December 17, 2017

Raiders 19, Jaguars 9

The 2013 home opener for the Oakland Raiders had them matched up against the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The Jaguars were coming off a bad 28-2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and the Raiders were coming off a 21-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.  Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski blasted the opening kickoff through the end zone.  The Jaguars started at their 20 and went absolutely nowhere.  Punter Bryan Anger came on and punted the ball away.  It was fielded by return man Phillip Adams at the Oakland 32 and returned to the Jacksonville 38.  That gave the Raiders very good field position for their opening drive.

A short run by running back Darren McFadden and a false start penalty didn’t get the Raiders off to a good start.  However, on second and 12 from the 40, quarterback Terrelle Pryor found McFadden for a short gain.  The Jaguars were also flagged for a personal foul and that gave the Raiders a first down at the 22.  From the 22, McFadden took a direct snap and ran up the right side for seven yards.  Pryor ran off left end for four more and that gave them a first down at the 11.  From the 11, fullback Marcel Reece took it the rest of the way for a Raider touchdown.  Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 7-0 with 10:52 to go in the first quarter.

Janikowski hit his next kickoff eight yards deep in the end zone.  Return man made Stephen Burton made the mistake of running the ball out and was brought down at the 14-yard line.  Running back Maurice Jones-Drew got things off to a good start for the Jaguars as he ran off right tackle for eight yards.  He was stopped for no gain on his next carry, but on third and two, quarterback Chad Henne completed a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Cecil Shorts for a first down at the 35.  They would get as far as the 38 and ended up punting again.  The bad news for the Raiders was safety Tyvon Branch injured his ankle and did not return to the game.  It looked like a pretty serious injury.  The Raiders got the ball at their 18 and netted exactly two yards in three plays.  Punter Marquette King booted the ball away and the Jaguars started at their 37-yard line.

Two offside penalties on the Raiders, some short runs by Jones-Drew and a short completion to tight end Clay Harbor moved the Jaguars to the Oakland 40.  They brought out their no-huddle offense, but the Raider defense was up to the task of stopping them.  The next three plays gained zero yards and they were forced to punt again.  The Raiders got the ball back at their 16, got a few first downs, but a deep pass to wide receiver Denarius Moore on third and six fell incomplete.  King got off a nice punt and the Jaguars took over at their 13-yard line.

A 17-yard pass to Shorts, some running by Jones-Drew and a nine-yard scramble by Henne got the Jaguars moving into Oakland territory.  But, on first down from the 46, Henne was sacked by safety Brandian Ross.  A short pass to tight end Allen Reisner made it third and six from the 42.  On third down, Henne found some time and completed a 17-yard pass to Harbor for a first down at the 25.  He then found Burton for a gain of 22 and the Jaguars were in business with a first and goal at the three.  Jones-Drew got the call on first down and was thrown for a loss of four by defensive end Brian Sanford.  They gave the ball to Jones-Drew again on second down and just when it looked like he may get to the end zone, safety Charles Woodson came out of nowhere, grabbed Jones-Drew by the neck and threw him out of bounds.  They gained three yards on the play, but that was it for Jones-Drew.  He left the game with an ankle injury.  A delay of game penalty moved them back five yards and on third and goal from the nine, Henne felt the pressure coming from the defense and his pass to Harbor fell incomplete.  The Jaguars brought in kicker Josh Scobee and his 27-yard attempt was good.  That made it 7-3 with 7:45 to go in the first half.

The Raiders started at their 20 and two scrambles by Pryor and a nice 24-yard run up the middle by McFadden gave them a first down at the Jacksonville 25.  On third and ten from the 25, Pryor found McFadden on a screen pass, but he was brought down short of the first down marker.  Janikowski came in for a 35-yard attempt and the kick sailed wide left.  The Jaguars took over at their 25 and went nowhere again.  They punted and the Raiders took over at their 29.  They had a little under three minutes to try and put some more points on the board.  Completions to wide receivers Rod Streater and Brice Butler had them moving in the right direction.  On third and six from the 50, Pryor fired a pass to his right that was caught by wide receiver Jacoby Ford for a first down at the Jacksonville 41.  A short scramble and an 11-yard completion to tight end Mychal Rivera set them up with a first down at the 27.  They would not get any further than that and Janikowski was brought into the game again for a 46-yard attempt.  He snuck it inside the right upright and the Raiders led 10-3 at halftime.

The Raiders started their first drive of the second half at their 19-yard line.  A five-yard scramble by Pryor and a 16-yard pass to Streater got them a first down at the 40.  The next three plays netted six yards and it was time for another punt.  King’s punt was fielded at the eight by return man Will Blackmon and he returned it to the 14.  However, there was a flag on the play.  An offside penalty on the Jaguars gave the Raiders a first down at the Jacksonville 49.  On second and six from the 45, McFadden got loose again and was dragged down at the 15 for a gain of 30 yards.  But, the Jaguar defense stiffened once again and it was time for another field goal attempt.  Janikowski made the kick and the Raiders now led 13-3 with 9:18 to go in the third quarter.

Neither team could do a thing with the ball for the duration of the third quarter.  It was very boring and could be compared to watching paint dry.  However, a short punt by Anger gave the Raiders the ball at the Jacksonville 47.  A 28-yard run by McFadden provided a spark for the Raider offense and some more scrambling by Pryor put them at the 20.  Pryor completed a pass to Rivera, but he came up just short of the first down marker.  Enter Janikowski again.  His 29-yard attempt was good and the Raiders now led 16-3 with 13:49 to go in the game.

The Jaguars went three and out and the Raiders took over at their own 38.  On third and nine from the 39, Pryor completed a pass for a gain of 11 to Rivera and a first down at the 50.  Former Jaguar running back Rashad Jennings was brought into the game and on third and four from the 44, he ran straight up the middle for a gain of 28 yards.  A touchdown here would seal the deal and get the Raiders a win.  But, that was not the case.  The drive stalled on the ten-yard line, and the Polish Cannon blasted another ball through the uprights and gave the Raiders a 19-3 lead with six minutes to go.

With time running out, the Jaguars knew they had to get going.  All they did was go backwards again.  On third six from their own 23, the Raiders brought the pressure and safety Usama Young sacked Henne for a loss of seven yards.  With five minutes to go and with things looking pretty good, the Raiders took over at their 23.  McFadden got the call on first down and after escaping some trouble in the backfield, he headed up the left side for a gain of 27 yards.  But, as he was being tackled, the ball came loose and the Jaguars recovered it at midfield.

So, with 4:47 to go, the Jaguars still had a shot.  Speaking of shots, Henne took another one from defensive end Jason Hunter and he was sacked for a loss of four on first down.  It didn’t get much better on second down as Henne fumbled.  It was recovered by the Jaguars, but they were now facing a third and 21 from their own 40.  But, Henne escaped the pressure and found wide receiver Ace Sanders across the middle for a gain of 30 yards and a first down at the Oakland 30.  A false start moved them back five yards, but Henne came back with a 22-yard pass to Shorts and from there, he found Harbor in the end zone for a touchdown.  Harbor seemed pretty proud of himself and dunked the ball over the goal post.  That was the first touchdown of the season for the Jaguars.  They went for two on the next play and the pass was incomplete.  Up next was an onside kick that was recovered by Streater and the Raiders took over at the Jacksonville 45.  Three plays netted zero yards and they only managed to take a little over a minute off the clock. King punted the ball through the end zone and with 1:48 remaining, the Jaguars took to the air.

The Raider defense brought some more pressure. Young and cornerback Tracy Porter combined for another sack for a loss of seven yards.  But, Henne did find time to complete passes to Shorts and Sanders.  They moved into Oakland territory with time ticking away and on third and five from the 30, Henne found Sanders again.  He was gang-tackled at the 24 and that was the last play of the game.  Final score: Raiders 19 Jaguars 9.

For the Jaguars, Chad Henne completed 25 of 38 for 241 yards and one touchdown.  Those are pretty good numbers, but he felt pressure throughout the game and was sacked five times.  Maurice Jones-Drew led the Jaguars in rushing yards with 27 on ten carries.  All totaled, the Jaguars had a paltry sum of 34 yards rushing on 19 carries.  Cecil Shorts had a good game and led the Jaguars in receptions with eight and receiving yards with 93.  Defensively, linebacker Geno Hayes led the team in solo tackles with seven and had one tackle for a loss.

For the Raiders, Terrelle Pryor completed 15 of 24 for 126 yards.  He also had 50 yards rushing on nine carries.  Darren McFadden led the way on the ground with 19 carries for 129 yards and lost one fumble.  He also had 28 yards receiving.  As a team, the Raiders rushed for 226 yards on 34 carries.  Rod Streater and Mychal Rivera tied for the lead in receptions with three and Streater had the most receiving yards with 42.  Defensively, Charles Woodson led the team in solo tackles with six.

Well, a win is a win.  I was very impressed with the performance of the Raider defense.  They brought lots of pressure and did a great job of stopping the run.  With the exception of not turning the ball over, Pryor didn’t do as well in this game as he did against the Colts.  He looked a little more tentative and didn’t scramble as much as he usually does.  The best thing about this game was seeing McFadden finally get loose.  I give credit to the Jacksonville defense for staying with the speedy Raider receivers.  There was rarely an occasion where Pryor found a receiver wide open.  Also, when he completed a pass, there was always a defender right there to make sure there were no extra yards gained.  One thing that still needs to be addressed is the penalties.  They were only penalized five times for 30 yards, but two of them were offside penalties.  Guys, just wait until the ball is snapped, okay?  After the quarterback has the ball, then you may go after him.  That’s not rocket science.  Have a little patience.

Up next for the Raiders is a trip to Denver for a Monday night game.  The Broncos had no problem with the Giants on Sunday and they are looking very good this year.  The Raider defense will have their hands full and what I hope to see is a successful running game.  If they can keep the chains moving and the clock running, they’ll have a shot.  Peyton Manning can’t do any harm when he’s sitting on the bench.  But that’s next week.  Today is my Birthday and I am going to enjoy it.  Until next week, take it easy.

The Raider Guy

 

All Out Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You Ready for Some Two-Hand Touch Football?

Now don’t get me wrong, I applaud that the NFL is tackling the safety issues. The fact that there does not seem to be much outcry from the players about all the new rules in recent years tells me that the players are, for the most part, behind the new safety rules. However, football is a violent game and is a game where players wear pads and helmets. Hard hits and bruises are a part of football.

Which brings me to this weekend. Fourteen quarterbacks threw for more than 300 yards, including three throwing more than 400 yards and of course the ever exalted Tom Brady throwing for more than 500 yards. (A feat I have to add would not have happened if not for Miami’s disastrous play calling. Fourth and half a yard and they choose to throw rather than give to Reggie Bush? Good luck this season Miami.)

The league has created so many rules about hitting and even going so far as to ensure a dramatic decrease in the number of kickoff returns. It’s no wonder there is so much offense now. Players are afraid to tackle and make punishing, message sending hits for fear of getting fined and/or suspended. Witness San Francisco 49ers’ Joe Nedney in Sunday’s game against Seattle “fall” after hardly a hair was touched when he attempted a field goal. Penalty. In the same game a flag was thrown after what appeared to be a hard-hitting head shot. Replays said otherwise. A penalty was still issued.

If the NFL is going to continue to crack down on hard hits and create a game that discourages real tackling, which some argue compromises the game, then I think an additional “challenge” concept needs to be developed. One that allows coaches two additional challenges, just like current replay challenges, which are allowed to be used on penalties and whether or not a head shot is a head shot or a quarterback was truly roughed up.

Six games this weekend saw both quarterbacks throwing for more than 300 yards, a first in the game’s history. More touchbacks were recorded in one game at Lambeau Field than all of last year. I believe this year will be the most offensively productive year in NFL history. It would not surprise me that two or three quarterbacks reach 5,000 yards passing and even potentially knocking Dan Marino’s season record down two or three notches. I would also expect players to get tired of touchbacks, which means possible multiple touchdown returns of 105 yards or longer. Witness 49ers’ Ted Ginn Jr. returning a kickoff and punt return in the fourth quarter within a minute of each other. Are defenses mailing in kickoff returns because they expect a touchback or are they too afraid to take down players like they used to?

In recent years, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have been accused of crying foul every time someone touches a hand on them. It would make perfect sense then, especially for offenses, to keep the crybaby routine up until the league intervenes because a two-hand touch game means more offense and statistics, and the NFL backs it because fans love to see high scoring games and productive offenses. The bottom line: more offense equals more money! (This was evident on Monday as two Patriot defenders simply watched Miami quarterback Chad Henne scramble towards the goal line.) I am still amazed whenever I see a punt or field goal blocked successfully since the margin of error to reach the ball without touching the kicker is so small.

Player safety should always be a primary concern. I’ll never forget seeing Steve Young unconscious on the field. And cheap shots should be penalized with fines and suspensions, if necessary. But much of football is mental and if you take away the fear factor defenses rely on so much, then football becomes a two-hand touch proposition. With referees not taking chances and calling questionable hits viewed only in real-time, more and more players will hold back which means poor tackling and high offensive output. Perhaps, this is what the NFL truly intended when it began implementing so many rules.

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Even with the addition of RB Chester Taylor, Beanie Wells is still expected to handle the bulk of the rushing load for the Cardinals…..SS Adrian Wilson has a torn biceps but looks to be a go for Sunday.  It is still anyone’s guess as to how long he will last…..Andre Roberts will line up opposite WR Larry Fitzgerald on opening day.

Atlanta Falcons: Former WR Andre Rison was indicted for failure to pay child support. Well at least his house didn’t get burned down this time…..The Falcons have had an extremely quiet preseason for a team this good…..There doesn’t seem to be a question as to whether or not the Falcons will make the playoffs this season. Instead, the question is how deep they will go into the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens: David Garrard would be a perfect backup for the Ravens in their quest for a Super Bowl run…..WR Torrey Smith will get his shot at returning kicks in Week 1 with David Reed suspended…..Have to like the signing of OL Andre Gurode. The guy has made quite a few Pro Bowls and will provide valuable experience along the line.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills may want to get the ball in the hands of RB C.J. Spiller more often, but it will not be on kick or punt returns; where he will be the backup, not the starter…..Spiller will also be the backup to Fred Jackson at running back, who is the number one guy for Buffalo right now…..I’m still having a hard time seeing the Bills finish anywhere but last this season in the AFC East. Unfortunately for them, they probably won’t be bad enough to be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

Carolina Panthers: LB Jon Beason is still battling an Achilles injury but is expected to be ready to play Sunday…..How the mighty have fallen! Not only has QB Jimmy Claussen lost the starting job to Cam Newton, but he may have also lost the backup gig to Derek Anderson…..I have the over/under on Panther wins this season at four.

Chicago Bears: Not sure why, but WR Roy Williams is still listed ahead of Johnny Knox on the depth chart. This may actually be nothing more than a matter of semantics in a Mike Martz offense–rarely there are only two receivers on the field…..Contract negotiations between the team and RB Matt Forte have broken down and will not resume again until after the season…..RB Marion Barber will be the goal line guy assuming he can remain healthy.

Cincinnati Bengals: There are rumors being circulated now that the Bengals let the cat out of the bag about QB Carson Palmer visiting ownership in order to light a fire under Andy Dalton…..RB Cedric Benson has been released from prison and should be good to go Sunday, but it’s really hard to see him having any kind of value this season…..The Bengals claimed WR Ben Tate off waivers. He has some upside, but it won’t be easy breaking into the Bengals receiver rotation.

Cleveland Browns: RB Montario Hardesty is healthy and should be able to give Peyton Hillis enough rest to keep him from wearing down as the season moves along…..WR Greg Little won’t open the season as a starter, but impressed the Browns coaching staff enough where he might get there by season’s end…..The new kickoff rule should definitely hurt the value of WR Josh Cribbs. You have to wonder though, if he will feel the pressure to return kicks even if he is eight yards deep into his own end zone.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys may be traveling to New York on a Red Cross bus. CB Terrance Newman is out with a groin injury, CB Mike Jenkins injured his knee in practice Wednesday and is questionable at best, and 1st round pick OG Tyron Smith hyperextended his knee in practice and is unlikely to play–ouch…..The good news is that WR Miles Austin returned to practice, granted on a limited basis, but should be good to go.

Denver Broncos: Although it has yet to be stated officially, QB Brady Quinn is the number two behind Kyle Orton. Still have to believe though that if the Broncos get off to a bad start, they are going to have to see what they have in Tim Tebow…..WR Demaryius Thomas is well ahead of schedule in his recuperation of an Achilles injury, and could possibly be ready to play in Week 1.

Detroit Lions: Quick, who is the Lions number two WR? That’s right, Nate Burleson, who could have a big season with everyone worrying about Calvin Johnson. If only QB Matthew Stafford can stay healthy…..DT Nick Fairley is not expected to be ready for Week One after undergoing foot surgery earlier in camp…..RB Maurice Morris is out for Sunday, leaving the backup job in the hands of Jerome Harrison.

Green Bay Packers: Looks like RB James Starks and Ryan Grant are going to split the carries somewhat to begin the season, but it shouldn’t shock anyone if Starks gets a bigger and bigger share as the season goes along…..With TE JerMichael Finley back, WR Greg Jennings could see fewer balls thrown his way…..I’m going to say the Packers will get their title defense off to a good start on Thursday with a 31-23 win.

Houston Texans: If ever the Texans were going to get over the hump and win the AFC South, this season is it…..There is a rumor going around that with QB Peyton Manning not playing in Week 1, the Texans may choose to sit RB Arian Foster and give him another week to rest his injured hamstring. The thinking being that without Manning, they can beat the Colts without Foster…..If Foster were to miss the game, look for Derrick Ward to lead the Texans in carries, not Ben Tate.

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts season may be teetering on the brink of disaster. If QB Peyton Manning misses anything more than a game or two, the season for the Colts and their fans will be a long one. No team that I can remember has ever been so dependent on one person. Without Manning, the Colts ground game isn’t good enough to scare anyone. Kerry Collins has never been anything more than an average QB. Even the defense is built to rush the passer to protect a lead and leads may be rare…..It’s a shame that Manning’s streak of consecutive starts has to come to an end, but what a great ride it’s been. Here’s hoping he starts another streak shortly.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The release of QB David Garrard this late into camp came as a shock to just about everyone in the NFL. The team will start the season with Luke McCown under center but one has to believe that Blaine Gabbert could take over that role after their bye in Week 8…..The Jags have tried to sell this move by telling everyone that McCown outplayed Garrard, but the truth is it was all about money as the team saves about $8 million if he is not on the roster come Week 1.

Kansas City Chiefs: QB Matt Cassel may or may not have a cracked rib depending upon whom you believe, but either way it looks like he will start Sunday…..TE Tony Moeaki wasn’t so lucky however as he will miss the entire season with a torn ACL…..As I’m writing this, it has started to thunder and lightning outside–not sure what that means for the Chiefs chances this season.

Miami Dolphins: QB Chad Henne has had a good preseason and looks to be in sync with WR Brandon Marshall. If Henne can’t get it done this season, he won’t get another shot in south Florida…..The Dolphins were toying with the idea of starting Marshall and Davone Bess at WR, but in the end they decided to keep Bess in the slot and return Brian Hartline to his starting role.

Minnesota Vikings:  The Vikings are trying to figure out a way to get QB Joe Webb on the field to take advantage of his athleticism…..WR Bernard Berrian had to agree to restructure his contract in order to stay on the team…..TE Visanthe Shiancoe didn’t play at all this preseason, but looks to be ready to start Week 1…..RB Adrian Peterson is going to have a monster season.

New England Patriots: QB Tom Brady stated this week that he would welcome WR Randy Moss back. One has to wonder if this is Brady’s way of saying that he is not all that happy with his current stable of wideouts. Of course, the only opinion that matters is that of HC Bill Belichick’s, and he may not want the headache that is Moss on his team again. Could you imagine Moss, Chad Ochocinco, and Albert Haynesworth all on the same team?

New Orleans Saints: WR Lance Moore won’t play Thursday versus Green Bay…..This week may not be an optimal situation, but WR Robert Meacham could have a solid season. At the very least, he should be more of a target with the injury to Moore and Marques Colston playing on cranky knees…..Speaking of more targets, TE Jimmy Graham is going to be a household name by the end of the season.

New York Giants: The Giants lost yet another player when LB Jonathan Goff went down for the count with a torn ACL…..WR Domenik Hixon will open the season as the punt returner…..DE Osi Umenyiora is out for at least the first two games–at least it’s not for the entire season…..You have to love that the agent for former Giants RB Tiki Barber said he was shocked that no one signed his client. Really? Shocked that no one would sign a player who hasn’t played football in a couple of seasons and torched his former team in the media when he left.

New York Jets: I know the Jets aren’t a passing offense, but you have to think they will come out throwing Sunday night against Dallas if the Cowboys don’t have their top two CBs playing…..David Garrard could also be a good backup QB for the Jets who only have Mark Brunnell behind Mark Sanchez…..CB Darrelle Revis has been dealing with a hip flexor, but he will be good to go Sunday.

Oakland Raiders: TE Kevin Boss is still not practicing and he is questionable at best to play Sunday…..QB Terrelle Pryor has changed his mind once again and now will appeal his suspension. Seems to me he was probably pressured by the team and the NFLPA into appealing. He might be better off just serving the suspension and getting it over with.

Philadelphia Eagles: WR Jeremy Maclin is taking all of his usual snaps in practice and should be good to go for Sunday, but don’t be surprised if it takes him a week or two to get into the flow of things…..WR Steve Smith practiced Wednesday and may actually be available to play Sunday after all…..Sticking with WRs, DeSean Jackson will once again be the punt returner for Philly.

Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Emmanuel Sanders is indeed ready to go for Sunday…..LB James Harrison still does not believe he is 100% recovered from off-season back surgery…..The Steelers and S Troy Polamalu have been in contract negotiations. If Pittsburgh is unable to sign him, they will franchise the All-Pro after the season.

San Diego Chargers: Deciding which RB to take in your fantasy league, Mike Tolbert or Ryan Matthews, can drive an owner crazy. Matthews will probably get more carries, catch more passes, and be the main guy between the 20s, but Tolbert is the goal line guy and he’s going to get his fair share of carries also…..WR Patrick Crayton didn’t practice Wednesday, but still has a good chance to play Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers: WR Michael Crabtree finally practiced in pads and might actually be able to play Sunday, although it would likely be at less than 100%…..Not only did RB Kendall Hunter win the backup job behind Frank Gore, but he also won the kickoff return job…..WR Braylon Edwards was fined $50K this week for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, but once again won’t be suspended.

Seattle Seahawks: The Hawks said they are not interested in QB David Garrard. You would think with Tavares Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst on your roster that you would be interested in any QB that comes around…..WR Sidney Rice is still not practicing with a shoulder injury and may not play Sunday…..After the release of Jeff Reed, it looks like Steven Hauschka will start the season as the placekicker for Seattle.

St. Louis Rams: After placing WR Mark Clayton on the PUP list, he won’t be available until Week 7…..Former Rams WR Donnie Avery made it through waivers, so he’s free for anyone to claim…..I still think it’s a crime that the Rams haven’t found a true number one WR to play with QB Sam Bradford.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Aqib Talib will play for Tampa this week, not so long ago it looked he might be released or even in jail…..RB LaGarrette Blount will not play on 3rd downs, but will still be the main ball carrier on 1st and 2nd downs…..Not only will Arrelious Benn play this week, but he will be the starter–nice to see as he had to battle back from injury.

Tennessee Titans: Now that RB Chris Johnson is signed, we will see if he suffers some kind of leg injury like it seems many players suffer who don’t attend training camp…..WR Kenny Britt will be good to go Sunday. He could be in for another excellent season if QB Matt Hasselback can remain upright…..Have to feel a little bad that WR Kevin Curtis couldn’t make the team.

Washington Redskins: So Rex Grossman will once again be the Skins starting QB. Makes you wonder how long until his turnovers drive the Shanahans crazy and force them to turn to John Beck…..S Oshiomogho Atogwe has been battling a hamstring injury all preseason but will play Sunday if he can practice later this week…..Roy Helu will be the backup RB behind Tim Hightower to start the season.

All Out Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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