December 14, 2017

Ravens 28, Patriots 13

The Baltimore Ravens headed north to New England to take on the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.  The Ravens were coming off a huge 38-35 double overtime win over the Denver Broncos and the Patriots were coming off a 41-28 win over the Houston Texans.  The Ravens won the toss and deferred to the second half.

Neither team could do much on their first possessions until the Patriots started their second drive of the game from their 21.  An eight-yard completion from quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd and a three-yard run by running back Stevan Ridley got them a first down at the 32.  An eight-yard pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez and another one to Lloyd for 13 yards moved them to the Raven 47.  Brady found Hernandez again for ten more yards and a first down at the 37.  A short run by Ridley and another pass to Lloyd for 16 more yards made it first down at the 20.  They would get as far as the 12 and the drive stopped there.  Kicker Stephen Gostkowski came on and made his 30-yard attempt and the Patriots led 3-0 with 6:21 to go in the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Ravens were flagged for an illegal block and started at their ten.  Aside from a 17-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to fullback Vonta Leach, the Ravens didn’t do much.  On third and 12 from the 25, Flacco looked for wide receiver Anquan Boldin and the pass was incomplete.  Cornerback Aqib Talib was injured on this play and would not return.  That was a big blow to the Patriot secondary.

As the game progressed, neither offense could get into a rhythm and the first quarter ended with the score still at 3-0.  The Ravens found themselves back at their ten-yard line again and a three-yard run by running back Ray Rice, a five-yard pass to Leach and a 17-yard pass to tight end Daniel Pitta got them out to their 33-yard line.  A couple of short runs and an 11-yard reception by Rice netted another first down at the 46.  From the 46, running back Bernard Pierce made an appearance.  On second and eight from the 48, Flacco found Pierce for eight yards and a first down at the Patriot 44.  A four-yard run by Pierce and a 25-yard completion to wide receiver Torrey Smith moved the Ravens into the red zone.  Rice finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.  Kicker Justin Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 7-3 with 9:28 to go in the second quarter.  The Patriots suffered another injury on this drive as cornerback Patrick Chung left the game.

The Patriots started at their 21 and Ridley ran for a gain of three yards.  An unnecessary roughness penalty on the Ravens got them 15 free yards and a first down at the 39.  Brady found wide receiver Wes Welker for seven yards and Lloyd again for three more.  Two more runs by Ridley and a 24-yard pass to Welker had them marching into Raven territory.  On second and two from the eight, Brady connected with Hernandez at the one to make it first and goal.  On third down, Brady looked to his right and found Welker for a touchdown.  Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots were back on top, 10-7 with 4:18 to go in the first half.

Three plays got the Ravens zero yards and they brought Sam Koch into the game to punt again.  A 15-yard return by Welker put the Patriots at the Raven 43 with 2:32 to go.  Runs by Brady, Ridley and Woodhead made it fourth and one from the 34.  Woodhead took the direct snap and ran up the left side for a gain of seven and a first down.  On third and ten from the 27, Brady found Hernandez again for a gain of 17 and a first and goal from the ten.  With 26 seconds left, the Patriots called their second timeout.  On first down, Brady ran for a gain of three and instead of calling timeout, he tried to get the offense back to the line of scrimmage to run another play.  Precious seconds ran off the clock as they tried to get organized.  That forced Brady to take the third timeout with four seconds remaining.  That wasn’t enough time to run a play and they had to settle for a 25-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and the Patriots took a 13-7 lead into the locker room.

The Ravens would get as far as the 50 on their first drive of the second half and would be forced to punt.  The Patriots took over at their nine and a six-yard pass to Lloyd, a five yard run by Ridley, a five-yard pass to Hernandez and a 24-yard pass to Welker moved the ball to midfield.  Add another unnecessary roughness penalty on the Ravens and the Patriots were looking good with a first down at the Raven 36-yard line.  But, they would only get as far as the 34.  With the swirling winds making field goal attempts difficult, the Patriots opted to punt.  Zoltan Mesko punted the ball to the 13 where it was fair caught by safety Ed Reed.

With ten minutes to go in the third quarter, the Ravens took to the air and Flacco brought out the no huddle offense.  A 15-yard pass interference penalty on the Patriots and a 22-yard pass to Pitta moved the Ravens to the 50.  From the 50, Flacco hooked up with Rice for 15 yards.  A five-yard pass to Smith and an eight yard run by Pierce netted a first down at the 22.  From the 22, Flacco found Boldin for 12 and Pitta for five more.  On second and goal from the five, Flacco tossed a short pass to his right and Pitta caught it for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 14-13 with 6:14 to go in the third quarter.

The Patriots went nowhere on their next drive and punted.  Return man Jacoby Jones fielded the punt at the Raven 26 and returned it to the 37.  On second and 14 from the 33, Flacco went deep for Smith and he hauled it in for a gain of 23 yards.  An offside penalty and runs by Rice and Pierce got them a first down at the Patriot 25.  A six-yard run by Pierce and a six-yard completion to Pitta made it first down at the  13.  From the 13, Flacco completed an eight-yard pass to Boldin and Rice ran up the right side for a gain of two yards and that made it first and goal from the three.  On first down, Flacco tossed a high pass into the middle of the end zone for Boldin.  Despite the fact that there were two defenders in the area, Boldin came down with the ball for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 21-13 with an entire quarter remaining.

The Patriots started their next drive at their 16 and moved quickly to the 39 on the strength of three runs by Ridley and a 12-yard pass to Lloyd.  From the 39, Ridley ran up the right side and after a gain of eight yards, he was hammered by safety Bernard Pollard.  The ball came loose and there was a huge pileup.  Defensive end Arthur Jones emerged from the pile with the ball and the Ravens took over at the Patriot 47.  Ridley would leave the game and not return.  The Ravens needed four plays to go 47 yards and on second and four from the 11, Flacco once again found Boldin in the end zone for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens went up 28-13 with 11:13 to go in the game.

Now it was time for Brady to break out the no huddle offense.  From his own 29, he completed passes to Lloyd, running back Shane Vereen and Welker  to move the ball to the Raven 25.  On fourth and four from the 19, Brady ran to the left and looked like he may be able to get the first down.  Instead of running for it, he tossed the ball to the end zone where it fell incomplete.  That gave the Ravens the ball at the 19 with 8:27 to go.  Instead of running the ball, Flacco tried three pass plays.  That resulted in a grand total of minus one yard.  They had the ball for a whole minute and two seconds and punted.

The Patriots took over at their 40 and Brady wasted no time finding Welker for a big gain of 36 yards.  On first down from the 24, Brady looked for Hernandez and the ball was knocked up in the air by defensive end Pernell McPhee.  Linebacker Dannell Ellerbee got under it and picked it off.  That was a killer for the Patriots.  This time, the Ravens ran the ball and took a little over four minutes off the clock and the Patriots used all their timeouts.  With 2:05 to go, the Patriots moved from their 33 to the Raven 22.  On second down from the 22, Brady threw for the end zone and his pass was picked off by cornerback Cary Williams.  That sealed the deal and got the Ravens a ticket to the Super Bowl.  Final score: Ravens 28 Patriots 13.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 21 of 36 for 240 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.  Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta tied for the lead in receptions with five and Torrey Smith had the most yards receiving with 69.  Bernard Pierce led the ground game with 52 yards on nine carries and as a team, the Ravens rushed for 121 yards on 33 carries.  Linebacker Ray Lewis led the team with six solo tackles.

For the Patriots, Tom Brady completed 29 of 54 for 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  Aaron Hernandez had the most receptions with nine and Welker had the most yards receiving with 117 and a touchdown.  Stevan Ridley had the bulk of the carries and led the team with 70 yards on 18 carries.  All totaled, the Patriots rushed for 108 yards on 28 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Brandon Spikes led the team with six solo tackles.

In two weeks, the San Francisco 49ers will meet the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.  It’ll be the first brother versus brother coaching match-up in Super Bowl history as John Harbaugh will be matching wits with his younger brother Jim.  The last time they met was in 2011 and  the Ravens won that game by a score of 16-6.  It will also be the last game for the great Ray Lewis.  I would also imagine 49er wide receiver Randy Moss may call it quits after this game too.  Honestly, all I’m hoping for is a good and entertaining game.  I’ll be traveling on Super Bowl weekend and will not be back in town until Monday afternoon.  I’ll have a recap of the game up no later than Monday night.  Until then, take it easy and enjoy the game.

 

 

 

Patriots 41, Texans 28

The last game on the playoff schedule had the Houston Texans heading up to New England to take on the Patriots.  The Texans were coming off a 19-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals and the Patriots had a first round bye.  These teams met in week 14 of the regular season and the Patriots shredded the Texans by a score of 42-14.  The Texans won the toss and elected to receive.  That was a good idea as return man Danieal Manning fielded the kick six yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the Patriot 12-yard line.  From the 12, running back Arian Foster ran up the left side for a modest gain of three yards.  On second down, quarterback Matt Schaub threw a pass to fullback James Casey and the ball went right through his hands and fell incomplete.  On third down, Schaub looked for wide receiver Andre Johnson and that pass was also incomplete.  With such great field position, the Texans had to settle for a field goal attempt from kicker Shayne Graham.  His 27-yard attempt was good and the Texans had an early 3-0 lead.

After that possession, the Patriots punted twice and the Texans followed suit.  But with 4:29 to go in the first quarter, the Patriots put together a nice drive on the strength of running back Stevan Ridley from their 35.  Ridley had two carries for 12 yards and caught a pass for 13 more yards.  From the Texan 40, quarterback Tom Brady threw a short pass to running back Shane Vereen and he took it 25 yards down to the Texan 15.  Brady then hooked up with tight end Aaron Hernandez for a gain of 14 to set up a first and goal at the one.  Vereen took it in from the one for a touchdown.  Kicker Stephen Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots led 7-3 with 1:28 remaining in the first quarter.

The kickoff went nine yards deep in the end zone and the Texans got the ball at the 20.  Completions to Johnson and Foster moved the Texans quickly to their 47.  But the next three plays gained exactly zero yards and they punted again.  The punt was fair caught at the 16 by wide receiver/return man Wes Welker.  Speaking of Mr. Welker, on third and eight from the 18, he caught a pass for a gain of 30 yards.  Then Vereen ran off left tackle for 22 more and a first down at the Texan 30.  Two more carries by Vereen got them another first down at the 16.  But, an unsportsmanlike penalty on wide receiver Brandon Lloyd moved them back 15 yards.  They managed to get down to the 19, but the drive stalled there.  Gostkowski made his 37-yard attempt and the Patriots now led 10-3 with 10:16 to go in the first half.

After another Texan punt, the Patriots started from their 20.  A 13-yard pass to Welker on third and 11 kept the drive alive and Brady found Lloyd for seven more yards.  A six-yard carry by Ridley and a 47-yard pass to Welker made it first and goal from the eight-yard line.  On first down, Brady tossed a pass to his left and Vereen caught it for an eight-yard touchdown.  Gostkowski made another extra point and the Patriots went up 17-3 with 3:38 to go in the half.

On the kickoff, Gostkowski was penalized for a horse collar tackle and that set up the Texans at the Patriot 47.  Two carries by Foster set up a first and goal from the seven-yard line.  Three more carries got them six points as Foster found the end zone from the one-yard line.  Graham made the point after and the Texans now trailed 17-10 with 1:15 to go in the half.

The Patriots netted exactly four yards on their next drive and punted.  With 24 seconds remaining, the Texans had the ball at their 38 and three timeouts.  A nine-yard pass to Casey and an 11-yard pass to Daniels had them in Patriot territory with precious seconds ticking away.  From the Patriot 42, Schaub found Daniels for a gain of five and they called their final timeout with two seconds left.  Graham came on and his 55-yard field goal was good.  That made it 17-13 as the half came to a close.

The Patriots got the ball to start the second half and started their next possession at their 31.  Two passes to Welker and two to Hernandez had them rolling into Texan territory.  From the 12, Ridley ran for a gain of four yards.  Ridley got the call again and this time he crossed the goal line for another Patriot touchdown.  Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots went up 24-13.

The teams punted on their next possessions and the Texans took over at their ten with just under nine minutes to go in the third quarter.  A false start penalty pinned them back to their five.  Schaub tossed a short pass to Foster who took it up the left side for a gain of 28 yards.  A short run by Foster and a loss of nine on a sack made it third and long again.  On third and 16, Johnson caught a pass at midfield for another first down.  If the Texans wanted to stay in this game, they had to get some points on this drive.  Foster ran for seven more yards and Casey caught a pass for five yards and a first down at the Patriot 39.  On third and eight from the 37, Schaub had time and threw a pass right down the middle that was caught by Rob Ninkovich at the 31.  There’s only one problem with that.  Ninkovich is a Patriot.  He returned the ball to the 37.  Three carries by Ridley, and passes to Hernandez and Lloyd put the ball at the Texan five-yard line.  On first down, Brady looked for Lloyd and found him for another touchdown.  Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots now had a very comfortable 31-13 lead.

The Texans found themselves with terrible field position again as they started at their 14-yard line.  An eight-yard pass to tight end Garrett Graham and two short runs made it fourth and one from the 23.  When you’re down big in a playoff game, desperate times call for desperate measures.  They went for it on fourth and the zebras ruled Foster made it.  The Patriots challenged the ruling, but it was upheld and the Texans had a first down at the 24.  Three plays later, they had another fourth and one from the 33.  This time, Schaub threw it deep and it was incomplete.  The Patriots will make you pay if you turn the ball over in your own territory.  Sure enough, from the 33, Brady took the snap, looked to his left and threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Lloyd.  That was entirely too easy.  Gostkowski made the extra point and the Patriots now led 38-13 with 13 minutes to go in the game.

Manning got loose on another kick return and was finally brought down at the Patriot 37.  A couple of runs by Foster got them down to the 25 and from the 25, wide receiver DeVier Posey caught a pass on the right side for a touchdown.  Initially it was ruled incomplete, but the Texans challenged the ruling and it was overturned for a touchdown.  Graham made the point after and the score was now 38-20 with 11:35 left.

The Patriots netted a grand total of minus five yards on their next possession and Mesko blasted a 64-yard punt that was downed at the Texan 21.  Completions to Johnson and Daniels and a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on the Patriots gave the Texans a first down at the Patriot 48.  A pass to Foster and two more to Daniels made it first and goal at the four.  It took four plays to go four yards, but Schaub hit Foster with a one-yard touchdown pass.  They decided to go for two and Johnson caught the pass and the two-point conversion was good.  That made it 38-28 with 5:11 to go.

The Texans tried an onside kick and it was recovered by Ninkovich.  The Patriots stuck to the ground game to kill the clock and Gostkowski ended up making a 38-yard field goal to make the final score 41-28.  That win propels the Patriots to yet another AFC title game.

For the Texans, Matt Schaub completed 34 of 51 for 343 yards, two touchdowns and one very bad interception.  Owen Daniels led the team in receptions with nine and Andre Johnson had the most receiving yards with 95.  Although he didn’t get loose many times, Arian Foster managed to gain 90 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown.  He also had seven receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown.  The only other player credited with rushing yards was Schaub and he had one yard on one carry.  So that gives the Texans a total of 91 yards on 24 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Connor Barwin, cornerback Danieal Manning and cornerback Johnathan Joseph tied for the lead in solo tackles with three.  Barwin also had one tackle for a loss and two quarterback hits.

For the Patriots, Tom Brady completed 25 of 40 for 344 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.  Wes Welker led all receivers in receptions with eight and yards with 131.  Stevan Ridley had a good game on the ground with 82 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.  All totaled the Patriots ran for 122 yards on 24 carries.  Defensively, cornerback Aqib Talib led the team with nine solo tackles.

Up next for the Patriots is a rematch of last year’s AFC title game as the Baltimore Ravens will be coming to town.  In the NFC, the 49ers will be heading to Atlanta to play the Falcons.  Both games are scheduled for next Sunday and the NFC title game will kickoff at 3 eastern time.  The AFC title game will start at 6:30 eastern time.  Until then, take it easy.

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: It’s only five games but so far the Kevin Kolb era is off to a slow start…..S Kerry Rhodes broke his foot during the game Sunday and will be out for a least a month…..For those of you keeping track, Arizona will host Super Bowl XLIX in 2015…..With all the attention that defenses are paying towards WR Larry Fitzgerald, Early Doucet is quietly having a nice season.

Atlanta Falcons: I’m not sure which is more surprising – that the Eagles are 1-4 or that the Falcons are 2-3. I didn’t see either one coming…..WR Julio Jones will miss at least this week’s game with a hamstring injury, which will give Harry Douglas a chance to make a bigger impact…..DE Ray Edwards is still not fully recovered from off-season knee surgery and isn’t having the pass rush impact that the Falcons were hoping for…..I hate when analysts say this because it all counts, but take away two long runs from RB Michael Turner and he has been virtually non-existent this season.

Baltimore Ravens: WR Lee Evans was able to practice on a limited basis Wednesday, but missed practice Thursday. It seems unlikely that he will play this week…..CB Jimmy Smith also is unlikely to go as he still can’t run at full speed…..The Ravens are catching the Texans at the right time. DE Mario Williams is out for the season and WR Andre Johnson will also miss the game. It certainly makes life easier when the opposing team is missing their best offensive and defensive player.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills will be going up against one of their own this week in Perry Fewell, the Giants defensive coordinator. They should certainly know some of his favorite schemes…..WR Donald Jones will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a high-ankle sprain, so Brad Smith could see more action…..LB Chris Kelsay won’t play versus the Giants…..What kind of team the Bills have will become much more apparent within the next month.

Carolina Panthers: Fantasy owners couldn’t have been happy when the Panthers offensive coordinator stated this week that QB Cam Newton will be the Panthers goal line back going forward. Now there is something you just don’t hear every day. The ironic thing is this statement came the same week that coach Ron Rivera stated he didn’t want Newton running the ball as much. Can’t seem to have it both ways.

Chicago Bears: QB Jay Cutler has now admitted in back to back weeks that all the hits he is taking are starting to make him gun-shy in the pocket. In other words, he is starting to see the rush rather than looking for his receivers down the field…..RB Matt Forte turned down a contract worth $13-$14 million in guaranteed cash during the off-season. It seems with the season he is having that he is certainly not going to take any less now.

Cincinnati Bengals: By yardage allowed, the Bengals have the best defense in the NFL. Yeah, who saw that coming?…..RB Cedric Benson still doesn’t know if and when he will be suspended by the NFL. His appeal has been heard, but no decision has been made. The problem for fantasy owners is that they are forced to keep Bernard Scott on their roster until a final decision is made. That’s a valuable roster spot being wasted as of now.

Cleveland Browns: WR Greg Little has been named a starter going forward and has been a popular pickup in fantasy leagues. While I like his added playing time, I’m not seeing big things happen here…..CB Joe Haden is out this week. That’s a big loss to the Browns pass defense…..DE Marcus Benard suffered a broken arm in a motorcycle accident Monday and will be lost to the Browns for the remainder of the season. There is a reason emergency rooms call them donor cycles.

Dallas Cowboys: The bye week may have come in Week 5, but for the Cowboys it couldn’t be early enough. WRs Dez Bryant and Miles Austin should be as close to 100% as they have been all season, CB Orlando Scandrick will play in his first game since Week 1 (lucky him as he gets to cover Wes Welker), and QB Tony Romo gets two more weeks to recover from his broken ribs. Speaking of those ribs, Romo will still wear a flak jacket and take a pain killing injection before playing.

Denver Broncos: I’m still not a big believer in Tim Tebow’s ability to be a franchise QB, but at this point in the season the Broncos needed to see what they have in him. If you’re going to lose, you might as well lose big…..Fantasy wise though, Tebow is an interesting play. He’s probably good for somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 yards a game which helps offset his probably lack of passing yards, and if he can run in a touchdown he could have a decent week–figure around 18 points…..For those of you who want the Broncos to trade QB Kyle Orton, it’s probably not going to happen. The deadline is next week. The only team that might be interested is Miami, and the Broncos happen to play Miami that Sunday. I’m just not seeing that PR nightmare happening.

Detroit Lions: TE Tony Scheffler suffered a concussion during the game Monday and is unlikely to play Sunday…..S Erik Coleman was placed on season ending IR with an ankle injury…..DL Nick Fairley finally got to play Monday. Although he didn’t make an impact during his first game, he should only help what may be the best defensive line in football as he gets more experience…..WR Nate Burleson seems to be seeing his role in the offense decline as QB Matthew Stafford seems to be looking for his TEs as secondary targets when Calvin Johnson is covered.

Green Bay Packers: Pretty amazing game for the Packers and QB Aaron Rodgers last week against the Falcons when you consider they lost both starting tackles. This may be a problem that comes more to the forefront in the coming weeks…..I know WR James Jones has had back to back big weeks but there are just too many offensive weapons for Rodgers to choose from to see this being an every week thing…..Staying on that note, WR Donald Driver’s best days are behind him and the Pack may be better off only using him in four and five WR sets.

Houston Texans: As mentioned earlier, WR Andre Johnson is out for this week’s game but may return sooner than thought, possibly even next week…..What does have to concern the Texans however is that RB Adrian Foster has been slowed in practice once again this week and one has to wonder if that hamstring is bothering him once again…..The acquisition of WR Derrick Mason from the Jets goes to show how unimpressed the Texans were with Jacoby Jones.

Indianapolis Colts: Who would’ve thought that the most dynamic passing combo in the NFL would be QB Curtis Painter to WR Pierre Garcon? The Colts are still going to need another positive week though before I completely buy in…..WR Joseph Addai injured his hamstring last week and is unlikely to play Sunday, leaving the running game in the hands of Delone Carter and Donald Brown. I’d rather have Carter.

Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Aaron Kampman is expected to finally play in a game this season–Sunday versus the Steelers. With the state of the Steelers offensive line, he couldn’t have picked a better game to come back to…..How long until coach Jack Del Rio is fired? He was told that the team would have to make the playoffs to save his job. Ummm, this team is not going to make the playoffs.

Kansas City Chiefs: QB Matt Cassel has come alive of late and has made WRs Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston good plays as well in fantasy leagues. There is one problem though, the Chiefs schedule gets much tougher in the weeks ahead. Although they will probably be playing behind which will lead to more passes, they will also be playing against tougher defenses…..RB Jackie Battle had well over 100 yards rushing last week but don’t be looking for big things from him when the Chiefs return from their bye. He’s just not that kind of back.

Miami Dolphins: How will the Dolphins do with QB Matt Moore at the helm? It can’t be any worse than what they did with Chad Henne…..RB Daniel Thomas should be back as the bye enabled him to recover from his hamstring injury. The Dolphins will need him this week as it would seem unlikely that Moore will have great success against the Jets defense…..Look for the other RB, Reggie Bush, to line up in the slot as the Dolphins look to get him more involved in the offense.

Minnesota Vikings:  QB Donovan McNabb is playing better behind center, but once the Vikings come to the conclusion that the playoffs are out of reach, the Christian Ponder era should begin…..CB Antoine Winfield and WR Percy Harvin both missed practice Thursday. Winfield has a neck injury and seems questionable at best while Harvin is dealing with sore ribs but is more on the probable side.

New England Patriots: RB Danny Woodhead has been practicing on a limited basis the past couple of days and could play Sunday, just what Tom Brady needs–another weapon…..Speaking of weapons, TE Aaron Hernandez is still limited in practice, but as we saw last week versus the Jets, even at 80% healthy he is quite a weapon…..Fantasy wise I’m giving WR Chad Ochocinco one more week to show he can still play at the NFL level or it’s waiver wire time.

New Orleans Saints: Coach Sean Peyton admitted this week that he is having a hard time giving RB Mark Ingram enough carries during the game. I can’t really blame him. I’d want the ball in QB Drew Brees’ hands as much as possible also…..WR Devery Henderson has a calf injury that is slowing him down. He hasn’t been able to practice this week after having a subpar game Sunday. He could be sitting this week…..For those of you wondering who the number one receiver is for the Saints, even with the return to health of Marques Colston, it’s TE Jimmy Graham.

New York Giants: RB Brandon Jacobs is still having problems with severe swelling around his knee. Not a good thing for a running back, especially one who is normally taken down around the knees…..WR Victor Cruz is still technically the 3rd receiver for the Giants, but he is making more plays than Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. It seems to be just a matter of time before Manningham is demoted…..DE Justin Tuck has been hearing it from a number of ex-Giants about not playing in games due to injury and this week may be no different. Even if he does play, it certainly wouldn’t be anything more than as a situational pass rusher.

New York Jets: The Jets are starting to feel the pressure after losing three straight road games. They aren’t talking as much to the media, but are complaining plenty in-house about the offensive strategy. One of those so-called complainers found himself shipped out when WR Derrick Mason was traded to the Texans for a 7th round pick…..What has happened to TE Dustin Keller after a hot start to the season? Come to think of it, you could say the same thing about WR Santonio Holmes as well…..Will this be the week the Jets get back to ground and pound, smash mouth football on both sides of the ball.

Oakland Raiders: Like him or hate him, Al Davis was a pioneer and one of the people who made the NFL what it is today. “Just win baby!” RIP Al

Philadelphia Eagles: I know it’s only Week 6, but the Eagles are in what may be a must win situation. A loss to the Skins Sunday and the Eagles will be four games out of 1st in the NFC East…..WR Steve Smith is now fully healthy, but still may be no better than 4th on the Eagles’ depth chart…..The Eagles reached out to former Jets and Browns coach Eric Mangini to be their defensive consultant. He turned it down however, preferring his gig with ESPN.

Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Rashard Mendenhall’s hamstring is said to be better and he will be good to go Sunday, but keep in mind his carries may be limited and that hamstring can easily be re-injured…..OT Max Starks, who hadn’t played in about a year, was in on all but two snaps in Sunday’s game and seemed to stabilize the Steelers offensive line. Was this just a one game phenomenon or will things start to get easier for QB Ben Roethlisberger and Mendenhall?

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are off this week and once again the bye couldn’t have come at a better time. RB Ryan Matthews is dealing with a calf strain that may have made him unable to play this week, Mike Tolbert has a concussion, WR Vincent Jackson a leg injury , and hopefully TE Antonio Gates can use the time off to finally get his foot healthy enough to get back on the field.

San Francisco 49ers: WR Josh Morgan is out for the season after suffering a broken ankle last week. The 49ers are riding high, but their depth at receiver is going to be tested until Braylon Edwards returns…..Until Edwards returns, Ted Ginn will be the 49ers number two. Scary isn’t it? Not to mention Michael Crabtree isn’t completely healthy either.

Seattle Seahawks: Pretty impressive win by the Hawks last week versus the Giants. There were plenty of big plays and turnovers, but in the end they made more of the good kind than the G-Men…..QB Tavares Jackson suffered a strained pectoral muscle and may not have been able to play if the Hawks had a game this week, but they don’t, so he has an extra week to rest…..WR Doug Baldwin went off against the Giants, but I wouldn’t be running out to the waiver wire just yet.

St. Louis Rams: RB Steven Jackson should be fully recovered from his quad injury and should be safe to start in fantasy leagues. Problem is the Rams play the Packers this week and could be behind by multiple touchdowns quite early, forcing them to abandon the run game…..WR Mark Clayton should return from the PUP next week. We all know the Rams could use all the help they can get at receiver as Danny Amendola was placed on IR, ending his season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: What has happened to the Bucs? That was a complete butt kicking handed to them by the 49ers last week. Seems the offense can’t quite get in gear as QB Josh Freeman is not having the big season many predicted of him. WR Mike Williams is also suffering as he seems to be going through a rough sophomore season. Is it the fault of Williams that Freeman has regressed or vice versa? The Bucs better figure it out soon before the season slips away…..The running game may not be able to help as LeGarrette Blount will miss the next game or two with a knee injury. Look for Earnest Graham to handle the load until Blount’s return.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans came out hot versus the Steelers last week, but when they were unable to score a TD on the opening drive despite having multiple chances inside the 10-yard line, all the air seemed to come out of the balloon and the game slipped away very quickly…..Look for the Titans to become more of a running team as the season progresses.

Washington Redskins: The big question for the Skins, besides if they are for real, is who will be the main ball carrier each week. Tim Hightower still has a banged up shoulder but is in line for more carries. Ryan Torain and Roy Helu have been impressive at times. All three could see the ball Sunday against the Eagles whose defense can’t stop anyone…..As for the QB, Rex Grossman hasn’t looked good the past few weeks and it’s hard to see him having a big day versus the Eagles secondary. He just needs to avoid the big mistake.

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: RB Chris Wells is listed as a game-time decision for the game Sunday with a hamstring injury. Backup LaRod Stephens-Howling is also dealing with an injury (hand) which means Chester Taylor could be in line for a bigger role than expected Sunday versus Seattle…..QB Kevin Kolb and WR Larry Fitzgerald continue to develop the chemistry team officials were hoping for when they made the trade with Philadelphia in the off-season.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Roddy White has a thigh injury but is listed as probable and will be good to go for the game versus the Bucs Sunday. But keep in mind that in past meetings with CB Aqib Talib, White hasn’t had the best of games…..The NFL keeps saying they will suspend flagrant violators of the hit to the head rule, but instead chose to fine CB Dunta Robinson $40,000 for his hit on Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin last week. Reasoning being that Maclin had a second to protect himself and Robinson didn’t launch himself. You have to wonder if they would’ve felt differently had Maclin been injured.

Baltimore Ravens: I wouldn’t want to be the Rams this week. One must have to think Baltimore comes out with an angry attitude after laying an egg last week…..WR Lee Evans, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, won’t play Sunday. A bigger problem is that WR Torrey Smith has had a terrible case of the drops in practice and may not have the trust of QB Joe Flacco…..Ravens are also having problems at CB as Jimmy Smith isn’t expected to play until Week 6 and Domonique Foxworth, who is dealing with a surgically repaired knee, may need to be rested for the near future.

Buffalo Bills: If the Bills can truly “circle the wagons” and defeat the Patriots, than it may be time to take them for real. With that being said, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is tied for the NFL lead with seven touchdown passes, RB Fred Jackson leads the NFL in rushing, and WR Steve Johnson is showing no problems with tighter coverage since the departure of Lee Evans…..RB C.J. Spiller is one Bill who hasn’t found his niche yet, but with the injury to Roscoe Parrish, may start to see an increased role on the offense. He will also take over the punt return role.

Carolina Panthers: To all those who thought QB Cam Newton was going to need a season or two to get acclimated to the NFL: think again!  You bet WR Steve Smith is a happy guy…..One player who hasn’t performed up to expectations so far this season is RB DeAngelo Williams. Matter of fact, his partner Jonathan Stewart has looked better than Williams so far, but the Panthers didn’t give Williams that fat contract in the off-season not to use him.

Chicago Bears: RB Marion Barber is set to make his season debut Sunday. I doubt that is going to help the protection problem the Bears are having. Once again, OC Mike Martz has forgotten that he has a good RB in Matt Forte and is throwing the ball every chance he gets. Problem is the Bears don’t have the receivers to truly take advantage of that pass/run ratio, and QB Jay Cutler is getting crushed. Martz was on his way to the same kind of ratio last season before he changed philosophies in the early going. He needs to do the same again this season.

Cincinnati Bengals: What a week for the Bengals.  First, WR Jerome Simpson was detained by authorities after a significant amount of marijuana was delivered to his home. Then, RB Cedric Benson was suspended three games for violating the leagues’ code of conduct. Simpson is questionable at best to play Sunday as they are still trying to figure out his legal situation, while Benson will play as he appeals his suspension. You shouldn’t wonder why we call them the Bungles.

Cleveland Browns: RB Peyton Hillis had to leave practice Friday with an illness and is now questionable to play Sunday. Seems unlikely that he would miss the game though unless this is one serious illness…..QB Colt McCoy could be a sneaky play in some fantasy leagues this year as the Dolphins will be without CB Vontae Davis, and possibly CB Will Allen. It’s not like the Dolphins were all that successful stopping the pass even with them in the lineup.

Dallas Cowboys: What a difference a week can make.  One week after wearing the goat horns for his fumble and late interception versus the Jets, QB Tony Romo became a hero for playing with a punctured lung and fractured rib while leading the Boys to victory. Although the lung is healed, the rib has not and Tony may have to play in some pain for a little bit…..The Cowboys are a walking MASH unit right now. RB Felix Jones has a separated shoulder but should play this week–not that he has been doing much anyway. WR Miles Austin injured his hamstring on an ill-conceived reverse last week and will most likely not be back until after the Cowboys Week 5 bye. The good news is that CB Terrance Newman will play Monday, and WR Dez Bryant also may be able to go.

Denver Broncos: RB Knowshon Moreno is dealing with a hamstring issue. Doesn’t it always seem like Moreno is dealing with one injury or another. It will be a game-time decision this week to see if he plays or not…..DE Elvis Dumervil is still dealing with a shoulder injury and will miss another week…..WR Brandon Lloyd’s groin seems to be feeling much better this week and is likely to play Sunday…..Speaking of groin injuries, WR Eddie Royal is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with one.

Detroit Lions: DT Nick Fairley is getting closer to his first game as he was able to participate in individual drills this week. He won’t play Sunday, but could return in Week 4 or 5…..Guess who holds the NFL record for most games played for one team with 297 games–that would be K Jason Hanson…..Since we’re playing guessing games, guess which team has yet to give up a sack this season–that would be Detroit. It would certainly keep QB Matthew Stafford healthier much easier if he never gets sacked.

Green Bay Packers: Tough loss for the Packers as S Nick Collins is lost for the season with a neck injury. This happens to a defense that has been shredded through the air in the first two weeks…..It’s starting to look like WR Jordy Nelson is the number two behind Greg Jennings….Big game this week between Chicago and Green Bay. Chicago wants revenge for last season’s playoff loss, but they are unlikely to get it here.

Houston Texans: This hamstring injury for RB Arian Foster is turning out to be a major problem for fantasy owners as he is once again a game-time decision. Even if he does play, Ben Tate could get a majority of the carries. Not to mention this injury could linger for weeks…..DC Wade Phillip’s new defense is certain to get tested this week against QB Drew Brees and the Saints, especially in New Orleans.

Indianapolis Colts: TE Dallas Clark has a foot injury and is now questionable to play Sunday against Pittsburgh. Just what the Colts need in a primetime game that is certain to be a blowout…..QB Peyton Manning stated that he is feeling better after having yet another neck surgery, but there is still no timetable for his return…..Receivers like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie are being dropped like flies in fantasy league. No one has much faith in QB Kerry Collins.

Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s good to see the Luke McCown era lasted all of a game and change. Either they never really had all that much faith in him or David Garrard was indeed released because of the $8 million he was due to make this season…..QB Blaine Gabbert will start this week. Don’t expect him to put up the same kind of gaudy numbers Cam Newton is for Carolina…..Anyone else think that RB Maurice Jones-Drew is going to be pretty busy, or at least busier than normal this week.

Kansas City Chiefs: Losing RB Jamaal Charles for the season with a torn ACL is a devastating blow for a team that was barely alive anyway. In the short term, Thomas Jones will handle the load, but Dexter McCluster will also see a bigger role. Not the same role that Charles had, he’s just not built that way…..Losing Charles could have a ripple effect as the focus of the defenses attention will now fall on WR Dwayne Bowe. Only bright point may be that they will be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

Miami Dolphins: With 107 yards on 18 carries last week, RB Daniel Thomas has taken over the starting role from Reggie Bush. It is not that big a shock as Bush wouldn’t last half the season if he touched the ball 20+ times a game. Thomas did put the ball on the ground once. He can’t make a habit of that…..The Dolphins have already had a tough time stopping the pass this season and will be without CB Vontae Davis and possibly Will Allen this week. Good thing they play the Browns, good for the Browns that is.

Minnesota Vikings: DT Kevin Williams returned to practice this week after serving his two game suspension, but is now dealing with plantar fasciitis and still may not be at full strength for Sunday’s game versus Detroit–good news for Javhid Best…..WR Percy Harvin has only been on the field for approximately half of the offensive snaps. This is the Vikings answer to trying to keep him healthy? Unfortunately, they don’t have much of a threat in their passing game besides Harvin.

New England Patriots: TE Aaron Hernandez is out for at least a week and probably two with a knee injury. Hernandez is listed as a TE but is basically a receiver in the Pats offense. Perhaps this could be the opening that WR Chad Ochocinco needs to get his act in gear…..S Patrick Chung is out for Sunday which certainly won’t help the Pats defense as they try and stop the suddenly high flying Bills.

New Orleans Saints: WR Robert Meacham was expected to take on a bigger role with the loss of Marques Colston, but that also means defenses will play closer attention to him. That seemed to happen last week as Meacham only caught one pass, granted though it was a touchdown…..LB Jonathan Vilma will not play this week as he is dealing with a knee issue. Not good news when the Saints are dealing with a team that has been extremely successful running the ball the first two games.

New York Giants: Giants players have been running their mouths this week about how much they want to beat the Eagles with QB Michael Vick. In other words, at full strength. G-Men be careful what you wish for though, you just may get it…..Look for the Giants to run the ball as much as possible for two reasons: one–to keep the Eagles offense off the field, and two–outside of WR Hakeem Nicks, the Giants don’t have anyone to throw to at the moment.

New York Jets: The Jets are 2-0 and averaging close to 30 points a game, yet WRs Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason aren’t happy about not seeing the ball enough. You just have to love receivers…..Speaking of WRs, one who is not complaining about receptions, but is dealing with a quad injury is Santonio Holmes. He has been limited at practice, but should play versus the Raiders on Sunday…..One who will miss the game is C Nick Mangold, and possibly a couple of other games as he recovers from an ankle injury.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders receiving corps is getting a little bit healthier this week as Darrius Heyward-Bey and TE Kevin Boss are expected to return from injury this week. Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy however will not…..The Raiders have been using the Jets’ Mark Sanchez eating a hot dog on the sideline of a lopsided win over the silver and black as motivation for this game. Guess you have to use whatever you believe will work. Truth is–I just don’t see the big deal, not like he ordered a pizza.

Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick will play this week after missing part of the second half last Sunday with a concussion. Somehow I don’t think this is the last time we will be talking about Vick missing game action…..The Eagles better tighten up their run defense as that will be the preferred method of attacking their defense, especially when it looks as bad as it does. You know the Giants are going to target that weakness this week…..WR Jason Avant has been pretty busy in the early going this season. If he wants to keep the slot job, he’ll have to
continue to keep busy as Steve Smith is getting healthier each week.

Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Ben Roethlisberger missed a couple of plays last week with a knee injury but did return to the game and has practiced all week. But this could just be the beginning of his injury worries as that offensive line would have trouble protecting a cheeseburger from the Hamburglar…..With that line, I’m worried about running room for Rashard Mendenhall as well.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates had zero receptions for the Chargers last week. Now I know the Pats bracketed him, but one has to wonder if that foot injury is starting to rear its ugly head again…..WR Malcolm Floyd is listed as doubtful for this week with a groin injury. It should be noted that in the past four seasons no player listed as doubtful has played that week for the Chargers. It also should be noted that the Chargers may be in no rush to push him since they’re playing the Chiefs this week.

San Francisco 49ers: TE Vernon Davis was virtually invisible last week as the 49ers kept him in to help block. With injuries to both WRs Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards, the 49ers are going to need Davis to run pass patterns and catch passes no matter how bad their offensive line is…..The line is also the probable culprit for Frank Gore’s lackluster start to the season…..Crabtree is likely to play this week while Edwards is out for a couple of weeks after having his knee scoped.

Seattle Seahawks: Which is worse, that the Seahawks didn’t trade for QB Kevin Kolb, or that they didn’t resign QB Matt Hasselback? Looks like they are going to regret both decisions…..Good news though, WR Sidney Rice is expected to make his season debut Sunday…..Bad news, OG Robert Gallery will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a groin injury. Seems to be a lot of that going around…..TE Zach Miller is another player who is being dropped en masse in fantasy leagues. Perhaps, the addition of Rice to the passing game will open things up for Miller.

St. Louis Rams: This week RB Steven Jackson is a game-time decision with a quad injury, and backup Cadillac Williams is questionable with a hamstring injury. Of course the Rams are going up against what is sure to be an angry defense in Baltimore. Not a bad week to take off…..WR Danny Amendola is unlikely to play as he still recovers from his elbow injury…..The Rams did complain to the league about the Giants faking injuries Monday night. Look, we all know they did it, but unless someone admits it, it can’t be proven.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Fantasy owners are worried about WR Mike Williams thanks to his miserable stat line last week of one catch for -4 yards. Relax! It was just a bad game, a game in which the Vikings decided to take him out and force someone else to beat them. It happens, time to move on, and Williams did have a TD catch called back…..TE Kellen Winslow practiced Friday but is dealing with a knee injury and may not be at full strength for Sunday.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans are playing pretty well offensively, and RB Chris Johnson hasn’t even gotten started yet…..LB Mason Foster, who many thought could be a replacement for Barrett Rudd, will finally get that chance as he will be a three down player starting Sunday…..Is it me or does QB Josh Freeman seem to play better when he is behind?

Washington Redskins: QB Rex Grossman predicted that the Redskins would win the NFC East during camp. We laughed at the time, but with all the injuries suffered by the Cowboys and Giants, it’s not so funny anymore. Even the Eagles are a bit banged up…..RB Tim Hightower may be listed as the starter, but one can just feel that Roy Helu is gaining on him. Not that Hightower has done anything wrong, but Helu just has that extra burst that could bring a big play at any moment.