September 19, 2017

The Nightmare Continues…

The Oakland Raiders headed east again to take on the Green Bay Packers.  The Raiders were coming off a 34-14 blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins and the Packers were coming off a 38-35 win over the New York Giants.

Going into this game, I thought maybe there was a chance for the Raiders to get an upset.  The Packers tend to give up lots of yards and their defense had a hard time against the Giants.  But, any chance of that happening was diffused almost immediately as the Raiders looked out of sync and undisciplined for the second straight week.  Dropped balls, false starts, offside penalties and turnovers put the Raiders in a hole that they would never climb out of.

But, like I said last week, I’m back to do my usual play-by-play format.  This could be painful.  The Raiders won the toss and elected to receive.  Quarterback Carson Palmer guided the Raiders into Packer territory, but on second and six from the Packer 43, he was flushed out of the pocket and put up a duck that was intercepted by linebacker D.J. Smith.  He returned it to the Packer 48.  After an offside penalty on defensive end Lamarr Houston, running back Ryan Grant took the hand-off and ran up the left side for a 47-yard touchdown.  Kicker Mason Crosby made the point after and it was 7-0 with 12 minutes to go in the first quarter.

The Raiders got as far as the Packer 48 on their next drive when left tackle Jared Veldheer was called for holding.  A false start penalty, a short run and an incomplete pass to Michael Bush set up a third and 25 at the Raider 37.  On third down, Palmer went looking for wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and hit him right in the hands at the 50.  Heyward-Bey dropped the ball and the Raiders were forced to punt again.

The Packers started at their own 20 and got some more help from the Raiders as defensive tackle Tommy Kelly promptly jumped offside on second and ten at the 20.  From the 25, Rodgers spread the ball around to four different receivers and moved the ball to the Raider four-yard line.  On first and goal from the four, Rodgers found tight end Ryan Taylor standing all by his lonesome in the end zone.  Crosby made the point after and it was now 14-0 with four minutes to go in the first quarter.

After another Raider punt, the Packers took over at their own 26.  Rodgers continued to spread the ball around to wide receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb.  A seven-yard run by running back Brandon Saine and a 12-yard run by Grant put the ball at the Raider 10.  But a clipping penalty moved the ball back ten yards.  Two seven-yard completions to Saine set up a third and six, but they couldn’t make the third down conversion and settled for a 34-yard field goal to make it 17-0 with 13 minutes to go in the second quarter.

Another obligatory three and out by the Raiders gave the Packers the ball at their own 16.  It was from here that a few more weapons in the Packer arsenal were introduced.  Enter wide receivers Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson.  Rodgers hit Nelson for a gain of 13 on first down and also found Driver for gains of six and 22 yards.  A six-yard run by Grant moved the ball to the Raider 37.  On first down from the 37, Rodgers put up a bomb for Nelson and the baffled Raider secondary allowed him to catch it for another Packer touchdown.  That made it 24-0 with nine minutes to go in the second quarter.

The Packers weren’t done yet as Carson Palmer was picked off by cornerback Charles Woodson at the Raider 22 to give the Packers excellent field position.  A sack by Tommy Kelly moved the Packers back six yards and Grant was stopped for no gain on second down.  But, on third and 16, safety Michael Mitchell was flagged for pass interference and that gave the Packers a first and goal at the six.  Grant took the ball straight up the middle for another Packer touchdown.  Crosby made the point after and it was now 31-0 with seven minutes to go in the half.

After ANOTHER three and out and a horrible fake punt attempt by the Raiders, the Packers once again had great field position at the Raider 28.  A 19-yard pass to Driver moved the ball to the eight.  On third and goal from the four, Mitchell intercepted a pass in the end zone intended for tight end Jermichael Finley.  It truly was a nice play by Mitchell and it stopped the bleeding for a little while.

Palmer gathered the troops together and the Raiders had one more shot to put some points on the board before halftime.  Completions to tight end Kevin Boss and some running by Palmer put the ball at the Packer 41.  A 16-yard pass to Heyward-Bey and another completion to Boss gave the Raiders a first down at the 14.  But with 48 seconds to go, Palmer went looking for Boss again in the end zone and the ball was picked off by linebacker Rob Francois.  The half ended and the Packers had a commanding 31-0 lead.

A 50-yard kickoff return by Cobb gave the Packers good field position to start out the second half.  Rodgers went right to work and found Driver for 19 and wide receiver Greg Jennings for eight more.  Jennings was injured during the play and would not return.  On third and two from the 11, Rodgers was sacked by linebacker Rolando McClain for a loss of nine.  Crosby came on and made a 38-yard field goal and the Packers increased their lead to 34-0 with 12 minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Raiders got the ball at their own 20 again and Palmer completed passes to Bush and fullback Marcel Reece to put the ball at the 50.  Some more runs by Bush and a 34-yard completion to Heyward-Bey moved the ball to the Packer four.  On second and goal from the two, Bush powered his way into the end zone for a Raider touchdown.  It’s a miracle!  Kicker Sebastian Janikowski made the point after and that made it 34-7 with eight minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Packers started at their own 20 and on third and 19, Rodgers saw Cobb standing by himself at the 37.  Rodgers thought Cobb looked lonely with no Raiders around to keep him company, so he threw the ball to him and he caught it for a first down.  Some good runs by Grant and fullback John Kuhn moved the ball to the Raider 31.  But, that was as far as they would get and Crosby made a 49-yard field goal to make it 37-7 with three minutes to go.

This is where things got thoroughly disgusting.  The Raiders got the ball again at their 20 and on first down, Palmer completed a pass to Reece.  He was hit by Rob Francois and the ball came out and bounced backward toward Palmer.  Palmer pounced on the ball and it somehow squirted through his hands.  The opportunistic Packers recovered it and linebacker Erik Walden ran it in for another Packer touchdown.  The point after was blocked by defensive end Desmond Bryant and the Packers led 43-7 with just under three minutes to go in the third quarter.

Guess what the Raiders did next?  Yup. They started at their own 20 again.  Care to go two for two? What do you think they did next?  Did they get a first down?  Did they fumble, throw another interception or go three and out?  If you guessed three and out, you got it right!  Congratulations!  You have just won a case of Genesee Cream Ale!

Rodgers decided he had enough and quarterback Matt Flynn came into the game.  The Packers took over at the Raider 41 and on third and five from the 36, a pass intended for Nelson fell incomplete.  But, what would a Raider game be without a personal foul?  Linebacker Quentin Groves was called for roughing the passer and that moved the ball to the 21.  They would get as far as the 13 and Crosby was called on once again.  He made a 31-yard field goal to make it 46-7 with almost an entire quarter to go.

The Raiders started their next “drive” at their own 11 and got as far as the 28 when Shane Lechler punted the ball away again.  This time, he hit a 71-yard punt that was downed at the one.  On third and five from the six, McClain burst through the line and sacked Flynn for a safety.  It was good to see somebody hadn’t given up with the score being so lopsided.  That made it 46-9.

With 11 minutes to go in the game, the Raiders took over at their 23.  Some more running by Bush and a couple of completions to wide receiver Louis Murphy moved the ball to the Packer six.  On first and goal from the six, Palmer found Boss for a Raider touchdown.  Wow!  That makes two touchdowns in the same game.  Impressive.  Janikowski made the point after and that made the final score 46-16.  There you go.  I managed to write what happened in this game without puking my guts out.

Caron Palmer completed 24 of 42 for 245 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.  Darrius Heyward-Bey led the Raiders in receiving with five catches for 78 yards.  Michael Bush led the team in rushing with 78 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown.  As a team, the Raiders had 117 yards rushing.  Linebacker Rolando McClain led the Raiders with seven tackles and two sacks.  The Raiders had a total of four sacks and one interception.  They were also penalized 11 times for 89 yards.  Most of them were false starts and offside penalties.  Every time Rodgers did a loud “HUT,” a Raider would promptly jump offside.

For the Packers, it was business as usual as Aaron Rodgers sliced up the Raider secondary.  He completed 17 of 30 for 281 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.  Jordy Nelson led the team with three catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.  Grant and Kuhn combined for 131 yards on 20 carries and the Packers rushed for 136 yards as a team.  Linebacker D.J. Smith led the Packers with seven solo tackles and an interception.

The Raiders have been outscored the last two weeks by a score of 80-30.  It’s tough to win games when your offense turns the ball over five times and your defense has more holes in it than a pack of Swiss cheese.   It’s also very tough to win when you have 14 players on the injury list and are short-handed at receiver.  A while back, they had a four and one road record and people were picking them to win the division and go deep into the playoffs.  That’s not the case anymore.  As I wrote that, I was reminded of a song by the Beatles.  It goes something like “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.  Now it looks as if they’re here to stay.  Oh, I believe in Yesterday.”

Well, believe it or not, there still is some time to right the ship with two of the next three games at home.  But if they want to win those games, they better play a hell of a lot better than they played against Miami and Green Bay.  They also need some help from other teams if they want to catch Denver.  Wide receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford should be back next week against Detroit.  The word on running back Darren McFadden is still “wait and see.”  If he can’t go, hopefully Taiwan Jones can make it back and we’ll see some speed in the backfield.  Until then, take it easy.

The Raider Guy

 

 

All Out Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Not that this should come as a shock to anyone, but RB Ryan Williams was officially placed on IR this week…..The Cardinals may be paying the price now for trading away CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as Greg Toler’s knee sprain may force the team to bring along 1st round pick Patrick Peterson faster than the team would like…..QB Max Hall will miss the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Julio Jones is my pick for offensive rookie of the year in the NFC…..The reason I make that statement, QB Matt Ryan threw the ball an amazing 42 times last week. That’s unheard of in the preseason. The Falcons seem to be trying to make a statement to opposing teams: don’t load up at the line of scrimmage to stop the run or you will get burned by the passing game. RB Michael Turner has to like this as the safeties can’t play too close to the line of scrimmage anymore.

Baltimore Ravens: WR Lee Evans was still in a protective boot earlier this week, but the injury is still not considered serious and he should be good to go for Week One…..Coach Cam Cameron came out this week and stated that tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are pretty much running neck and neck for the starting job. Dickson is a much better athlete and has the higher upside, but needs to display that upside on a more consistent basis before he is handed the starting job.

Buffalo Bills: Linebacker Shawn Merriman looks to be ready to play in Week One. Merriman can certainly help the pass rush if he’s healthy, but he can’t seem to remain so for any length of time…..RB Fred Jackson was upset last week for not knowing what his exact role is in the offense. He did receive the start last week and is the odds on favorite to begin the season as the starting back with CJ Spiller playing more of a 3rd down role and being lined up in the slot on occasion.

Carolina Panthers: I believe the Panthers are going to be an improved team over last season. It is hard not to be, but they are still going to be lucky to win 10 games. I still believe they would benefit by having a veteran quarterback tutor Cam Newton who has looked awful throwing the ball so far this preseason…..Fantasy wise, it will be next to impossible for me to draft any Panther in re-draft leagues.

Chicago Bears: RB Chester Taylor looked like he was going to be released this week. He was told as much, but the injury to Marion Barber gave him a reprieve–although that may be short lived…..I have the Bears third in the NFC North…..LB Lance Briggs may have three years left on his contract and be north of 30 years old, but he still wants a new contract and may demand a pay raise if he’s not given one.

Cincinnati Bengals: We learned earlier today that QB Carson Palmer had a face to face meeting with GM Mike Brown in late July about his situation. Palmer is still demanding a trade. However, he could really force the Bengals hand by reporting to camp late this week or next, thus forcing the Bengals to either pay him or trade him…..RB Cedric Benson elected to serve his 20 day prison sentence immediately instead of during his bye week. He will only be required to actually serve seven days, so he should be ready for Week One.

Cleveland Browns: Each and every week I’m more impressed with QB Colt McCoy. Once again, he’s never going to be a stud who puts up big numbers, but he has the look of a QB who will do whatever it takes to get the job done…..RB Montario Hardesty is finally starting to look healthy after tearing his ACL last season. He has the talent to be a starting back, which will give the Browns a strong 1-2 punch between himself and Peyton Hillis.

Dallas Cowboys: I was a little bit surprised by the release of C Andre Gurode this week. Gurode can still play but Dallas didn’t think he was worth the five plus million he was owed in salary…..By cutting Gurode, Dallas is now a little over $11 million under the salary cap. Remember, the dollar amount a team is under the salary cap this season, it can be added to next season’s cap. So even though Dallas may not have been big players in the this year’s free agent crop, don’t expect the same next season…..The release of Gurode also means that Dallas’ offensive line went from old and slow to extremely young and athletic. If QB Tony Romo can withstand the hits he is going to get, he will have a big season.

Denver Broncos: DE Elvis Demervil looks to be fully recovered from last year’s surgery. He and first round pick Von Miller should give the Broncos a pass rush that has to be game planned for by the opposition…..QBs Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn are still battling for the backup job to start the season. One has to wonder, if and when the Broncos are out of playoff contention, will they decide to make a switch to Tebow just to see what he can do, regardless of how well Orton is playing.

Detroit Lions: The reason I picked the Bears for third in the north is that I’m hopping on the Lions bandwagon and predicting a second place finish for them. Granted though, this all depends on QB Matthew Stafford and RB Javhid Best remaining healthy–two big ifs…..Best has already had a problem this preseason with a concussion suffered early on. He is expected to play in the last preseason game and be ready for Week One.

Green Bay Packers: TE JerMichael Finley won’t play in the final preseason game due to an ankle injury, but this injury is not considered to be serious and he should be good to go for Week One…..WR Randall Cobb returned to practice this week. Cobb has plenty of talent, but he will make the most noise for the Packers on special teams as they are loaded at WR…..Speaking of WRs, Donald Driver had a cortisone injection in the same foot he injured in the Super Bowl. It would seem to be a red flag to me. Have to think that Driver will slowly be phased out of a starting role as the season rolls along.

Houston Texans: RB Arian Foster’s hamstring injury has to worry fantasy owners. He was considered to be a top three back heading into the season, and now some believe he could miss up to a month. Of course, Foster and the Texans deny that he will miss any time, but one would have to think he won’t be at full speed and could re-injure the hamstring at some point during the season…..If you do draft Foster, better grab Ben Tate as his handcuff.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Peyton Manning was taken off the PUP this week, but still won’t play in the final preseason game. He is still questionable to play in Week One. Without Manning, the Colts are a bad team. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team so reliant on one person…..Fantasy wise, Manning would scare me. I couldn’t take him as one of my top five QBs anymore, but top eight is not out of the question.

Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Rashard Jennings was seen on crutches this week after suffering a knee injury. Jennings was expected to become more than just a backup to Maurice Jones-Drew this season. The Jags don’t want to abuse MJD, but if this injury is serious than Jones-Drew may get more carries per week than first thought…..RB Fred Taylor signed a contract with the Jags Thursday for the sake of retiring as a Jaguar.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jonathan Baldwin is running routes but not catching passes yet as he still has pins in his thumb after his fight with RB Thomas Jones…..I have the Chiefs finishing second in the AFC West this season. Not because they are not a better team than last season, but because I don’t believe the Chargers will have as many problems on special teams as they did last season. Chiefs will battle the Jets for that final wildcard spot.

Miami Dolphins: RB Daniel Thomas has aggravated the Dolphins coaching staff so much that he may no longer be the main ball carrier for the team. Reggie Bush could get more touches than first thought. Don’t be surprised if the Dolphins reverse their thinking. However, the more Bush touches the ball, the more likely he is to get hurt…..QB Chad Henne has actually looked good so far this preseason. This is a make or break year for Henne. Perhaps the light bulb has finally turned on for him.

Minnesota Vikings: I’m not sure anyone in the NFL was happier for the contract that RB Chris Johnson received than Adrian Peterson–cha ching…..Speaking of Peterson, he’s not expected to come off the field in passing situations anymore. He is in store for a massive season and should be the first RB off the board in fantasy leagues.

New England Patriots: WR Wes Welker injured his neck making a tackle last week. Although he doesn’t remember the play, he doesn’t have a concussion. Once again, he should be good to go for Week One…..RB Kevin Faulk still isn’t fully recovered from ACL surgery and is likely to begin the season on the PUP list…..WR Brandon Tate has not impressed this season and could be the odd man out in the Pats WR corps.

New Orleans Saints: K Garrett Hartley will miss at least the next six weeks with a hip injury. Jon Kasay has been signed to take over the kicking duties…..I like the Saints again this season, but also believe they finish behind the Falcons in the NFC South…..Big things seem to be expected from WR Lance Moore this season, but don’t forget he has a nagging groin injury and RB Darren Sproles will also take some of the snaps that would’ve previously gone to Reggie Bush.

New York Giants: In order for the Giants offense to work this season, WR Mario Manningham is going to have to have a good season to take the defensive pressure off of Hakeem Nicks. Not to mention QB Eli Manning is going to have to play better and limit his mistakes…..Third round pick WR Jerrel Jernigan, who was the leading candidate to take over punt returns, blew that opportunity with four fumbled punts versus the Jets Monday.

New York Jets: K Nick Folk won the kicking battle over Nick Novak…..WR Plaxico Burress and QB Mark Sanchez clearly weren’t on the same page in last week’s game versus the Giants. This is clearly a work in progress…..Jets finish behind the Patriots in the AFC East.

Oakland Raiders: TE Kevin Boss has yet to practice since injuring his knee a couple of weeks ago. He’s questionable to play in Week One…..QB Terrelle Pryor reportedly scored a seven on the Wonderlic Test. That’s incredibly low. The test has nothing to do with his ability to play football, but does show you that he is probably not the sharpest pencil in the box.

Philadelphia Eagles: WR Steve Smith is unlikely to play in Week One, and could miss most of September. This is why the Giants didn’t sign him…..WR DeSean Jackson could be the next player on the Eagles to sign a big contract after the Eagles rewarded QB Michael Vick with a $100 million contract this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers: LB James Harrison is still not at 100% after undergoing off-season back surgery and may get fatigued as games get into the fourth quarter during the regular season…..Due to the foot injury that has cost WR Emmanuel Sanders a good portion of training camp, Antonio Brown may be the Steelers 3rd WR to open the season.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates practiced all week and will be ready to go for Week One….. The Chargers offense looks explosive and could put up a bunch of points week in and week out…..They are going to win the AFC West…..I love the trio of QB Phillip Rivers, WR Vincent Jackson and TE Antonio Gates, not to mention the RB duo of Mike Tolbert and Ryan Matthews–just scary.

San Francisco 49ers: RB Frank Gore also signed a new contract this week. It’s good that he received a lot of upfront money because that offensive line is going to get him killed…..As good a preseason as Kendall Hunter has had, he still hasn’t passed Anthony Dixon on the depth chart…..WR Michael Crabtree is still not practicing at full strength and is unlikely to play in Week One.

Seattle Seahawks: The signing of TE Zach Miller is all the more important now with the loss of John Carlson for the season with a torn labrum…..The Seahawks are still going to roll with Tavares Jackson as their starting QB even though the offense has looked abysmal so far this preseason and Charlie Whitehurst has outplayed him…..RB Marshawn Lynch has an ankle injury that will keep him from playing this week but he is expected to play in Week One.

St. Louis Rams: LB James Laurinaitis is still battling a pectoral muscle that he injured in the early days of camp and may not be at 100% when the regular season starts…..The Rams signed WR Mark Clayton to a one-year contract this week but he still might begin the season on the PUP. He is still recovering from a torn patellar.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs remind me of the Chiefs in that they may be a better team this season but it won’t show in their record. Not to mention, it certainly doesn’t help playing in the same division with Atlanta and New Orleans…..RB Earnest Graham is expected to be the Bucs third down back this season, at least at the beginning…..TE Kellen Winslow hurt his ankle in his preseason debut last week. It didn’t look to be a major injury, but the Bucs haven’t talked much about it this week.

Tennessee Titans: Everyone in Tennessee had a big sigh of relief today when RB Chris Johnson finally signed his new contract and reported to camp. The Titans don’t have the best of offenses to begin with, and without Johnson it would be non-existent…..More good news for the Titans, WR Kenny Britt is feeling close to 100% and expects to be so before the season opener.

Washington Redskins: I know RB Tim Hightower has had a great camp and is climbing up fantasy draft boards, but does anyone really think it’s going to last all season. What happens when he starts to fumble the ball or the Shanahans want to see what rookie Roy Helu can do? Plus the Skins don’t have a QB and teams may sell out to stop the run…..S Laron Landry has injuries to his Achilles and hamstring, but isn’t expected to miss more than a couple of games at this point in time.

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Right now Andre Roberts is expected to start opposite Larry Fitzgerald at WR. Now don’t get too excited and go running out to pick him up in your fantasy leagues. This could easily change before the season begins…..Speaking of Fitzgerald, he wants to sign a long term deal with Arizona as he is happy with their off-season moves, but if a deal can’t be worked out, the Cards can’t franchise him as he has a clause in his contract that prohibits that move.

Atlanta Falcons: Rumors are flying around the Atlanta training camp that the addition of WR Julio Jones will allow the Falcons to have more of a high tempo aerial attack. With WR Roddy White and TE Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons could certainly go this route, but it’s hard to see them going in this direction unless it is necessary; as it’s hard to win shootouts week in and week out…..With all the talk about the Saints, Packers, and Eagles, the Falcons have been able to fly under the radar so far. They just may be the best of them all.

Baltimore Ravens: TE Ed Dickson is practicing once again. Dickson needs to be on the field as much as possible in order to gain QB Joe Flacco’s trust. Flacco could use a big target over the middle…..Where RB Ray Rice goes in your fantasy draft probably depends on whether or not you believe that Ricky Williams will take over the Willis McGahee role and vulture short yardage touchdown runs. The Ravens coaching staff states that Rice will get those carries, but I have my doubts.

Buffalo Bills: If LB Shawn Merriman can continue to put pressure on the opposing QB like he did in the first preseason game, than the Bills’ defense could be better than first thought…..QB Brad Smith saw quite a few snaps in the Wildcat formation during the first preseason game. He could be a weapon in that offense, as the Bills want to use him similar to how the Steelers used Kordell Stewart in the 90s…..The Bills finally parted ways with former 1st round pick LB Aaron Maybin. Can you say bust?

Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton impressed in his first pro start and seems to be on target to start the season under center for Carolina. With that being said, if the Panthers had a solid veteran presence at QB, they would probably prefer to have Newton watch and learn but Jimmy Claussen does not give them that option…..TE Greg Olsen had a solid 1st game for Carolina. It should surprise no one if he is the team’s best receiver this season no matter who is throwing him the ball.

Chicago Bears: Neither WR Johnny Knox nor Roy Williams was all that impressive in the first preseason game, as only one ball was caught between them. So if there is indeed a training camp battle between these two, no one did all that much to cause separation…..I have a hard time thinking the Bears believe they can go into this season with Williams and Hester as your starting wideouts. Not all that impressive.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals and CB Leon Hall are likely to open up contract negotiations shortly. Hall has pretty good leverage, as the Bengals have plenty of cap room and can’t let another CB walk and get nothing in return. They already let Jonathan Joseph go to the Texans. But then again, this is the Bengals we’re talking about…..WR AJ Green injured his knee in practice Wednesday, but it looks to be minor. Green may be one of the few reasons to watch the Bungles this season.

Cleveland Browns: I’m still trying to think of a reason to watch the Browns…..The teams top two RBs, Peyton Hills (hamstring) and Montario Hardesty (knee), are both banged up but should be good to go by next week…..QB Colt McCoy might be that reason to watch the Browns. He had an impressive first preseason game. Still he is not a true franchise QB, rather he is more of a game manager.

Dallas Cowboys: WR Dwayne Harris had a fantastic first pro game and is gaining on Kevin Ogletree for the 3rd WR job, but before anyone gets too excited, the Cowboys don’t use three WR sets all that often. They love to go with two TEs and line up Jason Witten in the slot to go along with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant…..A name to remember in those two TE formations is John Phillips, as he may eventually surpass Martellus Bennett on the depth chart. Phillips was making noise in training camp last year before tearing his ACL.

Denver Broncos: While RB Knowshon Moreno has looked very good in practice so far, Willis McGahee could vulture TDs from him just like he did from Ray Rice last season…..It’s pretty much set in stone that Kyle Orton will start over Tim Tebow at quarterback. The bigger question may be who will backup up Orton: Tebow or Brady Quinn…..DT Ty Warren, who was being relied on to stuff the run for Denver, tore his triceps and is a candidate for IR.

Detroit Lions: DT Ndamukong Suh may think the $20K fine for ripping the helmet off yet another QB’s head is excessive, but he still will want to calm himself down for fear of getting the reputation that LB James Harrison of Pittsburgh has gained. Last thing Suh wants is the NFL to look at his play with a fine tooth comb…..DT Nick Fairly is no longer wearing a cast and seems to be on pace to possibly play in Week One.

Green Bay Packers: WR Donald Driver has stated that he will accept a demotion from his starting WR role if he feels James Jones or Jordy Nelson warrants the job…..WR Randall Cobb may not see much action in the passing game since the Packers are absolutely loaded at WR. He still could make a huge mark in the return game. Cobb will be a threat to take the ball to the house every time he touches it, as if the Packers didn’t have enough of those types of players.

Houston Texans: LB Mario Williams doesn’t look the least bit comfortable yet in the 3-4 defense. Switching from DE to LB means Williams will now have coverage responsibilities, something he is not the least bit familiar with…..The Texans are starting to tire of RB Ben Tate’s injuries. They need to see him on the field to see if he can be a legitimate backup to Arian Foster. If not, than Steve Slaton will remain on the roster.

Indianapolis Colts: After watching the Colts backup QBs, you have to seriously wonder if they could ever win a game that Peyton Manning didn’t start…..Will this be the year that WR Pierre Garcon takes that next step? It would be a big boon to the offense if Garcon could become a bit more consistent in his route running, and even more so, if he could actually catch the ball. He has been one of the league leaders in drops the past couple of seasons.

Jacksonville Jaguars: There is a pretty good chance that the Jags will play it safe with RB Maurice Jones-Drew this preseason. He may not see a snap until Week One of the regular season…..QB David Garrard looks to get his first action of the preseason this weekend. He better get on the field soon if he wants to remain the starting QB. The longer he is out, the more likely it is Blaine Gabbert that opens the season as the #1.

Kansas City Chiefs: Rookie WR Jonathan Baldwin looks to finally be healthy and could see some action this week. But don’t expect anything big. Baldwin may be no better than 5th when it comes to passing options…..No matter where the Chiefs place RB Jamaal Charles on their depth chart, the team will go as far as Charles can take them.

Miami Dolphins: QB Matt Moore hasn’t practiced all that well with the team. However, he did impress the coaches with his play during the game Friday. Will he unseat Chad Henne? Probably not right away, but the team/players have little to no faith in Henne. It could just be a matter of time, unfortunately for the Fish, that their quarterback of the future is not on the roster…..RB Reggie Bush will get his first action this weekend. Coach Tony Sparano is still undecided if he will use Bush on punt returns. I am not sure why you wouldn’t.

Minnesota Vikings:  Apparently the Vikings first choice to start at QB was Tyler Thigpen, not Donovan McNabb. If that’s true, I’m not sure why Thigpen would sign in Buffalo for a backup job…..WR Percy Harvin may not play this weekend. It’s not due to migraines, but rather bruised ribs…..DL Kevin Williams has accepted his fate that he will finally be suspended after losing an appeal in the StarCaps case, probably four games.

New England Patriots: WR TJ Houshmandzadeh is scheduled to visit New England this week. It could be interesting to see Housh and Ochocinco together once again…..QB Tom Brady is said to be on fire in training camp. I would still like to see who becomes the Pats deep threat to stretch out the secondary…..You have to love coach Bill Belichick’s honesty about why the NFL moved the kickoff up to the 35 yard line—because they want to eliminate the return game.

New Orleans Saints: RB Mark Ingram has looked impressive in camp, but still it’s hard to see him having a big season with Pierre Thomas still on the roster…..If you’re looking for a sleeper WR for your fantasy league, Lance Moore could be your man.

New York Giants: A little bit of controversy here in the Northeast as QB Eli Manning compared himself to Tom Brady. You have to love his self confidence. He did beat Brady in a Super Bowl, but Manning has a ways to go before he can consider himself in Brady’s class, a sure fire Hall of Famer…..DE Osi Umenyiora has returned to camp, but one has to wonder if it’s just a matter of time until he walks out again if he is unable to get his contract extension.

New York Jets: WR Plaxico Burress finally practiced Wednesday. He will need all the reps he can get with QB Mark Sanchez…..LB Aaron Maybin, formerly a Bill, signed with the Jets Wednesday…..RB Joe McKnight suffered a concussion during the game Monday. He’s going to have to prove himself a bit more durable if he wants a bigger role in the Jets offense this season.

Oakland Raiders: WR Louis Murphy will miss the regular season opener with hamstring and groin injuries…..The good news is that WR Jacoby Ford and RB Darren McFadden are both on the mend and should get into a preseason game or two, but not this weekend.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles received a dose of good news when it was discovered that WR Jeremy Maclin does not have a significant illness and could begin practicing with the team in a week to 10 days. He is expected to be ready for the regular season…..The asking price for CB Asante Samuel is two 2nd round picks. So it seems he is unlikely to go anywhere, which makes sense seeing as though the Eagles seem to be all-in for this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Ike Taylor suffered a broken thumb in the first preseason game. Not a big deal though. He is supposed to be out of action for just a couple of weeks and won’t miss any regular season time…..WR Mike Wallace has set a goal this season of 2,000 yards receiving this season. While it’s always nice to set your goals high, that’s certainly not going to happen. Wallace seems to forget that the Steelers are a run team first.

San Diego Chargers: In fantasy leagues, drafting RB Ryan Matthews or Mike Tolbert could be dangerous, as the Chargers plan for these two seem to change by the day. The team wants Matthews to be the every down back, but right now, he hasn’t been all that impressive in camp…..TE Antonio Gates returned to practice this week and once again seems to be somewhat healthy. However, with plantar fasciitis, it could act up again at any time.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers were thinking about signing QB Daunte Culpepper but decided on Josh McCown instead…..WR Michael Crabtree was spotted without a walking boot, so it seems like the worst may be behind him…..If there is a QB competition between Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick, Smith is clearly ahead.

Seattle Seahawks: TE John Carlson has a labrum injury in his shoulder. Any missed time could find Carlson on the outside looking in with Zach Miller the new number one TE…..Even though Charlie Whitehurst clearly outplayed Tarvares Jackson in the first preseason game, head coach Pete Carroll stated that there is no competition at quarterback and that Jackson is his man.

St. Louis Rams: With the Rams minus a true number one WR, rookie TE Lance Kendricks could play a major part in their passing game…..WR Donnie Avery has returned to practice, but may have a hard time making the team. Don’t be surprised if he finds himself on the waiver wire before the end of camp.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Arrelious Benn, who is coming off ACL surgery, will be cleared for contact next week…..Apparently LB Mason Foster will be eased into game action rather than having everything thrown at him at once.

Tennessee Titans: RB Chris Johnson not only wants to be the highest paid back, but also wants to be one of the highest paid players in the NFL. This situation could get real ugly if his contract demands don’t come down…..Still no word yet on whether or not WR Kenny Britt will be suspended for his multiple transgressions this off-season…..If there was any doubt in your mind, Matt Hasselbeck will start at QB for the Titans, at least to begin the season.

Washington Redskins: The Skins plan to start John Beck at QB this season unless he plays terribly this preseason. The Shanahan’s believe he is the real deal. This is not saying much, but I think Rex Grossman is the better QB. Ouch!…..TE Chris Cooley made a visit to Dr. James Andrews regarding his knee. Makes one wonder how serious the injury is…..The Skins are deep at TE though, as Fred Davis is a pretty good option.