November 23, 2017

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Believe it or not, the Cardinals are still in the playoff hunt – now granted they still need the Falcons and Lions to lose both games but they are alive. Though there was some talk that coach Ken Whisenhunt’s job could be in jeopardy early in the season, this finish would seem to indicate that his job is safe…..Speaking of job’s that are safe, QB Kevin Kolb is still considered the Cards starter even though he has been outplayed by John Skelton while he has been dealing with a toe injury and a concussion. The Cards believe Kolb will be fine as soon as he gets an entire off-season with the team.

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons will clinch a playoff berth with one more win and can still win the division if they win their last two games and the Saints lose both. Now you may think that is farfetched and while I admit it is unlikely, the Falcons do play the Saints on Monday night, and next week the Falcons have a gimme game versus Tampa while New Orleans will play Carolina. It is certainly not out of the realm of possibility, the problem though is that both of the Saints remaining games are at home. It is hard to see them losing twice in the Superdome.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens certainly laid an egg versus the Chargers last week, but still control the AFC North thanks to the Steelers loss to the 49ers…..How far the Ravens will go in the playoff might be directly proportionate to how well QB Joe Flacco plays. He has been the definition of inconsistency and certainly needs the help that RB Ray Rice can provide. The running game will open up things in the passing game, especially for WR Torrey Smith who can get behind any safety.

Buffalo Bills: With the emergence of RB C.J. Spiller, what will the Bills do next season with Fred Jackson? Jackson was leading the league in rushing when he went down for the season but Spiller is showing that he might be able to handle the full-time role as well. It’s a good problem to have, especially in today’s NFL where having two solid RBs seems to be a must…..The way QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has played since signing his big contract, one has to wonder if the Bills will cut bait and go in a different direction next season, especially before his bonus kicks in.

Carolina Panthers: If the Panthers can build a defense next season, at least an average one, and add another receiver or two to their current crop, they could be a team to watch…..QB Cam Newton should only get better and the NFC South should be a fun division to play in for years to come.

Chicago Bears: What a disaster this season has been for the Bears. They were well on their way to a playoff spot before losing QB Jay Cutler to a broken thumb and RB Matt Forte to a knee injury. QB Caleb Hanie has just been terrible and cost the Bears any chance they had at a playoff spot…..Josh McCown will start for the Bears versus the Packers on Christmas night and he will do so without WR Johnny Knox who is out for the season after suffering a back injury last week.

Cincinnati Bengals: You have to hand it to WR A.J. Green. He suffered a third-degree separation of his shoulder during the game last week but continued to try to play. The man has heart. His status for this week is unknown as the Bengals need to win out to have a shot at making the playoffs, something that looked like a definite about a month ago. It won’t be easy as they play the Cardinals this week, a team with an outside shot at the playoffs, and then the Ravens who will probably need the game to clinch the AFC North.

Cleveland Browns: We’ve all heard the hoopla surrounding the concussion suffered by QB Colt McCoy and how the Browns handled it. Well, McCoy still has concussion symptoms and Seneca Wallace is likely to start once again…..The NFL did change their concussion protocol once again as there will be a concussion specialist assigned to each team who will be in the booth to make sure that any player who is being treated by the medical staff will be looked at for a possible concussion.

Dallas Cowboys: Here is the situation for the Cowboys and their hopes of winning the NFC East, if they win their last two games versus the Eagles and Giants, they win the division, if the Giants lose to the Jets on Saturday and the Cowboys beat the Eagles later that day, it’s over, if the Giants and Cowboys both lose Saturday, than the Cowboys can clinch with a win over the Giants in Week 17, the Cowboys can also clinch the wild card with a win Saturday, loss in Week 17 if the Falcons lose twice, and the Cardinals lose once, fun fun fun…..RB Felix Jones is dealing with a hamstring injury, should come as no shock as Jones has never been able to stay healthy for any long period of time, Sammy Morris could get more carries than usual, and if the Giants win at 1pm Saturday, Dallas would have very little to play for at 4pm, and may rest Jones for what would be a winner take all game in Week 17.

Denver Broncos: Well QB Tim Tebow finally lost another game, sooner or later the magic run was going to end, but the Broncos are still in good shape and with the Raiders collapsing Denver is still the odds on favorite to win the division, Tebow has gotten better, should be interesting to see what a full off-season can do for him as Broncos GM John Elway announced this week the Tebow will be with the team next season.

Detroit Lions: The Lions are also on the verge of clinching a playoff spot and one win will do, they don’t have much of a running game, and their defense has major holes, but that passing game seems to get more dangerous each and every week as QB Matthew Stafford gains more and more trust in WR Titus Young…..The running game is still a problem as Kevin Smith is still hobbled by an ankle sprain, he will more than likely start this week, question is, can he finish?

Green Bay Packers: Although the Packers won’t have an undefeated season, the loss might be the best thing for them, they are a banged up team suffering two more losses to their offensive line during the game, we all know their defense isn’t very good, if they can’t protect QB Aaron Rodgers and allow them to score at will, than this season may not have a magical ending…..Rodgers has taken some heat for an off week in their loss to the Chiefs in Week 15, but truth is his receivers dropped at least a half-dozen passes, the biggest culprit being TE Jermichael Finley who has had a problem with the drops all year.

Houston Texans: The Texans look like a team that just may be running out of gas, losing a starting QB in Matt Schaub will do that as you can’t keep settling for field goals instead of touchdowns, be surprised if they weren’t one and done in the playoffs…..WR Andre Johnson could certainly help the offense but he won’t play in Week 16, there is a chance however that he could play in Week 17, but once again there could be very little incentive to play him in the final game of the season, his health for the playoffs is much more important.

Indianapolis Colts: Not only will there not be an undefeated team this season, but their won’t be a winless team either as the Colts finally managed to outscore an opponent…..RB Donald Brown had a big game including an 80 yard romp to ice the game late in the 4th quarter, he may be the front-runner to be Colts number one back next season…..Speaking of next season, the Colts are no longer a shoo-in to get the number one pick, which would alleviate all the problems of what to do with QB Peyton Manning…..Speaking of Manning, the Colts announced that he won’t practice with the team for the remainder of the season.

Jacksonville Jaguars: You have to love the season RB Maurice Jones-Drew is having with virtually no passing attack, not sure why defenses don’t put 8-9 guys in the box, not like they have to worry about QB Blaine Gabbert beating them over the top…..

Kansas City Chiefs: What a game by the Chiefs last week in handing the Packers their first loss, coach Romeo Crennel deserves credit for turning this team around, perhaps he will have a chance to get the top job on more than an interim basis next season…..The Chiefs are actually still alive for the division title, now they have to win both and have Denver and Oakland lose both along with San Diego losing at least one of two, but they do play the Raiders this week and Denver next week, so there is a chance.

Miami Dolphins: Whoever is the new head coach of the Dolphins next season will have an interesting dilemma, what to do with RBs Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas?, Bush has proven this season that he can indeed handle the every down role and rush the ball between the tackles while Thomas has yet to prove much of anything, that being said Thomas is the bigger back and he was drafted to be the lead back, probably a good problem to have, but a problem none the less…..WR Brandon Marshall has had a solid season, but it would’ve been so much better if he would stop dropping TD passes, that was two more last Sunday.

Minnesota Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson teased fantasy owners last week by only rushing the ball 10 times, he did get 60 yards on those carries but in the end he may have cost quite a few owners in the playoffs, that being said fantasy owners only have themselves to blame as Minnesota was going to be very cautious with their franchise player, and with New Orleans and QB Drew Brees in town, there was very little chance that Minnesota was going to be able to keep the game close in the second half and not have to abandon the running game.

New England Patriots: With Texans losing last week the Patriots now have the first seed in the AFC, and if they win their last two games will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, course playing in New England hasn’t helped the Pats in the playoffs the past couple of years…..The Pats defense has been abysmal all season and losing their best pass rusher, DE Andre Carter, for the year due to a quad injury certainly won’t help matters any.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints could finish anywhere from the number two seed to the number five seed depending on how they finish up, they need the 49ers to lose one of their last two games and win out in order to get the two seed and a first round bye, but if they lose out and Atlanta wins out, the Falcons would win the division and the Saints would play the NFC East winner in the first round…..I know QB Aaron Rodgers is almost a shoe in for the MVP but Drew Brees is going to deserve some serious consideration for the year he is having, and the he and the Saints may be the biggest obstacle towards Green Bay going back to the Super Bowl.

New York Giants: Wow, how can the Giants lay an egg in an important division game versus the Redskins?, they just came out flat, QB Eli Manning has taken quite a bit of heat for having a terrible game that included multiple interceptions, but he didn’t get any help from his receivers, specifically Hakeem Nicks who dropped two sure touchdown passes…..Has Osi Umenyiora played his last game for the Giants?, he is still dealing with a sprained ankle and unlikely to play this Saturday versus the Jets, and if the Giants lose, than it would seem unlikely that he would play it what would be a meaningless game for the Giants in Week 17.

New York Jets: The Giants weren’t the only team who didn’t show up last week as the Jets were also lambasted by the Eagles in what was an important game, like Eli Manning, QB Mark Sanchez also wasn’t given much help, as WR Santonio Holmes fumbled one reception that directly led to an Eagles TD, and then had a pass go right through his hands that led to another Eagles TD…..Holmes eventually scored a TD that made the score 28-10 Philly, he then went on to celebrate by standing on the football while doing an Eagle flap, a celebration that instantly drew a flag, a flag that Holmes admitted to later he knew was coming, good to see he cares about the team and not himself, seems to me it would’ve been the perfect time to bench him and send a message, but instead Rex Ryan said he supported his player publicly, not surprised, players take after their coaches and Ryan is out there to say the least.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders looked like they had turned things around last week versus Detroit after a couple of disastrous road games only to fall apart in the second half when they forgot that WR Calvin Johnson is a really good receiver and you may want to cover him, they aren’t out of the AFC West hunt yet, but another poor outing and their season is done…..RB Darren McFadden is done for the season although the Raiders have yet to admit it, his loss seems to have triggered their downfall, just a big part of their offense.

Philadelphia Eagles: Who would’ve thought the Eagles would still have a chance to win the NFC East and make the playoffs at this point in the season?, now they still need a small miracle but stranger things have happened, it’s a shame it took them so long into the season to figure things out, but if they were able to sneak in, they would be a team that no one wants to play.

Pittsburgh Steelers: I don’t blame the Steelers for letting QB Ben Roethlisberger play Monday night, although he was hobbled, with the Ravens losing earlier in the day the Steelers had a chance to take over the top spot in the AFC, this week however is a different story, they can beat the Rams with or without Ben, but won’t go far in the playoffs without him, time to let him rest for a couple of weeks and get that ankle healthy.

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are once again going on their late season run, more than likely though it’s a little to little, little to late for both the Chargers season and coach Norv Turner…..The Chargers offense is hitting on all cylinders as the Bolts have fixed their offensive line problems, which has opened bigger holes for RB Ryan Matthews and Mike Tolbert and also given QB Phillip Rivers time to find his receivers down the field.

San Francisco 49ers: How far can the 49ers go in the playoffs?, as things stand now they will likely play the Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs, not the best matchup for SF as their weakness is against the pass, something New Orleans does quite well, although not as well on the road as they do at home, 49ers could be one and done as well…..LB Patrick Willis still isn’t practicing after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury, 49ers may be playing it safe with Willis, wanting to make sure he’s as close to 100% as possible going into the playoffs.

Seattle Seahawks: The Hawks are another team with an extremely outside shot at the playoffs, although they play the 49ers on Saturday which could put those hopes to an end…..The most interesting thing about this game is that RB Marshawn Lynch, who has been one of the hotter backs in the league, will be going up against the SF defense, a defense that has yet to allow a rushing TD all season, drama…..Problem for the Hawks is the way to beat the 49ers is through the air, and QB Tavares Jackson seems to be losing target to throw to each and every week, not they he would inspire confidence anyway.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams season can’t come to an end soon enough and this season may be the last for coach Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the Rams will be someone else’s mess next season, a mess that may include the first overall pick in the draft if the Colts could win another game, a pick they could get a bounty for as they already have a franchise QB in Sam Bradford, quite a few needs could be filled.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Talk about a team that has packed it in, the Bucs are the definition…..They have been terribly disappointing this season as QB Josh Freeman, WR Mike Williams, and RB LeGarrette Blount have all taken some serious steps back, the blame could fall on head coach Raheem Morris who at the very least will be forced to make some changes on his staff and may actually be out of a job…..CB Aqib Talib was placed on IR, ending his season. so things are only going to get worse in the TB secondary.

Tennessee Titans: Hard to believe the Titans gave the Colts their first win last week, a loss that may keep the Titans out of the playoffs…..Things may not get much easier for the Titans this week as RB Chris Johnson is hobbled and is once again not at his best, and QB Matt Hasselback seems to be feeling the effects of a long season as he has not been able to finish the last two games.

Washington Redskins: You have to hand it to the Redskins, they haven’t given up on the season, they gave the Cowboys and Patriots a run for their money in the past couple of weeks and then upset the Giants, possibly ending their season last week, perhaps there is a future for this team after all.

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: That’s back to back upsets for the Cardinals of division leaders. Good to see they still have some fight left in them…..Unfortunately, QB Kevin Kolb didn’t play long as he suffered a head injury early in the game and did not return. He has yet to practice in full this week and seems certain to be a game time decision this week…..Everyone thought WR Larry Fitzgerald would be the happiest guy in Arizona when the Cardinals signed Kolb, but he has had his best games this season with John Skelton under center.

Atlanta Falcons: Big comeback win by the Falcons over the Panthers last week. The Falcons are unlikely to catch the Saints in the NFC South, but are looking pretty solid to take one of the wildcard spots…..Although the Falcons keep stating it’s a minor injury, RB Michael Turner just hasn’t been the same since suffering a groin injury. He hasn’t missed any game action, but isn’t putting up his typical numbers either. If it is not the groin, maybe the long season is catching up with him.

Baltimore Ravens: It looks like LB Ray Lewis will be back in the lineup this week. The Ravens played it smart and kept Lewis out of the lineup until he and the team were sure he was ready to return…..WR Torrey Smith has been getting a bigger and bigger role in the Ravens offense each and every week. If he continues to develop, the Ravens may have an offense that can at least rival their defense, but more importantly it will take some of the opposing defense’s attention off of RB Ray Rice.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills came out and stated this week that they won’t take a QB in the first round of next year’s draft. Once again reinforcing their faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick. I have a feeling that’s a mistake. Fitzpatrick can look good at times, but still doesn’t have the look of a franchise quarterback…..The Bills will also have a big decision to make with WR Steve Johnson. Contract talks have broken off, so they may have to figure out if they want to use their franchise tag on him.

Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton finally played like a rookie last week, throwing two interceptions to open up the second half and with his team up 16 points in what eventually became a loss. Oh well, growing pains are a part of the job…..It looks like the only thing that may be keeping K Olindo Mare on the roster would be his four-year, $12 million contract. The Panthers brought in Adi Kunalic and promised he will kick Sunday if he outperforms Mare this week in practice.

Chicago Bears: If not for the injury to RB Matt Forte, Marion Barber may have been released before the plane hit the ground after failing to stay inbounds to keep the clock running on the Bears final drive of the 4th quarter; thus giving the Broncos the chance they needed to tie the game and send it to overtime. He than fumbled on the first drive of overtime when it looked like he was breaking into the clear, allowing Denver to win the game.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are quickly blowing what was a good start to the season. They have had trouble beating winning teams all season and it is quickly catching up to them. At this point they may have to win out to make the playoffs…..This all being said, the Bengals do get a layup this week in St. Louis, than Arizona, and even the last game versus Baltimore could be in their favor if the Ravens don’t have anything to play for with their playoff picture solidified.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are catching plenty of heat for their handling of the concussion suffered by QB Colt McCoy versus Pittsburgh. Apparently no one on the Cleveland medical staff saw McCoy get hit by the oncoming truck that was LB James Harrison, and when they did check him out they were worried about his finger, not his head. Now apparently Browns players suffered multiple concussions during this game which may have spread the medical staff kind of thin, but still someone had to see that hit and say “Hey, you may want to check Colt out.”

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Sunday night, blowing a 12-point lead with five plus minutes left in the game…..Everyone seems to want to blame QB Tony Romo for missing WR Miles Austin with a pass that would have gone for a touchdown late in the 4th quarter, but Austin admitted that he lost the ball in the lights and that’s why he didn’t catch it. Criticizing K Dan Bailey for the block seems to be off base also since the kick wasn’t low. It was much more of a blocking problem or maybe it was just a great play by Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul.

Denver Broncos: QB Tim Tebow is starting to make a believer out of me. This guy finds a way to win every game, even if he did have a tremendous amount of help from the Chicago offense in this one. Now if the Broncos and Tebow are able to beat the Patriots on Sunday, I might be a true believer…..With Tebow being 7-1 as a starter, now the Broncos have little choice but to anoint Tebow as their starting QB next season.

Detroit Lions: Not sure what to make of the Lions who almost blew that game to Minnesota last week and if not for a missed face mask penalty on the final play of the game, may have blown it indeed…..The Lions right now are in a playoff spot but have an interesting schedule over the remainder of the season. They play an Oakland team that is fighting for their playoff lives, a San Diego team that may be doing the same next week, than a Green Bay squad that could be playing for a perfect season. It should be fun times in Motor City.

Green Bay Packers: The Packers can clinch home field throughout the playoffs with either a win or a San Francisco loss. Than the big question would remain, do you play your starters and go for a perfect season, or rest them and make sure you are completely healthy for the playoffs? Now the injury to WR Greg Jennings last week, which will keep him out for the remainder of the regular season, could push the Packers towards playing it safe. But they know that an undefeated season would be immortality, plus they did win the Super Bowl last season which should make going for 19-0 even more of a must.

Houston Texans: You just can’t stop these Texans no matter who is at the wheel. QB Tyler Yates led an impressive comeback over the Bengals last week, a game that was in Cincinnati and much more important to the Bengals than the Texans, but still Yates led them to a game winning drive. Impressive indeed, still though, I’m having a tough time seeing the Texans winning more than one game in the playoffs…..Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be away from the team for the next 7-10 days as he will have a procedure to deal with a kidney ailment. Good luck Wade.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Peyton Manning has started throwing again. The question is, does he have the same zip on the ball that he did before the surgery? Next question still remains, what will the Colts do with Manning after the season and are they still planning on having Manning get in some game action before the end of the season?…..TE Dallas Clark did indeed return to action and didn’t suffer any setbacks with the leg, but did suffer a stinger that has kept him from practicing this week.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The NFL officially ratified Shahid Khan as the owner of the team, and Khan for his part stated once again that he is not planning on moving the team. Now moving the team would be hard anyway as they do have a lease through 2029, but there is an out clause if the Jags lose money for three straight seasons…..RB Maurice Jones-Drew is having an incredible season for a bad team. The numbers he is putting up for a team that has no other offensive weapons is unbelievable.

Kansas City Chiefs: So much for the Todd Haley era as he was fired this week. At least he won’t be around for the beating that the Chiefs are going to take from Green Bay this week. Look for the Chiefs to hire former Broncos head coach and current Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for the top job once the season concludes. He is the man they wanted instead of Haley in the first place, but Denver offered him the job first…..QB Kyle Orton has recovered from his dislocated finger and will start for KC this week.

Miami Dolphins: Head coach Tony Sparano was put out of his misery this week as well. The team certainly played hard for him even though we all knew he was a walking dead man. He won’t have any problems getting another job, either at the head coach or coordinator level…..QB Matt Moore left the game last week with a concussion and hasn’t practiced yet, but should be available to play this week against Buffalo.

Minnesota Vikings: Tough loss for the Vikings last week but some good did come out of it. QB/WR Joe Webb played pretty well after taking over for Christian Ponder and may be able to handle that role in the future. The problem is Minnesota also likes what he can do as a receiver. You really can’t have your backup QB playing receiver, too good a chance of an injury. Maybe you can have your third string QB play receiver though…..Ponder is expected to start this week even though Webb was more effective than he was last week.

New England Patriots: That was some pretty funny stuff watching QB Tom Brady and the Pats offensive coordinator yelling at each other on the sideline after Brady threw an interception last week. Seems though if any of the Pats coaches were going to yell at any of the players, it should be on the defensive side of the ball…..If that was the funny part of the game, than the ridiculous part was watching the Redskin defense trying to tackle TE Rob Gronkowski. It looked like a high school team trying to tackle a top college player–just a joke.

New Orleans Saints: If you’re not a fan of any team in the NFC, you have to be rooting for a Green Bay-New Orleans rematch in the championship game, hopefully in good weather. Now that would be entertainment….TE Jimmy Graham is dealing with a bad back that almost kept him out of the game against Tennessee. He was able to play and has also been able to practice this week so this may not be as serious as it once looked…..RB Mark Ingram has yet to practice this week and may yet miss another game due to turf toe.

New York Giants: What a win for the Giants over the Cowboys on Sunday. They are now in control of their own destiny in the NFC East, but things could get testy. They have what should be a gimme versus Washington this week, although the Skins played the Pats tough. They than have to play the Jets and then Dallas once again. Here’s hoping that last game is a winner take all…..The most impressive thing to me about the Giants’ win wasn’t the 37 points they scored but that they didn’t give up a sack.

New York Jets: The Jets have come alive once again and look like a team that could be dangerous come playoff time. They have a strong running game with Shonne Green and LaDainian Tomlinson, and QB Mark Sanchez has been more careful with the football in the past couple of games. The loss of S Jim Leonard is a blow to the defense, but he missed the playoff run last season as well due to injury.

Oakland Raiders: Not that the Raiders had much of a chance of beating Green Bay anyway, but that is back to back weeks that they virtually didn’t get off the plane. The team certainly has dealt with its share of injuries. Their receiving corps has been decimated and losing their biggest playmaker in RB Darren MacFadden has been huge, but that’s still no excuse for their play of late.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Michael Vick had a successful return to action last week, but WR Jeremy Maclin did not as he had to leave the game early when his hamstring tightened up on him. He might give it a go once again this week but there is no way of knowing if he will be able to finish the game…..WR DeSean Jackson actually showed up last week and had a big game. The question is, can he do it again, especially with the games becoming more and more meaningless?

Pittsburgh Steelers: It seems unlikely that QB Ben Roethlisberger will play Monday night after suffering a high ankle sprain, an injury that looked pretty ugly when it happened. The Steelers need to think about the future. Sure they would like to win the division, but they have a wildcard spot all but locked up and need to make sure Ben is as close to 100% as possible for the playoffs…..C Maurkice Pouncey also suffered a high ankle sprain. He wants to play, but once again the Steelers may play it safe and hold him out.

San Diego Chargers: Can the Chargers make another miracle comeback in the division? Probably not, but they are once again giving it a go. If only Tim Tebow would stop pulling out these miracles…..With the rash of coaching changes that have been going on, it’s fair to wonder if Norv Turner could be let go when the Chargers next lose a game and are officially eliminated from playoff contention.

San Francisco 49ers: That’s two losses in a row for the 49ers and now they have the Steelers coming to town. Now they have a firm grip on the NFC West but that first round bye might be slipping away…..I still can’t see how this team can win a playoff game. They need to score points. Their defense is good, but not great…..RB Frank Gore is certainly beat up and the 49ers admit that he’s not 100%. But what running back is at this point in the season? The real question is, how far from full health is he?

Seattle Seahawks: RB Marshawn Lynch has set himself up to make a ton of money next season, assuming the Seahawks don’t franchise him. He’s as tough a runner as there is to bring down. Inconsistent, sure, but once he’s in the secondary he’s a runaway train. The Hawks must retain his services next season.

St. Louis Rams: It’s hard to believe that OC Josh McDaniels will be in high demand next season with the way the Rams offense has been this season. Of even more importance is that QB Sam Bradford has certainly regressed this season. Still look for McDaniels to be the Chiefs first choice…..If McDaniels were to leave, would free agent WR Brandon Lloyd leave with him?….Speaking of Bradford, his ankle seems to have taken a turn for the worse and as of now he is unlikely to play Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs look to be out of control and it seems unlikely that coach Raheem Morris keeps his job…..QB Josh Freeman stated that he still doesn’t have the same zip on his fastball due to injury. That could explain the problem he has had with interceptions this season. Freeman has to be one of the more disappointing players this season…..Freeman should be licking his chops at facing the Dallas secondary Saturday–Lord knows everyone else has this season.

Tennessee Titans: Tough loss by the Titans versus the Saints. They had a chance to beat them at the end. They might have had an extra play had rookie QB Jake Locker thrown the ball on the final play. He had time. Even if he throws the ball away, he still would have had another play. Then he could have run around forever and tried to make a play. You can’t take a sack, even if you just heave it up for grabs. Give your team a chance.

Washington Redskins: On that great run by TE Rob Gronkowski last week, did anyone notice CB DeAngelo Hall observing the play while two of his teammates were being dragged by Gronk? Way to get involved…..Coach Mike Shanahan stated this week that QB Rex Grossman is auditioning for the starting job next season. While that may be true, the Skins are sure to use their first-round pick on a rookie quarterback.

Happy Birthday, Sid

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is a fun, refreshing, yet dangerous and retrograde fellow, single-handedly dragging the NFL back to its antediluvian days when offenses consisted of little more than repeatedly having one guy tuck the ball away and plow into the line in pursuit of yardage.  Watching Tebow ply his trade evokes grainy images from when football was young, the men were mean, and the forward pass was something of a dream.

One of those who helped transform the NFL from a blood-and-guts scrum for daylight into the more wide-open passing attack seen today was a man who would be celebrating his 95th birthday Monday, Hall of Fame Chicago Bears quarterback Sid Luckman.

Luckman and the Bears thrilled the nation with their T-formation from 1939 to 1950, winning four NFL championships.  Luckman was all-NFL five times, MVP in 1943 and was under center in perhaps the most famous game in NFL history when the Bears obliterated the Washington Redskins, 73-0, for the 1940 NFL title.

When Luckman hung up his leather helmet, he was the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards, (14,686) and touchdowns, (157).  Yes, those are numbers that Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady could put up in just a handful of seasons in today’s NFL but, at the time, Sid could fling it like few others.

As antiquated as Luckman’s numbers are at first glance, some of his records actually still hold.  Luckman was the first quarterback to ever throw for seven touchdowns in a game, in 1943 against the New York Giants, and he still shares that mark with four other players: Adrian Burk, (1954), Y. A. Tittle, (1962), George Blanda (1961), and Joe Kapp (1969). Strange, isn’t it, that despite all the chuckin’ that goes on these days, that mark hasn’t been reached in 42 years?

There’s another record that Luckman still holds all by himself and while some might consider it the equivalent of being the fastest man in a two-man race, it’s still worth noting.  Luckman is still the NFL’s all-time leading passer among Ivy League quarterbacks.  Luckman, who played his college ball at Columbia, stands tallest among the smart guys with his 14,686 yards.  He was threatened a few years ago by Dartmouth graduate Jay Fiedler, but the Dolphin fell short, finishing with 11,884 yards.

Buffalo Bills quarterback and Harvard alumnus Ryan Fitzpatrick seems to have Sid in his sights.  Through ten games this year, Fitzpatrick has accumulated 9,389 career passing yards.  If he stays healthy, it would seem Mr. F. will pass Luckman sometime in 2012 or 2013.

Does anyone care who holds the distinction of top passer, or top anything, among Ivy League guys?  We certainly should, because while the NFL is currently fed by the behemoth state schools scattered across the land, it’s the institutions of the rich and smart kids that probably deserve the most credit for pro football’s very existence.  A century ago, the Ivy League was football’s epicenter and today remains one of the few places that plays the game as close as possible to how it should be.

Sid Luckman played the game the way it should be.  He was skilled, tough and, by all accounts, humorous and kind.  When, years after his playing days were over, his alma mater tried to pay him for his help in working with young players, he returned the check to Columbia with a note asking that the money be used to help some “worthy student.”

So it can be said that one of the greatest plays ever made by one of the greatest quarterbacks was, in fact, a handoff.

 

 

 

All Out Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bills 38, Raiders 35

Hello again! The Raider Guy has returned.  Yesterday, the Raiders traveled across the country to take on the Buffalo Bills.  This is a rivalry that goes all the way back to the days of the American Football League.  In recent years, when these teams have met, it has always been a close battle.  The game yesterday was no exception.

For most of the first quarter, the game looked like a chess match. Neither team could do much with the ball and the most exciting play was a 34-yard run by Bills running back Fred Jackson.  After a Brian Moorman punt, the Raiders took over at their own 29 with a little under four minutes to go in the period.  Some good running by Darren McFadden moved the Raiders to the Buffalo 37 as the first quarter came to an end with the score tied at zero.

On third and three, Raider quarterback Jason Campbell hit rookie receiver Denarius Moore for a 20-yard gain.  Moore got the start because the Raider’s top three receivers were inactive due to injuries.  After McFadden had two more carries for seven yards, Campbell hit a wide open Chaz Schilens at the Buffalo one yard line.  Three plays later, Michael Bush powered into the end zone to give the Raiders the lead.  Sebastian Janikowski made the extra point and it was 7-0 Raiders with 11 minutes to go in the half.

After the obligatory Janikowski touchback, the Bills took over at their own 20.  On third and ten, Buffalo’s quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted by Stanford Routt and the Raiders took over at the Buffalo 34.  Campbell hit Derek Hagan for a gain of 17 and then hooked up with fullback Marcel Reece for a gain of five down to the Buffalo 12.  Three straight runs by McFadden got the Raiders into the end zone once again as McFadden took it in from five yards out.  Janikowsi made the point after and that put the Raiders on top 14-0.

With eight minutes to go in the half, Buffalo took over at their own 20.  Trailing by 14, Fitzpatrick took to the air and hit Roscoe Parrish for 16 and Stevie Johnson for 19 on consecutive plays.  The Bills mixed in some short runs by Jackson and on second and three from the Raider 25, inserted return man/receiver Brad Smith in the wildcat formation.  Smith took the snap and ran for a first down down to the Raider 16.  From there, Fitzpatrick put one up for Stevie Johnson in the end zone, but his pass was tipped by Raider linebacker Rolando McClain in the back of the end zone.  The drive stalled at the seven and the Bills settled for a short field goal by Rian Lindell which made the score 14-3 with just over two minutes to go in the half.

After Raider return man Nick Miller returned the kickoff to the 18, the Raiders went to work.  Campbell hit McFadden for 16 yards and then hit Moore on a bomb that took them down to the Buffalo 23.  Raider head coach Hue Jackson called timeout with 1:39 remaining.  Michael Bush took the next carry straight up the middle for a gain of 22 and was dragged down at the one.  With plenty of time left and with a first and goal at the one foot line, the Raiders took another timeout. This would allow Buffalo to get the ball back with over a minute remaining.  On the next play, Campbell took the ball in from the one and Janikowsi made the point after to make the score 21-3 Raiders with 1:22 remaining.

Trailing by 18, the Bills had a decent amount of time to move the ball.  Some quick completions to Stevie Johnson and Donald Jones, and a 15-yard penalty on Tyvon Branch for unnecessary roughness moved the ball into Raider territory.  Fitzpatrick then hit Jackson for 12 and David Nelson for nine to bring the Bills closer to the end zone.  After a pass intended for Johnson was dropped, the Bills had to settle for a field goal attempt.  Lindell’s 39-yard attempt was tipped by Tyvon Branch and fell short.  At the half, the Raiders led by a score of 21-3.

The Bills got the ball first to start the second half.  The Raiders had the momentum and were hoping to force the Bills to go three and out. That didn’t happen.  After a 17-yard pass interference call on Raider cornerback Chris Johnson, Fitzpatrick ran to the right for 13 yards.  C.J. Spiller ran for seven and Fred Jackson finished the drive off with a 43-yard run.  Lindell’s extra point was good and the Bills closed the lead to 21-10.

After another horrific kick return by Nick Miler, the Raiders took over at their own 14.  The Raiders could feel the momentum swinging and they needed a score on this drive.  On third and nine, Campbell hit Derek Hagan for a gain of 10 and a crucial first down.  Then, on another third and long, Campbell found tight end Brett Myers for another first down.  After another third down conversion, the Raiders moved the ball into Buffalo territory.  But on second down, McFadden fumbled and it was pounced on by Danny Batten of the Bills.

The spark caused by the Fred Jackson touchdown was now turned into a flame of hope as the Buffalo defense forced a turnover.  Spiller got the call on the first play of the drive and got 12 yards.  Fitzpatrick hit Johnson for nine and Smith ran for 11 out of the wildcat formation.  Spiller ran for seven more down to the Raider seven yard line.  From there, Fitzpatrick hit Johnson again for a touchdown.  Lindell’s kick was good and the Raider’s lead was trimmed to 21-17.

After a very quick three and out by the Raiders, the Bills took over at their own 31 with 2:30 to go in the third quarter.  Fitzpatrick continued to torch the Raider’s secondary and get his passes off quickly.  He hooked up with Johnson again for gains of 13 and 11 yards.  Fred Jackson got the call and ran for a gain of 29 down to the Raider 16.  From there, the Raider defense finally got to Fitzpatrick and Matt Shaughnessy sacked him for a seven yard loss.  However, the sack didn’t count as Raider linebacker Rolando McClain was called for illegal contact.  That moved the ball to the Raider 11. From there, Fitzpatrick hit tight end Scott Chandler for a gain of ten.  Jackson finished the drive with a one yard run.  The Raiders didn’t think that Jackson scored and challenged the play.  That resulted in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for challenging an unchallengeable play.  The penalty was enforced on the kickoff and Raider fans around the world were relieved to know that they would be spared the pain of watching Nick Miller return another kickoff.  The touchdown call stood and Lindell made the point after.  The 18-point lead the Raiders once had was gone.  The Bills led 24-21.

With 14:10 to go in the fourth quarter, the lead was gone, but the Raiders weren’t dead yet.  Campbell went to work and hit Moore for ten yards and Hagan for 25 more.  After a short run by McFadden, Campbell found Hagan again for a gain of nine to the Buffalo 43.  Then a little trickery was inserted as Moore ran a double reverse down to the 18.  Short runs by McFadden and Bush led to Campbell completing a 12-yard pass to McFadden for a Raider touchdown.  Janikowski split the uprights and the Raiders once again had the lead, 28-24.

The Bills took over at their own 20 with 9:18 to go in the game.  Once again, the Raiders could not stop the Bills as Fitzpatrick found Nelson for 15 and Spiller ran for 26 yards down to the Raider 39.  The Bills continued to mix up the runs and passes on this drive to keep the Raiders off balance.  Fitzpatrick hooked up again with Johnson and moved the ball to the eight.  A holding call on cornerback Chris Johnson moved the ball to the four.  Jackson was stuffed for a two-yard loss on first down, but on second down, Fitzpatrick found Chandler for a touchdown to give the Bills the lead.  Lindell made the point after and the Bills led 31-28.

With just under five minutes to go in the game, Nick Miller tried to run back a kickoff from three yards deep in the end zone.  This time, he stumbled and was brought down at the Raider 12-yard line.  Campbell connected with McFadden and Reece to move the ball close to midfield.  Then on first and ten at the 50, Campbell put up a deep bomb for Denarius Moore.  Moore leaped in between two defenders and brought the pass in for a 50-yard touchdown.  It was truly a thing of beauty.  Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 35-31. But, with the defense playing so badly, I was very concerned that the score came too quickly.

The Bills took over with 3:41 to go in the game.  On the first play of the drive, cornerback Chris Johnson was flagged for another penalty.  This time it was pass interference for 14 yards.  They dinked and dunked their way to midfield and moved the ball deep into Raider territory.  The Raider defense stiffened and had a chance to win the game as they forced the Bills into a fourth and short at the 24.  But Fitzpatrick completed a 9-yard pass to Jones to keep the drive alive.  After two incomplete passes, Fitzpatrick found Nelson for a 9-yard gain and it was fourth down again.  All the Raiders had to do was stop them on the next play and they would leave Buffalo with a win.  As badly as they played in the second half, they still had a chance to rise up and make a play to win the game.  That didn’t happen.  Fitzpatrick found Nelson WIDE OPEN in the end zone to give the Bills the lead.  Lindell’s kick was good and the Bills led 38-35 with 14 seconds left in the game.

With 14 seconds on the clock, the Raiders had the ball at their own 20. Campbell hit Moore in stride across the middle for a gain of 24. Campbell called timeout with six seconds remaining.  The next pass was overthrown and that led to the last play of the game.  Campbell heaved up a Hail Mary that was intercepted by Da’Norris Searcy.  That gave the Bills a 38-35 win.  After the game was over, the officials reviewed the final play. Nine minutes later, referee Mike Carey made the announcement to an empty stadium that the call was upheld and that the ball was intercepted.

Now that was a tough pill to swallow.  The Raider defense dropped several interceptions, missed assignments and the pass rush was nonexistent.  They allowed the Bills to score a touchdown on every drive in the second half.  It was pretty obvious at halftime that the Bills made adjustments and the Raiders didn’t.  Fitzpatrick had all the time in the world to find open receivers and completed 28 of 46 for 264 yards with three touchdowns and one pick.

Fred Jackson scored two touchdowns. He and Spiller ran through some huge holes for some very big gains.  Combined, they had 180 yards on 19 carries.  About the only good thing I can say about the defense was the interception by Stanford Routt.  That’s it.  All the rest was pure garbage.  Chris Johnson and Rolando McClain both had horrible games and there were countless missed tackles.  The term “garbage” also applies to the kickoff returns.  With Jacoby Ford out with a hamstring injury, Nick Miller was the next man up and he did a terrible job.  Get well soon, Jacoby! You are terribly missed!

The bright side was the offense.  Campbell had three starting receivers (Louis Murphy, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford) and starting tight end (Kevin Boss) out for the game and he still did a great job.  Campbell completed 23 of 33 for 323 yards with two touchdowns and one pick.  He seems to have total command of the offense.  Big time props also go to the offensive line for not allowing a sack and no false starts in a very hostile environment.

It also looks like the Raiders have a solid deep threat in Denarius Moore.  He’s not the fastest guy on the team, but he has great hands and amazing leaping ability.  Moore hauled in five catches for 146 yards and a touchdown.  Not bad for a fifth round pick out of Tennessee, huh?  Darren McFadden also had a good game with 72 yards on the ground, 71 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

Next week, the New York Jets fly out to Oakland for the Raider’s home opener.  They destroyed the Jaguars yesterday by a score of 32-3 and will be looking for another win.  If the Raider defense plays the way they did in the second half against the Bills, the Jets will have an easy win.  Raider’s defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan better insert one hell of a game plan to stop Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes and the rest of the Jets.  Until then, take it easy.

The Raider Guy

Hopes and Wishes for the 2011 Buffalo Bills

Now that the millionaires and billionaires have finally finished sorting out the nickels and dimes of their $9 billion dollar dispute, we fans can get back to business. Let free agency and fantasy football madness begin! I’m from Buffalo and a lifelong Bills fan. I am still cheering them on even after all the early years of futility, the devastation of “Wide right!”, four straight Super Bowl losses, and additional futility and mediocrity of recent years. As the 2011 season begins, some random hopes and wishes for my team have come to mind and I thought I would share them. So here goes…

I wish the Bills had changed their uniforms earlier; the 2002-2010 design was absolutely hideous. The new uniforms are reminiscent of the ones worn from 1975-1983. Joe Ferguson’s red helmet is gone and the classic white helmet is back and the dark blue jersey has been changed to royal blue. They went with a more basic old school design and it’s cool.

I hope Freddy Jackson is allowed to carry the load in the backfield. He has earned it, totaling 1,989 rushing yards the past two seasons, while averaging over 4 yards per carry. He’s proven to be a reliable receiver as well, hauling in 77 receptions and 586 yards during that time. Last season he posted a career high 7 TDs. Given the opportunity he has produced, even with a lousy line in front of him. With an improved line this season, he could put up some superb numbers.

I wish we had a better situation at QB. Ryan Fitzpatrick is serviceable at best and inexperienced Brian Brohm and Levi Brown are the other QBs waiting in the wings. Currently only Fitz and Brown have contracts. GM Buddy Nix stated during the pre-draft process that they didn’t feel the need to draft a QB because they plan to pick up help via free agency, focusing on at least one veteran to back up Fitz. A quick look at the QBs on that free agent list and there’s not a whole lot to get excited about.

I hope Marcell Dareus is the second coming of Bruce Smith or Fred Smerlas.

Along with the new uniforms, the playing surface at The Ralph just got a makeover as well. A plush new synthetic field turf called A-Turf® Titan has been installed with the Bills’ new color scheme. It looks great! The product description claims it delivers consistent playability, superior durability and is the toughest on the market. I hope that refers to the Bills too.

I wish I had gone to more than one Bills home game during my years growing up in Western New York. But at least that one game was a great one. It was against the Jets in 1979. Jerry Butler caught 4 TDs in a wild come from behind win. Buffalo was behind 24-12 late in the second quarter when Joe Ferguson connected with Butler for a 75 yard TD that began an exciting rally (Butler had already caught a 5 yard TD earlier). Ferguson found Butler again early after halftime for another big play. This time a 74 yard TD to go ahead 26-24. Later the hot duo connected once more on a 9 yard TD play. Fred Smerlas added a 13 yard fumble return for a TD and Joe Shipp caught a 13 yard TD from Ferguson. The score was 46-24 after a missed PAT. The Jets did manage to score a late TD but time ran out and the game ended in a 46-31 victory for the Bills. Rich Stadium, as it was known back then, went insane!

I wish 7th round pick Michael Jasper wasn’t such a long shot. At 6’4″ and 375 pounds, he is surprisingly athletic, has a 32″ vertical jump, long jumps 9’5″, can dunk a basketball, and bench press over 500 lbs. Check out this YouTube video of him training: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyWFh3Lp5u8. The thought of this behemoth on the defensive line with Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams makes me giddy.

It’s been almost 8 months since the game against the Steelers last season. Man, I wish Stevie Johnson had caught that ball. Afterwards he said he will never forget dropping what would have been the winning TD in overtime. I hope he doesn’t and is out to make up for it by exceeding his stellar breakout campaign last season. He finished last season with 82 receptions, totaling 1,073 yards and 10 TDs. I also hope he concentrates on doing his job and not tweeting and coming up with TD celebrations. Just catch balls Stevie, just catch balls.

Final thoughts…I hope our defense develops an identity, the offensive line somehow catches lightning in a bottle, Fitzpatrick proves me wrong, and we improve significantly from last season. And if not, I hope we at least take both games from Miami. Let’s Go Bills!!!