March 27, 2017

Ravens 30, Steelers 17

The second game of wildcard weekend had the Baltimore Ravens heading up to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.  These teams are division rivals and are very familiar with one another.  Kicker Josh Tucker sent the opening kickoff deep into the end zone and the Steelers started at their 20-yard line.  They took 6:27 off the clock and moved into Baltimore territory, but they came away with no points.  Instead of trying a 55-yard field goal, head coach Mike Tomlin decided it would be a wise decision to punt.  Brad Wing’s punt was downed at the Baltimore seven-yard line.  The Ravens ran three plays and punted the ball right back to the Steelers.

Starting with good position at the Pittsburgh 40, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed an eight-yard pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown.  That was followed by a five-yard carry by rookie running back Josh Harris.  Harris got the call again and he was thrown for a loss of two yards.  Roethlisberger went to the air again and two completions to rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant netted 29 yards.  That set them up with a first down at the Baltimore 20.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, the next three plays would lose seven yards.  Kicker Shaun Suisham came on and his 45-yard field goal attempt was good.  That put the Steelers up 3-0 with 1:29 to go in the first quarter.

The Ravens started at their 20 and quarterback Joe Flacco went deep on first down for wide receiver Jacoby Jones.  The pass was incomplete, but safety Mike Mitchell was flagged for a helmet to helmet hit.  That moved the ball to the 35.  Flacco threw to his right and the pass was caught by tight end Owen Daniels for a gain of 18 yards.  Two carries by running back Justin Forsett netted another first down and the Ravens were in Steeler territory.  From the 36, Flacco hooked up with Daniels again for a gain of ten yards.  That was followed by two more carries by Forsett and that gave them a first down at the five-yard line.  Two plays later, running back Bernard Pierce took it in from five yards out for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 7-3 with 12:28 to go in the second quarter.

Return man Markus Wheaton fielded the ensuing kickoff five yards deep and decided to run it out.  Not a good idea.  He was brought down at the 14-yard line.  From the 14, Roethlisberger completed an 18-yard pass to Brown.  On third and ten from the 32, Roethlisberger found tight end Heath Miller for a gain of 30 and a first down at the Baltimore 38-yard line.  The next three plays netted nine yards and Suisham was brought into the game for a field goal attempt.  But the Ravens were flagged for having 12 men on the field.  That gave the Steelers a first down at the 24.  Roethlisberger completed a short pass to Tate on first down.  But another flag was thrown and the Ravens were flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That moved the ball to the ten.  The Ravens brought some pressure and Roethlisberger was sacked for a loss of nine by defensive tackle Brandon Williams.  That was followed by a short pass to Brown and a 12-yard pass to Bryant.  That set up a fourth and goal from the four.  Suisham had no problem making his 22-yard field goal attempt and the Ravens now led 7-6 with 5:40 to go in the second quarter.

The Ravens started at their 20 and Flacco hooked up with wide receiver Steve Smith for a gain of 23 yards.  A four-yard pass to wide receiver Kamar Aiken and an eight-yard run by Forsett moved them into Pittsburgh territory.  Add another personal foul penalty on the Steelers and the Ravens had a first down at the 30.  From the 30, Flacco found Daniels for a gain of 19 yards and a first down at the 11.  But they would only gain one yard on their next three plays.  Tucker was brought in for a 28-yard field goal attempt and the kick was good.  That put the Ravens up 10-6 with 2:41 to go in the second quarter.

Another short kick return by Wheaton had the Steelers starting their next possession at their 18-yard line.  Roethlisberger got his team to mid-field with an 11-yard pass to Miller, a 14-yard pass to Bryant and a seven-yard pass to running back Dri Archer.  A six-yard pass to wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and an 11-yard pass to Wheaton netted a first down at the 33.  The drive stalled at the 29 and Suisham came on for a 47-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and the Ravens led 10-9 at halftime.

The Ravens started their first drive of the second half at their 16-yard line.  On third and 14, Flacco looked his right and found wide receiver Torrey Smith for a gain of 17 yards.  A seven-yard completion to fullback Kyle Juszczyk and a short run by Forsett had the Ravens in a third and short situation.  Instead of trying to run it up the gut, Flacco went deep for S. Smith.  The pass was incomplete, but some more yellow laundry was thrown onto the field.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, they weren’t terrible towels.  They were penalty flags.  Defensive pass interference was the call and the Ravens now had the ball at the Pittsburgh 31.  On first down, Flacco was sacked for a loss of 13 by linebacker Sean Spence.  The ball came loose, but the Ravens recovered it at the 44-yard line.  A short pass to Jones and a 14-yard pass to Smith put the Ravens back in field goal range.  Tucker’s 45-yard field goal attempt was good and the Ravens went up 13-9 with ten minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Steelers punted on their next possession and the Ravens took over at their 31-yard line.  Two completions to S. Smith quickly moved them down to the Pittsburgh 23.  A nine-yard pass to Juszczyk and a five-yard scramble by Flacco moved the ball down to the nine-yard line.  Two plays later, Flacco lofted a pass to the corner of the end zone and it was hauled in by T. Smith for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens increased their lead to 20-9 with 4:13 to go in the third quarter.

The Steelers couldn’t get moving and after eight plays netted just 14 yards, they punted again.  The Ravens took over at their 17 and a completion to S. Smith and some good running by Forsett moved them to the 42-yard line.  On third and eight from the 44, Forsett caught a pass and was brought down just short of a first down.  Flacco took it up the middle on fourth down and gained two yards for a first down at the Pittsburgh 47-yard line.  From the 47, Forsett ran up the left side and the ball came loose.  Defensive end Stephon Tuitt recovered the fumble and that gave the Steelers the ball at the 45-yard line.  Roethlisberger went deep for Brown on first down and it appeared he made a 45-yard touchdown catch.  But replay showed he was down at the one.  That was followed by a false start that moved them back to the six.  From the six, Roethlisberger threw to the right and Bryant caught it for a touchdown.  They decided to go for two, but the pass intended for Brown was picked off by safety Matt Elam.  With 11 minutes to go in the game, the Ravens led 20-15.

Jones returned the kickoff to the 22, but the Steelers were flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That moved the ball to the 37-yard line.  The next two plays lost three yards and that put the Ravens in a third and 13 situation.  If the Steelers could get a stop here, they’d be in position to take the lead.  That didn’t happen.  Flacco found Daniels across the middle and he gained 23 yards on the play.  That gave the Ravens a first down at the Pittsburgh 43-yard line.  From the 43, Flacco hooked up with wide receiver Marlon Brown for a gain of nine.  On third and one from the 34, Flacco went deep for S. Smith, but it was incomplete.  Tucker came on again for another field goal attempt.  His 52-yard attempt split the uprights and the Ravens went up 23-15 with 8:47 to go in the game.

The Steelers still had a shot to tie the game up.  But on third and four from the 26, Roethlisberger felt the pressure and dumped off a short pass to Tate.  The ball hit his hands, but he couldn’t handle it and it was picked off by defensive end Terrell Suggs.  The Ravens wasted no time in getting another score as Flacco dumped a short pass off to tight end Crockett Gillmore and he took it the rest of the way for a 21-yard touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 30-15 with 7:56 to go in the game.

The Steelers knew they had to score quickly.  But they were anything but quick on their next drive.  Granted, they moved the ball well, but they weren’t using the no huddle offense consistently.  To top that off, Roethlisberger left the game after getting his bell rung.  He was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski.  Gradkowski completed two of three passes for 22 yards.  On second and ten from the Baltimore 14, Roethlisberger came back into the game and promptly threw a pass that was picked off by safety Darian Stewart.  That pretty much sealed the deal.  The Steelers did manage to block a punt late in the game for a safety, but that was way too little way too late.  The Ravens came away with a 30-17 win.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 18 of 29 for 259 yards and two touchdowns.  Steve Smith led the team in receptions with five and receiving yards with 101.  There wasn’t much of a ground game to speak of for the Ravens.  They totaled 49 yards rushing on 25 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Daryl Smith led the team in solo tackles with nine.

For the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger completed 31 of 45 for 334 yards, one touchdown and two very costly interceptions.  Antonio Brown led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 117.  Like the Ravens, there wasn’t much of a ground game to speak of.  As a team, the Steelers rushed for 68 yards on 19 carries.  Defensively, safety Troy Polamalu led the team in solo tackles with five.

Up next for the Ravens is a trip to New England to face the Patriots.  That game will be on Saturday at 4:35 eastern time.

Raiders 21, Steelers 18

Up next for the Oakland Raiders was a visit from the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The Steelers were coming off a 19-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens and the Raiders were coming off a bye week.  Oakland return man Taiwan Jones ran the opening kickoff out from four yards deep and was brought down at the 18-yard line.  But a holding call moved them back to the seven-yard line.  That’s not the way to start off a game.  But things got a little better on the next play.  Quarterback Terrelle Pryor faked to running back Darren McFadden and the offensive line opened up a huge hole for Pryor to run through.  He took off and left everyone in the dust for a 93-yard touchdown.  The Oakland faithful were going insane.  Kicker Sebastian Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 7-0 with 14:41 to go in the first quarter.

Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the offense on to the field and three plays netted exactly one yard.  Punter Zoltan Mesko got off a high kick that was fielded by return man/wide receiver Jacoby Ford at the Oakland 34.  He returned it to the 48 and fumbled.  Luckily for him the ball went out of bounds.  We will be discussing the many misfortunes of Mr. Ford later in this article.  On third and two from the Pittsburgh 44, Pryor fired a pass directly at rookie wide receiver Brice Butler and he dropped it.  That brought punter Marquette King into the game and his punt rolled into the end zone.  The Steelers went nowhere again and this time, running back Rashad Jennings partially blocked the punt to set the Raiders up with great field position at the Pittsburgh 26.

On third and ten from the 26, Pryor hit wide receiver Denarius Moore for a gain of 14 yards.  On first down from the 12, McFadden took a direct snap and ran up the left side for seven yards.  McFadden got the call on the next play and took it right up the middle for a touchdown.  Janikowksi made the point after and the Raiders led 14-0 with 7:28 to go in the first quarter.

The Raider defense continued to play well and forced yet another punt.  However, the Steelers would be getting the ball back pretty quickly due to Pryor throwing an errant pass that was picked off by safety Troy Polamalu.  Starting at the Oakland 48, Roethlisberger found wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery for a gain of 11 yards.  From the 37, linebacker Sio Moore made his presence known and he sacked Roethlisberger for a loss of seven.  They would get as far as the 29 and the drive stalled there.  Kicker Shaun Suisham came on and made his 47-yard field goal attempt.  That made it 14-3 with 14:14 to go in the second quarter.

The Raiders managed to get a few first downs on their next drive, but were forced to punt.  The Steelers followed suit and Mesko got off another high one.  I can recall a time when I was excited to see Jacoby Ford returning kicks.  With his breakaway speed, he’s very dangerous.  Unfortunately, he looked like the right fielder from the Bad News Bears as he tried to field this punt.  He misjudged it, the ball bounced off of him and there was a mad scramble for it.  Luckily the Raiders came up with the ball and started from their 28-yard line.  On second and ten, Pryor found wide receiver Rod Streater for a gain of 12.  McFadden rumbled up the left side for a gain of 19 yards and the Raiders were in Pittsburgh territory.  Jennings and fullback Marcel Reece got a couple of carries and that gave them a first down at the 30.  Pryor found Streater again for a gain of 16.  A scramble by Pryor and a run by McFadden made it first and goal at the four-yard line.  On second and goal, McFadden went up the middle again and got his second touchdown of the game.  Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders had a 21-3 lead with 1:55 to go in the second quarter.

The Raider defense held the Steelers to a three and out and they punted again.  Mesko didn’t get off a very good punt and the Raiders had the ball at the Pittsburgh 46.  On first down, Pryor looked for Butler and the pass hit him right in the hands.  That’s usually a good place to hit a receiver, right?  Not this time.  The ball bounced up and was picked off by cornerback Cortez Allen.  That gave the Steelers another chance to put some points on the board with one minute to go.  Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver Antonio Brown for a gain of 21 and running back Felix Jones for 11 more.  Another completion to Jones moved them to the 16 with time running out.  Suisham was brought in for a 34-yard field goal attempt and his kick never had a chance.  It was wide right and the teams headed to the locker room.  The Raiders were looking good with a 21-3 lead.

Now, I’d like to tell you about how the Raiders came out in the second half and dominated the game.  I’d like to say that they won this game going away by a score of 42-10.  Well, that didn’t happen.  They ran a grand total of 22 plays and gained exactly 41 yards.  It was worse than the second half of the game at Kansas City two weeks ago.

But, the Steelers actually managed to get things together in the second half.  Starting at their 20, the Steelers went to work.  On third and 17 from the 13, Roethlisberger escaped the pass rush and fired a bullet up the right side to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a gain of 18 and a first down at the 31.  A couple of carries by running back Jonathan Dwyer got them another first down at the 42.  A nine-yard pass to Brown and a facemask penalty on the Raiders gave them a first down at the Oakland 36.  An eight-yard run by rookie running back Le’Veon Bell and a short run by Brown kept the chains moving.  Another catch and run by Bell moved the ball to the 15.  The Raider defense stiffened and the drive stalled at the 15.  Suisham came on again to try a 33-yard field goal and it was wide right again.  The Steelers took over nine minutes off the clock and had nothing to show for it.  The score remained 21-3 with 5:49 to go in the third quarter.

The Raiders punted and then the Steelers punted.  This time Mesko got off a great punt that rolled down the field and stopped just short of the goal line.  Raider head coach Dennis Allen challenged that the ball touched the goal line, but replay showed it never did.  That was one incredible punt.  An 18-yard pass to Moore got the Raiders out of trouble, but they would only get as far as their 30.  King punted and the Steelers started at their 31.  From the 34, Roethlisberger put up a deep sideline pass intended for Sanders and it was picked off by cornerback Mike Jenkins at the Oakland 16.  But the fun was just beginning for the Raiders.  On second and 11 from the 15, our good friend Jacoby Ford made another appearance.  Pryor threw a screen pass to him and as he tried to head up-field, he was hit by several Steelers and the ball came loose.  It was recovered at the 11 by defensive end Brett Keisel.  From the 11, Roethlisberger found tight end Heath Miller in the end zone.  But the play was reversed as replay showed Miller didn’t complete the catch.  But, on third and eight, Roethlisberger scrambled out of trouble and tossed a pass to Sanders for a touchdown.  Suisham made the point after and that made it 21-10 with 12:11 remaining in the game.

All the Raiders needed to do was control the clock for a while.  They didn’t even need to score.  Just keep the chains moving and the clock ticking.  That is a recipe for success.  That didn’t happen.  They ran three plays, took 1:30 off the clock and gave the Steelers the ball back at their 40-yard line.  On second and 12 from the 38, the Raider defense brought some pressure up the middle and Roethlisberger was sacked by defensive tackle Vance Walker for a loss of three yards.  Roethlisberger looked for Brown on third and long and the pass fell incomplete.  Mesko punted and the Raiders took over at the 20.

On third and eight from the 22, Pryor was sacked by Polamalu and King got off a nice 58-yard punt.  Brown fielded it at the Pittsburgh 25 and returned it 44 yards to the Oakland 31.  On third and three from the 24, Roethlisberger threw to Brown and the pass was tipped up into the air.  Cornerback Tracy Porter got his hands on it before it touched the ground and made a great interception.  The Raiders had dodged another bullet.  Three plays got them five yards and they took 2:12 off the clock before King had to punt again.  Brown fielded it at the Pittsburgh 20 and was thrown for a loss of three yards.  With 83 yards and 4:22 to go, the Steelers brought out their no huddle offense.  Completions to Cotchery, Sanders and Brown quickly moved them to the Oakland 40.  Another pass to Brown and a short run by Bell made it first down at the 30.  Roethlisberger was sacked for a loss of six by defensive tackle Daniel Muir.  But, that was just a minor distraction for the Steelers.  Completions to Miller, Bell and Cotchery got them a first and goal at the four.  Roethlisberger looked for Cotchery in the end zone, but the pressure was getting to him and he heaved up a wounded duck that was picked off by safety Brandian Ross.  That’s when a yellow flag made an appearance.  Ross was called for defensive holding and the Steelers now had the ball at the two.  Next, Bell went untouched into the end zone and that made it 21-16.  Obviously, the next move was to go for two and Sanders ran up the right side for a successful two-point conversion.

Things were getting pretty interesting now and I was going out of my mind.  The Raiders led 21-18 with 1:24 to go in the game.  Next was an onside kickoff attempt that was covered at the Pittsburgh 46 by the Raiders.  All they had to do was get a first down and this game was over.  But the anemic offense couldn’t get a first down.  They were forced to punt and King’s punt was a beauty that was downed at the three.  With no timeouts and 18 seconds on the clock, Roethlisberger connected with Sanders across the middle for a gain of 33.  That was the last play of the game and the Raiders barely held on to win 21-18.  The win improved the Raiders to 3-4 and the Steelers dropped to 2-5.

For the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger completed 29 of 45 for 275 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  Antonio Brown led the Steelers in receptions with nine and Emmanuel Sanders had the most receiving yards with 88 and a touchdown.  On the ground, the Steelers had a hard time.  Le’Veon Bell led the team with 24 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.  All totaled, the Steelers had 35 yards on 19 carries and their longest carry went for eight yards.  Defensively, safety Ryan Clark led the team in solo tackles with nine.

For the Raiders, Terrelle Pryor completed 10 of 19 for 88 yards and two interceptions.  He also led the team in rushing with 106 yards.  93 of those yards came on one carry.  Rod Streater led the team in receptions with four and receiving yards with 45.  Darren McFadden carried the ball 24 times for 73 yards and two touchdowns.  All totaled, the Raiders racked up 197 yards on 38 carries.  Defensively, rookie linebacker Sio Moore led the team in solo tackles with five and sacks with two.

Well, as a Raider fan, I am glad they won.  But that was U-G-L-Y!!!  The play calling in the second half was terrible and I was having flashbacks to the days when Jon Gruden coached the Raiders.  Granted, I liked Gruden, but when he’d get  a double digit lead, he’d sit on it.  All of the imaginative play calling was thrown out the window.  Basically, it is known as the “prevent offense.”  They’re very fortunate Suisham missed those field goals and that the defense sacked Roethlisberger five times and picked him off twice.  Up next for the Raiders is a visit from the Philadelphia Eagles.  They had a horrible time against the Giants yesterday and haven’t been playing very well.  Until then, take it easy.

The Raider Guy

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!!!

 

Broncos 29, Steelers 23

The Denver Broncos had an eight and eight record and backed their way into the playoffs.  They were coming off three straight losses to the Patriots, Bills and Chiefs and they looked bad in all three of those games.  In those three losses,  Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow completed 30 of 73 for 439 yards, one touchdown, four interceptions and three lost fumbles. With numbers like that, you won’t win many games.  Luckily for them, they play in the AFC West.  That was a division that looked like nobody wanted to win and eight wins was enough to win the division and get a home playoff game.

The Steelers came into this game with the number one ranked defense.  Even though quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a gimpy ankle and they were without safety Ryan Clark, center Maurkice Pouncey and running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore, they shouldn’t have many problems getting a win in Denver.  They may as well get ready for a trip to New England to take on the Patriots next week, right?  Wrong.

The Steelers could only get two field goals in the first quarter, but they were moving the ball well.  At the end of the first quarter, the Steelers led 6-0 and had 119 total yards.  The Broncos had eight total yards.  But, on third and 12 from the 18, Tebow put up a bomb that was caught by wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for a gain of 51 yards.  Then on second and nine from the 30, Tebow found wide receiver Eddie Royal in the end zone for a touchdown to put the Broncos up 7-6.  Steeler defensive end Brett Keisel was injured on this play and did not return.

After a three and out by the Steelers, Tebow put up another bomb for Thomas for a gain of 58 that put the ball at the Steeler 12.  Two plays later, Tebow ran up the middle for an eight-yard touchdown to make it 14-6.  On the next possession for the Steelers, Bronco safety Quinton Carter picked off a pass and the Broncos found themselves with great field position at the Steeler 18.  This time, the Broncos would have to settle for a 20-yard field goal by kicker Matt Prater.  That made it 17-6 with seven minutes to go in the first half.

After another Steeler punt, the Broncos took over at their 31.  On second and six from the 35, Tebow went deep again and found tight end Daniel Fells for a gain of 40.  Three straight runs by running back Willis McGahee moved the ball to the Steeler 13.  They would get as far as the ten and settle for another field goal to make it 20-6.

With 1:05 to go in the half, the Steelers started at their 20 and Roethlisberger went right to work hitting wide receiver Antonio Brown for 25 and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for 17 more.  A six-yard pass to Brown and an incomplete pass intended for Sanders set up a third and four at the Bronco 32.  Even though Roethlisberger was in the shotgun formation, the snap from center Doug Legursky went way over his head.  The ball was recovered by tight end Heath Miller at the Steeler 45, but it took the Steelers out of field goal range and they had to punt.  Tebow took a knee to end the half with the Broncos up 20-6.

The Steelers started their first drive of the second half at their 13-yard line.  On third and ten from the 23, Roethlisberger found Sanders for a gain of 18.  Brown ran a reverse up the left side for 18 more to move the ball into Bronco territory.  On third and two from the 33, running back Isaac Redman ran up the middle for an apparent 33-yard touchdown.  Replay showed he was down at the one-yard line.  On first and goal from the one, wide receiver Mike Wallace ran up the right side for a touchdown to make it 20-14.

The Broncos added another field goal to increase their lead to 23-14 with 13 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.  Time was running short and the Steelers knew they had to get going.  A 28-yard run up the middle by Redman moved them into Bronco territory.  But the drive would stall at the 19.  Steeler kicker Shaun Suisham would make another field goal to close the lead to 23-16 with ten minutes to go in the game.

With the lead and the ball, the Broncos started at their 20.  A ten-yard run by Tebow and another catch by Thomas moved the ball to the Bronco 48.  On first down from the 48, McGahee ran up the right side, got hit by safety Ryan Mundy and fumbled the ball away.  Linebacker Lamar Woodley pounced on it and the Steelers took over at their 45 with 7:35 to go in the game.

Some scrambling by Roethlisberger and a 15-yard completion to Sanders moved the ball to the Bronco 31.  On second and ten from the 31, Roethlisberger spotted wide receiver Jerricho  Cotchery cutting across the middle of the end zone and fired a strike that was caught for a 31-yard touchdown.  That tied the game at 23 with just under four minutes to go in the game.

That was plenty of time for Tebow to lead the Broncos down for the winning score.  That didn’t happen and the Steelers had one more shot to get a win in regulation.  They got as far as the Bronco 45, but the Bronco defense stiffened and sacked Roethlisberger twice to force the game into overtime.

The overtime playoff rules are now known as “modified sudden death.”  The system guarantees each team a possession or the opportunity to possess, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession.

The Broncos won the toss and after the usual touch-back, started out at their 20.  Tebow took the snap in the shotgun formation, felt no pressure from the Steeler pass rush, looked to his left and hit Thomas in stride.  Cornerback Ike Taylor tried to slow him down, but couldn’t get the job done.  Thomas outran the Steeler secondary up the right sideline for an 80-yard touchdown that gave the Broncos a 29-23 overtime win.

For the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger completed 22 of 40 for 289 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  Emmanuel Sanders led the team with six catches for 81 yards.  Isaac Redman finished the game with 121 yards on 17 carries.  Ike Taylor led the team with six solo tackles, but this would be a game I think he would love to forget.  He had a rough day.  Actually, the entire Steeler defense had a rough day.  They allowed 447 total yards and registered no sacks or  interceptions.

For the Broncos, Tim Tebow completed 10 of 21 for 316 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.  He also ran for 50 yards and a touchdown.  Demaryius Thomas led all receivers with four catches for 204 yards and a touchdown.  Willis McGahee had 61 yards on 19 carries and a very costly fumble.  Safety David Bruton led the Broncos with eight solo tackles and one pass defensed.  The Bronco defense allowed 400 total yards, sacked Roethlisberger five times and had one interception.

The Broncos will be heading across the country to face the New England Patriots on Saturday night at 8 P.M. Eastern time.  When they met in Denver in week 15, the Patriots won 41-23.  Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 320 yards, two touchdowns and the Patriots had 451 total yards.  Can the Broncos get a playoff win on the road?  We’ll find out Saturday night.

 

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: That’s back to back upsets for the Cardinals of division leaders. Good to see they still have some fight left in them…..Unfortunately, QB Kevin Kolb didn’t play long as he suffered a head injury early in the game and did not return. He has yet to practice in full this week and seems certain to be a game time decision this week…..Everyone thought WR Larry Fitzgerald would be the happiest guy in Arizona when the Cardinals signed Kolb, but he has had his best games this season with John Skelton under center.

Atlanta Falcons: Big comeback win by the Falcons over the Panthers last week. The Falcons are unlikely to catch the Saints in the NFC South, but are looking pretty solid to take one of the wildcard spots…..Although the Falcons keep stating it’s a minor injury, RB Michael Turner just hasn’t been the same since suffering a groin injury. He hasn’t missed any game action, but isn’t putting up his typical numbers either. If it is not the groin, maybe the long season is catching up with him.

Baltimore Ravens: It looks like LB Ray Lewis will be back in the lineup this week. The Ravens played it smart and kept Lewis out of the lineup until he and the team were sure he was ready to return…..WR Torrey Smith has been getting a bigger and bigger role in the Ravens offense each and every week. If he continues to develop, the Ravens may have an offense that can at least rival their defense, but more importantly it will take some of the opposing defense’s attention off of RB Ray Rice.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills came out and stated this week that they won’t take a QB in the first round of next year’s draft. Once again reinforcing their faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick. I have a feeling that’s a mistake. Fitzpatrick can look good at times, but still doesn’t have the look of a franchise quarterback…..The Bills will also have a big decision to make with WR Steve Johnson. Contract talks have broken off, so they may have to figure out if they want to use their franchise tag on him.

Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton finally played like a rookie last week, throwing two interceptions to open up the second half and with his team up 16 points in what eventually became a loss. Oh well, growing pains are a part of the job…..It looks like the only thing that may be keeping K Olindo Mare on the roster would be his four-year, $12 million contract. The Panthers brought in Adi Kunalic and promised he will kick Sunday if he outperforms Mare this week in practice.

Chicago Bears: If not for the injury to RB Matt Forte, Marion Barber may have been released before the plane hit the ground after failing to stay inbounds to keep the clock running on the Bears final drive of the 4th quarter; thus giving the Broncos the chance they needed to tie the game and send it to overtime. He than fumbled on the first drive of overtime when it looked like he was breaking into the clear, allowing Denver to win the game.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are quickly blowing what was a good start to the season. They have had trouble beating winning teams all season and it is quickly catching up to them. At this point they may have to win out to make the playoffs…..This all being said, the Bengals do get a layup this week in St. Louis, than Arizona, and even the last game versus Baltimore could be in their favor if the Ravens don’t have anything to play for with their playoff picture solidified.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are catching plenty of heat for their handling of the concussion suffered by QB Colt McCoy versus Pittsburgh. Apparently no one on the Cleveland medical staff saw McCoy get hit by the oncoming truck that was LB James Harrison, and when they did check him out they were worried about his finger, not his head. Now apparently Browns players suffered multiple concussions during this game which may have spread the medical staff kind of thin, but still someone had to see that hit and say “Hey, you may want to check Colt out.”

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Sunday night, blowing a 12-point lead with five plus minutes left in the game…..Everyone seems to want to blame QB Tony Romo for missing WR Miles Austin with a pass that would have gone for a touchdown late in the 4th quarter, but Austin admitted that he lost the ball in the lights and that’s why he didn’t catch it. Criticizing K Dan Bailey for the block seems to be off base also since the kick wasn’t low. It was much more of a blocking problem or maybe it was just a great play by Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul.

Denver Broncos: QB Tim Tebow is starting to make a believer out of me. This guy finds a way to win every game, even if he did have a tremendous amount of help from the Chicago offense in this one. Now if the Broncos and Tebow are able to beat the Patriots on Sunday, I might be a true believer…..With Tebow being 7-1 as a starter, now the Broncos have little choice but to anoint Tebow as their starting QB next season.

Detroit Lions: Not sure what to make of the Lions who almost blew that game to Minnesota last week and if not for a missed face mask penalty on the final play of the game, may have blown it indeed…..The Lions right now are in a playoff spot but have an interesting schedule over the remainder of the season. They play an Oakland team that is fighting for their playoff lives, a San Diego team that may be doing the same next week, than a Green Bay squad that could be playing for a perfect season. It should be fun times in Motor City.

Green Bay Packers: The Packers can clinch home field throughout the playoffs with either a win or a San Francisco loss. Than the big question would remain, do you play your starters and go for a perfect season, or rest them and make sure you are completely healthy for the playoffs? Now the injury to WR Greg Jennings last week, which will keep him out for the remainder of the regular season, could push the Packers towards playing it safe. But they know that an undefeated season would be immortality, plus they did win the Super Bowl last season which should make going for 19-0 even more of a must.

Houston Texans: You just can’t stop these Texans no matter who is at the wheel. QB Tyler Yates led an impressive comeback over the Bengals last week, a game that was in Cincinnati and much more important to the Bengals than the Texans, but still Yates led them to a game winning drive. Impressive indeed, still though, I’m having a tough time seeing the Texans winning more than one game in the playoffs…..Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be away from the team for the next 7-10 days as he will have a procedure to deal with a kidney ailment. Good luck Wade.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Peyton Manning has started throwing again. The question is, does he have the same zip on the ball that he did before the surgery? Next question still remains, what will the Colts do with Manning after the season and are they still planning on having Manning get in some game action before the end of the season?…..TE Dallas Clark did indeed return to action and didn’t suffer any setbacks with the leg, but did suffer a stinger that has kept him from practicing this week.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The NFL officially ratified Shahid Khan as the owner of the team, and Khan for his part stated once again that he is not planning on moving the team. Now moving the team would be hard anyway as they do have a lease through 2029, but there is an out clause if the Jags lose money for three straight seasons…..RB Maurice Jones-Drew is having an incredible season for a bad team. The numbers he is putting up for a team that has no other offensive weapons is unbelievable.

Kansas City Chiefs: So much for the Todd Haley era as he was fired this week. At least he won’t be around for the beating that the Chiefs are going to take from Green Bay this week. Look for the Chiefs to hire former Broncos head coach and current Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for the top job once the season concludes. He is the man they wanted instead of Haley in the first place, but Denver offered him the job first…..QB Kyle Orton has recovered from his dislocated finger and will start for KC this week.

Miami Dolphins: Head coach Tony Sparano was put out of his misery this week as well. The team certainly played hard for him even though we all knew he was a walking dead man. He won’t have any problems getting another job, either at the head coach or coordinator level…..QB Matt Moore left the game last week with a concussion and hasn’t practiced yet, but should be available to play this week against Buffalo.

Minnesota Vikings: Tough loss for the Vikings last week but some good did come out of it. QB/WR Joe Webb played pretty well after taking over for Christian Ponder and may be able to handle that role in the future. The problem is Minnesota also likes what he can do as a receiver. You really can’t have your backup QB playing receiver, too good a chance of an injury. Maybe you can have your third string QB play receiver though…..Ponder is expected to start this week even though Webb was more effective than he was last week.

New England Patriots: That was some pretty funny stuff watching QB Tom Brady and the Pats offensive coordinator yelling at each other on the sideline after Brady threw an interception last week. Seems though if any of the Pats coaches were going to yell at any of the players, it should be on the defensive side of the ball…..If that was the funny part of the game, than the ridiculous part was watching the Redskin defense trying to tackle TE Rob Gronkowski. It looked like a high school team trying to tackle a top college player–just a joke.

New Orleans Saints: If you’re not a fan of any team in the NFC, you have to be rooting for a Green Bay-New Orleans rematch in the championship game, hopefully in good weather. Now that would be entertainment….TE Jimmy Graham is dealing with a bad back that almost kept him out of the game against Tennessee. He was able to play and has also been able to practice this week so this may not be as serious as it once looked…..RB Mark Ingram has yet to practice this week and may yet miss another game due to turf toe.

New York Giants: What a win for the Giants over the Cowboys on Sunday. They are now in control of their own destiny in the NFC East, but things could get testy. They have what should be a gimme versus Washington this week, although the Skins played the Pats tough. They than have to play the Jets and then Dallas once again. Here’s hoping that last game is a winner take all…..The most impressive thing to me about the Giants’ win wasn’t the 37 points they scored but that they didn’t give up a sack.

New York Jets: The Jets have come alive once again and look like a team that could be dangerous come playoff time. They have a strong running game with Shonne Green and LaDainian Tomlinson, and QB Mark Sanchez has been more careful with the football in the past couple of games. The loss of S Jim Leonard is a blow to the defense, but he missed the playoff run last season as well due to injury.

Oakland Raiders: Not that the Raiders had much of a chance of beating Green Bay anyway, but that is back to back weeks that they virtually didn’t get off the plane. The team certainly has dealt with its share of injuries. Their receiving corps has been decimated and losing their biggest playmaker in RB Darren MacFadden has been huge, but that’s still no excuse for their play of late.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Michael Vick had a successful return to action last week, but WR Jeremy Maclin did not as he had to leave the game early when his hamstring tightened up on him. He might give it a go once again this week but there is no way of knowing if he will be able to finish the game…..WR DeSean Jackson actually showed up last week and had a big game. The question is, can he do it again, especially with the games becoming more and more meaningless?

Pittsburgh Steelers: It seems unlikely that QB Ben Roethlisberger will play Monday night after suffering a high ankle sprain, an injury that looked pretty ugly when it happened. The Steelers need to think about the future. Sure they would like to win the division, but they have a wildcard spot all but locked up and need to make sure Ben is as close to 100% as possible for the playoffs…..C Maurkice Pouncey also suffered a high ankle sprain. He wants to play, but once again the Steelers may play it safe and hold him out.

San Diego Chargers: Can the Chargers make another miracle comeback in the division? Probably not, but they are once again giving it a go. If only Tim Tebow would stop pulling out these miracles…..With the rash of coaching changes that have been going on, it’s fair to wonder if Norv Turner could be let go when the Chargers next lose a game and are officially eliminated from playoff contention.

San Francisco 49ers: That’s two losses in a row for the 49ers and now they have the Steelers coming to town. Now they have a firm grip on the NFC West but that first round bye might be slipping away…..I still can’t see how this team can win a playoff game. They need to score points. Their defense is good, but not great…..RB Frank Gore is certainly beat up and the 49ers admit that he’s not 100%. But what running back is at this point in the season? The real question is, how far from full health is he?

Seattle Seahawks: RB Marshawn Lynch has set himself up to make a ton of money next season, assuming the Seahawks don’t franchise him. He’s as tough a runner as there is to bring down. Inconsistent, sure, but once he’s in the secondary he’s a runaway train. The Hawks must retain his services next season.

St. Louis Rams: It’s hard to believe that OC Josh McDaniels will be in high demand next season with the way the Rams offense has been this season. Of even more importance is that QB Sam Bradford has certainly regressed this season. Still look for McDaniels to be the Chiefs first choice…..If McDaniels were to leave, would free agent WR Brandon Lloyd leave with him?….Speaking of Bradford, his ankle seems to have taken a turn for the worse and as of now he is unlikely to play Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs look to be out of control and it seems unlikely that coach Raheem Morris keeps his job…..QB Josh Freeman stated that he still doesn’t have the same zip on his fastball due to injury. That could explain the problem he has had with interceptions this season. Freeman has to be one of the more disappointing players this season…..Freeman should be licking his chops at facing the Dallas secondary Saturday–Lord knows everyone else has this season.

Tennessee Titans: Tough loss by the Titans versus the Saints. They had a chance to beat them at the end. They might have had an extra play had rookie QB Jake Locker thrown the ball on the final play. He had time. Even if he throws the ball away, he still would have had another play. Then he could have run around forever and tried to make a play. You can’t take a sack, even if you just heave it up for grabs. Give your team a chance.

Washington Redskins: On that great run by TE Rob Gronkowski last week, did anyone notice CB DeAngelo Hall observing the play while two of his teammates were being dragged by Gronk? Way to get involved…..Coach Mike Shanahan stated this week that QB Rex Grossman is auditioning for the starting job next season. While that may be true, the Skins are sure to use their first-round pick on a rookie quarterback.

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.

Trades Involving Big Name QB’s That Never Happened

It’s often mentioned that championship teams are built through the NFL draft.  It’s a fairly cliché statement, but it’s entirely true.  What’s often overlooked is that draft selections are only one aspect of the draft.  The ability of front office staffs to wheel and deal during the draft can also make lasting impacts on NFL teams.  The most impactful trades often involve quarterbacks.

There are a lot of trade rumors involving QB’s flying around draft weekend, and usually none of them end up true.  Imagine though if some of them did in fact become true.  The NFL landscape would certainly be different.  Listed below are some draft time trade rumors from the past 25 years (as reported by the major media) involving star QB’s, that never became true.

 

1983 NFL Draft – Rumored John Elway/#1 Pick Trades

Before the 1983 NFL draft, John Elway told the Baltimore Colts (owners of the NFL’s #1 pick) not to select him.  That’s because Elway wanted to play for a team located on the west coast, and if he was selected by the Colts, he insinuated he might abandon football, and pursue a career in baseball.  In the end, the Colts selected Elway, but soon after traded him to the Denver Broncos.  The rest is history.

With Elway’s strong statements before the draft, it appeared to the major media that the Colts would trade the #1 pick; thus trading the rights to select Elway.  The Los Angeles Raiders and San Diego Chargers were two teams mentioned as likely candidates to win the Elway sweepstakes.

The San Diego Chargers owned three picks in the first round, and were having difficulty signing All-Pro QB Dan Fouts to a new contract.  The Raiders had a solid veteran QB in Jim Plunkett, but Al Davis always liked to make a splash at the draft.

The Baltimore Colts were willing to trade the #1 pick/Elway to the San Diego Chargers for all three of the Chargers first round picks, but the Chargers were unwilling to give up the 5th overall selection.  Perhaps if the Chargers hadn’t signed Dan Fouts to a new contract the night before, the Chargers might have been more willing to give up that 5th overall pick.

There were a number of different rumored trade offers from the Raiders.  One scenario stated the Raiders were offering a number of top picks in the 1983 and 1984 drafts, as well as former first round selection in QB Marc Wilson.  Another rumor mentioned that the Raiders would consider trading future Hall of Fame RB Marcus Allen.  Lastly, it was also rumored that the Raiders were attempting to attain first round selections, in order to trade them for Elway.  Reportedly, the Raiders were offering RB Kenny King, G Mickey Marvin, and future Hall of Fame DE Howie Long to the Chicago Bears (6th pick) or the Philadelphia Eagles (8th pick).

The Dallas Cowboys were also rumored as being interested in Elway.  It was rumored that the Cowboys offered the Colts their top selection in the 1983 draft (23rd overall), and a number of veteran players, possibly QB Danny White and DT Randy White.

Lastly, despite Elway’s request to play for a team on the west coast, the New England Patriots were supposedly highly interested in selecting Elway.  It was rumored that the Patriots would offer the Colts their first round selections in 1983, 1984, and 1985, as well as a veteran player or another top selection.

In the end, the Denver Broncos were truly the dark horse candidate to get John Elway, and made out the best.

In hindsight, the Chargers should have traded all three first round selections for Elway.  The Chargers did pick up three solid players with their picks; LB Billy Ray Smith, RB Gary Anderson, and DB Gill Byrd.  However, none of those players had Hall of Fame careers.

The Cowboys also should have offered a bit more for Elway.  Although, if they did, I’m sure the team wouldn’t have gone through the collapse they did in 1988 and 1989; which ultimately led to the birth of a dynasty.  Who knows if it was even nothing more than a remote possibility, but the Patriots also should have made more of an effort to get Elway.

Meanwhile, it’s debatable whether the Raiders made the right decision by not trading for Elway.  The Raiders would go on to win the Super Bowl in 1983.  Without Marcus Allen and/or Howie Long, that probably doesn’t happen.   However, I’m sure the Raiders would have loved to have had Elway at QB with some of their more talented teams in the early 1990’s.

Lastly, the Colts would have been better off taking trade offers from any of the rumored trades, before actually selecting Elway.  Once they selected Elway, and he refused to play for them, their bargaining power was reduced significantly.  In the end, the Colts picked up an unproductive QB in Mark Herrmann, a talented tackle, albeit not a Hall of Famer in Chris Hinton, and a first round selection in the 1984 draft (used on G Ron Solt).

 

1987 NFL Draft – Rumored Steve Young Trades

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed QB Vinny Testaverde to a contract weeks before they would actually be able to select him #1 in the 1987 NFL draft.  This gave the Buccaneers a few weeks to shop around highly talented QB Steve Young.  Eventually, the San Francisco 49ers would pick up Young for second and third round picks.  However, the Green Bay Packers and the St. Louis Cardinals had also been in trade talks with the 49ers for Young.

After the draft, Packers head coach Forrest Gregg stated the 49ers asking price for Steve Young was too steep.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals elected to choose a QB in the draft by selecting Kelly Stouffer.

Looking back, the Packers should have realized the asking price for Steve Young wasn’t too steep.  However, they came out of it rather unscathed, with a smart draft selection of Don Majkowski, and a smart trade for Brett Favre.  The Cardinals however didn’t get so lucky.  Stouffer never played a snap with the Cardinals, refusing to sign with them.

 

1992 NFL Draft – Rumored Steve Young Trade

The San Francisco 49ers reportedly made a trade offer to the Los Angeles Raiders, in which they were going to trade the NFL’s top rated passer, Steve Young, for the Raiders first and second round selections, and WR Tim Brown.  49ers head coach George Seifert admitted the 49ers attempted to trade up in the draft, but didn’t get into the specifics on any trade offers they may have made.

The Raiders ended up picking defensive lineman Chester McGlockton with their first round pick, and the Raiders traded up in the second round to pick offensive lineman Greg Skrepenak.

Clearly, it looks like the 49ers benefited from this trade not occurring.  Steve Young continued to be one of the best QB’s in the NFL, and led the 49ers to a Super Bowl championship in 1994.

If the trade did go through, the 49ers would have had Hall of Famer Jerry Rice and most likely future Hall of Famer Tim Brown at the receiver’s positions.  Coincidentally, the two players would be paired together as Raiders during the 2001-2003 seasons.

 

1992 NFL Draft – Rumored Phil Simms Trades

What turned out to be a rumor with no legs, the New York Giants were reportedly interested in trading veteran QB Phil Simms, so they could move up in the 1992 NFL draft and select QB David Klinger.  The San Diego Chargers and Los Angeles Raiders were supposedly interested in Simms.  The Giants denied the rumor.  Simms remained with the Giants for a few more years and eventually won the starting job back.   Jeff Hostetler, the Giants starting QB at the time, would end up with the Raiders one year later.

 

1993 NFL Draft – Rumored Joe Montana Trades

If you thought the sight of Joe Montana in a Kansas City Chiefs uniform was strange, imagine how he would have looked in an Arizona Cardinals uniform, or a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform.

The Buccaneers were the original front running team to get Joe Montana.  They had a surplus of draft picks, some youthful talent, and Montana worked with Buccaneers head coach Sam Wyche when Wyche was an assistant with the San Francisco 49ers.  But Montana had no interest in going to a team that wasn’t a contender, and chose against being traded to the Buccaneers.

Despite Montana’s request to go to Kansas City, it looked as if Montana would end up in a Cardinals uniform because they were offering more compensation for him.  The Cardinals were offering the 49ers their first round selection in the draft (20th pick).  At that point in the trade negations, no other team had even offered the 49ers a draft selection in the second round.

The Detroit Lions and the Los Angeles Raiders also expressed interest in trading for Montana, but their type of offensive styles didn’t appeal to Montana.

Eventually, the 49ers and Chiefs came to an agreement.  The 49ers sent Montana, safety David Whitmore and their third round selection in the 1994 draft.  In return, the 49ers received the Chiefs first round draft pick (18th overall).

You can’t really fault the Buccaneers or Cardinals for not getting Montana.  Montana wanted to go to the Chiefs, and when the Chiefs offered enough compensation, a deal was made.  The Buccaneers and Cardinals were merely curious bystanders.

 

1995 NFL Draft – Rumored Mark Brunell Trades

In 1995, Mark Brunell wasn’t a household name; however some NFL teams recognized his talents, and were willing to take a chance on him.  The team Brunell played for, the Green Bay Packers, already had a talented and young QB on their roster in Brett Favre.

The Philadelphia Eagles actually had a deal in principle made with the Packers for Brunell, under the stipulation that they would be able to sign Brunell to a long term contract.  Brunell and the Eagles never reached a contract agreement, and the Eagles agreement to send their second and fifth round selections to the Packers fell through.

The St. Louis Rams were also reported as a team interested in Brunell.  In the end, the Jacksonville Jaguars sent their third and fifth round picks to the Packers for Brunell.

If the Eagles had been able to sign Brunell, it would have changed the franchise.  Brunell came into his own during the 1996 playoffs; during a time when the Eagles were struggling to find a suitable QB to lead their talented roster.

 

2010 NFL Draft – Rumored Ben Roethlisberger Trades

Coming off another off-season embarrassment relating to their franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger, it was rumored that the Pittsburgh Steelers were interested in trading him.

It was reported that the Steelers offered Roethlisberger to the St. Louis Rams as a way to attain the #1 pick in the draft.  However, the Rams had no interest in the trade, and selected QB Sam Bradford.

The Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders were also mentioned as possible trading partners with the Steelers for Roethlisberger.  The Steelers confirmed they had spoken to the Raiders about Roethlisberger, but denied speaking to the Browns.

 

One final note: If there is a big name QB with trade rumors attached to his name, it appears that the Oakland Raiders will always be interested.  Every QB on this list, with the exception of Mark Brunell, was of interest to the Raiders.

 

Andrew McKillop runs the sports research blog SportsDelve.com.