Players who drafted memo think NFL can help create positive change

AP

The players who sent the memo to NFL comissioner Roger Goodell earlier this year said they haven’t gotten a response from the league per se, but that conversations have been productive.

Four players sent a memo to the league asking for the NFL’s support for an activism awareness month, in which players could continue their protests in support of racial equality and criminal justice reform.

“We haven’t gotten a reaction just yet,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said, via ESPN.com. “Hopefully we’ll have another meeting in the near future. Hopefully something comes out of it.

“But it’s just the thought of a lot of players coming together and having some ideas about how we can move forward and be able to impact the communities around the United States in cities that NFL teams are in, is just what it’s about.”

Bennett, along with Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and wide receiver Torrey Smith and retired wide receiver Anquan Boldin, drafted the 10-page memo in August. The league’s not commenting on the specifics, saying the conversations are private.

But the league has previously devoted months or periods of time to breast cancer awareness and military recognition (and selling you stuff to prove how much they care), so the idea of a coordinated effort is not new. But players hope to steer the league’s incredible visibility and marketing savvy toward a new set of issues.

Jenkins called it an “opportunity for us, being a sport that brings people together naturally to also use that ability to actually effectuate some real change.”

“One of the main things for us is changing the narrative and controlling the narrative,” Jenkins said. “I think one of the reasons you’ve seen players protesting is because there is no bigger platform than the NFL. And to be able to use that exposure and educate people to what’s going on around the communities is huge. That can be even more amplified if the NFL actually steps in and helps aid that education to the public about what’s going on in these cities that NFL stadiums are in.”

While the general relationship between Goodell and players hasn’t always been friendly, Bennett said he’s “never had an issue with him,” and “We’ve always had good conversations since I’ve known him.”

Smith said the NFL could benefit from partnering with the player movement, since some believe the backlash from protests such as former (for some reason) quarterback Colin Kaepernick has contributed to declining ratings, though the reasons for several of the protests might not be clearly understood.

“And guys are fighting for what’s right,” Smith said. “I think if it was something that put people in a bind, I would understand. I think it’s also important because the league catches a lot of heat for protests and things like that, so it’s important for people to know there’s work being done beyond the protest, just as it’s important for people to know that it’s not an anti-police or anti-military thing. It’s just about finding solutions to issues we’re having.”

Once the memo leaked, the NFL was painted into a bit of a corner. Not participating in some meaningful way now would foster the impression they’re not concerned about the issues that matter to the majority of their workforce, while they use their promotional ability for other causes that seem less controversial.

49ers mum about pass interference call, for now

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Last night’s game turned on a questionable offensive pass interference call. When questioned about it after the game, various 49ers opted not to say anything controversial about the potential controversy.

Said receiver Trent Taylor, who drew the flag, via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports California: “I ran the route the way it was called, the way I always run it. Felt good about it. And it was a great play call. But the ref’s decision on that is nothing I can comment on.”

Taylor didn’t say much. The guy who threw the pass didn’t say much more.

“I don’t want to get fined,” quarterback Brian Hoyer told reporters after the 41-39 loss.

But what did you see on the play, Brian?

“I don’t see it because I’m throwing into a spot,” he said. “In that time of the game I would think you would let people play. But I haven’t seen it. I have to go and watch the film. You know what, you don’t want to leave it up to the refs’ hands anyways. You hope you make a few plays earlier in the game to change the outcome. If it comes down to that, then that’s what it is. That’s what the guy’s job is to do.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan said even less about the play.

“I didn’t see it,” Shanahan told reporters. “They didn’t show it up on the screen, so I never saw it.”

The rest of us only saw one angle, which was inconclusive at best. At worst, there was no interference at all, and one of the most exciting Thursday night games the league has ever presented possibly was determined by an what Marv Levy would call an over-officious jerk.

Questionable interference call clouds stellar Thursday night game

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It was one of the most competitive, intense, and unexpectedly entertaining Thursday night games since the NFL decided to turn short-week football into a franchise. And it ended with a questionable call that will make the 49ers and their fans justifiably salty for months to come.

After a late fumble resulted in a late touchdown followed by a late failure to convert the two-point conversion chased by a beautifully-executed onside kick, the 49ers seemed to convert a key third down to keep alive a chance at redemption for kicker Robbie Gould, whose shanked extra point try forced the 49ers to go for two in an effort to tie the game.

But it wasn’t to be. Receiver Trent Taylor was called for offensive pass interference by referee Jeff Triplette’s crew. Based on the only angle shown during the broadcast, the penalty l looked questionable at best — and definitely not like the kind of call that gets made late in a game, when flags supposedly slide deeper into the officials’ pockets.

It’s unclear whether Taylor pushed Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman with Taylor’s right arm. The TV angle doesn’t show the kind of extension that ordinarily constitutes pass interference at the top of a route. Indeed, far more blatant instances of pushing off go uncalled all the time.

Even if there was a push, Robey-Coleman wasn’t impeded. He was playing Taylor to the inside and simply didn’t react to the cut.

It will be interesting to hear whether coach Kyle Shanahan has anything to say about a call that swiped the 49ers of a potential win — and that also robbed the viewing audience of what could have been one of the most memorable finishes of the year.

While the ending doesn’t change the fact that the game was highly entertaining from start to finish, hinging the outcome on a ticky-tack call doesn’t do justice to the heart and soul both teams poured into this one. Both teams should be congratulated for mustering the will to play as hard as they did only four days after their most recent games, and both teams will need every hour of the extra days they’ll get until they play again.

Rams hold off late 49ers rally to earn 41-39 victory

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The Los Angeles Rams had to come up with one final defensive stop to thwart a furious rally from the San Francisco 49ers in Thursday night’s 41-39 victory in Santa Clara.

Aaron Donald‘s sack of Brian Hoyer on fourth-and-20 enabled the Rams to hold on after a questionable offensive pass interference call against Trent Taylor negated a first down conversion for the 49ers. Instead of a first down in Rams’ territory, the 49ers were backed up to a third- and then fourth-and-20 scenario.

The 49ers had closed a 15-point fourth quarter deficit to just two after a 1-yard Carlos Hyde touchdown run pulled San Francisco within reach with 2:17 left to play. A two-point conversion try – necessitated due to an early missed extra point by Robbie Gould – was deflected and intercepted on a pass from Hoyer to Taylor.

However, the 49ers recovered the ensuing onside kick as Raheem Mostert hauled in a perfectly executed kick by Gould to give San Francisco another chance. The pass to Taylor would have moved the 49ers to the Los Angeles 39-yard line and into fringe field goal range at the two-minute warning. An incomplete pass to Pierre Garcon and the sack from Donald ended any realistic chance the 49ers had to pull out a win. Todd Gurley‘s 20-yard run made it official.

After Gurley and Hoyer traded rushing touchdowns early, the Rams built a 17-7 advantage. Jared Goff connected with Gurley on a 7-yard score and Greg Zuerlein added a 48-yard field goal to give L.A. the early cushion.

Gurley would score again on a 2-yard run, and Goff would twice connect with Sammy Watkins for touchdowns as the Rams lead grew to 41-26 with 8:47 remaining. Gurley finished with 113 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries for the Rams. Goff completed 22 of 28 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns.

Hoyer would hit Taylor for a 3-yard touchdown with 5:12 remaining and Hyde’s 1-yard run would close the gap before the Rams did just enough to hold on for the win.

Hyde rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns for San Francisco. Hoyer had 332 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception. Garcon had 142 yards on seven receptions to lead all receivers in the game.

Von Miller calls block by Cowboys rookie Noah Brown “dirty” and “baffling”

AP

Broncos linebacker Von Miller wasn’t happy with a low block thrown by Cowboys rookie wide receiver Noah Brown. He called the block “dirty” on Wednesday, via Troy Renck of Denver7, and “just baffling” on Thursday.

Brown, making his NFL debut, didn’t wait long to leave a mark. On the Cowboys’ second play from scrimmage, an Ezekiel Elliott run, Brown motioned across the line and first hit Miller high before lowering into Miller’s knee.

Miller played 57 of 70 snaps Sunday, but he was limited in practice Wednesday with a knee injury before being a full participant Thursday.

“I feel pretty good,” Miller said, via quotes distributed by the team. “Like I said early, you’re going to have to fight through some injuries. Everybody is going to have to fight through them. My stance as a player is I’ve always tried to take care of my players on my football team and opponents as well, whether it’s the quarterbacks, receivers or running backs. When it’s the other way around, it’s just baffling. You can’t really spend too much time on it. Everybody’s situation in the National Football League is different. Everybody doesn’t have the same outlook that I and some of my comrades in the National Football League. Everybody doesn’t see it that way. Everybody doesn’t play the game like I play the game. You have to respect that.”

Tight end Jeff Heuerman (shoulder), safety Darian Stewart (groin) and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) also returned to full participation Thursday after being limited Wednesday.

NFL ratings struggles getting noticed by Wall Street

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TV ratings for NFL games continue to sputter in comparison to the prior year, even when compared to last year’s sputtered ratings. Wall Street is noticing.

“Continued declines in NFL ratings again this season will likely place further downward pressure on media stocks,” Guggenheim Securities analyst Michael Morris told the Hollywood Reporter (via SportsBusiness Daily). “[T]he NFL is an indicator of overall primetime programming ratings performance.”

NFL games, which currently are broadcast by NBC, CBS, FOX, and ESPN, generate $2.5 billion in advertising revenue, which means that a 10-percent ratings drop could cost more than $200 million.

As noted by Richard Deitsch of SI.com (and harvested by Sports Media Watch), nine of 13 broadcasting windows through Week Two have shown a drop when compared to 2016.

Attributing blame for the drop has been a slippery proposition. Last year, unprecedented interest in the presidential election was a major reason for the decline — and it’s entirely possible that ongoing interest in politics and world events (as evidenced by record ratings for cable news networks) has kept people from watching as much football as usual.

Whatever the reason, the league should take this seriously, doing everything possible to grow and hold an audience. As recently argued here, the league should be willing and able to slide Sunday games around for any and every given week in order to put the best possible games on the biggest possible platforms. This week, for example, games like Texans-Patriots would generate more interest in the 4:25 p.m. ET national window than Bengals-Packers or Chiefs-Chargers, the two CBS options for a slot that typically draws some of the biggest audiences of the week.

Garett Bolles returns to practice; Broncos haven’t ruled him out for this week

AP

Broncos left tackle Garett Bolles left the field on a cart in tears Sunday, believing his season was over. He returned to practice Thursday the happiest player on the field.

“It felt good today, and I was grateful,” Bolles said, via Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post. “When I came out here, it was definitely a blessing to be back out here with my brothers knowing this is the greatest sport that any man can play. Knowing that I’m back out here and feeling good, that’s all that matters right now.”

The first-round draft pick was limited, participating in early positional drills and some team drills. Instead of week to week per the initial prognosis, Bolles now is day to day. He hopes to play this week.

“Not surprised by it,” coach Vance Joseph said of Bolles’ return to the practice field. “Obviously, the initial injury we thought was more serious, but he’s treated [it], and he’s getting better fast. He’s not there yet, so we’re not sure if he’s going to play on Sunday, but he’s getting better fast.”

Bolles left the stadium wearing a boot on his left foot and using crutches for support. Further testing Monday determined a lower-leg bruise. His left ankle was heavily taped Thursday, per Jhabvala.

“I feel great,” Bolles said. “Right now, I’m just going to take it one day at a time. I’m not planning on pushing it. . . . Whether it’s this week or next week, I just know that I’m going to be ready.”

Veteran swing tackle Donald Stephenson initially replaced Bolles, but played only two snaps before veteran Allen Barbre filled the spot.

Lawyer says Aaron Hernandez had “severe” CTE

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The late Aaron Hernandez, who played three seasons with the Patriots, had a “severe” case of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy.

Lawyer Jose Baez said that Hernandez’s estate has filed a federal lawsuit against the NFL and the Patriots, arguing that the league was “fully aware of the damage that could be inflicted from repetitive impact injuries and failed to disclose, treat, or protect him from the dangers of such damage.” Baez did not rule out adding the NCAA or the University of Florida as defendants.

Baez may have no choice but to do so, since the case against the NFL and the Patriots may not last very long. Hernandez presumably is bound by the terms of the concussion settlement. Unless he opted out of the class action, his ability to file a lawsuit would have been blocked by the agreement that created a compensation system for former players. Hernandez has not played football since the settlement was reached.

He stopped playing, of course, because he was accused and convicted of murder. Baez successfully defended Hernandez against separate double murder charges, and Hernandez committed suicide not long after that.

The NFL did not immediately respond to the news by contending that Hernandez’s lawsuit is blocked by the settlement.

“We have not seen a copy of the suit and cannot comment at this time,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT by email.

Jarrad Davis still out with concussion, Lions not complaining about Odell Beckham’s block

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Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis remains out of practice with a concussion suffered Monday night against the Giants, raising the possibility that he’ll have to miss Sunday’s big game against the Falcons. But while the Lions would like to have their first-round pick on the field, they’re not complaining about the play that got him hurt.

That play came when Giants receiver Odell Beckham pushed Davis in the back, forcing Davis into a collision that resulted in the concussion. Beckham probably should have been called for an illegal block in the back, but Lions coach Jim Caldwell declined to criticize Beckham or the officials.

“There was no flag thrown,” Caldwell said. “I believe that the officials do an outstanding job, actually. When you go into a ballgame, players make the most mistakes, coaches make the second most, and then officials make the fewest, so they do the best they can.”

Although Beckham has previously been suspended for on-field misconduct, that particular block, while possibly illegal, didn’t look dirty. Davis just got unlucky that when he was pushed from behind, it caused a head-first collision and a concussion.

Ezekiel Elliott on lack of effort: I can’t do that; I can’t put that type of stuff on film

AP

Ezekiel Elliott heard LaDainian Tomlinson’s criticism, and the Cowboys star running back didn’t dispute he showed a “lack of effort” on Chris Harris‘ interception.

“I guess you could say it looked like that,” Elliott said Thursday in his first comments since Tomlinson’s criticism. “I would say I was just very frustrated, but that’s no excuse for the lack of effort I showed on tape. I just can’t do that. Being one of the leaders on the team and being a guy that people count on, I can’t put that type of stuff on film.”

Elliott said the Cowboys addressed the issue “in-house.”

After the Cowboys’ loss to the Broncos on Sunday, Tomlinson said on NFL Network that Elliott “absolutely quit on his team today.” The Hall of Fame running back, who lives in the Dallas area, pointed to Elliott’s lack of communication with his teammates on the sideline, as he sulked on the bench.

The second-year running back had a career-low nine carries for a career-low 8 yards, outgained by quarterback Dak Prescott.

Elliott, though, mostly has taken heat for failing to chase Harris after the interception. He instead pulled up, put his hands on his hips and walked off the field.

“Just bad effort,” Elliott said.

Elliott insists the play and the game were out of character.

“It’s definitely not me,” Elliott said. “It’s definitely not the type of player I am. It’s definitely not who I am for this team. I just can’t do that. I was frustrated, and I wasn’t myself.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones defended Elliott, sort of, earlier this week, and Prescott threw his support behind Elliott, too.

“First, I don’t really listen to outside criticism,” Prescott said. “For me, I know who he is. I know the type of football player he is, and the type of guy he is. I’ve never, and never will, question his competitiveness or his lack of effort or whatever you want to say. I’ll never question that. I know he’s going to be there for me, for his teammates, for this organization, so I don’t pay attention to what other people say.”

Cyrus Mehri won’t concede to De Smith, yet

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The campaign for NFLPA executive director ended before it even began. For the candidate who never officially became a candidate, the campaign hasn’t ended.

In a letter to the eleven members of the NFLPA’s Executive Committee, Mehri vows to continue his effort to supplant DeMaurice Smith, two days after the NFLPA selection committee decided unanimously to extend Smith’s contract. Mehri, an accomplished lawyer who among other things helped force the league to adopt the Rooney Rule, refuses to concede to a process union leadership has decided to shift away from an automatic election every three years.

NFLPA president Eric Winston explained the new procedures in detail during a recent visit to PFT Live; the union has decided to adopt a process similar to other sports unions and businesses, eliminating the automatic election process.

This isn’t a public office,” Winston said.

Mehri seems to think it is, and he has opted to place direct, public pressure on the men he would eventually serve, if he should ever get the job.

“I am very disappointed that you have decided not to conduct a thorough and comprehensive process for the election of the NFLPA Executive Director but have instead hurriedly rubber-stamped DeMaurice Smith’s selection and contract extension,” Mehri writes. “The NFLPA is not a corporation like Apple or a trade association like the NFL — it is a union which must have democratic principles at its core.”

Mehri also accuses the Executive Committee of a “failure to accord the membership this fundamental democratic opportunity to determine their destiny,” arguing that it both benefits the NFL and “weakens the NFLPA because its leader has become ever weaker without the legitimacy of an election.” Mehri said that his “efforts will not cease until there is a process for providing for a democratic election of the Executive Director.”

And if Mehri can’t secure the job through a campaign that isn’t going to happen, he apparently hopes to set the stage for the job to come open later, asking the Executive Committee to “insist that the contract’s termination provisions provide the utmost flexibility to the NFLPA,” making it “terminable at will” and without any guaranteed money.

“Prudence, as well as your fiduciary duties, compels such flexibility in order to protect the interests of the players and the treasury of the NFLPA,” Mehri writes.

Mehri’s advice, sound as it possibly may be when regarded in isolation, likely won’t register with the intended audience, if the intended audience is the Executive Committee. Pointed fingers and public confrontations are the way to persuade football players, and they’ll undoubtedly ignore Mehri’s aspirations now the same way they ignored him in deciding to give Smith a new term that will last at least three years, as dictated by the union’s Constitution.

But it’s possible that Mehri’s intended audience isn’t the list of names to whom the letter is addressed. Mehri may be hoping to recruit current players, former players, and members of the media to begin pressuring the Executive Committee either to change its Constitution to call for an election or to negotiate a contract that makes it easier for any new members of the Executive Committee to dump Smith and, presumably, hire Mehri.

The fact that Mehri’s effort gained no traction before the NFLPA decided to keep Smith (indeed, a grand total of no current players showed up for a meeting with players in Dallas) suggests that it won’t gain any more traction now that the NFLPA has decided to stay the course with Smith.

Tens of thousands of empty seats likely at Rams-49ers game

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The NFL has been struggling to sell tickets in California so far this season, and when two California teams meet tonight, empty seats will abound.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that tonight’s game could draw the worst crowd in the four-season history of Levi’s Stadium, based on data from ticket resale sites.

The cheapest face value ticket for a 49ers game is $85, but tickets are going for just $14 on StubHub for tonight’s game. Fans will take any price they can get to unload tickets to a game they don’t want to see.

It’s not just San Francisco where the NFL is struggling to sell tickets. Both Los Angeles teams, the Rams and Chargers, played in front of small crowds on Sunday. The Chargers couldn’t even fill up their tiny soccer stadium, while the Rams played in front of a half-full L.A. Coliseum the day after the USC-Texas game packed the house. Oakland is off to a hot start that has Raiders fans excited, but plenty of fans have been turned off by the team’s decision to move to Las Vegas.

The 49ers aren’t playing well enough to get the local fans excited, and Thursday night games are often a tough sell. Expect tens of thousands of empty seats in Santa Clara tonight.

Eric Winston: If NFL wants more practice time, NFL should make a proposal

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The NFL wants to extend the labor deal. When those negotiations begin, the parties will launch into a point-by-point consideration of the relevant issues.

And, yes, they ultimately could be talkin’ about practice.

Six years ago, as the union relented to the league’s financial demands because the players had no desire to miss games, the NFL Players Association asked for reductions in padded practices and overall practice time. The NFL, realizing that it would cost them nothing to make that concession, happily agreed.

Now, many are pointing to reduced padded practices as a key reason for impaired offensive line play. Patriots coach Bill Belichick recently compared it to trying to become a good putter in golf without access to a practice green.

Others, like Browns left tackle Joe Thomas and Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Muñoz, attribute the dip in offensive line play to the inability of college football to prepare offensive linemen for the NFL.

“[C]olleges aren’t running pro-style offenses any more so the vast majority of players that are getting drafted have no experience running pro-style techniques and so they’re not any more polished than they were as high school seniors than now they are as college seniors,” Thomas said on PFT Live. “So you’re getting a player that has no experience doing the things you’re teaching him and the offensive line position is about the most unnatural thing that you can do on a football field. I mean, everything we’re doing pretty much is moving backwards and it’s just not a natural movement and it’s something that takes a lot of repetition.”

If more practice time is needed, the simple reality is that NFL needs to bargain for it. Which means that the NFL needs to be prepared to give something to the players in order to get something from them.

“I guess guys need to come out, more people need to come out to training camp practices and let me know if the intensity isn’t there,” NFLPA president Eric Winston said on PFT Live. “I can tell you, I went through a training camp this year and obviously the hitting is reduced but the intensity I can tell you is there. So this idea that ‘X’ is causing ‘Y’ and you’re not always gonna have these shifts from offense to defense to offense and back I think is silly and not looking at the macro theory but, listen, I’m up to listening for, if an owner has a proposal how he thinks the next CBA should look or that he believes something strongly that this change should be made. I’m all for hearing an owner’s proposal on making the game better but again this all wraps in together and I think that’s the hard part of these CBAs is that nothing happens in a vacuum. So if an owner or the ownership side has an idea of how they wants us to, ‘Hey, we’d like you to work more here and work more there.’ I’m not gonna say I’m not gonna summarily not listen but again I think they know how this thing works and we’ll see how it goes.”

In other words, if the league thinks more practice will make the game better, the league needs to be prepared to offer players something in return for more practice.

“I don’t have players coming up to me saying, ‘Please, Eric, go to the owners and let us practice more,'” Winston said.

At a time when many are quick to point out that “the union agreed to this” or “the union agreed to that,” it’s important to remember that, to the extent that reduced practice time is hurting the game, the owners agreed to it — because the owners knew it would cost them nothing. Even if, six years later, it is.

PFT’s Week Three picks

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Week Three already is upon us, and I enter it with a two-game lead over MDS. By Thursday night, the lead will be three, since MDS failed to realize that the 49ers have a greater claim to ownership of the Rams in recent years than Stan Kroenke.

We disagree on one other game for the weekend, which means that, come Week Four, I’ll be up by four games and he’ll be closing in on conceding.

You’re closing in on getting the benefit of our insights, free of charge (money-back guarantee) and available by simply scrolling.

Last week, I went 11-5 and MDS was 10-6. This week, perfection awaits. For someone other than either of us.

Rams at 49ers

MDS’s take: In what looks like another ugly Thursday night game, I think Jared Goff and Todd Gurley will move the ball enough to take a lead and keep a lead, while Brian Hoyer will struggle against the Rams’ defense.

MDS’s pick: Rams 20, 49ers 6.

Florio’s take: The 49ers are 3-19 in their last 22 games. The three wins have come against the Rams. If the 49ers intend to win any games in 2017, this is a great place to start.

Florio’s pick: 49ers 13, Rams 9.


Ravens at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Ravens’ defense has been outstanding in the first two weeks of the season, and I can’t see Blake Bortles doing much of anything against them. London is going to get another low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 17, Jaguars 7.

Florio’s take: A good defense versus a very good defense results in a game that will feature scoring more like the kind of football that Nigel and his mates are used to watching.

Florio’s pick: Ravens 6, Jaguars 3.


Browns at Colts

MDS’s take: Can it really be true? The Browns are favored on the road? It’s true, and understandable, given how bad the Colts have looked in the first two weeks of the season. But I see Indianapolis getting incrementally better on offense as Jacoby Brissett has more time to work within the system, and the Colts will narrowly avoid the embarrassment of losing at home to the Browns.

MDS’s pick: Colts 20, Browns 17.

Florio’s take: Are the Browns jinxed by being favored to win on the road? As Joe Thomas said on PFT Live, being picked to lose hasn’t kept them from losing.

Florio’s pick: Browns 17, Colts 13.


Giants at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Giants’ offense has been a mess this season, and I don’t see that changing at Philadelphia. The Giants will fall to 0-3, including 0-2 in the division, and any hopes of a return to the playoffs are rapidly disappearing.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Giants 16.

Florio’s take: Brylcreem Ben says plenty of good teams start 0-2. How many good teams start 0-3?

Florio’s pick: Eagles 24, Giants 13.


Dolphins at Jets

MDS’s take: The Dolphins got lucky last week when the Chargers’ last-minute field goal attempt went wide. They won’t need to get lucky this week to beat the Jets.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 28, Jets 14.

Florio’s take: Jay Cutler faces the team that should have been at the front of the line to sign him.

Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Jets 10.


Broncos at Bills

MDS’s take: People accused the Bills of tanking during the offseason, but they’ve played hard this season. They’ll give the Broncos everything they can handle but fall just short.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 21, Bills 20.

Florio’s take: The dawn of the Nathan Peterman era could be creeping closer and closer.

Florio’s pick: Broncos 27, Bills 13.


Saints at Panthers

MDS’s take: Cam Newton is off to a slow start, but facing the Saints’ defense is just the thing to get him on track.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 31, Saints 17.

Florio’s take: The Saints are getting desperate but the Panthers’ defense possibly is better than it’s ever been. With Greg Olsen out, it’s time for the Panthers to come up with ways to feature Christian McCaffrey.

Florio’s pick: Panthers 20, Saints 17.


Steelers at Bears

MDS’s take: The Bears looked brutally bad last week against the Buccaneers, and I see no reason to think that will change this week.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 27, Bears 9.

Florio’s take: The Steelers have one of the few offenses that periodically takes a shot down the field in a pick-your-poison proposition that it going to allow the Pittsburgh team to pile up wins.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 30, Bears 16.


Falcons at Lions

MDS’s take: I’ve picked against the Lions the first two weeks, and they’re 2-0. Good news, Lions fans: I’m picking against them again.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 28, Lions 20.

Florio’s take: The Lions are operating on a short week after a late-night return from New York, with an excellent team coming to town that won’t be caught napping thanks to Detroit’s 2-0 record.

Florio’s pick: Falcons 27, Lions 20.


Buccaneers at Vikings

MDS’s take: If Sam Bradford is good to go, this is a very good matchup of NFC playoff contenders. I think Jameis Winston and Mike Evans will make just enough plays to win a close one.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Vikings 23.

Florio’s take: When these two were in the same division, the Vikings owned the rivalry. Now? Not. The Bucs have won six of the last seven. Make that seven of eight.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 23, Vikings 16.


Texans at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Patriots’ defense has been ugly this season, but so has the Texans’ offense. New England should score enough to win this one comfortably.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 31, Texans 20.

Florio’s take: Deshaun Watson is the future. But he’s simply not ready to take down one of the greatest players of all time in the present.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 30, Texans 17.


Seahawks at Titans

MDS’s take: I see Derrick Henry having a big game against a suspect Seahawks run defense, and the Titans pulling off a big win.

MDS’s pick: Titans 20, Seahawks 17.

Florio’s take: It’s an early crisis of confidence for Seattle, who lack the firepower on offense to outscore the best teams in the league.

Florio’s pick: Titans 16, Seahawks 9.


Bengals at Packers

MDS’s take: Andy Dalton has been awful this year, and I don’t see that changing in Green Bay.

MDS’s pick: Packers 20, Bengals 10.

Florio’s take: It’s been 25 years since a Bengals-Packers game birthed the legend of Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers will continue what Favre started.

Florio’s pick: Packers 28, Bengals 14.


Chiefs at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Chargers are a better team than their 0-2 record suggests, but I think the Chiefs are the best team in the AFC, and they’ll roll to 3-0.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 28, Chargers 17.

Florio’s take: At least the Chargers won’t lose on a late missed field goal for the third game in a row.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 33, Chargers 20.


Raiders at Washington

MDS’s take: The Raiders’ offense has been outstanding through two games, and they should roll through Washington’s defense.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 31, Washington 17.

Florio’s take: Tune in Sunday night for Beastmode Meets The Brother of Chucky. It’s a horror movie. For the home team.

Florio’s pick: Raiders 34, Washington 24.


Cowboys at Cardinals

MDS’s take: I’m having a hard time getting a handle on the Cowboys after they blew out the Giants in Week One and then got blown out by the Broncos in Week Two. But I’ll pick Dallas to win this one, probably with a few big plays on special teams making the difference.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 24, Cardinals 21.

Florio’s take: Ezekiel Elliot will be getting more than eight yards, and he won’t be caught loafing by the Monday night cameras.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 24, Cardinals 10.

Group of players asks NFL to support activism awareness month

AP

The NFL will wrap itself in pink for breast cancer, and put on faux-camo to celebrate the military.

Now, a group of players have asked commissioner Roger Goodell to spend a month talking about black and white.

According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, a group of four current and former players sent the league a memo in August asking for the NFL’s help campaigning for racial equality and criminal justice reform. The letter was signed by Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, retired wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Eagles wideout Torrey Smith.

The 10-page letter to Goodell and executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent also asked the league to endorse efforts to promote an activism awareness month.

Neither the league, nor the players who signed the memo commented, citing an agreement to keep direct communications with Goodell private.

The memo requested the league to invest time and education, political involvement, finances and other commitments from the league. They also asked the league to endorse November as the time to celebrate their cause.

The league is all too happy to promote safer topics (as in, who can possibly be against cancer or the military?) , and will also be delighted to sell you some merchandise to show how much they care.

“To be clear, we are asking for your support,” part of the memo (which can be read in full here) reads. “We appreciate your acknowledgement on the call regarding the clear distinction between support and permission. For us, support means: bear all or part of the weight of; hold up; give assistance to, especially financially; enable to function or act. We need support, collaboration and partnerships to achieve our goal of strengthening the community. There are a variety of ways for you to get involved. Similar to the model we have in place for players to get involved, there are three tiers of engagement based on your comfort level. To start, we appreciate your agreement on making this an immediate priority. In your words, from Protest to Progress, we need action.”

The players who signed the letter have been among the most outspoken and thoughtful — and active — regarding issues of inequality.