December 18, 2017

Different Week, Same Result

The tenth game of the year for the Oakland Raiders was a trip down south to San Diego to take on the Chargers.  The Raiders were coming off a horrid 41-17 loss to the Denver Broncos and the Chargers were coming off their bye week.  The Raiders got the ball first and started at their own 22.  They wouldn’t have the ball very long because quarterback Derek Carr and center Stefen Wisniewski weren’t on the same page.  The ball came loose on the first snap of the game and was recovered by linebacker Donald Butler at the 22.  Two plays later, quarterback Philip Rivers found wide receiver Malcolm Floyd in the end zone for a touchdown.  Kicker Nick Novak made the point after and the Chargers led 7-0 with 14:07 to go in the first quarter.

After each team punted on their next possession, the Raiders took over at their 30-yard line.  The drive started out like it always does.  Running back Darren McFadden ran up the middle for two yards.  On third and eight, Carr completed a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Andre Holmes for a first down at the 41.  That was followed by a nice catch and run by tight end Mychal Rivera for a gain of 33 yards and a first down at the San Diego 26.  See what happens when you stretch the field?  You actually gain some yardage and get in position to score.  You might even score a touchdown!  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?  Well, that didn’t happen.  The next three plays consisted of a short completion to Rivera, a run up the middle by fullback Marcel Reece for no gain and a shovel pass to McFadden.  The shovel pass play was set up nicely with lots of blockers in front of McFadden.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t paying attention and he dropped the ball.  Kicker Sebastian Janikowski came into the game and his 42-yard field goal attempt was good.  The Chargers led 7-3 with 7:27 to go in the first quarter.

Then the punting began.  Punters Marquette King and Mike Scifres both had good workouts in this game.  Each of them punted nine times for a grand total of 826 yards.  That’s pretty impressive, but if you like a game with a lot of offense, this one wasn’t for you.  At the 9:39 mark of the second quarter, the Chargers took over at their 43-yard line.  On second and nine from the 44, Rivers found tight end Antonio Gates for a gain of 12 and a first down at the Oakland 44.  That was followed by a 13-yard completion to wide receiver Eddie Royal and three straight carries by running back Ryan Mathews moved the Chargers into the red zone.  But the drive was halted at the five and Novak was brought into the game for a 23-yard attempt.  The kick was good and the Chargers led 10-3 with 4:12 to go in the first half.

On their next possession, the Raiders moved from their 20 to their 44.  That’s where they had a fourth and one situation.  They had a third and one situation on the play before and naturally offensive coordinator Greg Olson called for McFadden to run up the middle.  He was stuffed for no gain and that’s what caused the Raiders to be in this predicament.  What could they do?  Run McFadden up the middle again?  Maybe catch the aggressive Charger defense off guard and go deep?  While the debate was going on, I’m sitting in my living room yelling “Go for it!  You’re 0 and nine!  You have nothing to lose!”  Of course they didn’t listen to me and they punted again.  The Chargers took over at their 30 with 1:48 to go in the half and completions to Floyd, Gates and wide receiver Keenan Allen moved them down to the Oakland 30-yard line.  With two seconds on the clock, Novak was brought in for a 48-yard attempt.  It was long enough, but sailed wide left.  At halftime, the score remained 10-3.

After another punt by King, the Chargers got the ball back at their 33.  A five-yard carry by Mathews was followed by a neutral zone infraction on the Raiders.  That’s a five-yard penalty and it gave the Chargers a first down.  From the 43, Mathews ran up the right side for 20 yards and was finally dragged down at the Oakland 37.  They didn’t get much further after that and the Raiders dodged a bullet when a holding penalty brought back a deep completion to Floyd.  Novak came on for another field goal attempt and his 52-yard kick was good.  That put the Chargers up 13-3 with 7:19 to go in the third quarter.  For most teams, that wouldn’t be a big deal.  But when your offense is as bad as the Raiders, a ten-point lead is insurmountable.

Then the punt-fest began.  Neither offense could get going and after many close calls throughout the year, Raider rookie linebacker Khalil Mack finally got his first sack.  Hopefully there are many more to come.  Then, a very strange thing happened with around three minutes to go in the third quarter.  There was a loud popping sound coming from the Raider’s sideline.  I couldn’t figure out what it was at first, but then I realized it was the offensive coaches pulling their heads out of their asses.  They finally put running back Latavius Murray in the game!  Murray responded with two carries off left tackle.  His first carry was good for 14 yards and the next one was for 23 yards.  He almost got loose for a long touchdown on the second one, but was dragged down at the San Diego 49-yard line.  Then they took him out of the game and put McFadden in.  Why?  Because idiocy knows no boundaries.  The next three plays gained five yards and they punted yet again.  The ball was downed at the one-yard line.

More punting followed until the 6:15 mark of the fourth quarter.  The Raiders took over at their 45 and went to the no huddle offense.  Completions to Rivera and wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins quickly moved them down to the San Diego 15-yard line.  From the 15, Carr completed a seven-yard pass to Murray.  That was followed by a short carry by Murray.  On third down, Carr looked for wide receiver James Jones in the end zone.  The pass was poorly thrown and fell incomplete.  Janikowksi came in and his 25-yard field goal attempt was good.  With four minutes to go in the game, the Chargers led 13-6.

Basically, all the Chargers had to do was get a couple of first downs and the game would be over.  They started at their 20 and Rivers competed a 13-yard pass to Allen.  That was followed by an eight-yard run by Mathews.  On second and two, Mathews was stopped for a loss of one yard.  That made it third and three from the 40.  The Raiders brought some good pressure, but Rivers was able to get off a pass intended for Gates.  Safety Charles Woodson was in perfect position to pick off the ball and it was tipped in the air.  Somehow, Gates came up with the ball and it was good for a gain of 15 yards.  That was the dagger for the Raiders.  They did manage to get the ball back with 1:05 to go in the game and on fourth and nine from the 13, Carr connected with Jones for a gain of 28 and a first down at the 41.  Then, Carr spiked the ball to stop the clock with 11 seconds to go.  From the 41, Carr went deep up the right side and the pass fell incomplete.  It looked like there was still two seconds on the clock when the ball hit the ground.  But the zebras said the game was over and that’s how it ended.  Final score:  Chargers 13 Raiders 6.  The loss dropped the Raiders to 0-10 and the Chargers improved to 6-4.

For the Raiders, Derek Carr completed 16 of 34 for 172 yards.  As the game progressed, he started getting the “deer in headlights” look in his eyes.  He was rushing his throws and didn’t look comfortable.   Mychal Rivera led the team in receptions with three and Kenbrell Thompkins had the most receiving yards with 47.  Latavius Murray gave the running game a spark and he led the team in rushing with 43 yards on four carries.  As a team, the Raiders rushed for 71 yards on 19 carries.  Defensively, safety Charles Woodson led the team in solo tackles with 11.  Overall, the defense played very well.  Although they only had two sacks, they did a good job of pressuring Rivers.  The longest play the Chargers had was 22 yards.  That was the touchdown pass on the third play of the game.

For the Chargers, Philip Rivers completed 22 of 34 for 193 and one touchdown.  Keenan Allen led the team in receptions with eight and receiving yards with 63.  On the ground, Ryan Mathews led the way with 70 yards on 16 carries.  As a team, the Chargers rushed for 120 yards on 32 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Kavell Conner led the team in solo tackles with six and a sack.

Up next for the Raiders is a Thursday night game in Oakland against the Kansas City Chiefs.  The Chiefs are looking pretty solid this year and are coming off a big 24-20 win over the Seattle Seahawks.  What I hope to see from the Raiders is a lot more of  Murray and a lot less of McFadden and Jones-Drew.  The Chiefs are very good against the pass, but they are ranked 25th against the run.  I’d love to see Murray get a minimum of 20 carries.  But I doubt that will happen.  Know why?  Because it would make sense.  And when it comes to installing offensive game plans, the Raiders make no sense.  Only six games to go.  Take it easy.

The Delusional Raider Guy

 

Broncos 24, Chargers 17

The final game on the schedule was a battle between AFC West rivals as the San Diego Chargers headed to Denver to take on the Broncos.  The Chargers were coming off a 27-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals and the Broncos were coming off a bye week.  Denver kicker Matt Prater sent the opening kickoff through the end zone and the Chargers started at their 20.  Running back Ryan Mathews got things off to a decent start with a five-yard carry.  Short passes from quarterback Philip Rivers to running back Ronnie Brown and tight end Ladarius Green got the Chargers a first down at the 33.  After a short run by Mathews, Rivers was sacked for a loss of nine on the next play.  On third and 17, running back Danny Woodhead ran up the middle for eight yards.  But they got a break as the Broncos were flagged for a facemask penalty.  The drive stalled at the 43 and punter Matt Scifres got off a 51-yard punt that was fielded at the Denver six by return man/wide receiver Eric Decker.  Decker returned the punt six yards and the Broncos went to work from their 14-yard line.

The Broncos brought out the no huddle offense and passes to tight end Julius Thomas, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and Decker already had the Chargers looking baffled.  Another completion to wide receiver Andre Caldwell set up a first down at the San Diego 29.  On third and one from the 21, running back Montee Ball ran off right tackle for a gain of five yards.  A seven-yard pass to D. Thomas and a four-yard run by Ball made it first and goal from the three.  Two plays later, Manning looked to his left and hooked up with D. Thomas for a touchdown.  Prater made the point after and the Broncos led 7-0 with 2:25 to go in the first quarter.

The Chargers ended up getting a grand total of minus two yards on their next possession.  Scifres punted again and the Broncos took over at their 42.  On third and two from the 50, Manning completed a short pass to J. Thomas who fumbled at the 45.  The ball was recovered at the 43 by cornerback Richard Marshall.  That was a good break for the Chargers and on the strength of some good running by Mathews and Woodhead, they moved down to the Denver 30.  On third down, Rivers was sacked for a loss of five by defensive end Malik Jackson.  That brought kicker Nick Novak into the game for a 53-yard field goal attempt.  On the attempt, his plant foot slipped and the kick sailed wide left.

The Broncos had dodged a bullet and started with good field position from their 43.  A holding call moved them back ten yards, but they got 12 of it back as Manning hit running back Knowshon Moreno out of the backfield.  This is when the offside penalties started occurring.  As usual, Manning would do his usual long counts and yell “Omaha” over and over again.  On second and eight from the 45, the Chargers jumped offside and that gave the Broncos five free yards.  On second and three, Moreno burst up the middle for a gain of 11 and a first down at the San Diego 39.  Two more carries by Ball got them another first down at the 22.  From the 22, Ball got the call again and gained four yards.  From the 18, the Chargers fell for the Omaha call again and jumped offside.  From the 13, Moreno ran up the middle for five more yards and a first and goal from the eight.  Moreno got yet another carry and gained five more yards.  Two plays later, Manning fired a pass to wide receiver Wes Welker on the left side and he took it in for the score.  Prater made the point after and the Broncos led 14-0 with six minutes to go in the first half.

The Chargers gained 14 yards on their next “drive” and Scifres punted again.  Decker fielded the punt at the Denver 23 and returned it straight up the middle for a gain of 47 yards.  If he hadn’t tripped over his own feet at the 30, he would have scored.  On first down, Manning hooked up with D. Thomas for nine yards.  On second and one, Moreno was stuffed for no gain.  The Broncos really needed to keep this drive going.  A 21-0 lead just might be insurmountable for the hapless Charger offense.  That’s when Manning used the magic word.  He screamed “Omaha!” again and sure enough, the Chargers jumped offside.  That made it first down at the 16.  Moreno got the call two more times and gained 12 yards for a first and goal at the four.  Moreno was stopped for no gain on first down and a pass to Decker fell incomplete.  On third down, Manning looked for Decker again, but the pass was intercepted by linebacker Donald Butler in the end zone.  The Chargers took a knee and the first half ended with the Broncos leading 14-0.

A decent kickoff return by return man Trindon Holliday gave the Broncos the ball at their 36.  A nine-yard pass to D. Thomas, two carries by Moreno and yet another nine-yard pass to D. Thomas netted a first down at the San Diego 41.  From the 41, Manning fired a strike to J. Thomas for eight yards.  On third and one from the 32, Manning found Welker at the 26 for another first down.  After that, they went nowhere and Prater came on for a 45-yard field goal attempt.  It was good and the Broncos were now up 17-0 with 9:35 to go in the third quarter.

With Mathews out with an injured ankle, Woodhead and Brown would get the carries for the rest of the game.  Of course, if you’re down by 17 midway through the third quarter, the running game probably won’t be of much value.  On third and three from the 27, we finally had a Keenan Allen sighting.  The rookie wide receiver hauled in a pass from Rivers for a gain of 19 and a first down at the 46.  Denver cornerback Chris Harris was injured on this play and would not return.  He was later diagnosed with a torn ACL.  But they wouldn’t get much farther and they were forced to punt again.  Scifres had the heavy wind at his back and he hit a 62-yard punt through the end zone.

From the 20, Manning found Decker on the right side for a gain of 19.  He used that magic word again and the Chargers jumped offside.  That moved the ball to the 44.  Ball ran up the middle for eight and Manning completed an eight-yard pass to Welker.  Ball carried again up the middle for four more yards and a first down at the 36.  Then the Chargers jumped offside again.  This is a recording.  Despite the lack of discipline, the Chargers tightened up and the drive stalled at the 29.  The normally automatic Prater had some trouble with the windy conditions and his kick sailed wide left.  With one minute to go in the third quarter, the Chargers got the ball back at their 37.

On second and ten, Rivers “scrambled” for six yards.  That’s something you don’t see every day.   That set up a third and four from the 43.  Rivers had time and found wide receiver Eddie Royal across the middle for a gain of 30 yards.  With Harris out, he was replaced by former Charger Quentin Jammer.  On the pass to Royal, Jammer looked totally lost.  An illegal use of hands penalty on Denver moved the Chargers five yards closer to the goal line.  Woodhead ran up the middle for six yards, but a completion to Woodhead was quickly snuffed out by the Denver defense.  On third and four from the 16, Rivers floated one up the right side and Allen came down with it in the end zone for a touchdown.  Novak made the point after and the Broncos led 17-7 with 13 minutes to go in the game.

Holliday had another good kick return, but it was brought back to the 19 because of an illegal block in the back penalty.  On third and seven, Manning went deep down the middle for Welker and the pass was incomplete.  But the Chargers were flagged for pass interference.  That gave the Broncos a first down at their 45.  From the San Diego 47 on third and two, Manning completed a 17-yard pass to J. Thomas.  This was a recurring theme in the game.  Whenever third down came up, Manning always seemed to look for J. Thomas.  The Chargers were unable to address that problem.  Manning found Welker again for six yards and Moreno ran up the left side and was pushed out of bounds at the ten.  Two plays later, Moreno took it up the middle for a score.  Prater made the point after and the Broncos led 24-7 with 8:12 remaining in the game.

The Chargers started out at their 20 and three plays gained five yards.  On fourth down, they had no choice but to go for it.  Rivers took the snap and fired a pass to Allen that was good for a gain of 49 yards.  On first down from the Denver 26, Rivers ran for a gain of five yards.  A short pass to Brown got them another first down at the 16.  From the 16, Rivers hooked up with Allen again and this time it was good for another touchdown.  Novak made the point after and we had the makings of a close game.  With 5:43 to go, the Broncos led 24-14.

The Chargers tried an onside kick and Marshall came up with the ball.  Rivers and the offense went to work from their 40-yard line.  On second and 14 from the 36, Rivers tossed a 17-yard completion to Allen for a first down at the Denver 47.  Allen wasn’t done and on second and five, he caught another pass for 25 yards and a first down at the 17.  The drive stalled at the 12 and Novak was brought into the game for a 30-yard field goal attempt.  He split the uprights and that made the score 24-17 with just under four minutes remaining in the game.

There would be no onside kick this time as Novak kicked the ball deep in hopes that the defense could stop the Broncos.  From the 27, things didn’t get off to a good start for the Broncos as they were flagged for a false start.  Then Moreno was thrown for a loss of two yards.  On second and 17, Manning looked for D. Thomas and the pass fell incomplete.  That brought up third down.  Who do you think Manning will look for?  Welker?  Decker?  Moreno?  Shannon Sharpe?  None of those choices are correct.  The answer is Julius Thomas.  Out of the shotgun, Manning threw a deep ball to the right and sure enough Thomas grabbed it for a gain on 21 and a first down at the 41.  That was a damaging blow to the hopes of Charger fans.  Moreno ran up the middle for a short gain and the Chargers called their second timeout.  Moreno got the call on second down and was held to a minimal gain.  The Chargers called their final timeout.  Uh-oh.  It’s third down again.  You don’t think that evil #80 is going to get the ball again do you?  It was third and six and Manning knew a first down would get them a win and a ticket to the AFC championship game.  He calmly took the snap out of the shotgun and completed a nine-yard pass to J. Thomas yet again.  That did it.  The Chargers couldn’t stop the clock and a couple more runs by Moreno and a kneel down by Manning ended the game.  Final score: Broncos 24 Chargers 17.

For the Chargers, Philip Rivers completed 18 of 27 for 217 yards and two touchdowns.  Keenan Allen led all receivers in receptions with six and receiving yards with 142 and two touchdowns.  As a team, the Chargers rushed for just 65 yards on 18 carries.  Danny Woodhead was the leading rusher with 29 yards on nine carries.  Their longest gain on the ground was a 16-yard carry by Ryan Mathews.  Defensively, cornerback Marcus Gilchrist led the team in solo tackles with seven.

For the Broncos, Peyton Manning completed 25 of 36 for 230 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.  Demaryius Thomas had the most receptions with eight and Julius Thomas had the most receiving yards with 76.  The Broncos had a good day on the ground as they totaled 133 yards on 34 carries.  Knowshon Moreno was the leading rusher with 82 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown.  Defensively, cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey tied for the lead in solo tackles with four apiece.  The Broncos sacked Rivers four times and defensive end Shaun Phillips led the team with two.

Well, the road to the Super Bowl goes through Denver.  Tom Brady and the Patriots will be in Denver on Sunday and I look forward to what should be a high scoring game.

 

All Out Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raiders 24, Chargers 17

Thursday night football has begun and the first game of the year featured the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers.  The Raiders were coming off a demoralizing 38-24 loss to the Denver Broncos and the Chargers lost their third game in a row as they fell 45-38 to the Green Bay Packers.

The Raiders got the ball first and on the very first play of the game, quarterback Carson Palmer threw a pass to the left side intended for fullback Marcel Reece.  Safety Paul Oliver broke up the play and if he would have held on to the ball, he would have had an easy touchdown.  A short run by running back Michael Bush and an incomplete pass intended for wide receiver Denarius Moore forced a three and out.  Punter Shane Lechler booted the ball 60 yards to the Charger 20.  The punt was fielded by wide receiver/return man Patrick Crayton.  As he started to run, he threw the ball across the field to cornerback Marcus Gilchrist.  From there, Gilchrist had nothing but daylight in front of him and he was pushed out of bounds at the Raider 40 by Lechler.

Quarterback Philip Rivers took to the air on first down and found rookie wide receiver Vincent Brown for a gain of 13 down to the Raider 27.  From the 27, running back Ryan Mathews ran up the left side for 16 more to give the Chargers a first down at the Raider 11.  An illegal formation penalty moved the ball back five yards and on first and 15, Mathews was stopped for a loss of five by defensive end Desmond Bryant.  On second and 20, Rivers found Mathews on a screen pass for a gain of 19 and that set up a third and one from the two.  On the next play, Rivers went looking for tight end Kory Sperry, but the pass fell incomplete.  Kicker Nick Novak came on and nailed a 20-yard field goal.  With 10:40 left in the first quarter, the Chargers led 3-0.

The Raiders got the ball back at their own 13 due to a horrific kick return by wide receiver/return man Jacoby Ford.  On first down, Bush ran up the left side for a gain of 44 to the Charger 43.  Bush got the call again and got five more yards up the middle.  After two more attempts by Bush, the Raiders decided to punt from the Charger 34.  With kicker Sebastian Janikowski nursing a sore hamstring, they decided not to try a 51-yard field goal.  But, a little trickery was involved on this play as Lechler faked the punt and heaved a pass up the right sideline intended for Jacoby Ford.  Charger cornerback Quentin Jammer was all over Ford and it looked like obvious pass interference.  However, we were informed by referee Ed Hochuli that since the Raiders were in punt information, there was no foul for pass interference.  We’ll be hearing more from Mr. Hochuli again later in this article.  The Chargers took over at their own 34 and lost four yards in three plays.  They also lost their starting left tackle, Marcus McNeil as he was carted off the field.  Punter Matt Scifres punted the ball to the Raider 14.

With seven minutes to go in the first quarter, Bush carried the ball three times and got the Raiders a first down at the 24.  On second and eight from the 26, Palmer put one up to Ford and it was caught for a gain of 41 yards to the Charger 33.  Ford was injured on the play and did not return.  After a completion of seven yards to TJ Houshmandzadeh, four more runs by Bush and an illegal use of the hands penalty on the Chargers, the Raiders found themselves with a first and goal at the five.  Fullback Marcel Reece ran up the middle for three on first down and Bush finished the drive as he dove across the goal line for a two-yard touchdown.  Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 7-3 with 41 seconds to go in the first quarter.

The Chargers started at their own 28 and had a quick three and out after defensive end/linebacker Kamerion Wimbley sacked Rivers for a loss of five on third down.  Scifres punted the ball away and the Raiders took over at their own 25.  Rookie Taiwan Jones made an appearance and quickly got 16 yards on two carries.  On first down from the 41, Palmer launched a bomb that was caught by Moore for a gain of 46 down to the Charger 13.  A short run by Bush and a short completion to tight end Brandon Myers set up a third and two from the five.  Bush got the call again and was stopped for no gain.  Janikowski made a 23-yard field goal and the Raiders led 10-3 with 11 minutes to go in the second quarter.

Another three and out by the Chargers gave the Raiders the ball at their own 20.  The Raiders didn’t do much better on this possession and Lechler punted the ball away again.  Something got into Kamerion Wimbley in this game.  He looked like a man possessed and on third and six from the Charger 26, Wimbley and defensive end Lamarr Houston sacked Rivers again.  Scifres punted the ball to the Raider 23 and Moore returned it 21 yards to the 44.  On first down, Palmer hit Bush on a screen and Bush took it 33 yards down to the Charger 33.  On the next play, Palmer took the snap, moved to his left, stepped up in the pocket and fired a perfect strike to Moore for a 33-yard touchdown.  Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders were now up 17-3 with just under two minutes to go in the first half.  The Chargers got the ball at their own 28 and an eight-yard pass to tight end Antonio Gates and a short run by running back Mike Tolbert got them a first down at the 41.  But, Wimbley wasn’t done yet.  He sacked Rivers for a loss of ten and after that, the Chargers went no further.  Another punt led to a kneel down by Palmer to end the half with the Raiders leading 17-3.

The Chargers came out firing in the second half.  Rivers found Crayton for gains of and 14 and 11 and Gates for 22 more.  On first down at the 30, Rivers put one up for Vincent Brown in the end zone.  Both cornerback Stanford Routt and safety Matt Giordano were in position to make a play on the ball, but Brown came down with it for the score.  Novak made the point after and just like that, the score was now 17-10.  Memories of the Raider defense collapsing last week quickly popped into my mind.

The Raiders got the ball at their own 15 to start their next drive.  An illegal formation penalty gave them a third and nine at the 16.  On third down, Palmer hit Bush on a screen and he had a convoy of blockers lead him for a gain of 55 down to the Charger 29.  A short run by Jones gave the Raiders a second and seven at the 26.  From there, Moore got behind Jammer and Palmer connected with him for a 26-yard touchdown.  Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 24-10 with nine minutes to go in the third quarter.

Rivers came out throwing again as the Chargers took over at their own 30.  Completions to Brown and Tolbert put the ball at the Raider 31.  But the Chargers would only get as far as the 28 as the Raider defense tightened up.  Novak was brought on to try a 46-yard field goal and he missed it wide right.  The Raiders got the ball back at the 36 and a six-yard completion to Myers on third and five gave them a first down.  However, on second and five, Palmer ran to his right and while looking for a receiver, was hit by linebacker Antwan Barnes and fumbled.  The ball was recovered by rookie defensive end Corey Liuget at the Charger 49.  Raider head coach Hue Jackson foolishly challenged the play even though it was clearly a fumble.  The call stood and the Chargers got the ball back.

A five-yard reception and a 13 yard run by Mathews moved the ball to the Raider 33.  On second and ten, Rivers went looking for Brown again and found him in the left side of the end zone being blanketed by newly acquired cornerback Lito Sheppard.  Brown came down with the ball for an apparent touchdown.  However, new rules this year have every touchdown reviewed by the replay official.  The play was nullified because it was ruled that Sheppard had possession of the ball while he was out of bounds.  That made it a dead ball and an incomplete pass.  You don’t see that happen very often.  Although the Raiders dodged a bullet with that call, Rivers wasn’t done yet.  On third and ten from the 33, he found Crayton for a gain of nine.  They decided to go for it on fourth and one and Rivers found Tolbert for a gain of seven.  On first and goal from the seven, Rivers found fullback Jacob Hester wide open for a touchdown.  Novak made the point after to close the lead to 24-17 with one quarter to go.

Another kickoff through the end zone by Novak gave the Raiders the ball at the 20.  With an entire quarter to go and a seven point lead, it was time for the Raiders to take some time off the clock.  An 11-yard completion to Moore and four runs by Bush moved the ball to the Raider 44.  A completion to tight end Kevin Boss moved the ball into Charger territory.  On second and eight from the Charger 48, Bush got the call once again and rumbled 30 yards down to the 18.  On first down, Palmer had wide receiver Louis Murphy in his sights, but he was hit as he threw the ball by linebacker Travis LaBoy.  The ball lost velocity as he threw it and it was picked off by safety Paul Oliver at the 18.

A penalty on the Chargers after the interception moved the ball back to the six.  An offside penalty and a short completion to Tolbert moved the ball to the 17.  Another penalty was called on the Raiders on the very next play.  This time it was on Routt for defensive holding.  But, three more passes from Rivers all fell incomplete and the Chargers punted the ball away.  Or did they?  There was a holding call on Raider safety Jerome Boyd before the ball was punted and referee Ed Hochuli explained that was a five-yard penalty on the Raiders and it gave the Chargers an automatic first down.  But, no damage was done by the call as the Chargers went three and out from there.

The Raiders started out at their own 31 with eight minutes to go in the game after the punt.  They had the ball for exactly one minute and 24 seconds and punted it right back to the Chargers.  With just under seven minutes to go, the Chargers went to work from their own 11.  Wide receiver Vincent Jackson had been very quiet in this game until now.  Rivers found Jackson for a gain of 22 on second and ten to move the ball to the 33.  A completion to Gates and a run by Tolbert moved the ball to the Raider 37.  On first down, Desmond Bryant got to Rivers and sacked him for a loss of five.  On the next play, Rivers went hunting again for Vincent Jackson and this time, he was picked off by Matt Giordano.  The ball was returned to the Raider 26 and the Raiders took over with 3:26 to go in the game.

All the Raiders needed was a couple of first downs and they would get the win.  On first down, Bush ran up the middle for no gain.  The Chargers quickly called a timeout.  On second and 11, a pass intended for Moore fell incomplete.  On third and 11 from the 25, Palmer found Kevin Boss across the middle for a gain of 24 and a first down.  After that play, the Chargers used their last timeout.  Two more runs by Bush went for minus two yards and set up a third and 12 at the Raider 47.  Bush ran up the left side on third down and was tripped one yard short of the first down.  After an intentional delay of game penalty, Lechler punted and the ball went out of bounds at the Charger 11.

With 89 yards and just over a minute to go in the game, Rivers hit Brown for a gain of 23.  Brown tried to get out of bounds, but Sheppard managed to tackle him in bounds and that kept the clock running.  From the 23, Gates caught one for five yards and quickly made it out of bounds.  On third and 5 from the 28 and time ticking away, Rivers found Brown again for a gain of 22 to the 50.  Rivers spiked the ball with 14 seconds to go.  On second and ten from the 50, Wimbley got to Rivers again for his fourth sack.  The Chargers quickly got set and Rivers took the snap with one second to go.  He was promptly pounced on by defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and fumbled.  Lamarr Houston fell on the ball and the Raiders came away with a huge 24-17 win.  The win gave the Raiders a five and four record and put them in first place in the AFC West.  The loss was the fourth straight for the Chargers and they dropped to four and five.

I honestly can’t figure the Raiders out.  They lose two home games to the Chiefs and Broncos and looked very bad in both games.  Then, on a Thursday night, they go on the road to San Diego and get a huge win.  To quote Yogi Berra, “Whoulda thunk it?” As a team, they had six sacks and Kamerion Wimbley had four of them.  They pressured Rivers all night long and held the Chargers to 75 yards rushing.  THAT is how you win games.  THAT is how they need to keep playing if they want to get to the playoffs.  There were some breakdowns in coverage, but with a beat up secondary, they did an admirable job.  Big time props go out to Lito Sheppard, Michael Mitchell and Matt Giordano for playing a solid game on a short week.  Another big accomplishment for the defense was no stupid personal fouls.  None!  Altogether, the Raiders were flagged seven times for 45 yards.  After what I’ve seen in previous weeks, that’s not bad.

Carson Palmer completed 14 of 20 for 299 yards passing, two touchdowns, one interception and a fumble.  That’s a little over 20 yards per completion.  Denarius Moore led all receivers with five catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns.  Palmer spread the ball around to seven different receivers, but once again, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey didn’t have a catch.  He was in the game more than last week, but Palmer never looked his way.  My only guess is that they aren’t on the same page yet.  Hopefully they can get it together soon with Ford being injured.

Another unit that did very well was the offensive line.  They opened up holes for Bush and Jones all night and did a great job protecting Palmer.  They allowed only one sack and played a solid game without starting center Samson Satele.  With Satele out, rookie Stefen Wisniewski was moved from left guard to center and Stephon Heyer started at left guard.

Michael Bush is my pick for MVP of this game.  He carried the load with 30 carries for 157 yards and a touchdown.  He also caught three passes for 85 yards.  Total that up and you get 242 total yards from scrimmage.  He has done a fantastic job filling in for Darren McFadden.  Bush is in the final year of his contract and I think he has proven his value.  McFadden can’t seem to stay healthy and the Raiders need to reward Bush with a new contract.  I’m just afraid that he’d rather go somewhere else and be a starter.  I hope that doesn’t happen, but I wouldn’t blame him if he went to another team.

The Raiders have three of their next four games on the road and four of the remaining seven opponents are from the NFC North.  Up next is a trip to Minnesota to take on the Vikings on November 20.  They have plenty of time to rest up and get healthy for this game.  The defense will have their hands full with running back Adrian Peterson and hopefully Jacoby Ford and Darren McFadden will be ready to go.  Until then, take it easy.

The Raider Guy

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: I would not want to be the Cardinals offense this week and have to play against the Ravens defense, they are surely going to be an angry bunch after an embarrassing loss to the Jaguars last Monday, it may not have been the defense’s fault that they lost, but they are going to take it out on the Cards offense none the less, an offense that may be without RB Beanie Wells who is dealing with a knee problem and is questionable.

Atlanta Falcons: The bye week comes at a good time for the Falcons as they can use the extra week to get WR Julio Jones back on the field, and even though QB Matt Ryan only missed a couple of plays after injuring his ankle/knee during the victory over Detroit, he could also use the time off to get back to 100%…..Some thought Harry Douglas might have a big game with Jones out with injury, but it really didn’t materialize, he did have 62 yards receiving, but 49 of it came on one play.

Baltimore Ravens: QB Joe Flacco’s performance Monday night versus Jacksonville was abysmal, he was constantly overthrowing his targets, especially WR Anquan Boldin, Boldin couldn’t catch those passes if he was 10 feet tall, this is Flacco’s 2nd bad performance in his last three starts as he was terrible versus the Jets also, that start was sort of excused as the Jets have a good defense, umm, the Jags, not so much…..Coach Harbaugh also has some explaining to do, why didn’t RB Ray Rice get more touches, sure he put the ball on the ground once or twice, but he doesn’t have a history of butter fingers, and it didn’t take a genius to see that Flacco couldn’t get it done, Harbaugh also elected to try an onside kick with 2:02 remaining when he had two timeouts and the two minute warning, seems letting K Billy Cundiff kick the ball out of the end zone and having Jacksonville start from their 20 was the higher percentage play.

Buffalo Bills: LB Shawn Merriman was placed on IR and out for the season due to an Achilles injury, what a shame that a once promising career fizzled out so quickly…..NT Kyle Williams could be done for the season with his foot injury, this would be a considerable blow to the Bills run defense…..The Bills will be catching the Skins at the right time this week as Washington has lost five starters the past
two weeks.

Carolina Panthers: I’d like to see a show of hands for anyone who would’ve thought QB Cam Newton would look this good this fast even with the running game being virtually non-existent, DeAngelo Williams only has 337 yards rushing, Jonathan Stewart 278, no way anyone saw this coming, are teams loading up at the line of scrimmage to force Newton to beat them, possibly, and if that’s the case it may be time to try another strategy as Newton is doing just that.

Chicago Bears: RB Matt Forte’s price just keeps getting higher and higher with every game he plays, the Bears made a big mistake not re-signing him before the season began…..We’re hearing a lot of talk now that Devin Hester should be considered for the Hall of Fame for his kick/punt return abilities, as good as he is at that, I’m just not seeing HOF in his future…..SS Chris Harris was waived by the Bears on Thursday, seems they didn’t think the former starter would react well to a bench role.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are 4-2, a solid start, but I can’t help but think that this is a mirage, they still have to play the Steelers and Ravens twice each, we’ll find out if they are for real after those games, but they do get another gimme this week in Seattle…..RB Cedric Benson will finally serve his suspension this week, Bernard Scott figures to get the bulk of the carries in his absence, but don’t forget about Brian Leonard who could also see a handful of carries.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns-Seahawks game last week may have set the NFL back 50 years, what a terrible game…..RB Peyton Hillis is expected to sit this week, Montario Hardesty would get the bulk of the carries in that case, but remember, they are playing the 49ers, a team that doesn’t give up much on the ground and it’s not like there is much of a passing attack to force the 49ers off the line of scrimmage.

Dallas Cowboys: With a win Sunday night versus the Eagles, Dallas could put the final nail in the Eagles coffin, problem is Eagles coach Andy Reid has won 12 straight games after the bye…..RB DeMarco Murray announced his presence in a big way for the Cowboys with 253 yards rushing against the Rams last week, he wasn’t even the
starter, the Eagles also have a poor run defense so Murray could be in line for a solid day once again, but things will get more interesting in Week 9 once Felix Jones is expected back.

Denver Broncos: QB Tim Tebow validated everyone’s perception of him last week, he was terrible the first 55 minutes of the game missing receivers who were open by 10 yards, but during the last five minutes he looked like Joe Montana and showed why some believe he will make it in the NFL, he wins football games…..RB Willis Magahee is out for at least two weeks with a broken hand meaning Knowshon Moreno gets another chance to carry the rock.

Detroit Lions: QB Matthew Stafford is dealing with an ankle injury and is limited in practice, but it still looks like he will start Sunday versus Denver, Stafford would like to shake the label as a fragile QB and this could be one way to go about that, the Lions could elect to play it safe if they have any doubts about Stafford’s
ability to protect himself as they do have a bye in Week 9…..One player who definitely won’t make the trip to Denver is RB Javhid Best who is still dealing with post-concussion symptoms.

Green Bay Packers: Can the Packers go undefeated? Week 9 they are at SD, the Chargers have not been playing all that well and GB will be coming off their bye, Iike their chances, Week 10 against Minnesota should be a problem, if the Vikings can’t beat them in Minnesota, they aren’t going to beat them in GB, Week 11 is a battle of the bays, could be an interesting game if Bucs QB Josh Freeman is not throwing the ball to the wrong team, then comes Thanksgiving at Detroit, finally a good game to watch on turkey day, this could be the one chance for a loss, the Giants, Oakland, KC, Chicago, and Detroit close out the schedule, the Packers are better than all of them, but it’s not an easy slate, one off day will put a crooked number up in the loss column.

Houston Texans: WR Andre Johnson could return this week to help out the Texans aerial attack, he has practiced on a limited basis this week and will be a game-time decision Sunday…..S Daniel Manning is out at least a month after undergoing surgery on his fibula this week, could Chris Harris be an option here…..The win by Houston over Tennessee last week puts them in the driver’s seat in the AFC
South.

Indianapolis Colts: Could Peyton Manning have played his last game with Indianapolis?, there are those who believe Manning would ask for a trade or his release if the Colts draft Andrew Luck, it wouldn’t be because Manning is upset and would view the drafting of Luck as a slap in the face, but he feels that any QB drafted 1st overall should play right away, this could be very interesting if the Colts win the suck for Luck sweepstakes, you think the Bengals received a bounty for
Carson Palmer, what could the Colts get for Manning?

Jacksonville Jaguars: All I can say about the Jaguars win over the Ravens on Monday night is that an ugly win is better than a pretty loss…..WR Mike Sims-Walker saw more snaps than Mike Thomas versus Baltimore, a little strange seeing as though Sims-Walker just signed with the team last week…..K Josh Scobee hit three 50+ yard FGs Monday night, clutch performance…..RB Maurice Jones-Drew worked OT
against the Ravens, 30 carries for 105 yards, but he also put the ball on the ground three times, luckily he only lost one.

Kansas City Chiefs: We all laughed at the Chiefs earlier this season when they had their doors blown off the first two weeks of the season, but if they beat the Chargers this week, they will be tied for 1st, pretty good turnaround especially when you lost your best offensive player (RB Jamaal Charles) and best defensive player (S Eric Berry) for the season during those first two games.

Miami Dolphins: Have to believe if the Colts don’t win the suck for Luck, than the Dolphins will, this is a team without direction right now, owner Stephen Ross made a huge mistake last season when he sent GM Jeff Ireland to interview Jim Harbaugh for the head coaching position while still employing Tony Sparano, whatever authority Sparano had with his players is gone, and they know it, the team has
never been able to figure out what to do with RB Reggie Bush, and now Bush may have divided the locker room when he stated this week that  “we stink”, while that may be the truth, you may not want to say that to the media.

Minnesota Vikings: QB Christian Ponder may not have won his first NFL start and did throw a couple of picks, but he kept the Vikings in the game versus the Packers and showed the fans and the organization why most believe he has a bright future in the NFL…..The Vikings cut WR Bernard Berrian this week for both a lack of production, and disciplinary reasons, Berrian may have a tough time hooking up with another team.

New England Patriots: RB Kevin Faulk practiced this week but has yet to be taken off the PUP list…..DT Albert Haynesworth has recorded exactly one tackle since Week 1, talk about a player that signed his big contract and then shut it down…..The Patriots have owned the Steelers of late, but this still figures to be a high scoring affair.

New Orleans Saints: RB Mark Ingram will probably miss this week’s
game with a heel injury and that will be quite a shame for fantasy owners as they had to be licking their chops at playing the Rams defense, a defense that gave up almost 300 yards rushing to the Cowboys last week, now Pierre Thomas is a must play, Chris Ivory doesn’t seem to be in football shape as of yet…..TE Jimmy Graham who is dealing with an ankle injury was able to practice in full
Thursday, he has quickly become a major threat in the Saints offense and defenses are starting to take notice, especially in the red zone.

New York Giants: The Giants were a beat up team in August, but are getting healthy including all four of their pass rushers, Giants may be the team to beat in the NFC East…..RB Brandon Jacobs is making noise again about how he is not used properly in the Giant’s offense and doesn’t believe he will be with the team next season, at this point with all of his bellyaching and constant injuries, the Giants may want to part ways as well.

New York Jets: No one should go crazy over WR Plaxico Burress’s three TD catches last week, he only had one other reception, all for a total of 25 yards, he is certainly a red zone threat but not much other than that…..RB Shonne Green had his best game of the year last week, perhaps this getting back to the ground game for Jets will work for them.

Oakland Raiders: QB Carson Palmer came out today and stated that he was told he wouldn’t play last week and was caught totally off guard when he was inserted into the game in the second half, good to see this marriage is getting off to a fantastic start, hopefully the bye week will give Palmer enough time to learn the entire playbook and not just the 15 plays he had memorized last week.

Philadelphia Eagles: For the Eagles sake, hopefully they solved their problems during the bye week, but even if they did, CB Asante Samuel dropped another bomb this week when he stated how unhappy he is that he is still a part of the Eagles team, it never gets easy…..Offensively it should be interesting to see if the Eagles stick with having QB Michael Vick take three step drops in order to avoid taking those hits, it’s not exactly what the Eagles like to do, but it could keep Vick healthy over the long haul.

Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Hines Ward is dealing with an ankle injury and is no safe bet to play this week in the big game versus New England, ironic thing is this may not be a bad thing as Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders need to be on the field as much as possible, they are the future along with Mike Wallace, Ward is the past…..LB
James Harrison is still not ready to return from his fractured orbital bone.

San Diego Chargers: There is rampant speculation going around that QB Philip Rivers is dealing with some kind of injury, his accuracy and velocity is way off, for his part Rivers stated that he is as healthy as he has been all season, well you can read between the lines there, and that could easily mean that Rivers suffered an injury during training camp that isn’t getting any worse, but isn’t getting any better either.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers may get a boost to their receiving corps this week as Braylon Edwards could return from knee surgery, it’s not written in stone however…..I’m not saying the 49ers aren’t a decent team, but I’ve seen some pundits have them as the 2nd best team in the NFC after Green Bay, are you kidding me, I’d take Detroit, New Orleans, Atlanta, Giants, Dallas, and Philadelphia before I even thought of San Francisco, this is the NFC West we are talking about.

Seattle Seahawks: Who will start at QB for the Hawks Sunday, Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst, and does it matter…..Jackson is certainly not fully recovered from his chest injury but Whitehurst doesn’t look like an NFL backup more or less starting material, best guess is Jackson plays…..RB Marshawn Lynch is also a game-time
decision after suffering from back spasms during pre-game warm-ups last week.

St. Louis Rams: How bad is the Rams run defense to let up a couple of football fields worth of yardage to the Cowboys last week, a team that was having all sorts of problems running the ball before last week…..QB Sam Bradford missed the game last week due to his foot injury, and won’t play this week as well, so it’s the AJ Feeley show once again, how many points will the Saints score this week?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Josh Freeman has certainly regressed this season as he is throwing way to many interceptions, it doesn’t help any that he and WR Mike Williams just haven’t been on the same page so far this season…..RB LeGarrette Blount should be healthy enough to return after the bye, and they now need him more than ever with his backup Earnest Graham done for the season with an Achilles injury.

Tennessee Titans: What is wrong with RB Chris Johnson? He has been nothing short of terrible so far this season, if he can’t do anything against the Colts on Sunday, it may be time for fantasy owners to give up on him for this season, the Titans are still resisting the urge to insert Javon Ringer as the starter over Johnson, but that
may change if he can’t get the job done this week.

Washington Redskins: Talk about a rough week, the Skins lost their starting RB Tim Hightower to an ACL tear, their starting WR Santana Moss to a broken hand, and their starting TE Chris Cooley to IR with multiple injuries, not to mention they benched their starting QB Rex Grossman, this is starting to look like a long last 10 games for Washington.