December 18, 2017

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.

 

Texans 31, Bengals 10

Houston Texans fans had to wait a very long time for their team to make it to the playoffs.  It was worth the wait as the Texans defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10 for their first ever playoff victory.

After a 39-yard field goal by Texans kicker Neil Rackers tied the game at ten with 1:48 remaining in the half, the Bengals weren’t content to go to the locker room with the score tied.  That was a costly mistake.  With 52 seconds remaining, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton went looking for wide receiver A.J. Green.  His pass was picked off and returned for a 29-yard touchdown by defensive end J.J. Watt.  That play gave the Texans all the momentum they needed and they shut out the Bengals in the second half.

The aggressive Texans defense shut down the Bengals running game and harassed Andy Dalton throughout the game.  Dalton completed 27 of 42 for 257 yards, no touchdowns and he was picked off three times.  As a team, the Bengals finished with just 76 yards rushing.  Starter Cedric Benson had 14 yards on seven carries and a touchdown.  He spent most of the second half on the sideline.  Brian Leonard led the team with three carries for 34 yards and also had six catches for 36 yards.  A.J. Green led the team with five catches for 47 yards.  Most of those catches came in the first quarter and he was held to one catch in the second half.  Linebacker Thomas Howard led the Bengals with six tackles.

For the Texans, quarterback T.J. Yates won the battle of the rookie quarterbacks as he completed 11 of 20 for 159 yards and one touchdown.  Running back Arian Foster had a huge game with 153 yards on 24 carries and touchdown runs of eight and 42 yards.  He also caught three passes for 39 yards.  As a team, the Texans slashed the Bengal defense for 188 yards on the ground.  Wide receiver Andre Johnson made his presence known and led the team with five catches for 90 yards and a 40-yard touchdown.  Linebacker Brian Cushing led the team with eight tackles and one tackle for a loss.  The Texans ended up sacking Dalton four times.

The next game for the Texans will be at Baltimore to face the Ravens on Sunday, January 15th at 1 P.M. Eastern time.  These teams met in week six and the Ravens came away with a 29-14 win.  In that game, Foster was held to 49 yards rushing on 15 carries and the Ravens racked up 400 yards of total offense.  Will things be different when they play next Sunday?  Time will tell.

 

 

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.

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Well the first game in the Kevin Kolb era went well as Kolb looked like he could be the answer to the Cardinals QB question…..How on Earth did the Cardinals pass defense allow QB Cam Newton to throw for over 400 yards against them in his first NFL game? That does not bode well for the future…..There has been no word out of Cardinals camp as to why prized free agent LB Stewart Bradley hardly saw the field Sunday.

Atlanta Falcons: Losing the first game of the season is not a big deal, but this loss comes after getting blown out in the playoffs at home last season and losing all four preseason games. Now ex QB Michael Vick comes to town…..If QB Matt Ryan doesn’t play well against Vick on Sunday, it should be interesting to see how the home crowd reacts…..The Eagles had a hard time stopping the run in Week 1. Look for a healthy dose of RB Michael Turner in this one.

Baltimore Ravens: That was a good old-fashioned butt whipping the Ravens put on the Steelers last Sunday…..WR Lee Evans was in a walking boot this week, but it looks to be more of a pre-caution than anything else and he should be good to go this Sunday…..Rookie CB Jimmy Smith has a high ankle sprain and will miss the next couple of weeks.

Buffalo Bills: WR Steve Johnson has been dealing with a groin injury for about a month and missed practice Thursday. He is still likely to play Sunday…..That was quite a game Buffalo played versus KC on Sunday. Perhaps, they could be a surprise team this season…..TE Scott Chandler has been a popular pickup in fantasy leagues after his big game.

Carolina Panthers: After having what could conservatively be called a bad preseason, Cam Newton came out firing in Week 1, throwing for over 400 yards and two TDs. Perhaps, he is just the type of player that plays best when the bullets are live…..WR Steve Smith must be thrilled to playing with a QB who can get him the ball down the field. He can finally use his speed again…..Enough with the praise of Newton, the Panthers had better be able to run the ball efficiently. Those kinds of games are usually few and far between for a rookie QB.

Chicago Bears: LB Brian Uhrlacher rejoined the Bears Thursday after leaving the team to attend to the passing of his mother earlier this week…..RB Matt Forte showed in Week 1 why he is deserving of a big contract…..Still have no idea why the Bears haven’t anointed Johnny Knox to the starting lineup, but they may have no choice this week as Roy Williams is dealing with a groin injury and may not be able to go.

Cincinnati Bengals: QB Andy Dalton looks like he will be able to go Sunday after suffering a wrist/hand injury in Week 1…..RB Cedric Benson rushed for 121 yards. If he can keep that up, he would be a rookie QB’s best friend…..Rookie WR A.J. Green may have had only once catch in his debut, but it was a big one–41 yards and a TD.

Cleveland Browns: Some thought that Cleveland could be a surprise team this season with a soft opening schedule, but a loss to the lowly Bengals may have most rethinking that position…..WR Mohamed Massaquoi is dealing with a hamstring issue but should be able to play Sunday…..CB Joe Haden is quickly proving himself to be one of the better corners in the game.

Dallas Cowboys: Secondary was a major weakness in the Dallas defense last season and it’s proving to be so again this year. They played a good part of Sunday’s game against the Jets with their 4th and 5th string CBs as Terrance Newman missed the game with a groin injury. Orlando Scandrick suffered an ankle sprain early in the game and is out until October. Mike Jenkins was in and out of the game with multiple injuries. Newman won’t play this week either.

Denver Broncos: You have to love that there is a group of fans in Denver that are going to take out an ad on a billboard stating they want Tim Tebow to be their QB. Do they really believe that it will change John Fox’s or John Elway’s mind if they pass a billboard on their way to and from work?….WR Brandon Lloyd (groin) and RB Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) are both questionable to play Sunday. If neither can go, it could be another tough day for QB Kyle Orton and the chant for Tebow may only get louder.

Detroit Lions: QB Matthew Stafford once again showed what he can do if he is able to stay on the football field. The Lions are a dangerous team…..WR Calvin Johnson has an ankle injury and isn’t practicing, but is expected to play Sunday…..DT Nick Fairly still isn’t practicing with the team after undergoing surgery in early August.

Green Bay Packers: Green Bay proved in Week 1 that you didn’t need to organize off-season workouts during the lockout to be effective…..Big question for fantasy owners is who is more valuable at RB, James Starks or Ryan Grant Best guess is, as the season rolls along, Starks sees more and more of the action…..Rookie WR Randall Cobb showed why he is considered a dangerous return man bringing back a kickoff 108 yards for a TD. He looked good running routes as well. Makes you wonder if the Pack regrets re-signing James Jones.

Houston Texans: RB Arian Foster missed Week 1. Not a shock as the team didn’t want to push him to play, figuring they could beat Indianapolis without him. He is slated to start this week. Good thing too as Derrick Ward could miss the game with an ankle injury…..Do you think QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson are licking their lips knowing they are playing the same secondary this week that was lit up for over 500 yards passing Monday night?

Indianapolis Colts: Here’s a question: Do you think QB Peyton Manning could win the MVP this season if the Colts finish the season with four wins or less, proving just how valuable Manning is to the team?…..The Colts just aren’t built right now to win without Peyton. The running game is not very good. Neither is the offensive line. The defense is built to attack the QB, assuming the other team is playing from behind. This is a recipe for disaster.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The good news is that RB Maurice Jones-Drew looked good rushing the ball last Sunday, easing the doubts of fantasy owners who thought he may not be fully recovered from past injuries. The bad news is that for the first time in 67 games, MJD did not catch a pass…..TE Marcedes Lewis has missed practice this week with a calf injury. Luke McCown’s safety blanket may not be able to go Sunday.

Kansas City Chiefs: Wow! That was not a good start to the season for KC, getting their brains beat in by Buffalo at home…..S Eric Berry is gone for the season with a torn ACL. This is a huge blow and one the defense may not be able to recover from…..QB Matt Cassel is not on the injury report. Perhaps, he and WR Dwayne Bow will have a better game this week–they better.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins were expected to have one of the better defenses in the NFL this season, but they were absolutely torched by the Pats in Week 1…..RB Daniel Thomas missed his first game with a hamstring injury. Although he should play Sunday, the carries are still expected to fall heavily into Reggie Bush’s favor, but Thomas could get a majority of the goal line work…..QB Chad Henne played pretty well himself Monday, throwing for over 400 yards. It’s nice to know he can do that, but the Dolphins can’t rely on that week in and week out. They are not built to win games through the air.

Minnesota Vikings: That’s not a misprint you saw on Monday, QB Donovan McNabb only threw for 39 yards in the Vikings loss to the Chargers on Sunday. Teams are going to load up the line of scrimmage to stop RB Adrian Peterson until Minnesota proves they can throw the ball…..Christian Ponder is the number two behind McNabb.

New England Patriots: That was some display of offensive football the Patriots displayed on Monday night. If you can’t put pressure on Tom Brady, it’s all over; he will carve up your defense no matter how many defenders you put out there…..Not everything was perfect however, OT Dan Koppen fractured his ankle and will miss the next 6-10 weeks…..WR Chad Ochocinco was criticized pretty heavily for tweeting that he was in awe of the Pats offense. I’m not really sure what the big deal was and wonder if this would even measure on the Richter scale if it wasn’t Ochocinco who said it.

New Orleans Saints: The loss of WR Marques Colston to a broken collarbone was a huge blow, especially with Lance Moore still not being at 100%. This should mean more consistent looks for Robbie Meacham and TE Jimmy Graham…..The Saints and QB Drew Brees still have a long way to go on a new contract, but it doesn’t really matter if the Saints can’t sign him to a long-term deal. They will most certainly use their franchise tag on him in the off-season.

New York Giants: WR Hakeem Nicks is questionable at best to play Monday with a knee injury. He plans on practicing Friday to see how it goes…..The Giants stated this week that they don’t want to have to rely on QB Eli Manning to win games. Translation: they will run the ball more with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs…..DE Justin Tuck is questionable to play Monday with a neck injury. He missed Week 1 and is playing it cautious, but the injury is muscular, not structural.

New York Jets: The Jets pulled out a miracle versus Dallas Sunday and know they have to play better if they want to win on a more consistent basis…..QB Mark Sanchez was dinged up during the game and given a concussion test afterwards, but all tests came back negative and he will be good to go this week.

Oakland Raiders: RB Darren McFadden tweaked his neck during the game Sunday. Actually a Broncos defensive player trying to rip his head off tweaked it and he has been slowed this week in practice…..WR Louis Murphy (groin) will not play this week and Jacoby Ford is not looking too good this week either…..K Sebastian Janikowski tied an NFL record with a 63-yard FG on Monday. The Raiders are petitioning the NFL that it was actually a 64 yarder.

Philadelphia Eagles: It shouldn’t surprise anyone if QB Michael Vick is a little more amped up than normal Sunday in his first game back in Atlanta. It might even take him a quarter or so to return to normal…..Eagles coaches want to get WR Jeremy Maclin more involved in the passing game this week. He was on the field more than any other receiver in Week 1, but still only caught one pass…..CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played in the slot on Sunday, meaning he was only in on 18 plays. Seems Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha are the starters.

Pittsburgh Steelers: After the beating the Steelers took last week, I wouldn’t want to be the Seahawks…..The weakest part of the Steelers team is the offensive line, and the loss of Willie Colon certainly won’t help matters any…..The Steelers are going to use a no huddle offense at times this week to keep the Seahawks guessing defensively.

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers lost K Nate Kaeding for the season on the first play of the game with a torn ACL. They signed Nick Novak to replace him…..RB Mike Tolbert suffered a knee injury during the game that looked serious at the time, but turned out to be minor. He will be good to go this week…..RB Ryan Matthews also had a good game as the Chargers look to have a two headed monster at RB.

San Francisco 49ers: WR Ted Ginn Jr. took a pay cut the week before opening day and may have taken his anger out on the Panthers with both a kickoff return and punt return for touchdowns. He may not be able to catch the football consistently, but he can sure run with it…..WR Michael Crabtree is still not close to 100% and is limited in practice, but may play this week versus Dallas…..The 49ers have encouraged QB Alex Smith to scramble–a good idea with their offensive line. He may be running for his life against DeMarcus Ware this week.

Seattle Seahawks: Hard to take this team seriously on offense until they get a real QB, fix the offensive line and get WR Sidney Rice healthy. A better RB than Marshawn Lynch wouldn’t hurt either. How exactly did this team make the playoffs last season–and beat the Saints?

St. Louis Rams: The Rams were crushed with injuries in Week 1: QB Sam Bradford missed part of the game with a finger injury after hitting a helmet on a pass attempt, RB Steven Jackson will miss this week’s game after suffering a quad injury on his touchdown run, and WR Danny Amendola is expected to miss quite a bit of time after dislocating his elbow. Talk about a MASH unit…..S Ronald Bartell was placed on IR after suffering two small fractures in his neck.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I know the Bucs were down for a good part of the game Sunday, but how can RB LeGarrette Blount only receive five carries? The problem is that Blount is not a good blocker and can’t catch the ball which means he is not likely to play in passing situations or when the Bucs are trailing. Earnest Graham could have a bigger role on this team than first thought.

Tennessee Titans: RB Chris Johnson is expected to get close to 20 carries and 25 touches overall this week as the Titans didn’t want to overuse him last week…..Kenny Britt has court dates September 20 and 27. Neither one should land him in jail, and it doesn’t seem like either one will land him in trouble with the NFL either.

Washington Redskins: Sexy Rexy came out and played last week against a depleted Giants defensive line. He could be a good fantasy play this week against a Cardinals defense that was absolutely shredded by Cam Newton…..Good news for Tim Hightower owners, Mike Shanahan came out this week and stated that he has no plans to monitor Hightower’s touches. Of course with Shanahan’s past history, he has no problem benching him on a whim either…..TE Fred Davis played more than TE Chris Cooley last week.

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Even with the addition of RB Chester Taylor, Beanie Wells is still expected to handle the bulk of the rushing load for the Cardinals…..SS Adrian Wilson has a torn biceps but looks to be a go for Sunday.  It is still anyone’s guess as to how long he will last…..Andre Roberts will line up opposite WR Larry Fitzgerald on opening day.

Atlanta Falcons: Former WR Andre Rison was indicted for failure to pay child support. Well at least his house didn’t get burned down this time…..The Falcons have had an extremely quiet preseason for a team this good…..There doesn’t seem to be a question as to whether or not the Falcons will make the playoffs this season. Instead, the question is how deep they will go into the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens: David Garrard would be a perfect backup for the Ravens in their quest for a Super Bowl run…..WR Torrey Smith will get his shot at returning kicks in Week 1 with David Reed suspended…..Have to like the signing of OL Andre Gurode. The guy has made quite a few Pro Bowls and will provide valuable experience along the line.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills may want to get the ball in the hands of RB C.J. Spiller more often, but it will not be on kick or punt returns; where he will be the backup, not the starter…..Spiller will also be the backup to Fred Jackson at running back, who is the number one guy for Buffalo right now…..I’m still having a hard time seeing the Bills finish anywhere but last this season in the AFC East. Unfortunately for them, they probably won’t be bad enough to be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

Carolina Panthers: LB Jon Beason is still battling an Achilles injury but is expected to be ready to play Sunday…..How the mighty have fallen! Not only has QB Jimmy Claussen lost the starting job to Cam Newton, but he may have also lost the backup gig to Derek Anderson…..I have the over/under on Panther wins this season at four.

Chicago Bears: Not sure why, but WR Roy Williams is still listed ahead of Johnny Knox on the depth chart. This may actually be nothing more than a matter of semantics in a Mike Martz offense–rarely there are only two receivers on the field…..Contract negotiations between the team and RB Matt Forte have broken down and will not resume again until after the season…..RB Marion Barber will be the goal line guy assuming he can remain healthy.

Cincinnati Bengals: There are rumors being circulated now that the Bengals let the cat out of the bag about QB Carson Palmer visiting ownership in order to light a fire under Andy Dalton…..RB Cedric Benson has been released from prison and should be good to go Sunday, but it’s really hard to see him having any kind of value this season…..The Bengals claimed WR Ben Tate off waivers. He has some upside, but it won’t be easy breaking into the Bengals receiver rotation.

Cleveland Browns: RB Montario Hardesty is healthy and should be able to give Peyton Hillis enough rest to keep him from wearing down as the season moves along…..WR Greg Little won’t open the season as a starter, but impressed the Browns coaching staff enough where he might get there by season’s end…..The new kickoff rule should definitely hurt the value of WR Josh Cribbs. You have to wonder though, if he will feel the pressure to return kicks even if he is eight yards deep into his own end zone.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys may be traveling to New York on a Red Cross bus. CB Terrance Newman is out with a groin injury, CB Mike Jenkins injured his knee in practice Wednesday and is questionable at best, and 1st round pick OG Tyron Smith hyperextended his knee in practice and is unlikely to play–ouch…..The good news is that WR Miles Austin returned to practice, granted on a limited basis, but should be good to go.

Denver Broncos: Although it has yet to be stated officially, QB Brady Quinn is the number two behind Kyle Orton. Still have to believe though that if the Broncos get off to a bad start, they are going to have to see what they have in Tim Tebow…..WR Demaryius Thomas is well ahead of schedule in his recuperation of an Achilles injury, and could possibly be ready to play in Week 1.

Detroit Lions: Quick, who is the Lions number two WR? That’s right, Nate Burleson, who could have a big season with everyone worrying about Calvin Johnson. If only QB Matthew Stafford can stay healthy…..DT Nick Fairley is not expected to be ready for Week One after undergoing foot surgery earlier in camp…..RB Maurice Morris is out for Sunday, leaving the backup job in the hands of Jerome Harrison.

Green Bay Packers: Looks like RB James Starks and Ryan Grant are going to split the carries somewhat to begin the season, but it shouldn’t shock anyone if Starks gets a bigger and bigger share as the season goes along…..With TE JerMichael Finley back, WR Greg Jennings could see fewer balls thrown his way…..I’m going to say the Packers will get their title defense off to a good start on Thursday with a 31-23 win.

Houston Texans: If ever the Texans were going to get over the hump and win the AFC South, this season is it…..There is a rumor going around that with QB Peyton Manning not playing in Week 1, the Texans may choose to sit RB Arian Foster and give him another week to rest his injured hamstring. The thinking being that without Manning, they can beat the Colts without Foster…..If Foster were to miss the game, look for Derrick Ward to lead the Texans in carries, not Ben Tate.

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts season may be teetering on the brink of disaster. If QB Peyton Manning misses anything more than a game or two, the season for the Colts and their fans will be a long one. No team that I can remember has ever been so dependent on one person. Without Manning, the Colts ground game isn’t good enough to scare anyone. Kerry Collins has never been anything more than an average QB. Even the defense is built to rush the passer to protect a lead and leads may be rare…..It’s a shame that Manning’s streak of consecutive starts has to come to an end, but what a great ride it’s been. Here’s hoping he starts another streak shortly.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The release of QB David Garrard this late into camp came as a shock to just about everyone in the NFL. The team will start the season with Luke McCown under center but one has to believe that Blaine Gabbert could take over that role after their bye in Week 8…..The Jags have tried to sell this move by telling everyone that McCown outplayed Garrard, but the truth is it was all about money as the team saves about $8 million if he is not on the roster come Week 1.

Kansas City Chiefs: QB Matt Cassel may or may not have a cracked rib depending upon whom you believe, but either way it looks like he will start Sunday…..TE Tony Moeaki wasn’t so lucky however as he will miss the entire season with a torn ACL…..As I’m writing this, it has started to thunder and lightning outside–not sure what that means for the Chiefs chances this season.

Miami Dolphins: QB Chad Henne has had a good preseason and looks to be in sync with WR Brandon Marshall. If Henne can’t get it done this season, he won’t get another shot in south Florida…..The Dolphins were toying with the idea of starting Marshall and Davone Bess at WR, but in the end they decided to keep Bess in the slot and return Brian Hartline to his starting role.

Minnesota Vikings:  The Vikings are trying to figure out a way to get QB Joe Webb on the field to take advantage of his athleticism…..WR Bernard Berrian had to agree to restructure his contract in order to stay on the team…..TE Visanthe Shiancoe didn’t play at all this preseason, but looks to be ready to start Week 1…..RB Adrian Peterson is going to have a monster season.

New England Patriots: QB Tom Brady stated this week that he would welcome WR Randy Moss back. One has to wonder if this is Brady’s way of saying that he is not all that happy with his current stable of wideouts. Of course, the only opinion that matters is that of HC Bill Belichick’s, and he may not want the headache that is Moss on his team again. Could you imagine Moss, Chad Ochocinco, and Albert Haynesworth all on the same team?

New Orleans Saints: WR Lance Moore won’t play Thursday versus Green Bay…..This week may not be an optimal situation, but WR Robert Meacham could have a solid season. At the very least, he should be more of a target with the injury to Moore and Marques Colston playing on cranky knees…..Speaking of more targets, TE Jimmy Graham is going to be a household name by the end of the season.

New York Giants: The Giants lost yet another player when LB Jonathan Goff went down for the count with a torn ACL…..WR Domenik Hixon will open the season as the punt returner…..DE Osi Umenyiora is out for at least the first two games–at least it’s not for the entire season…..You have to love that the agent for former Giants RB Tiki Barber said he was shocked that no one signed his client. Really? Shocked that no one would sign a player who hasn’t played football in a couple of seasons and torched his former team in the media when he left.

New York Jets: I know the Jets aren’t a passing offense, but you have to think they will come out throwing Sunday night against Dallas if the Cowboys don’t have their top two CBs playing…..David Garrard could also be a good backup QB for the Jets who only have Mark Brunnell behind Mark Sanchez…..CB Darrelle Revis has been dealing with a hip flexor, but he will be good to go Sunday.

Oakland Raiders: TE Kevin Boss is still not practicing and he is questionable at best to play Sunday…..QB Terrelle Pryor has changed his mind once again and now will appeal his suspension. Seems to me he was probably pressured by the team and the NFLPA into appealing. He might be better off just serving the suspension and getting it over with.

Philadelphia Eagles: WR Jeremy Maclin is taking all of his usual snaps in practice and should be good to go for Sunday, but don’t be surprised if it takes him a week or two to get into the flow of things…..WR Steve Smith practiced Wednesday and may actually be available to play Sunday after all…..Sticking with WRs, DeSean Jackson will once again be the punt returner for Philly.

Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Emmanuel Sanders is indeed ready to go for Sunday…..LB James Harrison still does not believe he is 100% recovered from off-season back surgery…..The Steelers and S Troy Polamalu have been in contract negotiations. If Pittsburgh is unable to sign him, they will franchise the All-Pro after the season.

San Diego Chargers: Deciding which RB to take in your fantasy league, Mike Tolbert or Ryan Matthews, can drive an owner crazy. Matthews will probably get more carries, catch more passes, and be the main guy between the 20s, but Tolbert is the goal line guy and he’s going to get his fair share of carries also…..WR Patrick Crayton didn’t practice Wednesday, but still has a good chance to play Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers: WR Michael Crabtree finally practiced in pads and might actually be able to play Sunday, although it would likely be at less than 100%…..Not only did RB Kendall Hunter win the backup job behind Frank Gore, but he also won the kickoff return job…..WR Braylon Edwards was fined $50K this week for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, but once again won’t be suspended.

Seattle Seahawks: The Hawks said they are not interested in QB David Garrard. You would think with Tavares Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst on your roster that you would be interested in any QB that comes around…..WR Sidney Rice is still not practicing with a shoulder injury and may not play Sunday…..After the release of Jeff Reed, it looks like Steven Hauschka will start the season as the placekicker for Seattle.

St. Louis Rams: After placing WR Mark Clayton on the PUP list, he won’t be available until Week 7…..Former Rams WR Donnie Avery made it through waivers, so he’s free for anyone to claim…..I still think it’s a crime that the Rams haven’t found a true number one WR to play with QB Sam Bradford.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Aqib Talib will play for Tampa this week, not so long ago it looked he might be released or even in jail…..RB LaGarrette Blount will not play on 3rd downs, but will still be the main ball carrier on 1st and 2nd downs…..Not only will Arrelious Benn play this week, but he will be the starter–nice to see as he had to battle back from injury.

Tennessee Titans: Now that RB Chris Johnson is signed, we will see if he suffers some kind of leg injury like it seems many players suffer who don’t attend training camp…..WR Kenny Britt will be good to go Sunday. He could be in for another excellent season if QB Matt Hasselback can remain upright…..Have to feel a little bad that WR Kevin Curtis couldn’t make the team.

Washington Redskins: So Rex Grossman will once again be the Skins starting QB. Makes you wonder how long until his turnovers drive the Shanahans crazy and force them to turn to John Beck…..S Oshiomogho Atogwe has been battling a hamstring injury all preseason but will play Sunday if he can practice later this week…..Roy Helu will be the backup RB behind Tim Hightower to start the season.

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.