December 14, 2017

All Out Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raiders 34, Jets 24

Yesterday, the Oakland Raiders had their home opener against the New York Jets in front of a sold out crowd.  This is another rivalry that goes back to the days of the American Football League and the last time these teams met, the Jets handed the Raiders their worst ever home loss with a 38-0 thumping.  Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez enjoyed himself so much that he had time to enjoy a hot dog on the sideline.  There would be no hot dog for Mr. Sanchez today.

The Jets won the toss and deferred.  The Raiders did not have Nick Miller back to return kickoffs  this time and that was cause for celebration for Raider fans.  This time, it was rookie speedster Taiwan Jones.  Jones took the opening kick and ran it back to the Raider 24-yard line.  Darren McFadden got the ball on the first play of the game and got five yards.   Then, the Raiders went to a quick no huddle formation and Raider quarterback Jason Campbell found rookie receiver Denarius Moore for 13 more.  The next pass was incomplete, but Jet cornerback Antonio Cromartie was flagged for pass interference.  That moved the ball to the Raider 42.  After a short run by McFadden, Campbell completed a 28-yard pass to tight end Kevin Boss.  Boss made it down to the  two yard line.  From there,  McFadden finished the drive with a two yard touchdown run.  Janikowski added the point after and the Raiders went 76 yards on five plays in just a little over two minutes.

On the opening drive for the Jets, Sanchez quickly hit Plaxico Burress for 17 yards and tight end Dustin Keller for 25 more.  However, they couldn’t get past the Raider 41 as the Raiders stuffed running back Shonn Green and Sanchez threw two incomplete passes.  They were forced to punt and the Raiders got the ball back at their own eight.  They didn’t fare much better on three plays and gave the ball right back to the Jets as Raider punter Shane Lechler booted a 57-yard punt to the Jet 29.

On the second play of this drive, Sanchez hit Tomlinson on a short pass that went for 74 yards.   The Raiders appeared to have Tomlinson corralled after he caught the ball, but two missed tackles sprung him loose and he bolted down the left sideline.  He was finally pushed out of bounds at the one by Raider safety Tyvon Branch.  On second down, Sanchez rolled out and took the ball into the end zone for the score.  Nick Folk added the point after and the score was tied at seven with 8:30 to go in the first quarter.

The Raiders took over at their own 20 and Campbell hit Moore for nine yards.  That set up an easy second and one from the 29.  However, the Jets were ready for the Raider running backs on this drive and McFadden and Michael Bush were both stuffed, forcing the Raiders to punt.  Lechler booted another punt that was taken by Jet return man Jeremy Kurley at his own 23.  He returned the ball all the way to the Raider 24 and put the Jets in excellent field position.  However, Sanchez was picked off in the end zone by Tyvon Branch to bring a quick end to a golden opportunity for the Jets.

Again, the Raiders could do nothing with the ball and ended up going three and out.  With 2:35 to go in the first quarter, the Jets took over at their own 16.  After a couple of quick runs by Green, Sanchez found receiver Santonio Holmes for 19 and then Raider cornerback Stanford Routt was flagged for pass interference.  That moved the ball into Raider territory and Green ran to the left for nine more yards as the first quarter came to a close with the scored tied at seven.  On second down, Routt was flagged again.  This time, it was for illegal use of the hands and it gave the Jets a first down at the Raider 19.  On second and nine from the 18, Sanchez hit Tomlinson in stride for an 18-yard touchdown.  Folk made the point after and that put the Jets up 14-7.

Taiwan Jones didn’t fare too well on his next kickoff return as he managed to only get to his own 13-yard line.  On second and 15, McFadden exploded up the right side for 17 yards.  Two plays later, Cromartie was flagged again for defensive holding and that gave the Raiders a first down at their own 30.  From there,  McFadden got the call again and ran off left tackle for 15 more yards.  He got six more to move the ball to the Jet 38, but tight end Brandon Myers dropped a pass on third down.  On fourth down, kicker Sebastian Janikowski was brought in to try a 56-yard field goal off the infield dirt.  He got all of it, but his kick ended up going wide right.  That gave the Jets the ball at their own 46.

Sanchez found Green for a gain of 15 and then found Derrick Mason for 11 more to bring the ball down to the Raider 23.  Green then ran for 11 more down to the 12.  But, from there, the Raider defense stiffened and the Jets had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Nick Folk.  That made the score 17-7 in favor of the Jets.

The Raiders got the ball at their own 15 and after a short gain by McFadden and a gain of nine by receiver Chaz Schilens, Darren McFadden brought the drive to a quick end with a career long 70-yard touchdown run.  Nobody could catch him as he sprinted up the left side of the field. That was a huge momentum swing for the Raiders.  Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders now trailed 17-14 with five minutes to go in the first half.

After the Jets couldn’t do anything with the ball, the Raiders got it back with 1:44 remaining at their own 14.  Michael Bush bulldozed his way for nine yards on first down.  Campbell then hit Moore for seven yards and a first down.  Three more short completions brought the ball to the 50 with 41 seconds to go.  A short run by Bush and two quick completions to Schilens set up Janikowski for a 54-yard attempt.  This time, there was no doubt as he blasted the ball through the uprights to tie the score at 17 at halftime.

The Jets set up shop at their own 21 to start the second half.  However, on second down, Green fumbled and the ball was recovered by Matt Shaughnessy of the Raiders.  But, defensive end Lamarr Houston jumped offside before the ball the ball was snapped, so the ball still belonged to the Jets due to the penalty.  After getting a break from the penalty, the Jets managed to move the ball to their own 40.  But, after a ten yard loss on a sack by defensive end Jarvis Moss the drive stalled and the Jets were forced to punt.

Starting at their own 20, the Raiders were looking to take the lead.  This was not the case as they had another quick three and out.  The Jets followed suit and the Raiders got the ball back at their own 28.  Another pass interference call on Cromartie moved the ball to the 41.  But the Jet’s defense was up to the challenge and forced another punt by the Raiders.

On a third and 11 from their own 19, the Raiders appeared to have stopped the Jets and forced them to punt again as a pass for Tomlinson was incomplete.  Stanford Routt was called for another penalty.  This time it was defensive holding and it gave the Jets a first down.  A few plays later, another penalty was called on the Raiders.  This time, it was a personal foul on Lamarr Houston.  That moved the ball into Raider territory again.  Green ran for three yards on first down and then caught a short pass for five more.  After an incomplete pass to Keller on third and two, the Jets decided to go for it on fourth down.  Instead of running it, Sanchez tried a pass to Burress and it was knocked away by rookie cornerback Chimdi Chekwa.

The Raiders took over at their own 37 and Campbell found receiver Derek Hagan for a gain of 15 to mid field.  On first down, McFadden looked as if he wanted to throw, but decided against it and ran for 23 yards down to the 27.  On the very next play, the Raiders used another trick play and Denarius Moore ran a reverse for a 23-yard score.  As Moore fell at the goal line, the ball popped out and an alert Rock Cartwright fell on it in the end zone.  However, the play was reviewed and it was determined that Moore had indeed crossed the goal line for the touchdown.  Janikowski added the point after and the Raiders went up 24-17.

Antonio Cromartie was having a bad day and it got worse on the kickoff.  Instead of the usual touchback, Janikowski sent a deep knuckle ball toward Cromartie.  He muffed it and it was quickly pounced on by Taiwan Jones.  This was the break the Raiders needed and they took over at the Jet 13.  McFadden ran for 12 as the third quarter came to a close.  On the first play of the fourth quarter, Michael Bush ran it in from the one to put the Raiders up 31-17.

With an entire quarter to go, the Jets still had plenty of time to right the ship.  The Raider defense bent a little on this drive, but they did not break.  Sanchez was sacked again for a nine yard loss by Jarvis Moss and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and they were forced to punt.  With just under 11 minutes to go in the game, the Raiders were looking to take some time off the clock.  That didn’t happen as the Jets forced a very quick three and out.  Lechler came through with a huge 67-yard punt and the ball was downed at the Jet’s seven yard line with 8:39 to go.

The Raider defense had been playing much better than they did in the second half last week at Buffalo.  That was until this drive started.  All of a sudden, things seemed to change.  It looked like the Raiders went to the prevent defense.  The corners were playing way off the receivers at the line of scrimmage and there was very little pass rush.  This enabled the Jets to go on a ten play, 93-yard drive in just a little over three minutes.  Sanchez found Burress in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown.  Folk made the point after to make it 31-24 and the Jets were right back in the  game with five and a half minutes to go.

This was the key drive for the Raiders.  On first down, Campbell scrambled for 10 yards to the 30-yard line.  Campbell then went deep for Darrius Heyward-Bey, but it was incomplete.  But, defensive holding was called on Calvin Pace of the Jets.  That gave the Raiders a crucial first down at their own 37.  On second and eight, Campbell scrambled out of the pocket and lofted a pass that was caught by Bush for a first down.  Bush almost broke away for a touchdown, but was tripped up by Bryan Thomas.  The Jets called their first timeout with 2:54 remaining.  After a short run by Bush, they called their second timeout with 2:48 remaining.  After another short run by Bush, the Jets called their third and final timeout with 2:43 to go.  On third and nine, everyone thought the Raiders would surely run the ball again to take more time off the clock.  Instead, Campbell put up a deep ball for Heyward-Bey that was incomplete.  So, on fourth and nine on the infield dirt, the Polish Cannon was brought into the game for a 49-yard attempt.  The kick was good and the Raiders led 34-24 with a little over two minutes to go.

After a 50-yard kick return by Joe McKnight, the Jets started out at their own 42.  Sanchez hooked up with Keller for gains of 11 and 33 yards.  The 33-yard completion brought them to the Raider nine yard line with time ticking away.  After incomplete passes to Keller and Burress, Tomlinson caught a pass and brought the ball down to the two.  On fourth down, Sanchez dove into the end zone for an apparent score.  However, the play was reviewed and the replay showed his knee was down before the ball crossed the goal line.  That gave the Raiders the ball and after two rushes up the middle by Campbell, the Raiders came away with a 34-24 win over the Jets.

This was a hard fought and much needed win for the Raiders.  With a gut wrenching loss at Buffalo last week, the defense played much better when they had to. They held the Jets to 100 yards on 25 carries and they had four sacks and bloodied the nose of Mark Sanchez.  The outcome of this game was much different than the last time the Jets came to Oakland.  This time, Sanchez got knocked around and didn’t have enough time to enjoy a hot dog.  But I am sure he will be able to find time to get an MRI on his nose.  Still, it wasn’t all bad for Sanchez.  He had a career high 369 yards through the air with two touchdown passes and one pick in a losing effort.

Darren McFadden definitely gets my MVP vote for this game as he had 171 yards on 19 carries and two scores.  Total up all the rushing yards and the Raiders ran for 234 yards on 32 carries.  That’s a little over seven yards per carry and  it’s the most yards rushing the Jets have allowed since Rex Ryan took over as head coach.  The offensive line did another incredible job.  They opened holes for the running backs and protected Campbell admirably.  Campbell had an efficient game as he went 18 for 27 for 156 yards with no touchdowns or picks.  He spread the ball around to seven different receivers and his longest completion of the game was 28 yards to Kevin Boss.

The New England Patriots are coming to Oakland next week and just like the Raiders, the Patriots are coming off a tough loss to the Buffalo Bills.  They blew a 21 point lead and Tom Brady was picked off four times.  The Raider defense better be ready for an all out assault from Brady and all of his weapons.  Tackling still needs to improve and the stupid penalties on third down need to be eliminated.  But, that’s next week.  Until then, take it easy.

The Raider Guy

 

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.

Mark Sanchez Just Saved the NFL

Perhaps it’s a new and refreshing breed of player, but New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez has likely saved the NFL from fan backlash against the lockout. He also just boosted his jersey sales and made some new fans for himself and his team.

As reported today, Sanchez has offered to restructure his contract and make LESS money if it means the team can sign some key free agents as well as Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards. The Jets have since signed Holmes to a five-year deal. No report on whether or not the NFL would let Sanchez actually restructure his deal.

Sanchez, a third-year player, is a striking contrast to many NFL players, including Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Brady is the highest paid player in the league and Manning has made headlines all summer about reclaiming the title of highest paid player once his new contract is resolved. I guess it shouldn’t surprise anyone then that these two children were also key names in the suit that brought the lockout. Regardless of whose fault the $9 billion mess belongs on, Manning and Brady exemplify personal benefit over team benefit.

Sanchez wants to win a Super Bowl. Manning and Brady want to compete with each other on the terms of their contract. I also find it interesting that Manning spent the summer whining about his neck and not being able to see a specific therapist until a lockout agreement was reached. Sanchez understands the team concept and he knows the New York Jets will win the Super Bowl this year, not New York Mark Sanchez.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Isray has stated several times over the course of the summer that Manning will be the highest paid player in the NFL even if the terms of the lockout agreement present some minor roadblocks.

“He is going to make more than Brady,” he said.

This is top priority? It is so important for Manning to make more than Brady that it has to be said out loud? Is it just me or when already mega millionaire players need their ego boosted by contract terms, they always seem to disappoint. Ask Boston Red Sox fans how Carl Crawford is working out. Brady hasn’t done much since they lost the Super Bowl after the 16-0 season. (Though he does complain a lot when he gets sacked.) Manning, 35, coming into his 15th year in the league, has a neck injury that is not even healed yet and he is reportedly going to miss some or all of training camp. The Colts want to spend all of their money on him?

Whether or not Manning is ready for the season, you can be sure he’ll take a snap in week 1. Because after all, Manning is more interested in chasing down Brett Favre’s numbers than he is in winning a Super Bowl. Winning a Super Bowl means he would have to share the spotlight. In just three years, Sanchez understands what’s at stake and what’s more important.

Said Sanchez, “whatever we need to do to win, it’s on.”

Retirement Doesn’t Seem to be an Option for Brett Favre

The Brett Favre rumorville has started turning and to be honest, yes this year, I am somewhat surprised. I did not think after his concussion last season that he’d want to return for a 21st season. But you know what? I hope he comes back and a team gives him an offer.

I’m in the minority I know. And had Favre hired a PR manager during the last several years, perhaps the “will he or won’t he” saga would not have been front page news, which made him look like a buffoon. But the fact is, at least for me, football is more entertaining with Favre on the field. I don’t think he’s ready to hang up his cleats and despite last season’s mess, his skills as a quarterback are still pretty much intact.

In 1998 and 1999, while with Green Bay, Favre threw 23 interceptions. In 2005, he threw 29. It is clear by now that interceptions don’t define Favre’s ability. They define his playing style. The fact is Favre has developed an interesting playing cycle over the years. He either sucks or he’s great.

In 2001, he had a QB rating of 94.1. It dropped a few points the next year and then he stuck around 90 for 2003 and 2004. In 2005, the calls for his retirement began when he threw those 29 interceptions and had, at the time, a career low 70.9 QB rating. He ticked his rating up 2 points the next year and then was back in Favre form his final year with the Packers.

The New York Jets was not a mistake, at least on the field. His indiscretions aside, Favre brought new life to the Jets and I maintain his biggest mistake with the Jets was not coming back for a second year. Had Favre returned, there is no doubt in my mind the New York Jets and Favre would be Super Bowl Champions. (I have always wondered if that is lost on him.) Until his arm injury, the Jets were nearly unstoppable and Favre played flawlessly. The turnaround game for the team that year was when they got blown out against the San Diego Chargers on a Monday night and Favre spent the game throwing dink and dunk passes which clearly helped him figure out the offense.

Then 2009. Revenge is a wonderful motivator and Favre clearly got it. He destroyed the Packers and posted a career high of 107.2 QB rating which was the first time he hit 100 for a season. Just imagine had his ire against the Packers receded and he gave the Jets those numbers that year. But once again, the roller coaster of his career dropped the following year thanks to injuries and a depleted offensive line and receiving corps.

It could be argued that Favre is in line for a high profile season. Then again he may fizzle, which if he does return and posts a new career QB rating low, then maybe that’s what he needs mentally to realize his time is up. One more touchdown last year or one less interception, Favre’s QB rating would not match his career low set in 2005.

Quarterbacks have up and down years. Once they reach a certain age, the “too old” drum begins to beat but when other 20-something’s consistently throw up duds excuses are always handed out. Give Favre an offensive line that actually protects him and a couple of receivers who can catch, it would not surprise me if Favre has a 90+ year, if indeed he returns and a team picks him up.

If Favre is truly mulling another season, his best approach is to offer himself as a starting mentor. The streak is over so there is no pressure to keep him playing if he gets injured and/or if age does begin to show in his playing ability. If he can begin the season as a starter and be a teacher to a young backup than any team looking for a veteran should consider picking him up.

Since Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez seems to only play well when the game is on the line or Coach Rex Ryan is threatening to bench him, maybe Favre can return to New York to be the thorn in Sanchez’s side that keeps him playing well the whole season.

On second thought, I’m not sure his wife Deanna would OK that move.