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NFL Sunday: The latest on McNabb, the Vikings, Jason Campbell and more

10.23.11 at 1:05 pm ET
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The 1-5 Minnesota Vikings are having a tough go of it through the first six games this season, and things have only gotten worse over the weekend. Early on Saturday, cornerback Chris Cook was arrested on domestic battery charges and is being held without bail. Cook will not play Sunday against Green Bay and the Vikings said they will not comment on the arrest until they find out more information.

Aside from Cook’s issues, the Vikings have a controversy on their hands related to quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is being benched for Sunday’s game. Rookie Christian Ponder will start in McNabb’s place.

This is the third team in three years that has benched McNabb, and NFL.com’s Michael Lombardi alleges that the quarterback just doesn’t have the work ethic necessary for an NFL quarterback. Lombardi reports McNabb has shown up late for meeting and practices and does not study the playbook thoroughly.

Former quarterback and current NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner asked McNabb about the rumors regarding his work ethic, and McNabb denied the reports, saying ‘That stuff’s crazy.’ McNabb claims he is doing what the coaches ask him to do in every situation. But on Sunday, doing what his coaches ask of him will be playing backup to a rookie. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Antonio Gates, Carson Palmer, donovan mcnabb, Jason Campbell

Bye-Week Breakdown: Quarterbacks

10.23.11 at 1:26 am ET
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With the Patriots off this weekend, we’€™ve got our Bye-Week Breakdown, a position-by-position look at the Patriots as they head into the bye weekend. We’€™ve already put the tight ends, wide receivers, offensive line and running backs in the spotlight. Now, it’€™s the quarterbacks.

Overview: As has been the case for the Patriots in the past, all the offensive success flows from the quarterback position. And even though he has cooled somewhat after a red-hot start, it’€™s clear that Tom Brady has few peers: Through six games, he’€™s leading the league in passing yards (2,163) and yards per game (361) and second in yards per attempt (9.13), touchdown passes (16) and completed passes (160). He is one of the finest game-managers, and no quarterback in the NFL has a better grasp of his system and what his coach ultimately wants him to accomplish on a weekly basis than Brady. (He and Bill Belichick have the longest active quarterback-coach relationship in the league.)

As for drawbacks, there still remains a question as to whether or not the Patriots can be successful if Brady is less than his best over the course of a full 60 minutes. In addition, even though many of the interceptions have come on tipped, fluky plays, he’€™s thrown twice as many picks this season as he had through six games last year. But thus far, there’€™s no reason to think Brady won’€™t at least be in the discussion when it comes to MVP talk this season.

Depth chart: Tom Brady (160-for-237 for 67.5 percent, 2,163 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, eight interceptions), Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett (zero snaps each).

Best Moment: Brady’€™s performance in the regular-season opener against Miami was one of the finest of his career. He went 32-for-48 for 517 yards and four touchdowns, including a 99-yard pass play to Wes Welker that tied the league record for longest play from scrimmage in NFL history. He completed passes of 99, 46, 30, 24 and 23 yards to five different receivers, and ended up with completions to eight different receivers.

Worst Moment: While not all of the four interceptions could be blamed on him — rewatching the game, there were probably two badly thrown balls that were the fault of Brady — the four-pick nightmare against the Bills in September was probably one of the worst games Brady has produced the last two seasons.

By the numbers, according to Pro Football Focus: Tom Brady is the only member of the New England offense to play every snap from scrimmage this season. PFF also has him graded as the top overall quarterback in the league after the first six weeks of the season with a +44.4.

Money Quote: ‘€œI’€™ve said it before — there’€™s no quarterback I’€™d rather have.’€ –Belichick on Brady. The two recently tied Dan Marino and Don Shula for the most wins by a quarterback/coach combination with 116.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brian Hoyer, bye week breakdown, Dan Marino

Fantasy Football: Week 7 Starts and Sits

10.22.11 at 12:28 pm ET
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Welcome to the Week 7 starts and sits. We’€™ve isolated some options that we like and some that we don’€™t like for the upcoming week’€™s games. If you need deeper analysis, please feel free to join us at Rotobahn.com, and check out our comprehensive lineup rankings. If you want information on late-breaking injury information on game day, follow us on twitter. Just follow the link on our home page.

QUARTERBACKS

Starts

Joe Flacco @ Jaguars

In the Monday night matchup, we like Flacco to go to the air and take advantage of Jacksonville on the back end. His receivers are getting better even though Lee Evans has been stuck in park. He’€™s a QB1 this week.

Matt Hasselbeck vs Texans

He’€™s been playing at a high level and this is a week they will need to play aggressively. We like Hasselbeck to be a startable asset this week. Use him if you need him.

Tim Tebow @ Dolphins

Yeah, there’€™s some risk, but we love the upside and he’€™ll give you enough foot points as a base to make him well worth the risk. In a down week due to all the bye losses, we think he’€™s actually a pretty good play. He’€™s our 10th ranked quarterback in this sort of homecoming start.

Sits

Curtis Painter @ Saints

He could do well in garbage time, but we worry about how he’€™ll do versus the Saints’€™ pressure. We think he struggles more than normal.

John Beck @ Panthers

The matchup is pretty solid, but no way do we trust him. We are very interested to see how he plays, but we’€™d keep him out of fantasy lineups if possible.

Kyle Boller vs Chiefs

It looks like he’€™ll be the guy for one week and we strongly encourage you to not play him in anything outside of a two-QB league.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bye-Week Breakdown: Running backs

10.21.11 at 1:53 pm ET
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With the Patriots off this weekend, we’€™ve got our Bye Week Breakdown, a position-by-position look at the Patriots. We’€™ve already put the tight ends, wide receivers and offensive line in the spotlight. Now, it’€™s the running backs.

Overview: The Patriots running game has had a very successful start to the 2011 season, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 124 yards per game — excellent numbers when you consider that the Pats have faced three of the top 11 run defenses in the league (Dallas, Miami and San Diego) in terms of yards allowed through the first six weeks. They have been able to provide balance, occasional support in the passing game and help in blitz pickup. With Shane Vereen seeing his first action of the season last week against Dallas and Kevin Faulk now eligible to come off the PUP list, it will be interesting to see how the running game operates the rest of the season, but thus far it has certainly lived up to — and at times exceeded — expectations.

Depth chart: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (91 carries, 391 yards, five touchdowns, 4.3 yards per carry), Danny Woodhead (30 carries, 122 yards, zero touchdows, 4.1 yards per carry), Stevan Ridley (28 carries, 180 yards, one touchdowns, 6.4 yards per carry), Shane Vereen (zero carries).

Best moment: In the second half of the Patriots’ win over the Jets, Green-Ellis had 85 yards and allowed New England to engineer 11-play and 13-play drives to keep the clock moving and close out the game. On the 13-yard drive, Green-Ellis got the ball on nine of the plays and came away with 59 of the 69 yards (including runs of 15, 14, 8 and 7 yards) that led to a 28-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to make it a two-score game with just over a minute left.

Worst moment: It was more for lack of attempts, but the Patriots’ running game seemed a little out of sync in the first half of the loss to the Bills. New England only attempted 11 rushes in the first two quarters and came away with 35 yards for 3.2 yards per carry, the lowest yards per carry average the running backs have had for one half all season long.

By the numbers: Through six games, Green-Ellis leads the team in total touches with 95 (91 carries, four receptions). Wide receiver Wes Welker is in second place overall with 52 (one carry, 51 receptions).

Money quote: ‘€œBenny, he’€™s a great guy to block for. He’€™s going to read the play, he’€™s going to find the right hole. He’€™s not going to fumble. He’€™s going to do the right thing. He’€™s going to give you everything he’€™s got. He’€™s a great guy to block for.’€ – Offensive lineman Logan Mankins on Green-Ellis

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, bye week breakdown, Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk

Patrick Chung on M&M: ‘I think Devin [McCourty] is fine’

10.21.11 at 12:05 pm ET
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Patriots defensive back Patrick Chung made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Friday, with the Patriots enjoying a bye this weekend.

“We finished strong with the Cowboys last week,” he said. “We just think of it as get your body right so we can have another game like that. Get everybody healthy so we can get everybody back and keep playing football.”

Asked what message Bill Belichick gives the team heading into five straight off days, Chung said: “Just get your mind off football. Take care of whatever personal stuff you need to take care of, whether it be just hanging with the [family] or taking care of some personal stuff. Just get your mind off football. Just get a couple of days to yourself. Ease your mind, have fun, relax. Stay out of trouble, too.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On the defense’s improvement: “We’re doing all right. We can get better.”

On the struggles of second-year cornerback Devin McCourty: “I think Devin’s fine. To me, he’s the same player, same name, same player, same athlete. Whatever you guys want to say about him is whatever, I think Devin is fine. I’m not going to dwell. Devin’s Devin. Devin’s my teammate, and he’s very good. I couldn’t care less what you guys say.”

On the transition from the first year to the second year: “It’s huge. It can make a huge difference. Mentally — physically, guys have it different. Guys are fast, guys are strong. They can get better with that stuff. But mentally, and just relaxing and getting the playbook and being kind of mature and just carrying yourself as a veteran, the faster you can do that, then the easier it is going to be for you.”

On going into broadcasting after his playing career: “Maybe. I don’t know. I haven’t really been thinking about that stuff. I’ve got a lot more years to play football, hopefully, knock on wood. But if the opportunity comes, I might take a stab at it.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Patriots

Bye-Week Breakdown: Offensive line

10.21.11 at 10:51 am ET
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Over the course of the next few days, we’€™ll roll out something called Bye-Week Breakdown, a position-by-position look at the Patriots as they head into the bye weekend. We’€™ve already put the tight ends and the wide receivers in the spot. Now, it’€™s the offensive line.

Overview: It has been a challenging stretch for the New England offensive line, as no position has been hit harder by injury over the first six weeks of the season. Forced to deal with the loss of Dan Koppen after the season-opener and the uncertainty surrounding the back injury of Sebastian Vollmer, the Patriots have relied mostly on backup Dan Connolly at center, rookie Nate Solder at right tackle and newcomer Brian Waters at right guard. The good news is that the group has started to come together and play well, including posting one stretch when quarterback Tom Brady was sacked just once over 10 quarters of play. It certainly hasn’€™t been a perfect start to the season, but considering the turnover and the professionalism of newcomer Waters, it’€™s been a group that’€™s made the best of an occasional tough situation.

Current depth chart: Left tackle Matt Light, left guard Logan Mankins, center Dan Connolly, right guard Brian Waters, right tackle Nate Solder. (Koppen and Vollmer have been dogged by injury, with Koppen was placed on IR shortly after suffering an injury in the season-opener against the Dolphins.)

Best moment: So much of what Brady was able to do over the first three weeks of the season (1,327 yards, 11 touchdowns) was because of the New England offensive line. After Koppen went down and Vollmer struggled with a back injury, the line still was able to keep Brady almost completely clean. Over the first three weeks of the season, Brady had 93 dropbacks and was sacked just three times.

Worst moment: The Patriots took a season-high seven negative plays in this past Sunday’€™s win over the Cowboys. Brady was sacked three times and there were four negative running plays. (On the season, New England has had 22 negative plays through six games, not including kneeldowns.)
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brian Waters, bye week breakdown, Dan Connolly

Michael Lombardi on D&C: Rex Ryan ‘hasn’t been really honest with himself’ about struggling Jets

10.21.11 at 9:27 am ET
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NFL Network columnist Michael Lombardi made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to discuss news from around the NFL.

Lombardi said there should be concern in New York, where the 3-3 Jets have shown few signs of improvement.

“The Jet team to me is just not an overly talented team, especially on defense,” Lombardi said. “They’re front seven doesn’t have a dominating player that can control the game. And then they have to play great defense, because they don’t want their quarterback to ever affect them in the game. They want to minimize Mark Sanchez‘ effect in the game, so it has to complement their defense. And if their defense can’t stop the run, which they haven’t been able to do all season, and their defense can’t handle some passing games, which they’ll struggle with San Diego this week, I think that’s a concern.”

Asked if the Jets won’t make the playoffs, Lombardi said: “I suspect they really won’t. I think they’re a team that’s kind of built up with this false bravado that they’re the greatest team ever, and I think that Rex [Ryan] hasn’t been really honest with himself. I think when you look at their front seven and you analyze every player, Mike DeVito‘s the best player on their front seven. And last week they finally got him back on the field because New England ran him out of the nickel defense, and [the Jets] came up with a nickel front that puts DeVito back on the field. They’ve got to play that.

“Now, DeVito’s never been the best player on any team he’s played for, going back to high school. But he is on this Jet team right now, and that tells you where they are. Bart Scott‘s not the same player. Guaranteed contract for next season as well. Calvin Pace, not the same player. By the way, guaranteed contract for next season. This Nnamdi Asomugha recruiting process that they got caught up with really has affected the team, because they re-did some contracts that affected them for next year on players that might not be good enough this year.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Al Davis, Bart Scott, Carson Palmer, Jason Campbell
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