2011 NFL Week 8 Primer

Dallas Cowboys DeMarco Murray cuts upfield as St. Louis Rams Quintin Mikell defends during the first quarter at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on October 23, 2011. UPI/Ian Halpeirn

Patriots @ Steelers, 4:15PM ET
This is an intriguing matchup not only because of the two teams but also due to the individual matches within the game. The Patriots arguably have the most efficient passing attack in the league, but they’ve struggled defending the pass for much of the season. Thanks to Ben Roethlisberger and the big-play ability of Pittsburgh’s receivers, the Steelers could strike for a long score at any point. I think this one will live up to the hype and with a whole slew of garbage matchups on the Week 8 schedule, I hope it does.

Cowboys @ Eagles, 8:20PM ET
It’s time to see how many of the Eagles’ problems Andy Reid was able to iron out over the bye week. Philadelphia looked great against Washington the week before its bye, but Dallas will provide a more difficult challenge than the Redskins did. DeMarco Murray is coming off a breakout game and the Eagles haven’t been able to stop the run all season. If Murray can get going again, the Cowboys have a chance to potentially put the nail in the coffin of their bitter rivals.

Lions @ Broncos, 4:05PM ET
The Lions have more pressing issues to worry about than whether or not Ndamukong Suh is a dirty player. Matthew Stafford (ankle) is hobbled, Jahvid Best (concussion) is out for another week and the defense can’t stop the run. The Broncos might not be the better overall team in this matchup but Tim Tebow has breathed new life into Denver and will be fired up to play at home. This will not be an easy road trip this weekend for the Lions.

Vikings @ Panthers, 1:00PM ET
Rookie quarterbacks will be on display this Sunday in Carolina when the Panthers host the Vikings. Outside of the two interceptions he threw to Charles Woodson in the third quarter last week, the Vikings had to be pleased with Christian Ponder’s first professional start. If Minnesota wants to give Ponder an opportunity to notch his first win, then the Vikes better get Adrian Peterson revved up. Carolina’s run defense has been bad all year and it would be wise to keep Cam Newton on the bench considering how bad Minnesota’s pass defense is.

Chargers @ Chiefs, 8:30PM ET Monday
This matchup certainly got more interesting over the past few weeks. After starting the year 0-3 the Chiefs have rattled off three-straight and who can forget the beating they gave the Chargers on Monday night last season? Of course, they won’t have Jamaal Charles this time around but Jackie Battle is starting to come on as KC’s leading rusher. The Chargers’ offense was blanked in the second half last Sunday against the Jets, leading to speculation about whether or not Philip Rivers may be hurt. If he’s not, then it’s time for him to step up on Monday night in what has turned out to be a pretty big divisional game.

Jaguars @ Texans, 1:00PM ET
Blaine Gabbert has received most of the attention this year in Jacksonville, but it’s been the Jaguar defense that has stolen the show. They absolutely dominated the Ravens on Monday night and thanks to strong play out of linebackers Daryl Smith and Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville ranks sixth in yards allowed this season. The Jags’ defense will certainly be tested this weekend, especially if Andre Johnson returns from the hamstring injury that has held him out for nearly a month.

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2011 NFL Week 3 Primer

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) leaves the field after running into one of his teammates in the second half during their NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta, Georgia, September 18, 2011. REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Giants @ Eagles, 1:00PM ET
You have to love that after all of the media reports dedicated to how Michael Vick is this mature, changed person that when walking to the locker room following his injury against the Falcons on Sunday night, he points to the scoreboard in response to heckling fans. He’s changed all right. Now instead of using his middle finger to diss Falcon fans, he uses his index. Get well soon, Mike.

Patriots @ Bills, 1:00PM ET
I’m sure the sentiment for most people heading into this game is that the Bills will “come crashing down to earth” after the Patriots get done with them. But I have a different take: I think this game is going to be fun as hell. Buffalo showed in the first two weeks that it has more than enough offensive weapons to be dangerous and obviously New England can score. This could be a 52-52 game about midway through the fourth quarter.

Texans @ Saints, 1:00PM ET
Sean Payton hasn’t quite mastered how to best utilize Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas in the same backfield, but once he does the Saints could revert back to their ’09 form when they blew teams out on a weekly basis. Meanwhile, Arian Foster once again looks doubtful to play and fantasy owners that drafted him with their top pick are starting to realize that yes, his hamstring is going to be a major problem early on.

Jaguars @ Panthers, 1:00PM ET
It’ll be the Rookie Quarterback Bowl in Carolina this Sunday when Blaine Gabbert makes his first professional start against Cam Newton, who has already thrown for over 800 yards in his first two games. Maybe if he stops throwing the ball to the other team he’ll pick up a win to go along with all of those fancy yards.

49ers @ Bengals, 1:00PM ET
Cincinnati receiver Jerome Simpson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins were detained by police late Wednesday when authorities investigated a package filled with 2.5 pounds of marijuana delivered to Simpson’s house while both players were present. Neither player was arrested but it’s great to see that the Bengals are already in mid-season form when it comes to obeying the law.

Dolphins @ Browns, 1:00PM ET
Just what every head coach on the hot seat needs: a three-game road trip following an 0-2 start. In three weeks if the Dolphins are 0-5, you can bet that Tony Sparano won’t be on the sidelines when Miami hosts its next home game (vs. Denver on October 23). And no, I mean literally bet on Sparano being canned: theSpread has his odds of being let go listed at 3/1.

Lions @ Vikings, 1:00PM ET
Let’s sum up Donovan McNabb’s career. Booed on draft day. Has appeared in 967 playoff games and one Super Bowl but has no ring. Had to put up with T.O. and a slew of media members and fellow athletes bashing him at every turn. Benched for Rex Grossman… possibly will be benched for Christian Ponder. I feel sorry for McNabb and I don’t mean that in a condescending way. I actually feel bad for the guy. Ah, well: Lions 56, Vikings 3.

Broncos @ Titans, 1:00PM ET
If there’s one game I don’t care if I see a down of this weekend, this would be it. I apologize to Denver and Tennessee fans but this matchup is the epitome of boring. But hey, go get ‘em Kyle Orton and Matt Hasselbeck. You do your thing. I’ll be over here watching Giants-Eagles, Texans-Saints or hell, even Jaguars-Panthers. Just anything but Broncos-Titans on a nice fall Sunday afternoon.

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Jaguars to start rookie Blaine Gabbert on Sunday

Jack Del Rio has already seen enough of Luke McCown.

Following a nasty performance in New York over the weekend, Del Rio has decided to bench McCown and will start rookie signal caller Blaine Gabbert against the Panthers this Sunday. Gabbert, the 10th overall pick in April’s draft, will oppose fellow rookie quarterback Cam Newton, who has already thrown over 800 yards in his first two NFL games.

It was easy to see this move coming when the Jags dumped David Garrard shortly before the season. Del Rio and the front office had seemingly wanted to get rid of Garrard for years but they never had a suitable backup to make the move. When Gabbert was drafted back in April, he was viewed as a raw prospect but that was okay because he could learn behind Garrard for a year…or so everyone thought. But a year was apparently too much for Del Rio and Co., as Garrard was released rather abruptly on September 6.

McCown played fairly well in the team’s season opener against Tennessee, but understandably struggled miserably against Rex Ryan’s stout defense last week while throwing four nasty interceptions. Gabbert will face a Carolina defense that has struggled against the run in its first two games, so expect the Jaguars to largely keep the ball on the ground this Sunday and let the rookie be a “game manager” in his professional debut as a starter.

Blaine Gabbert’s brother Tyler transferring from Missouri

Missouri Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel watches the action in the first quarter against the Illinois Illini at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on September 4, 2010. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

In rather surprising news, Tyler Gabbert, the younger brother of Blaine Gabbert, has unexpectedly decided to transfer from the University of Missouri.

When reached for comment about his son’s decision, this is what Chuck Gabbert told Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune:

“The Gabbert family thinks the world of Coach” Gary “Pinkel and Coach” David “Yost,” Chuck Gabbert said. “This a decision that Tyler has come to. It’s not a knee-jerk reaction. It’s a very long thought-out process that Ty went through in evaluating what he wants to do in his football career. Yes, he was in the midst of a quarterback battle. Nothing’s given to you and it’s a competition. And Ty feeds on that competition. But there were other factors we’re not going to get into that Ty evaluated. He just felt he wanted to make a change. He leaves behind a lot of great friends and is going into an area right now where we don’t have any idea ultimately where he’s going to play. He’s got a while to figure that out, which is great. He’s just looking forward to a fresh start.”

Gabbert has been in a battle this spring with sophomore James Franklin to succeed Blaine Gabbert, who was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 10th overall pick in last month’s NFL draft. Franklin was elevated to the top of the depth chart after a stronger performance in the Tigers’ spring game, but Missouri’s coaching staff said that the competition would re-open in August.

People can believe whatever they want and I’m sure some will suggest that Gabbert is transferring because his name isn’t currently at the top of the Tigers’ depth chart. And maybe that’s the truth, even if the Gabbert family won’t admit it.

But the bottom line is that this young man has the freedom to decide his future and if he doesn’t think that Missouri is a fit anymore, than he has the right to change his mind. Nobody outside of Gabbert and his family know why he’s making this decision and quite frankly, nobody needs to know either. Yes, it’s a blow for Missouri but this is a private matter and it should stay that way.

According to the Columbia Tribune, Gabbert is considering Arizona, Clemson, Iowa, Louisville and Wake Forest, but has yet to make a decision on which school he’d like to transfer to.

2011 NFL Mock Draft: Final Edition

This is it: This is the nasty wench that I’m putting all my money on. Anything less than 32 out of 32 correct picks and I consider this a failure.

All right, so I’ll take 10 of 32 correct picks – especially this year where the draft is the ultimate mystery. Thanks to the ongoing CBA fiasco, teams haven’t had the opportunity to address needs in free agency, meaning there are countless scenarios that we could see play out Thursday night in the first round.

Feel free to poke, prod and criticize – just make sure you do it before the draft. Don’t be like this clown, who told me how dumb I was two years after I compiled my 2009 mock draft. (I know how dumb I am, so just be up front with me at the start.)

As a bonus, my colleague at TSR, John Paulsen, spent some time crunching the numbers in order to provide scouting combine comparisons for every player. I’ll let him describe the method behind his madness.

John: I compared each prospect’s combine scores with players from the last six combines to determine the best athletic comparison. There are eight categories: height, weight, 40-yard dash, shuttle, 3-cone, vertical leap, broad jump and bench press. Not all prospects compete in all six tests, so certain comparisons are more confident than others.
Realize that we’re not suggesting that these players will turn into their comparisons – we’re simply saying that athletically, this is whom each prospect compares to based on their combine numbers.

All right – let’s get nasty, Ricky.

Quarterback Cam Newton of the Auburn University Tigers celebrates before the start of his game against the University of South Carolina Gamecocks in the NCAA SEC Championship college football game in Atlanta, Georgia, December 4, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

No. 1 Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is a possibility at this pick, but I think when it comes down to it Ron Rivera will want to kick off his tenure in Carolina by taking a franchise quarterback. Newton is the ultimate boom or bust selection.
Combine Comparisons: Vince Young; Tim Tebow.

No. 2 Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
There has been a lot of talk the last two days that the Broncos are considering Von Miller with this pick. But he’s not the ideal fit for the 4-3 in my eyes and I think in the end, Dareus is too good to pass up here.
Combine Comparisons: Marcus Thomas; Corvey Irvin; Red Bryant.

No. 3 Buffalo Bills: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
The Bills may flirt with the idea of taking a quarterback with this pick and they could certainly use an upgrade on the defensive line. But in the end, I think GM Buddy Nix will take the unquestioned best player in the draft.
Combine Comparisons: Brandon Ghee, Malcom Jenkins, Myron Lewis, Aquib Talib. As John notes, Peterson is faster than all four, although Talib is the best comparison in terms of size/speed. Another interesting comparison is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has the speed, but Peterson is almost 40 lbs heavier. Based on his 40, we really haven’t seen anyone with Peterson’s size/speed combination in the last six years.

No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
The Bengals need to figure out their quarterback situation in regards to Carson Palmer but I don’t think they’ll pull the trigger on Blaine Gabbert here. With T.O. not expected back and Chad Ochocinco’s status up in the air, I like the Bengals to go receiver at this spot. Julio Jones is definitely a possibility (a lot of mocks have Cincy taking him), but Green is still the better overall prospect.
Combine Comparisons: Malcom Kelly; Limas Sweed; Hank Baskett.

No. 5 Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Miller might not slip past Buffalo at No. 3 but if he does, I think Arizona would love to pair him with O’Brien Schofield at outside linebacker. Miller is viewed as the best pass-rushing OLB in the draft, which is certainly a need for the Cardinals (especially after they release Joey Porter and his $5.75 million salary in 2011).
Combine Comparisons: Aaron Curry; Clay Matthews.

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