Hue Jackson scoffs at notion of stolen Philly Special

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Before Cleveland fans could cry, “Dilly Dilly!” as the locks came off the free-beer fridges following their team’s first win in 635 days, some where shouting, “Philly Philly!” But Browns coach Hue Jackson insists he didn’t take the play that ended with quarterback Baker Mayfield catching a two-point conversion from the Super Bowl LII champs.

“We did not steal that from them,” Jackson told reporters after the victory. “Please. I know everybody wants to think that. We have had that in our back pocket for a while. Go check my tricks from before, and go check [offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s] tricks from before. We all have them. It is just when you pull them out and use them. That is what that is.”

He’s right. The Eagles weren’t the first team to use that play, and they won’t be the last. The fact that the Eagles used it in a high-profile spot naturally will cause many to identify that play with the defending champs. But others have done it, others will do it, and Browns fans will now associate it less with Nick Foles and more with Baker Mayfield’s coming-out party in Cleveland.

Hue Jackson doesn’t name Baker Mayfield the starter going forward


Anyone and everyone who witnessed tonight’s game knows that the starting quarterback for the Browns from this point forward is and should be Baker Mayfield.

Everyone except coach Hue Jackson.

Via James Palmer of NFL Media, Jackson said that he needs to “watch the tape” before deciding on his starting quarterback for Week Four in Oakland.

Of course, there may be no decision to make. Tyrod Taylor exited the game on Thursday night with a concussion. If he’s not cleared by next Sunday, it will be Mayfield facing the Raiders and not Khalil Mack.

Browns get first prime-time win since 2014


Not only did the Browns win a game for the first time in 635 days, but they also won on Thursday a prime-time game for the first time in a lot longer than that.

Before tonight, Cleveland’s last win under the lights came in 2014, when they beat the Bengals 24-3 in early November.

The Browns are now 6-8 on Thursday nights, with a 4-2 record at home. The win over the Jets puts the reconstituted Browns (since 1999) at 7-16 in prime time. All time, the Browns are 23-32 in night games.

It could be the first of many prime-time wins for Baker Mayfield, who proved why the Browns took him with the first overall pick, and why so many other teams were quietly coveting a chance to snag him. The mood in the stadium changed immediately when he entered the game, and everything about his performance pointed to the kind of spark that he can bring to a team.

And so, inevitably, Mayfield will be taking over the starting job. Despite the oft-reiterated plan to keep him on the sidelines all season long, Mayfield ran with the first opportunity he received, and the only play for a long-suffering franchise that definitely isn’t suffering at this moment is to let him keep doing what he did tonight.

Aaron Rodgers thinks refs are too quick to throw flags for roughing the passer

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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t want the officials to go too far to protect him.

Rodgers didn’t like two questionable roughing the passer calls in Sunday’s tie with the Vikings, one of which was called when Minnesota linebacker Eric Kendricks hit Rodgers, and another called on Packers linebacker Clay Matthews for hitting Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

“What do you say to Clay? His head is out of it. His hand is on the ground. That’s not roughing the passer,” Rodgers said. “Same thing with Kendricks. What do you say to him on that? I didn’t get up off the ground thinking, ‘Where’s the penalty?’ I saw a late flag and couldn’t believe there was a penalty on the play. I’m a traditionalist. I’ve watched the game and loved the game for a long time. And some of the rules help, but some of the rules, maybe are going in the wrong direction. They’re trying to think about the progress of the game and the safety and stuff. But it’s still a collision sport, and those to me are not penalties.”

Rodgers is giving voice to what plenty of fans have said after seeing the roughing the passer calls in the NFL this season: The league is going too far to try to protect quarterbacks.

Derek Carr: It’s hard to watch Khalil Mack go out and strip-sack everybody

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For Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, seeing his old friend and teammate Khalil Mack succeed somewhere else is bittersweet.

Carr told Scott Bair of that he’s happy for Mack that he’s doing well with the Bears, but it’s difficult to see the two great games Mack has played so far this season and wish Mack could still be doing it in Oakland.

“It’s hard to watch him go out and strip-sack everybody,” Carr said. “He has done that so many times here, and it hurts your heart to see it, but at the same time, it doesn’t hurt anymore. I’m happy for him. If you’re a Raider fan, it’s hard to see him do that. But just be happy for the guy. He has strained his tail off to get to where he’s at. The fact he’s making plays for someone else, we don’t like it, but we can be happy for him because we all love him to death.”

Raiders coach Jon Gruden traded Mack because he wants to build for the future, but Carr said losing is tough to take in the present.

“We’re sitting there 0-2 and you feel sick,” Carr said.

Perhaps the Bears’ first-round draft picks the next two years can help Carr feel better about the direction of the franchise. At the moment, however, he’s wondering what could have been if the Raiders had been able to make it work with Mack.

Mark Geragos hints that Raiders, Patriots may be interested in Colin Kaepernick

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Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been on an NFL regular-season roster since the 2016 season. That possibly could be ending soon.

Attorney Mark Geragos recently hinted to that something could be happening soon. Of course, Geragos acknowledged that he’s made similar claims in the past that did not come to fruition.

“I’ve been pilloried for the idea that I said a year ago he’s gonna get a contract in 10 days,” Geragos said. “I would just say stay tuned, that next week there may be some news.”

He then said that’s as far as he’s going to go. Before going farther.

Geragos said Kaepernick has been watching Dolphins games, because of the presence of receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson, the two remaining players who kneel during the anthem every week. So is Colin interested in playing for Miami?

“I’ve got two other teams that will remain nameless,” Geragos said. Before indirectly naming names.

“I’ll just say this, ‘If Al Davis was still alive.’ That’s all I’m gonna say.”

And then he said more. Asked whether he’s aware that Meek Mill is writing a Kaepernick anthem, Geragos said, “You know who Meek Mill was visited by when he was in custody?”

A voice off camera said, “Robert Kraft.”

“Bingo!” Geragos said with a smile.

A.J. McCarron serves as the backup to Derek Carr in Oakland, and Brian Hoyer currently resides at No. 2 on the depth chart in New England. Barring injury to either starter, Kaepernick wouldn’t play as a member of either team in 2018.

But at least he’d be on a roster and working on his skills as a member of a football team, making it easier for him to potentially land in the NFL next year. Or, possibly, to contend to be the starter in Oakland or New England next year, if either team decides it’s time to make a change.

It’s unclear whether a contract with an NFL team would prompt Kaepernick to abandon his collusion claim. Surely, however, a bona fide offer of employment could go a long way toward getting Kaepernick to not go through with an arbitration hearing that will be a cross between the trial in My Cousin Vinny and the Seinfeld finale, with owner after owner after owner being called to the witness stand for aggressive cross-examination by Geragos and Ben Meiselas.

Texans struggling to pressure the quarterback

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There was a time when a Houston Texans front that had J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus on it was a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. But that time is in the past.

Watt hasn’t recorded a sack this year, didn’t have any last year and had just 1.5 the year before as he’s been plagued by injuries. Clowney has been injured this year. Mercilus has no sacks this year and had only one last year, when he missed 11 games. As a team this season, the Texans have just three sacks.

But there’s more to pressuring opposing quarterbacks than just getting sacks, and the Texans look even worse when examining pressures. According to Chris Trapasso of the Buffalo News, using data compiled by Pro Football Focus, the Texans are dead last in the NFL in pressure rate: They’ve pressured the opposing quarterback on just 12 of 64 dropbacks, meaning only 18.8 percent of the time are they able to hurry the passer.

That’s an ugly stat, and something they’ll have to get turned around. Clowney says he’ll be back this week. The Texans need him.

Antonio Brown: If we’re not winning, I’m pissed off

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Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown met with the media on Thursday for the first time since Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he was disciplined for failing to come to work on Monday.

Brown said it was a personal matter and that he offered no apologies for not being there. He also said that he informed Tomlin that he would be absent and, when asked if he thought it was right that he was disciplined, said, via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, he “could never go against the program or what these guys think is right for me.”

Brown referenced his Twitter response about a trade to a former Steelers employee and said he “can’t respond to people saying crazy stuff.” He said he does not want to be traded and attributed his anger during and after the game to the team’s 0-1-1 record.

“We were losing the game,” Brown said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We haven’t won a game yet. I’m not on the sideline begging for the ball or making statements that you guys [say I] make. I’m pissed off. We’re losing. We suck … I’m committed to this program, this organization, I’m fully here. I go to work every day, about my business and I don’t take it for granted. My business is winning here, I come here to win. When we ain’t winning, you’re damn right I’m pissed off.”

Brown was asked if he expects to be on the field at the start of Monday’s game against the Buccaneers and responded that he didn’t have any reason to believe he would be anywhere but on the field helping the team try for its first win of the year.

Aaron Rodgers not practicing today

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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has acknowledged that he’s concerned his knee injury could get worse. At the very least, it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

Rodgers is working with the rehab group instead of practicing today, according to reporters at the scene.

Last week Rodgers didn’t practice during the week but did practice on Saturday, and that may be the plan again this week. (The Packers have a different practice schedule than most teams and do a walk-through on Friday with a full practice on Saturday.)

There’s every reason to believe Rodgers will travel with the team to Washington and be on the field on Sunday. Even if he’s not on the practice field today.

PFT’s Week Three picks

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The good news? I picked up a game on MDS, knotting the competition through two weeks. The bad news? I was 9-7 again, 18-14 for the year.

This week, we disagree on three games. Barring (another) tie on one of those games, one of us will take the lead.

So scroll down for our straight-up picks. And check out the video for this week’s Best Bets. MDS was 1-2 last week (3-3 for the year), and I also was 1-2 (2-3-1 for the year).

Jets at Browns

MDS’s take: The Browns are favored! That doesn’t happen often. And when it does happen, my advice is bet the underdogs.

MDS’s pick: Jets 20, Browns 17.

Florio’s pick: It’s time. It’s finally time. (Unless their kicker is injured and the coach doesn’t know about it. Again.)

Florio’s take: Browns 24, Jets 21.

Saints at Falcons

MDS’s take: I haven’t been real impressed with the Saints, who lost their opener at home and then barely beat the Browns at home. On the road, I think they’re going to struggle with the Falcons.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 30, Saints 21.

Florio’s pick: One of the most underrated rivalries in the NFL could determine the NFC’s Super Bowl representative. Advantage home team.

Florio’s take: Falcons 30, Saints 27.

Packers at Washington

MDS’s take: Washington won in Week One, but that was more about Arizona being terrible than anything else. I see a second straight ugly performance in front of tens of thousands of empty seats at FedEx Field.

MDS’s pick: Packers 24, Washington 10.

Florio’s pick: One-legged Aaron Rodgers will make quick work of the overmatched home team.

Florio’s take: Packers 34, Washington 20.

Colts at Eagles

MDS’s take: Andrew Luck is looking good and Carson Wentz is a question mark, which makes me tempted to pick the Colts in an upset, but instead I’ll pick the Eagles to win a close one.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Colts 23.

Florio’s pick: Carson Wentz is back, and so are the Eagles. Until Wentz gets injured again.

Florio’s take: Eagles 27, Colts 20.

Bills at Vikings

MDS’s take: This should be the easiest pick on the board. The Bills just aren’t competitive.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 30, Bills 10.

Florio’s pick: Vegas is daring you to take the Vikings giving 16.5 points. But the home team was too distracted by the aftermath of the Week Two tie, and they surely aren’t taking the bumbling Bills as seriously as they should. While the Bills won’t win, they’ll cover. Barely.

Florio’s take: Vikings 35, Bills 20.

Raiders at Dolphins

MDS’s take: I’ve been burned picking against the Dolphins two weeks in a row. I won’t make that mistake again.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 24, Raiders 20.

Florio’s pick: It feels like a correction game, with the Dolphins unexpectedly at 2-0 and the Raiders unexpectedly at 0-2. It won’t be. The Dolphins are legitimately good and the Raiders legitimately have problems.

Florio’s take: Dolphins 27, Raiders 23.

Broncos at Ravens

MDS’s take: Case Keenum is throwing too many interceptions, but he’s also making a lot of big plays, leading the NFL with 14 completions of 20 yards or more. I think he’ll have a big game in an upset at Baltimore.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 28, Ravens 21.

Florio’s pick: The Broncos finally have to play on the road. They’ll wish they’d stayed home.

Florio’s take: Ravens 27, Broncos 17.

Bengals at Panthers

MDS’s take: These teams are about even, but the running threat of Cam Newton is going to be the difference in this game.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 20, Bengals 17.

Florio’s pick: The Bengals bubble gets burst, at least for now.

Florio’s take: Panthers 23, Bengals 17.

Giants at Texans

MDS’s take: Deshaun Watson is struggling to get back to last year’s form, but a bad Giants team won’t be able to do much against the Texans’ defense even if Watson can’t move the ball.

MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Giants 10.

Florio’s pick: Everything is bigger in Texas. Except the Giants.

Florio’s take: Texans 31, Giants 16.

Titans at Jaguars

MDS’s take: That Jaguars defense is nasty. So is the Titans’ offense, in a different way.

MDS’s pick: Jaguars 24, Titans 10.

Florio’s pick: The Jaguars are keenly aware of the fact that the Titans swept them last year. It won’t happen this year.

Florio’s take: Jaguars 34, Titans 21.

49ers at Chiefs

MDS’s take: Patrick Mahomes won’t actually finish the season with 80 touchdowns and zero interceptions, but he’ll keep rolling along against the 49ers.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 31, 49ers 20.

Florio’s pick: Patrick Mahomes >> Jimmy Garoppolo.

Florio’s take: Chiefs 38, 49ers 24.

Chargers at Rams

MDS’s take: The battle of Los Angeles should be an easy win for the Rams.

MDS’s pick: Rams 28, Chargers 14.

Florio’s pick: The first official Fight for L.A. could result in an upset as the high-flying Rams overlooked their red-headed, bolo-tie-wearing stepbrothers. The Rams could also be peeking ahead to Thursday night’s Minnesota showdown, while the Chargers may empty the tank in an effort to score a victory where it matters most.

Florio’s take: Chargers 30, Rams 27.

Cowboys at Seahawks

MDS’s take: I think the Seahawks will prove to be a better team than they’ve shown so far this season. They’ll bounce back from an ugly Monday night performance and win at home.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 27, Cowboys 23.

Florio’s pick: It’s already must-win time for the Seahawks, who finally get a chance to play at home.

Florio’s take: Seahawks 23, Cowboys 20.

Bears at Cardinals

MDS’s take: I’m not sold on Mitchell Trubisky, but I am sold on him having a better game than Sam Bradford.

MDS’s pick: Bears 24, Cardinals 10.

Florio’s pick: The Cardinals are who we thought they were.

Florio’s take: Bears 34, Cardinals 10.

Patriots at Lions

MDS’s take: Matt Patricia practiced against Tom Brady plenty of times, but he’ll have no answer for how to shut Brady down on Sunday night.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 35, Lions 20.

Florio’s pick: Matt Patricia will eventually turn the Lions around, if they give him the time to do it. For now, well, it’s time to get used to things staying the way they’ve been.

Florio’s take: Patriots 34, Lions 20.

Steelers at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: Can the FitzMagic continue? I believe it can. The Steelers will put some pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick, but not enough to keep him from finding DeSean Jackson deep for just enough big plays to win this game.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 21, Steelers 20.

Florio’s pick: You can continue to be caught up in the uniforms worn by the players, or you can trust your lying eyes.

Florio’s take: Buccaneers 30, Steelers 23.

Report: Patriots get seventh-round pick with no conditions in Josh Gordon trade


The Josh Gordon trade terms have still not been formally announced by either the Browns or the Patriots, but we’re starting to get some clarity on what the Patriots gave up. And it wasn’t much.

Cleveland sent Gordon and a seventh-round draft pick to the Patriots for a fifth-round draft pick. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the seventh-round pick is not conditional, contrary to some reports.

The Browns don’t have their own seventh-round pick next year because they sent it to Miami in the Jarvis Landry trade, but the Browns have acquired both the Jaguars’ and Steelers’ seventh-round picks, so New England will apparently get one of those. The Patriots’ fifth-round pick is their own.

That the conditions were taken off the seventh-round pick would seem to suggest that the Patriots insisted on removing that language, and the Browns gave in. This means the Patriots are giving up very little for Gordon, effectively draft capital equivalent to a sixth-round draft pick.

So for the Patriots, this is a low-risk, high-reward deal. If Gordon can’t get his act together, they can cut him and they’re out nothing more than having to move down on the third day of the draft. If Gordon can play at the high level he did in 2013, they’ve just added one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL to their roster. It’s easy to see why the Patriots liked this deal. And given that this was the best deal the Browns could get, it’s apparent that the rest of the league doesn’t think Gordon is worth the trouble.

Browns favored at home for first time since 2015

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The Browns host the Jets on Thursday night as they search for their first win since Week 16 of the 2016 season and oddsmakers believe they should get it.

Most sports books have the Browns listed as three-point favorites over their guests and that marks the first time that the Browns have been home favorites since being favored to beat the 49ers in Week 14 of the 2015 season. They were favored in Indianapolis in Week Three last season, but failed to cover in a 31-28 loss to the Colts.

They did cover the 2.5-point spread the last time they were favored at home. Isaiah Crowell ran for two touchdowns and Johnny Manziel hit Gary Barnidge for a touchdown pass in a 24-10 win that would be the final victory of the Mike Pettine era in Cleveland.

A win on Thursday would also allow the Browns to avoid extending their winless streak to 20 games. Their 17-game losing streak ended with a Week One tie against the Steelers.

Plug to be pulled on NFL Experience experiment

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The league made a big deal about taking over a 40,000 square foot space in Times Square for its NFL Experience. After experiencing nearly a year of big rent payments, the NFL has decided to pull the plug on the NFL Experience experiment.

Via Lisa Fickenscher of the New York Post, the NFL will shutter the NFL Experience on September 30. A state filing indicates the 90 employees will lose their jobs.

A sandwich board outside the facility announced the looming closing, and offered a 50-percent reduction on merchandise sold inside. An employee at the NFL Experience told Fickenscher that the NFL Experience did not “meet expectations.”

Announced with much hype and hoopla last December, the NFL had high hopes for a pet project that eventually peed on the carpet.

“We partnered with Cirque du Soleil to create a captivating and authentic football experience that enables fans to step into the locker room and onto the field of an NFL stadium,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the time. “Whether you are a seasoned veteran or new to the game, NFL Experience Times Square takes you on an unforgettable journey where you enter as a fan, become a player, and leave as a Super Bowl champion.”

The journey went from unforgettable to regrettable, possibly due to the fact that it cost $37 for adults and $29 for children to enter the building.

“Despite our team’s dedicated efforts, we were simply unsuccessful at meeting the financial goals,” a Cirque du Soleil spokesperson told Fickenscher.

And that’s what it ultimately comes down to. Even with NFL Network programming from the venue serving as a constant advertisement for it, the NFL Experience didn’t create enough buzz, it didn’t attract enough bodies, and it ultimately didn’t generate enough dollars. Whoever pushed the money pit internally had better start coming up with enough excuses, or he/she will soon be a former NFL employee, too.

Joe Flacco: I feel for defenders who get fined for roughing the passer

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The NFL tries to defend quarterbacks by fining defenders who hit them after they pass. But one quarterback doesn’t want that protection.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco says he hates seeing defensive players, some of whose career earnings are less than 1 percent of Flacco’s, losing money for hitting him.

“It’s a violent sport. It’s meant to be that way,” Flacco said, via ESPN. “I definitely have feelings for those guys over there because not only are they penalizing people and affecting outcomes of games but they’re also taking paychecks away from people and they’re acting like it’s no big deal. But it is a big deal. That’s a lot of money for anybody. So, there’s a lot of issues with it, I think.”

Flacco said quarterbacks know what they’re getting into and don’t need excessive protections.

“This is football, man,” Flacco said. “We all sign up to get hit. We all sign up where you might get hurt. That’s what makes this league a little bit different than any other in professional sports.”

Flacco’s words will be welcome from defensive players — and from fans, many of whom think the league has gone too far in the name of protecting quarterbacks.

Carson Wentz wants to pick up where he left off

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Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz expects there will be “a lot of emotions going on” when he heads out of the tunnel at Lincoln Financial Field in uniform on Sunday.

The matchup with the Colts will be Wentz’s first game since tearing his ACL and LCL last December, so it’s easy to understand why his heart will be pumping a little faster than usual. Once those first moments are out of the way, Wentz expects it will be “football again” and he is looking for that football to look like the kind he was playing before he got hurt.

“I just want to pick up where we left off last year,” Wentz said, via “We had a lot of big plays last year when we were in situational football. Third down, red zone, things we really excelled in last year. Those are things we want to keep building on. … At the end of the day, I, and really this whole offense and this whole organization, always have high expectations. We expect to start fast, play fast, be clicking.”

Some rust after nine-plus months out of the lineup would be natural, but Wentz said he feels his weeks of running the scout team against an Eagles defense that plays “very fast” will help him against the Colts. Sunday will bring the answer to that and other questions that Wentz and the Eagles have been seeking for a long time.