September 24, 2017

All Out Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: 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.

 

Grisly

New Orleans is known for its elaborate jazz funerals in which mourners proceed on a long march in step with sorrowful dirges as they say goodbye to their beloved deceased.  But then, it changes.  Once the final ceremony has ended, the music becomes upbeat and raucous as the volume goes to 11.  Family and friends dance and march, no longer in lament for the life lost but in celebration of the life lived.

Jay Cutler has been to his own funeral.  It was Sunday in the Superdome and while it was mostly a somber affair, it actually ended with jubilation, even for the Bears, because they can celebrate that Cutler is actually, miraculously, still alive.

The Chicago Bears, one week after a promising start with a plucking of the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field, lost all religion in week two, suffering a 30-13 desecration at the hands of the New Orleans Saints–a collection of misanthropic misnomers who apparently think the Sabbath Day is actually an opportunity to practice the dark arts rather than a day of rest and love.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was the primary recipient of all the voodoo that the Saints do so well, getting sacked six times, kicked in the throat and permitted only a plastic spoon for his postgame gumbo.  Cutler is tough and anyone (including Maurice Jones-Drew) who thinks differently is either a fool or a faux football fan.  But while toughness is a prerequisite for football success, so are intelligence, adaptability and eyes that both open and function. Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz was lacking in all such areas on Sunday.  The Bears attempted 52 times to throw the ball while running only 12.  I know this isn’t 1961 and I’m not suggesting the pass/run ratio should be reversed but this also isn’t a slaughterhouse, or at least it’s not supposed to be.  Cutler had no chance, Chicago’s offensive line had no chance and so the Bears had no chance.  The result was Cutler looking like a man carrying the last bit of tofu in a jungle of starving, angry vegans.

It didn’t have to be this way.  We in Chicago recall, fondly, Matt Forte’s second carry of the game going for 42 yards.  And yes, we know that Mr. Forte’s next carry, on the very next play, went for negative four yards…but don’t you think he was a little tired?  Whatever the reason, the Bears all but abandoned the run for the rest of the game, choosing instead to constantly drop Cutler back to pass behind a line that couldn’t protect him as he tried to throw to receivers who couldn’t get open.  Bad combo there.

Let’s be fair.  The Bears were without starting receiver Roy Williams and backup running back Marion Barber, lost starting right tackle Gabe Carimi to injury in the second quarter and also played the game without starting right guard Lance Louis. So they couldn’t have been expected to have a stellar day offensively.  But, doesn’t Martz have full access to all these tidbits?  This is the NFL and this is 2011 so you have to throw the ball but with a depleted and, let’s face it, inadequate receiving corps, a suddenly patchwork offensive line and playing in the cacophonous Superdome…(hey, just thought of something, wouldn’t Cacophonous Superdome be a great name for a bad guy in a movie?) wouldn’t the wise, prudent and Cutler-preserving thing to do have been to run the ball more?

Yes, you’re more or less forced to throw the ball when you fall far behind, but the Bears only trailed 16-10 at halftime and held the Saints to a three-and-out to open the second half. Then on Chicago’s first possession, they did nothing but pass the ball.  And actually, it worked, as the Bears marched down and got a field goal, something which seemed to embolden Martz as he stuck with the pass while Cutler counted his teeth.

But let’s be fair, part two.  Cutler was sacked six times in the game but that first sack didn’t happen until the third quarter.  And the other five all came in the fourth when, as previously mentioned, the Bears were trailing big and had to throw.  So was it really Martz’s fault?  Jay Cutler, like any quarterback on Earth, always thinks he can pull out a victory and it’s not insane to adopt the analysis that since the Bears were only down 23-13 to start the fourth that a comeback victory for Chicago was still very much in play.  The problem is, when the fourth quarter started the Saints were amid an eight-minute drive that began in the third, and so by the time the Bears even got the ball in the final quarter it was 30-13. So we revert, once again, to our earlier statement that the Bears at that point, still trying to win the game, had to pass and the Saints had their ears pinned back, guns loaded and brought hell down on Mr. Cutler’s person all quarter long.  The result was those five more sacks and thousands of Bears fans buying Cutler life insurance policies.

There are those who say (probably into their pillow as they’re falling asleep and trying not to wake the wife) that in football the amount of yards you gain by running the ball is of secondary importance to how many times you run it.  In other words: keep running even if you’re going nowhere.  It keeps the defense on its toes, keeps your offensive linemen interested, eats up the clock and keeps your quarterback alive.  The top ten rushing teams in the NFL after two weeks, in terms of number of times they ran the ball, are Houston, Jacksonville, Oakland, Detroit, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland, Minnesota and the New York Giants.  Four of those teams – Houston, Detroit, Buffalo and Washington – are 2-0.  (Seriously!) Jacksonville, Oakland, Philadelphia, Cleveland and the Giants are 1-1.  Only the Minnesota Vikings are 0-2.  The ten teams that have run the ball the least amount of times are Tampa Bay (1-1), Seattle (0-2), our beloved Bears (1-1), Arizona (1-1), Tennessee (1-1), Indianapolis (0-2), Atlanta (1-1), St. Louis (0-2), Kansas City (0-2) and…da-da!  – the New England Patriots, who are 2-0.  Memo to all the world’s football beings: You are not the New England Patriots.

The Chiefs and Seahawks have gotten absolutely slob-knockered in their first two outings so they have to throw when they’re behind. Two weeks into a season might not exactly be demonstrative and there are a million things to consider but, especially because I spent so much precious time compiling these statistics, let’s at least be open to the notion that unless you have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick on your side, it might be wise to approach each game with the mindset that you will run the ball at least 35% of the time…or at least throw very effective screens and quick slants.

And I know, it’s all easy to see, and say, from here.

Enough of this offensive analysis.  The Bears defenders, while not the primary culprits, are not blameless, either.  Chicago’s defense is geared to bend, not break, and create turnovers. The Bears didn’t force any turnovers until late in the fourth when, as pointed out by Troy Aikman and Joe Buck on Fox, it actually did more harm than good because it only meant that Cutler was given one more opportunity to be victimized with extreme prejudice.  And while the play that likely determined the game’s outcome more than any other was Cutler’s sack and fumble in the third that led to a Saints score and a 23-13 advantage, the Bears defense has no one but themselves to blame for the 79-yard bomb that Drew Brees connected on with Devery Henderson for the Saints’ first TD in the second quarter.  There was no way the Bears were going to keep the Saints out of the endzone for 60 minutes but giving a potent offense a quick score is bad clams, brothers.  Interesting thing on that play, though.  Usually when a player has the ball tucked away and is sprinting toward the goal line, the pursuing defenders will keep running for several yards and then dive for his ankles, often unsuccessfully.  But on that play, Bears safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte both dove at Henderson almost immediately.  Was this because they both know Henderson is faster than them and figured, quite quickly, that their best chance of nabbing him was right after he caught it?  Or was it just bad tackling?

The Bears now head home for a grudge match with the Green Bay Packers, a team that beat the Bears in the NFC title game last year and then won the Super Bowl, all of this after finishing behind the Bears in the NFC Central.  If the Bears don’t have Carimi, Williams or Barber and don’t adhere to a more balanced offense, the Packers will be picking little pieces of Cutler out of their teeth and cleats and the Bears will be 1-2 and asking to join the Big East.

But let us Chicagoans express optimism, if not meliorism.  Last year the Bears were in a tailspin when Martz agreed to put down the joystick and run the ball more.  The result was that the Bears played their best football of the year.  But even with a balanced, life-affirming offensive game plan, it won’t be easy to beat the 2-0 Packers, a team that still seems to have that Super Bowl mojo workin’ while also having a healthier roster.

The Bears and Packers will be playing for the 183rd time and in a rivalry as storied and testy as this, it’s often said that the records don’t matter.  Maybe not.  But the score does.  The Bears can win but they must stare deep and long into their pigskin souls and realize that first, they must change.

 

All Out Blitz

After finishing my column last week I started to worry about what I would write about in this column. The NFL was still in a lockout, and a news and notes column was getting more and more difficult to fill out. Well as we have all seen this week, the NFL players, general managers, and owners are trying to cram 136 days of non-action into a single week. It’s been a smorgasbord of roster moves and transactions. I mean wow, it’s been a wild week. Let’s get started.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cards got their man when they acquired QB Kevin Kolb from the Eagles for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick in next year’s draft. This instantly puts them back in contention in the NFC West and makes WR Larry Fitzgerald the happiest man in the state. Some might argue that this was too steep a price to pay, but the Cards did draft CB Patrick Peterson this past April in the 1st round, and without a franchise QB, you’re just not going to get very far in this league.

Atlanta Falcons: Earlier this week, the Falcons stated they would not be able to sign DE Ray Edwards. Now they have reversed course and stated they would be able to sign him, but at their price…..The Falcons have signed all of their drafted rookies including WR Julio Jones. It should be just a matter of time before Jones makes his presence felt in the NFL.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens released WR Derrick Mason earlier this week, but would like him back at a reduced rate. The problem is Mason’s former team, Tennessee, is also interested in his services…..If the Ravens don’t sign a WR, 2nd round pick Torry Smith could end up starting from the get go opposite Anquan Boldin…..Like Mason, the Ravens decided to cut TE Todd Heap, but would like him back if they can agree on a smaller contract.

Buffalo Bills: Although he signed a three-year contract and has played for head coach Chan Gailey in the past, Tyler Thigpen should not be a threat to start over Ryan Fitzpatrick, unless Fitzpatrick falls on his face…..Although RB CJ Spiller is expected to touch the ball more, Fred Jackson is still expected to be the lead back for the Bills.

Carolina Panthers: I understand DeAngelo Williams is a great RB and the Panthers had plenty of money under the salary cap, but with Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson also on the roster, couldn’t that money be spent elsewhere…..I do love the move of adding TE Greg Olsen. They have a rookie QB in Cam Newton, and rookie QBs need a good TE as a safety blanket…..The player to be named later in the Olsen trade is not WR Steve Smith who stated on Thursday that he wants to finish his career in a Panther uniform.

Chicago Bears: You had to know the Bears would eventually trade TE Greg Olsen. In a Mike Martz offense, there just isn’t much use for a TE…..The Bears are said to be very close to signing WR Roy Williams. They want a tall receiver to make those catches over the middle, and Williams has played for Martz before…..Rumors are going around that RB Matt Forte could hold out for a better contract. He is only scheduled to make about $550,000 this season.

Cincinnati Bengals: I understand about standing on your principles but it seems kind of stubborn to not trade QB Carson Palmer and get a draft pick or two rather than just force him into retirement…..The Bengals are still expected to sign RB Cedric Benson as teams may be shying away from him due to yet another arrest this off-season…..The Bengals made yet another error when they let CB Jonathan Joseph sign with Houston. They have the money, but just don’t spend it wisely…..The trade of Chad Ochocinco to New England opens up a starting job for Jerome Simpson.

Cleveland Browns: Browns have a ton of money they could spend under the cap, but so far have not been able to sign anyone…..The Cowboys are interested in S Abram Elam. The Boys might be interested in quite a few of the Browns defensive players that played under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan while he was in Cleveland.

Dallas Cowboys: Dallas has solidified their offensive line with the signings of Doug Free and Kyle Kosier, but have lost defensive lineman Stephen Bowen to Washington…..The Cowboys are said to be in negotiations to bring in DT Cullen Jenkins. This would be an interesting signing as Jay Ratliff would normally play that position. Would Ratliff move to DE if the boys sign Jenkins? If the Cowboys can’t sign Jenkins and start to worry about their defensive line, one has to wonder if they will make a push to sign CB Nnamdi Asomugha. If you can’t get to the QB, better make sure you can cover those wideouts for as long as possible.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos and Dolphins are playing a game of chicken when it comes to QB Kyle Orton. The Broncos want to trade. The Dolphins want him to be their starting QB. However, Denver wants at least a 3rd round pick, and Miami doesn’t want to give up more than a 4th.  The Broncos are currently around $8 million over the cap; they must be under the cap by Aug. 4. Orton makes almost $9 million. So by the 4th, they must trade or release Orton. Miami knows this and right now there are no other suitors for his services. Miami might just wait Denver out unless someone else decides to step in with a better offer.

Detroit Lions: The Lions have a terrific defensive line. Unless they find a CB or two, it might not much matter…..Things aren’t any better on the linebacker front, as the Lions seemed to have dropped out of the running for Stephen Tulloch…..LT Jeff Backus has a shoulder injury that will force him to miss at least a couple of weeks of action. This is certainly not good news for QB Matthew Stafford, who needs his offensive line to be at full strength to protect him.

Green Bay Packers: Although the Packers want to retain WR James Jones, it looks like he will sign with Minnesota today…..The Pack picked up the bonus in Ryan Grant’s contract, assuring that he should once again be the starting RB for that high scoring offense…..LB Nick Barnett was a cap casualty but kicker Mason Crosby received a five-year deal.

Houston Texans: The Texans were said to be hot after CB Nnamdi Asomugha but seemed to be pretty happy with their signing of Jonathan Joseph on Wednesday. There biggest need was a CB and, although they may not have signed the number one guy on the board, they still got a very good player…..The signing of SS Danieal Manning and Joseph makes a weakness, now a strength. Could this finally be the year Houston makes the playoffs?

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are another team that has been quiet this week, and now we’re hearing rumblings they may not sign RB Joseph Addai…..They did sign one of their own, S Melvin Bullitt…..We should find out the severity of QB Peyton Manning’s neck surgery by how much money the Colts guarantee him in his new contract.

Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Marcedes Lewis is expected to get a new contract shortly, as the Jags don’t want to lose his services…..The Jags did sign Clint Session, an unspectacular, yet solid LB who should help the Jags in the middle.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Steve Breaston signed with the Chiefs, reuniting with head coach Todd Haley. This gives the Chiefs a legitimate threat opposite Dwayne Bowe and gives rookie WR Jonathan Baldwin time to grow into the job…..I’m getting a bigger and bigger feeling each day that RB Jamaal Charles is going to have a huge season, providing he can stay healthy.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins signed the scatback they were looking for Thursday in Reggie Bush. Some might think this is bad for Daniel Thomas, but the Dolphins were always planning on signing a back to share the load. Bush will get his 12-15 touches a game, but Thomas will still be the main ball carrier, including when the Dolphins are in scoring position.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings upgraded their QB situation with the addition of Donovan McNabb, but lost their best WR in Sidney Rice. Good thing they have RB Adrian Peterson…..One WR the Vikings did sign was former Bear Devin Aromashodu. Aromashodu has talent, but just never fit in Mike Martz’s offense.

New England Patriots: You have to hand it to coach Bill Belichick. He has no problem taking on other teams problem children. First he makes a trade with Washington to take DT Albert Haynesworth off their hands, and then makes another trade for WR Chad Ochocino. Good luck to you Mr. Belichick…..One might think the Haynesworth deal has no chance of working, as the Patriots also play the 3-4 defense that he hates, but what Haynesworth really hated was lining up over the center. In New England, he will play one of the end positions, as Vince Wilfork will do that bit of dirty work.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints wasted no time in replacing RB Reggie Bush by agreeing to a contract with Darren Sproles on Thursday…..New Orleans seems to be in a battle with Denver and Dallas for the services of DT Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins isn’t really needed in New Orleans so one might think they wouldn’t be the favorite to land him.

New York Giants: The G-men received good news this week when the Dolphins dropped out of bidding for RB Ahmad Bradshaw; would almost seem a lock that he returns to them…..Things could get very ugly with DE Osi Umenyiora. Osi believes he was promised a new contract and may hold out until he gets it…..Could the Giants really be interested in re-signing WR Plaxico Burress? Seems if coach Tom Coughlin believes that he and Burress can get along; a second go around could be possible.

New York Jets: The Jets signed their number one priority this off-season in WR Santonio Holmes, but his $50 million contract will probably cost them any chance at signing fellow wideout Braylon Edwards…..The Jets are also trying to lock up CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Can you imagine trying to pass against that secondary?…..The Jets fallback option if they are unable to sign Asomugha is expected to be Antonio Cromartie, not a bad second choice.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders are said to still be in the market for a QB to challenge Jason Campbell for the starting job. It seems unlikely they would go after Kyle Orton however, as those two franchises don’t like each other.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles found their backup to QB Michael Vick with Vince Young all but signed and delivered. You can certainly question Young’s maturity, but he would seem to be a good fit for the Eagles offense as he is sort of a Vick clone…..The addition of CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gives the Eagles a really strong twosome with Asante Samuel, good thing too because their competition in the NFC East is strong at receiver. Dallas has Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, while the Giants boast Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.

Pittsburgh Steelers: If the Giants don’t sign WR Plaxico Burress than the Steelers might. It seems only his former teams are interested in him at this time…..The Steelers number one off-season priority was retaining CB Ike Taylor; mission accomplished with a four-year deal…..The Steelers are doing their best to sweep LB Jerome Harrison’s comments under the rug, but you still have to wonder if the team is getting tired of his act.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates is likely to begin camp on the PUP list, but that’s not anything to worry about as he should be ready to join the rest of the team in no time. One still has to wonder if Gates will be suffering from plantar fasciitis all season again…..It seems to be just a matter of time until WR Malcolm Floyd signs with another team.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers seem to be out of the running for CB Nnamdi Asomugha…..For the third straight season, WR Michael Crabtree will miss most if not all of training camp, and you wonder why he hasn’t taken that next step to stardom. This time it’s a foot injury that will keep him out…..The 49ers did upgrade their kicking situation with the addition of David Akers…..RB Frank Gore looks like he is going to be a holdout.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks decided to sign former Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson to compete with Charlie Whitehurst for the starting job. Whichever one wins the job will have Sidney Rice to throw to as he also went from Minnesota to Seattle…..I’m not sure the Seahawks QB situation got any better with Jackson, and have no doubt it would be much better with Matt Hasselbeck.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams have yet to sign that big time WR to help QB Sam Bradford make the jump to the next level…..The Rams are in the market for a solid RB to backup Steven Jackson. They realize Jackson has plenty of mileage on those tires and is unlikely to be able to play all 16 games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are yet another team that has backed out of the Asomugha sweepstakes. Kind of surprising since they have a need, and have the money…..They have also let LB Barrett Rudd know that they will no longer require his services. He was a tackle machine, but to many of those tackles were 2-3 yard up field.

Tennessee Titans: The good news for the Titans is that the signing of QB Matt Hasselbeck gives the team a solid QB. The bad news is that he has about as much a chance of starting all 16 games behind center as I do…..More bad news is that RB Chris Johnson is a holdout waiting to happen…..The NFLPA will indeed fight the commissioner’s right to discipline players who got in trouble during the lockout. This could be good news for WR Kenny Britt who is a lock to be suspended if Roger Goodell is allowed to suspend players for sullying the NFL shield.

Washington Redskins: The Redskins have made a slew of moves; signing DE Stephen Bowen, WRs Dante Stallworth and Jabbar Gaffney, and CB Josh Wilson. It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if they don’t have a QB, and they don’t have one…..The trade of DT Albert Haynesworth was addition by subtraction…..The re-signing of WR Santana Moss is nice, but he’s still not a real number one wideout. Skins seem to be pretty far behind the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles in the NFC East.