September 19, 2017

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.

Bears Lose To A Higher Power, 13-10

Bear hearts bleed for Marion Barber.  The Chicago running back played very well on Sunday in place of the still-hobbled Matt Forte against the Broncos in Denver, carrying the ball 27 times for 108 yards and one spectacular touchdown while also catching two passes for 32 yards.  But Mr. Barber, despite his lovely hair and splenetic running style, will be remembered for what he was not able to accomplish in the land of Tim Tebow, which is stay in bounds and hold on to the ball.

The Bears had the Broncos beat.  It was all over but the postgame prayer as Chicago led this offensively challenged affair, 10-0, in the fading moments of the fourth quarter when Tebow finally was able to channel his inner-Jesus and, like lepers suddenly made handsome, made his offense rise and walk into the endzone with a ten-yard TD pass to Demaryius Thomas who was so wide open he could have been mistaken for a Kardashian’s legs.

OK, it’s tough to pitch a shutout in the NFL as there have only been four so far this season.  And as proud and able as the Bears’ defense normally is, and as inept as Denver’s offense had been all day, they got one in there.  It happens.  The Bears then had the ball with two minutes to play and, leading 10-7, all they had to do was run down the clock.  Chicago likely would have punted to Denver with just a few ticks left and not even Saint Tebow could have pulled out a win (I think).  But Mr. Barber, inexplicably, (howcouldaveteranplayerdothis?!!) allowed himself to get pushed out-of-bounds, stopping the clock.  Awful.

The Bears punted giving the Denver Tebows the ball with a minute left which was plenty enough to get into position for Matt Prater’s 59-yard field goal which looked like it would have been good from 69 (Tebow hates that number.)  Overtime.

Marion Barber’s Day in Hell Part Two:

The Bears should not have been in overtime but instead at that point in the afternoon should have been in the locker room celebrating a hard-fought victory and asking Tebow for directions to the nearest church.  But here they were.  They won the toss and matriculated gallantly down the field and looked like salvation would be theirs but damnation reared its obnoxious head.  From Denver’s 39, Barber was breaking away, possibly for a score and certainly for a hefty gain that would have put Chicago in position for a game-winning field goal as Robbie Gould had already sailed through a 57-yarder to start the fourth.  But then, ouch!, Barber fumbled, Denver’s Elvis Dumervil recovered and Tebow was in business.

A few minutes later Matt Prater kicked a 51-yard field goal and the final score read:

Broncos 13

Bears 10

Normal Life 0

 

The Broncos have now won six straight, are 8-5, and will likely win the AFC West.  The Bears have lost three straight, are 7-6, and desperately need an exorcism.

If the Bears had the services of injured quarterback Jay Cutler in this game, they would have won 31-3 and farted in John Elway’s car.  If the Bears had Cutler and Forte, they would have beaten the Broncos 48-3 and converted Tebow to Rastafarianism.

But that’s not the way it is.

Tebow must be given credit.  He was terrible for the first three quarters or so of this game as the Bears pressured him and wouldn’t let him run or barely even complete a pass.  In fact, #15 did not complete a single pass in the second or third quarter.  Not one.  The Bears defense was good but Tebow was bad.  So how did he end up going 21/40 for 236 yards, 1 TD, 1 int. and another miracle victory?  Well, Tebow is sort of like a near-sighted sentry who doesn’t realize trouble is charging right at him until it’s right there in front of him.  When the time comes to fight, he fights.  In the fourth quarter and overtime he threw the ball well, was poised, looked for different receivers and just wasn’t worried about anything, was he?

Tebow can play football.  He’ll never be Manning, Brady, Marino or John The Baptist but he belongs in the NFL, though I still think he’ll eventually belong as a fullback.  But the Chicago Bears didn’t lose this game because of Mr. Holy.  They lost because the Broncos defense is pretty good and the Bears offense without Cutler and Forte is about as threatening as Ellie Kemper.

Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie has been on Chicago’s roster for four seasons and has now had three straight starts in place of Cutler and it’s clear from all of this that he either can’t succeed at his chosen vocation or needs a lot more help.  The Bears tried to aid Hanie’s cause by committing to the run with Barber and Kahlil Bell combining for 38 carries, but why did the Bears get just 10 points?  Hanie finished 12/19 for 115 yards and completed passes to only four different receivers.  Shouldn’t the Bears, having established the run so assuredly, have been able to take advantage of that by calling a little more play-action?  Or how about dipping into Tebow’s Bible and rolling Canie out a little more, giving an athletic guy a chance to show some stuff?

I know, I know, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz gets pilloried for making the offense too complicated so maybe the strategy was proper.  The real miscue may have been that when the Bears seized a 10-0 lead early in the fourth, they, offensively, clearly thought it was over.  After Gould’s field goal, the Bears went three-and-out on four straight possessions, attempting one pass that whole time.  Chicago’s offense was whistling past the graveyard not realizing such action only awakened Denver’s evil spirits and the result was one of the most humiliating and unnecessary defeats the beloved Chicago Bears have ever been a party to.

Yes, Tim Tebow can go to the devil.  And he can take Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller, John Fox, Matt Prater and his earrings too, but Chicago’s late-game strategy deserves to go with them.  Damn it all.

The Bears still have a good defense but their offense, and their moxie, are on life-support and even if the Bears were to pull out victories next week at home against Seattle and in the final week in Minnesota, in-between they have to play a December 25 game in Green Bay against a certain 13-0 Packers team that is already typing up a screenplay for “Christmas Massacre” starring Aaron Rodgers and the Ghosts of Packers Past and Present.

Bears lovers are a little bit torn at this point over whether we even want to see the Bears win next week against the Seapigeons.  A victory would be nice and keep Chicago’s suddenly slim playoff hopes alive but then that would mean we’d have to watch Christmas Day against the Packers with a sense of actual relevance, hoping for a Christmas miracle.  It might be easier if Chicago loses next week and goes into Green Bay 7-7 and out of the playoff picture so that way we can put the Christmas Day game on in the background as we load up on eggnog and break up fistfights between our uncles.

No one knows what we shall receive for Christmas.  No one can say what the New Year will bring.  But on Chicago’s gridiron, the Season of Joy has devolved into a march into Hell.  And it’s cold.  And it’s lonely.  And we can hear Tim Tebow laughing.

 

 

Raiders 25, Bears 20

The Chicago Bears made the trip to Oakland, California to take on the Oakland Raiders.  The Bears were coming off their fifth straight win as they defeated the San Diego Chargers by a score of 31-20  and the Raiders were coming off a 27-21 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

The Bears won the toss and elected to receive.  With quarterback Jay Cutler out with a broken thumb, Caleb Hanie got the start for the Bears.  They started on their own 18 and got a total of six yards on their first possession.  Punter Adam Podlesh punted the ball away and the Raiders started their first drive of the game at their own 29.  A quick strike from quarterback Carson Palmer to wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey went for 19 yards and a 24-yard completion to tight end Brandon Myers moved the ball to the Chicago 28.  From the 28, running back Michael Bush got his first carry of the game and picked up six yards.  But two incomplete passes forced the Raiders to try a field goal.  Kicker Sebastian Janikowski made the 40-yard attempt and the Raiders led 3-0 with 11 minutes to go in the first quarter.

Both teams punted on their next possessions and the Bears took over at their own 16.  After a one-yard run by running back Matt Forte, Hanie took off downfield for a gain of 17 yards.  However, a personal foul was called on the Bears and the ball was moved back 15 yards.  A false start moved them back five more yards to give them a first and 15 at their own 14.  From the 14, Hanie was flushed out of the pocket,  ran to his right and threw a pass intended for Forte.  The pass was picked off by cornerback Stanford Routt at the 33.  Routt returned the ball to the 31 and the Raiders had great field position.

A seven-yard completion to Heyward-Bey and a four-yard run by Bush gave the Raiders a first down at the Chicago 20.  But that’s as far as they went as Palmer was sacked for a loss of nine on third down.  Janikowski came on and made a 47-yard field goal to make it 6-0 with four minutes to go in the first quarter.

Chicago started their next drive at their 18. On second and ten, Forte ran up the right side for a gain of 33 to the Raider 49.  On second and nine from the 48, Hanie found Forte for a gain of 10 and another first down at the Raider 38.  Running back Marion Barber was brought into the game and got three yards to put the ball at the 35.  On second and seven, Hanie was sacked by linebacker Rolando McClain for a loss of eight.  That made it third and 15 from 43.  On third down, Hanie threw an errant pass down the middle of the field that was picked off by safety Michael Huff at the 19.  Huff returned the ball to the 43 and the Raiders started another drive with good field position.

On third and seven from the 46, Palmer found tight end Kevin Boss for a gain of eight and a first down at the Chicago 46.  A nine-yard loss on a sack by defensive tackle Amobi Okoye moved the Raiders back to their 45 and an incomplete pass intended for wide receiver Louis Murphy made it third and 19.  On third down, Palmer found Bush for a gain of eight that was well short of the first down.  Punter Shane Lechler booted the ball out of bounds at the Chicago three-yard line.

A quick three and out by the Bears gave the Raiders the ball at the 50.  Two short runs and a short completion to Murphy set up a fourth and one at the Chicago 41.  Bush ran up the left side for a gain of two and the Raiders got a new set of downs at the 39.  But, another nine yard loss on a sack by defensive end Julius Peppers and another incomplete pass set up a third and 19.  On third down, Palmer went looking for wide receiver Chaz Schilens, but found cornerback Corey Graham instead.  Graham picked the pass off at the 25 and returned it one yard.

Hanie and the Bears took over at the 26 and three runs by Barber moved the ball to the Raider 47.  A loss of three by Forte on first down and an incomplete pass on second down and a five-yard penalty put the Bears in a third and long at their own 45.  On third down, Hanie couldn’t find anyone open and had nothing but daylight to his right side.  He ran for 24 yards and gave the Bears a first down at the Raider 31.  Two short runs by Barber set up a third and eight.  The Raiders came with an all out blitz and an unfazed Hanie threw a dart to wide receiver Johnny Knox across the middle for a 29-yard touchdown.  Kicker Robbie Gould made the point after and the Bears led 7-6 with just under five minutes to go in the first half.

The Raiders took over at their own 20 and on first down, Palmer hit fullback Marcel Reece on a perfectly timed screen that went for 47 yards to the Chicago 33.  But the Raiders could only get as  far as the 24.  Janikowski was called on again and he made a 42-yard field goal.  That made it 9-7 with three minutes to go in the first half.

Return man Johnny Knox took the kickoff straight up the middle and was dragged down at the Raider 35 to give the Bears excellent field position to start their next drive.  On third and seven from the 32, Hanie completed a 16-yard pass to tight end Kellen Davis.  A four-yard completion to Forte and a five-yard penalty on the Raiders gave the Bears a second and one at the seven.  Hanie made an attempt to set up a screen to Forte, but his pass was broken up by linebacker Aaron Curry and the ball was picked off by linebacker Kamerion Wimbley.  Wimbley took off up the right sideline and was thrown out of bounds by offensive lineman Lance Louis at the Chicago 12.  Louis was flagged for a horse collar tackle and the ball was moved to the six.  It didn’t look like a horse collar to me.  Louis showed great hustle on that play and grabbed Wimbley by the jersey and threw him out of bounds.  He did what he had to do to prevent Wimbley from scoring.  So, with 18 seconds remaining in the half, Bush gets a carry straight up the middle into the teeth of the Chicago defense for a loss of one.  That was a stupid play call.  With that much time remaining, you don’t run the ball up the middle.  Raider head coach Hue Jackson called a timeout and on second down, Palmer threw a screen to Bush and he was dragged down at the one.  Another timeout was called and with only five seconds remaining, Janikowksi made the 19-yard attempt to put the Raiders up 12-7 at halftime.

The Raiders got the ball to start the second half and started out at their own 20.  On second and ten, Palmer hit Reece for a gain of 11 to move the ball to the 31.  From there, Bush ran for 11 more to give the Raiders a first down at the 42.  Palmer found Reece again across the middle for a gain of 29 yards to put the ball at the Chicago 29.  On second and nine from the 28, Palmer found Schilens for 17 yards and another first down at the 11.  A short run by Bush moved the ball to the nine.  But, a holding call on left tackle Jared Veldheer moved the Raiders back to the 19.  Three straight incomplete passes meant it was time to bring in the Polish Cannon again for a 37-yard attempt.  The attempt was good and the Raiders now led 15-7.

Three punts later, the Raiders took over at their own 38 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.  Some tough running by Bush and completions to Heyward-Bey and Schilens moved the ball to the Chicago 20.  On second and ten from the 20, Palmer found Schilens for a gain of 11 to give the Raiders a first and goal at the nine.  On second and 12, Bush had a nice catch and run and finally the Raiders scored a touchdown.  Not so fast.  A holding penalty was called on rookie guard Stefen Wisniewski and that nullified the score and moved the Raiders back ten yards.  Palmer was then sacked and a long pass to Heyward-Bey on third and goal from the 26 fell incomplete.  Janikowski was brought in again and his 44-yard attempt was good.  The Raiders now led 18-7 with 22 seconds to go in the third quarter.

The Bears started their next drive at their own 18 and Marion Barber ended the third quarter with a 22-yard run up the left side.  A gain of four by Barber and a completion to wide receiver Earl Bennett set up a third and one at the 48.  Hanie ran up the middle for a gain of one to give the Bears a new set of downs.  On first down, Hanie found tight end Matt Spaeth for nine and and Barber ran for nine more for another first down at the 40.  A short gain by Barber and an incomplete pass intended for wide receiver Roy Williams set up a third and six.  Instead of going through the air, Forte carried the ball off left tackle and was brought down short of the first down.  Robbie Gould was brought on and blasted a 50-yard field goal through the uprights.  That made it 18-10 with just under 11 minutes to go in the game.

The Raiders started at their own 20 and a 15-yard pass to Heyward-Bey was initially ruled complete.  But, a foolish timeout by the Raiders gave Chicago head coach Lovie Smith plenty of time to watch the replay.  The play was challenged and the call was reversed.  The Raiders went nowhere after that and Shane Lechler punted the ball 80 yards through the end zone.  That was one hell of a punt.

With ten minutes remaining in the game, the Bears knew they had to get going.  A short run by Forte and two completions to Johnny Knox moved the ball to the Raider 42.  The drive would stall at the 35 and Robbie Gould promptly made a 53-yard field goal to make it 18-13 with seven minutes to go.

With a five point lead and time ticking away, the Raiders knew a long drive would take some time off the clock and hopefully preserve a win.  Starting from their own 26, Palmer found Heyward-Bey for nine yards to set up a third and one at the 35.  On third and one, Bush ran up the left side for a first down.  But, another yellow flag made an appearance and a holding penalty was called on center Samson Satele.  I rarely agree with referees, but they made the right call on this one.  Satele looked like he was playing defense as he literally tackled his man to prevent him from getting to Bush.  That made it third and 11 from the 25.  A five-yard penalty was called on Chicago to make it third and six from the 30.  From there, Palmer completed a pass to Schilens for a gain of 14 and a first down at the 44.  Two runs by Bush moved the ball to the 50 and the Bears called their first timeout.  On third and four from the 50, Palmer launched a bomb up the right sideline for Louis Murphy.  Murphy got behind the defense and caught the pass for a gain of 47.  He was pushed out of bounds at the three.  On first and goal from the three, Bush finally broke down the barrier that was across the goal line for the first and only touchdown of the game for the Raiders.  Janikowksi made the point after to make the score 25-13 with 3:47 to go in the game.

Chicago kick returner Devin Hester fielded the kickoff five yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the 16.  On first down, a screen pass to Forte failed miserably for a loss of six.  An incomplete pass to Knox made it third and 16 from the ten.  Now, if you’re down by 12 points at your own ten late in the fourth quarter and it’s third and long, what are you going to do?  Run Barber up the middle? No. Try another screen to Forte? Incorrect.  My advice for the Raider defense would be to look for a long pass.  Hanie took the snap, stepped up in the pocket and launched a bomb down the middle.  Knox caught the pass and blew past Routt and safety Matt Giordano for a huge catch and run for a gain of 81 yards.  I sat there in total disbelief as I watched that play.  That made it first and goal at the nine.  On second down, Hanie hit Davis across the middle of the end zone for a touchdown.  Gould made the point after to make it 25-20 and just like that, the Bears were back in the game with 2:11 remaining.

Gould tried an onside kick and after a big pileup that took about five minutes to get cleared up, rookie tight end David Ausberry of the Raiders came away with the ball.  That gave them the ball at the 46 and Bush ran up the middle for a loss of one.  The Bears called their final timeout with 2:01 to go.  This was a perfect opportunity for Palmer to complete a pass for a first down and end the game.  The only way the clock could be stopped was the two minute warning.  But, Hue Jackson didn’t see it that way and Bush ran up the middle again for a gain of two.  On third and nine, Palmer hit Reece with a screen pass.  Reece almost broke loose, but was dragged down short of the first down marker.  A delay of game penalty moved the ball back five yards and Lechler punted the ball away.  It was a great punt and the ball went out of bounds at the four.  That gave the Bears one minute, one second and 96 yards to go.

On first down, Hanie found wide receiver Sam Hurd for eight and Williams for 22 more to put the ball at the 34 with precious time running out.  Hanie spiked the ball on first down and a pass intended for Bennett fell incomplete.  On third down, he found Forte for a gain of 12.  Forte tried to get out of bounds, but safety Tyvon Branch tackled him and kept him in bounds.  That made it first down at the 46.  Hanie took the next snap with six seconds remaining and tried a fake spike.  Then he threw the ball to the ground hoping to stop the clock.  After a zebra convention at the 42, Hanie was flagged for intentional grounding.  That meant there would be a ten second runoff.  With only four seconds to go, that gave the Raiders a 25-20 win.  The win improved their record to seven and four and kept them in first place in the AFC West.  The loss dropped the Bears to seven and four and they are tied for second in the NFC North with the Detroit Lions.

This was another hard fought and much needed victory for the Raiders.  With injuries to wide receivers Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore and running back Darren McFadden missing another game, they were short handed.  Five trips into the red zone and only one touchdown didn’t help either.  But, thanks to six field goals by Janikowski, they were able to pull this one out.  Carson Palmer completed 21 of 37 for 301 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.  Michael Bush carried the ball 24 times for a tough 69 yards and a touchdown.  He also caught four passes for 24 yards.  As a team, the Raiders only had 73 yards rushing.  Marcel Reece led the team with five catches for 92 yards.

For the Bears, Caleb Hanie did a good job filling in for Jay Cutler and completed 18 for 36 for 254 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.  He also racked up 50 yards rushing on five carries.  Marion Barber led the Bears with 63 yards on 10 carries and Matt Forte had 59 yards on 12 carries.  33 of those yards came on one carry.  Total that up and the Bears had a total of 172 yards on the ground and averaged 6.4 yards per carry.  Johnny Knox led the team in receiving with 145 yards on four catches and one touchdown.  The teams combined for 13 penalties for 105 yards.  Six of those penalties were called on the Raiders and to my surprise, none of them were personal fouls.  Truly amazing!

What I liked best about the Raider defense was that they contained Forte on screen passes and only let him get loose for a long gain once.  They sacked Hanie four times and picked him off three times.  Aside from a 56-yard kickoff return by Knox, I was also impressed by the special teams coverage.  Devin Hester had seven yards on two punt returns and 39 yards on two kick returns with his longest return being 21 yards.

Granted, this was still an ugly win and there were some breakdowns in coverage on crucial plays, but at the end of the day, all that matters is the final result.  The final result was the Raiders got the win.  Up next for them is a trip across the country to sunny South Florida to take on the Miami Dolphins.  After a rough start, the Dolphins have won three of their last four games and are playing much better.  This will be a tough test for the Raiders and hopefully they’ll have all their weapons back.  It would be nice to see how they would play if every starter was healthy.  I will be going out of town this weekend and won’t be back until Monday evening.  So, look for my next article to be posted on Tuesday.  Until then, take it easy.

The Raider Guy

 

 

 

 

 

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: Good news to every Cardinal fans ears, WR Larry Fitzgerald stated that with the improvements the team made on the field in free agency, he is more likely to sign long term with Arizona…..Coach Ken Whisenhunt stated on Thursday that Beanie Wells will start at running back to begin the season…..The addition of TE Todd Heap gives the Cardinals a solid pass catcher, but remember, Heap is nowhere near the player he used to be; however in the red zone, he’s a nice tall target for QB Kevin Kolb.

Atlanta Falcons: We learned recently that RB Michael Turner underwent groin surgery in the off-season; an optimist thinks this is the reason for Turner’s mediocre 2010 and a pessimist thinks this season won’t be any better…..Tony Gonzalez, 35, recently stated that he could play another three seasons if he wanted to; you have to wonder if Tony is starting to realize just how good this offense can be with the addition of WR Julio Jones.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens are one of the teams that are rumored to be interested in the services of Giants DE Osi Umenyiora, as if that defense isn’t scary enough…..The loss of TE Todd Heap to free agency means we will find out if Ed Dickson is the real deal or not…..A couple of the Steelers have had some unflattering things to say about QB Joe Flacco this week. Seems they forget that if not for a couple of key drops by Raven WRs in the playoff game last season, the Steelers wouldn’t have even made the Super Bowl.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills signing of LB Nick Barnett gives them a quality player who can range from sideline to sideline. The only reason he is still not a Packer is because of salary cap reasons…..With opposing teams having to respect the deep threat of WRs Steve Johnson and Lee Evans, RB CJ Spiller could have plenty of room to operate underneath.

Carolina Panthers: Linebacker Jon Beason was placed on the non-football injury list with tendinitis in his Achilles but it’s not considered anything serious…..One would have to think that Cam Newton will start at QB for the Panthers as Jimmy Claussen was nothing short of awful last season. But even if he doesn’t, the Panthers have stated that they will have plays designed for him each week…..Speaking of QBs who were awful last season, the Panthers signed Derek Anderson.

Chicago Bears: The Bears must be in love with former Cowboys, having signed WRs Roy Williams and Sam Hurd, along with RB Marion Barber so far in free agency…..Williams could be the ball possession type of receiver the Bears need. Hurd is probably still best suited for special teams. Barber looks to be the goal line back…..The Bears will be looking for another center after Olin Kreutz has decided to test the free agent market. Not good for a team whose biggest weakness may have been the offensive line last season.

Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Benson is back in the fold after signing a one-year deal. One has to wonder if his market dried up because of his off field problems…..Andy Dalton will be given every chance to win the starting QB job this season. This promises to be a pretty ugly situation as Dalton would almost certainly be better off sitting behind a veteran to at least start the season…..Those of you who think Carson Palmer may change his mind and come out of retirement to play again for the Bengals, forget about it! There is a better chance of Boomer Esiason putting the pads back on.

Cleveland Browns: QB Colt McCoy is struggling so far in camp with the new West Coast offense, but that’s to be expected since there weren’t any off-season mini-camps to work on things…..You know you may not be in for a good season when you lose your punter for the year with a torn Achilles tendon.

Dallas Cowboys: There were many questions when Dallas didn’t try to upgrade their secondary via the draft, but the Cowboys kept insisting they trusted Terrance Newman and Mike Jenkins. The Cowboys were all of a sudden in late on the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes, but lost out, and now the news that they have lost Newman for 4-6 weeks with a groin injury. Even if Newman comes back before the season opener, it seems unlikely that he would be at 100%, and all the top CBs are off the market…..On the flip side, they did solve their safety problems with the signing of Gerald Sensabaugh and Abram Elam.

Denver Broncos: Kyle Orton has clearly outplayed Tim Tebow in the battle for the starting QB job. Not a shock as Orton may not be a sexy QB, but still much better than an average one…..The Broncos signed ex-Patriot Ty Warren to help with their run defense…..WR Brandon Lloyd has looked good in camp once again, and if Orton does indeed start, could once again put up a big season.

Detroit Lions: The loss of DT Nick Fairley for most, if not all, of training camp with a foot injury is certainly not good news. But if he can get close to 100% before the start of the regular season, then it’s not a devastating loss…..The Lions did a great job of waiting out LB Stephen Tulloch. There wasn’t a big market for his services and they were able to get him at a much more team friendly contract.

Green Bay Packers: The re-signing of WR James Jones is great for the Packers but not good for those fantasy owners who grabbed Jordy Nelson thinking this would be his breakout season…..It’s also not good for their 2nd round pick Randall Cobb, who now will only get on the field in the event of an injury to one of the top four wideouts…..For those of you who are worried, DB Charles Woodson is practicing fully in camp.

Houston Texans: WR Andre Johnson dislocated a finger in practice Tuesday, nothing to worry about as he will be back in a matter of days. This reminded me of the days where John Elway and Brett Favre would repeatedly break or dislocate their receivers fingers because they threw the ball with such velocity…..RB Steve Slaton will be traded as long as Ben Tate shows he is healthy and can handle the backup RB job.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Peyton Manning was spotted throwing the ball in practice and looked good doing so, but is still on the PUP list…..WR Austin Collie is also practicing fully, but one has to wonder if he can make it through a full season after multiple concussions last season…..The Colts re-signed Joseph Addai to a three-year, $14 million contract. Not sure if it’s just me, but that seems a bit high.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew is being limited in training camp after coming off meniscus surgery. If there is one top RB that I’m staying away from in fantasy leagues, it would be Jones-Drew. He’s an injury risk and the Jaguars might use Rashad Jennings in a bigger role in order to keep Jones-Drew as fresh and healthy as possible…..I’m not a big fan of the passing game either and wonder if teams stack the line of scrimmage and force QB David Garrard to beat them.

Kansas City Chiefs: Head Coach Todd Haley has stated that once again the Chiefs will be a run first team this season. If RB Jamaal Charles can stay healthy, he is going to have a big year…..TE Tony Moeaki has missed the first couple of days of camp with a knee injury. He may not be a household name, but he is a good blocker in the run game and can surprise some people in the passing game.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins have announced that RB Reggie Bush will have pretty much the same role with them that he had with New Orleans, touching the ball about 10-12 times a game…..There were some rumblings that Miami is interested in QB Brett Favre (can’t he just go away), but apparently this is nothing more than internet rumor…..Tiki Barber had a tryout with the Fish this week. Pretty much shows you how desperate they are right now.

Minnesota Vikings:  WR Percy Harvin is looking forward to a breakout season after not having suffered from a migraine since last year…..Of course with Bernard Berrian starting opposing you, Harvin is going to have the attention of all of the pass defenses…..Tackle Byrant McKinnie showed up at camp close to 300 pounds and was promptly released…..Anyone who hasn’t seen the video of what P Chris Kluwe asked of Donovan McNabb in order to give up jersey #5 should check it out. Pretty funny!

New England Patriots: The Patriots and Jets are gearing up for what should be an interesting battle in the AFC East…..If WR Chad Ochocinco can’t be a deep threat, one has to wonder if the Patriots can be the high scoring offense they were in the past…..DT Albert Haynesworth passed his conditioning test without any problems for those of you who are wondering.

New Orleans Saints: RB Mark Ingram has looked great early on in camp and could be another dangerous weapon in the Saints offense…..DE Will Smith will finally be suspended four games for using performance enhancers; the courts finally upheld the NFL’s right to suspend Smith…..If you’re looking for a TE late in your draft, look no further than Jimmy Graham. He is going to have a big year.

New York Giants: The saga between the Giants and DE Osi Umenyiroa promises to last all season long. In a nutshell, Osi believes he was promised a new contract if he performed well and now wants to be traded. The Giants did give his agent permission to seek a trade for about 48 hours before rescinding it. They then told Osi to take the day off and he refused. It is going to be an interesting soap opera all training camp.

New York Jets: The Jets are taking a big gamble on WR Plaxico Burress. He hasn’t played in two years and had issues with both organizations that employed him. Now has a sprained ankle to begin camp…..It seemed the Jets were the favorites until the last minute to land CB Nnamdi Asomugha but re-signing Antonio Cromartie is still a good move. With Darrelle Revis on your roster, Asomugha was a luxury, not a necessity.

Oakland Raiders: If you’re the Raiders, how can you let TE Zach Miller leave during free agency, not to mention the aforementioned Asomugha?…..RB Darren MacFadden will be out of action for at least two weeks with a fractured orbital bone…..The Raiders have been working out TE Kevin Boss to replace Miller…..The Raiders are still hoping that WR Jacoby Ford will be ready for the regular season after having the cast taken off his broke hand on Tuesday.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are going for broke this season, signing just about every free agent imaginable…..CB Nnamdi Asomugha seems to be an answer to the multiple receiver sets that the Packers and Saints use as the Eagles now have three top flight CBs on their roster. Makes you wonder if they will try and trade Asante Samuel eventually…..The Eagles even tried to lure WR Randy Moss out of retirement…..If QB Michael Vick stays healthy, this is going to be a scary offense…..Speaking of health, DT Mike Patterson is probably out for the season after suffering a seizure in practice and needing surgery to fix the problem.

Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Emmanuel Sanders had another surgery on his foot and is no longer likely to begin the season as the Steelers #3 WR…..QB Dennis Dixon angered Pittsburgh management when he asked for a trade. He may get his wish though…..WR Hines Ward should be ready to come off the PUP list (thumb) in the next couple of days.

San Diego Chargers: In order to keep SS Bob Sanders healthy, they are thinking about replacing him in passing situations. That’s all fine and good, but Sanders usually gets hurt throwing his body around in the running game…..Another player who came off the PUP list was TE Antonio Gates. He practiced on Thursday. The Bolts have to be a little worried though about his foot. This injury looks like it’s never going to heal completely.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers signed WR Braylon Edwards. The loss of Michael Crabtree makes Edwards close to a necessity…..In somewhat of a shock, the 49ers sent out an email to all NFL teams that S Taylor Mays is available. It didn’t take long for Mays (2nd round pick last year) to prove to new head coach Jim Harbaugh that he can’t play at the NFL level, now you know why is college coach, Pete Carroll, passed on him.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks signing of TE Zach Miller is somewhat surprising as they have a pretty good TE already on their roster in John Carlson. Miller just seems to be a luxury, not a necessity…..The Hawks also signed WR Sidney Rice earlier in free agency. Now if they only had a QB to get the ball to these two…..Yeah, I’m not a big fan of Tarvares Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams finally found their backup to RB Steven Jackson in Cadillac Williams…..Michael Sims-Walker gives the Rams yet another WR who is maddingly inconsistent. QB Sam Bradford may not be able to make that jump to the next level without a true number one wideout.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It would’ve been nice to see the Bucs spend some money in free agency this season. They are a strong young team with a ton of room under the cap. A couple of solid free agents here and there could make a big difference. Seems to be they are behind the Saints and Falcons at this time.

Tennessee Titans: It was bad news for WR Kenny Britt on Thursday when it was announced that commissioner Roger Goodell will still be judge and jury when it comes to player discipline. Oh and Britt hasn’t practiced yet due to a hamstring injury…..Chris Johnson still hasn’t reported to camp. He wants a new contract with around $30 million guaranteed. Cha ching!

Washington Redskins: A sleeper RB in your fantasy leagues could be Roy Helu. Tim Hightower has already proven he can’t handle a full-time role and Ryan Torrain underwent surgery to place four screws in his hand this week. Of course the problem is the Skins have no QB and coach Mike Shanahan is famous for driving fantasy owners crazy with his use of RBs…..The Skins did re-sign QB Rex Grossman. It’s either him or John Beck for the starting QB job, yippee.