January 16, 2018

Cowboys 24, Lions 20

The fourth and final game of wildcard weekend featured the Detroit Lions heading south to Dallas, Texas to take on the Cowboys.  The Cowboys started at their 20-yard line and had a quick three and out.  Punter Chris Jones hit a 41-yard punt that was downed at the Detroit 38-yard line.  On second and ten from the 49, quarterback Matt Stafford went deep for wide receiver Golden Tate and he hauled in the pass for a 51-yard touchdown.  Kicker Matt Prater made the point after and the Lions jumped out to an early 7-0 lead with 11:22 to go in the first quarter.

The Cowboys managed to get a first down on their next possession, but the drive came to a halt when quarterback Tony Romo couldn’t complete a pass on fourth and seven to wide receiver Cole Beasley.  Jones punted and the ball was downed at the Detroit one-yard line.  Three plays netted five yards and the Lions were forced to punt.  Punter Sam Martin’s punt went out of bounds at the Detroit 44-yard line.  Wait a minute.  There’s a flag on the play.  The Cowboys were flagged for running into the kicker and that gave the Lions a first down at the 12-yard line.  A short pass to Tate and a scramble by Stafford netted a first down at the 23-yard line.  An 11-yard carry by running back Joique Bell, a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Calvin Johnson and an 18-yard pass to Bell moved the Lions into Dallas territory.  Two more carries by Bell put them at the 18.  From the 18, running back Reggie Bush ran up the left side for a touchdown to cap a 99-yard drive.  Prater made the point after and the Lions were up 14-0 with two minutes to go in the first quarter.

The Cowboys still couldn’t get the ball rolling and ended up punting again.  As a matter of fact, there was a lot of punting going on until the 2:15 mark.  That’s when the Cowboys finally got on the board.  On third and 12 from the 24, Romo let one fly and the pass was caught for a 76-yard touchdown by wide receiver Terrance Williams.  Kicker Dan Bailey made the point after and the Lions led 14-7 with 1:37 to go in the first half.

The Lions started at their 20 and two passes to running back Theo Riddick gained 20 yards.  From the 40, Stafford completed a 19-yard pass to Johnson.  That was followed by an incomplete pass and a five-yard pass to wide receiver Corey Fuller.  That set up a third and five from the Dallas 36.  Stafford completed a pass to Tate that was ruled short of the first down marker.  But replay showed that the yardage gained was good enough for a first down.  Stafford completed a nine-yard pass to Bush as time was running short.  With three seconds to go in the half, Prater made his 39-yard field goal attempt and the Lions led 17-7 at halftime.

Things got off to a great start for the Cowboys in the second half.  Stafford looked for Tate over the middle and the pass was picked off by linebacker Kyle Wilber.  That gave the Cowboys the ball at the Detroit 19-yard line.  But on third and one from the ten, Romo was sacked for a loss of 13 yards by defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.  Well, Bailey is a good kicker.  He shouldn’t have much trouble with a 41-yard field goal.  Wrong.  The kick sailed wide right and the Cowboys failed to cash in on a golden opportunity.

The Lions took over at their 31 and on second and six, Stafford found tight end Brandon Pettigrew for a gain of 11 yards.  After a short carry by Bush, Stafford looked for Johnson again and found him for a gain of 28 yards and a first down at the Dallas 26-yard line.  But the drive would stall at the 19-yard line.  Prater came on again and his 37-yard field goal attempt was good.  That gave the Lions a 20-7 lead with 8:41 to go in the third quarter.

The Cowboys took over at their 20 and moved the ball with running back DeMarco Murray.  Murray had three carries and a seven-yard reception.  That gave them a first down at the 50-yard line.  On third and ten from the 50, Romo threw a short pass to his left that was caught by wide receiver Dez Bryant.  Bryant turned on the speed and weaved his way through several defenders.  He was finally dragged down at the seven-yard line.  Murray took it the rest of the way on the next play, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty on the Cowboys.  From the 17, Romo found Beasley across the middle for a gain of 15 yards.  From the two, Romo completed a short pass to tight end Jason Witten, but he was stopped short of the end zone.  On third and goal from the one, Murray ran up the middle and was stuffed for no gain.  That brought up a crucial fourth and goal from the one.  The Cowboys decided to go for it and Murray ran off left tackle for a touchdown.  Bailey made the point after and the Lions lead was now 20-14 with 2:54 to go in the third quarter.

The Lions had a quick three and out on their next possession and the Cowboys took over at their 31.  They quickly moved to mid-field as Romo found Beasley for a gain of 19 yards.  Murray ran for five more yards and on second and five from the Detroit 45, Romo completed another pass to Beasley.  This one was good for 12 yards.  Then another flag was thrown.  Unnecessary roughness was called on the Lions and the Cowboys now had a first down at the 18.  That’s when the Lion defense stepped up.  Murray was stuffed for no gain and Romo was sacked on back to back plays.  That was meant it was time for Bailey to try another field goal.  His 51-yard attempt was good and the Lions led 20-17 with 12:16 to go in the game.

The Lions got the ball back at their five-yard line.  On second and 12 from the three, Stafford completed a 21-yard pass to Fuller for a first down at the 24.  A short run by Bush and a 19-yard pass to Johnson moved the Lions to the Dallas 45-yard line.  From the 45, Bush ran for a gain of four yards.  Bell got the call on the next play and ran for five yards.  That made it third and one from the 46.  Instead of running it again, Stafford threw to the left side for Pettigrew.  The pass was incomplete due to the fact that Pettigrew was interfered with by linebacker Anthony Hitchens.  The flags flew and it looked like the Lions would have another first down.  All of a sudden, the flag was picked up and the zebras reversed the call.  You’ve GOT to be kidding.  Actually, when it comes to the NFL, hardly anything I see the zebras do shocks me.  Still, that was definitely pass interference.  That made it fourth and one from the 46.  All the Lions needed to do was get one yard to keep the drive alive.  Instead, Stafford tried to draw the Cowboys offside.  In other words, he didn’t snap the ball and took a delay of game penalty.  Lions, you baffle me.  You really do.  To make things really incredible, Martin shanked the punt.  It went TEN freaking yards.

Starting at the 41, the Cowboys went to work.  A 13-yard pass to Murray got them into Detroit territory.  That was followed by a few short runs by Murray and Romo completed a 21-yard pass to Witten on fourth and six.  The pass to Witten gave the Cowboys a first down at the 21.  A defensive holding on the Lions netted another first down at the 16.  The next two plays gained three yards and on third and seven, Romo completed a short pass to running back Lance Dunbar, but he was thrown for a loss of two yards.  Wait a minute.  There’s another flag on the ground.  This time, it was defensive holding on linebacker DeAndre Levy.  That gave the Cowboys a first down at the eight-yard line.  An incomplete pass on first down was followed by a five-yard run by Murray.  That moved the ball to the three-yard line.  A false start on the Cowboys moved them back to the eight.  From the eight, Romo took the snap, had time and fired a pass across the middle that was caught by Williams for a touchdown.  Bailey made the point after and the Cowboys led 24-20 with 2:32 to go in the game.

The Lions took over at their 20 and on second and four, Stafford was sacked by defensive end Anthony Spencer.  The ball came loose and it was recovered by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.  All he had to do was fall on it and that would pretty much seal a win for the Cowboys.  Instead, he tried to advance it and the ball was loose once again.  It was recovered by offensive tackle Riley Reiff and the Lions retained possession at their 23-yard line.  With two minutes to go, Stafford spread the ball around to three different receivers and moved into Dallas territory.  On fourth and three from the Dallas 42, Stafford was sacked for a loss of nine.  The ball came loose again and Lawrence fell on it.  That was the nail in the coffin.  The Cowboys came from behind and won 24-20.

For the Lions, Matthew Stafford completed 28 of 42 for 323 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  Golden Tate led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 89.  On the ground, the Lions rushed for 90 yards on 22 carries.  Joique Bell was the leading rusher with 43 yards on 12 carries.  Defensively, linebacker James Ihedigbo led the team in solo tackles with seven.  Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh led the team in sacks with two.

For the Cowboys, Tony Romo completed 19 of 31 for 293 yards and two touchdowns.  Jason Witten led the team in receptions with five and Terrance Williams had the most receiving yards with 92 and two touchdowns.  DeMarco Murray carried the ball 19 times for 75 yards and a touchdown.  The only other player with any rushing stats is Romo.  He had two carries for minus two yards.  Defensively, safety J.J. Wilcox led the team in solo tackles with seven.

Up next for the Cowboys is a trip to Green Bay to take on the Packers.  That game will be on Sunday at 1:05 eastern time.


Saints 45, Lions 28

Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz had to be feeling good about his team early in this game.  The Lions got the ball first and marched right down the field to take an early 7-0 lead as quarterback Matthew Stafford found tight end Will Heller for a ten-yard touchdown.  The defense also forced two fumbles in the first half.  When you’re playing the Saints, you have to capitalize on the opportunities that are given to you.  Unfortunately for the Lions, they couldn’t capitalize on those turnovers.

After a two-yard touchdown run by running back Darren Sproles tied the game at seven, the Lions came back with a 14-play, 87-yard drive that was capped off by a 13-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Calvin Johnson.  The score remained 14-7 until the Saints took over at their own 16 and moved the ball to the Detroit six-yard line.  The drive stalled there and kicker John Kasay made a 24-yard field goal to make the score 14-10 in favor of the Lions at halftime.

The Saints got the second half off to a fast start when quarterback Drew Brees tossed a 41-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Devery Henderson and a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham to put the Saints on top 24-14.  The Lions still had some fight in them as Stafford took his team on another 80-yard drive and capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to make it 24-21 at the end of the third quarter.

However, the fourth quarter belonged to the Saints.  They picked Stafford off twice and outscored the Lions 21-7 with a 17-yard touchdown run by Sproles, a 56-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Robert Meachem and a one-yard touchdown run by running back Pierre Thomas.  Calvin Johnson did manage to catch a 12-yard touchdown pass late in the game, but it was too little and too late to mount a comeback.

For the Lions, Matthew Stafford completed 28 of 43 for 380 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.  He spread the ball around to seven different receivers and Calvin Johnson led the team with 12 catches for 211 yards and two touchdowns.  The Lions finished the game with just 32 yards rushing as a team.  Kevin Smith led the team with 21 yards on six carries.  Linebacker Stephen Tulloch led the Lions with eight solo tackles, two passes defensed and one tackle for a loss.

For the Saints, they were never forced to punt and Drew Brees had another outstanding game as he completed 33 of 43 for 466 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.  He spread the ball around to eight different receivers with Marques Colston leading the team with seven catches for 120 yards.  The Saints rushed for 167 yards as a team.  Pierre Thomas led the team in rushing yards with 66 yards on eight carries and a touchdown.  Cornerback Tracy Porter led the team with seven solo tackles.  The Saints had possession of the ball for 37 minutes, ran 81 plays and racked up a total of 626 total yards.

The next game for the Saints is next Saturday at 4:30 P.M. Eastern time against the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers.  The 49ers pride themselves on having the number one run defense and the Saints won’t have the comfort of their dome to protect them from the temperamental  Bay Area weather.  It will definitely be a game worth watching.

Another Sunday, Another Loss…

The Detroit Lions headed west to Oakland, California to take on the Oakland Raiders.  The Lions were coming off a 34-28 win over the Minnesota Vikings and the Raiders were coming off an embarrassing 46-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

The Raiders won the toss and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Sebastian Janikowski booted a long kick for a touch-back and Detroit started their first drive of the day at their own 20.  On first down, quarterback Matthew Stafford found wide receiver Stefan Logan for a gain of 19.  A short gain by running back Kevin Smith and a five-yard completion to tight end Brandon Pettigrew set up a third and short.  On third down, Stafford went looking for wide receiver Titus Young, but the pass fell incomplete.  Punter Ben Graham punted the ball away and it was fielded by Raider return man Bryan McCann at the 14 and was returned 17 yards to the 31.

Quarterback Carson Palmer took to the air immediately and found wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey for five yards.  Then he hooked up with wide receiver Denarius Moore for 13 to move the ball to midfield.  An 18-yard pass to running back Michael Bush moved the ball to the 33.  A three-yard run by Bush and short completions to fullback Marcel Reece and wide receiver Chaz Schilens set up a fourth and one.  Detroit stacked the middle of the line of scrimmage expecting a run right up the middle.  Instead, Palmer did a play fake and had Moore WIDE OPEN in the end zone.  But, he rushed his pass and the ball didn’t even come close to Moore.  That would be a very costly mistake and Detroit took over on downs.

Detroit took over at the 24 and got as far as the 39.  From there, Graham punted the ball away and the Raiders took over at their 24.  Marcel Reece got the drive off to a nice start as he ran up the left side for an apparent gain of 56 to the Detroit 20.  But, the play was challenged and it was ruled that Reece stepped out of bounds at the 50.  On first down from the 50, defensive end Cliff Avril burst through the line and sacked Palmer for a loss of 12.  While he was dancing around and acting like he had just won the lottery, a flag was thrown and he was called for a horse collar penalty.  That put the ball at the 47 and an illegal contact penalty on Detroit gave the Raiders five more free yards.  An 18-yard completion to Reece and another personal foul on Detroit linebacker Stephen Tulloch put the ball at the 12.  From the 12, wide receiver Louis Murphy ran a reverse up the left side for a touchdown.  Janikowski made the point after to make it 7-0.  For the first time since week 12, the Raiders had the lead.

Another long kickoff put Detroit at their own 20 again.  Completions to wide receivers Nate Burleson and Calvin Johnson moved the ball to the Detroit 43.  On second and four from the 49, Johnson got behind the Raider secondary and Stafford threw a perfect pass for a 51-yard touchdown.  Kicker Jason Hanson made the point after and that knotted the score at seven.

The teams traded punts on their next possessions and with 12 minutes to go in the second half, the Raiders got the ball back at their own six-yard line.  A gain of nine by Bush and a 35-yard completion to Heyward-Bey had the Raiders moving again.  Palmer found Moore for a gain of 13 and Bush got three up the middle to move the ball to the Detroit 43.  On second and seven from the 43, Palmer found Heyward-Bey for a nice catch and run for a 43-yard touchdown.  Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 14-7 with nine minutes to go in the second quarter.

The teams traded punts again and Detroit took over at their own 32 with a little over three minutes remaining.  Two short runs by Smith and a gain of 17 to Johnson moved the ball into Raider territory.  Another short run by Smith and a six-yard completion to Johnson set up a first down at the Raider 39.  On first down, Stafford put one up to Burleson for a 39-yard touchdown.  The Raiders were without starting safety Michael Huff and his absence made a difference in this game as the secondary looked totally baffled on this play.  Hanson made the point after and the score was now 14-14 with 1:14 to go in the half.

The Raiders went to work at their own 21 with little time to spare.  A completion to Bush for 13 and another one to wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh for nine put the ball at the 40.  Palmer found Bush for ten more and Houshmandzadeh for 16 more for a first down at the Detroit 34.  A six yard run by Bush moved the ball to the 28 with five seconds to go.   Janikowski blasted a 46-yard field goal through the uprights to give the Raiders a 17-14 lead at halftime.

The third quarter was a punt-fest until Detroit started a drive at their own 40 with 4:05 to go.  Stafford connected with Burleson and Johnson to set up a first down at the Raider 48.  A nine-yard completion to Burleson made it third and one.  The Raider defense was up to the task this time as they stopped Smith on third and one and fourth and one.  Detroit turned the ball over on downs at the 39 with 1:17 remaining.  A 13-yard completion to tight end Kevin Boss and a gain of four on a reverse by Murphy set up a second and six and the Detroit 44.  On second down, Palmer hit Heyward-Bey in stride and he headed for the end zone.  But, he was caught from behind and the ball was knocked loose by linebacker Justin Durant and recovered by cornerback Alphonso Smith.  That gave Detroit the ball at their 18 with 18 seconds to go in the third quarter.  But, the Raider defense stood strong again and forced another punt.

The Raiders got the ball back at their 34 and some good running by Bush put the ball at the Detroit 40.  They would get as far as the 33 and the drive would stall there.  The Polish Cannon was brought into the game and he nailed a 51-yard field goal to put the Raiders on top, 20-14 with a little over eight minutes to go in the game.

Detroit started at their 14 and on third and ten, Stafford was sacked by defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.  The ball came loose and linebacker Aaron Curry picked it up and ran it in for a six-yard touchdown.  That made the score 26-14 and in the back of my mind, I wondered if they should have gone for two.  If successful, that would have given them a 28-14 lead.  But that was not the case as Janikowski made the point after to make it 27-14 with 7:47 to go in the game.

Time was short and Detroit knew they had to abandon the running game.  Apparently, the Raiders and their defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan forgot how to play defense as Stafford marched his team deep into Raider territory by spreading ball around to four different receivers.  An eight-yard completion to Pettigrew set up a fourth and two at the eight.  Instead of keeping an eye on Stafford for a possible draw play, the Raiders dropped into coverage and that allowed him to run up the middle for a gain of five and set up a first and goal at the three.  From there, Stafford found Young in the end zone for a touchdown.  Hanson made the point after and it was now 27-21 with five minutes to go in the game.

It was time for the Michael Bush show to begin for the Raiders.  Starting out at their own 15, Bush got the call on first down and ran up the left side for 12 yards.  After a gain of three from the 27, Detroit called a timeout.  A 15-yard carry and a five-yard carry put the ball at the 50.  On second and five from the 50, Bush got two yards to make it third and three.  With a little over two minutes to go, I think everyone in the house was expecting Bush to get another carry.  Instead, Palmer took the snap and launched a bomb up the right side for Schilens.  The ball was slightly overthrown, hit his hands and he dropped it.  That stopped the clock and the Raiders punted the ball away.  I am still in shock as I write this. Why in the name of all that is holy would they attempt such a low percentage pass? If you’re going to throw, why not try a screen to Reece or hit Boss across the middle?  That was a HORRIBLE play call and it made no sense!

So, instead of running out the clock, the Raider defense found themselves on the field again.  Detroit had 2:14 and 98 yards to go.  The Raiders had Chuck Bresnahan calling the plays for the defense.  That’s like having the captain of the Titanic calling the plays.  An eight-yard completion to Pettigrew, 18 more to Burleson and 21 more to Johnson moved the ball out to the Detroit 39.  On first and ten from the 39, Johnson ran right through the secondary and Stafford heaved up a bomb that was caught for a gain of 48 yards.  On this play, McClain was trying to cover Johnson.  That is not going to work.  That gave Detroit a first down at the 13.  A holding call moved them back ten yards, but a pass interference penalty on cornerback Stanford Routt gave them a first down at the six.  On second and goal from the six, Stafford found Johnson cutting across the end zone for a touchdown.  Hanson made the point after and Detroit had a 28-27 lead with 39 seconds to go.

With two timeouts, 39 seconds and starting at his own 16, Palmer quickly went to work and found Boss for gains of 13 and 21 yards.  He was then sacked for a loss of three as he couldn’t find anyone open.  With 13 seconds to go, the Raiders called their final timeout.  Houshmandzadeh caught a pass for a gain of six and quickly stepped out of bounds at the Detroit 47.  That set up a 65-yard field goal attempt as a last ditch effort for the Raiders to come away with a win.  The kick was partially blocked by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and the kick was no good.  That gave Detroit a 28-27 win and a better shot at making the playoffs.  The loss was the third in a row for the Raiders and their playoff hopes are looking very dim.

So, where does the blame go this week?  It goes on everyone.  What I saw in this game was horrible clock management, failure to execute and total confusion on the defensive side of the ball at crucial parts of the game.  The secondary looked like the Keystone Kops as they had absolutely NO IDEA what they were doing.  Calvin Johnson is a huge receiver with speed, height and great hands.  If you’re a quarterback and your team is down and you need a score, Calvin Johnson would get my vote as the go to guy.  How the hell could they let him run wild through the secondary uncovered?  You can call it the “zone defense,” or you can call it the “Tampa two defense.”  You can call it what you want.  I call it the prevent defense and it does not work.  Mike Ditka had one of the most famous quotes of all time when he said “All the prevent defense does is prevent your team from winning.”  You’re 100 percent right, Mr. Ditka.

Matt Stafford had a stellar day as he completed 29 of 52 for 391 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.  Calvin Johnson led the team with nine catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns.  Detroit didn’t have much success running the ball in this game as Kevin Smith was held to 43 yards on 15 carries.  As a team, Detroit had 57 yards rushing.  Linebacker Stephen Tulloch led the defense with eight tackles and they registered three sacks.

Carson Palmer had a solid day as he completed 32 of 40 for 367 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.  That’s a completion percentage of 80 percent.  Unfortunately, two of those incomplete passes were huge.  If he had completed the pass early in the game to Moore in the end zone and the one late in the game to Schilens, I would be talking about a Raider victory right now.  Darrius Heyward-Bey led all receivers with eight catches for 155 yards and a touchdown.  He also had a very costly fumble.  Michael Bush carried the ball 18 times for 77 yards and caught seven passes for 62 yards.  As a team, the Raiders rushed for 132 yards.  Linebacker Rolando McClain led the team with seven solo tackles, a tackle for a loss and a sack.

As usual, there were lots of penalties in this game and the Raiders were flagged ten times for 86 yards. Detroit didn’t fare much better as they were flagged nine times for 72 yards.  Most of the flags for the Raiders were on the Keystone Kops because they didn’t know how to break up a pass without making contact with an opposing receiver.

With the Broncos and Raiders losing and the Chargers and Chiefs winning, the AFC West is still up for grabs with two games remaining.  Up next for the Raiders is a game on Christmas Eve at Kansas City.  The Chiefs are flying high after a 19-14 win over the Green Bay Packers.  Former Bronco quarterback Kyle Orton got the start and he looked good as he passed for 299 yards.  Head coach Todd Haley was fired last week and interim head coach Romeo Crennel has his team playing well.  I’ll be heading down to South Carolina for Christmas and I may miss the game, but I still hope to watch the replay and have an article up by Tuesday at the latest.  Until then, take it easy.

Merry Christmas from The Raider Guy!

All Out Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Out Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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