September 2, 2014

All Out Blitz: NFL News & Notes

Arizona Cardinals:  Coach Ken Whisenhunt had an extremely short leash with quarterback John Skelton last week, pulling after he only completed two of his first seven passes and inserting Ryan Lindley as the starter.  This seemed to be a knee jerk reaction to a poor start and one that ultimately led to a loss.  Whisenhunt and the Cardinals are definitely feeling the pressure of a losing streak that won’t end…..RB Beanie Wells was activated off the IR on Wednesday.  Even though Lerod Stephens-Howling has performed well in his place, Wells could be the main ball carrier down the stretch.

Atlanta Falcons:  The Falcons were lucky to beat the Cards last week.  They spotted Arizona a 13-point lead and quarterback Matt Ryan threw five interceptions.  Now I know you can’t play at your peak every game but it does seem most of the Falcons wins have been far from convincing (Carolina, Washington, Oakland, Dallas, Arizona).  There is a reason pundits don’t believe the Falcons will go far in the playoffs…..WR Julio Jones should’ve been held out of the game last week for his own good, he ended up aggravating the ankle injury which may now linger further into the season, keeping him from being 100% when they need him most.

Baltimore Ravens:  So the NFL decided to suspend safety Ed Reed for a game and have him forfeit his game check, over $400K, after his third offense of hitting a defenseless receiver in the head.  Reed then appeals the suspension and the fine is reduced to $50K, and the suspension is  lifted.  How does this happen?  How do they go reduce a fine almost 90%?  Doesn’t make sense especially when you hear the wording used by Ted Cottrell who heard the appeal, calling the hit “egregious and warrant significant discipline”.  If this is true, then why was the fine reduced by such a large amount?

Buffalo Bills:  Running back Fred Jackson who missed the game last week due to a concussion is on pace to return this week.  Coach Chan Gailey has stated over and over again that Jackson and C.J. Spiller will continue in their rotation.  Spiller is the more dynamic of the two at this point in time and would seem to deserve the majority of the playing time but apparently that’s not going to happen yet…..Cornerback Leodis McKelvin has played well of late and may keep his job even when Aaron Williams returns from injury.

Carolina Panthers:  Carolina released kicker Justin Medlock on Tuesday, certainly not a shock as Medlock has underperformed all season, Graham Gano will take over the starting job for now…..The Panthers will play the Eagles on Monday in what will essentially be a game to determine who is the worst team in the NFC.

Chicago Bears:  When QB Jay Cutler went down with injury last season, it short circuited the Bears season as backup Caleb Hanie couldn’t get the job done.  During the off-season the Bears thought they alleviated that problem with the signing of Jason Campbell.  Well Campbell looked terrible versus the 49ers on Monday, certainly not any better than what Hanie did last season.  Cutler can’t come back soon enough….Not all the blame should be placed on Campbell however, that offensive line played terribly, might’ve been a surprise that Campbell finished the game upright.

Cincinnati Bengals:  Cornerback Terrance Newman who suffered a concussion last Sunday has been cleared and returned to practice Wednesday…..WR Andrew Hawkins who missed the game last week with a knee injury is also back at practice albeit with a knee brace and could play Sunday.

Cleveland Browns:  The Browns should’ve beaten Dallas last week.  They lost the game more than Dallas won it, but that’s the growing pains a young team goes through…..Without Joe Haden the defensive backs committed penalty after penalty to prevent big plays.  I lost track of how many illegal contact penalties there were, it seemed every time a Dallas receiver pulled a double move or a stop and go, the CBs would do their best to get in the way.  Not the greatest technique on the planet, but five yards and a first down is better than a touchdown.

Dallas Cowboys:  The Cowboys may be 5-5 and only a game out of the division, but they just aren’t a very good team.  The offensive line is putrid and could be even worse on Thanksgiving if left tackle Tyron Smith can’t play.  Quarterback Tony Romo was sacked seven times last week and hit 10 others, if this keeps up , Kyle Orton will line up behind center before long…..The amazing thing is, if Dallas beats Washington this week and the Giants lose to Green Bay, Dallas will be in first place in the NFC East…..Dallas could also be down their starting two RBs this week.  DeMarco Murray is not ready to play and Felix Jones is also banged up, not that it matters though, not much room to run through with that line.

Denver Broncos:  The Broncos received some bad news Wednesday as they had to place RB Willis McGahee on IR with a knee injury ending his regular season.  He is eligible to return should the team make a deep postseason run.  Ronnie Hillman figures to get first crack at the starting job in his absence…..Though no team wants to lose their starting RB, let’s face it, this team will go as far as QB Peyton Manning can take them, and Hillman should do just fine with the starting job.  It wasn’t like McGahee was tearing it up anyway.

Detroit Lions:  Remember at draft time how everyone thought WR Titus Young would be a steal late in your draft.  So much so that Young actually went earlier in most drafts than he probably should.  Owners figuring Young would see nothing but single coverage due to the attention paid Calvin Johnson.  Well things haven’t worked out anywhere near as thought.  Young has been a disappointment on the field as has already been ruled inactive for the game on Thanksgiving .

Green Bay Packers:  Don’t look now but the Packers are in first place in the NFC North, this despite getting off to a slow start to the season and suffering through a myriad of injuries.  Linebacker Clay Matthews is more than likely out once again for this game with the hamstring injury, WR Greg Jennings the same with a groin injury, and S Charles Woodson with his broken collarbone.  How good will this team be when they return to the lineup in December.

Houston Texans:  Welcome back to fantasy relevance Andre Johnson.  Granted it took an extra quarter but what a performance by Johnson as he racked up over 270 yards.  How good can this offense be if their passing game has to be feared as much as their running game?  There is some bad news however.  The pass defense did get shredded by QB Chad Henne and WR Justin Blackmon.  We forgave the defense when the Packers  Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson did the same thing as that’s the Pack, they do that to quite a few defenses, but Jacksonville, really.  Could just be a blip on the radar, but you know opposing teams are going to try and attack the defense through the air, this is a copycat league.

Indianapolis Colts:  The Colts have a good shot to make the playoffs, not because they are a good team but more because they play in a weak conference, they are certainly not ready to compete with the big boys yet as was proved last week by their destruction at the hands of New England…..TE Coby Fleener was able to take the practice field Wednesday and could play Sunday versus the Bills.  RB Donald Brown is also good to go but how much he is used over Vick Ballard remains to be seen.

Jacksonville Jaguars:  The Jags placed WR Laurent Robinson and QB Blaine Gabbert on IR Wednesday, effectively ending their season.  Robinson had been a huge bust since signing a big free agent contract in the off-season and Gabbert may not have much of a future as a starting quarterback for the team.  Chad Henne looks like he will be given every opportunity to keep the starting job if he performs well the rest of the season.  Of course Jacksonville could always draft a QB or sign one in free agency.

Kansas  City Chiefs:  Speaking of teams without a true starting quarterback.  The Chiefs are struggling at the position as neither Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn are likely to have a future at the position.  They will certainly be in the market for a franchise signal caller in the off-season.  Someone may want to give Seattle a call about Matt Flynn…..WR Dwayne Bowe has a neck injury that is limiting is practice time but he should be able to play Sunday and with KC playing Denver they are likely to have to throw the ball an awful lot.

Miami Dolphins:  What has happened with RB Reggie Bush?  Bush got off to a hot start to the season but an injury suffered early on seems to have derailed it, as he hasn’t been the same back since.  Bush is a free agent after this season, and the writing is on the wall, he won’t be back.  Not only was he benched after fumbling but Daniel Thomas has now touched the ball more than he has in four straight games…..QB Ryan Tannehill seems to have hit a wall in his rookie season.  His performance over the past month has certainly declined although the lack of a running game and a true number one wideout hasn’t helped any either.

Minnesota Vikings:   Wide receiver Percy Harvin is still not able to practice with his ankle injury.  The bye week wasn’t enough time to get him in playing shape…..Harvin’s inability to play will most certainly have an effect on RB Adrian Peterson.  The Bears are going to load up on the line to stop AP and force QB Christian Ponder to beat them through the air, something that could be next to impossible without Harvin.

New England Patriots:  Losing TE Rob Gronkowski for 4-6 weeks with a broken arm was a huge blow to the Pats.  Not sure why people are getting on coach Bill Belichick though for having Gronkowski in the lineup late in the game.  It was on the extra point team, was probably an afterthought, just a bad break…..Tight end Aaron Hernandez figures to be the big beneficiary assuming he can get back in the lineup…..WR Julian Edelman seems to be a jack of all trades, could be a sneaky pickup in fantasy leagues, sort of a boom or bust kind of player.

New Orleans Saints:  The Saints are to far behind the Falcons to make a run at the division title, but a wildcard run is not out of the question, especially if Seattle continues to falter on the road…..Running back Darren Sproles is expected to re-join the lineup this week which will just add to the confusion in the backfield.  In a PPR league, you’re starting Sproles if he plays, but after that it’s a mess.  Mark Ingram has looked the best of late and had a touchdown run last week but Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas have also looked good at times.  Smells like a hot hand situation and therefore one that I would avoid.

New York Giants:  All reports are that QB Eli Manning has used the bye week to regain strength in what might have been a tired arm.  The Giants are stating that his throws in practice are sharp and crisp, but what else are we expecting them to say?  Running back Ahmad Bradshaw however is still not practicing due to his neck injury.  Best guess is that he plays but Andre Brown could play a bigger role Sunday than one might have thought…..Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks looks to be as healthy as he has been all season long.

New York Jets:  The Jets saved what’s left of their season with the victory over the Rams last Sunday.  Playing New England Thanksgiving night however could be a death blow.  Do they have a big game in them?  One thing the Jets have to do in the off-season is find more playmakers.  I know WR Santonio Holmes was lost for the season but even when healthy he is not a true number one receiver.  Shonn Greene is also far from a top running back, and we won’t even mention the starting quarterback situation.

Oakland Raiders:  The Raiders are a pretty banged up team.  We know RBs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson won’t play this week but WRs Denarius Moore and Darius Heyward-Bey and TE Brandon Myers are also banged up.  They are all expected to play Sunday but  this is far from an ideal situation for the Raiders, then again you could say that about this entire season.

Philadelphia Eagles:  Speaking of disastrous seasons, the Eagles have pretty much mailed it in.  Why coach Andy Reid still have RB LeSean McCoy in the game with two minutes to play in a blowout is mind boggling.  He doesn’t use McCoy as much as he should, but puts him in during a blowout.  Sure enough McCoy suffered a concussion that makes his availability for Monday night a huge question mark.  If you’re a McCoy owner better pick up Bryce Brown if he’s still available.

Pittsburgh Steelers:  The Steelers are down to their third quarterback as Byron Leftwich is out for this game with fractured ribs, that leaves the starting job to Charlie Batch.  Certainly not good news for WR Mike Wallace or TE Heath Miller owners.  The Steelers running game is completely healthy and will need to pick up the slack.  Rashard Mendenhall returned to the lineup last week but was underwhelming, perhaps another week of practice will get him back to his old self.

San Diego Chargers:  What is wrong with RB Ryan Matthews?  He has not been the explosive back we expected all season.  Where are the long runs, the big plays, the touchdowns?  Why doesn’t coach Norv Turner use him on 3rd downs?  So many questions, so few answers…..Quarterback Phillip Rivers has also taken a step backward.  The new coach/general manager next season will have to figure out what is wrong with both of these players…..WR Danario Alexander has been quite a find so far, becoming the big play threat the team thought they had when they signed WR Robert Meacham.

San Francisco 49ers:  The 49ers defense was absolutely on fire Monday night versus the Bears.  I know it was Jason Campbell behind center and not Jay Cutler, but I’m not sure it would’ve mattered much, probably better for Cutler’s health that he did miss the game…..The 49ers also announced Wednesday that Colin Kaepernick will start for the team over a healthy Alex Smith.  This comes as bit of a surprise as Smith has led the team to a 6-2-1 record, not like they were playing poorly with Smith under center.  Starting Kaepernick at New Orleans could be a questionable move as well.  Not the most hospitable place for a rookie QB.  That being said, he does give the team a dynamic signal caller that they haven’t had since Steve Young retired and can make every throw in the book.

Seattle Seahawks:  Seattle is unlikely to catch San Francisco for the division lead but is right in the hunt for a wildcard spot.  They do need to be able to win someplace other than Seattle though before you can truly take this team seriously…..Have to wonder if they trade QB Matt Flynn in the off-season.  Looks like they have a solid QB in Russell Wilson and Flynn could net them a draft pick or two that they need to continue to become a team to be reckoned with.

St. Louis Rams:  Does anyone else think that the Rams are starting to regret not keeping the 2nd overall pick in this past year’s draft and select QB Robert Griffin III?  Sam Bradford just doesn’t seem to be taking the necessary steps to be a franchise signal caller, of course he doesn’t have the greatest of targets to throw to either…..WR Danny Amendola and RB Steven Jackson both missed practice Wednesday, but both are expected to play Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  Don’t look now but the Bucs are making a serious push for a playoff spot.  They are actually tied with Seattle for the last spot.  Problem is their remaining schedule is far from easy.  They still have to play Atlanta twice, Denver, and New Orleans.  It’s good to see that the program looks to have turned around under coach Greg Schiano, but this doesn’t look to be a Cinderella season.

Tennessee Titans:  Can RB Chris Johnson continue his resurgence this season?  Can WR Kenny Britt become a bigger part of the offense?  Can QB Jake Locker prove himself to be a franchise player?  These are the questions the Titans will look to answer over the next six games.

Washington Redskins:  The Skins still have work to do, but they are heading in the right direction with RGIII.  He is the real deal and should be fun to watch for the next decade or so.  One thing to keep in mind however is that he must avoid taking unnecessary hits.  Those hits will add up over time and keep him from playing full seasons…..WR Pierre Garcon returned last week but was hardly a factor in the game.  He has stated that he will try and play Thursday but must test his toe on the turf at Cowboys Stadium first….. Safety Brendan Meriwether is out for the season after tearing his ACL, tough loss for a beleaguered secondary.

 

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @georgekurtz

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