so I’ll work with them.’ I think if I were worth $7 billion, that would be my attitude.”

“I’m going to challenge that,” Grubman shot back. “I don’t believe you. And you don’t believe yourself. . . . Because what you’ve just said is, ‘If I’m worth $7.2 billion, the difference between $400 [million] and $300 million as a public contribution isn’t going to change it, and I’m going to work with them at [$]300 [million] even if it’s not [$]400 [million]. I call B.S. on that. . . . Because if your logic follows, then somebody worth [$]7.2 [billion], if it goes from [$]400 [million] to zero should feel the same way. . . . It’s the same thing.”

Miklasz disagreed strongly, and Grubman then said, “OK, so it goes to [$]200 [million].”

“You’re sort of playing a board game here,” Miklasz said.

“I’m hoisting you on your own petard,” Grubman replied. “You’ve always made the business argument, and now what you’re trying to do is make a business argument with emotion.”

“Are you telling me that in the National Football League that there is no room for sentiment, loyalty, it’s all nothing but business?” Miklasz later said. “Is that way you guys stand for? Nothing but business?”

Grubman then mentioned that owners should not do something that is “suboptimal” for them, simply because they have a high net worth like Kroenke.

“That’s not life,” Grubman said. “Life is he’s got options. Everyone has options. And they have to weigh those options against one another, and it’s not fair for you to bring up that person’s net worth to say that makes the difference between $400 million and $300 million.”

For starters, Kroenke’s current net worth is $7.7 billion. (So, basically, we’ve just found the $400 million, plus another $100 million.) And his wife’s current net worth $4.2 billion, which makes the couple worth $11.9 billion.

So it really is business and not emotion to consider whether a multibillionaire can use the threat of moving to obtain a significant public subsidy to stay. Sentiment and loyalty are great when they help the NFL sell merchandise or pander to specific demographic groups or put together a memorable cold open for a Thanksgiving Day broadcast.

But sentiment and loyalty definitely aren’t part of the stadium-financing game.

When it comes to the stadium-financing game, it’s all business. If Kroenke is going to pay for his own stadium, he’s going to do it in a bigger market like L.A. To get him to forego that option, a smaller market needs to cough up the cash in order to fulfill, for example, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s vision of St. Louis as an “NFL city.”

If a mid-level city wants to be an “NFL city,” there will be a price. For St. Louis to remain an “NFL city,” the current price isn’t $300 million. It’s $400 million.

And the reality is that sentiment, loyalty, and/or the 11-figure combined net worth of Stan Kroenke and/or Ann Walton Kroenke simply don’t matter.

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AFC playoff picture: The Patriots are third, for now

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 29: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is sacked by defensive end Vance Walker #96 of the Denver Broncos and hit by outside linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos in the third quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 29, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Getty Images

The bad news for the Patriots is that they fell all the way from first in the AFC to third in the AFC when they lost on Sunday and the Bengals and Broncos both won.

The good news for the Patriots is that they’re guaranteed of a first-round playoff bye if they win out. The Broncos and Bengals play each other in Week 16, so one of them will end up with at least three losses.

Cincinnati, Denver and New England are the class of the conference. Here’s how the whole playoff picture shapes up:

LEADERS

1. Bengals (10-2): Cincinnati’s 8-1 conference record is the best in the AFC.

2. Broncos (10-2): Denver owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with New England.

3. Patriots (10-2): New England closes the season at Houston, home against the Titans, at the Jets and at the Dolphins. Win those and they get a first-round bye.

4. Colts (6-6): Indianapolis is in good shape, with an easy schedule down the stretch and a game against Houston at home.

5. Chiefs (7-5): Kansas City’s 6-2 conference record will come in handy at tiebreaker time.

6. Jets (7-5): For now, the Jets own the conference record tiebreaker over the Steelers.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

7. Steelers (7-5): The Steelers’ 4-4 conference record could cost them if it comes down to tiebreakers.

8. Bills (6-6): Buffalo owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Houston in the wild card race.

9. Texans (6-6): Houston’s best chance is getting in as a division winner by passing the Colts.

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PFT’s Week 14 Power Rankings

Cam Newton AP

1. Panthers (12-0; last week No. 1): As long as Ted Ginn has more drops than Cam Newton has concussions, the Panthers should be fine.

2. Broncos (10-2; No. 2): “Hey my foot feels pretty good” will be the lyrics of the next Nationwide commercial jingle.

3. Bengals (10-2; No. 4): Just like 2005, they may beat the Steelers in December, and then possibly lose to them in January.

4. Cardinals (10-2; No. 5): With another set of back-to-back prime-time games coming up, America may be on the verge of having a new Team.

5. Patriots (10-2; No. 3): “My husband cannot f–king throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. Oh, wait. Maybe he can.”

6. Packers (8-4; No. 7): At least all those video games had the team’s youngsters believing that a Hail Mary could work.

7. Seahawks (7-5; No. 8): Nothing like a thrashing of the Vikings at Minnesota to make the Seahawks realize they can win on the road in January.

8. Chiefs (7-5; No. 9): Indianapolis playoff redemption is looming.

9. Steelers (7-5; No. 10): Ten years after they won the Super Bowl as the sixth seed, they could do it again.

10. Jets (7-5; No. 15): If the season ended today, they’d make the playoffs. When the season actually ends, they won’t.

11. Vikings (8-4; No. 6): Maybe Cordarrelle Patterson will convert one of his 10 kickoff returns on Thursday night into a touchdown, too.

12. Bills (6-6; No. 14): On Sunday, LeSean McCoy will be hoping for a sweep in the direction of the Philly sideline. Right toward where the coach stands.

13. Colts (6-6; No. 11): Andrew Luck’s kidney is getting more and more unlacerated by the minute.

14. Texans (6-6; No. 12): Ready for prime or not, here the Texans come.

15. Buccaneers (6-6; No. 20): Jameis Winston may not become Peyton Manning, but he’s definitely not Ryan Leaf.

16. Raiders (5-7; No. 13): On one hand, the team is showing improvement. On the other hand, it has blown plenty of opportunities to become a contender.

17. Bears (5-7; No. 16): They squandered in one afternoon all goodwill that they picked up by beating the Packers on Brett Favre night.

18. Eagles (5-7; No. 26): If Chip Kelly isn’t going to yell at the players, someone needed to. Even if that someone was the owner.

19. Washington (5-7; No. 17): If Washington can’t beat Matt Cassel and company at home in the regular season, good luck beating the No. 5 seed at home in the postseason.

20. Giants (5-7; No. 18): Winning two Super Bowls is sort of like diplomatic immunity — and Danny Glover may soon be revoking it.

21. Falcons (6-6; No. 19): When Mt. Arthur explodes, there’s a chance everybody gets fired.

22. Dolphins (5-7; No. 24): Sunday’s win without Bill Lazor only makes the decision to keep him around post-Philbin all the more confusing.

23. Lions (4-8; No. 21): Could one play determine the fate of a coaching staff? Depending on the magnitude of the play and the blunder that resulted in it, yes.

24. 49ers (4-8; No. 29): It may have been a “very fun win,” but it probably wasn’t a very fun time reviewing the Twitter responses.

25. Cowboys (4-8; No. 30): Could this team actually qualify for a chance to be dismantled by Seattle in the wild-card round?

26. Ravens (4-8; No. 22): Buck Allen is one of the only bright spots this season.

27. Rams (4-8; No. 23): Far more confusing that the team’s current predicament is how it won four of its first seven games.

28. Jaguars (4-8; No. 25): Hey, at least they were relevant into December.

29. Saints (4-8; No. 27): There was a reason the Seahawks and then the Patriots let Brandon Browner leave. The Saints are now realizing that, every week.

30. Titans (3-9; No. 31): At least Marcus Mariota has finally matched Peyton Manning for rookie wins.

31. Chargers (3-9; No. 28): Tom Telesco should be very happy he got his extension before this season started.

32. Browns (2-10; No. 32): Is the punishment for Johnny Manziel not playing him, or is it playing him?

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NFC playoff picture: The East is a mess

Chris Baker, Darren McFadden, DeAngelo Hall AP

The NFC East is a mess.

If that wasn’t clear before, Monday night’s Dallas-Washington game sealed it: There are now three 5-7 teams and one 4-8 team in the worst division in football.

Someone has to win the NFC East, and that someone will get to host a playoff game. Here’s how the rest of the NFC playoff picture looks through Week 13:

LEADERS
1. Carolina (12-0): The Panthers would like to win all four remaining games and reach 16-0, but they only need to win three out of four to clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

2. Arizona (10-2): The Cardinals look likely to earn a first-round bye and the No. 2 seed.

3. Green Bay (8-4): The NFC North will likely come down to the Week 17 game between the Packers and Vikings.

4. Washington (5-7): Currently atop the NFC East thanks to the head-to-head advantage over both the Giants and the Eagles.

5. Minnesota (8-4): The Vikings have a head-to-head loss with the Packers, but Minnesota has a better division record than Green Bay and would win a tiebreaker if the Vikings beat the Packers in Week 17.

6. Seattle (7-5): The Seahawks are looking like a wild card team that no division winner would want to host.

OTHER WILD CARD CONTENDERS

7. Tampa Bay (6-6): The Bucs need to keep winning and hope the Seahawks stumble.

8. Atlanta (6-6): The Falcons have quickly gone from 5-0 to the outside looking in.

OTHER NFC EAST CONTENDERS

9. Philadelphia (5-7): With games remaining against Washington and the Giants, if the Eagles win out, they win the division.

10. New York Giants (5-7): The Giants are in a tough spot, with both Washington and Philadelphia owning the tiebreaker edge.

16. Dallas (4-8): Believe it or not, the Cowboys are both the last team in the NFC standings and not totally out of the playoff race. They’re only a game out of first in the NFC East.

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