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Receiver, weakside LB will be major question marks for Broncos in 2010

DENVER - NOVEMBER 23:  Defensive end Jarvis Moss #94 of the Denver Broncos leaves the line of scrimmage against the Oakland Raiders during week 12 NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 23, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 31-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Merry training camp season, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing two potential issues that the Broncos face in 2010.

I’ve tried to stick with talking about only one position when discussing teams in this question marks series, but it’s hard not to bring up two key issues that the Broncos will face this season.

Brandon Marshall amassed 101 receptions and 10 touchdowns last season – almost half the number of TDs that Kyle Orton threw (21). The player with the next most receptions on the team last year was Jabar Gaffney, who finished with 54.

Needless to say, now that he’s in Miami the Broncos’ receivers have their work cut out for them trying to duplicate Marshall’s success.

The team did well by selecting former Georgia Tech product Demaryius Thomas in the first round of April’s draft. His skill set is off the charts and in time, he could make Denver forget about Marshall and become the Broncos’ go-to guy.

But he also keeps injuring his surgically repaired left foot and while he should be ready to go by Week 1, will the foot be a problem for him from here on out? How many times do we see a player hampered by an injury all season, even though he’s able to play every Sunday? Receivers have a difficult time making an impact in their rookie years as it is, so it stands to reason that Thomas could struggle this season.

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Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Fantasy Football News & Notes (6/16)

Jerome Harrison is currently working behind Montario Hardesty during OTAs. Obviously, this is a big blow to those fantasy owners hoping to find a solid RB2 in the third or fourth round in the form of Harrison. This looks like it’s shaping up to be a timeshare. Keep an eye on the competition as training camp wears on. Harrison was outstanding late last season and could be a steal if he wins back the job.

Felix Jones is looking better in the passing game. Jones is unlikely to get enough carries in the running game to become a true fantasy RB1, especially with Marion Barber vulturing goal line carries. But if he can become a regular fixture in the passing game, he could do some serious damage in PPR leagues.

Dustin Keller primed for a big year? The Jets have added some wrinkles in order to utilize Keller’s talents and Rex Ryan has said that Keller is likely to have more TDs than last season (2). He is a solid TE option for those owners who elect to wait on the position and play Tight End By Committee (TEBC).

Domenik Hixon is out for the season with a knee injury. This is a big blow to the Giants’ receiving corps, which will have to lean on Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks even more this season. Move both players up a couple of spots on your cheatsheet.

Will Eddie Royal bounce back this year?
He seems like a prime candidate since Brandon Marshall left town leaving Royal as the best and most proven receiver on the roster. Last year was a disaster, but Royal showed what he can do in his rookie season.

Vincent Jackson prepared to sit out until Week 11. This is bad news for his owners and for Phillip Rivers, but it could be good news for Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd, who reportedly looks great in workouts.

Cowboys looking to get the ball to Witten in the red zone.
He went for 94-1030 last year, but only caught two TD after averaging 5.5 the previous two seasons. If the Cowboys are serious about calling his number more in the red zone, it may mean Witten once again cracks the Top 5 in standard leagues.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

NFL Week 7 ROY Power Rankings

A tougher award to measure, as no one has really stepped up to be among the NFL’s stat leaders. Well, unless you consider LB James Laurinaitis from Ohio State.

1. James Laurinaitis, St. Louis Rams—45 tackles to date and had another interception against the Jaguars last Sunday. This kid is playing lights out and you have to believe he’s been invited to Steve Spagnuolo’s house for Thanksgiving.

2. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos—He didn’t do much against the Chargers, but he didn’t really have to with the Eddie Royal kick return show.

3. Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants—It was in garbage time mostly, but Nicks racked up 114 yards and a TD against the Saints, fitting in like a veteran on a team that desperately needed receiver help going into 2009.

4. Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens—It’s hard to measure O-linemen, but after a nice job against Antwan Odom, Oher got into a pissing match with Jared Allen last Sunday. He gets props just for that.

5. Ryan Succop, Kansas City Chiefs—Even if he hasn’t had many chances, Succop has only missed one field goal, that from beyond 50.

Honorable mention: Matthew Stafford, Lions

Is Tom Brady playing with a lack of confidence?

Brady

The Patriots’ 20-17 overtime loss to the Broncos in Denver on Sunday is a perfect example of how the stat sheet doesn’t tell the whole story.

Tom Brady threw for 215 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions on 19-of-33 passing today. That’s a solid stat line and if someone were only looking at those numbers, they’d attribute New England’s loss to something other than its quarterback.

But all is not right with Brady. His offensive line gave him plenty of time today and yet he never got into a rhythm in the passing game, which isn’t the first time I’ve written that about Brady in 2009. He never seemed to get on the same page as his receivers and he overthrew an open Randy Moss (who finished with only one catch) at least twice.

Brady has always been a fiery player, but he seems to express his frustrations more openly this season. It’s almost like he’s trying too hard to be the player he was before his knee injury and isn’t allowing the game to come to him. He knows he’s missing open receivers and he’s not shaking the bad plays off as quickly as he once did. His confidence seems to be down and it has made the Pats incredibly vulnerable.

That said, New England’s loss in Denver today could hardly be pinned solely on Brady missing the mark in the passing game. Kyle Orton shredded the Patriots’ pass defense for 330 yards and two touchdowns on 35-of-48 passing. Say what you want about Orton, but he’s 26-12 as a starter despite having only two 300-plus passing games over his career. That’s a testament to how well he manages the game and limits mistakes.

It was good to see Eddie Royal (10 receptions, 90 yards) finally snap out of his early season funk and turn in a complete game. If he can build off this, he’ll give Orton another weapon in the passing game and help take attention off of Brandon Marshall, who once again came up huge with a fourth quarter touchdown.

If the Broncos could crash at any point and their 5-0 start would be nothing but a distant memory. But if their defense continues to play as well as it has, then they’ll cruise to an AFC West title, which seemed highly unlikely just five weeks ago.

2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Think Might Happen

It’s time to look ahead to 2009 and play a little Nostradamus.

Last year, we predicted that God would anoint the “Devil-free” Rays World Series Champions (ding!), that Brett Favre would play another year or two (ding! – sort of), that Isiah Thomas would be canned (ding!), and that Kobe would be playing for a new team by the trade deadline…

Granted, that last one didn’t come true, but how were we supposed to know that the Grizzlies would trade Pau Gasol to the Lakers for an unproven rookie and a bag of peanuts? Our occasional inaccuracy isn’t going to keep us from rolling out another set of predictions – some serious and some farcical – for 2009 and beyond, including President Obama’s plan for a college football playoff, Donovan McNabb’s new home and the baseball club most likely to be 2009’s version of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Read on, and in a year, we guarantee* you’ll be amazed.

*This is not an actual guarantee, mind you.

Don’t miss the other two parts of our 2008 Year-End Sports Review: “What We Learned” and “What We Already Knew.”

Michael Vick will play for the Oakland Raiders next season.

Once NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell allows suspended quarterback Michael Vick to re-enter the league, let’s be honest, there’s really only one team that will take a shot on the convict: the Oakland Raiders. Sure, the Raiders would have to possibly give up a draft pick because Vick will still technically be property of the Falcons, but with Matt Ryan on board, Atlanta would probably be willing to give Mikey up for a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos…snack size. With Vick on board, JaMarcus Russell could shift to tight end or full back or offensive tackle or something. Or, Vick could play wide receiver! Or running back! Think of the possibilities! The Oakland Raiders will be the most unstoppable team in the league! That is, of course, until Vick gets the itch for his old hobby. – Anthony Stalter

The Nationals and Pirates become the official AAAA teams of their respective divisions.

After finishing at or near the bottom of the division since the franchise’s move from Montreal, Major League Baseball executives analyze the entire Washington Nationals player system and conclude that they have no chance of fielding a competitive team in the near future. In the boldest decision of his tenure, Commissioner Bud Selig demotes the team’s Major League roster to AAAA status, a phrase long used by baseball personnel to describe players that are too good for the minors but not good enough for the majors. In an added twist, Selig designates that the team’s assets are fair game for all four remaining teams in the National League East, as a means of creating parity. In order to keep the number of teams even in each league, Selig also downgrades the Pittsburgh Pirates, losers of 94 or more games since 2005, to AAAA status as well. It will be six weeks into the regular season before an NL East team claims any of these former Pirates or Nationals. – David Medsker

Barack Obama will have a plan in place for a college football playoff by 2016.

He has already spoken out twice in favor of an eight-team playoff format for college football. Granted, there are more pressing concerns for the President-elect – the economy, the war in Iraq and a forward-thinking energy policy, just to name a few – but there’s no reason that Obama can’t appoint a “Playoff Czar” to get the conference presidents and the bowl organizers together to hash out a system that works for everyone. Are the bowls worried about losing money? Rotate the semifinals and the final amongst the four bowl cities. Are the conferences worried about losing money? They shouldn’t be – the ratings for an eight-team playoff would dwarf the ratings the current system is getting. And better ratings means more money. This is something that 85%-90% of the population can agree on, and that doesn’t happen often. Mark our words – President Obama will make it happen, especially if he gets a second term. – John Paulsen


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