November 18, 2017

Bob Dylan and Bernie Taupin Walk Into A Bar

 

Give a little thought to this conjured scenario. Bob Dylan and Bernie Taupin are both private, reclusive types who have managed to share many of their thoughts, visions and talents with the world. Such endeavors require the proper introspection. Therefore, a logical spot to take in and digress on the world is the window booth at Manuel’s Tavern, located at the corner of North and North Highland Avenues in Atlanta, Georgia. Dylan, having played Atlanta the first time some fifty years ago at near-by Emory University, may recall the legendary watering hole which has long attracted journalists, politicians, poets, cops and other thirsty types. Taupin, whose songwriting partner, Elton John, has a penthouse apartment in the Buckhead community, a half dozen miles north of the tavern, would enjoy the earthy charm of Manuel’s. The place is genuine and time-tested, unlike the spacious shopping palaces and pricey restaurants found in Elton’s corner of town. The tavern’s window booth, where Manuel Maloof himself used to host friends while pontificating, complaining and looking after customers is the ideal place to consider all things global and local. It’s quite easy to visualize Messrs Dylan and Taupin there.

Near the window booth is a large photo of the revered Atlanta Constitution Editor Ralph McGill, whose courageous opinions implored the South and the nation as a whole to fully embrace its ideas of liberty and justice for all. McGill, Dylan would inform Taupin, was a close friend of the poet and historian Carl Sandberg. Visits to Sandberg’s home in Flat Rock, North Carolina provided McGill with great reassurance. According to Leonard Ray Teel, in his book, Ralph Emerson McGill, Voice Of The Southern Conscience, McGill “felt a healing power in the ancient poet.” Teel also noted that In McGill, Sandberg “recognized a kindred spirit trying to lead a later generation into social change.” McGill and Sandberg, admired and heralded the world over, stood in awe of one another. Dylan could understand that. On the same concert tour that brought him to Atlanta in 1964, he stopped by Flat Rock to talk with Sandberg and present him with a copy of his new album, The Times They Are A-Changin’.

Taupin, a native of Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England, but now a full-time resident of Santa Ynez, California, has a deep devotion to the stories of America, be they documented or apocryphal. The novels and the films on the silver screen vie with the history books when telling a great nation’s story and Taupin is hip to the legends, the lies and what’s fact. In a recent entry on his blog, rather than hawking The Diving Board, his latest collaboration with Elton John, he takes politicos from both sides of the aisle to task, feeling sad and disgusted with the lying that goes with leadership. Taupin is a keen observer with an admitted “curmudgeonly nature,” which has to make him feel at home in Manuel’s booth.

Separate The Good From The Bad… Manuel Maloof was on the right side of history as the change that McGill, Sandberg and Dylan championed began to take place. Not only was he a bartender-philosopher personified, he was also among the most influential Democrats in the state of Georgia. His tavern has photographs of those who stopped by while seeking the Presidency of the United States: McGovern, Carter, Clinton and Gore. Maloof died in 2004, four years before Barack Obama signaled another change. It would’ve been fascinating to hear him speak on the election and performance of President Obama. He’d offer praise, but he wouldn’t mince his words if the president disappointed him either. One afternoon in the late ’80s, he and I were discussing civil rights leader and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young. Nearing the end of his second term as Mayor, Young was a visionary but often negligent with his mayoral duties. “I love Andy Young,” Maloof said one afternoon, “but it would be great if he’d could just travel around the world as Mayor and let me run the city.” Maloof was angry over the pervasive crime in Atlanta. He talked of how one young man tried to steal the ring off his finger at a downtown transit (MARTA) station. Maloof, nearing 60 at the time, stood his ground and walked away with his ring, but that didn’t make him any happier with what was happening in his hometown.

A regular walking by Dylan and Taupin’s booth could stop and explain a little about Manuel’s Tavern and the role it played in the city’s history. Dylan and Taupin, both quick studies, wouldn’t need too much briefing, but they might ask about the Atlanta sports scene. They’d likely find it puzzling that Atlanta for so long has paid more attention to the professional and collegiate football teams, even in mediocre years, than to the Atlanta Braves, who since 1991 have won 600 more games than they’ve lost, accumulating 15 division titles and sending new members to Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Maloof was sure proud of the Braves and he might have made Braves fans of Dylan and Taupin too.

It would be a tougher sell with the Atlanta Falcons, the National Football League team that began play in 1966. Much of their history has been similar to tragic car wrecks people recall when passing dangerous intersections. In the same 23 year period of the Braves’ excellence, the Falcons are three games under .500 (182-185) with 36 of those wins coming between 2010 and 2012. In the season just completed, the Falcons went 4-12, a record that ranks among the worst in their tragicomic history.

Twenty Pounds Of Headlines… Give the Falcons credit: they’ve provided Atlanta sportswriters with reams of fascinating copy. Local playwrights wish they had such material to work with. While compiling a 134-229 record in their first quarter century of play, the Falcons, naturally, filled its rosters with, ahem, colorful players. In ’88, they lost their Special Teams Captain, David Croudip, when a “cocaine cocktail” killed him. That was tragic but somewhat predictable, given the lack of control management had over the team. Two years later, Aundray Bruce, the NFL’s top draft choice* from ’88, pulled a pellet gun on a pizza delivery guy. Neither Bruce nor teammate Marcus Cotton had money to pay for the pizza, so what can poor NFL players who’ve squandered their riches do? It’s simple: scare the hell out of the guy delivering the pizza. Charges were filed. Bruce was arrested on misdemeanor charges and released on a $1,050.00 bond. The delivery guy said Bruce “seemed to think it was pretty funny… pretty much laughing all through it.” Bruce may have thought it was funny like the two paternity suits pending against him or his failure to make payments on two mortgages totaling $912,000. When your life is such a mess, you laugh at all the wrong things.

Nearly a decade later, on January 17, 1999, the Falcons defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game and found themselves Super Bowl-bound for the first time in their 33 seasons. It was a very well-balanced and exciting Atlanta Falcons team. The Falcons had a good chance of beating the Denver Broncos in Miami to become NFL Champions.

Things began happily enough on the morning of January 30, 1999, the day before the Super Bowl. Falcons safety Eugene Robinson was honored by Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Robinson was presented with the Bart Starr Award for “high moral character.” For one who takes his football and faith seriously, what else could go wrong? Plenty. Less than twelve hours later, Robinson was arrested on Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami. The charge: soliciting an undercover police officer for oral sex. Robinson’s to-do list for the day had to be a hoot: Go to Christian group meeting. Win award for high moral character. Have lunch. Spend time with the missus by the pool. Have dinner. Go to Biscayne Boulevard for some pregame fellatio.

By the way, the Falcons lost 34-19. Robinson played as if he had been serviced multiple times on Biscayne Boulevard, getting beat by Rod Smith on an 80-yard touchdown reception.

Now I’ve Seen This Chain Gang… The NFL is often referred to as the National Felons League. Some believe the appellation is unfair; others believe it’s acknowledgement of reality. Between the 2012 and 2013 seasons, at least 31 NFL players were arrested. Some of the charges were the standard DUIs, “criminal mischief,” and assault, with the two worst offenses being “attempted murder” and “first degree murder.” No Atlanta Falcon in memory has been charged with murder, at least not murdering a human being, but Michael Vick, the team’s star quarterback did serve most of two years (’07-’09) in Federal Prison for promoting and financing an interstate dog-fighting operation. Canine executions were featured in the Vick promotions.

Not long before the dog stories broke, Vick’s behavior was viewed as erratic and offensive. Struggling through a tough season, Vick gave fans the “bird,” in fact a “double-bird,” as he walked off the field (Two middle fingers up…. way up).

Bob Dylan wrote of dogs running free. Robert Louis Stevenson once observed that dogs “will be in heaven long before any of us.” All this was lost on Michael Vick. In The New York Times, Juliet Macur reported on Jim Gorant’s book, The Lost Dogs, a collection of sordid and true stories of Vick and his “Bad Newz Kennels.”

Once he (Vick) and a friend grabbed the paws of a little red dog and held it over their heads, like a jump rope, slamming the animal on the ground again and again until it was lifeless.

The most disappointed of Vick’s supporters was Falcons owner Arthur Blank. He had gleaned an entirely different impression of his star quarterback. Vick had even come to the owner’s home for dinner and played video games with Blank’s children. One could feel bad for Blank, a nice man dealing with an embarrassing story. One felt worse for the dogs, but there was still support in Atlanta for Michael Vick. After all, he was an exciting quarterback capable of engineering the most spectacular plays. He didn’t play the game by the book; on the field, he wrote his own book. Thus, once a free man, he’d write additional chapters. Many NFL teams with no shame would hustle to sign him up.

During the 2009 season, Vick was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, but they used him sparingly as a back-up to Donovan McNabb, a great player and a fine gentleman. Yet McNabb was past his prime and by the next season, Vick was named the Eagles’ starting quarterback. And there were others besides PETA members unhappy with Vick’s return to glory. Bernie Taupin, in his blog, questioned how Vick, “a guy who has racked up some of the most heinous cruelties you could possibly inflict on an innocent creature be idolized, lionized and treated like the second coming of Christ?” Taupin, an avowed football fan, had difficulty fathoming the lack of values in the NFL, noting, “When it comes to football, the agonizing deaths and stifled whimpers of the dogs he tortured, electrocuted, hung and drowned are swept conveniently under the rug.”

When Vick and the Eagles came to play the Falcons in the Georgia Dome on December 7, 2009, the response of Vick supporters would have disgusted Taupin all the more. Of course, Vick was relishing the moment, according to the Associated Press:

“It was as loud as it gets in the Dome,” said Vick, who teared up on the bus ride over to the stadium. “I heard the chants all through the stadium and it sent chills down my spine. They were just letting me know that people still appreciate what I’ve done.”

OK, whatever, but Vick was right in assuming thousands of Atlanta fans had his back. A couple of years before, a local minister used his pulpit to reprove an Atlanta sportswriter, a member of the church, for being critical of Vick in his columns. He saw no good in a black sportswriter bringing down an accomplished black athlete, a hero to many in our town. Making this more amazing is that the sportswriter was the one often condemned by hothead whites on the sports talk shows whenever the subject of race was raised. It’s little wonder some topics go wanting for civil discussion in this town.

The Band Is Playing “Dixie,” A Man Got His Hand Outstretched… But football trumps all down South. Consider the ongoing matter with the Atlanta Falcons and their owner, Arthur Blank. The poor Falcons have had to play in the Georgia Dome, opened in ’92 and built by Georgia taxpayers at a cost of $214 million. The Georgia Dome is hardly a classic structure, but 70,000 fans often pack the place for NFL games. Concerts by Paul McCartney, U2 and the Rolling Stones were held there in the ’90s, and major college football games are also played in the Dome, with few expressing irritation over the ambiance. Still, Blank has been talking for years about needing a new stadium so his Falcons could be more competitive — a word in this caffeinated society that’s used to make taxpayers dig deeper. In doing so, more plush suites will be available to the swells attending the game, likely at a cost to taxpayers somewhere. Given all that, in the way Atlanta’s power elite view things, the Georgia Dome, just 21 years old, is worthy of the wrecking ball. Arthur Blank, Falcons owner and respected philanthropist, will get his way.

Give Arthur Blank credit. He, with some help from the NFL, agreed to pay for most of the new Falcons’ nest, which will go up in the same vicinity as the Georgia Dome. It will be part of the Georgia World Congress Center and host the same annual events — and more — as held at the Dome. So what’s not to like? For one, Blank’s plea for funds — some $200 million — from the tax collected by Atlanta hotels and motels, kept clean and comfy by employees eking out a living in a metro area that has been slow to rebound from the Great Recession. Yet new Falcons stadium boosters point out, as Blank did in the December 22 AJC, that “84% of the tax is being paid by people who don’t live in this state.” Talk about Southern hospitality; Welcome to Atlanta, now bend over.

By state law, revenues from the hotel-motel tax cannot be used by the City of Atlanta for basic infrastructure, public safety, libraries, schools, etc.; you know, frou-frou stuff. The revenues can only be “used for a variety of projects that will help promote the city as a tourist destination for meetings or conventions, historic and cultural travel and other types of attractions,” according to an Atlanta Falcons website. While it is fair to say that such tax allocations can help create jobs and enhance the city’s quality of life, the claim falls on deaf ears among tens of thousands of city taxpayers. Here we go again, they think, another subsidy for a professional sports team owner – in this case, Blank, who’s listed by Forbes  as being worth $1.7 billion. Forbes also reported that the expected revenues at the Falcons’ new nest raised the team valuation to $933 million, not bad for a team that has for most of its history been an embarrassment to its hometown. In addition to that, Forbes noted Blank’s own net worth climbed by half a billion dollars from September 2010 to September 2013.

He’s A Great Humanitarian, He’s A Great Philanthropist… There’s little sense in begrudging the wealth Blank has attained through his co-founding of Home Depot and the investments he’s made. It isn’t a day at the beach to visit Home Depot, but the stores have served a need in the marketplace. Blank worked hard and worked smart in developing that big box chain. In his field, he did a lot of things better than others, so more power to him. Blank has also contributed money — and his own time — to charities and good causes. When you meet him, he comes across as a good guy. He has concerns on the humanitarian side that compels the philanthropist in him to sign the “Giving Pledge.” According to the “Giving Pledge” rules, a signatory promises to donate at least half of his wealth to charitable concerns, either during his lifetime or afterward.

Already Blank has made sizeable donations to education, environmental and arts organizations. He’s shown his heart to be in the right place — and his wallet tags along. That makes his determination in getting taxpayers to kick in for the new Falcons stadium more disturbing. NFL teams, with their tax exemptions, tax abatements, television contracts and revenue sharing plans, are immensely profitable. Any owner claiming to be in the red is lying or is among the world’s worst business people. But we know Blank to be a very savvy businessman — and he’s smooth. In the December 22 interview with the AJC, he was asked why he needed a hotel-motel tax to help build his new stadium. The savvy and smooth answer follows:

“The success of the franchise shouldn’t be dependent on one individual or their estate, but it should be a sustainable organization. A public-private partnership is very important. In this case, 84% of the tax is being paid by people who don’t live in the state. The stadium will impact tourism in a positive way. We think the tax is a fair level of public support.”

Oh, that explains it. Blank assumes and commands “a fair level of public support.” Never mind that said support wasn’t approved via referendum by the impacted public which has little interest in subsidizing a billionaire whose shiniest toy is a team of millionaires. But in Atlanta and the state of Georgia, that hardly matters. The political mix here is a strange hybrid that hardly serves the citizenry, so of course the Falcons get their stadium –partially paid for with the $200 million from the hotel-motel tax, which, according to the billionaire, is mostly collected from people who don’t live in Atlanta. So can the people who live here use the revenue from such a tax to fund programs that would help them and their children have a cleaner, safer and more informed community? The answer is absolutely not, because we’re dealt the short hand by community leaders similar to individuals at the marketplace in Bob Dylan’s “Changing of the Guard”: Merchants and thieves, hungry for power.

Entertain By Picking Brains… Both the famous and the average Joe are rewarded by walking through the rooms of Manuel’s Tavern. Old black and white photographs, most of them taken before 1980, adorn the walls. The pictures capture a time in Atlanta when progress was measured by ways other than how much richer millionaires become. Not far from Manuel’s old window booth hangs a large picture of Falcons running back Jim “Cannonball” Butler evading defenders in a ’68 game versus the Detroit Lions. Despite Cannonball’s 60-yard touchdown run, the Falcons lost that day, looking bad against a mediocre team. Ailing NFL clubs loved to see the Falcons on the schedule.

What the folks who gathered at Manuel’s in those days wanted was a competitive team. Winning more than three games a year would be a good start. And there was little concern for the owner’s definition of “competitive,” especially if that meant leather chairs in suites where the well-healed could watch the owner’s team. An owner of a professional football club had already competed rather well in the marketplace, thank you, and wouldn’t seek tax dollars as defined in a “public and private partnership,” or so we thought. Another guy, gifted at turning a phrase, could join Dylan and Taupin, and enjoy the company at Manuel’s Tavern. Taking in the view from Manuel’s window booth and knowing how it’s been all the way back to the days of Genesis, when Cain slew Abel, he’d note what’s always driven the good and the bad. That guy, Bruce Springsteen, would  sum it up like this:

Poor man wanna be rich,
Rich man wanna be king,
And a king ain’t satisfied,
Till he rules everything.

*Bruce was named by Sports Illustrated as the second biggest draft bust in modern NFL history.

From the forthcoming book, Drop Me Off on Peachtree, A History of Atlanta

 

Mitchell’s Fantasy Football Notes: Week 10 (2012)

While week 9 in fantasy football was a scoring explosion compared to past weeks, week 10 for fantasy football was one known more for who was carted off the field than its performances on it.  RG3 and Aaron Rodgers had the entire week off while Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith and Jay Cutler took half days for health reasons, three concussions and one shoulder separation.  These injuries will impact week 11 and potentially the fantasy playoffs, especially in the case of Vick and Big Ben.  This new weekly column will address the relevant activity and it’s impact in every game on the weekend’s calendar for week 10 in the NFL so let’s get right to it.

Colts 27, Jaguars 10
In this game the lack of stats tells us more than the productive ones.  Vic Ballard and Donald Brown both had disappointing yardage totals and no TD’s but the split carries is the story here.  The wide receiver position is where we see reasons to be optimistic if not outright bullish.  For Jacksonville, Michael Spurlock was productive with minimal targets while both Cecil Shorts III and Laurent Robinson were productive and more importantly, targeted significantly.  All good signs for teams slogging through a 2-QB league with Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne or for owners that took a shot on Cecil Shorts III or Laurent Robinson.  For Indianapolis, T.Y. Hilton’s emergence looks to be a bit premature with Donnie Avery being the #2 guy in this offense behind Reggie Wayne and even Avery only got 6 targets.

Bengals 31, Giants 13
Disappointing once again for Eli Manning and his “tired” arm.  TD’s are king in fantasy football and that anoints Andy Dalton into royalty in week 10 with four scores with only seven weeks to go.  Hakeem Nicks seems to be back and productive while Andre Brown and Ahmed Bradshaw both ran well in limited carries.  The big fantasy story for the Giants is TE Michael Bennett and RB Andre Brown being targeted significantly in the passing game as well as news that Ahmed Bradshaw is battling an injury going into week 11.

Titans 37, Dolphins 3
Ryan Tannehill took a step back this week with three INT’s while Chris Johnson took another step closer to solidifying himself as the stud RB he once was and people thought he might never be again.  Brian Hartline stepped up big as well in a pathetic overall offensive effort by Miami.

Vikings, 34 Lions 24
There were big fantasy stats in a losing effort for Matthew Stafford and the revitalized Megatron.  Adrian Peterson once again shows that he is a beast no matter what else is going on in Minnesota.  Concerning Mikel Leshoure, you better hope he gets some goal line carries because he doesn’t do much else well.  A monster day for AP.  The story here that matters most is when Percy Harvin sits, Kyle Rudolph matters and when Harvin plays, Rudolph seems to disappear.  This is one to watch more closely in coming weeks.

Patriots 37, Bills 31
The big story here is that YES, the Patriots pass defense is THIS bad.  They are second worst defense in the NFL on 3rd down ahead of only… yes that’s right…BUFFALO.  Start every wide receiver you can find when facing the Patriots.  Can Talib turn things around??  Seems unlikely.  Mount up WR’s.  Spiller owners should be excited with the news that Fred Jackson will miss week 11 if not more.

Saints 31, Falcons 27
Matt Ryan may end up being the highest scoring QB in the NFL which means a lot of targets to go around and the player with the biggest upside for the remainder of the season on this team is Jacquizz Rodgers.  His targets can go nowhere but up and with the Falcons essentially in the playoffs there is no reason not to continue to expand his role.  From the Saints, Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram are gaining steam and may be becoming fantasy relevant.

Buccaneers 34, Chargers 24
This Bucs offense is a juggernaut, second only to the Falcons in the NFC.  Surprisingly, week 10 was not an explosive week for the Bucs versus a mediocre Chargers defense in what appeared to be a great match up.  With San Diego, a lot of passing attempts to go around but nobody to bet heavy on to catch them consistently.  Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates seem to be the safe bets but not enough consistent production for me to be excited.

Broncos 36, Panthers 14
It was a high scoring fantasy week for Carolina players that didn’t translate into a W for the Panthers who can probably be eliminated from the NFL discussion officially after losing to the Broncos.  Denver players didn’t produce enough and didn’t score enough to make their fantasy owners happy.  Willis McGahee seems to be a flex RB at this point and a mediocre one at that while Daniel Thomas looks to be elevating himself into the upper tier of WR’s with the help of Peyton Manning in Denver.  MORE TOUCHDOWNS DENVER.  WE NEED MORE SCORES.  Carolina’s running game appears to be non-existent which bodes well for Cam Newton, Brandon LaFell, Steve Smith and Greg Olsen owners.

Ravens 55, Raiders 20
On the two podcasts that I host on the Leatherheads National Podcasting Network (The Monday Rundown at 7:00 P.M. EST on Mondays and The Leatherheads Fantasy Football Show at 9:00 P.M. EST on Wednesdays), I have time and time again made the point that Ray Rice is not getting enough touches and in a big win versus the lowly Oakland Raiders, we once again saw or better said, didn’t see Ray Rice toting the rock.  In winning big, they didn’t need Rice but for one of the best all around RB’s and a top five fantasy draft pick in the game to only touch the ball 17 times, I wonder if this signals a transition from a trend to a fundamental offensive shift of focus by John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens.  With more of the Raven’s offense highlighting the passing game, Joe Flacco’s role was expanding and we knew this coming into 2012, but to see the significant reduction of Ray Rice’s touches is beyond what anyone would have ever expected.  As far as the Raiders go, Carson Palmer and the WR’s are becoming legitimate and must starts.  With the Raiders likely to be behind in almost every second half the remainder of this season, there is no reason not to be upset if you own Darren McFadden and you should be elated if you own Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey or tight end Brandon Myers who all have been consistently targeted on this hot fantasy run by the Raiders offense.

Seahwaks 28, NY Jets 7
The Jets don’t have much fantasy relevance unless Tim Tebow can somehow tear the starting QB job from the cold, dead hand of Rex Ryan.  Shonn Greene appears to have the RB carries almost completely too himself but the production from those carries is miserable.  Jeremy Kerley is getting some targets and he has some big play ability, but how do you make big plays when your QB can’t throw the ball well enough to get it to you?  As for Seattle, it is all about  Marshawn Lnynch.   If Lynch can manage to survive the season, he is going to be one of the hardest worked RB’s in the game–if not the history of it.  Only Arian Foster has more carries this season and may pass him by season’s end.  Ride Lynch to the ground and ignore the horrible Jets all together.  Oh, and maybe you may want to claim Golden Tate because he throws the ball better than Russell Wilson.

Cowboys 38, Eagles 23
In a game that saved the Cowboys season and officially ended the Eagles one, we saw what many fans were hoping for and what most fantasy owners dreaded, Nick Foles in and Michael Vick out.  An offensive line that singlehandedly can be blamed for the abysmal Eagles season in this fantasy expert’s opinion, finally got Michael Vick knocked out and it could be awhile before we see Vick play again–and it may be with another team next season.  Nick Foles made one play, a 44-yard TD on a broken coverage, while Tony Romo, who didn’t sparkle, did make a few highlight reel plays and was able to get it done for the Cowboys.  Felix Jones seems to be finding his groove and Jason Witten is officially the only true, reliable player to catch Romo passes.  For the Eagles, Jeremy Maclin was targeted over and over, which is normally a good thing, but for me its a mirage.  This offense can’t overcome an offensive line that leaks like a swiss cheese built boat and refuses, not unlike the Ravens, to get its superstar RB the ball.  If your thin then Maclin seems to be a consistent play, but I rank him as a WR3 at best.  I would downgrade him from there with Foles at the helm.

Rams 24, 49ers 24
In a rare tie in the NFL, this was a game where an injury was possibly the best thing that could happen to a struggling fantasy owner.  Alex Smith looks to be sidelined due to a concussion which opens the door for the fleet afoot Colin Kaepernick.  The issue here is that the 49ers have a tough matchup versus the Bears in week 11 (a team who also lost their starting QB in week 10) and this may be the only week Alex Smith misses.  So the one week where a fantasy team owner that picked Kaepernick has a chance to start him, it may be better to sit him due to the matchup and then lose the upside to a returning Alex Smith.  I can’t even recommend holding on to Kaepernick even if you have the roster space because it seems unlikely he gets any playing time.  He is an intriguing guy if you are desperate.  As for the Rams, Stephen Jackson had a big game versus one of the best run defenses in football and that may give some breathing room to Jackson owners who can feel the footsteps of Daryl Richardson right behind them.  Danny Amendola came back from a life threatening injury to have a big game and it looks like he is a reliable WR3 if not even a WR2 in the right matchups.  Oh, and if you are truly desperate make a claim on Rams punter Johnny Hekker who was 2-2 for 40 yards passing.  Who knows how often he throws the ball but he is still a better play than Mark Sanchez so keep that in mind.

Texans 13, Bears 6
The biggest story of this game was defense.  Both that Chicago’s didn’t score and that it suffocated scoring with the exception of Arian Foster and Brandon Marshall who both hit the century mark.  From an NFL matchup perspective, this was the game of the week.  From a fantasy perspective, it was almost entirely irrelevant.  The Bears lost Jay Cutler before halftime to a concussion and Jason Campbell will have to lead the Bears in week 11 vs San Francisco.  A tough loss for the Niners both in week 10 and week 11.

Steelers 16, Chiefs 13
Perhaps, the biggest fantasy story in week 10 was all the injuries with the Steelers potentially losing Big Ben Roethlisberger for the season as possibly the biggest one.  The Steelers continue to mess with fantasy ballers heads by playing musical carries.  Is it Rashard Mendenhall?  Is it Jonathan Dwyer?  Is it Isaac Redman?  Week 10 predictors say Dwyer, but with Mendenhall coming back the picture remains muddled.

Time for Week 11!!!

 

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.

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: RB Chris Wells is listed as a game-time decision for the game Sunday with a hamstring injury. Backup LaRod Stephens-Howling is also dealing with an injury (hand) which means Chester Taylor could be in line for a bigger role than expected Sunday versus Seattle…..QB Kevin Kolb and WR Larry Fitzgerald continue to develop the chemistry team officials were hoping for when they made the trade with Philadelphia in the off-season.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Roddy White has a thigh injury but is listed as probable and will be good to go for the game versus the Bucs Sunday. But keep in mind that in past meetings with CB Aqib Talib, White hasn’t had the best of games…..The NFL keeps saying they will suspend flagrant violators of the hit to the head rule, but instead chose to fine CB Dunta Robinson $40,000 for his hit on Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin last week. Reasoning being that Maclin had a second to protect himself and Robinson didn’t launch himself. You have to wonder if they would’ve felt differently had Maclin been injured.

Baltimore Ravens: I wouldn’t want to be the Rams this week. One must have to think Baltimore comes out with an angry attitude after laying an egg last week…..WR Lee Evans, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, won’t play Sunday. A bigger problem is that WR Torrey Smith has had a terrible case of the drops in practice and may not have the trust of QB Joe Flacco…..Ravens are also having problems at CB as Jimmy Smith isn’t expected to play until Week 6 and Domonique Foxworth, who is dealing with a surgically repaired knee, may need to be rested for the near future.

Buffalo Bills: If the Bills can truly “circle the wagons” and defeat the Patriots, than it may be time to take them for real. With that being said, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is tied for the NFL lead with seven touchdown passes, RB Fred Jackson leads the NFL in rushing, and WR Steve Johnson is showing no problems with tighter coverage since the departure of Lee Evans…..RB C.J. Spiller is one Bill who hasn’t found his niche yet, but with the injury to Roscoe Parrish, may start to see an increased role on the offense. He will also take over the punt return role.

Carolina Panthers: To all those who thought QB Cam Newton was going to need a season or two to get acclimated to the NFL: think again!  You bet WR Steve Smith is a happy guy…..One player who hasn’t performed up to expectations so far this season is RB DeAngelo Williams. Matter of fact, his partner Jonathan Stewart has looked better than Williams so far, but the Panthers didn’t give Williams that fat contract in the off-season not to use him.

Chicago Bears: RB Marion Barber is set to make his season debut Sunday. I doubt that is going to help the protection problem the Bears are having. Once again, OC Mike Martz has forgotten that he has a good RB in Matt Forte and is throwing the ball every chance he gets. Problem is the Bears don’t have the receivers to truly take advantage of that pass/run ratio, and QB Jay Cutler is getting crushed. Martz was on his way to the same kind of ratio last season before he changed philosophies in the early going. He needs to do the same again this season.

Cincinnati Bengals: What a week for the Bengals.  First, WR Jerome Simpson was detained by authorities after a significant amount of marijuana was delivered to his home. Then, RB Cedric Benson was suspended three games for violating the leagues’ code of conduct. Simpson is questionable at best to play Sunday as they are still trying to figure out his legal situation, while Benson will play as he appeals his suspension. You shouldn’t wonder why we call them the Bungles.

Cleveland Browns: RB Peyton Hillis had to leave practice Friday with an illness and is now questionable to play Sunday. Seems unlikely that he would miss the game though unless this is one serious illness…..QB Colt McCoy could be a sneaky play in some fantasy leagues this year as the Dolphins will be without CB Vontae Davis, and possibly CB Will Allen. It’s not like the Dolphins were all that successful stopping the pass even with them in the lineup.

Dallas Cowboys: What a difference a week can make.  One week after wearing the goat horns for his fumble and late interception versus the Jets, QB Tony Romo became a hero for playing with a punctured lung and fractured rib while leading the Boys to victory. Although the lung is healed, the rib has not and Tony may have to play in some pain for a little bit…..The Cowboys are a walking MASH unit right now. RB Felix Jones has a separated shoulder but should play this week–not that he has been doing much anyway. WR Miles Austin injured his hamstring on an ill-conceived reverse last week and will most likely not be back until after the Cowboys Week 5 bye. The good news is that CB Terrance Newman will play Monday, and WR Dez Bryant also may be able to go.

Denver Broncos: RB Knowshon Moreno is dealing with a hamstring issue. Doesn’t it always seem like Moreno is dealing with one injury or another. It will be a game-time decision this week to see if he plays or not…..DE Elvis Dumervil is still dealing with a shoulder injury and will miss another week…..WR Brandon Lloyd’s groin seems to be feeling much better this week and is likely to play Sunday…..Speaking of groin injuries, WR Eddie Royal is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with one.

Detroit Lions: DT Nick Fairley is getting closer to his first game as he was able to participate in individual drills this week. He won’t play Sunday, but could return in Week 4 or 5…..Guess who holds the NFL record for most games played for one team with 297 games–that would be K Jason Hanson…..Since we’re playing guessing games, guess which team has yet to give up a sack this season–that would be Detroit. It would certainly keep QB Matthew Stafford healthier much easier if he never gets sacked.

Green Bay Packers: Tough loss for the Packers as S Nick Collins is lost for the season with a neck injury. This happens to a defense that has been shredded through the air in the first two weeks…..It’s starting to look like WR Jordy Nelson is the number two behind Greg Jennings….Big game this week between Chicago and Green Bay. Chicago wants revenge for last season’s playoff loss, but they are unlikely to get it here.

Houston Texans: This hamstring injury for RB Arian Foster is turning out to be a major problem for fantasy owners as he is once again a game-time decision. Even if he does play, Ben Tate could get a majority of the carries. Not to mention this injury could linger for weeks…..DC Wade Phillip’s new defense is certain to get tested this week against QB Drew Brees and the Saints, especially in New Orleans.

Indianapolis Colts: TE Dallas Clark has a foot injury and is now questionable to play Sunday against Pittsburgh. Just what the Colts need in a primetime game that is certain to be a blowout…..QB Peyton Manning stated that he is feeling better after having yet another neck surgery, but there is still no timetable for his return…..Receivers like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie are being dropped like flies in fantasy league. No one has much faith in QB Kerry Collins.

Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s good to see the Luke McCown era lasted all of a game and change. Either they never really had all that much faith in him or David Garrard was indeed released because of the $8 million he was due to make this season…..QB Blaine Gabbert will start this week. Don’t expect him to put up the same kind of gaudy numbers Cam Newton is for Carolina…..Anyone else think that RB Maurice Jones-Drew is going to be pretty busy, or at least busier than normal this week.

Kansas City Chiefs: Losing RB Jamaal Charles for the season with a torn ACL is a devastating blow for a team that was barely alive anyway. In the short term, Thomas Jones will handle the load, but Dexter McCluster will also see a bigger role. Not the same role that Charles had, he’s just not built that way…..Losing Charles could have a ripple effect as the focus of the defenses attention will now fall on WR Dwayne Bowe. Only bright point may be that they will be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

Miami Dolphins: With 107 yards on 18 carries last week, RB Daniel Thomas has taken over the starting role from Reggie Bush. It is not that big a shock as Bush wouldn’t last half the season if he touched the ball 20+ times a game. Thomas did put the ball on the ground once. He can’t make a habit of that…..The Dolphins have already had a tough time stopping the pass this season and will be without CB Vontae Davis and possibly Will Allen this week. Good thing they play the Browns, good for the Browns that is.

Minnesota Vikings: DT Kevin Williams returned to practice this week after serving his two game suspension, but is now dealing with plantar fasciitis and still may not be at full strength for Sunday’s game versus Detroit–good news for Javhid Best…..WR Percy Harvin has only been on the field for approximately half of the offensive snaps. This is the Vikings answer to trying to keep him healthy? Unfortunately, they don’t have much of a threat in their passing game besides Harvin.

New England Patriots: TE Aaron Hernandez is out for at least a week and probably two with a knee injury. Hernandez is listed as a TE but is basically a receiver in the Pats offense. Perhaps this could be the opening that WR Chad Ochocinco needs to get his act in gear…..S Patrick Chung is out for Sunday which certainly won’t help the Pats defense as they try and stop the suddenly high flying Bills.

New Orleans Saints: WR Robert Meacham was expected to take on a bigger role with the loss of Marques Colston, but that also means defenses will play closer attention to him. That seemed to happen last week as Meacham only caught one pass, granted though it was a touchdown…..LB Jonathan Vilma will not play this week as he is dealing with a knee issue. Not good news when the Saints are dealing with a team that has been extremely successful running the ball the first two games.

New York Giants: Giants players have been running their mouths this week about how much they want to beat the Eagles with QB Michael Vick. In other words, at full strength. G-Men be careful what you wish for though, you just may get it…..Look for the Giants to run the ball as much as possible for two reasons: one–to keep the Eagles offense off the field, and two–outside of WR Hakeem Nicks, the Giants don’t have anyone to throw to at the moment.

New York Jets: The Jets are 2-0 and averaging close to 30 points a game, yet WRs Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason aren’t happy about not seeing the ball enough. You just have to love receivers…..Speaking of WRs, one who is not complaining about receptions, but is dealing with a quad injury is Santonio Holmes. He has been limited at practice, but should play versus the Raiders on Sunday…..One who will miss the game is C Nick Mangold, and possibly a couple of other games as he recovers from an ankle injury.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders receiving corps is getting a little bit healthier this week as Darrius Heyward-Bey and TE Kevin Boss are expected to return from injury this week. Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy however will not…..The Raiders have been using the Jets’ Mark Sanchez eating a hot dog on the sideline of a lopsided win over the silver and black as motivation for this game. Guess you have to use whatever you believe will work. Truth is–I just don’t see the big deal, not like he ordered a pizza.

Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick will play this week after missing part of the second half last Sunday with a concussion. Somehow I don’t think this is the last time we will be talking about Vick missing game action…..The Eagles better tighten up their run defense as that will be the preferred method of attacking their defense, especially when it looks as bad as it does. You know the Giants are going to target that weakness this week…..WR Jason Avant has been pretty busy in the early going this season. If he wants to keep the slot job, he’ll have to
continue to keep busy as Steve Smith is getting healthier each week.

Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Ben Roethlisberger missed a couple of plays last week with a knee injury but did return to the game and has practiced all week. But this could just be the beginning of his injury worries as that offensive line would have trouble protecting a cheeseburger from the Hamburglar…..With that line, I’m worried about running room for Rashard Mendenhall as well.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates had zero receptions for the Chargers last week. Now I know the Pats bracketed him, but one has to wonder if that foot injury is starting to rear its ugly head again…..WR Malcolm Floyd is listed as doubtful for this week with a groin injury. It should be noted that in the past four seasons no player listed as doubtful has played that week for the Chargers. It also should be noted that the Chargers may be in no rush to push him since they’re playing the Chiefs this week.

San Francisco 49ers: TE Vernon Davis was virtually invisible last week as the 49ers kept him in to help block. With injuries to both WRs Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards, the 49ers are going to need Davis to run pass patterns and catch passes no matter how bad their offensive line is…..The line is also the probable culprit for Frank Gore’s lackluster start to the season…..Crabtree is likely to play this week while Edwards is out for a couple of weeks after having his knee scoped.

Seattle Seahawks: Which is worse, that the Seahawks didn’t trade for QB Kevin Kolb, or that they didn’t resign QB Matt Hasselback? Looks like they are going to regret both decisions…..Good news though, WR Sidney Rice is expected to make his season debut Sunday…..Bad news, OG Robert Gallery will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a groin injury. Seems to be a lot of that going around…..TE Zach Miller is another player who is being dropped en masse in fantasy leagues. Perhaps, the addition of Rice to the passing game will open things up for Miller.

St. Louis Rams: This week RB Steven Jackson is a game-time decision with a quad injury, and backup Cadillac Williams is questionable with a hamstring injury. Of course the Rams are going up against what is sure to be an angry defense in Baltimore. Not a bad week to take off…..WR Danny Amendola is unlikely to play as he still recovers from his elbow injury…..The Rams did complain to the league about the Giants faking injuries Monday night. Look, we all know they did it, but unless someone admits it, it can’t be proven.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Fantasy owners are worried about WR Mike Williams thanks to his miserable stat line last week of one catch for -4 yards. Relax! It was just a bad game, a game in which the Vikings decided to take him out and force someone else to beat them. It happens, time to move on, and Williams did have a TD catch called back…..TE Kellen Winslow practiced Friday but is dealing with a knee injury and may not be at full strength for Sunday.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans are playing pretty well offensively, and RB Chris Johnson hasn’t even gotten started yet…..LB Mason Foster, who many thought could be a replacement for Barrett Rudd, will finally get that chance as he will be a three down player starting Sunday…..Is it me or does QB Josh Freeman seem to play better when he is behind?

Washington Redskins: QB Rex Grossman predicted that the Redskins would win the NFC East during camp. We laughed at the time, but with all the injuries suffered by the Cowboys and Giants, it’s not so funny anymore. Even the Eagles are a bit banged up…..RB Tim Hightower may be listed as the starter, but one can just feel that Roy Helu is gaining on him. Not that Hightower has done anything wrong, but Helu just has that extra burst that could bring a big play at any moment.

 

All Out Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Out Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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