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Sunday Evening Quick-Hitters: Reactions from Week 3 in the NFL

Every Sunday evening throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…

DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING…

New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker (83) chases Buffalo Bills cornerback Drayton Florence, as he runs an interception in for a touchdown, in the fourth quarter of their NFL football game at Orchard Park, New York September 25, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Benz (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- Raise your hand if you had the Bills sitting atop the AFC East standings alone after Week 3. I can hear someone right now: “Actually, I did call the Bills being 3-0.” LIAR! Nobody had the Bills at 3-0 because that would mean they would have had to beat the Patriots at home in Week 3 and pfff, like that was going to happen. Well, it did happen. Not unlike last Sunday against the Raiders, the Bill spotted the Patriots a 21-0 lead and then proceeded to storm back, intercepting Tom Brady four times as Ryan Fitzpatrick led the comeback of all comebacks. And what a great decision by Chan Gailey at the end. He knew with the score tied 31-31 and the Bills well within field goal range that he could bleed the clock, kick the field goal and leave Brady with no time to respond. Outstanding coaching move. Outstanding game. Outstanding win.

- I definitely thought the Giants would keep things closer than the 9-points that Vegas gave them heading into Philly, but wow. Didn’t see an outright win coming. With most of his receivers out due to various injuries, Eli Manning had one of the better games of his career. You really have to hand it to the Giants, who were playing on a short week and who have been banged up all year. Instead of lying down like many expected, they took the fight to the Eagles’ front doorsteps and then delivered a knockout in the fourth quarter. I don’t care if Michael Vick stays in this game or not: The Eagles weren’t winning it.

- What do you mean Cam Newton didn’t throw for 400 yards? See, total bust. Just like everyone predicted…

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Janikowski seals win for Cardinals as Gradkowski plays well again for Raiders

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 26: Head coach Tom Cable of the Oakland Raiders watches from the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Garrett Hartley’s best friend right now goes by the name of Sebastian Janikowski.

Just three hours after Hartley missed what would have been a game-winning 29-yard field goal for the Saints (who wound up losing to the Falcons in overtime earlier in the day), Janikowski missed his own chip shot as the Raiders fell to the Cardinals 24-23 in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

Bruce Gradkowski and Darren McFadden led the Raiders on an 11-play, 66-yard drive to the Arizona 14-yard line to set Janikowski up with what should have been a game-winning kick. But he pushed the 32-yard field goal right and the Cardinals hung on to a not-so-well-deserved victory. (They turned the ball over three times and committed seven penalties for 104 yards. This coming after turning the ball over three times and committing 10 penalties for 109 yards in a loss to the Falcons last week.)

Besides Janikowski’s miss, the story here is the continued stellar play of Gradkowski, who completed 17-of-34 pass attempts for 255 yards and a touchdown. He did throw an interception, but he led the Raiders into the red zone twice late in the fourth quarter and gave them a chance to win. If anyone thought he would relinquish the starting quarterback job after snatching it from Jason Campbell last week, you were mistaken. It looks like for now, Tom Cable made the right decision to stick with Gradkowski.

Go ahead, Bruce – get down with your bad throwing-motion self.

2010 NFL Preview: AFC West Predictions

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 17: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates after a touchdown against the New York Jets during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 17, 2010 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

On paper, the AFC West is definitely one of the weaker divisions in football. The Chargers remain the team to beat, while the Broncos are just trying to make it to their opener without losing another starter to injury.

But the West usually produces a surprise or two along the way (i.e. Denver last year), so don’t count out the Broncos, Raiders or Chiefs before the season starts. All three of those teams come with some glaring weaknesses, but it’s not like the Chargers are the picture of perfection.

Here’s how I see things shaking out in the AFC West in 2010. Be sure to check out the link entitled “2010 Question Mark” under each team’s preview, which is a breakdown of one or two potential weaknesses that could derail that squad’s hopes this season. (If the links aren’t available now for some teams, check back because they will be before the season starts.)

1. Chargers

What to Like: After finishing fifth in the league in passing yards per game (271.1) in 2009, the Chargers should once again be explosive through the air. Losing Vincent Jackson is a major blow, but adding a pass-catching back like Ryan Mathews in the draft was a nice coup. Philip Rivers returns after compiling a 104.4 QB rating last season and developing into one of the best signal callers in the game. Again, the loss of Jackson hurts, but Malcolm Floyd is ready for a breakout campaign, Antonio Gates returns as one of the top pass-catching tight ends in the NFL and the team recently acquired Patrick Crayton from the Cowboys. Brandyn Dombrowski has also looked good filling in for Marcus McNeill, who continues to holdout while seeking a new contract. Defensively, free safety Eric Weddle is coming off a great ’09 season, while Shaun Phillips and Stephen Cooper remain steady at their linebacker positions.
What Not to Like: Is there anybody left that GM A.J. Smith hasn’t pissed off? This team managed to lose its top wideout and is close to watching its best offensive tackle (McNeill) holdout well into the season. Defensively, Shawne Merriman is back but who knows how productive he’ll be after a poor showing in ’09, while Larry English failed to impress last season as well (albeit as a rookie). The defensive line lost their top run-stuffer when Jamal Williams was released and Luis Castillo has been living off his reputation for the last two years. The entire defensive line, in fact, is arguably this team’s biggest weakness. The secondary, outside of Weddle, has a ton of question marks as well.
Keep Your Eye On: Malcolm Floyd
The 28-year-old out of Wyoming will finally have his opportunity to shine now that Jackson is gone (or rather, not playing). He’s been Rivers’ favorite target so far this offseason after finishing fourth in the league last year in yards-per-catch average. If he can build off the nine-catch, 140-yard performance he had in Week 17 last year (while Jackson was out), then Floyd could be another dangerous weapon in the Chargers’ arsenal.
The Final Word: If there were another team in this division that I thought had a remote chance of overtaking the Chargers, I would probably have them winning the division. But because the West is so weak this year, the Bolts should have no problems winning 10-plus games and claiming the division again, even though they have a several weaknesses heading into the new season. Whether or not they advance in the playoffs is another story. The key is Rivers, who is an exceptional talent that has proven he can carry this team during the regular season. But the playoffs are a different animal – he’s going to need help and while Mathews looks like he has all the tools to make him a solid young player, relying on a rookie is always a dangerous proposition. Defensively, this team has way too many question marks and unless guys like Merriman or English step up, I think they’re going to struggle at every level this year. A division crown looks to be on the horizon, but so does another one-and-done showing in the postseason.

San Diego Chargers 2010 NFL Question Mark: Defensive Line

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Projected carries in KC, Houston, Indy, Buffalo and Oakland

DENVER - JANUARY 03: Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs rushes against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on January 3, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Chris Wesseling of Rotoworld has released updated carry projections for the entire AFC, but let’s focus on five teams: the Chiefs, Texans, Colts, Bills and Raiders.

We’ll go one by one:

Jamaal Charles: 220
Thomas Jones: 140
Kestahn Moore: 30

Charles emerged as the Chiefs’ MVP last year, averaging 20 carries and 121 rushing yards once hit he the starting lineup at mid-season. The projection above accounts for Jones in slightly more than a Willis McGahee-type short-yardage/inside role, giving Charles just under 14 carries per contest. Throw in three receptions per week and it’s enough to leave Charles as a borderline RB1.

Obviously, these numbers disregard the fact that TJ is still atop the depth chart and the head coach is telling the press that Charles’s role is ‘undefined.’ While it would seem incomprehensible to fantasy owners that Haley would limit Charles’s touches given how well he played last season, the news out of KC should not be ignored. TJ has been overlooked everywhere he’s went and while I’m hoping for a 60/40 split like we see here, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more 50/50.

Arian Foster: 215
Steve Slaton: 125
Jeremiah Johnson: 20
Chris Henry: 10

The line for now trendy Foster love starts behind Rotoworld. We were hyping the former Tennessee star as a Dynasty deep sleeper once the Texans snatched him up after last year’s draft while promoting him as the potential answer in Houston by mid-November. Although Ben Tate’s season-ending broken fibula has killed Foster’s sleeper potential for this year, it certainly offers more clarity in this backfield: Foster is Batman; Slaton is Robin. Draft accordingly.

I didn’t jump on the Foster bandwagon until earlier this summer, but with Tate’s injury, he looks like he should vastly outplay his current draft position (9.02 over the last week). Look for his ADP to continue to rise. I’d start thinking about picking him in the 7th or the 8th. He played very well at the end of last season, has drawn rave reviews from the coaching staff this summer, and it’s clear that the team doesn’t view Slaton as a feature back any longer.

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Raiders are a solid fit for Jason Campbell

Jason Campbell is getting the opportunity to start fresh. It might not be in the most ideal NFL situations, but it’s certainly a great fit for him.

On Saturday, the Redskins traded Campbell to the Raiders in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2012. There are several media outlets reporting that Campbell already has a deal in place that will pay him $3.14 million this year and $4.5 million in 2011.

Oakland is one of the few places in the NFL where players would probably rather swim in shark invested waters than go to, but this really is a great match for Campbell. He’s not an elite quarterback by any means and he certainly needs a strong supporting cast around him in order to succeed, but he should have no problems beating out JaMarcus Russell and Bruce Gradkowski for the Raiders’ starting quarterback job. He has the strong arm that Al Davis covets and has a couple of players in Zach Miller, Chaz Schilens, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush at his disposal to help him succeed in Oakland’s offense.

I don’t expect Davis to outright release Russell without at least giving him one last chance to win the starting job. But if history is any indication, even the acquisition of Campbell won’t motivate Russell enough to work hard this summer. He just doesn’t have the mental fortitude, the drive or the passion to succeed in the NFL and will likely be out of the league soon enough.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

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