Fantasy Football News

Monday, October 31, 2011

MNF: Chargers at Chiefs Live Blog

This is a pivotal game in the AFC West, as the San Diego Chargers–led by Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers, who is having a rough start with 7 TDs and 9 INTs–go in two Arrowhead in an attempt to add on to its division lead.

Opening kickoff by KC's Ryan Succop goes through the end zone

Surprise? False start on SD to start the game...Arrowhead is surely one of the toughest stadiums to play in. Just look at all that red.

A 3-and-out for the Bolts to open the game in Kansas City, Missouri.

Interesting piece of information: SD's defense consists of three rookies. One of the few vets on this unit is LB Takeo Spikes. Should make for an interesting match-up with Matt Cassel's offense.
Wideout alongside All Pro Dwayne Bowe for KC is rookie Jonathan Baldwin, who is off to a great start tonight with a 17-yard catch and a first down.

Third and long converted with a 26-yard strike to Bowe, one of the top receivers in this game. That now gives Kansas City two third downs on long pass plays. Cassel is exploiting San Diego's inexperienced secondary early and often...may be the key to beating this defense without RB Jamaal Charles in the lineup.

Kansas City head coach Todd Haley uses his first timeout of the game with 9:54 to play in the opening quarter.

After a false start, Kansas City faces a 3rd & 15 without Bowe on the field. Baldwin's 10 yard reception comes up short of the first after being pushed out of bounds by SD's rookie corner Marcus Gilchrist. Sets up a field goal try.

Six minutes in to the game Succop hits from 36-yards out, giving Kansas City the early 3-0 lead.

Color analyst Jon Gruden–the former Super Bowl-winning head coach–points out what a great start KC's Brandon Flowers has had, and I'd have to agree. On the first drive he played a huge impact with coverage on Vincent Jackson and support in the run game...the very next play safety Kendrick Lewis picked off his third pass of the season.

It appears as though utility man (as I like to call him) Dexter McCluster may have fumbled the ball right back to San Diego. The ruling was a fumble, but after looking at the replay it looks as if he may have been down by contact.

Play is being reviewed after a KC challenge

Oh my, ruling stands as a Kansas City fumble–Chargers ball. I agree with Mike Tirico, Gruden and Ron Jaworski, though. Looked like McCluster was down...not enough evidence? Psh, definitely down by contact.
First completion for Rivers on 3rd & 9 to Patrick Crayton for a SD first down.

Next play he overthrows Jackson deep down the field and the interception is DROPPED by Flowers. Easy pick there, I must have praised him too quickly.

Running back Ryan Mathews doesn't give up too easily. More poor tackling by KC, seems to be a theme around the NFL this season.

ALMOST FORGOT--Mike Tolbert is inactive tonight (maybe I should pick a different photo to use, hmmm).

Third & 4 deep in KC territory. Perhaps Rivers should get the ball to Antonio Gates or Malcom Floyd.
Kansas City's crowd has taken over the game already after Rivers' second interception of the game on the third down play (LB Derrick Johnson)...two drives for SD, two Rivers interceptions–gives him 11 on the season

Not the Rivers I'm used to, he threw 13 picks all of last season, and just nine the year before that. It was tipped at the line (unlucky) but a costly mistake nonetheless. Missed out on three points there.

Costly mistake with a helmet-to-helmet hit, looked accidental, but will tack on 15 more for KC...setting up Matt Cassel's 39-yard bomb to BALDWIN for the touchdown reception. The young striker went up and caught the pass at its highest point, over the SD defender. Gives KC a 10-0 lead nearing the end of the first. Rivers is irate, pacing the sideline.
First KO we've seen returned so far tonight, but Richard Goodman fails to reach the 20-yard line.

"Jaws" argues the hit on the "defenseless" receiver, which is a new rule this year that you cannot have contain with a defenesless receiver's head. I agree to an extent, with Jaws, but helmet-to-helmet hits are dangerous, thus the reason why Commissioner Roger Goodell is attempting to crackdown.

...in other news, another false start for SD's o-line. Fans at Arrowhead are alive and well, as expected.

With Kris Dielman out of the lineup for the Bolts, keep your eye on Kansas City's Tamba Hali. What a scary pass rusher. He has been the reason for both of San Diego's false starts, and just now drew a holding call on Marcus McNeil, SD's left tackle.

---End of the first---

San Diego has controlled the clock throughout the first quarter (17 plays, 8:04 for SD; 14 plays, 6:56 for KC), but has been outgained by Cassel and Co. (5/8, 106 yards, 1 TD).

Two turnovers for the Bolts have been key to the Chiefs' success. Another failed third down conversion (1/4) to start second quarter for SD, giving the ball back to Kansas City with Mike Scifres' second punt of the evening...his first punt traveled 63 yards.

Can't agree more with Gruden's last statement (shocker, I know)...it's time for Kansas City to drop the hammer and put the Bolts away. Can't let up and make any mistakes, or Rivers will make. you. pay.

Great field position for San Diego after a 52-yard KC punt. If Rivers can't capitalize on this opportunity, he should be prepare for the worst. Cassel has been picking the secondary apart so far tonight.
Oops, scratch that. Stupid 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty called on the receiving team. He ran up and hit a KC player from behind AFTER that play was whistled dead. Dumb penalty committed by a player just signed off the practice squad earlier today. Drive will now start at the 28, rather than the 43-yard line for Rivers.

And we finally have an Antonio Gates signing, catching a 27-yard strike from Rivers. It's his 14th reception of the season after missing most of the season with injury.

It's not often you see this happen, but KC's Flowers drew an offensive pass interference penalty after an overthrow from Rivers in the end zone. This offense has been off-rhythm all night, and they are forced to take their first timeout, facing a 3rd and 21.
Kicker Nick Novak is now 12 for 12 this season with a successful 44-yard field goal try. Another failed third down conversion for Rivers and Co...1/5 on the night now.

Interesting. I had no idea that Matt Cassel played on special teams during his days at USC. Obviously I was aware that he hadn't gotten to play much at quarterback because of Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, but it's pretty cool that he went out and played on the kick-off team during some games. He was taken in the seventh round of the 2005 draft by his original team, the New England Patriots.

The 29-year old is in his third season as Kansas City's starting signal caller, as he and his crew just went on a three-and-out drive. Rivers should be set up with decent field position, looking to tie it up halfway through the second quarter of play.

Rivers has slowly, but surely, been quieting this Kansas City crowd with three straight completions. Offensive line has been giving him plenty of time in the pocket on this drive.

But he just can't catch a break. Safety John McGraw stripped Mathews of the ball and Kendrick Lewis jumped on it. Kansas City ball.
Mistakes. Mistakes. Mistakes. Just when San Diego had taken control, the momentum went back over to the home team.

The veteran Thomas Jones has been relatively quiet this season (185 yards on 58 carries, 0 TDs), and that carry was just his third of the game.

Cassel is hit by Travis Laboy, ball comes out but is ruled incomplete, not a fumble, bringing up fourth down. But Norv Turner has decided to challenge the ruling. After watching the replay it could be reversed, but I wouldn't expect it to be overruled (not enough evidence to overturn the incompletion).

Ruling reversed by officials. Say whaaaaa?! It was a bang-bang play and could've gone either way, but despite the questionable overturn, I do believe he made the right call after the review. San Diego gets the ball at KC's 22. If Rivers can't finish the deal and get the ball in the end zone, I would be worried. Mathews carries the ball in to the red zone on first down, where the SD Chargers are 24th in the league this season (11 for 24).

A third offensive PI call is made on TE Antonio Gates, negating a touchdown after his impressive catch. I didn't see where the interference was made, but it bumps back SF regardless.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson (INT earlier in game gets to Rivers and brings him down for a sack on second down, avoiding a potential Mathews block. Third and 22 for SD, as Mathews is brought down short.

ANOTHER Charger penalty (holding on a screen pass to Mathews), brings them back 10 yards and now 3rd & 32. That now makes 21 penalties for the Chargers in the last six quarters of play as we hit the two minute warning.

Sloppy game offensively for San Diego...they may be winning the T.O.P. battle, and be out-gaining Kansas City, plus more offensive plays. But eight first half penalties for a total of 80 yards has surely killed any rhythm Rivers' offense may have had. Not to mention the three turnovers. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

A 50-yard attempt up-coming for Novak, made from 44 yards earlier...he missed it this time, had the distance but was a foot or two wide right. Kansas City takes over with 1:11 to play in the first half and one TO left.
KC's first 1st down of the second quarter came with under :20 to play as they attempt to get in to field goal range just before the half...which Succop nails from 47 yards out with :03 remaining.

13-3 Kansas City at the half at Arrowhead. Less-than-impressive two-minute drill, but it gets the job done for Haley's crew as they extended the lead just before break.

---expect Rivers to come back out in the second half with motivation---

Ew, now we get to listen to Chris "Boomer" Berman for 10 minutes during the halftime show. Just lovely.

Going to try and update this a little less in the second half, and just add more insight when I do update it. Rather than do a play-by-play type of deal like I did in the first half. Too much type to read from the first two quarters. I don't know about you, but I'm hoping for more offensive explosion from San Diego in the second half, rather than mistake after mistake. Get your stuff together, Rivers!

–Second half–

No surprise here, another false start penalty to open San Diego's opening drive of the second half after a KC punt. Backs them up deep in their own territory, and the penalty was the team's 10th of the game.

Rivers finally opening up the vertical passing game with a wobbly pass to Gates. It was right on target, though. He's over 200 yards now, and counting.

Rivers has been hit twice all game, and sacked just once (D. Johnson). He has done a spectacular job at getting rid of the ball, checking it down to his backs just before the defensive line closes in on him. Considering Dielman is out, SD's line has done a decent job.

Nick Novak just barely squeezes that ball in between the uprights from 44 yards out. San Diego has now had the ball inside the KC 34 on five separate occasions tonight, and only has six points (two FGs) to show for it. 13-6 KC with 8:10 remaining in the third quarter. Cassel will be getting the ball back.

Baldwin has been a huge asset to this offense, as his 6'4'' body has made for a great downfield target opposite Bowe. If it wasn't for the great success of quarterbacks Cam Newton, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton and wideout A.J. Green, I would say Baldwin is a top pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year so far this season. So many rookies stepping it up this season. Great to see, no doubt.

And Cassel makes his first mistake of the game (aside from the fumble, I guess) as Eric Weddle picks him off after a deflection.

San Diego starts at the Chiefs' 33, sixth time they have been inside KC's 34 tonight. Will Rivers finally capitalize on such as great opportunity?
Chiefs' defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel put the pressure on Rivers, forcing him to overthrow a double-covered Gates on third down. San Diego is now 2/9 on third downs tonight, bringing on Novak for the third time, hitting from 42. Kansas City up just four now.

I was expecting plenty more offense tonight, but instead just one touchdown between these two teams with six minutes to play in the third. Hmph!

McCluster has done too much dancing around out of the backfield tonight. He's shown great speed and explosiveness on kick returns, but hasn't managed any yards rushing on five carries. Give him a couple looks in the screen game, and maybe he will break a long one.

Still waiting for Rivers to break-out the gun tonight. Maybe on this drive? Only down four and solid field position (again).

Rivers has shown some inaccuracy tonight, overthrowing several targets and throwing a couple additional passes a bit high to his receivers...but that quick slant to Malcom Floyd picked him up 37 yards and a first down in KC's red zone.

Earlier I said that KC hasn't touched Rivers that often, but that may be because they have him running for his life instead...

He hasn't received much help, a holding call on the o-line was just declined, bringing up yet another fourth down and a very short 26-yard FG attempt. He splits it through and that's now seven times inside KC's 35, and only four field goals to show for it.

Scuffling in the center of the field after the kick, but no punches or flags thrown. This is what I call the wild, wild West...two teams scrapping for points in this one in a battle for division supremacy.

I get excited every time McCluster touches that ball on kick-offs, though he has yet to break-free for a long TD run tonight.

End of the third qtr now, with Cassel and the Chiefs' O driving. Two straight positive plays, almost seems like the first time all half that that has happened. Lets hope for less penalties (16 combined in first three qtrs) and more TDs in the final quarter of play. With it being a 13-12 game, I do believe the final quarter will turn in to a shoot-out between Cassel and Rivers.

---Quarter 4---

The flea-flicker attempt goes for just three yards as San Diego put the pressure on Cassel. He had no time to look deep and was forced to dump the ball off to bring up third down.

Cassel used his legs to create something out of nothing, converting the 3rd and 3 with his legs. The team's first rushing first down of the game...the next play Jackie Battle ran 11 yards for rushing FD No. 2. Now inside the SD 30, Cassel is starting to finally look like an NFL quarterback again. I was beginning to worry. Injury timeout for SD's Quentin Jammer, who's been around for ages it seems...he's actually just 32-years old.
Jackie Battle breaks through the first line of defense on a counter and is nearly untouched to the end zone. For now, ruled a touchdown for Kansas City. But due to the new rule put in place this season, the play will automatically be reviewed upstairs, and there's a chance he could be ruled down by contact just short of the goal line. Either way, Battle has put Kansas City in great position.

Battle, taking the place of Charles after his season-ending injury, has yet to score this season on 45 rush attempts. The 28-year old was undrafted out of Houston, and has been a part of the KC organization since 2007 after being cut by Dallas prior to the start of the season.

The call has been over-ruled, and the ball will be placed on the 1-yard line, first and goal. First play, though, Battle comes right back and launches himself over the line for his first touchdown of 2011, third of his career. Almost Walter Payton-esque on the play. The extra point gives KC an eight-point lead, 20-12 with 12:01 left.

Rivers does a fantastic job at keeping the play alive after nearly being knocked down by his own lineman/Tamba Hali's arm, hits Patrick Crayton on the right side of the field who turns in to a solid gain. McGraw comes out of the game due to an apparent injury–looks like he's just shaken up. Donald Washington has replaced him at safety. McGraw, replacing second-year safety Eric Berry after he was lost for the season, has five tackles and a FF in the game.

Hali beat McNeil on the outside and dragged Rivers down by the shoelace! What an athletic specimen is Hali. Pro Bowler last year, Hali led the AFC with 14.5 sacks. That's five on the season for him.

Rivers once again extends the play and hits his man down the field for 27 yards. This is exactly why it's so exciting watching him play. He's a gun-slinger who just doesn't give up on plays. He can move in the pocket very well and keeps his eyes down the field in the process. I think I may be feeling a 4th qtr comeback...the three-time Pro Bowler has 13 of them in his eight-year career.

Looked like another overthrown receiver, but Rivers led backup running back Curtis Brinkley perfectly who is brought down inside the KC 2-yard line. Brinkley cleared the line, exposing the ball as he reached over the goal-line. Ruling on field is a touchdown before the ball was knocked loose, and watching the replay it's obvious he cleared the line long before it was knocked loose.

Brinkley's first career reception on one play, and then his first career touchdown the following play. The two-point conversion is currently being reviewed upstairs (it was ruled good), as it's unclear whether or not SD cleared the plane. If it's confirmed, San Diego would tie the game at 20. If not, KC would retain a one-point lead halfway through the quarter.

It was, in fact, confirmed upstairs. It was Brinkley once again who caught the two-pointer. The play capped a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive that ate up over four minutes of the clock. Tied at 20 with over seven minutes remains after McCluster failed to bring the kick-off past the 20-yard line.
Injury update: Quentin Jammer is battling cramps and has yet to return. Trainers are working on him on the SD sidelines, though, and he hopes to return soon.


Battle failed to convert on third and short, bringing up a three-and-out for Kansas City. Not good for the Chiefs, giving the ball back to Rivers.

More tight coverage from Brandon Flowers, although it doesn't much matter because another penalty was called against LT McNeill, illegal hands to the face up against Tamba Hali. That's the Bolts' 12th of the night, and they are now over 100 yards in penalties. #ugly

Mathews is on the sideline without his helmet in his hand, meaning he could be injured according to Mike Tirico. More amazing coverage for Flowers, who has 4 tackles and now picked up his fourth pass breakup of the night.

Rivers stays in the pocket long enough to convert a 3rd and 18 pass to Patrick Crayton. Play of the night for San Diego's offense? Looks like Brinkley is here to stay for tonight, with Mathews' return questionable (groin injury). Now under three minutes to play, and counting...SD inside KC's 30-yard line.

Brinkley picked up the first down after hurdling a San Diego defender. Coach Turner elects to run down the clock to the two minute warning. Cassel may not even get much of a chance to conduct a game-winning drive if San Diego protects the football.

San Diego may not be able to milk much time out of these two minutes (KC has two TOs remaining) unless they pick up a first down.

Kansas City has now used both timeouts after two positive run plays from San Diego. That will bring up a 3rd and very short for the Chargers. If they can convert, Cassel may not get much of a shot at all.

And Jacob Hester appears to have gotten enough to convert the 3rd and 1, due to forward progress. Kansas City can no longer stop the clock, and with a first down the Chargers could take a lot of the time out.

...RIVERS fumbled the snap and Kansas City recovers at their own 16. That is now his third turnover of the game, and it looks like KC will run the clock out and go to overtime. With two SD timeouts left, Cassel is looking to throw and completes one by the sidelines with just :32 to play. They have a shot at winning this one in regulation. Huge Rivers mistake

Controversy continues to stir in Arrowhead. Kansas City attempts to clock the ball with :16 left, but a Charger defender knocks over a KC lineman, forcing them to lose four seconds of clock. But doesn't matter because Cassel's next pass was picked off by Weddle, his second of the evening. We'll see a hail mary, but I think we will, in fact, head to overtime.
---Overtime---say what?

This is both SD's and KC's first OT game of the 2011 season. Chargers win toss, giving Rivers the first shot at redemption.

Hali's domination continues against SD's left side, this time guard Jeremy Clary, stripping Rivers of the ball and then sacking him back at the 12. Brinkley gets just six on third down, forcing a three-and-out. Yet another tackle from LB Johnson, his 12th of the game. McCluster will get the chance to return Scifres' booming punt, making a few guys miss on the return. A block in the back will put KC back 10 yards to its own 20.

It's about time Kansas City gets the ball to McCluster coming out of the backfield, picking up 12 yards on the catch and a first down. Cassel uses his first of two OT timeouts.

Three McCluster catches for 28 yards in the overtime period, resulting in two KC first downs. The Chiefs are now just a couple of decent plays away from field goal range. We now have a Steve Breaston sighting! Cassel hits him with a short crossing pattern who turns it in to a large gain and a KC first down to the 30-yard line. A couple run plays with Battle should be upcoming for Kansas City, and we could see Succop on the field pretty soon here to set-up a potential game-winner as Battle runs the ball up to the 21.

One last Thomas Jones carry sets up the potential game-winner for Succop, who is 2/2 tonight. Turner has one more timeout and uses it to "ice the kicker," although I don't believe that ever works. Just over five minutes to play as Succop attempts the 30-yarder...he splits the uprights for the win, exactly a year after he hit another game-winner from 35 yards out to beat the Buffalo Bills 13-10 in overtime.

Two Rivers interceptions, a Rivers fumbled snap late in regulation, 12 penalties for 105 yards and a blown call that negated an Antonio Gates' touchdown reception stopped San Diego from putting the feisty Chiefs away.

Rivers falls just short of capturing his 60th regular season win as San Diego's starting quarterback (instead he loses his 28th) as the Kansas City Chiefs extend their win streak to four games after starting the season at 0-3.

Sloppy game, but Cassel got the job done. Goodnight fellas!

Photo credit: US Presswire/AP Photos

Week 8: Did we Learn Anything?

All but one game has been completed in Week 8's weekend of NFL action, and there has been plenty to talk about.

Headliners:

  • Cam Newton continues his streak of success, despite another Carolina loss.

  • St. Louis shocks Drew Brees and New Orleans without starter Sam Bradford in the lineup.

  • Pittsburgh's LaMarr Woodley (2 sacks) and Ryan Clark (8 tackles) contains New England, keeps Brady under 200 passing yards in 25-17 victory at home.

  • Baltimore's 24-point second half caps an 18-point comeback win over the one-win Cardinals.

  • Colts, Phins add another L to the loss column, remain in the running for "Suck for Luck" campaign (if that's even a real thing).

  • Buffalo shuts out Skins (23-0) as the Lions improve to 6-2 after pouncing the Broncos, 45-10; Tebow's offense goes 2/14 on third downs.

  • Eagles turn heads, shut down Romo's Cowboys 34-7 on national television.
There were several worthy MVP candidates for great performances this week, but only one could win my Most Valuable Player award for Week 8 (must be on winning team)...and here are the nominees..

LeSean McCoy: 30 att, 185 yards, 2 TD
Steven Jackson: 25 att, 159 yards, 2 TD
Ben Roethlisberger: 36/50, 365 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Eli Manning: 31/45, 349 yards, 2 TD
Calvin Johnson: 6 Rec., 125 yards, 1 TD
Christian Ponder: 18/28, 236 yards, 1 TD
Ray Rice: 18 att, 63 yards, 3 TD; 7 Rec., 36 yards
Arian Foster: 33 att, 112 yards, 1 TD; 1 Rec., 12 yards
Marcell Dareus: 4 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 QB hits
NaVorro Bowman: 12 tackles (11 solo), 1 TFL, 1 PD
Reggie Nelson: 5 solo tackles, 2 PD, 75-yard INT TD
Matt Hasselbeck: 23/33, 224 yards, 1 TD

AND, the winner is...

New York Giants' quarterback Eli Manning

Without Eli orchestrating the two fourth-quarter scoring drives, the Giants would not have come back from the early 11-point deficit (14-3 in the second qtr) and Miami would have earned its first win of the season. Manning has put up a solid stat-line this season, and New York's 5-2 record has the G-Men atop the NFC East through eight weeks of play.
Rants and Ramblings concerning the masses...

*Rookie quarterback Cam Newton has been the key asset for Carolina's offense, and he has surely impressed everyone and their mother this season despite the Panthers' 2-6 record.

Each week he goes out and leaves everything he has on the field. It already appears as though he has the trust of his teammates, and his results have proved he has potential to get to elite status one day. His combined passing and rushing TDs puts him at 18 total, and though he has thrown nine interceptions, maturity seems to be coming quickly for the young gun.

Five of Carolina's six losses have been within a touchdown or less, meaning Carolina has been blown out just once this season and Newton is at least top five in Offensive Rookie of the Year at this point in the season.
*Green Bay, sitting out this week for its bye, is still the top team in the league without a doubt, but a couple of teams will give the defending Champs a run for its money in the coming weeks: Pittsburgh, New York (Giants), New England, Detroit, and even such teams as San Francisco and Buffalo.

The next couple of weeks the Packers will be on upset watch, in fact I'd like to think they could lose two or three different times in the next five weeks (San Diego, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Detroit, New York Giants).

Minnesota's rookie quarterback Christian Ponder came up just short last week against Green Bay, 33-27, so what makes you think he couldn't finish the job with Adrian Peterson running the ball out of the backfield for him?

*Speaking of Ponder, he had another great outing yesterday, getting his first win in just his second professional start.

It turned out to be a shootout with fellow rookie signal caller Newton in Carolina. Ponder protected the ball well, throwing for 236 yards and a touchdown, as well, in the three-point victory. Turns out, a missed Olindo Mare ended up being the deciding factor.

*Pittsburgh has bounced back, with Ben Roethlisberger being the key factor in this match-up with the well-rested New England Patriots. Roethlisberger attempted 50 passes, completing 36 of them for two touchdowns and close to 400 yards. He threw the ball 30 times in the opening half and built up an early lead that was hard for Tom Brady & Co. to overcome.

LaMarr Woodley provided great pressure on Brady, sacking him twice and hitting him three times total, while Ryan Clark brought great coverage on Brady's receivers. But, it was actually New England's weak secondary that proved to be the achilles heel of Bill Belichick's squad.
*Tonight's Monday night game has huge implications on the AFC West. Kansas City, without Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles–he was lost for the season due to injury–has been struggling to get anything going offensively this season. San Diego has somewhat sputtered this season as well, but we may just have to wait until December to see the real Chargers (just like every other season).

My prediction: Philip Rivers breaks 400 yards passing with two TDs in a 31-17 victory, snapping Kansas City's three-game win streak and improving San Diego's record to 5-2.

Photo credit
Asomugha/Babin: Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Manning: Nick Laham/Getty Images
Ponder: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Woodley: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Baltimore's Joe Flacco Ready to Bounce Back?

One week, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco could be throwing for 224 yards and three touchdowns, and the next he could be completing just over 50% of his passes and failing to convert a first down in the first half of a game.

There's no doubt in my mind that the name of Flacco's game has been inconsistency this season, and the team's two losses through seven weeks of play are the end result.

In week one against Pittsburgh, Flacco threw three touchdowns and put up a QB rating of 117.6 in a convincing 35-7 victory. Two weeks later he set a career-high with 389 passing yards against the St. Louis Rams. Baltimore won that game 37-7.

Aside from those two games, Flacco's performances this season have been erratic at best.

Looking back, there really isn't a single Baltimore victory that you could give solid credit to Flacco for:

vs. PIT (W 35-7)--17 for 29, 224 yards, 3 TD; defense forced 7 TOs
@ TEN (L 23-16)--15 for 32, 197 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT; defense allowed 74 rushing yards
@ STL (W 37-7)--27 for 48, 389 yards, 3 TD; offense ran for 168 yards, defense forced two TOs
vs. NYJ (W 34-17)--10 for 31, 163 yards, 1 INT; defense allowed 38 rush yards, 7 FDs and forced four TOs
vs. HOU (W 29-14)--20 for 33, 305 yards, 1 INT; defense allowed 93 rushing yards, 18 FDs
@ JAC (L 12-7)--21 for 38, 137 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 0 FDs in 1st half, 34 rushing yards
Flacco failed to get anything going in the first half against Jacksonville's underachieving defense. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron failed to utilize the run game correctly, giving Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice just eight carries for 28 yards, making it tough for Flacco to even convert a first half first down.

Baltimore's offensive line has given up just 13 sacks in six games, but pressure has been getting to Flacco quite often this season, forcing him to throw a lot of incompletions. His accuracy has surely been off this season, as he has completed just 52.1% of his 211 pass attempts.

His season rating of 76.2 is good enough for 26th in the league, behind such names as Tarvaris Jackson, Mark Sanchez, Chad Henne and Kevin Kolb.

If Mr. Flacco plans on improving on his 4-3 career postseason record this winter, he will need to step his game up and help out his top-ranked defense. He can start by taking advantage of the turnovers they have forced this season.

Flacco and the Ravens will face Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals today at 1 P.M.

Photo credit
Perry Knotts/NFL

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gonzalez, Rookie Newton Making History in Early Games

It took Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton just six and a half games to match Vince Young's record of rushing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback, which was set during the 2006 regular season. Young's seven rushing touchdowns came over 13 starts (15 total games) in his first of two career Pro Bowl seasons.

Early in the third quarter of play, Newton took a shotgun snap and caught Washington's defense napping with an impressive 16-yard touchdown run for his seventh rushing touchdown in as many games. The TD put Carolina up 16-6 after placekicker Olindo Mare split the uprights on the extra point attempt.

Newton has completed under 60% of his passes for 1,847 yards, 7 TDs and 9 INTs (coming in to Sunday's game), but his biggest threat–just like VY–is his legs. I'm sure defenders would agree in a heartbeat that it's tough to bring down Newton and his 6'5''/248-pound frame.

After starting off his pro career with back-to-back 400-yard performances, there's no doubt that Newton will be the center of attention when it comes time to vote for the Offensive Rookie of the Year at season's end. Let's just hope his individual success translates in to victories for Ron Rivera's Panthers one day soon.
- - - - -

This afternoon there are just seven early games in action right now (1 P.M. ET), but that doesn't necessarily mean there will be less entertainment, or even history being made for that matter.

Atlanta, in the middle of an NFC clash with the 5-1 Detroit Lions at Ford Field, has seen a little history being chased as well. Future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez–the long-time Kansas City Chief–moved up one more spot on the all-time receptions list.

Sitting at 1,099 heading in to this afternoon's game, Gonzalez jumped from fourth all-time to second all-time on the list, passing Cris Carter (1,101) and Marvin Harrison (1,102). Both of whom are former wideouts who should see Canton in the future–Carter possibly next season, and Harrison once he's eligible.

Up next: Jerry Rice (1,549 all-time), although seeing the 34-year old Gonzalez reach the legendary Jerry Rice on this list seems implausible. Nevertheless, Gonzalez has cemented himself as one of the best tight ends in league history, if he hadn't done so already.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Chuck Burton

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tony Dungy's Crazy Idea may just be the Right Direction for Indianapolis

Scanning NFL.com's front page earlier this morning, I came across a very interesting headline. It read: Dungy's Crazy Idea.

Now, I don't know about you, but any time I see a headline with the two words "crazy idea" in it, I usually like to click on it to see what the buzz is all about. I knew it had to do with the Colts, since it's former head coach Tony Dungy whose Colts won the Super Bowl after the '06 regular season.

And nowadays, any time there's something in the news about the Colts, we all know it has to do with the franchise's foggy quarterback situation.
With Manning still looking to miss at least 75% of the regular season, and the Colts sitting at 0-6 with Curtis Painter's struggles under center continuing, it's clear the Colts will be missing the postseason for the first time in about a decade this season.

Here is coach Dungy's idea: If Indy has a shot at drafting Stanford's junior quarterback in April's draft, they shouldn't hesitate to do so.

Now, here's where the crazy comes in. Dungy went on to state that if they get Luck, and he impresses early on, they can then trade Super Bowl champion and four-time MVP Peyton Manning.

As outrageously insane that sounds, I think it would actually be a way of moving forward for this franchise. Manning means the world to Indianapolis, and he helped them so much, but we all know that this is a business and that quarterbacks don't last forever. This time next season Manning will be 36-years old and if there was ever a good time to switch gears and rebuild, now is the time.

Manning's supporting cast has never really been all too strong, aside from WRs Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, TE Dallas Clark and RB Edgerrin James. Head coach Jim Caldwell could surely use some help on the defensive side of the ball as well, especially that porous secondary.
Instead of spending it all on Manning, perhaps they could move forward and take a shot on one of the most-coveted quarterbacks in the April 2012 draft...and save some money for the rest of the team.

Obviously the fans will likely be irate if this was to happen in the future–and trust me it would sadden me too if Manning was given the boot–but owner Jim Irsay has to do what's best for the franchise. And if that includes the trading of a legend and the face of the franchise to begin rebuilding and adding youth for the future, then so be it.

At this point, it wouldn't surprise me too much if Manning didn't retire a Colt, although I'm sure everyone would love to see it happen. If Irsay takes a shot on Luck, I think trading Manning to a QB-needy team could work out greatly for Indy considering teams would be willing to pay a great price on such a highly-coveted icon.

Whether he retires a Colt or not, I do think some sort of coaching job could already be lined up for Manning after he hangs his cleats up for good–just look at him standing on the sidelines (^^^), he's looking mighty snazzy in a polo and khakis.

To Dungy: your crazy idea may not sound too crazy after all, Mr. Dungy.

Photo credit
Dungy: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Manning: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Quarterback Controversy's Continue to Haunt Teams

Quarterback controversy's are never-ending in the game of football. In fact, numerous teams are still having trouble despite being over a fourth of the way through the season.

Teams such as Cincinnati, Carolina and Tennessee have appeared to resolve its controversy for the time being, even if their records may not show that. But still others, such as Indianapolis, Denver, Miami, Minnesota and Washington have a long ways to go.

*Indianapolis fell to 0-6 after a late comeback fell short against Cincinnati. In Curtis Painter's fourth career start, he made just one critical mistake, a late interception to Leon Hall which killed any chance the Colts had of completing a comeback.

Overall, Painter has faired well considering he hadn't gotten much reps in over the years. His supporting cast struggled against Cincinnati's tough defense as both Pierre Garcon and Dallas Clark committed critical mistakes, turning the ball over and giving Cincinnati a shot at cashing in.

Indy remains the center of a quarterback controversy until: 1) Peyton Manning returns to the field and saves this offense, 2) The Colts offense steps up and helps out the inexperienced Curtis Painter.

*Washington fell to 2-3, losing to Philadelphia 20-13 on Sunday, after head coach Mike Shanahan benched quarterback Rex Grossman in the second half. Grossman through four interceptions on 22 pass attempts.

John Beck took his place, making his first regular season appearance since his days as a Dolphin in 2007. Beck went 8 for 15, 117 yards and a rushing touchdown at the end of the game. For now, Beck has won the starting job over Grossman. But will he find success?
*Coming off a bye week, the Broncos (1-4) will be handing second-year gunslinger Tim Tebow his first start of 2011 after failed attempts with Kyle Orton at the helm. This has become huge news after watching Tebow's three starts last season (Broncos went 1-2 with him as starter).

Tebow continues to have a group of critics, saying how he can't throw the ball efficiently (which I somewhat agree with), but at this point this is Denver's best shot at winning games. In his five starts this season Orton has struggled, throwing seven interceptions and leading Denver to just one victory. Denver is in a panic out west, and giving Tebow a shot early in the season is a smart move, and a risk that must be taken.

*Chad Henne has been lost for the season following shoulder surgery, giving former Carolina Panthers quarterback Matt Moore his shot. Henne had yet to prove he's worthy of the starting slot, throwing 37 interceptions and just 31 touchdowns in his 31 starts, going 13-18 over that span.

I think the season-ending surgery was a blessing in disguise for the Phins, it gave them the chance to try out Moore, who made his 14th career start last night against Rex Ryan's hard-hitting Jets defense. His Dolphin debut was less than impressive, however, as he threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball two additional times (none were lost). Though he truly didn't have much help from his receivers as Brandon Marshall dropped a couple of key passes (including a touchdown), and Brian Hartline even dropped a pass or two.
I expect Moore to come out ready to play next Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

*Julius Peppers and Co. chased Minnesota's veteran Donovan McNabb all over the field on Sunday night, eventually leading to the benching of McNabb despite zero turnovers.

McNabb hasn't produced a whole lot (just four touchdowns), which may have led to his benching for next Sunday's game, but he also hasn't made as many mistakes as you'd expect (two interceptions, two fumbles). I think the real reason McNabb has been benched for rookie Christian Ponder is just the fact that head coach Leslie Frazier wants to try something new and get Ponder some reps with the first-team offense to shake things up for this 1-5 squad.

Personally I think it's rather silly throwing Ponder in there to make his debut against the undefeated and defending champion Green Bay Packers. Sounds like a homicide to me. Why not wait one extra week and give the veteran the nod against Green Bay? Silly.

*Amidst a possible playoff run for the Oakland Raiders, much to my surprise, Jason Campbell–starting quarterback–has been lost for the season with a broken collarbone.

But luckily for Raider Nation, Oakland is currently very close to making a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals for former Pro Bowler Carson Palmer. I think that would make both the Raiders players/coaching staff very happy, as well as the fan-base. And why wouldn't it? I think it would be a great move despite the lack of football activities Palmer has participated in as of late.

Fresh start for Palmer and fresh start for this offense as they attempt to return to the playoffs. Hope the deal works out for both sides. It would certainly allow Cincinnati to move on to the Andy Dalton era without having to worry about Palmer's 2012 status.

Photo credit
Beck: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Moore: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Monday, October 17, 2011

Harbaugh vs. Schwartz: Choose your Side

Yesterday the undefeated Detroit Lions hosted the just-as-surprising San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field.

In what was the game of the week–according to my standards, at least–the Niners pulled off the upset after holding off Matt Stafford and the Lions' offense late in the game. Head coach Jim Harbaugh and the Niners came away with a 15-9 victory to improve to 5-1 and retain first place in the West; Detroit suffered its first loss of the 2011 season.

But what happened after the game between the two head coaches, Harbaugh and Detroit's Jim Schwartz, has overshadowed San Fran's accomplishment on the field.

After the final whistle had blown, and the two teams met at midfield for the traditional handshake, Harbaugh could be seen jumping up and down with joy as Schwartz slowly walked up to Harbaugh. As he was jumping up and down excitedly, Harbaugh stopped momentarily to shake his opposition's hand but may have shaken it a little too hard. Boo-hoo.
Amid the excitement, it also appeared that he may have shoved Schwartz out of the way after the handshake, though I really think it was just a pat on the back. This, of course being the NFL with a bunch of millionaires with nothing else to do, ended up being blown way out of proportion. Schwartz had some words for Harbaugh as he walked away, causing Harbaugh to follow him and exchange a few more words–expletives included in both men's vocabulary.

Before you know it, the players were in the middle of the two attempting to break them up. No shoves or punches were thrown, thank goodness, that would have been a site to see. Two middle-aged men going at it on the football field. But there will be fines coming their way this week, nonetheless.

I'd like to think the cause of the scuffle was the fact that Schwartz was unhappy with the way Harbaugh handled himself midfield at game's end, and both men pretty much said the same thing in their post-game press conferences. But an article written by Yahoo's! Chris Chase makes me believe there could be a deeper cause here.

The article pretty much states a case that Harbaugh could have celebrated that way just to get Schwartz back for the words he had for him and the rest of his coaching staff–during the game–after they attempted to challenge a play that was unchallengeable by the coaches...there's a video included with the article I linked above.

Either way, both men were wrong and were equally responsible for this post-game blow-up. But, if I had to choose sides (not that it really matters what I think of the situation) I would have to side with Jim Harbaugh. He was excited about the win, and why shouldn't he be, he just beat an undefeated team on the road. Maybe Schwartz should put some big boy pants on and accept the fact that his team wasn't the better team that day.

It wasn't the most classy way of acting I've ever seen, but maybe Schwartz shouldn't have acted that way during the game and thrown expletives at Harbaugh and his staff? What goes around comes around, Mr. Schwartz.

Is a coaching rivalry a brewing? I doubt either one will forget what happened on October 16, 2011.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jags' Del Rio on the Hot Seat

Entering his ninth season at the helm of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the 48-year old Jack Del Rio has officially reached Hot Seat Status–if he wasn't there already.

Prior to the Jags' Week 6 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Del Rio's squad is 1-4 and currently sitting in third place. If it wasn't for the absence of Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, the Jags would likely be sitting at the very bottom of the AFC South after five weeks of play.

Just before the season kicked off, Del Rio and his coaching staff let go of former Pro Bowl quarterback David Garrard, who missed just two games since the 2008 regular season began. That was just one more thing added to the list of why the Del Rio era needs to come to an end down south.
It's one thing if Garrard had been under-producing, but the thing is that Garrard was coming off one of his best seasons, setting career-highs in touchdowns (23) and completion percentage (64.5). The season before that, in 2009, Garrard was named to the Pro Bowl after completing his second consecutive 3,000 yard season.

There's no doubt that the wrong decision was made here. Rather than allow Del Rio and his crew to let go of one of the franchise's few (current) upsides, maybe the front office should have just ridden the players and fans of the head coach.

Don't get me wrong, I always kind of liked Del Rio. He was a great role player during his days, and he certainly brings fire and enthusiasm to this team. But this franchise is in dire need of a change, and I think a new head coach would bring a fresh start to Jacksonville.

If you're going to go with a fresh, young look at quarterback by releasing Garrard and starting rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, why not start over with a new head coach and system at the same time?

Del Rio has failed to produce since being introduced as the head coach in 2003, reaching the playoffs just two times (1-2 record) and posting a 66-67 regular season record. During his reign, the Jags offense has ranked in the top 10 in points just twice, and offensive yardage twice. His defenses have been a little better, ranking in the top 10 in points and yardage three times each.

The bottom line here is Jack Del Rio's teams have underperformed, and the sooner Jacksonville cuts ties with him, the better off they will be.

Feel free to voice your opinion on this situation.

Photo credit: Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Week 6 Game Picks

Unfortunately we will have to wait another week to see the Tim Tebow era start in Denver, but for now we have several great match-ups to watch this afternoon and evening, including a showdown between the undefeated Detroit Lions and 4-1 San Francisco 49ers.

Here are my weekly game picks as well as a my record for the season.

Sunday Oct. 16

Panthers over Falcons (UPSET)...Matt Ryan's Falcons have struggled this season so far, and I think this is Cam Newton's chance to shine against his division foe.

Bengals over Colts...Andy Dalton is already a more accomplished NFL quarterback than Indianapolis' Curtis Painter. What a shame.
Steelers over Jaguars...If Pittsburgh can protect Ben Roethlisberger long enough for him to get comfortable in the pocket, he shouldn't have much trouble against Jacksonville's defense.

Bills over Giants...Inconsistency has been the name of the game in New York so far this season, both for the Giants and the Jets.

Lions over Niners...Ndamukong Suh will have Alex Smith's number all game long. Look out, Alex!

Packers over Rams...When I come out with my power rankings later in the week, there's a great chance that Green Bay could be No. 1 on the list.

Redskins over Eagles...I really can't say I know when the Eagles are going to break out of this slump. Hard to say, really.

Browns over Raiders (UPSET)...Oakland has shown signs of brilliance this season, but I still believe that Cleveland has the ability to reach .500 this season.

Saints over Bucs...Tampa Bay has been somewhat of a disappointment thus far in 2011, to me anyways. Yet they are still 3-2 and just one game behind New Orleans.

Ravens over Texans...The loss of Mario Williams on Houston's side is huge, and his absence will be felt against Baltimore's offense.
Patriots over Cowboys...Will Tony Romo ever hush the haters and pull through with a playoff run? Not if they can't win on a regular basis throughout the regular season.

Bears over Vikings...Donovan McNabb's days are clearly numbered in this league.

Monday Oct. 17

Jets over Dolphins...Maybe Mark Sanchez will throw a couple of touchdowns this week, rather than pick6's.

Bye weeks: Cardinals, Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Seahawks, Titans

My 2011 picks:

Week 1: 9-7
Week 2: 13-3
Week 3: 10-6
Week 4: 11-5
Week 5: 8-5

Total for season: 51-27

Photo credit
Painter: Marc Serota/Getty Images
Suggs: Larry French/Getty Images

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Injuries-galore: 2011 Injuries with the Most Impact

Injuries are just a part of life. You can't go a day without someone in your life feeling some sort of pain.

As far as football goes? Every injury suffered will have some sort of impact on not only yourself, but your team and that team's fan base, of course.

The National Football League has sustained too many devastating injuries by too many big-time stars. The most recent victim of this arial attack? Houston's All Pro defensive end Mario Williams.

Here is Williams' injury, and nine other superstars who will miss significant time–if not the entire season–due to a 2011 injury (or surgery).

Peyton Manning--Neck surgery, status uncertain

Manning's neck surgery has been the talk of the season. After a second neck surgery was conducted on the All Pro, future Hall of Fame signal caller in the offseason, Manning missed the entire preseason and has yet to suit up for the Colts in 2011.

With his status still uncertain for this season, we may not even see him take another snap until next regular season. Personally, I think he should win the MVP award for this season despite not taking a single snap...the Colts have gone from a sure-fire division winner to a winless cellar-dweller in the AFC South.


Mario Williams--torn pectoral muscle, out for season

The one thing that has been holding Houston back this season is injuries, and Mario Williams was just the latest Texan to suffer. Last week, while sacking Oakland Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell, the All Pro defensive end/outside linebacker suffered a torn pectoral muscle.

The effective of the loss on defense has yet to be determined, but I can assure you the Texans will suffer greatly from his absence.
Jamaal Charles--torn ACL, out for season

After last season's campaign of more than 1,400 yards on the ground, the sky was the limit for Charles. That was until he tore his ACL in a week two matchup with the still-undefeated Detroit Lions. He was placed on the injured reserve the following day, ending his season with just 83 rushing yards on 12 carries.

Kenny Britt--torn ACL and MCL, out for season

On Sept. 28 Tennessee's wideout was placed on the season-ending IR after tearing two ligaments three days prior. Britt's 17 catches and three TDs were a great asset to Tennessee's offense, but Matt Hasselbeck seems to be doing okay without him in the lineup. So far, at least.


Chad Henne--separated shoulder/surgery, out for season

Well, if one thing is evident it's that Henne's season-ending shoulder surgery solved Miami's quarterback situation for them, making Tony Sparano's job a little easier. Coming off a bye week, Miami will test out new starter Matt Moore in his first start of 2011 on Monday night.
Jon Beason--left achilles tendon, out for season

Nearly two months after signing a new, long-term deal with the Panthers, Beason–Carolina's defensive captain–was placed on the IR and lost for the season. Carolina's defense has suffered greatly after losing its key defensive piece. Cam Newton has done a swell job at leading Carolina's offense, but there's a gaping hole in the defense.

Brandon Jackson--toe injury, out for season

This one isn't major, considering he's now a Cleveland Brown and wasn't supposed to see much of the field playing behind Peyton Hillis and youngster Montario Hardesty, but I thought it was worthy enough of a mention anyways. Jackson was placed on season-ending IR before the regular season even got kicked off.

Jackson once had so much hope and upside, but his career has quickly hit a wall and I'm not so sure he will be able to successfully bounce back from this one.


Nate Kaeding--torn ACL, out for season

Kaeding ended his 2010 campaign with the Chargers as the NFL's most accurate kicker of all-time (86.5% of FG attempts were converted), but his 2011 season ended before it even really got started after he tore his ACL at the beginning of the first game of the season. As a result, San Diego signed Nick Novak to take care of the placekicking duties.
Mikel LeShoure--torn achilles tendon, out for season

Detroit's rookie running back, taken with the 57th overall pick in the draft, went down with an injured achilles in the second game of the preseason. After racking up over 1,600 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior at Illinois, Detroit had high hopes for the youngster, but it appears as though they will have to wait until 2012 to see what he can bring to the table.


Domenik Hixon--torn ACL, out for season

For the second consecutive season, Hixon sustained a torn ACL in his right knee, ending his season after playing just two games. Hixon is just one of many players the Giants have lost due to injury so far this season. The injuries will catch up to New York eventually, right? Most likely when they hit the final stretch of the season and need healthy players in order to make a run at the playoffs.

Photo credit
Williams: Bob Levey/Getty Images
Henne: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Kaeding: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Fantasy Update: Bye Week Replacements

Week five marked the first weekend in which teams experienced bye weeks.

Not only does this mean there will, unfortunately, be less games to watch on Sunday afternoon, but it is also a very important aspect to the Fantasy Football world.

Bye weeks can make or break a matchup for you as a fantasy owner, and paying attention to your roster each week becomes essential once this time of the season rolls around.

Between the amount of injuries a team endures throughout the season, and each team's bye weeks, the waiver wire in most leagues gets quite a bit of action. So, who should you target as a potential waiver wire acquisition for this week? Well that's where All-Out Blitz comes in.

Key Bye Weeks for Week 6:

QB

Philip Rivers, SD
Matt Cassel, KC
Kevin Kolb, ARI
Tarvaris Jackson, SEA
Matt Hasselbeck, TEN
Tim Tebow, DEN

RB

Chris Johnson, TEN
Beanie Wells, ARI
Ryan Mathews, SD
Willis McGahee, DEN
Mike Tolbert, SD
Marshawn Lynch, SEA

WR

Dwayne Bowe, KC
Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
Vincent Jackson, SD
Nate Washington, TEN
Brandon Lloyd, DEN
Early Doucet, ARI

TE

Antonio Gates, SD
Jared Cook, TE
Jeff King, ARI
Todd Heap, ARI
Leonard Pope, KC

K

Rob Bironas, TEN
Ryan Succop, KC
Matt Prater, DEN
Nick Novak, SD

Potential Replacers:

QB
Mark Sanchez, NYJ vs. MIA

Sanchez has had a rocky start to the season, but facing Miami's 16th-ranked pass defense and coming off a two touchdown performance against the Patriots last week gives him hope in the fantasy world.

Colt McCoy, CLE vs. OAK

McCoy's stats from last week (350 passing yards, TD vs. Tennessee) are a bit skewed because his Browns were playing catch-up the entire second half, but a favorable matchup with the 30th-ranked pass defense makes McCoy look like a God-send for owners of QBs with bye weeks.

Andy Dalton, CIN vs. IND

Indianapolis has battled injury all season long, and as long as Cincinnati's offensive line can give Dalton enough time to get comfortable in the pocket, he could have a field day on Indy's secondary. If you get desperate enough, Dalton is your man.

RB

Pierre Thomas, NO vs. TB

Thomas hasn't seen much action carrying the ball (34 carries all season), but seeing as he is a dual-threat out of the backfield, Thomas has the potential to reach double-digit fantasy point totals on any given Sunday. In fact he's done that three times in 2011 already. Not a bad third option if you have a bye week or two.

Montario Hardesty, CLE vs. OAK

I think it's disappointing to think that Hardesty is one of your best options as a waiver wire pickup for this week, but it's true. There aren't many solid, reliable backs just waiting to be snatched up. Hardesty has run for just 108 yards on 29 carries this season, and sits behind Peyton Hillis on the depth chart, but after back-to-back double digit point games (according to ESPN's FFL) he would be worth the risk as a third option.
WR

Devery Henderson, NO vs. TB

Quarterback Drew Brees doesn't seem to need Henderson's services as much as he used to. Henderson is a great deep threat, but he has been known to be inconsistent when it comes to performance. He had back-to-back 100-yard games to start the season, but hasn't done much since. He's poised to breakout for a big game any day now, though. Not a bad option if you're missing Larry Fitz or Dwayne Bowe this week.

Jabar Gaffney, WAS vs. PHI

It baffles me that Gaffney is owned in just 6.7% of leagues on ESPN.com. I mean, he has caught just one touchdown thus far in 2011, but he surely has been Mr. Consistency for the Skins. In each of the first five games Gaffney has caught at least three passes for at least 54 yards. He'll be rewarded with a couple of touchdowns in the very near future, maybe even against Philly's struggling secondary tomorrow (has allowed 11 TDs through the air).

James Jones, GB vs. STL

Jones broke out with his first 100-yard performance and his second consecutive game with a TD last week against the Falcons. Against St. Louis' secondary this week, and Jones on the rise now owned in 62.2% of standard ESPN leagues), I would expect a solid outing from this Green Bay wideout.
TE

Jermaine Gresham, CIN vs. IND

Averaging 11.6 fantasy points per game, Gresham is the 11th-highest scoring tight end in the game right now, yet is only owned in 41.9% of leagues. He also just so happens to be responsible for catching nearly half of Cincinnati's passing TDs this season (3/7). The only thing that has the ability to stop Gresham this week is Indy's hard-hitting linebackers.

Benjamin Watson, CLE vs. OAK

Coming off an extra week of rest and heading in to a more than favorable match-up should make Watson's 43 points (10.8 PG) look like gold to troubled owners.

K

Dan Bailey, DAL vs. NE

The 23-year old Bailey has yet to catch the eye of a majority of owners out there, but after nine straight converted kicks against Detroit and Washington I think he will start to turn heads any day now. Playing the Patriots tomorrow, I expect Tony Romo to struggle to get his offense in the end zone. What does this mean? Plenty of action for the placekicker.
Mike Nugent, CIN vs. IND

Kickers are the most expendable players on the field, not to mention in the fantasy world, but Nugent is one of the most reliable kickers out there as of right now, converting all 11 of his attempts this season. He's not the highest-scoring, of course (42; 8.4 per game). But reliable is a very important factor whether you're talking about fantasy or not. He'd be a solid pick-up for a match-up with the Colts.

Photo credit
Dalton: Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Thomas: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Jones: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Bailey: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tebow Mania Starts..Now

Big news in Denver came this week when the Broncos announced that Tim Tebow–not Kyle Orton–will be starting at quarterback on Sunday Oct. 23 against the Miami Dolphins.

Denver is heading in to its bye week this weekend, and the early decision to start Tebow–after Orton was benched at halftime of Sunday's game in favor of the 24-year old NFL sophomore Tebow–gives him extra time to get in reps with the first team offense.

It's no secret that Tebow has had his fair share of critics and so-called "haters" during his short professional career thus far. But I think this is the right move for the franchise at this point. Give him his shot to prove he can win games, and if he brings success by the end of the year then the franchise will have a solid quarterback (Orton) to use as trade bait and improve the overall squad.

Sounds like a logical plan to me, anyways.

Now Tebow clearly isn't a pocket-passer and, in fact, he really isn't much of a passer at all (45 for 92; 48.9 career completion % in nine games). But an argument could be made to defend that notion: he is simply a run-first type of quarterback. There's no doubt he scores touchdowns, because in just three starts last season Tebow generated 227 rushing yards and six TDs on the ground. The only quarterback to score more on the ground was Philadelphia's Michael Vick.
From a football standpoint, Tebow is not a pocket-passer and he may struggle to win games because of that. But how will we know this if he isn't given a chance to prove his worth?
_ _ _ _ _

Earlier today, while waiting for one of my classes to begin, I was sitting in our Student Union reading the USA Today's sports section (they give those out for free at my school!) when I came across an interesting article on Tebow.

It was not written from a football standpoint, but rather a fantasy football standpoint. Huge difference, I know.

But the writer, Pete O'Brien, made valid arguments for Tebow being a top fantasy quarterback. He pretty much stated that, in the world of fantasy football, it didn't matter that Tebow's flaws (inability to read defenses, long throwing motion, inaccuracy, etc.) overlooked his strengths (power, running/big play making ability, heart).

His Week 5 successes were equal to those of Tom Brady and Philip Rivers, both top five quarterbacks. He also argued that only Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger had over 20% of his completed passes go for 20 or more yards...25% of Tebow's completions went for 20+ yards.

According to ESPN.com's FFL, Tebow scored 114 fantasy points. That's more than 38 other quarterbacks who scored at least one point that season. Oh, and by the way, Tebow made just three starts all season (played in seven games total) for a team that finished 4-12.

He'll never be considered a top 10, or even 20, pure passer in this league. But there's no doubt that Tebow has a lot of heart, willpower to win and is more than capable of leading your fantasy team to a championship down the stretch.

I agree 100%, Pete O'Brien. Tebow can put (fantasy) points up on the board like it's nothing.

Photo credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Monday, October 3, 2011

Week 4: Record-breaking Performances-galore

Sunday afternoon provided plenty of twists and turns, making for a roller-coaster-of-a-ride. We learned some valuable things about certain teams, and we even witnessed a couple of history-making performances.

Whether it be the longest play in Jets history, future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady passing a legend in career touchdown tosses, or even Calvin Johnson continuing his record pace of touchdown receptions, there was plenty of history made.

In addition, there were also a couple of teams that made strong finishes as the opposition failed to execute during the second half of play. Among those were the still unbeaten Detroit Lions, who improved to 4-0 on the season.

Comebacks

Detroit 34, Dallas 30

Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and the 'Boys' offense dominated the first half of play, scoring on four separate scoring drives as they went in to the half with a demanding 20-3 lead. But Matthew Stafford and the Lions came out in the third quarter and began the comeback with two Romo interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.

The improbable comeback was capped off in the fourth when Calvin Johnson caught two touchdown passes in Detroit's 17-point quarter. The questions swirling around Romo's ability to win games for Dallas will continue for at least another week as Dallas was held scoreless during the final quarter.
Cincinnati 23, Buffalo 20

Buffalo's Harvard graduate, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, seems as though he's on pace for a career-best season as the starter. Fitzpatrick got off to another solid start with two first half scoring drives. A Bryan Scott 43-yard interception return for a touchdown gave Buffalo a 17-3 first half lead.

The second half, similar to the previous two comebacks listed here, was a whole different story for the no-longer-unbeaten Bills. The only score was a 23-yard field goal off the foot of Rian Lindell early in the fourth quarter. Rookie Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton orchestrated four Cincy scoring drives in the final two quarters, one of which was capped by a 3-yard run himself.

In the final drive of the game Dalton led Cincinnati down the field in a 1:48, running seven plays for 55 yards. Kicker Mike Nugent kicked the game-winner through the uprights as time expired. Buffalo was handed its first loss of the season.

San Francisco 24, Philadelphia 23

Rather than talking about Alex Smith's near-perfect performance (21/33, 291 yards, 2 TD/0 INT; 112.1 QBR) against Philadelphia's defense yesterday, studio analysts and fans alike are continuing their bashing of the 1-3 Eagles.

While, yes, Philadelphia put up a dismal effort in the second half, scoring just three points after holding a 20-3 halftime lead, I would like to credit the underachieving Smith for his fourth quarter efforts. Smith's two third quarter touchdown tosses to Josh Morgan and Vernon Davis set them up in great position to steal the win. After a punt, two missed field goals and a fumble (last four drives) for Philadelphia, Smith led an eight-play, 77-yard game-winning drive capped by a 12-yard Frank Gore rushing touchdown.
How long will Philadelphia's struggles continue?

Record-breakers

Devin Hester

Hester further solidified his title as one of the best return men in the history of the game, and he's still only 28 years of age. In Chicago's five-point win over Carolina yesterday afternoon he passed Eric Metcalf on the list of all-time punt return touchdowns. Now at 11, Hester's 69-yard TD return in the second quarter puts him all by his lonesome on the tippy top of the list.

Michael Jordan isn't the only legend to wear No. 23 in Chicago, apparently.

Tom Brady

Brady threw two touchdown passes against the Oakland Raiders in the 31-19 victory. The first one tied legend Joe Montana for 10th all-time on the career touchdowns list. The second one surpassed Montana, putting Brady one behind Vinny Testaverde, at No. 9 all-time. At age 34, Brady still has a good four or five seasons ahead of him.

Joe McKnight

Although his Jets were trounced on national television last night, 34-17, there was one bright spot for New York last night. Special teams.

With the kickoffs being moved up five yards this year, we have seen a spike in deep kickoff returns. Right after Baltimore scored on a Mark Sanchez fumble early in the game, the second-year McKnight ran back a 107-yard kick, a New York franchise record for longest play.
Calvin Johnson

Megatron may not be the sole reason Detroit is 4-0 right now, but he is a major factor in the offenses recent success. His fourth consecutive game with two touchdown receptions tied future Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter for the NFL record.

Johnson wasn't the only one making history in this game, either. This was Detroit's current league-high eight consecutive victory dating back to late last season, and it was Detroit's fifth straight road win, a franchise-record.

Great day to be a Detroit fan I'd say.

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers have quietly been creeping up on the power rankings, and I would now put them as the league's best right now. Rodgers continues to prove he is an elite quarterback, adding on to his Super Bowl MVP performance in February.

In the Pack's 49-point performance against Denver, improving to 4-0 on the season, Rodgers set a career-high with 408 yards passing and added four touchdown tosses, tying his career-high. Next week's Sunday night matchup with the Falcons (rematch of NFC divisional playoff game last season) will be a great one, indeed.

Monday Night Preview

Bucs over Colts

**In Curtis Painter's first career start, facing a stout, young Buccaneers defense, Indy is doomed. There's no way around it. As long as Josh Freeman can avoid a long day against Indy's front four, led by Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, he shouldn't have any trouble leading Tampa to a large victory over Jim Caldwell's winless Colts.

Photo credit
Niners D: AP Photo/Michael Perez
Brandon Pettigrew: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Joe McKnight: Getty Images/Larry French