Monday, October 27, 2008

QB Carousel Continues: 49ers name Shaun Hill starter

So far in the 2008 NFL Season, 58 Quaterbacks have taken at least 1 snap. Of the 32 teams in the league, only 23 teams are currently starting their Week 1 QB.

The San Francisco 49ers entered the season with new Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz orchestrating a QB battle between former 2005 1st Round Draft pick Alex Smith and six-year back-up QB Shaun Hill. Enter journeyman QB J.T. O'Sullivan during Training Camp, who took the job away due to his quick instincts, fast release and accurate arm. Smith would go on season-ending Injured Reserve with a hurt shoulder.

But after 8 weeks as the starting QB and a dismal 2-6 record, O'Sullivan and his 74.0 QB rating, 1,678 passing yards, 8 TD and 11 INT (and league leading 11 fumbles and 32 times sacked) was benched in favor of back up QB Shaun Hill at halftime of last week's 34-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Hill went 15 for 23; 173 passing yards and 1 TD in two quarters of play. Last season, Hill came in late in the year to start 2 games and lead the 49ers to a 2-0 record as the QB, before suffering a season ending finger injury in Week 16.

Enter new 49ers Head Coach Mike Singletary. The former Hall of Fame Linebacker is looking to turn around the San Francisco franchise and announced today that Shaun Hill will be his QB and man to lead this team.

"We're going to go in that direction," Singletary said before getting in his car and leaving for the day. "We just felt like right now Shaun gave us the best chance of winning. ... It's just a good decision all around right now."

With the 49ers on a BYE for Week9, Hill will get his first shot in the Week 10 Monday Night Football match up at division rival Arizona on November 10th.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Monday Morning Quarterback Week 8

Monday Morning Quarterback Week 8

-“Winning solves all problems”: After a week of turmoil in Big D this past week, the Cowboys were able to squeak out a 13-9 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. WR Roy Williams got his first TD, the offense did not commit a turnover, and punter Sam Paulescu (playing for the injured Matt McBriar) made a momentum changing tackle over Buccs return man Clifton Smith that sparked the entire team. While the Cowboys may still be a mess, this helps sooth the pain before heading to play the defending champion New York Giants next week.

-“What do you mean you didn’t start Seahawks FB Leonard Weaver in Fantasy Football this week?!”: The man wearing neon green shoes had 4 catches for 116 yards and 2 TD in Seattle’s 34-13 win over San Francisco. Weaver is the first receiver to reach the 100-yard mark for the Seahawks this season; taking 7 games to do so.

-“Title Bout: Manning vs. Roethlisberger”: This battle of 2004 1st rounder Super Bowl wining quarterbacks, scheduled for 60 minutes, came down to a defensive battle and a back-up long snapper. Despite Big Ben’s 4 INT, the Steelers were up 14-12 deep into the forth quarter before replacement long snapper LB James Harrison (playing for the injured Greg Warren) sailed a snap over the punter’s head for a Safety to tie the game up at 14 a piece. Giants QB Eli Manning hit a wide open TE Kevin Boss for a TD to seal the game 21-14 and stake their claim as the NFL’s best team.

-“Joe Flacco, master of all trades?!”: The Baltimore Ravens rookie QB can do it all. He was 12 for 24 for 140 yards passing and 1 TD; he racked up 23 yards on 4 carries and scored a rushing TD, and oh wait, pulled in a 43 yard catch from back-up QB Troy Smith to lead the Ravens to a 29-10 win over the Oakland Raiders. Before we know it, LB Ray Lewis will have him playing defense.

-True or False: Has Cleveland Browns RB Jamal Lewis broke 100 yards rushing in a game yet this season? (Answer below)

-“If you don’t think I’m the best WR, then you better check your references!” –Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith to NFL Films: After further investigation, we are starting to agree with Smith as he pulled in 5 catches for 117 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals. He also gets ‘brownie points’ for giving his first TD ball to fellow teammate FS Ken Lucas, whom he was suspended 2 games earlier this season for a training camp fight.

-“Detroit Lions = every team’s Homecoming Game”: The silver and gray extended their NFC best ‘losing’ streak to 7 games after falling 25-17 to the Washington Redskins. The Lions gave up 439 total yards with the Skin’s QB Jason Campbell tossing for 328 yards, RB Clinton Portis rushing for 126 yards and WR Santana Moss receiving 140 yards. Moss also took a punt return 80 yards to the house to seal the deal in the 4th quarter. Are the Lions heading to 0-16?

-“Ted Ginn Jr., welcome to the NFL!”: The Miami Dolphins 1st round draft pick in 2007 stuck it to his critics (who have begun labeling him with the ‘B-word’ aka BUST) to rack in 7 catches for 175 yards in the team’s 25-16 win over the Buffalo Bills. The former Ohio State playmaker looked very Buckeye-esq. busting out a 64 yard reception from QB Chad Pennington. The Dolphins have been waiting for someone to step up at WR and they may have found their man.

-“Is that David Beckham playing QB for the New Orleans Saints or Drew Brees?!”: The London, England fans couldn’t tell the difference because their ‘home game’ QB Brees decided to light up Wembley Stadium for 339 yards and 3 TD in the Saints 37-32 win over San Diego. The potential league MVP showed 83,000+ London ‘chaps’ why the Chargers should never have let him go in the first place.

-“Best Post Game News Conference Award” goes to new 49ers Head Coach Mike Singletary: After getting spanked 34-13 by the Seattle Seahawks, the former Hall of Fame Linebacker gave a passionate and inspiring media session discussing why he benched his QB JT O’Sullivan and why he needed to apologize to fans. In regards to TE Vernon Davis who was told to leave the game in the 4th quarter, Singletary told him “he'd do a better job for us right now by taking a shower and coming back and watching the game than going back in the game, simple as that." Well, at least he didn’t tell them to “crown their @$$” like Dennis Green would have…

-Answer: FALSE; Cleveland Browns RB Jamal Lewis has yet to break 100 yards this season, but he did log 81 yards on 20 carries and a TD in the Browns 23-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

-“What do the numbers 11, 7 and 3 have in common?”: According to New York Jets QB Brett Favre, (11) represents his league leading INT total, (7) of which have come in his past three games and (3) that ended up in the Kansas Chiefs hands on Sunday. Despite the turnovers, the 18th year ‘ageless wonder’ was able to squeak out 290 yards passing and 2 TD in the 28-24 comeback win over the Chiefs.

-The “Energizer Bunny Award” goes to Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson: The stud WR from the ‘U’ pulled in 11 catches for 143 yards in a lopsided 35-6 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. In the past month (4 games), Johnson has recorded 41 receptions for 593 yards and 2 TD. He keeps going, and going, and going…

-And Finally…

-“Sorry Matt Ryan, but Sunday belonged to the city of Philadelphia”: Not only did the Eagles usher in a 27-14 win over the Atlanta Falcons, but the Phillies won Game 4 of the Major League World Series 10-2 over the Tampa Bay Rays. Also, the NHL hockey Philadelphia Flyers won 3-2 over the New Jersey Devils. And if you didn’t care for sports than you were probably rocking out to Classic Rock Legends “The Who” playing next door at the Philadelphia Wachovia Center. Somebody get me a Cheese Steak!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

WEEK 8 Fantasy Games Breakdown

(2-4) Oakland at (3-3) Baltimore

Start: RB Willis McGahee (BAL); The Raiders are giving up 136.2 yards rushing/game (4.6 yards/rush); has a sore knee but looking to capitalize on 105 yard 1 TD game last Sunday.

Sit: RB Justin Fargas (OAK); The Ravens have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 25 straight games, the longest current streak in the NFL.

Sleeper: WR Derrick Mason (BAL); He leads the Ravens with 33 receptions this season and is averaging 91.3 yards/game against the Raiders in his last 4 games.

(4-2) Arizona at (5-2) Carolina

Start: WR Steve Smith (CAR); Expect a lot of play-action passes downfield to Smith from QB Delhomme; he’s caught 6 passes in each of last four games; has at least 96 yards in each of those.

Sit: QB Kurt Warner (ARI); Playing against a Panthers defense that ranks #2 in the league against the pass (168.7 yards/game); will have to battle DE Julius Peppers on his blindside (4.5 sacks in last 4 games vs. Arizona).

Sleeper: WR Anquan Boldin (ARI); Will be a game-time decision, but would provide match-up problems for the Panthers; averaging 13.6 yards/catch

(5-2) Tampa Bay at (4-3) Dallas

Start: WR Antonio Bryant (TB); Playing against Dallas who drafted him in the 2nd round in 2002; Dallas is missing 3 starters in the secondary; averaging 13.1 yards/catch

Sit: QB Brad Johnson (DAL); Playing against a Buccaneer defense that ranks 2nd in the league in INT (12); threw 3 INT against a weaker St. Louis defense last week

Sleeper: QB Jeff Garcia (TB); He is 42 for 56 for 483 yards 2 TD and 0 INT in last 2 games since being named starter; playing against a banged up 16th ranked Cowboys defense

(5-2) Washington at (0-6) Detroit

Start: QB Jason Campbell (WAS); Playing against the 31st ranked pass defense in the league (251.2 yards/game); still has not thrown an INT in 2008

Sit: WR Calvin Johnson (DET); Only had 2 receptions last week; playing against a tough Redskins secondary who is only allowing 5.9 yards/catch

Sleeper: WR Santana Moss (WAS); Has slowed down over the past few weeks; is due for a big game against a weak Lions defense

(5-1) Buffalo at (2-4) Miami

Start: RB Ronnie Brown (MIA); After a tough week in Baltimore, expect the running back to rebound against a Bills defense that is allowing 107.2 yards/game.

Sit: TE Robert Royal (BUF); Expect the Bills to hold the tight end in to block more against a Dolphins defense that has 15 sacks this season

Sleeper: WR Lee Evans (BUF); Has eight career touchdowns against the Dolphins; is averaging 21.7 yards/catch this season

(2-4) St. Louis at (4-2) New England

Start: QB Marc Bulger (STL); The QB has renewed life under his new head coach; while only throwing for a combined 299 yards in last two games, will throw the ball more against a Rodney Harrison-less Patriots secondary.

Sit: RB Steven Jackson (STL); Is the team’s leading receiver and rusher; has a strained right thigh muscle and will be a game-time decision; he may get limited reps regardless this week

Sleeper: WR Wes Welker (NE); Has recorded at least 6 receptions in each of the past 10 games; has 23 catches in last 3 games

(3-4) San Diego at (3-4) New Orleans

Start: QB Drew Brees (NO); He is a must-start every week, but expect him to rebound from last week with his first game against his old Chargers team; SD is the league worst 32nd ranked against the pass (254.6 yards/game)

Sit: RB LaDainian Tomlinson (SD); Is averaging only 2.9 yards/carry over the past 3 games (50 yards/game); seems to still be bothered by his nagging toe injury

Sleeper: WR Malcom Floyd (SD); The special teams star has been begging all year for a chance to play WR; has 7 catches for 140 yards and 2 TD in past two games starting for injured WR Chris Chambers

(1-5) Kansas City at (3-3) New York Jets

Start: RB Thomas Jones (NY); The recipe for success against the Chiefs is to run the ball; Jones as been hot averaging 6.6 yards/carry in last game

Sit: QB Brett Favre (NY); The game plan should be to run the ball, Favre has 1 TD and 4 INT in last two games against the Bengals and Raiders; has thrown 4 INT in 3 home games this year

Sleeper: Tony Gonzalez (KC); Had 6 catches for 97 yards last week since the trade deadline; look for a young QB Thigpen to look for the future Hall of Fame tight end a lot on Sunday

(4-2) Atlanta at (3-3) Philadelphia

Start: QB Donovan McNabb (PHI); A week off should bring RB Westbrook and WR Curtis back to the field; has a 93.2 QB rating and is 3-0 lifetime against the Falcons

Sit: QB Matt Ryan (ATL); “Matty-Ice” has been extraordinary this year, but expect a tough Eagles crowd and defense to slow him down; the Eagles defense will blitz often against the rookie

Sleeper: WR Kevin Curtis (PHI); The receiver is coming off an injury (hernia) and hopes to make some explosive plays this weekend against a 26th ranked Falcons pass defense (231.7 yards/game).

(2-4) Cleveland at (3-3) Jacksonville

Start: RB Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX); Is averaging 4.6 yards/carry; playing against the 26th ranked Browns rush defense that surrendered 175 yards rushing to Redskins RB Clinton Portis last week

Sit: TE Kellen Winslow (CLE); Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock from the sports world, the tight end will be suspended for this weekends game

Sleeper: WR Troy Williamson (JAX); The receiver is finally healthy and will be playing for a suspended WR Matt Jones; should be a impact in the passing game this week

(0-7) Cincinnati at (2-4) Houston

Start: TE Owen Daniels (HOU); The tight end continues to light it up in the AFC with 2 TD last week against the Lions; will be another target for QB Schaub this week

Sit: RB Cedric Benson (CIN); The Benagls rush offense stinks ranked 31st in league (73.9 yards/game) and don’t expect newly signed RB Benson to change that

Sleeper: WR T.J Houshmandzadeh (CIN); Its been a frustrating year for the Bengals offense with the loss of QB Carson Palmer; T.J leads team with 46 catches 458 yards and 3 TD.

(5-1) New York Giants at (5-1) Pittsburgh

Start: WR Hines Ward (PIT); Has 5 TD receptions this season and will be matched up against a semi-struggling CB Aaron Ross and Giants secondary

Sit: RB Willie Parker (PIT); While the RB is back from injury, expect RB Mewelde Moore to get the bulk of the carries against a Giants defense that held 49ers RB Frank Gore to just 11 yards last week

Sleeper: WR Plaxico Burress (NY); This will be his first game ever against his former team; Burress will be fired up and always plays well when he’s mad or has something to prove

(1-5) Seattle at (2-5) San Francisco

Start: Seattle Defense; 49ers QB J.T O’Sullivan leads the league in turnovers and sacks allowed; the Seahawks will be looking to revenge their Week 2 33-30 loss.

Sit: TE John Carlson (SEA); Had 6 catches for 78 yards in the Week 2 loss against SF; expect the 49ers to game plan for the rookie tight end this Sunday

Sleeper: WR Josh Morgan (SF); The 6th round draft pick is taking over the starting WR position from WR Bryant Johnson; Morgan had 5 catches 86 yards 1 TD last week against the NY Giants

(3-3) Indianapolis at (6-0) Tennessee

Start: RB Chris Johnson & RB LenDale White (TEN); Normally when a team has 2 running backs it’s a fantasy nightmare, but the Titans backs are both racking up big yards and will play a suspect Colts run defense at home

Sit: QB Kerry Collins (TEN); The Titans will game plan to run the ball and may take the ball out of Collins hands against the 3rd ranked pass defense of the Colts (175.5 yards/game).

Sleeper: Titans Defense; The Titans are the #3 ranked defense in the NFL (268.5 yards/game) and rank 3rd in INT (10); this will not be intimidated by a struggling QB Peyton Manning Colts offense

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

WEEK 7 Fantasy Games Breakdown

WEEK 7 Fantasy Games Breakdown

(3-3) San Diego at (4-1) Buffalo

Start: WR Vincent Jackson (SD); While WR Chambers should be back, Jackson is the new favorite target for QB Rivers. He should have some favorable match ups against the Bills secondary.

Sit: QB Phillip Rivers (SD); Traveling across country is tough on any team, but look for the Chargers to run the ball more against the Bills Tampa 2 scheme and eighth best pass defense (184.8 yards/game).

Sleeper: QB Trent Edwards (BUF); The offense is a lot more productive with Edwards and are glad to have him back from injury. He also should have WR threat Roscoe Parrish back as well.

(3-3) New Orleans at (4-2) Carolina

Start: QB Drew Brees (NO); Even against a tough Panthers Defense on the road, you have to continue to start one of the NFL hottest fantasy players; may get TE Shockey and WR Colston back.

Sit: WR Devery Henderson (NO); Could be the odd man out this week at WR for the Saints.

Sleeper: WR Marques Colston (NO); This will be the first game back for the star WR who has been out with a finger injury. If he does play, he will be a big target for QB Brees and have a big game.

(2-3) Minnesota at (2-3) Chicago

Start: RB Adrian Peterson (MIN); More than likely Peterson is in your line-up every week, but look for the Vikings to give him the ball a lot and hope for another big game against Chicago on the ground.

Sit: RB Matt Forte (CHI); There is no doubt that Forte will get his 20-25 carries this week, but is playing against a stout Vikings defensive line ranked 4th (allowing only 73.7 yards/game rushing).

Sleeper: WR Bernard Berrian (MIN); Has 110 and 131 yards in each of the past two games. He will get a chance to play against his old team in Chicago, an incentive that makes fantasy owners smile.

(4-1) Pittsburgh at (0-6) Cincinnati

Start: WR Hines Ward (PIT); Ward is due for a big game and usually plays very well against the Bengals. He is averaging 13.2 yards/catch.

Sit: Bengals Offense Players; With Carson Palmer still out with an injury, the Steelers should have a field day with their division opponent. No run game will be hard on the Bengals pass attack.

Sleeper: RB Willie Parker (PIT); Parker is still nursing an MCL sprain on his knee and is day-to-day. If he is a go for Sunday, expect him to get a lot of touches with Big Ben still banged up.

(5-0) Tennessee at (1-4) Kansas City

Start: RB Chris Johnson (TEN; Despite sharing carries with fellow RB LenDale White, expect the Titans to run the ball often against the Chiefs league worst rushing defense (182.2 yards/game).

Sit: RB Larry Johnson (KC); The star running back will be inactive for the game due to a one-game suspension for assault charges.

Sleeper: Titans Defense; Not really considered a sleeper, ranked 4th in league defense (allowing 267.8 yards/game), but expect some sacks, an INT or two and a couple turnovers against a weak KC offense.

(2-3) Baltimore at (2-3) Miami

Start: Dolphins Defense; Miami has quietly put together a tough defense and will look to capitalize at home against a rookie QB Joe Flacco who has only 1 TD and 7 INT this season.

Sit: RB Ronnie Brown (MIA); Do not start a RB against the Ravens defense, period. The Dolphins ‘wildcat offense’ may throw them off a little; expect the Ravens linebackers to keep Brown in check.

=0 A
Sleeper: TE Anthony Fasano (MIA); The Ravens gave up 9 catches for 91 yards to the Titans Tight End’s last week. It could be the weakness in the defense that the Dolphins are looking for.

(2-4) San Francisco at (4-1) New York Giants

Start: WR Amani Toomer (NY); If you’re looking for a BYE week wide receiver, Toomer always has great games against the 49ers Defense.

Sit: TE Vernon Davis (SF); While Davis had a good game against the Eagles last week (6 catches 76 yards) expect him to be held in to block more against an aggressive Giants Defensive Line.

Sleeper: QB J.T. O’Sullivan (SF); This is a make/break game for the 49ers. While O’Sullivan has struggled in last 3 games (59.6 QB rating), never count out a Mike Martz led offense.

(4-2) Dallas at (1-4) St. Louis Rams

Start: RB Marion Barber III (DAL); With fellow RB Felix Jones out and a new QB in Brad Johnson, expect the bulk of the load to fall on Barber, especially if Dallas jumps out to a big lead.

Sit: WR Roy Williams (DAL); The newly acquired WR for the Cowboys should see the field a little this Sunday, don’t expect him to be a legit fantasy threat yet after only a week of practice.

Sleeper: WR Torry Holt (STL); Once upon a time Holt was considered a ‘must start’ each week. Expect Bulger to look for Holt often against a banged up Dallas secondary.

(0-5) Detroit at (1-4) Houston

Start: QB Matt Schaub (HOU); He is playing a Lions Defense that is ranked 30th in the league against the pass (250.6 yards/game) and whom gave up 350 yards last week to QB Gus Frerotte (MIN).

Sit: RB Ahman Green (HOU); Expect fellow running back Steve Slaton to continue to get a lot more of the carries out of the backfield. Green is averaging just 10 touches per game right now.

Sleeper: TE Owen Daniels (HOU); Over the last 3 games, Daniels has 16 catches for 207 yards and is averaging 13.4 yards/catch. Look for a breakout game against the Lions secondary.

(3-2) Indianapolis at (3-3) Green Bay

Start: WR Reggie Wayne (IND); Wayne is coming off a monster game against the Ravens defense (8 catches 118 yards TD) and looks to take advantage of a Packers secondary without CB Al Harris.

Sit: RB Ryan Grant (GB); It has been a miserable start of the season for Grant. While he had 33 carries last week, he only averaged 2.7 yards/carry. He has ZERO touchdowns on the year.

Sleeper: RB Dominic Rhodes (IND); With RB Joseph Addai out, Rhodes will get the bulk of the carries for the Colts. While this game will be Manning vs. Rodgers, Rhodes should have a solid day.

(3-2) New York Jets at (1-4) Oakland

Start: QB Brett Favre (NYJ); The ageless wonder is having a terrific season (103.0 QB rating; 13 TD 6 INT) and is playing a Raiders secondary that gave up 320 passing yards last week.

Sit: QB JaMarcus Russell (OAK); If you are starting Russell because of a BYE, then look for someone else. He will not have 35 pass attempts against NY like he did last week at New Orleans.

Sleeper: WR Laveranues Coles (NYJ); While he is nursing a sore thigh, Coles is looking for his third straight game with at least 100-yards receiving against the Raiders.

(2-3) Cleveland at (4-2) Washington

Start: RB Clinton Portis (WAS); Portis is one of the best players in fantasy football right now. After losing to the Rams last week, expect the Redskins to get back to smash mouth football with Portis.

Sit: WR Braylon Edwards (CLE); Despite having 154 receiving yards last week against the Giants, Edwards will be matched up against CB Shawn Springs; whom has already shut down Terrell Owens and Anquan Boldin this season.

Sleeper: TE Kellen Winslow (CLE); He is out of the hospital and should play against the Redskins. Expect the talented tight end=2 0to call for the ball a lot after missing last weeks win over the Giants.

(1-4) Seattle at (4-2) Tampa Bay

Start: RB Earnest Graham (TB); Coach Jon Gruden said that Graham will be the man again this week against Seattle. He will split carries but has scored a touchdown in 6 straight home games.

Sit: RB Julius Jones (SEA); Tampa Bay is allowing only 89 yards/game and will be too much for a weak Seattle offensive line. The Seahawks never play well when traveling across country either.

Sleeper: WR Antonio Bryant (TB); Bryant has slowly emerged as the go-to guy for the Buccaneers with WR Joey Galloway injured. Expect QB Jeff Garcia to look for Bryant a lot against the Seahawks.

(4-2) Denver at (3-2) New England

Start: RB Michael Pittman (DEN); After rushing for 109 yards last week against the Jaguars, Pittman should get the start with RB’s Selvin Young (groin) and Ryan Torain not due back till next week.

Sit: RB Laurence Maroney (NE); He still has a banged up shoulder and did not practice this week. He should be limited in the game against the Broncos.

Sleeper: WR Wes Welker (NE); QB Matt Cassel is going to need Welker against the Broncos with a banged up back field. Denver is last in the league against the pass (255.5 yards/game) and Welker should match up well in the slot.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Week 6 Fantasy Football Two-A-Days

National Football Conference


Giants (4-0)

1. WR Dominek Hixon finished with 4 grabs for 102 yards and a TD filling in for suspended WR Plaxico Burress; WR Sinorice Moss complemented with 2 TD’s as well

2. BUY: RB Brandon Jacobs; 136 yards rushing 2 TD’s against Seattle; averaging 5.8 yards/carry on season; upcoming games against Cle and SF

Redskins (4-1)

1. TE Chris Cooley finally showed up: 8 catches 109 yards receiving 1 TD against the Eagles; his 1st TD of the year

2. BUY: QB Jason Campbell; thrown the ball 153 times over 5 weeks– 6 TD’s with no INTs. Should have huge next 3 weeks against St. Louis, Cleveland and Detroit

Cowboys (4-1)

1. Always start QB Tony Romo; 64.2 completion percentage, 1368 passing yards 11 TD’s and only been sacked 4 times; 5 INTs hurt but 8.4 passing yards/play doesn’t

2. WATCH: RB Felix Jones; despite 9 carries 96 yards 1 TD against Bengals, RB Marion Barber (23 carries) is still the workhorse; Jones was invisible Week 5 vs. Redskins

Eagles (2-3)

1. Despite losing past 2 games, Philly’s Defense still ranks 6th in league in Total Yards/Game; 1st in Sacks with 18.0 and 8th against the run (3.3 yard avg.)

2. SELL: Eagles Running Backs; they rank 28th in total rushing at 82.4 yards a game, and RB Brian Westbrook is only averaging 3.6 yards a carry with a long run of 18 yards


Bears (3-2)

1. The Bears defense is back. Ranked 8th in total yards/game, 4th against the run (74.2 yards/game); still suspect against the pass (23rd at 223.4 yards/game)

2. BUY: QB Kyle Orton; had career highs in completions (24), yards (334), and QB rating (121.4) threw 2 TDs in win against Lions; playing with a ton of confidence

.Packers (2-3)

1. BUY: QB Aaron Rodgers; even with a shoulder injury Rodgers finished 25-37 for 313 yards, 3 TDs, and a QB rating of 109.4; 1274 passing yards and 9 TD’s on the year

2. SELL: RB Ryan Grant; he continues to struggles posting only 54, 20, and 83 yards rushing in past 3 games; ZERO TD’s and only 2 catches for -4 yards

Vikings (2-3)

1. WATCH: RB Adrian Peterson; 21 carries for only 32 yards (1.5 yard/carry) against Saints; inconsistent on year 452 yards 3 TD’s; (607 yards 5 TD’s this time in ’07)

2. BUY: WR Bernard Berrian; 6 catches 110 yards 1 TD against Saints; starting to find groove with QB Frerotte; upcoming games vs. Lions and Bears

Lions (0-4)

1. NFL Homecoming Game?! Detroit ranks dead last in total defense (429.0 yards a game) and ranks 31st in rushing offense (72.2 yards a game)

2. SIT: Lions Wide Receivers; WR Roy Williams and WR Calvin Johnson are killing fantasy teams across the country with its weekly lack of production


Panthers (3-1)

1. RB Jonathon Stewart who?! RB DeAngelo Williams racked up 20 carries 123 yards 2 TD’s and 1 catch for 25 yards 1 TD; (Stewart still added 19 carries for 72 yards though)

2. BUY: QB Jake Delhomme; Comeback Player of the Year candidate threw for 236 yards and 2 TD’s this past week; getting help from WR’s Muhammad and Smith

Falcons (3-2)

1. Michael Turner continues to stand out as the best free agent acquisition of the NFL. He leads the NFL is rushing yards with 543 yards and has reached the end zone 6 times

2. WATCH: QB Matt Ryan; while it’s historically not smart to start a rookie QB, “Matty-Ice” continues to impress with 194 yards and 2 TD’s against the Packers Defense

Bucs (3-2)

1. Who will head coach Jon Gruden picks as his starter at QB this week? Jeff Garcia has a better QB rating (74.9) than Brian Griese (64.6)

2. BUY: WR Antonio Bryant; need a WR for a BYE week? Bryant is emerging as the go-to-receiver in Tampa Bay with WR Galloway out; hasn’t found the end zone yet though

Saints (2-3)

1. WATCH: RB Reggie Bush; He is an absolute play maker. The Saints will get him the ball one way or another; 2 Punt Return for TD’s against Vikings were incredible

2. BUY: WR Devery Henderson; 31.7 yards/catch average; has catches of 84, 81, and 52 yards on the season; had 4 catches for 104 yards and TD against Vikings


Cardinals (3-2)

1. QB Kurt Warner is having a monster year. He has thrown for over 1,400 yards and 10 TDs, and had a rating of 102.5

2. BUY: RB Tim Hightower; has taken over goal line duties for RB Edgerrin James. Hightower has 36 carries, 5 of them for TD’s

49ers (2-3)

1. The 49ers need to do a better job of getting the ball in RB Frank Gore’s hands. He has 603 total yards from scrimmage (423 rushing 180 receiving) after 5 games

2. BUY: WR Isaac Bruce; the 16 year vet is the go-to-receiver with 4 TD’s in last 3 games

Seahawks (1-3)

1. Seattle ranks 6th in the league in rushing yardage, at 143.2 yards a game. The Hawks need to pound the rock on the ground more often

2. SELL: QB Matt Hasslebeck; Seattle’s passing offense continues to struggle. A passer rating of 57.7 and TD/INT ratio of 2:4 is not getting it done

Rams (0-4)

1. Declaring QB Marc Bulger as the starter is the first step for new head coach Jim Haslett, now let’s get the ball to RB Steven Jackson and WR Tory Holt

2. SELL: TE Randy McMichael; his 11 catches and 139 yards this year is over as the TE has been put on season ending injured reserved.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lane Kiffin Out, Tom Cable In as Head Coach of the Silver & Black

In a stunning move today, Oakland Raiders Owner Al Davis fired his Head Coach Lane Kiffin after a twenty month relationship. While the move itself was expected, the way it finally went down was reminiscent of a bitter “he said/she said” public divorce.

After being criticized over the past couple of weeks for his media silence, Davis held a no-holds-barred candid media news conference to rationalize the events that led to Kiffin’s firing.

Davis explained that Kiffin was fired for “propaganda” and “lying” that had gone on for months. Kiffin was “bringing disgrace to the organization,” Davis said, calling Kiffin on multiple times a “flat-out liar.”

Davis went on to read from a three-page letter given to Kiffin before the Week Two game against the Kansas City Chiefs, a letter that prompted by Kiffin’s comments that he has no involvement in the defense, and that coordinator Rob Ryan works directly with Davis on this point.

The rift apparently arose seven months ago. Davis said that “Kiffin wanted to his father, Monte Kiffin, to run the defense, and that Monte Kiffin wanted to do it” . Davis claims that the Raiders opted not to pursue the elder Kiffin because he was under contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Davis claims that Lane Kiffin wanted to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan after the 2007 season. “I can’t win with this guy,” Kiffin supposedly told Davis.

Other shell-socking tidbits were that Kiffin did not want to draft former 2007 #1 draft pick QB JaMarcus Russell, he interviewed and wanted the Arkansas head coaching position (later going to Bobby Petrino), and he was trying to get fired by the team for the past seven months.

Davis went on to answer questions regarding his 2008 free agent acquisitions, the goals of his organization and the direction he wants the Oakland Raiders to continue. That direction, in the meantime, will fall on the shoulders of newly promoted Offensive Line Coach Tom Cable to intern head coach.

Cable, a man who was a former head coach of the University of Idaho, then took the podium and said, “The bottom line is it’s up to us to win football games. … This is a good football team.”

With a BYE this week, Cable will have his first chance to right the ship in the Raiders Week 6 match-up against New Orleans on October 12th.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Massacre in the Meadowlands

Prime time TV networks are starting to squirm at the idea of giving the Cleveland Browns FIVE games on National television this season. Playing on ESPN tonight for a Pre-Season spotlight game, the Browns are getting destroyed by the defending Champion New York Giants 30-3 early in the 2nd quarter.

Giants QB Eli Manning has thrown for 2 TD passes, while Pro Bowl QB Derek Anderson has left the game after suffering a concussion from a grueling sack by DE Usi Umenyiora.

The Browns look flat. They are dropping passes, missing tackles, making penalties and had a punt blocked for a safety. On the ensuing play they gave up an 82 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Domenik Hixon (his 3rd TD of the game).

NFL Pre-Season Week 2 Re-Cap/Observations

Week 2 of the NFL Pre-Season is now in the books, here are some observations/thoughts:

QB Jay Cutler (Broncos) looked very sharp against the Dallas Cowboys first team defense, completing 12 passes in a row and finishing 16 for 20; 178 yards passing and 1 TD. He has a speedster in rookie WR Eddie Royal but will miss his #1 WR Brandon Marshall in the first 3 games (suspension).

The New England Patriots looked bad against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. QB Tom Brady didn't make the trip, and it seemed like the rest of the team didn't either. The defense was run all over and Buccs back-up's QB Brian Griese and QB Luke McCown carved up the Patriots secondary.

Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson looked like a man among boys catching 3 passes for 76 yards and 1 TD against the Bengals. Expect the former #2 overall draft pick to have a big year in Mo-Town. QB Jon Kitna has a perfect 158.3 passer rating after two pre-season games.

The San Francisco 49ers defense looks strong and aggressive. Led by All-Pro LB Patrick Willis, shutdown CB Nate Clements and new Free Agent DE Justin Smith, the 49ers kept the Green Bay Packers in check and sacked QB Aaron Rodgers 4 times before halftime and hurried him a half dozen other times. Look for the team to use an aggressive defense to make up for its lackluster offense.

Rookie RB's on the rise: Ray Rice (Ravens), Steve Slaton (Texans), Chris Johnson (Titans), Kevin Smith (Lions), Darren McFadden (Ravens), Felix Jones (Cowboys), Jonathan Stewart (Panthers), Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers), and Jacob Hester (Chargers) all look to get significant playing time and look to impact their teams early

The only way the Chicago Bears will find their starting QB is if they use a double-sided coin to toss in QB Kyle Orton's favor...both looked bad but QB Rex Grossman looked worse.

The San Diego Chargers lost to the the St. Louis Rams 7-6; but they only played 8 out of 22 starters.

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Fred Taylor and RB Maurice Jones-Drew combined for a total of 19 yards rushing against the Miami Dolphins defense.

The Indianapolis Colts are now 3-13 over their past sixteen pre-season games.

It took all of one week for QB Brett Favre (Jets) to look good in New York.

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees continues to be in mid-season form going 12 for 17; 147 yards passing and 2 TD's against the Houston Texans.

Rookie QB's: Colt Brennan (Redskins), Dennis Dixon (Steelers) and Chad Henne (Dolphins) continue to impress; while Matt Ryan (Falcons), Brian Brohm (Packers) and Kevin O'Connell (Patriots) struggle

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pre-Season Football (Live-Blogging) Saints vs. Cardinals

There are 5 Pre-Season games tonight in the NFL, and while all eyes are on Cleveland for the Browns-Jets game trying to catch a glimpse of #4 on the sidelines, we'll be focusing on the ESPN nationally televised New Orleans Saints vs. Arizona Cardinals football game. Both of these teams just barely missed out on the playoffs in 2007, and both hope to start fresh tonight.

Things to look out for tonight:

The 'New" Saints players- Former Pro Bowlers TE Jeremy Shockey and LB Jonathan Vilma make their debut tonight for the Saints; both hope to put the team over the top and into contention. Update: (neither are playing tonight).

Cardinals QB's- While QB Matt Lineart is the starter, keep an eye on former 2-time MVP QB Kurt Warner, who will push for playing time at some point this season.

Saints RB's- RB Reggie Bush will need to carry the load with a banged-up RB Deuce McCallister, back-up RB Pierre Thomas has looked very good in training camp so far.

Rookie 1st Round premieres of Saints DT Sedric Ellis and Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Here is a Live-Blog of the 1st-Half of the game:

QB Drew Brees looks good, completed a couple of short passes and got the ball out in time before preventing a sack, his "out pattern" throws have good zip on them.

RB Reggie Bush says he "likes to run up the middle because he doesn't have speed to get outside"; run middle for no yards, run right for 9 yards and 1st down, and screen pass for 1 yard; 3 consecutive plays.

QB Drew Brees looks GOOD, just led a 13-play drive going 6 for 7; 35 yards and a 7-yard TD pass to WR David Patten. Brees had good protection, was patient and lofted a perfect pass into coverage for Patten to come down with the score. Note: New-look Arizona defense got "walked all over".

Saints 7-0.

On 3rd-8, QB Matt Leinart moves around in pocket, hits WR Jamaica Rector for 23 yards.

WR Anquan Bolden is OUT tonight, RB Edgerrin James has 2 carries for 5 yards.

Saints LB Mark Simoneau runs right through OT Levi Brown for a QB Sack.

QB Drew Brees is done for the night, insert new back-up and long time QB Mark Brunell.

Tough luck for RB Reggie Bush, TWO long Bush runs (13 and 17 yards) brought back on Offensive "Hold" penalties, both times Bush made something out of nothing.

Right after I was going to write that the Cardinals offense looks "bad", Leinart throws a 34-yard crossing pass on 3rd-5 to WR Steve Breaston to finish the 1st Quarter.

Saints 7-0

A lot of excitement from the coaching staff for Cardinals rookie RB Tim Hightower, who rushes right for a 2-yard TD.
Tied 7-7

RB Pierre Thomas, who has a lot of people buzzing right now, returns a kick-off 57 yards before being dragged down out of bounds by the Cardinals kicker.

QB Matt Leinart finishes the night 7 for 8; 91 yards on two drives.

QB Brian St. Pierre comes in for the Cardinals, looks like QB Kurt Warner is out.

At this point there has been a lot of penalties and mistakes from both teams on this current drive. Most of the 2nd/3rd string players are in and its noticeable.

Note: There has only been about 57 references to QB Brett Favre and the Jets

K Neil Rackers boots a 30-yard FG

Cardinals 10-7

Welcome to the NFL Saints WR Robert Meachem! The 2007 1st Round Pick (Tennessee) who missed the entire last season, hauls in a 49-yard catch from Brunell to inside the 10 yard line. He has 2 catches on the drive.

Saints go for it on 4th-goal on the 1-yard line, RB Pierre Thomas gets STUFFED by Cardinals rookie LB Ali Highsmith (LSU)

Cardinals 10-7 at Halftime

This concludes the 1st Half Live Blogging of the game...

Fantasy Football: Running Backs

The Running Back position is one of the most sought and most important positions on any Fantasy Football team. A star player will get 20-30 touches a game, opportunities to score touchdowns, and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. While RB's seem to be a dime a dozen nowadays, with a shelf life career average of 3-4 years in the league, finding a good back can carry your entire team.

Factors to consider when drafting a RB: is he a starter or back-up; is he used in goal line situations; receiving skills; type of offense used; is there running back by committee; does he play for a good team; and what does the offensive line and fullbacks look like blocking for said player.

Heading into the 2008 season, who are the Top 20 Fantasy Football Running Backs?

Top 5

1. LaDainian Tomlinson (Chargers) Compared to his record breaking 2006 MVP season, 2007 was a disappointment, but he still led all RB's with 1474 rushing yards and 19 TD's. He's never caught less than 50 passes in a season in his entire career either. Despite coming off an injury, expect Tomlinson to once again be one of the best overall fantasy players.

2. Adrian Peterson (Vikings) Nobody expected the rookie to put up 1341 yards and 13 TD's last season. He has one of the best Offensive Lines blocking, will play for a contending team, but will have to split reps with RB Chester Taylor to stay healthy. Still a Top 5 draft pick in Fantasy.

3. Joseph Addai (Colts) Indy's top back racked up 1072 yards and 15 TD's in 2007. Its hard to root against an offense that is led by QB Payton Manning. Addai will get the numbers but will have to share some of the load with RB Dominic Rhodes, recently returned from Oakland.

4. Brian Westbrook (Eagles) In leagues that reward 1 point per reception, Westbrook is an elite back. He is a mismatch for defenders and posted 1333 yards rushing with 90 catches and 771 yards receiving, 12 TD's. QB Donovan McNabb is back and fully healthy and will keep the RB the focal point of the offense.

5. Frank Gore (49ers) OC Mike Martz has come to town and is going to do whatever possible to turn Gore into RB Marshall Faulk. Gore is a north-south runner and still ran for 1102 yards despite playing for the leagues worst offense and missing two games in 2007. He has come to training camp stronger, faster and determined to be an elite RB in the league.

The Rest of the Best

6. Marion Barber III (Cowboys) Leader of 2-back pack, Dallas will score, and score a lot
7. Clinton Portis (Redskins) Should improve on 11 TD's last year with new Jim Zorn offense
8. Larry Johnson (Chiefs) Will get the ball, but who is blocking for him?
9. Steven Jackson (Rams) Has not shown up for camp yet, and that's not good
10. Marshawn Lynch (Bills) Talented back but needs to get in the End Zone more
11. Laurence Maroney (Patriots) Hot/Cold but does play for the Patriots
12. Reggie Bush (Saints) Needs to adjust to being feature back, worked hard this offseason
13. Willis McGahee (Ravens) Has to stay healthy, his OL is weak and may share carries
14. Ryan Grant (Packers) Huge Fantasy surprise, will be relied on with no Favre in GB
15. Jamal Lewis (Browns) Has a lot left in the tank, will be playing for a contender
16. Thomas Jones (Jets) Sleeper Alert, new Pro Bowl FB and OL blocking, and FAVRE
17. Maurice Jones-Drew (Jaguars) Shares carries with Fred Taylor, still good though
18. Ronnie Brown (Dolphins) Should be a breakout season with new look Miami
19. Willie Parker (Steelers) Must regain 2006 status, and fight off rookie Mendenhall
20. Edgerrin James (Cardinals) Great fantasy pick in 2005, but will still get carries

Rookies to look out for:

Ray Rice (Ravens)
Jonathan Stewart (Panthers)
Darren McFadden (Raiders)
Kevin Smith (Lions)
Matt Forte (Bears)
Chris Johnson (Titans)
Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers)
Felix Jones (Cowboys)

Early Looks: CB Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State)

One of the most hyped players heading into the 2008 season and the 2009 NFL Draft is Ohio State Defensive Back Malcolm Jenkins. The 6'1'' 208 pound player has been a huge reason that the Buckeyes have participated in the past two BCS Championship games.

His freshman year, Jenkins played mostly nickelback and finished with 37 tackles in 10 games. 2006 moved him to the starting cornerback position where he played in all 13 games, finishing with 55 tackles, 4 INT's and All-Big Ten honors. Last season, Jenkins was a bona fide play maker logging 47 tackles, 4 INT's and 2nd-team All-American.

When watching Jenkins, he possesses excellent speed and good size. He can play man-to-man coverage with big/small receivers, plays smarts, shows good instincts, and can play either corner or safety. He is a tough player that plays through minor injuries and rarely takes plays off. Jenkins can make open field tackles, is not afraid to lay a hit of a ball carrier, and consistently shows good body control. He needs to work on not being too aggressive and giving up catches underneath, as well as recovering on the deep routes if a receiver gets behind him.

2009 Draft Outlook: Baring any injury, Jenkins should be a Top 10 draft pick next April and the 1st cornerback selected. He is the closest thing to a 'shutdown corner' in college football and will be a hot commodity in post season all-star games and awards. He compares to CB Champ Bailey (Broncos). The future looks bright for this Buckeye.

J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!

As everyone and their mom now knows, QB Brett Favre is now a New York Jet. The response from the rest of the world: "Whew, about time! We are so sick and tired of hearing about him!"

It's bizarre to think that there are actually 31 other NFL teams right now in training camp with position battles, injury updates, player holdouts, and news worthy stories, yet all have been trumped by the continuing saga of #4 and the 'he said, she said' battle between the Green Bay Packers, agent Bus Cook, head coach Jon Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In the end, Favre is going to the "other" team in New Jersey.

Head Coach Eric Mangini and the NY Jets have had a major overhaul this offseason, and who can blame them when you play in the same division as the New England Patriots.

Added are: Pro Bowler's FB Tony Richardson (Vikings) and OG Alan Faneca (Steelers); LB Calvin Pace (Cardinals), DT Kris Jenkins (Panthers), TE Bubba Franks (Packers), and OT Damien Woody (Lions).

Adding Favre will bring instant credibility to the offense and build confidence throughout the team. While the verdict is still out on how effective he can learn a new offense and play at the age of 38 years old, there is no question that his acquisition will improve the Jets football team.

The only concern: The Madden Football '09 curse! Yep, Brett is still the cover boy...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

NFL Training Camps: QB Battles

Unless your name is Peyton Manning (160 consecutive starts) or Tom Brady (110 consecutive starts), every year Quarterbacks must compete to earn or maintain their starting job for an NFL team. It is the most important position on the field and is a major factor in the success of a given team. While there are 32 starting positions available, it is not always a guarantee that a QB will start every game in a particular season. Heck, Brett Favre is having a hard time getting his NFL record 254th consecutive start.

Here is an update on the QB Battles heading into the 2008 season:

Miami Dolphins: Josh McCown vs. John Beck vs. Chad Henne

The Dolphins have waited nine years to find their replacement for Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino, and it looks like they may have to wait even longer. Henne should eventually be the "guy", but in the mean time, McCown is edging out Beck for back-up-QB that will get to start Week 1.

New York Jets: Chad Pennington vs. Kellen Clemens vs. (Brett Favre?)

An expensive new Offensive Line should help any of the QB's who get the job. Pennington has a ton of experience but is a banana peel away from another injury. This team should be begging future Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre to move to Jersey, it's the only way they'll have a chance against that other future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Boller vs. Joe Flacco vs. Troy Smith

New HC John Harbaugh made Boller the starting QB for the first preseason game against the Patriots due to "a nod to experience and seniority". While all three QB's have looked okay in camp, none have stepped up as the leader in the clubhouse yet. Boller's 40 career starts is the only thing giving him a 'slight' edge.

Chicago Bears: Rex Grossman vs. Kyle Orton

HC Lovie Smith has named Orton the starter for the 1st Preseason game against the Chiefs. While Bears fans would rather see a Chicago Cubs pitcher whirling the pigskin around instead, Orton has had the advantage so far in camp. That makes it a 51-49 race for the starting role.

Atlanta Falcons: Chris Redman vs. Matt Ryan vs. Joey Harrington

A healthy (and prison-free) Michael Vick could probably beat all of these QB's out with his non-throwing hand. But while the "future"QB Ryan wants to start right away, he may need to wait a little longer for playing time. HC Mike Smith is going to see if Ryan 'takes' the job, or if they should side on using caution for the rookie, and start the veteran Redman instead.

San Francisco 49ers: Alex Smith vs. Shaun Hill vs. J.T O'Sullivan

After eleven days of camp, this battle looks to be in a 3-way tie. Each QB possesses strengths/weaknesses that the others don't. OC Mike Martz is becoming impatient with the learning curve needed for his complex offense. It seems that GM Scot McCloughan wants Smith, HC Mike Nolan wants Hill and OC Martz wants O'Sullivan. All three must decide on the same QB and decide soon.

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers vs. Brett Favre

While the idea of a legit competition changes every 30 seconds for this team, the Packers seem to have made it clear that Rodgers is the guy. Rodgers will need to earn nothing short of a Super Bowl berth and Pro Bowl invitation to truly "win" this QB competition, even if Favre is gone.

Other "starting" Quarterbacks feeling the pressure:

Matt Leinart (Arizona Cardinals)
Brodie Croyle (Kansas City Chiefs)
Tavaras Jackson (Minnesota Vikngs)
Matt Schaub (Houston Texans)

University of Oregon Fall Camp: Day 1

Day one of the Oregon Ducks fall camp provided the first opportunity for both coaches and players to get acclimated with each other on the practice field before the regular season kicks off August 30th against Washington. As is customary with the first day of anything, there was obvious rust and the occasional mental lapse, but all in all it was a very encouraging day. The battle for the number one spot atop the quarterback depth chart continued where it left off in the spring, with Sophomores Nate Costa and Justin Roper (pictured left) essentially splitting the number of reps with the first team offense. While it appears that Costa maintains the slight edge over Roper so far on the depth chart, both quarterbacks performed equally well throughout the day.

“Nate (Costa) was sharper in drills,” said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti. “Justin (Roper) was sharper in the 7-on-7’s.”

Costa at this point seems to be the most accurate of the two, displaying good touch and appropriate velocity on short and intermediate routes. Roper seemed to struggle a bit in this area, misfiring on a number of receiver screens, though he did exhibit impressive arm strength and accuracy on passes of 15 yards or more. Both quarterbacks showed nice mobility too. While neither will evoke visions of Dennis Dixon, Costa (who showed no ill affects from an ACL injury suffered last season) and Roper proved elusive when flushed out of the pocket. Most surprising was the mobility displayed by Roper, who during one particular sequence, escaped a blitzing linebacker and scrambled for a nice gain that would have garnered an easy first down.

Senior Jeremiah Johnson appears to be completely healthy as he led the running backs in a variety of drills today. After going down with a torn ACL against Washington State last year, Johnson showed no difficulty whatsoever running and cutting on his surgically repaired left knee. He also proved to be capable of outrunning defenders to the edge and showed great agility and burst in traffic. In addition to this, Johnson also had a number of impressive catches coming out the backfield.

“Jeremiah has that ability to scoot and accelerate that I like,” commented Bellotti of Johnson’s skill-set

The defensive backfield looked particularly opportunistic today, feasting on a few of the throwing errors made by the quarterbacks. Junior cornerback Walter Thurmond III had a couple of interceptions that likely would have gone for scores if he were playing in a game. Additionally, wide receivers looked solid with Seniors Jaison Williams and Terrance Scott along with Sophomore Jeff Maehl showing good hands and explosiveness after the catch. Scott particularly stood out with some difficult grabs near the sideline on poorly thrown balls. Finally, Junior cornerback Jairus Byrd and Sophomore wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad appear to be the front runners for the number one job at punt returner. Both were seen fielding punts today from Senior punter Josh Syria as UO Strength and Conditioning Coach, Jim Radcliffe, looked on.

Notes: Bellotti announced that freshman cornerback, Kenjon Barner has cleared NCAA entry requirements, allowing him to join the team for Monday afternoon’s newcomer practice.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Pre-Season Football (Live-Blogging) Colts vs. Redskins

The 2008 NFL Pre-Season started with the unexpected: an on-side kick. The Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins are duking it out in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.

Live-Blogging during the 1st Half of the game:

As expected, a lot of the stars are OUT: QB Peyton Manning, DE Jason Taylor, RB Clinton Portis, SS LaRon Landry, WR Marvin Harrison, DE Dwight Freeney, and FS Bob Sanders.

Packers QB Brett Favre lands in Green Bay. Expect a lot of Favre talk with John Madden and Adam Sheftner calling the game for NBC.

Redskins QB Jason Campbell came out firing with a 20-yard TD to WR Antwaan Randle El. He looks good in the pocket, has good zip on his passes but did take a sack. (5 for 5; 61 yards passing).

Colts QB Jim Sorgi only played one series, completing multiple passes to TE Dallas Clark. With each team playing five pre-season games, expect both starting QB's to play only sparingly.

Redskins 7-0.

Colts RB Joseph Addai seems to have a head injury, seems okay but unlikely to return to the game (Fantasy Football owners breath a sigh of relief).

Colts K Adam Vinatieri boots a field goal, he'll most likely be enshrined in Canton someday himself.

Redskins 7-3.

Colts WR Anthony Gonzalez gets stopped a yard short on 3rd down. He needs to know to run his route past the 1st down yard marker. He is expected to be a big part of the offense in 2008.

Redskins RB Rock Cartwright looks good, is hitting the holes hard and getting good yardage.

The Colts 2nd/3rd string offense looks rusty, C Jamie Richards just hiked the ball through the End Zone for a Safety.

Redskins 9-3.

It is curious to see how Redskins back-up QB Todd Collins does in new Head Coach Jim Zorn's offense. So far, he has time in the pocket but is hesitant with the ball (Note: Collins is sacked as I am writing this).

Colts PR T.J Rushing gets a potential 63 yard punt return for a TD called back on a holding call. Rushing showed good speed getting around the corner and tip-toeing down the sidelines.

Brett Favre reference total: 3

Colts QB Quinn Gray rolls out and makes a nice 30 yard TD pass to WR Onrea Jones. Gray has been inconsistent so far in the game but uses a good play action pass to hit an open Jones for the score.

Colts 10-9.

Special Teams are always some of the best pre-season action to watch as guys are fighting for their jobs out there. We've seen some big hits and great hustle so far.

Redskins rookie TE Fred Davis (USC) just made his 1st catch for 8 yards. Along with Pro Bowl TE Chris Cooley and TE Todd Yoder, Washington should be strong at this position.

Redskins rookie RB Marcus Mason (Youngstown St) has looked good running the ball up the middle. He is getting to the 2nd level quickly and picking up 1st downs on north/south running (He has 7 carries for 44 yards; a 6.3 yards-per-carry avg).

Redskins DE Jason Taylor has 100.5 sacks since 2000; John Madden is recommending to the audience to take up ballroom dancing to lose weight. Taylor is down to 5% total body fat.

Redskins K Shaun Suisham misses 39-yard Field Goal (wide right).

Colts QB Quinn Gray looks rough in two-minute drill, over throwing multiple receivers. He does evade the pass rush and launches a 47-yard pass to WR Courtney Roby to the 5 yard line with 5 seconds to go in the half.

Colts K Adam Vinatieri kicks a 22-yard FG.

Halftime; Colts 13-9.

This concludes the Live-Blogging from the first Pre-Season game of 2008.

Detroit Lions Training Camp

Posted by: Darrin Ackerman

My observations from attending the Detroit Lions practice on Friday:

Coach Marinelli is known for running a tough training camp so it was worth noting that this was the second practice in a row without pads. Either things are going well or Coach Rod thinks his players are getting too nicked up.

After iron man center Dominic Raiola experienced a minor injury this week and six fumbled snaps later by his probable replacements, the Lions realized they had no viable backups on the roster and quickly signed veterans Andy McCollum and Nick Jones. Both spent extensive time practicing snaps with the Lions QB’s.

The Lions have made no secret about their desire to run the football more since ‘pass-happy’ former OC Mike Martz left town. The running backs and quarterbacks spent a lot of time working on play-action. They also practiced several plays with a lead fullback, something they didn’t do very often during the Martz years.

Second-year player Ikaika Alama-Francis is clearly the most athletically-gifted defensive lineman on the team. At 6-5 and 280 pounds, Francis showed outstanding speed and explosion for his size. If he continues to improve his technique, he will be a player to watch this season. Alama-Francis was a walk-on at Hawaii and did not play football in high school.

Just because he had a meager rookie year, don’t fall asleep on Calvin Johnson - he is worthy of the hype. His quick cuts and and the ability to move in and out of his breaks with ease are especially remarkable when considering his size (6-5, 230 lbs.). If the Lions can get the running game going to open up things downfield, expect a 1300-plus yard, double-digit touchdown season from Johnson.

Third-year running back Brian Calhoun looks faster and more explosive than he ever has since being drafted in the third round out of Wisconsin in 2006. Calhoun, who has suffered knee injuries during his first two seasons, has the look of a viable third-down weapon to add to the Lions’ arsenal.

Rookie defensive end Cliff Avril continues to impress in camp. Clocked at 4.51 while at the combine, there are few questions about his speed, but he showed much better explosion off the snap than when I watched him on tape from last season.

Kevin Smith, the rookie running back out of Central Florida, practiced almost exclusively with the first team. One thing I noticed about Smith is his excellent vision – he always keeps his head up and is looking for the open hole. He also did a solid job in pass protection.

It looks as though the Lions did indeed upgrade their horrendous secondary with the acquisition of cornerback Leigh Bodden. Bodden was picked up from Cleveland in the Shaun Rogers trade and he is without a doubt the best corner on the team. His ability to break quickly on the ball allowed him to snag several interceptions in practice and his physical style is a good fit for the Tampa 2 defense.

Rookie fullback Jerome Felton out of Furman may end up being the starting fullback on opening day. Felton showed good speed and hands and is a physical blocker.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Fantasy Football: Quarterbacks

A football team's success relies heavily on the success of it's Quarterback. The same can be said for Fantasy Football. Heading into the 2008 season, you won't find a team ranked in the upper tier of the league that has questions at the QB position. For fantasy reasons, you need a play caller that is consistent, stays healthy, has offensive play makers around him, and can lead his team into the end zone. Passing yards equal points, so it helps to have a gunslinger on a pass happy team as well.

Who are the Top 5 Fantasy QB's heading into 2008?

1. Tom Brady (Patriots) It'll be difficult to follow up his 2007 season where he threw for 4806 yards and 50 TD's. He has not missed a start in the past six years nor has he thrown for fewer than 3500 yards in any of those seasons. He will remain reliable and the Patriots have the easiest schedule this year. His supporting cast led by WR Randy Moss and WR Wes Welker are still the best in the league.

2. Peyton Manning (Colts) An injured knee will not keep Manning from having another great fantasy football season. He has 10 straight years of more than 3700 yards passing and has thrown at least 31 TD's in each of the past two seasons. Look for another big season as the Colts continue to be a contender in the AFC.

3. Tony Romo (Cowboys) While girlfriend Jessica Simpson sings praises that Romo is "her Sunday", so will we come this Fall. 4211 yards passing and 38 TD's in 2007; he will once again lead one of the most talented teams in the NFL with WR Terrell Owens and TE Jason Whitten. Expect a dominant defense to keep the Cowboys in good field position and a barking Owens to make sure Romo gets his numbers and TD's.

4. Drew Brees (Saints) Despite the distractions in their 2007 offense with injuries, disappointing play and departed players, Brees actually had a better year than his previous one when he led the Saints to the NFC Championship game in 2006. Enter a healthy WR Marques Coleston, a determined RB Reggie Bush and new big target TE Jeremy Shockey, and expect Brees to have a huge season.

5. Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) In his first season with HC Mike Tomlin, Big Ben improved his passing TD total from 20 in 2006 to 34 in 2007. Add the fact that he also threw at least one TD in every game and at least two TD's in nine starts, expect him to enter 2008 with the guns firing. A healthy WR Santonio Holmes, reliable WR Hines Ward, consistent TE Heath Miller and rookie standout WR Limas Sweed, should help make Ben a top Fantasy choice.

The next 5 should be:

6. Derek Anderson (Browns) Must have big season with QB Brady Quinn waiting in wings
7. Carson Palmer (Bengals) His WR's are playing for contracts, meaning big numbers
8. Matt Hasslebeck (Seahawks) HC Holmgren wants to throw, and throw often
9. Eli Manning (Giants) He's a Manning, but needs to have some new targets step up
10. Phillip Rivers (Chargers) Leads top talented team in NFL, just needs to manage it

Injury Comebacks:

11. Donovan McNabb (Eagles) Must stay healthy or he'll lose his job to QB Kevin Kolb
12. Jake Delhomme (Panthers) Do or die year for Panthers, has weapons to be successful 13. Marc Bulger (Rams) Is consistent when healthy, needs help from young WR's

Something to Prove:

14. Aaron Rodgers (Packers) Good luck, the Favre monkey on your back is the size of a gorilla
15. Vince Young (Titans) Has the skills to be an all around great, hasn't shown it yet
16. Tavaris Jackson (Vikings) Rest of the team is Super Bowl ready, are you?

Sleeper Picks:

17. Trent Edwards (Bills) Potential to have a big year with a TON of young weapons around him
18. Matt Schaub (Texans) Needs to correct his mistakes and stay healthy
19. Alex Smith (49ers) Two words: Mike Martz; either going to be a home run or strikeout
20. Jason Campbell (Redskins) It's a coin-flip here, his help are mostly rookies

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Breakout Player: OT Levi Brown (Cardinals)

"Intense" would be an excellent word to use when describing the 6'5'' 323 pound OT Levi Brown. After starting all four of his collegiate seasons at Penn State, earning All-Big Ten and All-American honors numerous times, Brown was selected in the 1st Round with the 5th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. Here he signed a 6-year $62 million contract with at least $18 million guaranteed. It's safe to make the assumption that Levi Brown will have to become an anchor on the offensive line for years to come.

In 2007, the rookie played in 13 games with 11 starts. He was a major reason that RB Edgerrin James rushed for 1,222 yards on 324 carries last season. While Brown played mostly the coveted left tackle position in college, with Arizona he will be the other bookend playing as a right tackle next to starting OG Deuce Lutui.

When watching Brown, he displays very quick feet for a big man and does an excellent job on sliding out to block an explosive pass rusher. He is a naturally tough player who blocks aggressively on every play. He has no problem getting to the 2nd level and is smooth in picking up the double team. Brown pass blocks with good leverage and has very long arms, good for the tackle position. Sometimes he can be caught standing up too much though and can get beat on the inside rush. He needs to do a better job of staying with his blocks longer, especially from a power rush. His strength is in quick pass protections has be has a ferocious first punch on defenders. He has picked up a lot of experience in only one year in the league has has gradually improved during every game.

What are some factors that will lead Brown to have a breakout season in 2008?

1. Russ Grimm One of the best offensive line coaches in the entire game, Grimm is known for turning talented young players into Pro Bowl powerhouses, such as Chris Samuels (Redskins), Jon Jansen (Redskins), and Alan Faneca (Jets). He won a Super Bowl ring as the offensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005. Brown will continue to thrive in Grimm's blocking schemes and is an excellent fit for Arizona's offense.

2. Natural Talent Levi Brown is one of those tackles that could be a good left tackle but a great right tackle in the NFL. He is hard nosed, intense and shows the strength to become a dominant player for the next decade if he continues to play well. He has not had an injury history at all and can make a name for himself in a weak NFC West division playing against strong defensive ends such as Patrick Kearney (Seahawks), Chris Long (Rams), and Justin Smith (49ers).

Monday, July 28, 2008

San Diego Chargers Training Camp

I was able to attend the afternoon practice for the San Diego Chargers today. This is the 3rd practice in full pads since the team started camp last week. Here are some observations from the live session:

-The team started the practice with "Oklahoma Drills". The defense dominated the offense and won each of the three competitions. The players were going crazy in support of the winning players. (Note: According to the Chargers and Jaguars are two of the only NFL teams that still run this tackling drill).

-WR Chris Chambers was catching everything. He ran crisp routes and made some tough catches. A few of QB Phillip Rivers passes were thrown behind the receiver but Chambers still got them. A full offseason with the team this year should help Chambers in this offense.

-LB Shawn Merriman loves to play to the crowd. He noticeably goes harder in drills to get a reaction from fans watching the play. He is also much bigger physically when seen in person (especially compared to the other backers).

-Rookie RB Jacob Hester (LSU) looked solid running the football. He was able to get around the corner and ran tough inside. Expect him to be a short yardage back and make some plays catching the ball out of the backfield.

-QB Phillip Rivers threw a good ball in individual drills, but was struggling in the team scrimmage. His passes fluttered and there were a few blown plays where he held the ball too long. Despite this, Rivers is still a very vocal player/leader on the field.

-The offensive line looks tough and very aggressive.

-CB Antonio Cromartie continues to make plays all over the field. He also worked a lot at the punt returner position during special teams drills.

-The tempo of the practice seemed kind of slow. The players looked tired and exhausted despite it being a rather cool afternoon weather wise.

Overall there is a lot of talent on this football team. I will be attending more practices in the future and will have more extensive evaluations on players and team progress.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Early Looks: QB Curtis Painter (Purdue)

Throughout his tenure at Purdue University, one could say Head Coach Joe Tiller has coached some decent quarterbacks. Quarterbacks such as Kyle Orton (Bears) and of course, Saints QB Drew Brees (2000 Maxwell Award winner for the nation's most outstanding player and finalist in 1999 and 2000 for the Heisman Trophy), are two players who have had notable to remarkable success at the NFL level, respectively, under the tutelage of Tiller. Heading in to his 12th and final season at West Lafayette, Tiller yet again has another quarterback prodigy to add to the list in Senior Curtis Painter. Entering his third season as the Boilermakers starting QB, the 6'4'' 223 lb. Vincennes, Indiana native appears ready to carry the mantle for Purdue as they look to capture their first Big 10 title since 2000.

Painter first appeared on the radar screens of the NFL GM’s and scouts after the impressive numbers he put up his Sophomore season in 2006. Since then he has only elevated his draft stock, particularly with the blistering start he had to the ’07 season (tossing 19 TD's and only 3 INT's in the Boilermakers' first six games). Though unfair, many love to compare Painter with Brees. While in many ways, both share similar skill-sets, Painter is much bigger and much stronger than the aforementioned Brees, while Brees held an edge in the more cerebral aspects of the game. It’s also worth mentioning that, compared to Painter, Brees was the beneficiary of a much better supporting cast throughout his career at West Lafayette. Painter possesses a big arm and good mobility, making him a threat standing in, or rolling out of the pocket. Painter has also markedly improved his throwing accuracy and general field awareness and decision making from season to season. In ’06, Painter completed less than 60% of his passes (59.4%), while in ’07, he sat comfortably above 60% (62.6% to be exact). Has a much better understanding of Tiller’s offense going into his Senior season and appears to be dictating what opposing defenses do, instead of reacting hap-hazardly to pressure.

The major criticism of Painter is his history of being a bit turnover-prone. While demonstrating improved decision-making skills in 2007, Painter threw almost as many interceptions (19) as he did touchdowns (22) in 2006. Is a confident player who sometimes exudes too much faith in his arm, thus leading to forced passes into coverage. Painter has also put up the majority of his impressive numbers against the weak competition on Purdue’s schedule. In ’06, against quality teams such as, #19 Iowa, #21 Wisconsin, and Penn State, Painter was a combined 64/125 for 620 yards, 1 TD and 5 INT’s. In 2007, Painter once again failed to demonstrate that he could play with better confidence and poise against stiff competition. Though he didn’t turn the ball over as much, he wasn’t nearly the catalyst he needed to be for his team in the big games, going a combined 103/181 for 917 yds., 1 TD and 3 INT’s against the likes of '07 bowl teams, #4 Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Indiana.

Outlook: Painter has been riding a steady trend of improvement from '06 to now, thus there's no reason to believe he won't be even better in 2008. In this his third year as the starter, Painter must continue to put up impressive numbers while demonstrating increased moxie and poise in the big headline games on Purdue's schedule. If he can accomplish that, Painter could legitimately solidify himself as the top QB prospect in what forecasts to be a weak 2008 QB draft class.

Noteworthy games: Sept 13th vs. Oregon; Oct. 11th at Ohio State; Nov. 1st vs. Michigan

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