December 18, 2017

Old Quarterback, New World: Peyton Thanks Frank

One of the first people Peyton Manning acknowledged upon being introduced as the new quarterback for the Denver Broncos on Tuesday was a man most football fans don’t remember and might be only vaguely familiar to a few basketball fans.

Frank Tripucka played for the Broncos from the inaugural AFL season of 1960 through 1963 after a checkered career in Canada and unsuccessful attempts in the NFL following an All-American career at Notre Dame.  Tripucka, whose son Kelly later became a basketball star for the Fighting Irish and an NBA All-Star, enjoyed his best pro seasons with the Broncos including throwing for more than 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns (and 34 interceptions!) in 1960.  In his four years in Denver Frank wore #18 and the Broncos retired the jersey when Tripucka galloped off into the Rockies in 1964.

But Frank’s no fool.  He said last week that it’s OK with him if the Broncos wanted to un-mothball his jersey if it would make Mr. Manning happy and, sure enough, Peyton is now a Bronco with a spiffy new #18 sweater and the NFL landscape has shifted dramatically.

Was it all about the jersey, Peyton?  Certainly not.  Much of it had to also be that even a stud horse like Peyton Manning gets goo-goo eyes when the man who, 30 years ago, was supposed to be a great Indianapolis Colts quarterback before conniving his way to the Broncos, John Elway, is courting you.  What can Elway impart upon Manning?  Maybe how to keep winning, specifically Super Bowls, in his late 30s which is what #7 did for Denver by capturing Lombardi Trophies at age 37 and 38 after three failures in his young, wild, Terrell Davis-less early years.

Actually, this geriatric quarterback concept is par for the course in Denver.  Manning turns 36 this week and, before Peyton and Elway there was Craig Morton who was 34 when he led the Broncos to their first ever Super Bowl during the 1977 season.  Morton wore #7 for his six seasons in Denver and then Elway took that jersey over in 1983 and now both of those guys have their name by that number in Denver’s Ring of Honor.  See?  Everyone wins when you share!

And Tripucka, by the way, was 36 in his first and best year in Denver.  It’s like it’s all part of some strange, master plan that only works in Denver for certain football Samurai and not mere pigskin mortals like Charley Johnson, Steve Ramsey, Brian Griese, Jake Plummer, Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton or, (gulp) Tim Tebow.   We’ll get back to him.

Can Peyton still play?  And if so, can he play in the snow, wind and cold of Colorado after spending 13 seasons in the indoor comforts of Indianapolis?  Come November, Mr. Manning will likely have a greater respect for Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Fran Tarkenton, Jack Frost and all those who ply their trade under the elements.  Denver owner Pat Bowlen is investing $96 million that when it comes to football Peyton won’t care if there’s snow, sleet, rain or the ghost of Rod Smith in the huddle, he’ll just get it done.

No one knows for certain if Manning’s body is or will be completely OK but even if he’s 100% he needs to have a team around him and maybe he does.  The Broncos have a decent defense with young players like Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, a good running back in Willis McGahee and a very respectable receiving corps in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Eddie Royal and a very good coach in John Fox.  And Denver is suddenly a place other players might want to gravitate toward.  There’s already talk that Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokely – all members of the #18 fan club – are considering moving West and while those guys aren’t exactly game-changers the only thing a star quarterback likes more than money are guys with whom he’s familiar.

And the only people who love football more than beer drinkers are gamblers (those two groups don’t crossover, do they?) as Las Vegas has already put Denver at 10-1 to win the Super Bowl when, way back in the Tim Tebow days of last weekend, they were 70-1.  If Vegas believes, shouldn’t we all?

And what is Tim Tebow believing right now?  We’re sure his faith is not broken but his spirit must be a tad shaken.  The Broncos have said they plan to pursue a trade for their former run-first, pray-second, pass-third starting quarterback and several teams have expressed interest.  No matter where Tebow goes he will certainly be a backup and/or asked to become a fullback or tight end, which could be very cool and very smart because the kid is a hell of a football player.  But maybe he should just stay in Denver.  Why not?  He’d be a huge distraction, OK, but if there’s one team that has gotten used to media hordes it’s Denver.  Imagine Tebow learning at Manning’s elbow, working on his throwing mechanics from the safety of the shadows and still getting on the field for a few snaps each game as a receiver or ball carrier.  It would be thrilling, it would be inspiring, it would be fun and it might be a damn good football move for the Broncos to hang onto their best overall player (that’s right) while also getting possibly the league’s best overall player.  Tebow probably wouldn’t go for it even if the Broncos did but imagine if old man Manning goes down for a few games this fall, who would you rather have coming off the bench?

OK, no way.  I know.  The clock has expired on Tebow Time in Denver and now the Rockies instead smile upon Old Man Touchdown.  Tebow will land on his feet and – after yet another interception – probably on his head and his ass, too – with the Dolphins, Jaguars, Ringling Bros, or some such outfit.  Peyton and Denver will win more games without him but while the steady climb of success is satisfying will it be more fun than the rollercoaster of Tebowmania?  In Denver, yes.  But for the rest of us, anything that keeps Sundays interesting is good for football.  And most of us aren’t Broncos fans.  Still aren’t.  Though all Colts do dream of being Broncos, don’t they?

 

 

 

Broncos 29, Steelers 23

The Denver Broncos had an eight and eight record and backed their way into the playoffs.  They were coming off three straight losses to the Patriots, Bills and Chiefs and they looked bad in all three of those games.  In those three losses,  Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow completed 30 of 73 for 439 yards, one touchdown, four interceptions and three lost fumbles. With numbers like that, you won’t win many games.  Luckily for them, they play in the AFC West.  That was a division that looked like nobody wanted to win and eight wins was enough to win the division and get a home playoff game.

The Steelers came into this game with the number one ranked defense.  Even though quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a gimpy ankle and they were without safety Ryan Clark, center Maurkice Pouncey and running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore, they shouldn’t have many problems getting a win in Denver.  They may as well get ready for a trip to New England to take on the Patriots next week, right?  Wrong.

The Steelers could only get two field goals in the first quarter, but they were moving the ball well.  At the end of the first quarter, the Steelers led 6-0 and had 119 total yards.  The Broncos had eight total yards.  But, on third and 12 from the 18, Tebow put up a bomb that was caught by wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for a gain of 51 yards.  Then on second and nine from the 30, Tebow found wide receiver Eddie Royal in the end zone for a touchdown to put the Broncos up 7-6.  Steeler defensive end Brett Keisel was injured on this play and did not return.

After a three and out by the Steelers, Tebow put up another bomb for Thomas for a gain of 58 that put the ball at the Steeler 12.  Two plays later, Tebow ran up the middle for an eight-yard touchdown to make it 14-6.  On the next possession for the Steelers, Bronco safety Quinton Carter picked off a pass and the Broncos found themselves with great field position at the Steeler 18.  This time, the Broncos would have to settle for a 20-yard field goal by kicker Matt Prater.  That made it 17-6 with seven minutes to go in the first half.

After another Steeler punt, the Broncos took over at their 31.  On second and six from the 35, Tebow went deep again and found tight end Daniel Fells for a gain of 40.  Three straight runs by running back Willis McGahee moved the ball to the Steeler 13.  They would get as far as the ten and settle for another field goal to make it 20-6.

With 1:05 to go in the half, the Steelers started at their 20 and Roethlisberger went right to work hitting wide receiver Antonio Brown for 25 and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for 17 more.  A six-yard pass to Brown and an incomplete pass intended for Sanders set up a third and four at the Bronco 32.  Even though Roethlisberger was in the shotgun formation, the snap from center Doug Legursky went way over his head.  The ball was recovered by tight end Heath Miller at the Steeler 45, but it took the Steelers out of field goal range and they had to punt.  Tebow took a knee to end the half with the Broncos up 20-6.

The Steelers started their first drive of the second half at their 13-yard line.  On third and ten from the 23, Roethlisberger found Sanders for a gain of 18.  Brown ran a reverse up the left side for 18 more to move the ball into Bronco territory.  On third and two from the 33, running back Isaac Redman ran up the middle for an apparent 33-yard touchdown.  Replay showed he was down at the one-yard line.  On first and goal from the one, wide receiver Mike Wallace ran up the right side for a touchdown to make it 20-14.

The Broncos added another field goal to increase their lead to 23-14 with 13 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.  Time was running short and the Steelers knew they had to get going.  A 28-yard run up the middle by Redman moved them into Bronco territory.  But the drive would stall at the 19.  Steeler kicker Shaun Suisham would make another field goal to close the lead to 23-16 with ten minutes to go in the game.

With the lead and the ball, the Broncos started at their 20.  A ten-yard run by Tebow and another catch by Thomas moved the ball to the Bronco 48.  On first down from the 48, McGahee ran up the right side, got hit by safety Ryan Mundy and fumbled the ball away.  Linebacker Lamar Woodley pounced on it and the Steelers took over at their 45 with 7:35 to go in the game.

Some scrambling by Roethlisberger and a 15-yard completion to Sanders moved the ball to the Bronco 31.  On second and ten from the 31, Roethlisberger spotted wide receiver Jerricho  Cotchery cutting across the middle of the end zone and fired a strike that was caught for a 31-yard touchdown.  That tied the game at 23 with just under four minutes to go in the game.

That was plenty of time for Tebow to lead the Broncos down for the winning score.  That didn’t happen and the Steelers had one more shot to get a win in regulation.  They got as far as the Bronco 45, but the Bronco defense stiffened and sacked Roethlisberger twice to force the game into overtime.

The overtime playoff rules are now known as “modified sudden death.”  The system guarantees each team a possession or the opportunity to possess, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession.

The Broncos won the toss and after the usual touch-back, started out at their 20.  Tebow took the snap in the shotgun formation, felt no pressure from the Steeler pass rush, looked to his left and hit Thomas in stride.  Cornerback Ike Taylor tried to slow him down, but couldn’t get the job done.  Thomas outran the Steeler secondary up the right sideline for an 80-yard touchdown that gave the Broncos a 29-23 overtime win.

For the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger completed 22 of 40 for 289 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  Emmanuel Sanders led the team with six catches for 81 yards.  Isaac Redman finished the game with 121 yards on 17 carries.  Ike Taylor led the team with six solo tackles, but this would be a game I think he would love to forget.  He had a rough day.  Actually, the entire Steeler defense had a rough day.  They allowed 447 total yards and registered no sacks or  interceptions.

For the Broncos, Tim Tebow completed 10 of 21 for 316 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.  He also ran for 50 yards and a touchdown.  Demaryius Thomas led all receivers with four catches for 204 yards and a touchdown.  Willis McGahee had 61 yards on 19 carries and a very costly fumble.  Safety David Bruton led the Broncos with eight solo tackles and one pass defensed.  The Bronco defense allowed 400 total yards, sacked Roethlisberger five times and had one interception.

The Broncos will be heading across the country to face the New England Patriots on Saturday night at 8 P.M. Eastern time.  When they met in Denver in week 15, the Patriots won 41-23.  Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 320 yards, two touchdowns and the Patriots had 451 total yards.  Can the Broncos get a playoff win on the road?  We’ll find out Saturday night.

 

 

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.

Bears Lose To A Higher Power, 13-10

Bear hearts bleed for Marion Barber.  The Chicago running back played very well on Sunday in place of the still-hobbled Matt Forte against the Broncos in Denver, carrying the ball 27 times for 108 yards and one spectacular touchdown while also catching two passes for 32 yards.  But Mr. Barber, despite his lovely hair and splenetic running style, will be remembered for what he was not able to accomplish in the land of Tim Tebow, which is stay in bounds and hold on to the ball.

The Bears had the Broncos beat.  It was all over but the postgame prayer as Chicago led this offensively challenged affair, 10-0, in the fading moments of the fourth quarter when Tebow finally was able to channel his inner-Jesus and, like lepers suddenly made handsome, made his offense rise and walk into the endzone with a ten-yard TD pass to Demaryius Thomas who was so wide open he could have been mistaken for a Kardashian’s legs.

OK, it’s tough to pitch a shutout in the NFL as there have only been four so far this season.  And as proud and able as the Bears’ defense normally is, and as inept as Denver’s offense had been all day, they got one in there.  It happens.  The Bears then had the ball with two minutes to play and, leading 10-7, all they had to do was run down the clock.  Chicago likely would have punted to Denver with just a few ticks left and not even Saint Tebow could have pulled out a win (I think).  But Mr. Barber, inexplicably, (howcouldaveteranplayerdothis?!!) allowed himself to get pushed out-of-bounds, stopping the clock.  Awful.

The Bears punted giving the Denver Tebows the ball with a minute left which was plenty enough to get into position for Matt Prater’s 59-yard field goal which looked like it would have been good from 69 (Tebow hates that number.)  Overtime.

Marion Barber’s Day in Hell Part Two:

The Bears should not have been in overtime but instead at that point in the afternoon should have been in the locker room celebrating a hard-fought victory and asking Tebow for directions to the nearest church.  But here they were.  They won the toss and matriculated gallantly down the field and looked like salvation would be theirs but damnation reared its obnoxious head.  From Denver’s 39, Barber was breaking away, possibly for a score and certainly for a hefty gain that would have put Chicago in position for a game-winning field goal as Robbie Gould had already sailed through a 57-yarder to start the fourth.  But then, ouch!, Barber fumbled, Denver’s Elvis Dumervil recovered and Tebow was in business.

A few minutes later Matt Prater kicked a 51-yard field goal and the final score read:

Broncos 13

Bears 10

Normal Life 0

 

The Broncos have now won six straight, are 8-5, and will likely win the AFC West.  The Bears have lost three straight, are 7-6, and desperately need an exorcism.

If the Bears had the services of injured quarterback Jay Cutler in this game, they would have won 31-3 and farted in John Elway’s car.  If the Bears had Cutler and Forte, they would have beaten the Broncos 48-3 and converted Tebow to Rastafarianism.

But that’s not the way it is.

Tebow must be given credit.  He was terrible for the first three quarters or so of this game as the Bears pressured him and wouldn’t let him run or barely even complete a pass.  In fact, #15 did not complete a single pass in the second or third quarter.  Not one.  The Bears defense was good but Tebow was bad.  So how did he end up going 21/40 for 236 yards, 1 TD, 1 int. and another miracle victory?  Well, Tebow is sort of like a near-sighted sentry who doesn’t realize trouble is charging right at him until it’s right there in front of him.  When the time comes to fight, he fights.  In the fourth quarter and overtime he threw the ball well, was poised, looked for different receivers and just wasn’t worried about anything, was he?

Tebow can play football.  He’ll never be Manning, Brady, Marino or John The Baptist but he belongs in the NFL, though I still think he’ll eventually belong as a fullback.  But the Chicago Bears didn’t lose this game because of Mr. Holy.  They lost because the Broncos defense is pretty good and the Bears offense without Cutler and Forte is about as threatening as Ellie Kemper.

Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie has been on Chicago’s roster for four seasons and has now had three straight starts in place of Cutler and it’s clear from all of this that he either can’t succeed at his chosen vocation or needs a lot more help.  The Bears tried to aid Hanie’s cause by committing to the run with Barber and Kahlil Bell combining for 38 carries, but why did the Bears get just 10 points?  Hanie finished 12/19 for 115 yards and completed passes to only four different receivers.  Shouldn’t the Bears, having established the run so assuredly, have been able to take advantage of that by calling a little more play-action?  Or how about dipping into Tebow’s Bible and rolling Canie out a little more, giving an athletic guy a chance to show some stuff?

I know, I know, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz gets pilloried for making the offense too complicated so maybe the strategy was proper.  The real miscue may have been that when the Bears seized a 10-0 lead early in the fourth, they, offensively, clearly thought it was over.  After Gould’s field goal, the Bears went three-and-out on four straight possessions, attempting one pass that whole time.  Chicago’s offense was whistling past the graveyard not realizing such action only awakened Denver’s evil spirits and the result was one of the most humiliating and unnecessary defeats the beloved Chicago Bears have ever been a party to.

Yes, Tim Tebow can go to the devil.  And he can take Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller, John Fox, Matt Prater and his earrings too, but Chicago’s late-game strategy deserves to go with them.  Damn it all.

The Bears still have a good defense but their offense, and their moxie, are on life-support and even if the Bears were to pull out victories next week at home against Seattle and in the final week in Minnesota, in-between they have to play a December 25 game in Green Bay against a certain 13-0 Packers team that is already typing up a screenplay for “Christmas Massacre” starring Aaron Rodgers and the Ghosts of Packers Past and Present.

Bears lovers are a little bit torn at this point over whether we even want to see the Bears win next week against the Seapigeons.  A victory would be nice and keep Chicago’s suddenly slim playoff hopes alive but then that would mean we’d have to watch Christmas Day against the Packers with a sense of actual relevance, hoping for a Christmas miracle.  It might be easier if Chicago loses next week and goes into Green Bay 7-7 and out of the playoff picture so that way we can put the Christmas Day game on in the background as we load up on eggnog and break up fistfights between our uncles.

No one knows what we shall receive for Christmas.  No one can say what the New Year will bring.  But on Chicago’s gridiron, the Season of Joy has devolved into a march into Hell.  And it’s cold.  And it’s lonely.  And we can hear Tim Tebow laughing.

 

 

All Out Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: It’s only five games but so far the Kevin Kolb era is off to a slow start…..S Kerry Rhodes broke his foot during the game Sunday and will be out for a least a month…..For those of you keeping track, Arizona will host Super Bowl XLIX in 2015…..With all the attention that defenses are paying towards WR Larry Fitzgerald, Early Doucet is quietly having a nice season.

Atlanta Falcons: I’m not sure which is more surprising – that the Eagles are 1-4 or that the Falcons are 2-3. I didn’t see either one coming…..WR Julio Jones will miss at least this week’s game with a hamstring injury, which will give Harry Douglas a chance to make a bigger impact…..DE Ray Edwards is still not fully recovered from off-season knee surgery and isn’t having the pass rush impact that the Falcons were hoping for…..I hate when analysts say this because it all counts, but take away two long runs from RB Michael Turner and he has been virtually non-existent this season.

Baltimore Ravens: WR Lee Evans was able to practice on a limited basis Wednesday, but missed practice Thursday. It seems unlikely that he will play this week…..CB Jimmy Smith also is unlikely to go as he still can’t run at full speed…..The Ravens are catching the Texans at the right time. DE Mario Williams is out for the season and WR Andre Johnson will also miss the game. It certainly makes life easier when the opposing team is missing their best offensive and defensive player.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills will be going up against one of their own this week in Perry Fewell, the Giants defensive coordinator. They should certainly know some of his favorite schemes…..WR Donald Jones will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a high-ankle sprain, so Brad Smith could see more action…..LB Chris Kelsay won’t play versus the Giants…..What kind of team the Bills have will become much more apparent within the next month.

Carolina Panthers: Fantasy owners couldn’t have been happy when the Panthers offensive coordinator stated this week that QB Cam Newton will be the Panthers goal line back going forward. Now there is something you just don’t hear every day. The ironic thing is this statement came the same week that coach Ron Rivera stated he didn’t want Newton running the ball as much. Can’t seem to have it both ways.

Chicago Bears: QB Jay Cutler has now admitted in back to back weeks that all the hits he is taking are starting to make him gun-shy in the pocket. In other words, he is starting to see the rush rather than looking for his receivers down the field…..RB Matt Forte turned down a contract worth $13-$14 million in guaranteed cash during the off-season. It seems with the season he is having that he is certainly not going to take any less now.

Cincinnati Bengals: By yardage allowed, the Bengals have the best defense in the NFL. Yeah, who saw that coming?…..RB Cedric Benson still doesn’t know if and when he will be suspended by the NFL. His appeal has been heard, but no decision has been made. The problem for fantasy owners is that they are forced to keep Bernard Scott on their roster until a final decision is made. That’s a valuable roster spot being wasted as of now.

Cleveland Browns: WR Greg Little has been named a starter going forward and has been a popular pickup in fantasy leagues. While I like his added playing time, I’m not seeing big things happen here…..CB Joe Haden is out this week. That’s a big loss to the Browns pass defense…..DE Marcus Benard suffered a broken arm in a motorcycle accident Monday and will be lost to the Browns for the remainder of the season. There is a reason emergency rooms call them donor cycles.

Dallas Cowboys: The bye week may have come in Week 5, but for the Cowboys it couldn’t be early enough. WRs Dez Bryant and Miles Austin should be as close to 100% as they have been all season, CB Orlando Scandrick will play in his first game since Week 1 (lucky him as he gets to cover Wes Welker), and QB Tony Romo gets two more weeks to recover from his broken ribs. Speaking of those ribs, Romo will still wear a flak jacket and take a pain killing injection before playing.

Denver Broncos: I’m still not a big believer in Tim Tebow’s ability to be a franchise QB, but at this point in the season the Broncos needed to see what they have in him. If you’re going to lose, you might as well lose big…..Fantasy wise though, Tebow is an interesting play. He’s probably good for somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 yards a game which helps offset his probably lack of passing yards, and if he can run in a touchdown he could have a decent week–figure around 18 points…..For those of you who want the Broncos to trade QB Kyle Orton, it’s probably not going to happen. The deadline is next week. The only team that might be interested is Miami, and the Broncos happen to play Miami that Sunday. I’m just not seeing that PR nightmare happening.

Detroit Lions: TE Tony Scheffler suffered a concussion during the game Monday and is unlikely to play Sunday…..S Erik Coleman was placed on season ending IR with an ankle injury…..DL Nick Fairley finally got to play Monday. Although he didn’t make an impact during his first game, he should only help what may be the best defensive line in football as he gets more experience…..WR Nate Burleson seems to be seeing his role in the offense decline as QB Matthew Stafford seems to be looking for his TEs as secondary targets when Calvin Johnson is covered.

Green Bay Packers: Pretty amazing game for the Packers and QB Aaron Rodgers last week against the Falcons when you consider they lost both starting tackles. This may be a problem that comes more to the forefront in the coming weeks…..I know WR James Jones has had back to back big weeks but there are just too many offensive weapons for Rodgers to choose from to see this being an every week thing…..Staying on that note, WR Donald Driver’s best days are behind him and the Pack may be better off only using him in four and five WR sets.

Houston Texans: As mentioned earlier, WR Andre Johnson is out for this week’s game but may return sooner than thought, possibly even next week…..What does have to concern the Texans however is that RB Adrian Foster has been slowed in practice once again this week and one has to wonder if that hamstring is bothering him once again…..The acquisition of WR Derrick Mason from the Jets goes to show how unimpressed the Texans were with Jacoby Jones.

Indianapolis Colts: Who would’ve thought that the most dynamic passing combo in the NFL would be QB Curtis Painter to WR Pierre Garcon? The Colts are still going to need another positive week though before I completely buy in…..WR Joseph Addai injured his hamstring last week and is unlikely to play Sunday, leaving the running game in the hands of Delone Carter and Donald Brown. I’d rather have Carter.

Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Aaron Kampman is expected to finally play in a game this season–Sunday versus the Steelers. With the state of the Steelers offensive line, he couldn’t have picked a better game to come back to…..How long until coach Jack Del Rio is fired? He was told that the team would have to make the playoffs to save his job. Ummm, this team is not going to make the playoffs.

Kansas City Chiefs: QB Matt Cassel has come alive of late and has made WRs Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston good plays as well in fantasy leagues. There is one problem though, the Chiefs schedule gets much tougher in the weeks ahead. Although they will probably be playing behind which will lead to more passes, they will also be playing against tougher defenses…..RB Jackie Battle had well over 100 yards rushing last week but don’t be looking for big things from him when the Chiefs return from their bye. He’s just not that kind of back.

Miami Dolphins: How will the Dolphins do with QB Matt Moore at the helm? It can’t be any worse than what they did with Chad Henne…..RB Daniel Thomas should be back as the bye enabled him to recover from his hamstring injury. The Dolphins will need him this week as it would seem unlikely that Moore will have great success against the Jets defense…..Look for the other RB, Reggie Bush, to line up in the slot as the Dolphins look to get him more involved in the offense.

Minnesota Vikings:  QB Donovan McNabb is playing better behind center, but once the Vikings come to the conclusion that the playoffs are out of reach, the Christian Ponder era should begin…..CB Antoine Winfield and WR Percy Harvin both missed practice Thursday. Winfield has a neck injury and seems questionable at best while Harvin is dealing with sore ribs but is more on the probable side.

New England Patriots: RB Danny Woodhead has been practicing on a limited basis the past couple of days and could play Sunday, just what Tom Brady needs–another weapon…..Speaking of weapons, TE Aaron Hernandez is still limited in practice, but as we saw last week versus the Jets, even at 80% healthy he is quite a weapon…..Fantasy wise I’m giving WR Chad Ochocinco one more week to show he can still play at the NFL level or it’s waiver wire time.

New Orleans Saints: Coach Sean Peyton admitted this week that he is having a hard time giving RB Mark Ingram enough carries during the game. I can’t really blame him. I’d want the ball in QB Drew Brees’ hands as much as possible also…..WR Devery Henderson has a calf injury that is slowing him down. He hasn’t been able to practice this week after having a subpar game Sunday. He could be sitting this week…..For those of you wondering who the number one receiver is for the Saints, even with the return to health of Marques Colston, it’s TE Jimmy Graham.

New York Giants: RB Brandon Jacobs is still having problems with severe swelling around his knee. Not a good thing for a running back, especially one who is normally taken down around the knees…..WR Victor Cruz is still technically the 3rd receiver for the Giants, but he is making more plays than Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. It seems to be just a matter of time before Manningham is demoted…..DE Justin Tuck has been hearing it from a number of ex-Giants about not playing in games due to injury and this week may be no different. Even if he does play, it certainly wouldn’t be anything more than as a situational pass rusher.

New York Jets: The Jets are starting to feel the pressure after losing three straight road games. They aren’t talking as much to the media, but are complaining plenty in-house about the offensive strategy. One of those so-called complainers found himself shipped out when WR Derrick Mason was traded to the Texans for a 7th round pick…..What has happened to TE Dustin Keller after a hot start to the season? Come to think of it, you could say the same thing about WR Santonio Holmes as well…..Will this be the week the Jets get back to ground and pound, smash mouth football on both sides of the ball.

Oakland Raiders: Like him or hate him, Al Davis was a pioneer and one of the people who made the NFL what it is today. “Just win baby!” RIP Al

Philadelphia Eagles: I know it’s only Week 6, but the Eagles are in what may be a must win situation. A loss to the Skins Sunday and the Eagles will be four games out of 1st in the NFC East…..WR Steve Smith is now fully healthy, but still may be no better than 4th on the Eagles’ depth chart…..The Eagles reached out to former Jets and Browns coach Eric Mangini to be their defensive consultant. He turned it down however, preferring his gig with ESPN.

Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Rashard Mendenhall’s hamstring is said to be better and he will be good to go Sunday, but keep in mind his carries may be limited and that hamstring can easily be re-injured…..OT Max Starks, who hadn’t played in about a year, was in on all but two snaps in Sunday’s game and seemed to stabilize the Steelers offensive line. Was this just a one game phenomenon or will things start to get easier for QB Ben Roethlisberger and Mendenhall?

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are off this week and once again the bye couldn’t have come at a better time. RB Ryan Matthews is dealing with a calf strain that may have made him unable to play this week, Mike Tolbert has a concussion, WR Vincent Jackson a leg injury , and hopefully TE Antonio Gates can use the time off to finally get his foot healthy enough to get back on the field.

San Francisco 49ers: WR Josh Morgan is out for the season after suffering a broken ankle last week. The 49ers are riding high, but their depth at receiver is going to be tested until Braylon Edwards returns…..Until Edwards returns, Ted Ginn will be the 49ers number two. Scary isn’t it? Not to mention Michael Crabtree isn’t completely healthy either.

Seattle Seahawks: Pretty impressive win by the Hawks last week versus the Giants. There were plenty of big plays and turnovers, but in the end they made more of the good kind than the G-Men…..QB Tavares Jackson suffered a strained pectoral muscle and may not have been able to play if the Hawks had a game this week, but they don’t, so he has an extra week to rest…..WR Doug Baldwin went off against the Giants, but I wouldn’t be running out to the waiver wire just yet.

St. Louis Rams: RB Steven Jackson should be fully recovered from his quad injury and should be safe to start in fantasy leagues. Problem is the Rams play the Packers this week and could be behind by multiple touchdowns quite early, forcing them to abandon the run game…..WR Mark Clayton should return from the PUP next week. We all know the Rams could use all the help they can get at receiver as Danny Amendola was placed on IR, ending his season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: What has happened to the Bucs? That was a complete butt kicking handed to them by the 49ers last week. Seems the offense can’t quite get in gear as QB Josh Freeman is not having the big season many predicted of him. WR Mike Williams is also suffering as he seems to be going through a rough sophomore season. Is it the fault of Williams that Freeman has regressed or vice versa? The Bucs better figure it out soon before the season slips away…..The running game may not be able to help as LeGarrette Blount will miss the next game or two with a knee injury. Look for Earnest Graham to handle the load until Blount’s return.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans came out hot versus the Steelers last week, but when they were unable to score a TD on the opening drive despite having multiple chances inside the 10-yard line, all the air seemed to come out of the balloon and the game slipped away very quickly…..Look for the Titans to become more of a running team as the season progresses.

Washington Redskins: The big question for the Skins, besides if they are for real, is who will be the main ball carrier each week. Tim Hightower still has a banged up shoulder but is in line for more carries. Ryan Torain and Roy Helu have been impressive at times. All three could see the ball Sunday against the Eagles whose defense can’t stop anyone…..As for the QB, Rex Grossman hasn’t looked good the past few weeks and it’s hard to see him having a big day versus the Eagles secondary. He just needs to avoid the big mistake.

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.