August 16, 2017

Panthers 27, Cardinals 16

The first game of wildcard weekend had the Arizona Cardinals traveling to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on the Carolina Panthers.  Carolina kicker Graham Gano sent the opening kickoff through the end zone and the Cardinals would start at their 20-yard line.  They ran three plays and gained exactly two yards.  To make things worse, punter Drew Butler shanked the punt and it only went 20 yards.  The Panthers started their first drive at the Arizona 48-yard line.  On third and two from the 40, quarterback Cam Newton completed an eight-yard pass to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for a first down at the 32.  They would get as far as the 29 and the drive was stopped there.  Gano came on and his 47-yard field goal was good.  The Panthers led 3-0 with 11:27 to go in the first quarter.

It was more of the same for the Cardinals.  Although there was some improvement.  Instead of gaining only two yards, they gained nine yards on this possession.  Another short punt by Butler gave the Panthers the ball at their 43-yard line.  Completions to Benjamin and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery quickly moved the Panthers into Arizona territory.  A couple of carries by running back Jonathan Stewart and a defensive holding penalty moved the ball to the 34.  From the 34, Newton found wide receiver Philly Brown for a gain of seven and a first down at the 27.  From there, tight end Greg Olsen caught a 14-yard pass and Stewart finished the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run.  Gano made the point after and the Panthers led 10-0 with 5:21 to go in the first quarter.

With a little over four minutes to go in the first quarter, the Cardinals finally got a first down as quarterback Ryan Lindley completed a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Floyd.  After that, it was the same old thing.  They couldn’t get another first down and Butler punted.  However, return man Brenton Bersin couldn’t get a handle on the punt and the Cardinals recovered it at the Carolina 30-yard line.  On second and twelve from the 32, Lindley completed a short pass, but the bigger damage came from the zebras.  The Panthers were flagged for unnecessary roughness and that gave them a first down at the 15.  On third and ten, Lindley found wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and he was dragged down at the one-yard line.  From the one, Lindley completed a pass to tight end Darren Fells for a touchdown.  Kicker Chandler Catanzaro made the point after and the Panthers now led 10-7 with 14:56 to go in the second quarter.

The Panthers took over at their 20 and two five-yard penalties on Arizona got them a first down at the 30.  Two carries by Stewart and one by Newton moved the ball to the Arizona 30-yard line.  But the next three plays gained only five yards.  To top that off, a 43-yard field goal attempt by Gano sailed wide left.  That gave the Cardinals the ball at their 33 and like they had been doing for most of the game, they punted after three plays.  Butler hit a nice 52-yard punt that was downed at the Carolina 17-yard line.  The Panthers managed to get a few first downs, but were forced to punt.  Punter Brad Nortman hit a high punt that was downed at the Arizona two-yard line.  Three plays gained one yard and it was time for Butler to punt his team out of trouble.  He got off another poor punt and the Panthers had excellent field position at the Arizona 34-yard line.  On third and 13 from the 37, Newton looked for Cotchery and the pass was picked off by cornerback Antonio Cromartie.  It looked like he might return it for a score, but Newton pushed him out of bounds at the Carolina 17-yard line.  Three carries by running back Kerwynn Williams netted a first down at the one-yard line.  From the one, running back Marion Grice took it in for a score.  Catanzaro made the point after and the Cardinals led 14-10 with 2:50 to go in the second quarter.

The Panthers started at their 20 and some more good running by Stewart, Newton and fullback Mike Tolbert moved the ball down to the 45.  Completions to Brown, Olsen and a pass interference penalty on Cromartie gave the Panthers a first down at the Arizona 14-yard line.  They would get down to the 11 and the drive came to an end there.  Gano came on for another field goal attempt.  It was good, but the Panthers were flagged for holding.  That meant Gano would have to try another kick.  His 39-yard attempt was good and the Cardinals led 14-13 at halftime.

The Panthers started at their 20 again and lots of scrambling by Newton got them headed in the right direction.  They managed to take 7:31 off the clock and they didn’t even score a point.  On third and ten from the Arizona 43, Newton completed a pass to Bersin, but he was stopped at the 37.  Instead of trying a long field goal, head coach Ron Rivera opted for a punt.  Nortman’s punt was downed at the eight-yard line.  Like they had been doing all game, the Cardinals went three and out again.  Butler punted and the Panthers took over at the Arizona 39.  From the 39, Newton competed a short pass to running back Fozzy Whittaker and he took it all the way for a touchdown.  Gano made the point after and the Panthers led 20-14 with 5:28 to go in the third quarter.

Things would get much worse for the Cardinals after that.  Return man Ted Ginn fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Panthers got the ball back at the Arizona three-yard line.  Newton was stuffed for a loss of one yard on first down and Tolbert only gained one yard on second down.  On third down, Newton looked for Olsen, but the pass was incomplete.  However, the Cardinals were flagged for pass interference.  That gave them a first down at the one.  This time, Tolbert had no problem finding the end zone and he took it up the left side for a touchdown.  Gano made the point after and the Panthers led 27-14 with 4:04 to go in the third quarter.

You wouldn’t think that a 27-14 lead would be insurmountable for the Cardinals.  If they had Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton at quarterback, they’d have a shot at regaining the lead.  But Lindley was not having a good game.  Even after Newton fumbled and the Cardinals took over at the Carolina eight-yard line, they still couldn’t get a score.  Lindley looked for Fitzgerald and the pass was  picked off by linebacker Luke Kuechly.  That pretty much sealed the deal and the Panthers came away with a 27-16 win.

The top performers in this game were all wearing Carolina blue.

Leading passer: Cam Newton completed 18 of 32 for 198 yards, two touchdowns, one interception.

Leading rusher: Jonathan Stewart rushed for 123 yards on 24 carries and one touchdown.

Leading receiver: Fozzy Whittaker had 39 yards and one touchdown.

The Panthers held Arizona to 78 yards.  That is the fewest yards ever allowed in an NFL postseason game.  Up next for the Panthers is a trip out to Seattle to take on the Seahawks.  That game will be on Saturday night at 8:15 eastern time.

 

 

49ers 23, Panthers 10

The third game of the divisional playoffs had the San Francisco 49ers heading east again to play the Carolina Panthers.  The 49ers were coming off a 23-20 win over the Packers in frigid Green Bay and the Panthers were coming off a bye week.  There was nothing frigid about the weather in Charlotte.  It was sunny and in the mid 50s with a light breeze.  Carolina kicker Graham Gano sent the opening kickoff through the end zone and the 49ers started at their 20-yard line.  On third and ten from the 20, quarterback Colin Kaepernick looked to his left and found wide receiver Quinton Patton for a gain of 20 yards.  A five-yard carry by running back Frank Gore and an eight-yard pass to Gore netted a first down at the Carolina 44.  On third and six from the 40, Kaepernick threw to his right for wide receiver Anquan Boldin.  The ball was tipped and fell incomplete.  However, safety Mike Mitchell was flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That got the 49ers a first down, but they went no farther.  As a matter of fact, Kaepernick was sacked for a loss of seven yards on third down.  Kicker Phil Dawson came on and his 49-yard attempt was good and the 49ers led 3-0 with 9:12 to go in the first quarter.

The Panthers started at their 20 and on second and eight, quarterback Cam Newton completed a six-yard pass to wide receiver Steve Smith.  On third and two, Newton completed another short pass to tight end Greg Olsen for a first down at the 34.  From the 34, Newton hooked up with wide receiver Brandon LaFell for seven yards.  On second and three, Newton looked for LaFell again but the pass was thrown behind him and picked off by linebacker Patrick Willis.  There were three Panthers in the general area of the pass, but Willis still came away with the interception.

The 49ers had good field position at the Carolina 46.  On second and eight, Kaepernick dumped off a short pass intended for tight end Vernon Davis.  The pass was incomplete, but linebacker Luke Kuechly was flagged for defensive holding.  That gave the 49ers a first down at the 44.  The zebras weren’t done throwing their flags either.  On the next play, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was flagged for unnecessary roughness to give the 49ers yet another first down at the 20.  The drive was halted at the 15 and Dawson was called on again.  His 33-yard kick was good.  With 4:33 to go in the first quarter, the 49ers led 6-0.

Dawson kicked the ball short and it was fielded at the Carolina 18 by running back Kenjon Barner and returned to the 34.  Newton went deep for Smith on first down and that play was good for 28 yards.  A seven-yard carry by running back DeAngelo Williams and a 14-yard pass to Ted Ginn moved them down to the 17.  Newton ran up the right side for 11 yards and the Panthers found themselves with a first and goal from the six-yard line.  Big fullback Mike Tolbert got the call on first down and gained three yards.  Newton kept it on the next play and gained two more yards.  On third and goal from the one, Tolbert once again was unsuccessful at finding the end zone.  The Panthers decided to go for it on fourth and about one foot from the goal line.  The attendance for this game was 73,784 and I’m pretty sure all of them knew that Newton was going to run the ball up the middle.  Add 11 more people to that number.  When the ball was snapped, every player in a white jersey did their best to clog the middle and stop Newton from scoring.  It worked and he was stopped short of the end zone.  Why not try a bootleg?  Maybe sell a play fake and toss it to Olsen?  Unimaginative play-calling led to zero points for the Panthers.

The 49ers went three and out and punter Andy Lee hit a nice 52-yard punt that was fielded by Ginn at the Carolina 45 and returned to the San Francisco 31-yard line.  On first down, Newton fired a perfect strike to the left for Smith who caught it in stride for a touchdown.  Gano made the point after and the Panthers led 7-6 with 13:40 to go in the first half.

The 49ers gained 20 yards on their next possession and punted again.  Ginn fielded it at the 17 and tried to escape, but could only get three yards on the return.  Three scrambles by Newton and a six-yard pass to LaFell moved the Panthers to the 47.  A 35-yarder to Olsen, a nine-yard pass to Smith and a short run by Tolbert had the Panthers knocking on the door again.  Newton ran up the left side and was brought down at the one-yard line.  On second down, Newton was stuffed for no gain.  Before the ball was snapped on the next play, linebacker Ahmad Brooks did his best impression of a bird as he jumped over the line and Newton.  That was an obvious offside penalty and moved the ball a little closer to the goal line.  Tolbert had no luck gaining any yards on third down and the Panthers decided to try a field goal on fourth down.  A delay of game moved them back five yards, but Gano had no trouble making a 25-yard field goal and the Panthers led 10-6 with 3:41 to go in the first half.

The 49ers started at their 20 and a five-yard carry by Gore and a 12-yard pass to Boldin moved them to the 37.  On second down, Boldin caught another pass for 14 yards.  Wide receiver Michael Crabtree got in on the act and hauled in a pass for 20 yards and a first down at the Carolina 29.  Another five-yard run by Gore and a 15-yard pass to Boldin made it first and goal from the nine.  After that play, safety Quintin Mikell was injured and did not return to the game.  Every time Boldin made a catch, he talked a little louder.  After that previous catch, he started chirping again and slammed his helmet into Munnerlyn’s helmet.  Doesn’t that qualify as a head-butt?  Shouldn’t there be a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct?  Taunting?  Guess not.

On third and goal from the nine, Kaepernick floated a pass to the right side of the end zone for Boldin.  The pass was incomplete, but cornerback Drayton Florence didn’t turn around to look for the ball.  As I saw that, I started to count.  5…4…3…Boom! There’s the flag!  It was now first and goal from the one.  Gore was stopped for no gain on first down.  On second down, Kaepernick rolled to his right and tossed a pass to Davis in the end zone.  Initially it was ruled incomplete, but replay showed he had possession and got both feet down for the score.  After the pass was ruled incomplete, San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh stormed the field in protest of the call.  He was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct that was enforced on the kickoff.  Harbaugh, didn’t you have a procedure done last year for an irregular heartbeat?  It was inside of two minutes and that means that every play will be reviewed from the booth.  Just calm down and stop whining.  You’re acting like a damn child.  If you keep having these emotional explosions, you’re going to be in a straightjacket before the game is over.  After all that went down, Dawson made the point after and the 49ers led 13-10 at halftime.

The Panthers needed to get back on track with a good drive to start the second half.  That didn’t happen and punter Brad Nortman got off a 51-yard punt that was fair caught at the San Francisco 23.  Some more tough running by Gore and a 16-yard pass to Boldin moved the ball to the Carolina 47.  Kaepernick looked for Boldin once again and he hauled it in for a gain of 45.  On first and goal from the two, Gore and Kaepernick weren’t on the same page during the exchange and the ball came loose.  Gore pounced on it and the 49ers retained possession.  I’d hate to see what Harbaugh would have done if Carolina recovered the fumble.  On second down, Kaepernick kept it and ran up the left side.  He dodged a couple of defenders and made it into the end zone.  Dawson made the point after and the 49ers increased their lead to 20-10 with nine minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Panthers really needed to get some points on this drive and they started at their 24-yard line.  Passes to LaFell and Olsen and some scrambling by Newton had them moving in the right direction.  On second five from the San Francisco 48, Newton went deep for Ginn, and the pass fell incomplete.  But the 49ers were flagged for defensive holding.  That moved the ball to the 43 and gave the Panthers a first down.  On third and one, Newton completed a five-yard pass to LaFell and the Panthers were looking good.  They were looking good until the 49ers stepped up their pass rush.  After an incomplete pass on first down, Newton was sacked by linebacker NaVorro Bowman for a loss of eight yards.  On third down, Newton had room to run up the middle, but didn’t move quickly enough and he was sacked by Brooks for another eight-yard loss.  That put them out of field goal range and really hurt their chances of getting back into the game.  They had control of the ball for 8:20 and came away scoreless.

Nortman punted and the 49ers took over at their 12.  Another score would most likely put the Panthers away.  On third and two from the 20, the Kaepernick and Boldin connection came through again and Boldin caught another pass for five yards and a first down at the 25.  Two carries by Gore netted nine yards and on third and one, Gore got loose for a gain of 39 yards.  He was finally dragged down by Mitchell and Florence at the Carolina 27.  The drive would stall at the 15, but they held on to the ball for almost eight minutes and took precious time off the clock.  Dawson came on again and made his 33-yard field goal attempt.  With 7:35 to go in the game, the 49ers led 23-10.

All the Panthers could do now was hope for the best and cope with the rest.  Starting at the 23, Newton completed passes to LaFell and Ginn, but he was also sacked two more times.  They moved down to the San Francisco 28, but when Newton looked for Olsen, his pass was picked off at the nine by safety Donte Whitner.  The Carolina faithful started to head for the exits as that pretty much ended any hopes of the Panthers heading to Seattle.  The 49ers ran out the clock and advanced to the NFC championship game for the second straight year.

For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick completed 15 of 28 for 196 yards and one touchdown.  He added a rushing touchdown and finished the game with 15 yards on eight carries.  Anquan Boldin had himself a good day and led the 49ers in receptions with eight and receiving yards with 136.  On the ground, the 49ers rushed for 126 on 34 carries.  Frank Gore led the way with 84 yards on 17 carries.  Their defense came up huge when it needed to with two big goal line stands.  Defensively, they sacked Newton five times and Bowman, Willis and Brooks tied for the lead in solo tackles with five apiece.  Brooks also had 2.5 sacks.

For the Panthers, Cam Newton completed 16 of 25 for 267 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  He also led the team in rushing with 54 yards on ten carries.  Ginn, Smith, Olsen and LaFell each had four receptions and Ginn had the most receiving yards with 104.  As a team, the Panthers rushed for 93 yards on 24 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Thomas Davis led the team in solo tackles with four.  They had plenty of opportunities in this game.  Simply put, they couldn’t find a way to score from the one-yard line on two different occasions.

Whenever the 49ers and Seahawks get together, you can expect an intense game with lots of trash talk.  I expect that’s what will happen Sunday when they meet at 6:30 eastern time to determine the winner of the NFC.

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: Hopefully the bye week will allow the Cardinals passing game to figure things out. Teams are bracketing WR Larry Fitzgerald which forces QB Kevin Kolb to search for other options, and as nice an early season surprise as Early Doucet has been, he’s just not the answer…..There are whispers in the desert that Ken Whisenhunt’s job could be in jeopardy if the team doesn’t turn this season around. How far that Super Bowl appearance must seem now.

Atlanta Falcons: With the team having a bye in Week 8 and WR Julio Jones still dealing with a hamstring injury, look for the Falcons to play it safe and keep Jones on the bench once again…..WR  Roddy White has knee and thigh issues.  Although neither one is considered a serious injury, they must be the reason for his subpar start to the season.

Baltimore Ravens: WR Lee Evans is still dealing with an ankle injury and is once again unlikely to play this week–not that it matters much since rookie Torrey Smith has filled the void quite well so far…..Rookie CB Jimmy Smith is expected to return this week. He won’t start, but he’ll fortify the secondary…..Ravens play the Jaguars on Monday Night Football. When did the schedule makers think this would be a good prime time game?

Buffalo Bills: As good as QB Ryan Fitzpatrick as been this season, those pair of interceptions he threw to the Giants Corey Webster lost the game for Buffalo last week, but that hasn’t stopped the team and Fitz from coming close on a new contract that will pay Fitzpatrick quite a few more dollars than he is making now…..With the Bills depth at WR being tested due to injuries, C.J. Spiller will remain on the outside for the time being–not like he was going to get many carries over Fred Jackson anyway.

Carolina Panthers: TE Greg Olsen has a toe injury, but it won’t keep him from the game this week…..There were some rumors that QB Cam Newton would be told to not take off and run as much as he has been, but apparently that is not the case. Still one has to wonder if that demand will be coming in the future…..I’m really starting to regret trading Newton in a dynasty fantasy league before the season began.

Chicago Bears: QB Jay Cutler and offensive coordinator Mike Martz seem to be at odds over how the offense is run. Funny timing as Cutler had his best game of the week last Sunday, and that may have been partly due to Martz keeping more blockers in than usual to stop Cutler from taking a beating each and every week…..WR Devin Hester left the game early Sunday with a chest injury, but is expected to play in London this week.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals seemed to have done pretty well in trading QB Carson Palmer to the Raiders before the trade deadline, getting a 1st round pick next year, and a 2nd round pick in 2013 (could upgrade to another 1st rounder if the Raiders make the championship game in one of the next two seasons). Seems GM Mike Brown was able to extract a small fortune from Oakland due to good timing (Jason Campbell’s injury) and Brown’s stance that Palmer would never be traded. Good move for Cincinnati, they have their QB of the future in Andy Dalton, and now they get extra draft picks to build around him.

Cleveland Browns: There were plenty of rumors floating around at the trade deadline that RB Peyton Hillis could be on the block. It appears the team and Hillis just haven’t been on the same page this season and with Hillis due a new contract after the season, there was some thought they would ship him out…..CB Joe Haden is still dealing with a knee issue but it looks like he may be able to give it a go this week…..GM Mike Holmgren has stated that Colt McCoy will be the starting QB for the Browns for this season and beyond.

Dallas Cowboys: Is there anyone else that has noticed how badly outcoached Dallas seems to get every game? After throwing three picks in that loss to Detroit, it was almost like Patriots coach Bill Belichick knew that Dallas would look to play it conservative and take the ball out of QB Tony Romo’s hands and run the ball more than usual. Belichick had a strong run game plan and Dallas couldn’t get anywhere on the ground. Someone has to explain to me why Dallas coach Jason Garrett thought Dallas would be able to run the ball for a first down on that final drive. They couldn’t run the ball when NE didn’t know it was coming, more or less when they did.

Denver Broncos: Broncos fans will get what they wanted this week when the Tim Tebow era begins. You have to like the Broncos giving Tebow all the help they can by trading his best receiver, Brandon Lloyd. Hopefully the Broncos will design the offense around Tebow’s strengths, putting him in the shotgun as much as possible and letting him throw on the run. I have a feeling coach John Fox is not going to tell Tebow to curtail his running, that may be the only way they gain yardage.

Detroit Lions: RB Javhid Best won’t play this week due to suffering yet another concussion last week. There are also rumors that some believe Best should sit out the remainder of the season. While that may be the correct choice for his health, it looks like Best will play as soon as he is cleared…..The Lions tried to beef up the running game with the acquisition of Ronnie Brown, but that trade was voided due to health concerns with Jerome Harrison. Maurice Morris will handle the running load for Detroit for now.

Green Bay Packers: TE JerMichael Finley only had one reception for 20 yards last week. If you take away his three TD performance against Chicago, Finley has really had a disappointing season so far…..Green Bay is a good team, but you have to wonder if their lack of a running game and injuries to the offensive line will eventually catch up to them.

Houston Texans: WR Andre Johnson is getting closer to a return, but it won’t be this week. The Texans are hurting without their best offensive player in Johnson and best defensive player in DE Mario Williams…..WR Jacoby Jones is also dealing with a groin injury, but should be good to go this Sunday…..The Texans really need to win this week. A loss to the Titans would put them a game and a half behind Tennessee, and with Indianapolis self-destructing without Peyton Manning, this has to be the season Houston wins the division and makes the playoffs.

Indianapolis Colts: If I had an MVP vote, I would have to give serious consideration to placing Peyton Manning on the ballot. NFL experts have thought for years that the successful Colts weren’t the most talented of teams but rather a product of Manning’s greatness. That theory seems to have been proven this season. I might not place him atop the ballot, but he’d be on it…..RB Joseph Addai is battling a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable to play Sunday night, but most expect him to go.

Jacksonville Jaguars: How desperate were the Jaguars at WR to re-sign Mike Sims-Walker, a player they had no interest in re-signing this off-season…..Former Jaguars QB David Garrard will need to undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, bad timing as he may have been the choice for the Raiders had he been healthy. His season is pretty much done. I’m sure he will want to compete for a starting job next season but seems ticketed for a backup job.

Kansas City Chiefs: Rookie WR Jon Baldwin has recovered from his broken thumb but will still be a game-time decision Sunday…..Fantasy owners have probably flocked to RB Jackie Battle after his big Week 5 performance, but that game may be the highlight of his season rather than a sign of more things to come…..Any kind of running game however would help out Matt Cassel and the passing game. WR Steve Breaston has been impressive of late with defenses paying more attention to Dwayne Bowe.

Miami Dolphins: If you look at WR Brandon Marshall’s numbers, it looks like he is having a solid season but it could be much better if he would stop dropping touchdown passes. By most accounts, he has dropped four this season and that doesn’t even count last week where after catching a pass and not having a defender within 10 yards, he ran out of bounds. I still haven’t heard an explanation as to why that happened.

Minnesota Vikings:  Let the Christian Ponder era begin! Good luck kid, you get to face the defending Super Bowl Champion Packers, and yeah, they are undefeated…..One has to wonder if this is the end of the line for Donovan McNabb. Sure, some team would probably take him as a backup next season, but would this possible Hall of Famer want to go in that direction…..RB Adrian Peterson is going to be facing eight man fronts constantly until Ponder proves he can beat defenses with the pass.

New England Patriots: RB Kevin Faulk, remember him, could be taken off the IR after the Pats bye. He has recovered from his ACL tear. Just what fantasy owners need, more confusion in the Patriots backfield…..I am kind of surprised New England didn’t make a stronger play for WR Brandon Lloyd. He would seem to be the kind of player coach Bill Belichick likes, a veteran who is playing for a new contract–plus he could’ve used the bye week to learn the offense.

New Orleans Saints: TE Jimmy Graham, who may be the best tight end in the NFL this season, is dealing with an ankle injury and is iffy to play Sunday night. Not good for those fantasy owners who need to set their lineup before the early games…..The return of WR Marques Colston and the continued emergence of Graham have made WR Robert Meacham more of an afterthought in the offense. He’ll still have some big games here and there, but he is rarely the go to receiver on any given play.

New York Giants: Living in New York, it’s sort of amusing to hear the Giants players feuding with former teammates Antonio Pierce and Michael Strahan. It seems the current Giants don’t appreciate their former teammates being critical of several players not playing through injury…..With the return of one of those players, DE Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul could see his snaps reduced. This would be a shame as Pierre-Paul has been playing well and is second in the NFL with 7.5 sacks.

New York Jets: The Jets are going to have RB LaDainian Tomlinson start versus his former team this week. It is safe to say LT and CB Antonio Cromartie may have a little extra motivation to beat their former mates…..With the Jets ground game being somewhat lethargic this season, there are some that believe Joe McKnight should be given a bigger role. While it’s true he is not built to take a pounding, we have all seen what he has done on special teams, might as well find out if he can add that same spark to the offense.

Oakland Raiders: Not a big fan of the Raiders trade for QB Carson Palmer. I understand you are 4-2, have a shot to win the division, lost Jason Campbell for most of the season, probably can’t win with Kyle Boller, but was it really worth a 1st round choice next season, and a conditional 1st round pick in 2013 for a QB that could have an elbow problem? If Palmer is healthy and can make all the throws, than the price is not all that exorbitant as Palmer is only 31 years old and could be your franchise QB for the next five years or so, but if he’s not, this could bury the Raiders for quite a while.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles changed up their offense last week versus Washington, using quite a few more three-step drops than usual to avoid QB Michael Vick taking all those hits. It should be interesting to see if coach Andy Reid will continue with that change in the weeks to come…..You think Lions RB Jerome Harrison owes the Eagles doctors a Christmas card. After he was traded to the team, during his physical he told the doctors that he had been experiencing headaches. The doctors then discovered a benign tumor in his head. The trade may have been voided, but without it, this tumor may have never been found. Harrison is out for the year, but his continued health is all that’s important.

Pittsburgh Steelers: S Troy Polamalu was caught making a cell phone call on the sidelines during last week’s game and was fined $10K for doing so. Polamalu said he was calling his wife–feel free to insert your own joke here…..There has been some worry that WR Mike Wallace might miss this week’s game with a hamstring injury, but he is listed as probable and should be good to go.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates is still struggling with his foot injury but still might give it a shot this week. The Chargers need his presence in the offense to take away some of the defensive focus off of WR Vincent Jackson, not to mention he’s a pretty good TE…..RB Mike Tolbert hasn’t had any post concussion  symptoms during the bye week and has been cleared to play Sunday…..Tolbert’s partner Ryan Matthews is also completely healthy, but as we all know with him that can change after one carry Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers: Bye week comes at a pretty good time for the 49ers as they need to get their WR corps back in gear. Hopefully Braylon Edwards can return in Week 8…..Tell me you weren’t wishing that Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz wouldn’t have slugged it out after last week’s game. You have to love when the coaches act worse than the players. I’m not sure why the league insists on the coaches exchanging handshakes after the game anyway–this is bound to happen again–the teams just battled each other for three hours and there is so much pressure to win, a cooling off period would seem to be a must.

Seattle Seahawks: It’s looking more and more likely that QB Tarvaris Jackson will miss the game with his chest injury, meaning Charlie Whitehurst will make the start. It would seem that no matter how well Whitehurst plays, it’s still Jackson’s job when he returns…..K Steven Hauschka has only attempted six FGs so far this season. The offense just doesn’t move the ball, even into FG range.

St. Louis Rams: I know the Rams need WR help and Brandon Lloyd had the best season of his career in a Josh McDaniels’ offense, but the Rams are 0-5, this certainly looks like a lost season, and Lloyd is a free agent after the season who will be looking for a big pay day. Why give up any draft pick for such a player at this point in time? Perhaps they will make a big run at re-signing him…..QB Sam Bradford is doubtful to play this week with a high ankle sprain. It might be a good idea to sit out a game rather than being a statue for LBs DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are once again playing in England and you have to wonder if they would like to make this an annual occurrence as the Glazer family owns Manchester United as well as the Buccaneers…..RB LeGarrette Blount will once again miss the game in jolly old England with his knee injury, but Earnest Graham was more than a capable fill-in last week and should be once again…..TE Kellen Winslow is not on the injury report but still admits that his knee isn’t 100% and most likely won’t be for the remainder of the season.

Tennessee Titans: Some are wondering if the Titans are the most likely landing spot for WR Terrell Owens once he is declared healthy enough to play…..Look for the Titans to increase the role of WR Donnie Avery now that he has had two weeks to learn the offensive system…..A win by the Titans this week and they will be in the driver’s seat in the AFC South.

Washington Redskins: Not exactly a big shock that the Skins changed QBs. The Shanahans seemed to prefer John Beck in the off-season but when he was outplayed by Rex Grossman, they gave Rex first crack. Does anyone really believe Beck will be the starter for the remainder of the season? I know I don’t…..TE Chris Cooley is going to miss a considerable amount of time with a finger injury, and this might be the best thing for Washington as Fred Davis is a much better player and now won’t have to worry about Cooley stealing his reps.

All Out Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bearable

We learned, or re-learned, several things in Sunday’s 34-29 victory by the Chicago Bears over the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field.  Among them:

1. Devin Hester is Batman.

2. Batman is alive and well.

3. Cam Newton is Elvis.

4. Elvis is just as alive as Batman and possesses a much brighter future.

5. Matt Forte has super powers but Carolina’s defense has no kryptonite and their special teams have no clue.

6. The Bears are so-so, the Panthers are less than.

The Bears gave up 543 yards to Mr. Newton and his tattooed cats but still prevailed thanks to Hester, Forte and a porous but plucky defense whose primary plan for most of Sunday afternoon was to let Newton pass, let Steve Smith catch, and hope they both got tired from doing so.

The Bears defense was saved by two things: the clock, which reached zero before Mr. Newton proved again that gravity works better against him than tackling, and D.J. Moore – the little cornerback who could.  Moore’s interception of Newton and subsequent 20-yard sprint for a score gave Chicago a 10-3 first quarter advantage that they would desperately need as the second quarter turned into a ping-pong death match of yardage and yucks with the teams combining for 31 points.  Newton – who was conceived in a solar-powered laboratory on Mars – led his NASCAR country rascals on three scoring drives in the second, including two touchdowns which Cam (rhymes with “Damn!”) took into the endzone himself at the end of drives in which he ran and passed as he pleased, looking sort of like one of those guys from “Real Steel” but much cooler.

In between, the Bears scored twice.  The first came in the form of a 17-yard scamper from Forte who brought in da noise and brought in da funk to the tune of a career-high 205 yards in this one which proves that there is nothing Matt Forte can’t do…as long as he plays the Panthers.  Forte’s score was set up by a nifty return from Hester who must have fooled Carolina into thinking that he’s actually Jacob Hester because the Panthers had no fear of kicking the ball his way. Several moments later Devin took a Carolina punt 69 yards for a score aided by poor tackling, a Moses-like tendency to find a way, and Carolina’s failure to read the memo that Devin Hester is the greatest return man alive…but he’s not always the sharpest claw on the Bear paw.  Hester, upon scoring his NFL-best 11th career punt return TD, got all Nadia Comaneci-like and did a bunch of flips in the endzone which resulted in a 15-yard un-NFL-tightass-conduct penalty.  It’s dumb, but Hester – Fast and Foolish – couldn’t help himself and so the Panthers had a short field and – guess what? – Newton hit Smith for 38 yards and the Panthers were on their way to their old friend, the goal line which featured Bears defenders holding open the door and telling the gentlemen to enjoy themselves.

The second half was a little less pinball-like as both teams spent the third quarter staying away from the scoreboard and instead just seemed to enjoy the beautiful fall day because, hey, life goes quickly and offenses shouldn’t sweat the small stuff like sustained drives, touchdowns and field goals.  The Panthers should have scored a TD in the third, well actually they did on a 22-yard connection from Newton to the NFL’s ageless scalawag, Jeremy Shockey, but Mr. Shockey was flagged for pushing off (he wouldn’t!) and the play was called back.  It was not a good call. This is football and let the boys touch each other.  So, the beloved Bears got lucky there but give them credit as Julius Peppers blocked Olindo Mare’s field goal attempt.  Yes, Olindo Mare is still alive…and kicking.

Matt Forte – have you heard he wants a raise? – matriculated downfield for a 40-yard run late in the fourth setting up a three-yard score by Marion Barber that put the Bears up 34-23 and pretty much sealed it.  At least, so they thought.  That rascal Newton insisted on his pushing his team down the field in the final minute for another TD – a pass to former Bear Greg Olsen – which made the final score look closer than maybe it should have…or is it that the final score should have gone the other way?

The Bears were outgained in this game 543-317.

Cam Newton threw for 374 yards. Jay Cutler passed for 93 (honestly).  The Panthers had the ball for 33 minutes, 29 seconds; the Bears had it for 26:31.

The Bears won because the Panthers aren’t that good, Newton can’t do it all and Forte and Hester are even more soulful than Yarbrough and Peoples.

Chicago also has a gutsy coach who must be relishing this victory over his former assistant, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, whom Lovie Smith is accused of running out of town and sending the Bears defense into a tailspin from 2007-2009.  Lovie let the Bears go for it on 4th-and-1 near midfield early in the fourth keeping a drive alive and getting eventually rewarded with a 24-yard field goal from Robbie Gould.  Lovie isn’t loud but he’s not afraid to make the tough call at the right time.  Matt Forte was doing medieval things to Carolina’s tacklers all day long and if the Bears line failed to come through on that critical play it would have been their fault, not Lovie’s.  But the hole was there, Forte found it and many a Bears fan took an extra sip of Old Style.

So, the Bears are 2-2 and safely seated on the train of respectability and have 12 more games to steer that train away from the ugly land of mediocrity.  What does this team hang its hat on?  Can they rely on the defense to score and Hester to be freaky all season long?  Not likely.  And, with complete and appropriate respect to Matt Forte, there is no way he’s gouging any other defenses for a 200-spot this season, especially not Chicago’s next opponent, the 4-0 and very angry and thorough Detroit Lions.  And who is the only other team in the NFL with a 4-0 record?  It’s another NFC North resident, the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers who have already fleeced and shamed the Bears once.  Luckily, one of the league’s still winless teams is the Minnesota Vikings so this will at least be a four-win season in Chicago.

The Bears are giving up 24.5 points and an average of 425 yards a game, second worst in the NFL.  Who’s the worst?  That would be the New England Patriots, a team that has given up the exact same number of points as the Bears but capably counters such a deficiency by leading the league in offense to the tune of 507 yards each time they take the field, more than 50 yards better than their next closest competitor, the Cincinnati Bengals.  As for the Bears offense, it’s 26th in the NFL, compiling a modest 307 yards per contest.  Chicago’s offensive line once again gets the big foam fingers pointed its way for this as the big uglies upfront are ranked as 31st best in the league. At least the front five are keeping Jay Cutler alive as he was sacked just once against Carolina and had few moments where he seemed or looked as if law school would have been a better choice.

All season long, many of us Bears backers have been pointing to the return of running back Marion Barber from injury as a harbinger of all things good and yardage bearing and maybe we were right.  Barber carried the ball just five times for 17 yards and one score against Carolina but his first run of the game, a ten-yard jaunt in the first quarter, seemed to pump life into the Bears and the crowd.  We’re certainly not going to see the Bears – or any NFL team – go to an old two-back attack in which each guy carries 20 times a game – are we? – but if Barber can get five to ten touches per game it will keep the offense balanced, Forte rested (and motivated), the defense fresh, and, since the Bears passing game still doesn’t quite resemble that of New England, New Orleans or Stanford, might be what the Bears have to do to have a chance.

Oh yeah, they still need cheerleaders, too.  Really leggy ones.

 

VARIOUS NFL THOUGHTS:

Michael Vick’s “Dream Team” is 1-3.  Rex Grossman’s football team is 3-1.

Jim Harbaugh’s NFL team might be as good as the college team he coached last year.

Wes Welker is on pace to have more than 2,400 yards receiving –not going to happen, 20 TD’s – might happen – and 160 receptions – good bet to happen.

Only 41,142 people were at the Bengals-Bills game, and Carson Palmer wasn’t one of them.

The Bengals had lost to the Bills ten straight times before winning Sunday.  This came one week after the Bills beat the Patriots after having lost to them 15 straight times.

Jeff Pearlman ought to be ashamed of himself.

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: How many owners did RB Beanie Wells cost last week with his last minute deactivation? It’s not that he got deactivated, — Wells has a history of missing games — it’s that he swore up and down all week that he would play. Oh, he is game-time decision for this week as well…..With Wells out, Chester Taylor had a chance to show what he could do, but apparently he couldn’t do much as Alfonso Smith looked much better than Taylor.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Roddy White is dropping more passes than he ever has and now he is dealing with a thigh injury…..RB Jason Snelling will miss this week with a concussion so look for rookie Jacquizz Rodgers to play a few more snaps this week, especially if Michael Turner has a rough time once again.

Baltimore Ravens: That was quite a coming out party for WR Torrey Smith last week with three touchdowns. He will get a chance for an encore this week as he will once again start for Lee Evans. Evans will most likely not play once again…..Former 1st round pick Sergio Kindle, who didn’t play all of last season due to a skull fracture, has been deactivated for the first three games of this season; not a good start to his NFL career.

Buffalo Bills: Quite an impressive win the by Bills last week. They seem to have another layup versus the Bengals this week, but their schedule gets much tougher in the coming weeks as they will play the Eagles, Giants, Redskins, Jets, and Cowboys. NFL fans should get a much better read on how good a team they are after this stretch.

Carolina Panthers: It took a heavy rainstorm last week to stop the Cam Newton show, but still the Panthers won their 1st game of the season. It’s nice to see that Newton can throw the ball when necessary, but the Panthers would still best be served this season if they can get their running game going with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart…..Do you think TE Greg Olsen would like to have a big game this week to show the Bears they made a mistake in trading him?

Chicago Bears: QB Jay Cutler admitted this week that he is starting to see the rush due to all the hits he is taking. It’s always been kind of strange that the Bears didn’t look to get him a top WR, which would have enabled him to have more confidence with his passes. They did try to upgrade the OL in the draft with Gabe Carimi, but that might take a few years to “bear” fruit…..One receiver who could help is Earl Bennett, but he is still out for at least another game or two.

Cincinnati Bengals: RB Cedric Benson must have made some headway with his appeal to commissioner Roger Goodell as he will be allowed to play this week. One would think if it was a slam dunk case that he would have already heard about the decision…..There has been no news this week regarding the legal situation that WR Jerome Simpson found himself in regarding the marijuana found in his home. He didn’t play well last week–could be he has bigger things on his mind.

Cleveland Browns: RB Peyton Hillis didn’t play last week due to strep throat and lost about 12 pounds, but he should be good to go Sunday…..Josh Cribbs is once again being used as a receiver. Now, he’s not someone you need to rush out and grab, but in deeper fantasy leagues he could be worth a look.

Dallas Cowboys: With their dramatic win last week versus the Redskins, the Cowboys have now played in nine straight games decided by a field goal or less. With injuries to a big part of their team (Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Felix Jones, Orlando Scandrick), it may be awhile before they are able to score enough points to put teams away early…..Romo may have to take a pain killing injection to play again this week, and with the play of his receivers last week, it may not be because of his fractured rib.

Denver Broncos: Not that the Broncos have much of a chance to beat the Packers this week, but if CB Champ Bailey is unable to play because of a hamstring injury, this game could get out of hand quickly…..Injury news doesn’t get any better for Denver as WR Eddie Royal will miss the game with a groin injury…..RB Knowshon Moreno is expected back in the lineup this week, but Willis McGahee will remain the starter.

Detroit Lions: Last week was the first one in which QB Matthew Stafford took a few hits. He is still alive and standing which is good news for Lions fans. The Cowboys are sure to put him on his back a few times this week too. As good as Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson have been so far this season, an injury may be the only thing that could stop them…..Don’t look for a big game from RB Javhid Best this week. The Cowboys may have problems versus the pass, but haven’t had a problem stopping the run.

Green Bay Packers: Not that anyone should be rooting for an injury, but RB James Starks should be pretty happy that Ryan Grant will miss this game with a bruised kidney. Starks was clearly outplayed by Grant this week and may have been close to losing a good deal of his carries had Grant remained healthy…..WR Donald Driver has only had one catch in the last two games, his role has certainly been reduced, with Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and JerMichael Finley the favorite targets of QB Aaron Rodgers.

Houston Texans: RB Arian Foster is due to return once again this week. I still have a hard time seeing him stay healthy all season and in fantasy leagues I would still hold onto Ben Tate…..TE Owen Daniels looks to be back in form as he and QB Matt Schaub look to be developing that chemistry once again that made them a lethal duo before injuries set Daniels back…..LB Mario Williams injured his knee last week but should be good to go for Sunday.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Kerry Collins suffered a concussion last week and won’t play Monday, leaving Curtis Painter behind center. Ouch! Fantasy wise, WR Reggie Wayne may be the only player still remotely valuable to a fantasy team as even TE Dallas Clark may have a tough time getting targets…..Gary Brackett and Melvin Bullitt are both out for the season due to injury. The suck for Luck continues…..The Colts keep holding out hope that Peyton Manning can return this season, but is there any doubt that they would be better off letting Manning take the season off and come back completely healthy next season.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars are trying to get TE Mercedes Lewis more involved in the passing game. Good idea, a TE is usually a young QB’s best friend…..RB Maurice Jones-Drew is off to a solid start this season but defenses are going to start to key on him as they won’t be afraid of the passing offense, especially one with a rookie QB…..DE Aaron Kampman, the Jags only real pass rush threat, is out once again this week…..This game is not going to be pretty if you’re a Jacksonville fan.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jonathan Baldwin is still out with a thumb injury, starting to look like this may be a lost season for the rookie…..K Ryan Succop is only 2 of 5 on FG attempts this season. One  more miss and he may find himself on the unemployment line…..RB Dexter McCluster may be taking on a bigger and bigger role in the offense. He could certainly be an interesting pickup in fantasy leagues.

Miami Dolphins: The news just keeps getting worse for the Dolphins: they are 0-3, play the Chargers this week, plenty of talk about the job security of the head coach, and now RB Daniel Thomas, who has played well in the past two weeks, is unlikely to play Sunday with a hamstring injury…..WR Brandon Marshall and QB Chad Henne certainly look to be in better shape this season than last, but by my count, there is at least three TD passes that Marshall has dropped this season.

Minnesota Vikings: Someone has to explain to me how a team can have a 20 point lead at halftime, yet only hand the ball to Adrian Peterson five times in the second half. It’s decisions like this that leave fans and critics alike shaking their heads, not to mention the Vikings have blown a double digit lead in each game so far this season…..WR Percy Harvin was a bigger part of the offense last week, but still had to leave the game early after taking a shot to the gut.

New England Patriots: Not sure which was more of a shock, that the Pats blew a big lead to the Bills last week or that QB Tom Brady threw four interceptions…..TE Aaron Hernandez will indeed miss this week’s game versus Oakland…..S Patrick Chung, he of the broken thumb, is questionable to play this week. Lord knows the Pats pass defense could use his help…..Don’t be concerned about WR Deion Branch not catching a pass this week, Brady was just looking to exploit matchups, and last week he apparently loved Wes Welker’s matchup.

New Orleans Saints: WR Marques Colston is apparently healthy after breaking his collarbone in Week 1. Its only been three and a half weeks. It is hard to believe he is 100% recovered after such a short time to recuperate, not to mention, why would you bring him back early in a game that should be easily won with or without him…..K Garrett Hartley was placed on IR this week, which means John Kasay is indeed the full-time kicker this season…..RB Mark Ingram is off to a slow start, and it certainly doesn’t help any that Darren Sproles is off to such a fast start. Sproles needs to get his hands on the ball as much as possible right now.

New York Giants: Big win by the G-Men last week. WR Victor Cruz proved that he could make a big play, which is good news for QB Eli Manning as he is running out of healthy receivers with Hakeem Nicks nursing a knee injury and Mario Manningham a concussion…..DE Osi Umenyiora will most likely make his season debut this week after having knee surgery in camp…..DE Justin Tuck however may be forced to miss the game with neck and groin injuries.

New York Jets: CB Antonio Cromartie, who had a tough game last week (penalties, long passes, bruised lung), should play this week…..C Nick Mangold has a shot of playing this week and the Jets offensive line could use him, but he is unlikely to be at full strength and would probably benefit from another week’s rest…..QB Mark Sanchez broke his nose during the game last week, so much for that GQ cover…..The Jets are having a tough time getting their ground game — ummm “off the ground”, so look for LaDainian Tomlinson to get more touches if Shonne Greene is not getting the job done.

Oakland Raiders: RB Darren MacFadden, who is off to a fast start this season, will be a full go for this game after suffering a slight groin injury last week…..WR Jacoby Ford could possibly return this week. The Raiders could use him as they are going to need their offense to be in high gear to keep up with the Patriots…..QB Terrelle Pryor’s five-game suspension was upheld — shocking…..QB Jason Campbell has a foot injury which could limit his ability to avoid the rush, but then again it’s not like the Patriots put much pressure on the quarterback.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Michael Vick (hand) and WR Jeremy Maclin (hamstring) are both going to start this week, whether or not they finish the week is another story…..Rumors are starting to float around again that WR DeSean Jackson is more worried about his contract than about winning football games. Is it me or is this dream team quickly becoming a nightmare?…..Back to Vick, he seems to be a bit off base in complaining about the refs not calling late hits against him. Numbers don’t back him up, as he is in the middle of the pack as far as getting the call. Perhaps, he should talk to his offensive linemen about blocking better, chat with his coach about getting maximum protection, or just get rid of the ball quicker.

Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Rashard Mendenhall was told that he still remains the goal-line back, which is all fine and good, but with the Steelers offensive line being one of, if not the worst in the league, I’m not sure it matters. Mendenhall and QB Ben Roethlisberger could both be in for subpar seasons unless the line picks up its play…..CB Bryant MacFadden will miss the game this week. This certainly doesn’t help as Pittsburgh travels to Houston to take on the high flying Texans.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates could be out quite awhile as he tries to recover once again from Plantar Fasciitis. It still seems unlikely that he will ever be 100% over this injury…..WR Vincent Jackson was hobbled this week (abdomen) as was RB Ryan Matthews (left foot), but both look good to go on Sunday…..S Bob Sanders was placed on IR this week. One has to wonder if his career is over at this point.

San Francisco 49ers: This could be a tough week for fantasy owners trying to figure out the 49ers running back situation for this Sunday’s game. Frank Gore has an ankle injury that could limit his effectiveness but he will probably will play. He has a juicy matchup against a porous Philadelphia run defense and you wouldn’t want to sit him, but how frustrated would you be if he was only able to last a quarter…..WR Michael Crabtree is probable to play this week after suffering a foot injury, but it probably won’t matter much as the Eagles may not be able to stop the run and shouldn’t have much problem with the 49ers passing game.

Seattle Seahawks: WR Sidney Rice had a solid return from his shoulder injury. He may be the only bright spot on a dull offensive squad…..Do you think TE Zach Miller is starting to regret his choice in free agency? How quickly he has fallen off the radar?

St. Louis Rams: I can’t say how disappointed I am in the play of TE Lance Kendricks so far this season. I thought he would be a major part of the Rams offense, but so far he’s done little to nothing…..RB Steven Jackson is said to be a bigger part of the offense this week as he is another week into his recovery from the quad injury suffered in Week 1…..Remember when WR Danny Amendola thought he could return quickly from his dislocated elbow? Well, he is out another week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This has to be a get well game for QB Josh Freeman. He has been having problems getting the ball downfield to WR Mike Williams. Although it won’t be easy with DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis coming after him, it’s a big Monday night game and big plays in the passing game are needed…..For those of you in IDP leagues, LB Mason Foster is now an every down player.

Tennessee Titans: The loss of WR Kenny Britt for the season could have a severe impact on the Titans. Their passing game was rolling but now they lose their deep threat. Opposing defenses will now devote most of their attention to stopping the running game, which hasn’t yet gotten on track — not good news for RB Chris Johnson…..The Titans signed Donnie Avery to replace Britt on the roster…..QB Matt Hasselback may take a few more hits with the loss of Britt as teams should have an easier time covering the team’s other receivers.

Washington Redskins: How will Washington react to losing a game Monday night that they probably should have won? Pretty well I think. Even though it is a short week and they are playing on the road, they are playing a Rams team that just hasn’t been able to get anything going so far this season…..It’s looking more and more like Roy Helu is the back you want in the Skins backfield. Sure Tim Hightower is the starter, but in the last two weeks, Helu has had the bulk of the carries in the second half and has shown a better burst and play making ability.

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: Safety Adrian Wilson has started practicing on a limited basis and will continue to try and play through a torn biceps. I have a hard time seeing that last all season…..Great news for the Cardinals and their fans that WR Larry Fitzgerald signed an eight-year, $120 million contract…..RB Beanie Wells will once again get another shot at proving to Arizona that he deserves the full-time gig with the season ending injury to RB Ryan Williams.

Atlanta Falcons: DE Ray Edwards has been battling knee problems this training camp but will play this weekend…..RB Michael Turner revealed this week that he played last season with a special wrap to protect his groin. The injury has healed now and Turner is expected to get back that burst he didn’t have last season…..Some scouts believe WR Julio Jones may be ready to play a major part in the Falcons offense this season, not just take away coverage from WR Roddy White.

Baltimore Ravens: WR Lee Evans has made his presence known for Baltimore. Perhaps, he can be that deep threat the team has been looking for…..OT Bryant McKinnie was signed to provide depth along the offensive line. It’s a gamble, but if McKinnie is in shape and wants to play, he can still help a team…..Big things are expected of RB Ray Rice this season with FB Vonta Leach leading the way.

Buffalo Bills: While LB Shawn Merriman has looked like his old sack machine self at times, he is still getting nicked up more than one would like…..LB Kirk Morrison signed with the Bills this week. It is hard to see where he fits in with this defense, but he does have experience playing both the inside and outside…..RB Fred Jackson is getting frustrated with his role in the Buffalo offense, as he is not sure why he isn’t the starting back.

Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton may have been the first overall pick in the draft this past April, but anyone who watches him play can clearly see that he is not yet ready to play in the NFL as a starting QB. Problem is though, the Panthers don’t have anyone else on the roster who is…..WR Steve Smith hasn’t come out publicly and stated anything, but you have to wonder if he is a powder keg ready to explode and would prefer to get out of Carolina and play for a contending team.

Chicago Bears: I’m still bewildered that the Bears somehow think they will be okay at WR with Devin Hester and Roy Williams. They need an upgrade there…..LB Lance Briggs is out for the remainder of the preseason with a knee injury. As of right now, he is not expected to miss any regular season time…..Have a feeling the Bears won’t be in the playoff hunt this season.

Cincinnati Bengals: Speaking of a feeling, one of the two Ohio teams should be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes come the end of the season…..The Bengals offense showed some signs of life this week as RB Cedric Benson and rookie WR AJ Green looked good during their preseason game versus Carolina. Problem will be during the regular season.  Weeks like this may be few and far between…..The Bengals traded for S Taylor Mays from the 49ers. Well someone had to trade for him! It shows that Mays was literally one and done for San Francisco.

Cleveland Browns: QB Colt McCoy continues to impress for the Browns. He’s never going to be a gunslinger in the pocket, but rather someone you can count on to lead the team and find a way to win…..Smart move by Cleveland in locking up OT Joe Thomas. He’s one of the best and they don’t want to lose him…..RB Brandon Jackson is out about six weeks with turf toe.

Dallas Cowboys: If the Cowboys offensive line can hold up and give QB Tony Romo time, Dallas is going to score quite a few points this season…..Problem though, unless their secondary improves an awful lot, they are going to give up quite a few points as well…..RB Felix Jones is having a monster preseason. If he can just stay healthy, he could have a monster regular season, as defenses will more than likely be  more worried about the Dallas passing game.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos finally made it official that Kyle Orton will start at QB. Not really a shock considering how poorly Tim Tebow has played. He might be lucky to be the backup and not third string…..WR Brandon Lloyd has missed some practice time this week with some swelling in his knee…..RB Knowshon Moreno looks to be the starting back, but remember, coach John Fox likes to use more than one back and Willis McGahee was a touchdown vulture last year with Baltimore.

Detroit Lions: The Lions are playing it cautious and smart with RB Javhid Best and his concussion, holding him out of this weekend’s game. One has to wonder if this will hinder him as the season rolls along, not like a RB can avoid contact to his head…..WR Calvin Johnson is also dealing with an injured shoulder, although his injury shouldn’t be of any concern once the season starts.

Green Bay Packers: There are rumblings that RB Ryan Grant could lose his starting job to James Starks. Neither one had a great game Friday, although neither one touched the ball all that much. It doesn’t seem like the coaching staff is all that concerned, and who could blame them with QB Aaron Rodgers and the plethora of targets he has to throw to each week. I wouldn’t want to take it out of his hands either.

Houston Texans: The Texans are looking more and more like the team to beat in the AFC South…..RB Steve Slaton is still battling a hamstring injury and is unlikely to make the final roster. This is not a surprise, but his injury has made it highly unlikely that the Texans could trade Slaton for a draft pick…..LB DeMeco Ryans could miss the remainder of the preseason with an elbow injury.

Indianapolis Colts: The signing of QB Kerry Collins tells you two things; first, there is a pretty good chance that Peyton Manning is going to miss a game or two, and second, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky aren’t the answer…..The Colts are built to win with Manning at QB. I’m not sure it would matter who was behind center, without Manning, they are a considerable underdog.

Jacksonville Jaguars: As if there was any doubt, David Garrard was named the starting QB. Blane Gabbert is going to be a good one, but it’s best that he learn behind a veteran for now…..The Jags coaching staff believes Rashard Jennings is ready for a bigger role in the offense this season. This is also not a surprise, as we started to see that last season.

Kansas City Chiefs: Kind of surprised that the Chiefs announced that Dexter McCluster will only be used as a running back this season. I’m not sure you want to feed any mouths other than Jamaal Charles in that backfield…..LB Derrick Johnson looks like he might be ready to take that next step this season…..TE Tony Moeaki still hasn’t fully recovered from off-season surgery. It might be time to get a little worried with the season just two weeks away.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are growing more and more concerned with RB Daniel Thomas’ unwillingness to hit the line of scrimmage hard in practice, so much so, that Reggie Bush may become a bigger part of the offense than first thought…..The Dolphins haven’t named a starter opposite WR Brandon Marshall. In other words, they aren’t very happy with Brian Hartline and have even given Davone Bess reps on the outside in practice even though he excelled last season in the slot.

Minnesota Vikings:  QB Joe Webb, who is listed 2nd on the depth chart, has also been taking reps at wide receiver…..It looks like DT Kevin Williams will only be suspended two games instead of four in the StarCaps case…..WR Percy Harvin returned to practice this week. He still has bruised ribs, but that shouldn’t hinder him in the regular season, and at least it’s not migraines.

New England Patriots: The Patriots have come out this season like they are on fire, dismantling teams in the 1st quarter. They are already regular season ready…..Rookie RB Stevan Ridley missed practice this week with an undisclosed illness and won’t play this weekend….DT Albert Haynesworth returned to practice this week. One still has to wonder if he has the will to play football at the level he is capable of, even for Bill Belichick.

New Orleans Saints: Saints are dealing with some injury issues; RB Mark Ingram has a knee problem, WR Lance Moore a groin, and WR Marques Colston has knee issues of his own…..Like Kevin Williams of Minnesota, there is a chance that Will Smith’s suspension will be reduced to two games…..I would love to grab TE Jimmy Graham late in my fantasy drafts.

New York Giants: The Giants are being crushed with injuries to their secondary, suffering four season ending injuries so far. They did sign Brian Williams for depth purposes this week…..RB Ahmad Bradshaw is dealing with a back injury that is starting to worry the team. They believe it might linger into the regular season…..Speaking of RBs, Brandon Jacobs stated this week that he would like to play another 3-4 seasons; good news for the G-men who can always use a battering ram in the backfield.

New York Jets: WR Plaxico Burress made his presence felt in his first game for the team with a touchdown reception. If he is actually back to the player he used to be before ending up in jail, the Jets could have a dangerous offense…..With Hurricane Irene threatening the east coast this weekend, the Jets and Giants moved their game to Monday night, which means these two teams will play their final two preseason games in four days.

Oakland Raiders: Someone has to explain to me the Raiders philosophy of running a football team. You let your two best players leave in free agency (Nnamdi Asomugha and Zack Miller) but then spend a 3rd round pick in the supplemental draft on Terrelle Pryor, a player who may be a great athlete, but who no one believes will be a top NFL QB. They don’t have a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th round pick in next year’s draft. Exactly how is this team going to get better?

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles may have defeated the Browns in their preseason game Thursday and put 24 points up on the scoreboard, but they are going to get QB Michael Vick killed if they don’t fix that offensive line. I believe last week I put the over/under of Vick’s games played at 13.5. I’m starting to think double digits might be a more accurate line. I can’t see how anyone in fantasy leagues can take Vick as the number one QB, more or less the 1st player taken overall.

Pittsburgh Steelers: I’m a big Cowboys fan, but the game I am looking forward to seeing most on the first Sunday of football is definitely Pittsburgh-Baltimore. The hatred these two teams have for each other is for real, and a joy to watch…..The Steelers would like to see a big game out of QB Dennis Dixon on Saturday, possibly to showcase him for a trade as they have plenty of backup QBs on the roster…..The Steelers have also let it be known to teams not to salivate over the possibility of S Troy Polamalu becoming a free agent next season. They will franchise him if they can’t come to an agreement on a new contract.

San Diego Chargers: WR Malcolm Floyd, who did suffer a concussion last week, returned to practice this week, so all seems to be well there…..RB Ryan Matthews has redeemed himself in his coach’s eyes but may still share the spotlight with Mike Tolbert…..Fantasy wise, I think I’d rather have Tolbert. Sure, Matthews will catch more passes out of the backfield, but Tolbert is more than likely to be the man at the goal line.

San Francisco 49ers: RB Frank Gore is getting more and more frustrated with his contract situation and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if this comes to a head before the season starts…..WR Michael Crabtree seems more and more unlikely to play in Week One as he is not running yet. However, he is out of the walking boot…..The back to watch if Gore were to miss any time is Kendall Hunter. Even if Gore plays, Hunter should have a few plays designed just for him.

Seattle Seahawks: Kicking news, it looks like Jeff Reed has won the starting job for the Hawks…..LB Aaron Curry agreed to restructure his contract this week. So far Curry has looked like a pretty big bust in the NFL…..Still no word on the severity of TE John Carlson’s shoulder injury, although initial word is that the injury could be pretty severe.

St. Louis Rams: It seems TE Lance Kendricks has quickly become a favorite target of QB Sam Bradford, so much so, that he could be Bradford’s favorite target on 3rd downs and in the red zone…..RB Steven Jackson no longer looks like a top NFL back as he no longer possesses the elusiveness he once had. Oh he can still be productive, but it’s more of a hit the hole and then run over someone type.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Aqib Talib met with the commissioner this week to discuss his run in with the law this past offseason. Depending on whom you believe, the commissioner may have his rulings challenged by the union once he doles out what he considers is the proper punishment…..WR Arrelious Benn is scheduled to play this week. It seems he will likely open the season as the number three WR as Dezmon Briscoe has looked awfully good in camp.

Tennessee Titans: WR Kenny Britt is in the same situation as Aqib Talib and could face a suspension. He is also dealing with a hamstring injury that has cost him most of the preseason so far…..RB Chris Johnson met with Titans officials this week to discuss a new contract. No dice! Both sides still seem to be pretty far apart on what his next contract should be worth. If this heads into the regular season, Tennessee is in deep trouble.

Washington Redskins: John Beck and Rex Grossman are still battling for the number one job. The Skins know what they have in Grossman, a gambler who will either hit big or miss big. Beck may be the one that requires less Pepto Bismol on a regular basis…..RB Tim Hightower has looked nothing short of awesome so far this preseason leaving some to predict that a huge season is on its way.

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Right now Andre Roberts is expected to start opposite Larry Fitzgerald at WR. Now don’t get too excited and go running out to pick him up in your fantasy leagues. This could easily change before the season begins…..Speaking of Fitzgerald, he wants to sign a long term deal with Arizona as he is happy with their off-season moves, but if a deal can’t be worked out, the Cards can’t franchise him as he has a clause in his contract that prohibits that move.

Atlanta Falcons: Rumors are flying around the Atlanta training camp that the addition of WR Julio Jones will allow the Falcons to have more of a high tempo aerial attack. With WR Roddy White and TE Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons could certainly go this route, but it’s hard to see them going in this direction unless it is necessary; as it’s hard to win shootouts week in and week out…..With all the talk about the Saints, Packers, and Eagles, the Falcons have been able to fly under the radar so far. They just may be the best of them all.

Baltimore Ravens: TE Ed Dickson is practicing once again. Dickson needs to be on the field as much as possible in order to gain QB Joe Flacco’s trust. Flacco could use a big target over the middle…..Where RB Ray Rice goes in your fantasy draft probably depends on whether or not you believe that Ricky Williams will take over the Willis McGahee role and vulture short yardage touchdown runs. The Ravens coaching staff states that Rice will get those carries, but I have my doubts.

Buffalo Bills: If LB Shawn Merriman can continue to put pressure on the opposing QB like he did in the first preseason game, than the Bills’ defense could be better than first thought…..QB Brad Smith saw quite a few snaps in the Wildcat formation during the first preseason game. He could be a weapon in that offense, as the Bills want to use him similar to how the Steelers used Kordell Stewart in the 90s…..The Bills finally parted ways with former 1st round pick LB Aaron Maybin. Can you say bust?

Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton impressed in his first pro start and seems to be on target to start the season under center for Carolina. With that being said, if the Panthers had a solid veteran presence at QB, they would probably prefer to have Newton watch and learn but Jimmy Claussen does not give them that option…..TE Greg Olsen had a solid 1st game for Carolina. It should surprise no one if he is the team’s best receiver this season no matter who is throwing him the ball.

Chicago Bears: Neither WR Johnny Knox nor Roy Williams was all that impressive in the first preseason game, as only one ball was caught between them. So if there is indeed a training camp battle between these two, no one did all that much to cause separation…..I have a hard time thinking the Bears believe they can go into this season with Williams and Hester as your starting wideouts. Not all that impressive.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals and CB Leon Hall are likely to open up contract negotiations shortly. Hall has pretty good leverage, as the Bengals have plenty of cap room and can’t let another CB walk and get nothing in return. They already let Jonathan Joseph go to the Texans. But then again, this is the Bengals we’re talking about…..WR AJ Green injured his knee in practice Wednesday, but it looks to be minor. Green may be one of the few reasons to watch the Bungles this season.

Cleveland Browns: I’m still trying to think of a reason to watch the Browns…..The teams top two RBs, Peyton Hills (hamstring) and Montario Hardesty (knee), are both banged up but should be good to go by next week…..QB Colt McCoy might be that reason to watch the Browns. He had an impressive first preseason game. Still he is not a true franchise QB, rather he is more of a game manager.

Dallas Cowboys: WR Dwayne Harris had a fantastic first pro game and is gaining on Kevin Ogletree for the 3rd WR job, but before anyone gets too excited, the Cowboys don’t use three WR sets all that often. They love to go with two TEs and line up Jason Witten in the slot to go along with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant…..A name to remember in those two TE formations is John Phillips, as he may eventually surpass Martellus Bennett on the depth chart. Phillips was making noise in training camp last year before tearing his ACL.

Denver Broncos: While RB Knowshon Moreno has looked very good in practice so far, Willis McGahee could vulture TDs from him just like he did from Ray Rice last season…..It’s pretty much set in stone that Kyle Orton will start over Tim Tebow at quarterback. The bigger question may be who will backup up Orton: Tebow or Brady Quinn…..DT Ty Warren, who was being relied on to stuff the run for Denver, tore his triceps and is a candidate for IR.

Detroit Lions: DT Ndamukong Suh may think the $20K fine for ripping the helmet off yet another QB’s head is excessive, but he still will want to calm himself down for fear of getting the reputation that LB James Harrison of Pittsburgh has gained. Last thing Suh wants is the NFL to look at his play with a fine tooth comb…..DT Nick Fairly is no longer wearing a cast and seems to be on pace to possibly play in Week One.

Green Bay Packers: WR Donald Driver has stated that he will accept a demotion from his starting WR role if he feels James Jones or Jordy Nelson warrants the job…..WR Randall Cobb may not see much action in the passing game since the Packers are absolutely loaded at WR. He still could make a huge mark in the return game. Cobb will be a threat to take the ball to the house every time he touches it, as if the Packers didn’t have enough of those types of players.

Houston Texans: LB Mario Williams doesn’t look the least bit comfortable yet in the 3-4 defense. Switching from DE to LB means Williams will now have coverage responsibilities, something he is not the least bit familiar with…..The Texans are starting to tire of RB Ben Tate’s injuries. They need to see him on the field to see if he can be a legitimate backup to Arian Foster. If not, than Steve Slaton will remain on the roster.

Indianapolis Colts: After watching the Colts backup QBs, you have to seriously wonder if they could ever win a game that Peyton Manning didn’t start…..Will this be the year that WR Pierre Garcon takes that next step? It would be a big boon to the offense if Garcon could become a bit more consistent in his route running, and even more so, if he could actually catch the ball. He has been one of the league leaders in drops the past couple of seasons.

Jacksonville Jaguars: There is a pretty good chance that the Jags will play it safe with RB Maurice Jones-Drew this preseason. He may not see a snap until Week One of the regular season…..QB David Garrard looks to get his first action of the preseason this weekend. He better get on the field soon if he wants to remain the starting QB. The longer he is out, the more likely it is Blaine Gabbert that opens the season as the #1.

Kansas City Chiefs: Rookie WR Jonathan Baldwin looks to finally be healthy and could see some action this week. But don’t expect anything big. Baldwin may be no better than 5th when it comes to passing options…..No matter where the Chiefs place RB Jamaal Charles on their depth chart, the team will go as far as Charles can take them.

Miami Dolphins: QB Matt Moore hasn’t practiced all that well with the team. However, he did impress the coaches with his play during the game Friday. Will he unseat Chad Henne? Probably not right away, but the team/players have little to no faith in Henne. It could just be a matter of time, unfortunately for the Fish, that their quarterback of the future is not on the roster…..RB Reggie Bush will get his first action this weekend. Coach Tony Sparano is still undecided if he will use Bush on punt returns. I am not sure why you wouldn’t.

Minnesota Vikings:  Apparently the Vikings first choice to start at QB was Tyler Thigpen, not Donovan McNabb. If that’s true, I’m not sure why Thigpen would sign in Buffalo for a backup job…..WR Percy Harvin may not play this weekend. It’s not due to migraines, but rather bruised ribs…..DL Kevin Williams has accepted his fate that he will finally be suspended after losing an appeal in the StarCaps case, probably four games.

New England Patriots: WR TJ Houshmandzadeh is scheduled to visit New England this week. It could be interesting to see Housh and Ochocinco together once again…..QB Tom Brady is said to be on fire in training camp. I would still like to see who becomes the Pats deep threat to stretch out the secondary…..You have to love coach Bill Belichick’s honesty about why the NFL moved the kickoff up to the 35 yard line—because they want to eliminate the return game.

New Orleans Saints: RB Mark Ingram has looked impressive in camp, but still it’s hard to see him having a big season with Pierre Thomas still on the roster…..If you’re looking for a sleeper WR for your fantasy league, Lance Moore could be your man.

New York Giants: A little bit of controversy here in the Northeast as QB Eli Manning compared himself to Tom Brady. You have to love his self confidence. He did beat Brady in a Super Bowl, but Manning has a ways to go before he can consider himself in Brady’s class, a sure fire Hall of Famer…..DE Osi Umenyiora has returned to camp, but one has to wonder if it’s just a matter of time until he walks out again if he is unable to get his contract extension.

New York Jets: WR Plaxico Burress finally practiced Wednesday. He will need all the reps he can get with QB Mark Sanchez…..LB Aaron Maybin, formerly a Bill, signed with the Jets Wednesday…..RB Joe McKnight suffered a concussion during the game Monday. He’s going to have to prove himself a bit more durable if he wants a bigger role in the Jets offense this season.

Oakland Raiders: WR Louis Murphy will miss the regular season opener with hamstring and groin injuries…..The good news is that WR Jacoby Ford and RB Darren McFadden are both on the mend and should get into a preseason game or two, but not this weekend.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles received a dose of good news when it was discovered that WR Jeremy Maclin does not have a significant illness and could begin practicing with the team in a week to 10 days. He is expected to be ready for the regular season…..The asking price for CB Asante Samuel is two 2nd round picks. So it seems he is unlikely to go anywhere, which makes sense seeing as though the Eagles seem to be all-in for this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Ike Taylor suffered a broken thumb in the first preseason game. Not a big deal though. He is supposed to be out of action for just a couple of weeks and won’t miss any regular season time…..WR Mike Wallace has set a goal this season of 2,000 yards receiving this season. While it’s always nice to set your goals high, that’s certainly not going to happen. Wallace seems to forget that the Steelers are a run team first.

San Diego Chargers: In fantasy leagues, drafting RB Ryan Matthews or Mike Tolbert could be dangerous, as the Chargers plan for these two seem to change by the day. The team wants Matthews to be the every down back, but right now, he hasn’t been all that impressive in camp…..TE Antonio Gates returned to practice this week and once again seems to be somewhat healthy. However, with plantar fasciitis, it could act up again at any time.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers were thinking about signing QB Daunte Culpepper but decided on Josh McCown instead…..WR Michael Crabtree was spotted without a walking boot, so it seems like the worst may be behind him…..If there is a QB competition between Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick, Smith is clearly ahead.

Seattle Seahawks: TE John Carlson has a labrum injury in his shoulder. Any missed time could find Carlson on the outside looking in with Zach Miller the new number one TE…..Even though Charlie Whitehurst clearly outplayed Tarvares Jackson in the first preseason game, head coach Pete Carroll stated that there is no competition at quarterback and that Jackson is his man.

St. Louis Rams: With the Rams minus a true number one WR, rookie TE Lance Kendricks could play a major part in their passing game…..WR Donnie Avery has returned to practice, but may have a hard time making the team. Don’t be surprised if he finds himself on the waiver wire before the end of camp.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Arrelious Benn, who is coming off ACL surgery, will be cleared for contact next week…..Apparently LB Mason Foster will be eased into game action rather than having everything thrown at him at once.

Tennessee Titans: RB Chris Johnson not only wants to be the highest paid back, but also wants to be one of the highest paid players in the NFL. This situation could get real ugly if his contract demands don’t come down…..Still no word yet on whether or not WR Kenny Britt will be suspended for his multiple transgressions this off-season…..If there was any doubt in your mind, Matt Hasselbeck will start at QB for the Titans, at least to begin the season.

Washington Redskins: The Skins plan to start John Beck at QB this season unless he plays terribly this preseason. The Shanahan’s believe he is the real deal. This is not saying much, but I think Rex Grossman is the better QB. Ouch!…..TE Chris Cooley made a visit to Dr. James Andrews regarding his knee. Makes one wonder how serious the injury is…..The Skins are deep at TE though, as Fred Davis is a pretty good option.