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Conflicting reports on Moreno’s return

DENVER - JANUARY 03: Running back Knowshon Moreno #27 of the Denver Broncos rushes for yardage as Travis Daniels #34 of the Kansas City Chiefs makes the tackle during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on January 3, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Mike Klis of the Denver Post said that Knowshon Moreno doesn’t look close to returning to practice:

…from here, running back Knowshon Moreno and receiver Demaryius Thomas don’t look anywhere near close to returning. Both are running and cutting very gingerly.

Considering Moreno suffered his hamstring injury Aug. 1 _ four weeks ago today _ either he’s a slow healer or he received a least a partial tear. I’m betting on the latter.

On Monday, Klis reported that Josh McDaniels ‘indicated’ Moreno would practice this week:

In his postgame comments, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels indicated starting tailback Knowshon Moreno would practice this week. Moreno’s primary backup, Correll Buckhalter, returned to practice on a limited basis last week but did not play in the preseason game Sunday night against Pittsburgh.

“I think that’s always best for a running back – same thing with (RB Correll Buckhalter) – to get hit before they actually go on to a regular-season game,” McDaniels said. “”But, if that’s not the best thing for us to do, the smartest decision to make, then we’ll probably hold off on that. We’re going to practice this week – we’ll be in pads on Tuesday and we’ll see if we can bang one or both of them around if they’re ready to go by then. We don’t have a timetable yet but both of them are getting close.”

The bit about the hamstring being a tear and not a strain is somewhat worrisome. Moreno is slipping in drafts and owners should proceed with caution. I just passed him up for Mike Sims-Walker in the late 5th, but I’d grab him in the 6th if he makes it back to me. It’s vital that anyone who picks Moreno grab his handcuff, Correll Buckhalter, who his battling his own injury at the moment. The good news is that Buck is usually around very late in drafts.

For what it’s worth, the team is listing him as probable for Week 1.

Tuesday Update: He has been cleared for practice, but Rotoworld is reporting that Moreno is telling people that he’s only at about 80% right now.

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NFL Playoff Preview: Wild Card Weekend

What a bizarre season this has been. Two teams that many pundits figured would meet in the Super Bowl – the Cowboys and Patriots – didn’t even make the playoffs. While two teams expected to dwell the cellars of their respective divisions for another season – the Dolphins and Falcons – will be playing in round one of the postseason, which kicks off this weekend.

Below is a complete playoff preview for the four Wild Card games this weekend. In each game preview you’ll find a matchup breakdown, a player to keep an eye on, odds, and a predicted score. (What’s a game preview without a prediction?)

Rather amazingly, all four home teams are underdogs this weekend.

Matt RyanAtlanta Falcons (11-5) at Arizona Cardinals (9-7)
Saturday, January 3, 4:30 PM FOX
Opening Odds: Falcons –2
Over/Under: 51
Game Outlook:
Outside of having to face Kurt Warner and a Cardinals’ offense that averages over 290 passing yards a game, this is a great matchup for the Falcons. Arizona has had issues stopping the run over the past couple weeks and before Edgerrin James cracked 100 yards Sunday against the Seahawks, no Cardinal rusher hit the 100-yard mark in the previous seven games. Offensively, that means Atlanta can do what it does best – put the game in the hands of Michael Turner. “The Burner” is coming off a 208-yard rushing performance in Week 17 and hasn’t shown signs of wearing down despite this being the first season that he’s had to carry the full rushing load. Look for the Falcons to try to wear down Arizona’s front seven throughout the game and keep the Cards’ explosive offense on the sidelines. Once the Cardinal safeties start to creep up to stop Turner, Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey can start taking shots down the field with rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. Defensively, the Falcons will have to keep their safeties back in coverage and rely on their front seven to stop the Cardinals’ run game because corners Chris Houston and Dominique Foxworth can’t contain Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald in one on one coverage. Although Boldin has missed the final two games with a shoulder injury, he’s expected to play, which is obviously huge for Warner and the passing game. But if they can’t run the ball they’ll be to one-dimensional and the Falcons will be able to sit back in coverage.
X-Factor: John Abraham, Falcons DE
Abraham has been an absolute beast this season and if the Falcons can build a decent lead with their running game, it will allow Abraham to pin his ears back and head straight for the quarterback. Atlanta has done a nice job rotating their defensive linemen all season to keep them fresh and if Abraham can get pressure on Warner, he’s bound to make mistakes and turn the ball over.
Prediction: Falcons 30, Cardinals 27.
Atlanta’s secondary is a concern (especially with safety Lawyer Milloy nursing a back injury), but the Vikings exposed the Cardinals two weeks ago and the Falcons will use the same blueprint.


Read the rest after the jump...

Fantasy Football Update: Palmer not starting, Winslow has “swollen testicles”

In a surprise move, the Bengals are going to go with Ryan Fitzpatrick over Carson Palmer. The word is that Palmer could play, so one wonders why Cincy would go with Fitzpatrick instead. This is a downgrade for Chad Johnson and T.J. HoushmandzadehKellen Winslow was hospitalized on Thursday with an “unspecified illness” (ProFootballTalk.com reports that it is “swollen testicles.” Oi!) and is questionable for Monday Night Football. The fact that he plays on Monday is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, he has an extra day to recover. On the other, it leaves fantasy owners wondering on Sunday morning who to start at TE. Keep an eye on the news on Saturday and if it looks like he’ll play, keep him in your lineup. For what it’s worth, “team insiders” expect him to play…Both Brian Westbrook and Reggie Brown are going to miss Sunday’s game against the 49ers. Correll Buckhalter is a good start in Westy’s place and Desean Jackson should see the bulk of extra work with Brown out…Marques Colston will return this week against the Raiders. Jeremy Shockey is very iffy. I wouldn’t count on him this week…Matt Hasselbeck continues to sit out of practice, but the team is expecting and hoping that he’ll play. He has a decent matchup this week, but if you have a similar option, it’s probably best to go with it…Roddy White missed practice on Thursday, but will likely play against the Bears on Sunday…Bernard Berrian has a tantalizing matchup with the Lions, but he has missed practice and is iffy. Keep an eye on this over the weekend…Jon Kitna is doubtful, and it looks like Dan Orlovsky will get the start.

Bears come up with goal line stand to top Eagles 24-20

Despite the best efforts of the offense to give the game away, the Bears held on to a 24-20 win over the Eagles Sunday night after the defense came up with a huge goal line stop on 4th and 1 late in the game.

Eagles-BearsFollowing a Robbie Gould field goal that gave the Bears a 24-20 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, Donovan McNabb and Correll Buckhalter led Philadelphia on a 70-yard drive down to the Chicago 4-yard line. But the Bears’ defense held the Eagles out o the end zone on four straight rushing attempts, including stonewalling Buckhalter on 4th and 1 with just under four minutes to play.

In two previous games against the Panthers and Bucs, the Bears blew double-digit leads in the fourth quarter, largely because the offense couldn’t gain first downs late in each game. But they were able to move the ball successfully on their final possession Sunday night, eating up three minutes of the clock and leaving the Eagles with only one last desperation pass at the end. It was clear not having Brian Westbrook really hurt Philly’s offense, even though Buckhalter did finish with a 4.1 YPC average.

While Chicago will take the win, Philadelphia can look at several blown opportunities to come away with a victory. Bears’ QB Kyle Orton threw two interceptions, including one in the end zone that could have netted Chicago points, and also fumbled twice (one was just as much Kevin Jones’ fault after a botched handoff). But the Eagles could only turn Chicago’s gaffs into field goals and came up short in the end. The Bears’ defense was once again the stars, keeping Philly out of the end zone and covering up the offenses’ mistakes. The score doesn’t indicate it, but Chicago’s effort was probably one of the better defensive efforts of the year.

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