March 25, 2017

Rams 42, Bears 21: Dome and Doubtful

The Chicago Bears played their worst game of the season on Sunday, losing 42-21 to the Rams in St. Louis but still held ground in the playoff race because the NFC North is about as solid as Derrick Rose’s knees.

The Bears should have won this game if you consider several things: One, they were playing the Rams.  Two, they were playing the Rams.  And three, Bears quarterback Josh McCown completed 36 of 47 passes for 352 yards, two touchdowns and one interception whereas Rams signal-caller Kellen Clemens completed just 10 passes for 167 yards, one score and no picks.

McCown’s rating was 102.4, Clemens tallied 86.7.

The NFL is supposed to be a pass-happy, quarterback league and when your guy nearly doubles the other guy you should win.  However, someone forgot to tell the Bears that you can still do something called run the ball and the Rams obliterated their northern visitors in this regard, outrushing Chicago, 258-80.

The Rams rush parade began on the their third play from scrimmage when receiver Tavon Austin sprinted untouched for a 65-yard score leaving Bears defenders grasping and gasping in his wake.  It was pretty much downhill from there.

Actually, the Bears didn’t play too badly for stretches of this thing.  McCown, whose solid play is now expected and not surprising, kept Chicago close and the Bears were only down by six with seven minutes to play after Michael Bush ran for a one-yard score.  But it was a run by Mr. Bush a few minutes previous which may have sealed the Bears’ fate.

The Bears trailed 24-14 midway through the third quarter when, after a very long, impressive drive to open the second half, they had first-and-goal from the St. Louis four.  What followed was two incomplete passes, a McCown scramble to the one and then a Bush run.  Or rather, a Bush pancake.  Michael got hogtied and assaulted by Rams linebacker Jo-Lunn Dunbar for a four-yard loss.  The Rams took over on downs and marched for a field goal and a 27-14 lead.

Can’t score from the four?  Can’t get it in from the one?  Didn’t want a good ‘ol field goal?  The shame in this for the Bears is it keeps happening.  Two weeks ago the Bears lost to the Lions, 21-19, because they couldn’t convert a two-point conversion when Bush got destroyed in the backfield.  The Lions seemed to know exactly what was coming and the Rams must have watched enough tape because Dunbar did, too.  Bears coach Marc Trestman has made his bones over the years by authoring solid passing attacks and making smart decisions.  He hasn’t suddenly gotten dumb but he is suddenly being caught making the wrong call far too often.  And when you keep making the wrong call it looks like you’re guessing.  And guessing badly.

It seemed over at this point but it wasn’t.  Devin Hester came to the rescue when the future Hall-of-Famer returned a punt 62 yards for a score to make it 27-21.  But wait, there’s a flag.  Holding on Bears blocker Craig Steltz.  The Bears would then end up scoring on that drive on Bush’s touchdown but it was seven minutes later.   And Bush’s TD was a minute after a McCown TD pass was called back because of a holding penalty.

The Bears racked up 84 yards in penalties on Sunday to just 39 for the Rams.  This was one week after the Bears out-flagged Baltimore 111-46 (but won.)  The Bears suddenly look like a sloppy team.  And, considering the Bears’ onslaught of injuries, when you put sloppy on top of unlucky you either get a really funky sandwich or a suddenly slipping football team.

Those injuries are a big part of the reason the Bears cannot stop the run.  It’s a reason, but not an excuse.  And if it is an excuse, well then just shut up because this is the NFL which stands for No excuses you whining little Fink, you just Lost again.

A St. Louis gentleman by the name of Benny Cunningham ran 13 times for 109 yards and a score against the Bears.  He then signed up for two weeks of standup in the Catskills.

Cunningham is a rookie out of Tennessee State who had never run for more than 72 yards in an NFL game.  His jersey number is 36.  And he torched the good kids for 109 yards?

Zac Stacy dinged the Bears for 87 yards and a TD on just 12 carries.  At least he wears #30 which looks a little more like a running back number and less like a third string safety.   Stacy is also a rookie.  From Vanderbilt.  Ouch and ouch.

Next week the Bears go to Minnesota to play the Vikings and a certain chap named Adrian Peterson.  Mr. P. ran for 146 yards against the Packers in a 26-26 tie on Sunday, (Sidebar: How do you feel about ties?  Who wants to sit in the cold for four hours in Green Bay and then go home not a winner nor a loser but just a victim of frostbite?  This, of course, almost happened in the Broncos-Patriots game as well but, thanks to Wes Welker, someone finally lost.  Sorry, Wes.  You’re a good player.  Still can’t decide, though, whether New England’s victory was epic or Denver’s collapse was pathetic. But should the NFL change to college rules for overtime?  Heck no, Old Man NFL doesn’t like things like that.  Why not?  It would be fun as hell to see teams trade scores.  The league wants to emphasize offense anyway so why not?)

…Anyway, where were we?  Oh yes, Adrian Peterson, who is second in the league in rushing, ran for 100 yards against the Bears in September and had two 100-plus yard efforts against Chicago last year when the Bears’ defense was actually good.  So what can happen this coming Sunday?  There is serious discussion among Bears fans (and probably Vikes fans, too) that Peterson could do something historic or, from the Bears’ perspective, tragic, and run for 300 yards.  This would break his own NFL record by four yards and, obviously, make him the first 300-yarder in league history.  Will it happen?  The Bears are allowing 145 rushing yards per game, worst in the NFL.  It can happen.

Despite Sunday’s kick in the grizzlies, which dropped the Bears to 6-5, they are not out of the playoff race.  In fact, they’re right in the thick of it because no one in the NFC North won on Sunday.  As mentioned, the Vikings and Packers settled for a draw and the Detroit Lions lost to the suddenly seaworthy Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 24-21.  The Lions might be better than the Bears, they beat them twice, but they’re not good.

But in the NFC North good might not be needed.  Last year the Bears won 10 games but were left home for the playoffs.  This year, nine wins might get you fitted for the NFC North crown.  Maybe eight.

It’s a hill, not a mountain. But it’s full of rocks, broken glass, cigarette butts and bleeding dreams.  Be careful where you step.  But start running.  Tackle, too.

****Extra Football Writing At No Charge****

Let’s give some credit to Jeff Fisher’s Rams. They’re without their top QB, Sam Bradford, but have won two straight (including a 38-8 thumping of the Colts two weeks ago) and are now 5-6 and possess an outside chance at the postseason. Too bad they play in such a tough division.

Speaking of the Colts, what has become of them?  They were swinging big balls all season long but have now lost two of three, the blowout against the Rams and then this weekend getting eaten alive, 41-11, in Arizona by the Cardinals.  Let’s talk about those Cardinals.  How many NFL fans outside of Arizona, maybe even inside Arizona, realize the Redbirds are 7-4?  Problem is, like the Rams, the Cardinals are in the NFC West behind the Seahawks and 49ers.  Arizona plays those two teams in the last two weeks of the season and playoff possibilities could be at stake for all involved.

This past weekend’s NFL games were played in the aftermath of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  Back in ’63, Commissioner Pete Rozelle made the decision to play a full slate of games two days after the President’s death and was roundly criticized then and in the years after and Rozelle later said he made a mistake.  Rozelle had been told that JFK would have wanted the games played.  The young President loved football.  He was due to flip the coin for the Army-Navy game that weekend.  That game was delayed.

Eventually everything went back to normal.  But it never went back to the way it was.   — TK

 

Packers 24, Vikings 10

With the Minnesota Vikings defeating the Green Bay Packers in the final game of the regular season, that meant they would face off again in the first round of the playoffs.  So, on a cold night in Green Bay, the Packers and Vikings took the field and met for the third time this season.  Kicker Mason Crosby booted the ball five yards deep in the end zone and return man Marcus Sherels returned it to the Viking 32.

Starting quarterback Christian Ponder missed most of practice all week and tried to give it a go in warmups before the game.  He was unable to go and that meant Joe Webb would be the starter.  Like everyone expected, running back Adrian Peterson was a huge part of the game plan.  Two carries netted seven yards and on third and 3 from the 39, Webb took off up the right side for a 17 yard gain.  Just like that, the Vikings were in Packer territory.  Three more runs by Peterson moved the ball to the 18, but they would only get as far as the 15 and have to settle for a field goal attempt.  Kicker Blair Walsh made it from 33 yards out and the Vikings had an early 3-0 lead with nine and a half minutes to go in the first quarter.

That was all the scoring there was in the first quarter until with six minutes to go, the Packers started their next drive from their 18.  Running back DuJuan Harris got things started with two runs for eight yards.  On third and two, running back Ryan Grant got the call and gained two yards.  However, the Vikings were flagged for a neutral zone infraction and that gave the Packers a first down at the 31.  A short scramble by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a 16-yard pass to Harris moved the ball to the Packer 49.  From there, Rodgers found tight end Jermichael Finley for ten yards and Harris for 12 more.  On second and 11 from the 25, Rodgers found Grant on a screen pass that went for 16 yards.  That made it first and goal at the nine and Harris ran up the middle for an apparent touchdown.  He was ruled down at the one, but the Packers challenged the play.  After review, it was ruled that he broke the plane and the call was reversed.  Kicker Mason Crosby made the point after and the Packers led 7-3 as the first quarter came to an end.

After the teams traded punts, the Packers got the ball at their 27 with a little under eight and a half minutes to go in the second quarter.  Passes to tight end Tom Crabtree and wide receiver James Jones moved the Packers to the Viking 39.  On fourth and five from the 34, Rodgers threw a short pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings who took it all the way down to the two-yard line.  An incomplete pass to Finley and two unsuccessful runs by fullback John Kuhn put the Packers in a fourth and goal situation from the one.  Instead of trying again, Packer head coach Mike McCarthy opted to go for the easy field goal.  The 20-yard attempt was good and the Packers increased their lead to 10-3 with 3:25 to go in the first half.

The Vikings had a quick three and out and the Packers took over at their 38 with just under two minutes to go.  Deep passes to wide receiver Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings gave the Packers a first and goal at the three-yard line.  This time, there would be no easy field goal attempt.  Kuhn ran off right guard for a Packer touchdown.  Crosby made the point after and the Packers now led 17-3 with 38 seconds to go in the first half.  The Vikings couldn’t do much with the ball with the little time that was remaining and the first half ended on an incomplete pass intended for wide receiver Devin Aromashodu.

Starting at their 20, the Packers went right to work.  Two runs by Harris and a nine-yard pass to Jones gave them a first down at the 37.  Another pass to Jones and two more to Harris quickly put them at the Viking 20.  The drive stalled at the 14 and Crosby was once again called on for a field goal attempt.  But, there would be no field goal attempt this time.  The Vikings were flagged for 12 men on the field and that gave the Packers a first down at the nine.  From the nine, Rodgers found Kuhn across the middle.  Kuhn bounced off a couple of Vikings and landed in the end zone for another Packer touchdown.  Crosby made the point after and the Packers now had a commanding 24-3 lead.

Try as they might, the Vikings just didn’t have the ability to come back from such a deficit.  What followed the touchdown by Kuhn was a whole lot of nothing.  The Packers ran the ball and took time off the clock.  However, there would be one more touchdown.  With four minutes to go in the game, wide receiver Michael Jenkins got loose and was wide open on the right sideline.  Webb spotted him and hit him in stride for a 50-yard touchdown.  Walsh made the point after and the Vikings now trailed 24-10 with a little over three minutes to go.  The Packers ran six plays and punted the ball back to the Vikings with 19 seconds to go.  Needless to say, that’s not enough time to score twice.  Final score: Packers 24 Vikings 10.

For the Vikings, Joe Webb completed 11 of 30 for 180 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble.  He also had 68 yards rushing on seven carries.  Michael Jenkins and tight end Kyle Rudolph tied for the lead in receptions with three apiece.  Jenkins had the most receiving yards with 96 and one touchdown.  Adrian Peterson ended up with 99 yards on 22 carries and the Packers did a good job of not letting him get loose.  All totaled, the Vikings had 167 yards rushing on 29 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Chad Greenway led the Vikings with ten solo tackles.

For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers completed 23 of 33 for 274 yards and one touchdown.  He spread the ball around to ten different receivers and DuJuan Harris led the team in receptions with five.  Greg Jennings was the leader in receiving yards with 61.  Harris had the most rushing yards with 47 on 17 carries and one touchdown.  As a team, the Packers had just 76 yards on 31 carries.  Defensively, cornerback Sam Shields led the Packers with five solo tackles, two passes defensed and an interception.

With that win, the Packers head out to the Bay Area to take on the San Francisco 49ers next Saturday.  They met in week one in Green Bay and the 49ers came away with a 30-22 win.  A lot has changed since then.  In that game, the “replacement refs” threw 18 flags for 143 yards.  Something tells me that won’t happen this time and it should be a close game.

 

Vikings 21, Bears 14: Tough Turf, Bad Days

The Minnesota Vikings are rotten guys, the type who invite you over for a friendly game of football and then ruin everything by doing things like intercepting passes, scoring touchdowns, and telling all the girls that you and your brother were once kicked out of the Indian Guides.

Some might say the Vikings were only doing what they were paid to do in their 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears, but hiding behind the truth doesn’t make it more kind nor palatable.

The Bears made a lot of mistakes in this one, beginning with their decision to show up.  Though, it could be posited that Chicago didn’t even do that, or at least not on time, as the Bears allowed Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to break free on a 51-yard run on the game’s very first play from scrimmage.   It was as if the Bears never seriously considered that Minnesota might try to utilize Peterson, who leads the league in rushing.  You know, Adrian Peterson, big guy, #28, runs a lot, stomps things.

A few moments after that run, Peterson scored from one yard out and it was 7-0 Vikings and Bears fans began flipping around the dial to see if the guy at the liquor store really was telling the truth about that “Hazel” marathon.

By the time we flipped back, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had thrown an interception, Peterson had another touchdown, the Bears trailed 14-0, and it felt like the time you bumped into your uncle at the Walgreen’s neither of you usually goes to and you saw that he had pantyhose in his basket and you couldn’t hide being upset that he got the last pair.

Peterson had 100 yards rushing by the time the first quarter ended, en route to a 154-yard effort, making the Bears look like a team that didn’t have Brian Urlacher and Tim Jennings because they didn’t have Brian Urlacher and Tim Jennings.  That’s no excuse, though, and the Bears actually held Peterson to just 103 yards on his final 30 carries which is….ok, that’s still too many.

The Bears finally got on the board just before halftime when Cutler threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery who had missed six of the previous seven games due to injuries and Chicago trailed, 14-7, at the break but it felt far worse.  It felt like we were playing Green Bay.

Cutler threw his second interception of the day late in the third quarter and this one Vikings safety Harrison Smith returned 55 yards for a touchdown and then reminded everyone that he went to Notre Dame and then everyone reminded him that the Fighting Irish are doing better without him and, daggummitt, that shut him up!

The score remained 21-7 until the final moments when Jason Campbell hit Brandon Marshall for a 16-yard score to make it 21-14 which looks better in the box score, but box scores are for weenies.

Campbell was playing because Cutler hurt his neck and Jay really didn’t play that well, anyway, finishing 22-of-44 for 260 yards, two picks, one score and a queasy feeling that he’ll have no excuse for skipping a trip to his in-laws in January.

This was a blah game, a bad game, a dumb game and a costly game.  The Bears beat the Vikings, 28-10, just two weeks ago in Chicago but seemed to have forgotten all about that.  It was basically the usual thing for Chicago: no offensive rhythm, no commitment to the running game, shoddy blocking, stupid penalties, no boost from the return game, no threat from the tight ends, and a defense that played well but didn’t score which means it didn’t play well enough.  That’s how it is in Chicago.

Basically it came down to this: the two best players in this game were Peterson for the Vikings and Marshall for the Bears who finished with ten catches for 160 yards and the one score.  Marshall’s efforts were impressive but Peterson’s set the pace and Cutler’s two interceptions proved too costly to overcome.  Oh yeah, and Jeffrey dropped a TD pass late in the third.  It hit him on the hands.  And Devin Hester dropped a certain TD late in the fourth.  If those guys had held on, Cutler’s mistakes  (and everyone else’s) probably would have been forgiven, if not forgotten.

Now the Bears are watching the playoff train pull away from the station and know they have to chase it but not before they tie there shoes, tuck in their shirt, check their watch and kiss the puppy.  It’s December and when you’re 8-4 and in second place you have to chase that train half-naked and screaming.  It’s not called panic, it’s called urgency.  It’s called facing the worst quarterback in football, Christian Ponder, and forcing him into mistakes.  If not, you’re suddenly 8-5 with the Packers coming to town which means the next time we talk you’re almost certainly going to be 8-6.

To the Vikes’ credit they didn’t put Ponder in position to make many mistakes as he only threw 17 passes, completing 11, and his one interception was on a meaningless heave right before halftime.   So let’s get this straight: Peterson was pedestrian after the first quarter, really after his first run, Ponder was impotent for the entire 60 minutes and still the Bears looked like they were in quicksand.

What happens when you step in quicksand?  You die slowly.

The Bears are 8-5 and Aaron Rodgers and friends are on deck and it will be tough to find a human being in Cook County who really thinks the Meritocrats of the Midway will be able to do anything to stop this slide which has seen them go from a Super Bowl contender into an honorable mention in the Johnny Football sweepstakes.

December is shaping up to be cold, friendless and fart-filled.  It’s a month with missing mittens and hissing kittens.  It’s what we saw coming but couldn’t stop.  It’s a callous calendar that laughs and winks while slowly shutting the door.  –TK

Mitchell’s Fantasy Football Notes: Week 10 (2012)

While week 9 in fantasy football was a scoring explosion compared to past weeks, week 10 for fantasy football was one known more for who was carted off the field than its performances on it.  RG3 and Aaron Rodgers had the entire week off while Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith and Jay Cutler took half days for health reasons, three concussions and one shoulder separation.  These injuries will impact week 11 and potentially the fantasy playoffs, especially in the case of Vick and Big Ben.  This new weekly column will address the relevant activity and it’s impact in every game on the weekend’s calendar for week 10 in the NFL so let’s get right to it.

Colts 27, Jaguars 10
In this game the lack of stats tells us more than the productive ones.  Vic Ballard and Donald Brown both had disappointing yardage totals and no TD’s but the split carries is the story here.  The wide receiver position is where we see reasons to be optimistic if not outright bullish.  For Jacksonville, Michael Spurlock was productive with minimal targets while both Cecil Shorts III and Laurent Robinson were productive and more importantly, targeted significantly.  All good signs for teams slogging through a 2-QB league with Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne or for owners that took a shot on Cecil Shorts III or Laurent Robinson.  For Indianapolis, T.Y. Hilton’s emergence looks to be a bit premature with Donnie Avery being the #2 guy in this offense behind Reggie Wayne and even Avery only got 6 targets.

Bengals 31, Giants 13
Disappointing once again for Eli Manning and his “tired” arm.  TD’s are king in fantasy football and that anoints Andy Dalton into royalty in week 10 with four scores with only seven weeks to go.  Hakeem Nicks seems to be back and productive while Andre Brown and Ahmed Bradshaw both ran well in limited carries.  The big fantasy story for the Giants is TE Michael Bennett and RB Andre Brown being targeted significantly in the passing game as well as news that Ahmed Bradshaw is battling an injury going into week 11.

Titans 37, Dolphins 3
Ryan Tannehill took a step back this week with three INT’s while Chris Johnson took another step closer to solidifying himself as the stud RB he once was and people thought he might never be again.  Brian Hartline stepped up big as well in a pathetic overall offensive effort by Miami.

Vikings, 34 Lions 24
There were big fantasy stats in a losing effort for Matthew Stafford and the revitalized Megatron.  Adrian Peterson once again shows that he is a beast no matter what else is going on in Minnesota.  Concerning Mikel Leshoure, you better hope he gets some goal line carries because he doesn’t do much else well.  A monster day for AP.  The story here that matters most is when Percy Harvin sits, Kyle Rudolph matters and when Harvin plays, Rudolph seems to disappear.  This is one to watch more closely in coming weeks.

Patriots 37, Bills 31
The big story here is that YES, the Patriots pass defense is THIS bad.  They are second worst defense in the NFL on 3rd down ahead of only… yes that’s right…BUFFALO.  Start every wide receiver you can find when facing the Patriots.  Can Talib turn things around??  Seems unlikely.  Mount up WR’s.  Spiller owners should be excited with the news that Fred Jackson will miss week 11 if not more.

Saints 31, Falcons 27
Matt Ryan may end up being the highest scoring QB in the NFL which means a lot of targets to go around and the player with the biggest upside for the remainder of the season on this team is Jacquizz Rodgers.  His targets can go nowhere but up and with the Falcons essentially in the playoffs there is no reason not to continue to expand his role.  From the Saints, Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram are gaining steam and may be becoming fantasy relevant.

Buccaneers 34, Chargers 24
This Bucs offense is a juggernaut, second only to the Falcons in the NFC.  Surprisingly, week 10 was not an explosive week for the Bucs versus a mediocre Chargers defense in what appeared to be a great match up.  With San Diego, a lot of passing attempts to go around but nobody to bet heavy on to catch them consistently.  Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates seem to be the safe bets but not enough consistent production for me to be excited.

Broncos 36, Panthers 14
It was a high scoring fantasy week for Carolina players that didn’t translate into a W for the Panthers who can probably be eliminated from the NFL discussion officially after losing to the Broncos.  Denver players didn’t produce enough and didn’t score enough to make their fantasy owners happy.  Willis McGahee seems to be a flex RB at this point and a mediocre one at that while Daniel Thomas looks to be elevating himself into the upper tier of WR’s with the help of Peyton Manning in Denver.  MORE TOUCHDOWNS DENVER.  WE NEED MORE SCORES.  Carolina’s running game appears to be non-existent which bodes well for Cam Newton, Brandon LaFell, Steve Smith and Greg Olsen owners.

Ravens 55, Raiders 20
On the two podcasts that I host on the Leatherheads National Podcasting Network (The Monday Rundown at 7:00 P.M. EST on Mondays and The Leatherheads Fantasy Football Show at 9:00 P.M. EST on Wednesdays), I have time and time again made the point that Ray Rice is not getting enough touches and in a big win versus the lowly Oakland Raiders, we once again saw or better said, didn’t see Ray Rice toting the rock.  In winning big, they didn’t need Rice but for one of the best all around RB’s and a top five fantasy draft pick in the game to only touch the ball 17 times, I wonder if this signals a transition from a trend to a fundamental offensive shift of focus by John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens.  With more of the Raven’s offense highlighting the passing game, Joe Flacco’s role was expanding and we knew this coming into 2012, but to see the significant reduction of Ray Rice’s touches is beyond what anyone would have ever expected.  As far as the Raiders go, Carson Palmer and the WR’s are becoming legitimate and must starts.  With the Raiders likely to be behind in almost every second half the remainder of this season, there is no reason not to be upset if you own Darren McFadden and you should be elated if you own Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey or tight end Brandon Myers who all have been consistently targeted on this hot fantasy run by the Raiders offense.

Seahwaks 28, NY Jets 7
The Jets don’t have much fantasy relevance unless Tim Tebow can somehow tear the starting QB job from the cold, dead hand of Rex Ryan.  Shonn Greene appears to have the RB carries almost completely too himself but the production from those carries is miserable.  Jeremy Kerley is getting some targets and he has some big play ability, but how do you make big plays when your QB can’t throw the ball well enough to get it to you?  As for Seattle, it is all about  Marshawn Lnynch.   If Lynch can manage to survive the season, he is going to be one of the hardest worked RB’s in the game–if not the history of it.  Only Arian Foster has more carries this season and may pass him by season’s end.  Ride Lynch to the ground and ignore the horrible Jets all together.  Oh, and maybe you may want to claim Golden Tate because he throws the ball better than Russell Wilson.

Cowboys 38, Eagles 23
In a game that saved the Cowboys season and officially ended the Eagles one, we saw what many fans were hoping for and what most fantasy owners dreaded, Nick Foles in and Michael Vick out.  An offensive line that singlehandedly can be blamed for the abysmal Eagles season in this fantasy expert’s opinion, finally got Michael Vick knocked out and it could be awhile before we see Vick play again–and it may be with another team next season.  Nick Foles made one play, a 44-yard TD on a broken coverage, while Tony Romo, who didn’t sparkle, did make a few highlight reel plays and was able to get it done for the Cowboys.  Felix Jones seems to be finding his groove and Jason Witten is officially the only true, reliable player to catch Romo passes.  For the Eagles, Jeremy Maclin was targeted over and over, which is normally a good thing, but for me its a mirage.  This offense can’t overcome an offensive line that leaks like a swiss cheese built boat and refuses, not unlike the Ravens, to get its superstar RB the ball.  If your thin then Maclin seems to be a consistent play, but I rank him as a WR3 at best.  I would downgrade him from there with Foles at the helm.

Rams 24, 49ers 24
In a rare tie in the NFL, this was a game where an injury was possibly the best thing that could happen to a struggling fantasy owner.  Alex Smith looks to be sidelined due to a concussion which opens the door for the fleet afoot Colin Kaepernick.  The issue here is that the 49ers have a tough matchup versus the Bears in week 11 (a team who also lost their starting QB in week 10) and this may be the only week Alex Smith misses.  So the one week where a fantasy team owner that picked Kaepernick has a chance to start him, it may be better to sit him due to the matchup and then lose the upside to a returning Alex Smith.  I can’t even recommend holding on to Kaepernick even if you have the roster space because it seems unlikely he gets any playing time.  He is an intriguing guy if you are desperate.  As for the Rams, Stephen Jackson had a big game versus one of the best run defenses in football and that may give some breathing room to Jackson owners who can feel the footsteps of Daryl Richardson right behind them.  Danny Amendola came back from a life threatening injury to have a big game and it looks like he is a reliable WR3 if not even a WR2 in the right matchups.  Oh, and if you are truly desperate make a claim on Rams punter Johnny Hekker who was 2-2 for 40 yards passing.  Who knows how often he throws the ball but he is still a better play than Mark Sanchez so keep that in mind.

Texans 13, Bears 6
The biggest story of this game was defense.  Both that Chicago’s didn’t score and that it suffocated scoring with the exception of Arian Foster and Brandon Marshall who both hit the century mark.  From an NFL matchup perspective, this was the game of the week.  From a fantasy perspective, it was almost entirely irrelevant.  The Bears lost Jay Cutler before halftime to a concussion and Jason Campbell will have to lead the Bears in week 11 vs San Francisco.  A tough loss for the Niners both in week 10 and week 11.

Steelers 16, Chiefs 13
Perhaps, the biggest fantasy story in week 10 was all the injuries with the Steelers potentially losing Big Ben Roethlisberger for the season as possibly the biggest one.  The Steelers continue to mess with fantasy ballers heads by playing musical carries.  Is it Rashard Mendenhall?  Is it Jonathan Dwyer?  Is it Isaac Redman?  Week 10 predictors say Dwyer, but with Mendenhall coming back the picture remains muddled.

Time for Week 11!!!

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: QB Kevin Kolb returned last week and the Cardinals won, but Kolb still didn’t play all that well. He was constantly throwing passes into the ground…..RB Beanie Wells is battling knee, thumb and hamstring injuries which has limited his practice time this week, but he still should play versus the 49ers on Sunday.

Atlanta Falcons: QB Matt Ryan has just not been able to take that next step this season. For the Falcons to advance deep into the playoffs, they will need him to do so or they will have no chance of beating the Packers or Saints…..RB Michael Turner is dealing with a groin injury that certainly seemed to slow him down last week, but the Texans’ defense may also have had something to do with his performance. This week he gets the Panthers, a much better matchup.

Baltimore Ravens: Some consider the Ravens to be the best team in the AFC, but I’m just not feeling it. I’m not sure I trust QB Joe Flacco to raise his game to an elite level when it matters. Even though the Ravens beat the Steelers twice, I still think the Steelers may be the best overall team…..LB Ray Lewis still isn’t practicing due to turf toe and is unlikely to play once again on Sunday.

Buffalo Bills: The injuries just keep coming for Buffalo as TE Scott Chandler won’t play this week due to an ankle injury and K Rian Lindell was officially placed on IR, ending his season…..LB Nick Barnett has had a very good first season for the Bills, already racking up 97 tackles. He would seem to be a must play in IDP leagues.

Carolina Panthers: WR Steve Smith’s production has been down of late even though the Panthers running game has picked up. Smith could certainly use some help to take the defense’s attention off of him. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to give QB Cam Newton another target to throw to, not to mention Smith is getting up there in age and could see a drop off in his numbers at any time.

Chicago Bears: Things just keep getting worse and worse for the Bears. First they lose QB Jay Cutler with a thumb injury, now they may have lost RB Matt Forte with a knee injury…..What makes the Forte injury even more interesting is that this is the last year of his contract as he and the Bears have been at odds all season long on an extension. It would seem business wise that it would be a good decision for Forte not to rush himself back, making sure he’s 100% healthy next season.

Cincinnati Bengals: It seems the sand may be running out in the hourglass for the Bengals as they were wrecked last week by Pittsburgh. They’re going to be a good team, but they still need time…..RB Cedric Benson is dealing with a foot injury that caused him to miss practice Thursday. He could still play though as he missed practice last Thursday as well.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are going to have to make a decision this off-season. Do they believe in QB Colt McCoy, or do they draft a QB in the first round of April’s draft? They should have a top ten pick and could select one of the more highly rated quarterbacks that will be available. Of course they still need WRs and may need a RB also if Peyton Hillis leaves. Yeah, they don’t have many playmakers on this team.

Dallas Cowboys: Head coach Jason Garrett has been lit up this week for “icing” his own kicker. That isn’t actually what happened. You can clearly see special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and kicker coach Chris Boniol ask Garrett to call timeout…..What Garrett should be taking criticism for was not calling a timeout after WR Dez Bryant caught the pass at the Cardinals 32-yard line with 26 seconds left. Dallas had two TOs left and should have used one there so they could run a couple more plays to get in better FG range. It wasn’t like K Dan Bailey was having a great day. He missed a FG earlier in the game from 50+ and banked another one off the goalpost, not to mention the league percentage on 50+ yard FGs is 50.2. This is the reason why it’s extremely bewildering that Garrett keeps insisting that he didn’t make an error. Garrett has cost the Cowboys two games this season with conservative play calling (New England). If they miss the playoffs, the blame should fall squarely on him…..The good news is that WR Miles Austin should return this week as should FB Tony Fiammetta.

Denver Broncos: It is hard not to be a believer in QB Tim Tebow after last week’s performance. I know it came against a terrible secondary in Minnesota, but still this was the first game that Tebow had to win with his arm and not his legs…..The Broncos have to be considered the favorite to win the AFC West. Scary I know, but I still think they are one-and-done as they will most likely play Pittsburgh or Baltimore in the 1st round.

Detroit Lions: Head coach Jim Schwartz has done a great job of turning around the Lions, but he needs to get control of his team. They make way too many personal foul penalties and are playing way out of control which may be costing them games as well as yardage…..RB Kevin Smith is still being hampered by an ankle injury and is having a difficult time finishing games. He also hasn’t practiced this week which could lead to RB Maurice Morris having a bigger role this week.

Green Bay Packers: That’s 18 straight wins now for the Packers if you count the playoffs. The only team that I believe can beat them would be the Saints in a shootout. It might just come down to which team had the ball last or who had to kick a FG instead of a TD in a cold weather playoff game in Green Bay that hindered the passing attack (think Brett Favre versus the Giants when the G-Men last won the Super Bowl – it was close to zero degrees that night).

Houston Texans: The Texans just keep finding ways to win even without their best players. WR Andre Johnson’s return to the lineup was short-lived as his hamstring acted up once again and he had to leave the game last week. He has already been labeled as out for this week’s game. The Texans may want to keep him out multiple weeks to get him as healthy as they possibly can for the playoffs…..Another player who is really banged up is LB Brian Cushing who is dealing with injuries to various parts of his body. He’s not going to miss any game time, but certainly won’t be anywhere near full strength either.

Indianapolis Colts: I know the final numbers for QB Dan Orlovsky looked good, but keep in mind a good percentage of those numbers came when the game was out of hand and basically over…..The Colts have finally admitted that it is unlikely QB Peyton Manning returns this season. It seems we have known that for months, yet they still haven’t placed him on IR. It should be very interesting in early March when Manning is due a $28 million bonus. It will be decision time!

Jacksonville Jaguars: It is hard to believe that RB Maurice Jones-Drew leads the league in rushing on a team with virtually no passing game. QB Blaine Gabbert had what may be his best game of the season Monday night versus the Chargers yet was only 19 of 33 for 195 yards and two scores. That is hardly lighting up the scoreboard, but every journey starts with a first step. Hopefully, that’s what this is for the Jaguars and Gabbert.

Kansas City Chiefs: So much for QB Kyle Orton. He comes in for one play, a flea flicker, gets hit and dislocates a finger on his throwing hand. Now he is questionable at best to play this week…..My first question would be if Orton was mentally prepared enough to come in the game in the first half, why didn’t he start? Were the Chiefs really thinking Tyler Palko was going to improve?

Miami Dolphins: RB Daniel Thomas has played better of late, but RB Reggie Bush has so far proven that he can be an every down back. He’s not posting out of this world numbers, but they are solid numbers week in and week out…..LB Kevin Burnett is starting to justify his contract of late as his play has really picked up the past couple of weeks…..The Dolphins are playing great and are certainly one of the hottest teams in the NFL, but this still may not be enough to save Tony Sparano’s head coaching job.

Minnesota Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson is questionable to play Sunday versus Detroit, but Peterson came out Friday and said he is still having a difficult time cutting on that ankle. Assuming that’s true, I wouldn’t let Peterson play. He is your franchise player and you don’t need to be risking his health in a meaningless game…..WR Percy Harvin has picked up the offense with the absence of Peterson, showing why many people believe he is a threat to score anywhere on the field when he has his hands on the ball. He did however tear a ligament in his finger. He’ll play Sunday but could have a problem catching the ball.

New England Patriots: With the Patriots’ schedule for the remainder of the season, I still believe they end up with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs…..We’ve heard a lot of news this week concerning the health of WR Wes Welker as he is dealing with knee and wrist issues. He may be banged up, but it won’t keep him from any game action.

New Orleans Saints: You have to be rooting right now for a Saints-Packers NFC Championship game. If the weather was decent in Green Bay (big if), that could be a game for the ages. It would remind me of the Cowboys versus 49ers in the 90s…..RB Mark Ingram will miss this week’s game with turf toe. This guy just can’t stay healthy. What is even more annoying is that he comes off of two productive weeks where he was finally starting to show why the Saints drafted him so early.

New York Giants: You have to admire the bravado of S Antrel Rolle. After the Giants have lost four straight games, given up close to 80 points and 1,000 yards in the past two games, he still comes out and states the Giants have a great defense.  Yeah, not so much Antrel…..RB Ahmad Bradshaw returned last week. Although his numbers were not great, he should force defenses to respect the run again and not go all out to stop QB Eli Manning and the passing game…..The Giants seemed to have every call go against them last week, including a couple that maybe shouldn’t have. Even if that’s so, it just makes up for the Arizona game where a terrible call gave them the game.

New York Jets: I’m not a big Mark Sanchez fan, but you actually hear some of the talk shows in New York mention that the Jets should sign Peyton Manning (if he becomes available) in the off-season and trade Sanchez. It seems they forget that Sanchez is coming off back-to-back championship game appearances. He must have done something right and no one will know if Manning can truly come back from his neck surgery until he gets into a game, plus it’s not like he’s going to come cheap.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders look like they are in the middle of a late season collapse. They barely showed up last week, getting crushed by Miami, and now they get the Packers. Sure they have injuries, maybe even more than most, but you still have to play the game…..Speaking of injuries, RB Darren MacFadden is out once again this week. This is longest day-to-day injury I’ve ever seen.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Michael Vick and WR Jeremy Maclin are both expected to return this week. This should give the Eagles’ offense a boost, and it will certainly be interesting to see if Vick does play with more caution as he stated he will earlier this week…..How much money has WR DeSean Jackson cost himself with his play and attitude so far this season?  Jackson is still signed for another season, but the Eagles can’t go through this again. They either need to sign him to a long-term deal and make him happy or ship him to a team that will.

Pittsburgh Steelers: I wrote earlier in this column that Pittsburgh may be the best overall team in the AFC. Well that was before QB Ben Roethlisberger suffered a high ankle sprain in Thursday’s win over Cleveland. Ben probably won’t miss any game time as the Steelers don’t play again until a week from Monday, but Ben’s mobility will certainly be hampered…..Another concern for the Steelers is the health of C Maurkice Pouncey who also suffered a high ankle sprain in the same game.

San Diego Chargers: QB Philip Rivers looked real good Monday night. Granted it came against a Jaguars team that lacks a pass rush or a solid secondary, but it also shows what Rivers can do when all of his receivers are healthy…..Speaking of healthy, RB Ryan Mathews also looked good and could be a future star in San Diego…..I have a feeling the Chargers offense lights it up again this week against Buffalo, everyone else has of late.

San Francisco 49ers: Because of their record, the 49ers are listed as #2 in most power rankings. I just don’t see that and have a very strong feeling they are one-and-done in the playoffs. I think their record is more because of a terrible division and nice schedule. I love their defense, but in the playoffs you need to score points and I just don’t see QB Alex Smith being able to beat Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, their most probable playoff opponent.

Seattle Seahawks: You have to love the way RB Marshawn Lynch is playing of late. He’s actually making the Hawks offense somewhat interesting…..OT Russell Okung was placed on IR this week after tearing his pectoral muscle, a tough blow for Lynch and that running game…..QB Tarvaris Jackson reported this week that his arm strength is back to 100% after his pectoral injury earlier this year.

St. Louis Rams: As if the Rams offense isn’t bad enough, there is a pretty good chance that Tom Brandstater is going to start against Seattle on Monday Night Football. I’m sure ESPN is just thrilled with this game, not to mention RB Steven Jackson can’t be very happy with seeing what is sure to be an overloaded front to stop him…..WR Brandon Lloyd should probably be benched in fantasy leagues.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Here’s a stat I didn’t see coming–the Bucs have trailed for longer this season in term of minutes than any other team in the NFL, including the winless Colts…..QB Josh Freeman missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury. His replacement, Josh Johnson, suffered a dislocated shoulder on his non-throwing arm. Ouch! Now Freeman looks like he will start this week but how long he goes is anyone’s guess, not that it matters much right now.

Tennessee Titans: Tough game for the Titans this week as they host the Saints. I doubt the Titans would have a chance if this game were being played indoors, but in Tennessee in the elements and with RB Chris Johnson looking like he has returned to his normal self, stranger things have happened. Not to mention the Titans need the game much more than the Saints. Yeah, I’m not buying that either.

Washington Redskins: As if this wasn’t a dismal enough season for the Redskins, now they lose TE Fred Davis and OL Trent Williams for violating the league’s drug policy. Apparently they were supposed to be suspended for a year but were able to get it down to four games because of a technicality (the players thought there was a grace period after the lockout–like it’s even legal to do these drugs)…..Because of their dismal finish, the Skins should be in good shape to draft a franchise QB next year.

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Not that this should come as a shock to anyone, but RB Ryan Williams was officially placed on IR this week…..The Cardinals may be paying the price now for trading away CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as Greg Toler’s knee sprain may force the team to bring along 1st round pick Patrick Peterson faster than the team would like…..QB Max Hall will miss the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Julio Jones is my pick for offensive rookie of the year in the NFC…..The reason I make that statement, QB Matt Ryan threw the ball an amazing 42 times last week. That’s unheard of in the preseason. The Falcons seem to be trying to make a statement to opposing teams: don’t load up at the line of scrimmage to stop the run or you will get burned by the passing game. RB Michael Turner has to like this as the safeties can’t play too close to the line of scrimmage anymore.

Baltimore Ravens: WR Lee Evans was still in a protective boot earlier this week, but the injury is still not considered serious and he should be good to go for Week One…..Coach Cam Cameron came out this week and stated that tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are pretty much running neck and neck for the starting job. Dickson is a much better athlete and has the higher upside, but needs to display that upside on a more consistent basis before he is handed the starting job.

Buffalo Bills: Linebacker Shawn Merriman looks to be ready to play in Week One. Merriman can certainly help the pass rush if he’s healthy, but he can’t seem to remain so for any length of time…..RB Fred Jackson was upset last week for not knowing what his exact role is in the offense. He did receive the start last week and is the odds on favorite to begin the season as the starting back with CJ Spiller playing more of a 3rd down role and being lined up in the slot on occasion.

Carolina Panthers: I believe the Panthers are going to be an improved team over last season. It is hard not to be, but they are still going to be lucky to win 10 games. I still believe they would benefit by having a veteran quarterback tutor Cam Newton who has looked awful throwing the ball so far this preseason…..Fantasy wise, it will be next to impossible for me to draft any Panther in re-draft leagues.

Chicago Bears: RB Chester Taylor looked like he was going to be released this week. He was told as much, but the injury to Marion Barber gave him a reprieve–although that may be short lived…..I have the Bears third in the NFC North…..LB Lance Briggs may have three years left on his contract and be north of 30 years old, but he still wants a new contract and may demand a pay raise if he’s not given one.

Cincinnati Bengals: We learned earlier today that QB Carson Palmer had a face to face meeting with GM Mike Brown in late July about his situation. Palmer is still demanding a trade. However, he could really force the Bengals hand by reporting to camp late this week or next, thus forcing the Bengals to either pay him or trade him…..RB Cedric Benson elected to serve his 20 day prison sentence immediately instead of during his bye week. He will only be required to actually serve seven days, so he should be ready for Week One.

Cleveland Browns: Each and every week I’m more impressed with QB Colt McCoy. Once again, he’s never going to be a stud who puts up big numbers, but he has the look of a QB who will do whatever it takes to get the job done…..RB Montario Hardesty is finally starting to look healthy after tearing his ACL last season. He has the talent to be a starting back, which will give the Browns a strong 1-2 punch between himself and Peyton Hillis.

Dallas Cowboys: I was a little bit surprised by the release of C Andre Gurode this week. Gurode can still play but Dallas didn’t think he was worth the five plus million he was owed in salary…..By cutting Gurode, Dallas is now a little over $11 million under the salary cap. Remember, the dollar amount a team is under the salary cap this season, it can be added to next season’s cap. So even though Dallas may not have been big players in the this year’s free agent crop, don’t expect the same next season…..The release of Gurode also means that Dallas’ offensive line went from old and slow to extremely young and athletic. If QB Tony Romo can withstand the hits he is going to get, he will have a big season.

Denver Broncos: DE Elvis Demervil looks to be fully recovered from last year’s surgery. He and first round pick Von Miller should give the Broncos a pass rush that has to be game planned for by the opposition…..QBs Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn are still battling for the backup job to start the season. One has to wonder, if and when the Broncos are out of playoff contention, will they decide to make a switch to Tebow just to see what he can do, regardless of how well Orton is playing.

Detroit Lions: The reason I picked the Bears for third in the north is that I’m hopping on the Lions bandwagon and predicting a second place finish for them. Granted though, this all depends on QB Matthew Stafford and RB Javhid Best remaining healthy–two big ifs…..Best has already had a problem this preseason with a concussion suffered early on. He is expected to play in the last preseason game and be ready for Week One.

Green Bay Packers: TE JerMichael Finley won’t play in the final preseason game due to an ankle injury, but this injury is not considered to be serious and he should be good to go for Week One…..WR Randall Cobb returned to practice this week. Cobb has plenty of talent, but he will make the most noise for the Packers on special teams as they are loaded at WR…..Speaking of WRs, Donald Driver had a cortisone injection in the same foot he injured in the Super Bowl. It would seem to be a red flag to me. Have to think that Driver will slowly be phased out of a starting role as the season rolls along.

Houston Texans: RB Arian Foster’s hamstring injury has to worry fantasy owners. He was considered to be a top three back heading into the season, and now some believe he could miss up to a month. Of course, Foster and the Texans deny that he will miss any time, but one would have to think he won’t be at full speed and could re-injure the hamstring at some point during the season…..If you do draft Foster, better grab Ben Tate as his handcuff.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Peyton Manning was taken off the PUP this week, but still won’t play in the final preseason game. He is still questionable to play in Week One. Without Manning, the Colts are a bad team. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team so reliant on one person…..Fantasy wise, Manning would scare me. I couldn’t take him as one of my top five QBs anymore, but top eight is not out of the question.

Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Rashard Jennings was seen on crutches this week after suffering a knee injury. Jennings was expected to become more than just a backup to Maurice Jones-Drew this season. The Jags don’t want to abuse MJD, but if this injury is serious than Jones-Drew may get more carries per week than first thought…..RB Fred Taylor signed a contract with the Jags Thursday for the sake of retiring as a Jaguar.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jonathan Baldwin is running routes but not catching passes yet as he still has pins in his thumb after his fight with RB Thomas Jones…..I have the Chiefs finishing second in the AFC West this season. Not because they are not a better team than last season, but because I don’t believe the Chargers will have as many problems on special teams as they did last season. Chiefs will battle the Jets for that final wildcard spot.

Miami Dolphins: RB Daniel Thomas has aggravated the Dolphins coaching staff so much that he may no longer be the main ball carrier for the team. Reggie Bush could get more touches than first thought. Don’t be surprised if the Dolphins reverse their thinking. However, the more Bush touches the ball, the more likely he is to get hurt…..QB Chad Henne has actually looked good so far this preseason. This is a make or break year for Henne. Perhaps the light bulb has finally turned on for him.

Minnesota Vikings: I’m not sure anyone in the NFL was happier for the contract that RB Chris Johnson received than Adrian Peterson–cha ching…..Speaking of Peterson, he’s not expected to come off the field in passing situations anymore. He is in store for a massive season and should be the first RB off the board in fantasy leagues.

New England Patriots: WR Wes Welker injured his neck making a tackle last week. Although he doesn’t remember the play, he doesn’t have a concussion. Once again, he should be good to go for Week One…..RB Kevin Faulk still isn’t fully recovered from ACL surgery and is likely to begin the season on the PUP list…..WR Brandon Tate has not impressed this season and could be the odd man out in the Pats WR corps.

New Orleans Saints: K Garrett Hartley will miss at least the next six weeks with a hip injury. Jon Kasay has been signed to take over the kicking duties…..I like the Saints again this season, but also believe they finish behind the Falcons in the NFC South…..Big things seem to be expected from WR Lance Moore this season, but don’t forget he has a nagging groin injury and RB Darren Sproles will also take some of the snaps that would’ve previously gone to Reggie Bush.

New York Giants: In order for the Giants offense to work this season, WR Mario Manningham is going to have to have a good season to take the defensive pressure off of Hakeem Nicks. Not to mention QB Eli Manning is going to have to play better and limit his mistakes…..Third round pick WR Jerrel Jernigan, who was the leading candidate to take over punt returns, blew that opportunity with four fumbled punts versus the Jets Monday.

New York Jets: K Nick Folk won the kicking battle over Nick Novak…..WR Plaxico Burress and QB Mark Sanchez clearly weren’t on the same page in last week’s game versus the Giants. This is clearly a work in progress…..Jets finish behind the Patriots in the AFC East.

Oakland Raiders: TE Kevin Boss has yet to practice since injuring his knee a couple of weeks ago. He’s questionable to play in Week One…..QB Terrelle Pryor reportedly scored a seven on the Wonderlic Test. That’s incredibly low. The test has nothing to do with his ability to play football, but does show you that he is probably not the sharpest pencil in the box.

Philadelphia Eagles: WR Steve Smith is unlikely to play in Week One, and could miss most of September. This is why the Giants didn’t sign him…..WR DeSean Jackson could be the next player on the Eagles to sign a big contract after the Eagles rewarded QB Michael Vick with a $100 million contract this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers: LB James Harrison is still not at 100% after undergoing off-season back surgery and may get fatigued as games get into the fourth quarter during the regular season…..Due to the foot injury that has cost WR Emmanuel Sanders a good portion of training camp, Antonio Brown may be the Steelers 3rd WR to open the season.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates practiced all week and will be ready to go for Week One….. The Chargers offense looks explosive and could put up a bunch of points week in and week out…..They are going to win the AFC West…..I love the trio of QB Phillip Rivers, WR Vincent Jackson and TE Antonio Gates, not to mention the RB duo of Mike Tolbert and Ryan Matthews–just scary.

San Francisco 49ers: RB Frank Gore also signed a new contract this week. It’s good that he received a lot of upfront money because that offensive line is going to get him killed…..As good a preseason as Kendall Hunter has had, he still hasn’t passed Anthony Dixon on the depth chart…..WR Michael Crabtree is still not practicing at full strength and is unlikely to play in Week One.

Seattle Seahawks: The signing of TE Zach Miller is all the more important now with the loss of John Carlson for the season with a torn labrum…..The Seahawks are still going to roll with Tavares Jackson as their starting QB even though the offense has looked abysmal so far this preseason and Charlie Whitehurst has outplayed him…..RB Marshawn Lynch has an ankle injury that will keep him from playing this week but he is expected to play in Week One.

St. Louis Rams: LB James Laurinaitis is still battling a pectoral muscle that he injured in the early days of camp and may not be at 100% when the regular season starts…..The Rams signed WR Mark Clayton to a one-year contract this week but he still might begin the season on the PUP. He is still recovering from a torn patellar.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs remind me of the Chiefs in that they may be a better team this season but it won’t show in their record. Not to mention, it certainly doesn’t help playing in the same division with Atlanta and New Orleans…..RB Earnest Graham is expected to be the Bucs third down back this season, at least at the beginning…..TE Kellen Winslow hurt his ankle in his preseason debut last week. It didn’t look to be a major injury, but the Bucs haven’t talked much about it this week.

Tennessee Titans: Everyone in Tennessee had a big sigh of relief today when RB Chris Johnson finally signed his new contract and reported to camp. The Titans don’t have the best of offenses to begin with, and without Johnson it would be non-existent…..More good news for the Titans, WR Kenny Britt is feeling close to 100% and expects to be so before the season opener.

Washington Redskins: I know RB Tim Hightower has had a great camp and is climbing up fantasy draft boards, but does anyone really think it’s going to last all season. What happens when he starts to fumble the ball or the Shanahans want to see what rookie Roy Helu can do? Plus the Skins don’t have a QB and teams may sell out to stop the run…..S Laron Landry has injuries to his Achilles and hamstring, but isn’t expected to miss more than a couple of games at this point in time.

 

All Out Blitz

After taking last week off to deal with an illness, Lyme Disease, I’m back to go over some more news and notes for each team throughout the National Football League. Of course the best news is that it looks like the lockout could be coming to an end as early as today, Friday at the latest. Teams would then have three days to go over the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and sign their own free agents, before free agency would start in earnest next week. Most teams have about 40 players under contract and would need to bring that number up to about 90 for training camp. That would mean there would be about 1600 player moves in about a two week span. The transaction wire is going to blow up.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cards are still the favorite to land QB Kevin Kolb once free agency/trading begins, instead of draft picks they are rumored to be making CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie available to trade as the Eagles want players rather than picks for Kolb…..Don’t be surprised if Beanie Wells or Tim Hightower is traded once training camp is underway.

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons still feel the biggest need of their defense is to put more pressure on the QB, they will be in on DE Ray Edwards and are still looking for ways to make DL Jamaal Anderson, 2007 1st round pick, a better pass rusher.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens secondary is still sort of a work in progress but S Ed Reed should be full bore for training camp…..It’s looking more and more like Marc Bulger will be re-signed to backup QB Joe Flacco…..The Ravens seemed to want to become more of a throwing team last season with the additions of WR Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmandzadeh, will they go back to more of a ground and pound this season?

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers will have a couple of interesting personnel decisions to make once the lockout is ended…..Do they re-sign DeAngelo Williams even though, with Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson on board, RB is a position of strength and perhaps that money could be wisely spent elsewhere…..What to do with WR Steve Smith? He might fetch a considerable return if they put him on the market.

Chicago Bears: The Bears are one of those teams that are said to be interested in the services of WR Steve Smith, should the Panthers make him available…..How will the fans react to QB Jay Cutler after some questioned the validity of his knee injury that took him out of the NFC Championship game in January…..Look for the Bears to use Matt Forte even more this season as he could easily touch the ball more than 300 times should he stay healthy.

Cincinnati Bengals: With the new salary cap floor expected to be at least 95% of the cap, the Bengals are one of those teams that will be forced to spend money as they have been historically, hhhhmm, let’s say thrifty with their payroll…..Pacman Jones is in legal trouble again, I’m shocked…..RB Cedric Benson is also in trouble with the law after being charged with assault, not the best timing for the free agent to be…..The Bengals are said to prefer signing CB Leon Hall to a long term contract rather than Jonathan Joseph.

Cleveland Browns: Montario Hardesty, who had ACL surgery, is said to be ready to go once camp opens. He will still be the backup to RB Peyton Hillis…..The Browns would like to get the ball into the hands of WR Joshua Cribbs as much as possible, but he is far from a polished receiver and may see his role in the passing game reduced as a result…..S Abram Elam could be a hot commodity once free agency opens.

Dallas Cowboys: DL Stephen Bowen is going to draw a lot of interest in free agency…..Dallas is one of those teams that will have cap problems and may not be the big players in free agency that everyone expects them to be, which would seem to put them out of the running for CB Nnamdi Asomugha…..LT Doug Free should be the top priority of the Cowboys, followed by at least one safety, possibly two if Gerald Sensabaugh finds big money elsewhere.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos keep stating that the QB competition will be wide open between Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton, but it’s Tebow’s job to lose, and if the Broncos are offered at least a 3rd round pick for Orton, he will be playing elsewhere…..Keep in mind that under new head coach John Fox, the Broncos are not expected to run as many three WR sets as they have in the past; this should be a boon to RB Knowshon Moreno.

Detroit Lions: If QB Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, the sky is the limit for what the Lions might accomplish on offense this season…..RB Javhid Best will probably touch the ball more, but rookie Mikel Leshoure could be the goal line back; thus vulturing short TD runs…..Even though Dave Rayner impressed the team with his kicking last season, Jason Hanson is expected to once again be the Lions kicker this season.

Green Bay Packers: Don’t overlook WR Jordy Nelson in your fantasy drafts…..James Jones is probably going to depart in free agency…..Donald Driver is slowing down and might not be able to stay healthy…..Opposing defenses already have their hands full with Greg Jennings and TE JerMichael Finley…..If the Packers need to clear salary cap space, LB Nick Barnett and his $4.4 million salary could be the first to go.

Houston Texans: RB Arian Foster stated this week that he played most of last season with a torn meniscus in his knee; makes you wonder what he will do on two healthy knees…..In an expert fantasy draft that started this week, Foster was the 1st overall selection, and WR Andre Johnson was the 1st receiver taken, 5th overall…..Back to Foster, he also stated that he won’t holdout this season despite only making $480,000 this season.

Indianapolis Colts: WR Anthony Gonzalez, remember him, should be ready to go once training camp opens, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not he will be the same player he was before he suffered two season’s worth of knee injuries…..The Colts insist that Peyton Manning will be ready for the regular season…..2010 1st round pick DL Jerry Hughes was arrested for public intoxication; he won’t be suspended, but if it happens again, all bets are off.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars plan to use the franchise tag on TE Marcedes Lewis once the lockout ends…..With the lockout and the loss of OTAs, any chance that Blaine Gabbert starts over David Garrard are slim and none…..The Jaguars deny it, but it would make sense to limit Maurice Jones-Drew’s carries week in and week out, especially coming off knee surgery.

Kansas City Chiefs: LB Mike Vrabel retired, not a big loss in the overall scheme of things to the Chiefs defense…..The addition of WR Jonathan Baldwin should help the Chiefs offense, but could hurt WR Dwayne Bowe’s production as now there is another mouth to feed plus TE Tony Moeaki could also see the ball more.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins could be one of the bigger players in free agency as they will need at least two QBs and a RB to split the load with rookie Daniel Thomas…..Apparently Vince Young will not be one of those that will be brought in, and Tyler Thigpen is likely to get a bigger offer elsewhere…..Speaking of players not returning to south Florida, Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown won’t be brought back.

Minnesota Vikings: WR Sidney Rice may want a big contract but it seems like teams may only be willing to offer incentive laden contracts in order to protect themselves from his injury history…..RB Adrian Peterson is in the last year of his deal and is threatening to hold out, but odds are the Vikings will sign AP to an extension, it would give AP the money he wants, and the Vikings valuable cap space.

New England Patriots: Could WR Randy Moss end up back with the Pats? They do need a WR who can get deep…..The lockout may be about to end but G Logan Mankins still wants out of town and may be holding up the agreement to make that happen

New Orleans Saints: Unless RB Reggie Bush agrees to restructure his contract, he is as good as gone in New Orleans…..The Saints are going to be in a dogfight all season in the NFC South with Atlanta and Tampa Bay, which might be the best division in football; although the NFC East may have a say in that also.

New York Giants: The new “soft cap” when it comes to veterans could make it easier for the Giants to sign RB Ahmad Bradshaw…..DE Osi Umenyiora is expected to hold out once the lockout ends, as he believes GM Jerry Reese broke a promise to him to redo his contract. Considering Umenyoria was benched for part of the 2009 season for his inability to play the run, it seems odd that the Giants would’ve made some kind of promise.

New York Jets: CB Antonio Cromartie has stated that he won’t give the Jets a hometown discount, which will probably lead his way out of town…..WR Braylon Edwards could also find another team, as Santonio Holmes is expected to be the Jets top priority…..Gotta love that the NFL scheduled the Ryan brothers to face each other opening weekend. I’m sure there won’t be any press conferences leading up to that game.

Oakland Raiders: The owners ratified the CBA 31-0 with one team abstaining. Guess which team that was?…..The Raiders are almost $12 million over the salary cap, just another reason they have no chance to re-sign Asomugha

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Kevin Kolb is so sure that he will be traded to Arizona once the lockout is lifted, that he has been looking at real estate in Arizona. He has also been working out with WR Larry Fitzgerald…..The Eagles have money to spend in free agency and could be in the market for a CB if they don’t get one in a Kolb trade; or also for pass rush help. Did someone say Ray Edwards?

Pittsburgh Steelers: LB James Harrison may be playing his way out of his house with his mouth. Criticizing the commissioner is one thing, but when you start to turn on your teammates, it’s another thing altogether…..You have to love the rivalry between the Steelers and Ravens. WR Hines Ward gets arrested, and the Ravens start making fun of him on Twitter. The two games next season between these two teams are must see TV.

San Diego Chargers: Like Logan Mankins of the Patriots, WR Vincent Jackson is also said to want more out of his lawsuit than just a new CBA…..Don’t be surprised if RB Mike Tolbert carries the ball more this season than you might think; even if Ryan Mathews is healthy…..The Chargers would like to keep WR Malcolm Floyd, but it seems likely that he will leave during free agency.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks don’t seem to be convinced that Charlie Whitehurst is their QB of the future, but they do seem to be convinced that it is time to move on without QB Matt Hasselbeck…..I know the Hawks made the playoffs last season, but would it really surprise anyone if they finished this season with a record of 4-12.

St. Louis Rams: WR Donnie Avery is healthy and could be the big play man in the Rams offense…..RB Steven Jackson seems to have lost a step and it would do the Rams some good if they could find a complementary back…..The Hall of Fame game between the Rams and Bears has been cancelled, let’s hope that is the last game cancelled.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs may be a better team this season, but due to a tougher schedule and teams not taking them lightly anymore, their record may not reflect that…..It looks like the Bucs will now keep CB Aqib Talib and his legal troubles, but it would be a suprise if he wasn’t suspended…..RBs Earnest Graham and Cadillac Williams may have played their last down in a Tampa uniform.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans are now rumored to be the new landing place for QB Matt Hasselbeck…..RB Chris Johnson is expected to hold out until he gets a new contract…..WR Kenny Britt is another player who could be suspended once the lockout is lifted…..So let’s see, your top RB is going to holdout, your top WR could be suspended, and you don’t have a QB right now. There is no sweet music playing in Tennessee right now.

Washington Redskins: This is a scary thought, the Skins are predicted to have plenty of money to spend under the cap as they dumped a truckload of bad contracts into the uncapped season of 2010. Owner Dan Snyder might go completely nuts with a WR and a CB topping his wish list…..They need a QB also, but aren’t expected to be players in the Kevin Kolb sweepstakes. No matter how much money they may spend, if you don’t have a top QB, it just won’t matter.