Quick-Hit Reactions from Week 12 in the NFL

Every Sunday 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…

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Vince Young scrabbles 8 yards as he is being persued by New England Patriots linebacker Tracey White during first quarter New England Patroits-Philadelphia Eagles game action at Lincoln Financial Field November 27, 2011. UPI/Eileen Angelino

Vince Young threw some ugly passes in the Eagles’ 38-20 loss to the Patriots, none bigger than his “touch” pass to Brent Celek in the back of the end zone on fourth down midway through the third quarter when the score was still relatively close. But he also deserved a better fate in the end. He threw for 400 yards and one touchdown, and should have had two more scores had DeSean Jackson not dropped two passes in the end zone. For a guy who is so concerned about his contract, Jackson isn’t playing with much concentration, focus, or drive right now. He was also benched by Andy Reid late in the fourth quarter, which signals that he’s just as likely to get the boot in Philly than a new deal.

Matt Leinart admitted following the Texans’ 20-13 win over the Jaguars that his season is likely over. Dude waits two years to get another shot to start in the NFL and when he does, he breaks his collarbone in his second quarter back. That’s a tough break, both literally and figuratively. Now Houston’s playoff hopes ride on fifth-round rookie T.J. Yates, although it’s not like the Texans were pinning their hopes on great quarterback play from here on out anyway. If they win, it’ll be because of their running game and defense – not Leinart, Yates, or whomever they find while dumpster diving next week.

– I loved how CBS kept showing Tim Tebow sitting on the bench as the Chargers marched down the field in overtime trying to get into field goal range for a game-winning score. As if Tebow was going to summon some magical higher power to help Denver’s defense stuff Mike Tolbert on a 4-yard loss on 3rd-and-6 and force the Chargers to attempt a 53-yard-field goal instead of a 49-yarder. And then magically lead the Broncos down the field, get into field goal range and then win in come-from-behind fashion once again. I mean, let’s get real…….say again? That’s exactly what happened? For Tebow’s sake, are you serious? That CBS is genius…

– …in all seriousness, Denver’s defense deserves most, if not all of the credit for the team’s sudden turnaround. Tebow is 5-1 and has been incredibly clutch in the fourth quarter and in overtime, but without the Broncos’ defense holding opponents to 13 points or less he may not win a game. Von Miller is something special and John Fox has done wonders for Denver’s entire defense.

– Their mismanagement of Blaine Gabbert has made the front office and coaching staff in Jacksonville look like a bunch of clowns. Gabbert clearly wasn’t ready for NFL action when the Jaguars drafted him with the 10th overall pick last April, which was fine because David Garrard was still the starter. Gabbert could have held a clipboard in his first year before taking over next season or in 2013 when he was ready. But instead, the front office released Garrard and the Jaguars shoehorned Gabbert into the starting role right away. Then, because he’s been so ineffective over the past two months, the team had to bench him today against Houston in favor of Luke McCown. Had the Jags remained patient from the start this situation could have been avoided. But now Gabbert’s confidence has likely taken a huge hit and GM Gene Smith may lose his job for his poor decision-making this offseason.

– The Chargers are done and you wonder whether or not Norv Turner’s time in San Diego is up. If it is, maybe he should give serious consideration to staying an offensive coordinator. Stripped from all of his head-coaching responsibilities, I think the guy could win multiple Super Bowls again just calling plays. Granted, the Chargers only scored 13 points today but Turner’s version of the Air Coryell offense can often be very explosive. He just lacks whatever guys like Mike Tomlin have in order to inspire a football team. I don’t want to say what’s best for Turner because only he knows that. But as an outsider, I don’t think it would be such a bad thing if he finishes his coaching career up in the booth calling plays. (If the Chargers end his tenure in San Diego, that is.)

New York Jets Mark Sanchez points to the defense in the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills in week 12 of the NFL season at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on November 27, 2011. UPI /John Angelillo

– Only Mark Sanchez could throw for four touchdowns and still leave people doubting his abilities. I watched a good portion of the Jets’ 28-24 win over the Bills on Sunday and while Sanchez certainly executed in the red zone, he was shaky against a miserable Buffalo defense (which should have finished with more than just one interception). But at least New York picked up the win, which was big given New England’s victory against Philadelphia late on Sunday.

– I know it was only Minnesota but the Falcons’ offense is finally starting to resemble the unit that everyone thought it would at the beginning of the year. Matt Ryan went his second-straight game without turning the ball over and threw three touchdown passes, while Roddy White had his second straight 100-yard performance and made a sweet catch in the back of the end zone for his lone score during Atlanta’s 24-14 win. After two months of wasting his talent, OC Mike Mularkey has also finally figured out what a weapon Harry Douglas is in the slot. The next thing Mularkey has to do is stop using Julio Jones as just a complementary piece in the offense. Once that happens, the Falcons will really be firing on all cylinders.

– Speaking of firing on all cylinders, I give you the New England Patriots. Wes Welker: Eight catches, 115 yards, two touchdowns. Deion Branch (from my fantasy bench): Six catches and 125 yards. Aaron Hernandez: Six catches and 62 yards. Rob Gronkowski: A very quiet four catches for 59 yards and one 24-yard touchdown catch. Tom Brady topped everything off with 361 yards threw the air and three touchdowns. The Patriots are at their best when they get everybody involved a la the Saints and Packers. That was a very sound performance out of New England, which never panicked even though it was down 10-0 early to the Eagles.

Arizona Cardinals Patrick Peterson catches a punt by the St. Louis Rams before running it back for a 80 yard touchdown in the third quarter at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on November 27, 2011. Arizona won the game 23-20. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

– If Beanie Wells could only stay healthy he could be one of the league’s premier backs. The Rams don’t have the greatest of defenses but Wells looked explosive while rushing for a record 228 yards on 27 carries in the Cardinals’ 23-20 win. He and Patrick Peterson (who returned his fourth punt return for touchdown this season) snatched victory from the jaws of defeat (other wise known as John Skelton).

– Outside of Chris Johnson’s 190 rushing yards, it wasn’t a great effort by the Titans in their 23-17 win over the Bucs. But all wins are huge for Tennessee from here on out. The Titans only trail the Texans by two games in the AFC South and now that Houston is down to T.J. Yates at quarterback, Tennessee has a very realistic shot of catching Houston down the stretch. For Tennessee, it’s “Just win baby” from here on out.

– The Browns are something else. They find new ways to lose every week. They managed to catch the Bengals sleepwalking today in Cincinnati but they squandered a 17-7 halftime lead and a 20-10 third-quarter lead to lose 23-20 on a last-second field goal. Joe Haden (who is a star in the making) was stuck to A.J. Green like Velcro for 58 minutes and the one big play Green makes goes for 51 yards to set up the Bengals’ game-winning field goal. Unreal. And Colt McCoy does just enough not to win every week. The kid threw two touchdown passes but he his average pass went for 4.4 yards. Four-point-four yards! The Browns need a little more out of McCoy than that.

– Want to know how bad things are right now for the Vikings? Percy Harvin had a 107-yard kickoff return today and still didn’t score a touchdown. That’s tough to do.

– You have to love Mike Shanahan. Five days ago he basically said that Roy Helu wasn’t ready to be the Redskins’ full-time back and then handed the rookie 30 touches in the team’s 23-17 win over the Seahawks on Sunday. Helu finished with 108 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards, with one touchdown and seven receptions to boot. I’m sure Evan Royster will start and receive the same opportunities next week as Shanahan continues to ruin fantasy football owners’ lives.

– While the Seahawks remain a highly perplexing team, Marshawn Lynch continues to be one of the steadiest backs in the league. For the third time in his last four games, Lynch rushed for over 100 yards and for the seventh straight week, he found the end zone. It came in a losing effort but he’s a free agent at the end of the year and if he continues to run like he has, he’ll be earning a long-term contract next offseason.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Five breakout wide receiver candidates for the 2010 NFL season

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 14:  Dwayne Bowe #82 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates a touchdown for a 14-0 lead over the San Diego Chargers during the second quarter on December 14, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Chiefs lost 22-21.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

I hate writing intros and I don’t think many people read them anyway. There’s a good chance you’re not even reading this write now, so let’s just get on with it.

(Side Note: This list isn’t directed at fantasy football readers. If owners want to apply this information for fantasy purposes, please, be my guest. But I encourage you to check out my TSR partner John Paulsen’s work if you’re looking specifically for fantasy-related content. Just do so after you read this piece………..you’re not even reading this, are you?)

1. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
I’m going to start off with a somewhat obvious candidate in Bowe based on offseason reports (he’s also already shown that he can be productive). But make a mental note (seriously, write it down) that I’ve been high on the former LSU product ever since his performance in the 2007 Sugar Bowl against Note Dame (even though he was arguably outperformed by Early Doucet). After spending a grueling offseason participating in Larry Fitzgerald’s football camp, Bowe is reportedly down to 210 pounds after showing up to camp last year at 240. After spending most of preseason in Todd Haley’s doghouse last year, Bowe is now running with the Chiefs’ first-team offense this summer. At 6’2 and 210 pounds, the problem with Bowe has never been about size or physical tools. His issues have always lied within his work ethic, or lack thereof. But if he’s focused, he could have a tremendous year in Haley’s offense and could go from a promising player to a Pro Bowler in one season.

2. Johnny Knox, Bears
As John wrote in his breakdown of sleeper fantasy receivers last week, it’s hard to pick out just one Bear receiver that could break out this season. That’s because in Mike Martz’s offense, they all could break out. But I’m going with Knox over returner-turned-receiver Devin Hester, whom some believe will be Chicago’s biggest breakout player. Knox has reportedly been targeted more than any receiver in Bears’ camp so far this offseason and he’s the perfect fit for Martz’s up-temp offense. That’s because he not only has elite speed, but he’s also a sound route-runner and he’s already drawing comparisons to Torry Holt in terms of how his game translates in Martz’s offense. Assuming Jay Cutler targets him in the regular season as much as he has so far in training camp, a 1,000-yard season is well within Knox’s reach.

Read the rest of this entry »

Falcons’ Gonzalez to play in 2010

The Falcons’ official website confirmed on Wednesday that Tony Gonzalez will be back in 2010, which is obviously good news for Atlanta. Gonzo caught 83 passes for 867 yards and six touchdowns in the Falcons’ run-heavy offense this season, proving that the 34-year-old can still play at an elite level.

Atlanta traded a second round pick in this year’s draft to acquire Gonzalez from Kansas City last offseason. He’s under contract for the next two seasons but I imagine that the veteran is taking things year by year now. The Falcons would love for him to finish out the remainder of his contract in Atlanta, but who knows what his decision will be after next season.

Due to injuries to Michael Turner and Matt Ryan, the Falcons’ offense wasn’t as explosive as many thought it would be entering the season. Turner also got off to a slow start, forcing offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey to rely more on the passing game instead of beating teams with a balanced approach. That was fine until Ryan started to struggle, then inconsistency became a huge problem for Atlanta. The offense also had to deal with injuries to the receiving corps, as Roddy White was hobbled all season (although he never missed a game) and promising youngster Harry Douglas suffered a knee injury in training camp and never played a snap.

Now that Gonzalez is committed to 2010 and assuming Ryan, Turner, White and Douglas can return to full health, things once again look promising for the Falcons’ offense. Now GM Thomas Dimitroff must concentrate on adding more talent to a young defensive squad so Atlanta can challenge for a playoff spot again next season.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Training Camp Notes: Bush, Smith, Marshall

New Orleans Saints:
Reggie Bush was limping noticeably after cutting Wednesday morning’s practice short, although he says his knee is fine. An MRI was taken on Bush’s knee earlier this week and apparently the results were positive, so the running back might just have to miss the next few days as a precaution. (FOX Sports.com)

San Francisco 49ers:
Apparently Alex Smith has pulled ahead in the starting quarterback derby according to 49ers beat writer Matt Maiocco. While Hill still seems like the more physically gifted quarterback between the two, it’s good to see that the franchise isn’t giving up on Smith (a former first overall pick) just yet. But Smith could also play himself out of the starting role in preseason, so stay tuned. (Matt Maicco on Twitter)

Denver Broncos:
Brandon Marshall continues to sit out with an undisclosed injury that he suffered last weekend. The Denver Post suggests that the injury was due to Marshall’s offseason hip surgery, although head coach Josh McDaniels refuses to comment on the situation. (Denver Post)

Kansas City Chiefs:
Head coach Todd Haley has reportedly been impressed with how good running back Larry Johnson has looked so far in camp. Teammates have apparently marveled at how good of shape the 29-year-old running back is in this season. Kansas City’s offensive line still needs some work, but it’s good enough to give a motivated LJ a chance to shine again this season. Maybe Johnson will be one of the surprise performers in ’09. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Atlanta Falcons:
Harry Douglas was carted off the field on Wednesday with a left leg injury and it apparently the situation doesn’t look good for the Falcons young receiver. Atlanta’s already in a heap of trouble at the wideout position with Roddy White holding out for a new contract. If Douglas has to miss significant time, GM Thomas Dimitroff (who traded promising WR Laurent Robinson to the Rams for half a can of original Pringles earlier this offseason) might be forced to get a deal done soon with White. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

New York Jets:
Quarterback Kellen Clemens continues to struggle with his pocket presence according to a report by the New York Daily News. Considering the Jets have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, this seemingly is a huge problem, even though it’s still early in camp. Maybe this news bodes well for rookie Mark Sanchez starting right away. (New York Daily News)

Green Bay Packers:
The Packers are having trouble signing first round pick B.J. Raji and according to ESPN 540’s Scott Wisniewski, the two sides are far apart on a deal. Rotowold speculates that Raji’s agent could be waiting on No. 10 overall pick (Raji was the No. 9 overall pick) Michael Crabtree to sign a deal with the 49ers before he gets something done for Raji in Green Bay.. (Rotoworld)

Receiver no longer an issue for Falcons

In the weeks leading up to the kickoff the 2008 NFL Season, I’ll take a look at position groups that could potentially lift teams to new heights, or bury them and their postseason hopes. Today I take a look at how the Atlanta Falcons built their receiving corps through the draft.

Before Michael Vick traded in his football uniform for penitentiary garb, pundits loved to state on a yearly basis how the Atlanta Falcons needed better weapons for Vick to throw to.

Those pundits don’t have to worry about the Falcons not supplying No. 3 overall pick Matt Ryan with enough weapons, because the receiving corps is now arguably the strength of Atlanta’s offense. (Although a running game that now features Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood isn’t too shabby either.)

In his first two years with the Falcons, Roddy White was developing into surefire first round bust with every pass he let drop through his fingertips. But after hauling in 83 receptions for 1,202 yards and six touchdowns in 2007, White proved that he could be a capable No. 1 receiver in the NFL. He not only has the size and quickness to create separation from defenders, but he also attacks the ball in the air and has demonstrated supreme confidence (two things he lacked in his first two seasons). Even with the rookie Ryan or Chris Redman starting, many expect White to at least match his production from last season.

Joining White is former 2007 third round pick Laurent Robinson. Even though an injury has sidetracked his progress, the former Iowa State star has received rave reviews this summer and flashed potential in the final games of the 2007 season. Like White, Robinson has excellent speed and quickness, and can create plays in space. He’s expected to start once he’s healthy and playing opposite White might net him plenty of opportunities to make plays.

While he’s been a bit of a disappointment thus far in his career, former first rounder Michael Jenkins gives the Falcons a nice, big target in the red zone. Rookie third round pick Harry Douglas has also been incredibly impressive in camp and thus far in preseason, while Brian Finneran gives Atlanta a sure handed veteran if he can bounce back from having two knee surgeries the past two years. (The Falcons also have Joe Horn on their roster, although he’s likely to be traded or cut given how he’s expressed that he wants out of Atlanta.)

Granted, the Falcons offense is expected to struggle behind a rookie starter in Ryan and a suspect offensive line. And while there are high expectations for Robinson and Douglas, it might take a season or two for them to fully develop. Still, no longer is wide receiver a pressing issue in Atlanta.

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