Pro Player Insiders http://proplayerinsiders.com NFL Players Exclusive Lifestyle, News and Under the Helmet Access Sat, 25 Oct 2014 16:03:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Energy flows where attention goes. @PhillipBuchanon http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-football-featured-tweet/energy-flows-attention-goes-phillipbuchanon/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-football-featured-tweet/energy-flows-attention-goes-phillipbuchanon/#comments Sat, 25 Oct 2014 12:30:41 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142389

Energy flows where attention goes.

— Phillip Buchanon (@PhillipBuchanon) October 20, 2014

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Texans at Titans Preview http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/texans-titans-preview/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/texans-titans-preview/#comments Sat, 25 Oct 2014 12:15:31 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142651 Here is our Texans at Titans preview as the Texans travel to Nashville to take on division rival the Tennessee Titans.

Houston Texans 3-4

Tennessee Titans 2-5

LP Field Nashville, Tennessee

Kickoff Sunday at Noon on Fox

The Ryan Fitzpatrick revenge game? Not likely but it will be the former Titans starter’s first return to Nashville to face the team that released him in the offseason. Fitzpatrick of course replaced the injured Jake Locker last year and went 3-7 as a starter for the Titans.

The Titans moved on in the 2014 offseason and now have Charlie Whitehurst as their veteran backup. It seems a bit weird to call him that given his lack of experience which showed this season. The big quarterback story isn’t either player but Titans rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger who will be starting his first regular season game for the Titans.

Mettenberger has seen playing time in only one game this season against Indianapolis and was largely unimpressive. In all fairness, he only played six snaps but he went 2 of 5 for 17 yards, an interception and a passer rating of 10.0. Barring injury or meltdown, he will surely see more significant playing time Sunday and has been getting significant practice reps now.

The Texans defense he will face isn’t as strong as it has been in the past but it could benefit from the return of Jadaveon Clowney. The rookie linebacker was injured in Week 1 and hasn’t played since. He is questionable for Sunday but there are indications he could see some playing time . Below is the full Friday injury report:

Tex Tits IR

Should Clowney play that could spell bad news for the rookie quarterback. The Titans offensive line has struggled in pass protection this season and has given up 18 sacks already. Despite pouring a ton of resources into it the offensive line has been a big disappointment.

Texans rankingsTitans rankings

Mettenberger brings a big arm but limited mobility. He does appear recovered from his ACL injury that he suffered at the end of his college career. He underwent surgery in January and recovery time varies. It’s not uncommon for the injury to affect players for a year or more though modern technology has helped reduce recovery time. Jake Locker will be the second string quarterback.

The Titans are playing their offensive line of the future right now with the insertion of rookie left Taylor Lewan into the lineup. He replaces the injured Michael Roos who has surely seen his last game as a Titan. Lewan had already been playing sparingly and seems pretty comfortable on the line. Overall he gets very positive grades for his performance thus far. He will face a steep challenge against Whitney Mercilus as well as Clowney if he plays.

The Texans have a better running game but neither team is very good in run defense. This might be a good opportunity for the Titans to get something going there. They did not give Locker a good running game to help him during his starts this season and you have to wonder if they do that for Mettenberger. A good run game is vital for a young quarterback.

For the Titans, the injury concern is clearly Coty Sensabaugh who won’t play for his third straight game. The Titans secondary is without Bernard Pollard and young players are being called into action. Blidi Wreh-Wilson will likely face Deandre Hopkins which is definitely a nightmare matchup for the Titans. Jason McCourty will likely cover Andre Johnson. This will be a big test of the struggling secondary and they will need free safety Michael Griffin to step up his game.

These are two remarkably similar teams and turnovers will probably decide the outcome. Fitzpatrick is known for his turnovers so the odds here would seem to weigh in favor of the Titans. However, a rookie quarterback facing J.J. Watt and Clowney could be forced into making mistakes. The Titans will need Mettenberger to play mistake free which is simply asking a lot of him.

Titans Texans comp

Courtesy of NFL.com/gamecenter

Other game notes:

The Titans and the Texans have faced each other 24 times with the Titans owning the series at 15 games. They do well against the Texans at home having won 8 out of 12 home matchups. The Titans obviously have the Houston connection with the Texans since they were formally the Houston Oilers.

The game will be broadcast locally on Fox Sports. Kickoff is at noon Sunday and the temperature is expected to be in the 70s. The officiating will be handled by Bill Leavy and his crew. The broadcast team will be Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and Tony Siragusa.

Final score prediction:

Texans 24

Titans 17

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Week 8 Preview: Bills at Jets http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/week-8-preview-bills-jets/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/week-8-preview-bills-jets/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142533 This week’s game is a bit of a trap for the Bills, as the Jets 1-6 record doesn’t really reflect the talent and skill they have. After just missing a victory over the Patriots, they are going to be looking to get their first win since week one and are going to be hungry. They also have newly acquired Percy Harvin and he can be a real difference maker. We won last week, but it was an UGLY one and we were getting beat all game against a back-up Viking’s offensive line. The key for the Bills is going to stay focused from start to finish and try to squeak out another win so they can head into the bye week 5-3.

I was pretty impressed with Kyle Orton in Week 6. What I like most about him is that he always manages to keep his composure. He was able to bounce back after being sacked 6 times, throwing an interception + a losing a fumble to came up big on the final drive of the game which resulted in a game-winning touchdown. Converting on fourth-and-20 at the beginning of the season would be a pipe dream but Orton made it a reality hitting Scott Chandler over the middle for a 24-yard completion. He also had some impressive throws to Sammy Watkins + Chris Hogan, proving that he is able to spread the ball around. He has thrown an interception in each of the games he’s played so far but he shouldn’t have much to worry about with the Jets, who have only caused one interception.

Sammy_Watkins

Our receivers played well this past week with Watkins, Chandler + Hogan all making good showings. Watkins is proving that he can carry the load which is the reason we brought him here. The Bills have been determined to be a run-focused team all season but I think now would be a good time for them to evolve in to a more balanced offense by taking advantage of their weapons in the air game. The combination of WRs + TEs and Kyle Orton is a great start to making that happen, and it’s going to be more of a necessity now that our run game has taken huge hits to injuries.

Cj_Spiller

With Fred Jackson out for about 4 weeks with a groin injury + CJ Spiller out indefinitely after surgery on his clavicle, we have a big void in our run game. I’m excited to see how Anthony Dixon performs as the next man up with a huge opportunity along with Bryce Brown. It’s going to be interesting since the Jets held the Patriots to just 63 rushing yards last week. Our offensive line is improving but still a mess, I think they need to replace Cyril Richardson with Kraig Urbik because he has shown he just can’t handle it. Kraig practiced with the first team during practice yesterday so it seems the Bills agree. They also need to focus on quick-hitting plays and use our speed on the edge.

Overall, we just need to focus on the pass game to allow the run game to find a new rhythm with Dixon + Brown. The line needs to protect Orton so that he can have some time to make the throws and take advantage of the receiving core we have. We also need to make sure we take advantage when in scoring range because we have proven we have a hard time coming back when we are down. We also need to be careful to not turn the ball over like we did last week too many times giving our opponent a short field.

The Bill’s defense had a strong performance against the Vikings last week. We finished with five sacks and Leodis McKelvin had a stellar game with two interceptions. Our defensive front could potentially have a field day with Geno Smith who has been sacked seven times in the last two weeks. He’s also thrown seven interceptions in as many games (though he didn’t have any last week) so McKelvin should be looking to add to his interception total.

The Jet’s offensive line is even worse than ours, having given up 18 sacks so far on the season so the Bills have a great opportunity to exploit that. Where the Bills are going to run in to trouble (pun intended) is against the Jets run game. They are ranked 5th in the NFL in the run game so if we can shut them down and force Smith to go to the air we have a good chance of shutting down their offense. If Marcell Dareus has another game like last week, we shouldn’t need to worry.

Marcell_Dareus_1

One thing I am worried about is the addition of Percy Harvin because we have no game tape to try to scheme off of. We have to be ready for whatever they come at us with to make him a non-factor. The Jets had a hard time last week converting inside the red zone, scoring field goals on all four of their trips inside in the first half. We should take advantage of that and hold them to the same or less.

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NFLPA Community MVP: Vincent Jackson http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nflpa-community-mvp-vincent-jackson/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nflpa-community-mvp-vincent-jackson/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 19:52:43 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142619 Editor’s Note: The NFLPA Community MVP recognizes players who are making a positive impact in their local communities. Each week, the NFLPA will celebrate one player who recently demonstrated his commitment to giving back to his community, and will make a donation to the player’s foundation in support. This week’s #CommunityMVP is Vincent Jackson, who held a baby shower last week for 40 military moms. The event was hosted by his Jackson in Action 83 Foundation, which provided each mother with more than $1,000 in gifts.

Link to article here

Vincent Jackson is a man of many talents. The majority of NFL fans know him as the dominant wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a Pro Bowler who excels at catching the deep ball. This knowledge alone, though, creates a remarkably incomplete picture of the man beneath the shoulder pads and helmet.

Jackson was a straight-A student throughout high school, graduating with a 4.1 GPA. He majored in business at Columbia University while also excelling at wide receiver, graduating as the school’s all-time leading receiver.

He is a savvy businessman and entrepreneur, having invested in an array of successful business ventures. Jackson even attended an elite business program for NFL players at the Wharton School of Business, one of the nation’s top business schools.

The foundation for all of this success, according to Jackson, is his military upbringing. His father served in the army for 21 years, and Jackson cites the structure and discipline that were tenements of his upbringing as key to him becoming the well-rounded, successful man that he is today.

“I truly embrace and appreciate my military upbringing because it allowed me to experience a world many kids do not get exposure to,” Jackson told NFLPlayers.com. “Traveling overseas, visiting various countries, and consistently having to make new friends made me more well-rounded as a person. Not to mention the skills acquired dealing with the adversity that comes with the military lifestyle. I had to learn to adapt to challenges quickly.”

In 2012, Jackson founded the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation on the principles of his military upbringing. The goal of his foundation is to provide support to military families, assisting them in the areas of emotional, physical, and educational health, and other needs.

Jackson cited his “passion for our service men and women” when asked by NFLPlayers.com about his inspiration for starting his foundation.

“I believe when you take on a Foundation personally you should have a true connection to the cause,” he said. “My mother and father both have worked with the military the majority of my life so it is near and dear to my heart.”

Last week, Jackson’s connection to his cause was on full display. He utilized the Buccaneers’ bye week to hold a baby shower for 40 military mothers, hosted by the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation. The event was an incredible surprise for the mothers, most of whom were new to the military lifestyle.

Kayla Ainsworth, whose husband is in the Air Force, said during an interview with 10News Tampa bay, “I’m a first time mom so I don’t know anything. The fact that there’s someone who would do all this for us is just awesome. I mean, it’s amazing.”

When the mothers arrived at the baby shower, they were greeted by beautifully decorated tables and served a delicious meal. Most of the mothers thought that this would be the extent of the event, plus a few small gifts.

“I think most believed they were just being treated to a nice lunch in a beautiful hotel with the possibility of getting a few knick-knacks,” Jackson said. “We totally loaded up their vehicles with baby gear!”

Jackson went well beyond what any of his guests could have imagined. He surprised each attendee with an elaborate gift basket worth over $1,000. The baskets were filled with a variety of supplies necessary for a new mother, including diapers, wipes, car seats, and strollers.

“Seeing the emotion and surprise on the faces of the parents was very moving,” Jackson said.

The mothers were incredibly grateful, and expressed their delight at the extra mile that Jackson and his foundation went by presenting them with the gift bags.

“He’s amazing,” Emily Humphrey told 10News. “He just seemed like a great guy, great family and we’re just so blessed that they did this for us.”

The military mother’s baby shower is just one of many events that the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation has planned for this fall. It is among the most active player foundations in the NFL.

Currently, the foundation is involved in their Military Family Home Makeover. The foundation selected a military family via a nomination process, and according to Jackson are “updating the look in their home with new flooring, paint, furniture, window treatments and decor items.” The final reveal will occur on November 3.

Additional upcoming events include the foundation’s Fall Festival on November 8, an event for 50 children who currently have a parent deployed. The event will take place at Old McMicky’s Farm near Tampa Bay, and will include a picnic lunch and farm animals for the children to interact with.

On October 27, the foundation is hosting their second Salute to Reading program. The program selects nine children to visit Jackson at the Buccaneers team headquarters at One Buc Place each month until April. The children are selected from schools with a high degree of military children, and are chosen based on their reading achievements.

Jackson’s many obligations through his foundation keep him busy, but he has no plans to slow down. He has a vision for the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation.

“I hope to continue to serve those who serve our country in any way I can,” he said. “Possibly one day our programs and endeavors will reach various military bases around the country!”

With a busy schedule and an eye toward the future, Jackson has made an indelible mark on the military community in Tampa Bay.

For more information on the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation and its upcoming ventures, please visit http://www.jacksoninaction83.org.

 

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Into & Over week 7 #NFL with @Cagaddis http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/week-7-nfl-cagaddis/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/week-7-nfl-cagaddis/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 19:18:51 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142511 Into:

Sammy Watkins:
Bills fans have been begging for more of 1st round pick Sammy Watkins all season, and they finally got a heaping portion of him last Sunday against the Vikings. Watkins had 9 catches for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns – one of which was the game winner. With Bills running backs: CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson both out for a few weeks I would expect the Bills to feature Watkins much more in their offense.giphy

Russell Wilson:
One of the hardest things to do in the NFL is win back to back championships. You spend the entire season with a giant target on your back. Each team lines up trying to knock-off last years champion. While the Seahawks as a team are struggling with this, their quarterback Russell Wilson is up for the challenge. On Sunday versus the Rams Wilson became the first player in NFL history to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in a single game. It’s safe to say Wilson did everything possible to help the Seahawks win, but he’s going to need his teammates to step-up because one man can’t win a football game on his own.

“Im not the Mike”
There is a lot of chatter at the line of scrimmage during a football game. The offensive line is communicating their blocking assignments and the quarterback is setting the protection and routes – while the defense is on the opposite side doing the same exact thing. The most important thing a center or quarterback does pre-snap is identify the middle linebacker, a.k.a the mike, as all blocking schemes are based off where he lines up. On Sunday Tony Romo was identifying the mike when number fifty-three, Jameel McClain, decided that he didn’t want to be the mike. As a center I’ve heard this happen more times than I can remember and it still cracks me up every time.

 

Rams Punt Return:
Special teams played a HUGE role in the Rams 2 point win over the defending champion Seahawks. The Rams’ punt return unit played off the fact that most punt teams follow the returner and not the ball and completely faked everyone out – including the camera man. The key to this play is that the fake returner did not call fair catch. If he had the play would be been dead as soon as his teammate caught the ball.lolrams_0

 

Over:

Carolina Panthers:
The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league. It doesn’t matter what your record was last year; last month, or even last week. The Panthers came into this season riding the high of last season’s performance and appear to be fizzling out. After playing to a tie with Cincinnati the Panthers went on the road to Green Bay and were dismantled by the Packers 38-17. At this point in the season the Panthers look more like pretenders than contenders.

Jarret+Johnson+New+York+Jets+v+San+Diego+Chargers+l7QE6fbcMODxPercy Harvin traded to the Jets:
This might have been a smart football decision for the Jets; their offense has struggled to move the ball and put points on the score board. Harvin is what most would call instant offense and should be the boost they need. There is a downside to this trade and it’s the reason I am over it.  Harvin is known for his temper, and has a track record of fighting with teammates and coaches. If Harvin has trouble getting along with Russell Wilson, and a winning team I can only imagine what he will be like with Geno Smith and the Jets.

Joseph Randle goes from stealing Undies to selling them:
Less than a week after being arrested for shoplifting underwear and cologne from a Dillards department store in Frisco, Texas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle has signed on to be the spokesman for the Los Angles based lifestyle brand MeUndies. The job will pay Randle enough to help him off-set the $29,500 fine imposed on him by the Cowboys. I have a big problem with this – one of the biggest criticism placed on professional athletes is that they live in a world with no consequences, and its easy to see why when things like this happen.

Darren Dockett taunt raiderDarnell Dockett taunting Raiders fans:
In the final moments of the Cardinals win over the Raiders Darnell Dockett made a sign on the sideline white board and displayed it for Raiders fans. It read “ Worst in the NFL 0-6” -  Dockett was kind enough to add a smiley face to the “0” to soften the blow. After the game Dockett took to twitter to explain why he made the sign; saying that Radiers’ fans were throwing things at them and calling them names all game long. As a leader on his team Dockett needs to set a better example, and picking on Raiders fans now-a-days isn’t exactly hard considering that the last time they won a game was November 17th 2013.

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The Washington Redskins Can Win With Colt McCoy http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/washington-redskins-can-win-colt-mccoy/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/washington-redskins-can-win-colt-mccoy/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 18:42:40 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142598 The Washington Redskins will almost certainly start third string QB Colt McCoy against the Dallas Cowboys Monday night. Although franchise QB Robert Griffin III has practiced on a limited basis this week, Head Coach Jay Gruden knows he has to be careful and not bring him back too soon.

“The quarterback position is very delicate,” Gruden said on Sirius XM NFL Radio Wednesday. “You need your reps to play, and play successfully.  You can’t just throw a guy out there without the reps, and the practice time, and the continuity with the receivers and the backs and the tight ends.  So it’ll be a little bit of a process — probably a little bit more than people think — but we’ll play it by ear and see how he’s doing on a daily basis.”

Just a side-note — it’s ironic that Gruden mentioned “continuity” considering his third string QB that hadn’t received reps with starting receivers since the off-season won a football game with them last Sunday. That also means, while Griffin is shaking off rust this week — so is Colt McCoy. So we’ll just take that statement with a grain of salt.

Attempting not to make similar mistakes that the former regime made when Griffin returned from total reconstructive knee surgery, Gruden is being cautious. Not to mention, he values reps in practice — which is something the team and Griffin probably took for granted last year.

Griffin said in a brief statement to media Friday that he has taken this time to “listen and learn.” He also said, “we’re not going to rush my ankle.” He did not, however, announce his status for Monday’s game. Jay Gruden says it will be a game-time decision. The only thing that’s 100% certain is that a Texas-native will return to their home state as the starting QB for the Washington Redskins Monday.

Regardless of who starts at Quarterback, I believe Washington has a chance to win this football game.

colt mccoyColt McCoy, if given the nod, will be making his first start in Dallas as a professional football player. That’s a bit surprising. In fact, Colt has only played one professional football game in his home state since entering the league. I guarantee you this — he will be fired up and Longhorn Nation will be there supporting him.

The Washington Redskins signed Colt McCoy as a guy they envisioned to one day replace Kirk Cousins. They believe he can be a franchise backup. A guy who can step up when needed but won’t cause any controversy when it comes to the status of who reigns supreme at the position.

“We know that in college he was one of the most successful quarterbacks to play, said Jay Gruden. “He’s a winning quarterback. He got drafted and started some games, some meaningful games and record-wise didn’t have a lot of success, but just watching him play quarterback, we know he has got talent. He was on the streets and we needed a third quarterback for training camp – somebody to come in here and compete. He was the perfect fit. I always liked the way he played – his accuracy, his toughness has always been a strong quality of his. We want to give him some opportunities. He knew coming in that we had Robert [Griffin III] and Kirk [Cousins] and he was going to be the No. 3 guy, and he just wanted an opportunity to come in, learn the system, and if his number was called, he’d be ready.”

McCoy will rise up for the challenge. I guarantee it. For one, I don’t think the Dallas Cowboys really know what to expect. Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett said earlier this week that Dallas evaluated McCoy “very closely” coming out of the draft. So I’m sure they have a sense of what Colt McCoy can and can’t do well. However, for the first time, McCoy will have a game plan tailored for him in Washington’s offense. That’s not available on film — there’s not really a way for Dallas to prepare for that. Of course, you wouldn’t expect drastic changes. But I do believe you’ll see a QB who will play with confidence and that’s what will make a big difference for Washington in this game.

Colt McCoy may not have the strongest arm. He’s also had issues turning over the football himself in the past. But he’s a guy who looked confident at the line of scrimmage last Sunday. He made offensive line protection changes. He’s also able to dissect defenses and make audibles at the line. Not to mention, he can be a very accurate thrower if he’s in rhythm.

One common note that was in most Colt McCoy scouting reports is that he does a great job hitting receivers in stride — giving them an opportunity to make yards after the catch. That too was evident Sunday on Pierre Garcon’s long 70-yard touchdown. For some reason, Kirk Cousins struggled to consistently hit players in stride.

Another trait that could help the Redskins offense is McCoy’s athleticism. It’s a trait that wasn’t used enough, if at all, when McCoy played for the Cleveland Browns. This is a guy who used his feet a lot when he played at Texas. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jay Gruden unleashes the zone read Monday. He did it a few times with Cousins, who is also somewhat athletic. But Cousins refused to run the ball. McCoy is not that guy. He’s a gutsy football player and he’s at his best when using his feet to make plays.

I think it will be a tough battle, as always, for the Redskins when they face Dallas. The Cowboys have been no joke this year. They are a very well-coached football team. On paper, their defense doesn’t look great. But they’ve been playing angry all season. However, I do believe the Washington Redskins can win — and they can do so with Colt McCoy at helm.

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Watch To Watch: Standing ‘United’ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/watch-watch-standing-united/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/watch-watch-standing-united/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 18:41:18 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142229 When I think of the word “united,” I think of United Airlines flight 93 that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. I think of the twin towers collapsing like a pair of dominos; firemen running back into the flames. I think of how people reacted  — offering prayers, compassion and unity.

That horror must have been what people felt when British European Airways flight 609 crashed into a runway of a Munich, Germany, airport runway in February 1958. Twenty-three people died from the plane crash; at least 10 were injured.The fatalities included eight Manchester United soccer players and three of the team’s coaching staff.

Director James Strong revisits this piece of history with his 90-minute 2011 BBC film, “United.”

The film follows Manchester United rookie Bobby Charlton (Jack O’Connell, who starred as James Cook in Brit teen TV drama “Skins”), the newest member of “Busby’s Babes.” The lads earned their nickname from their youth and manager Matt Busby (Dougray Scott).

Through Bobby’s eyes, we experience what it means to be a Manchester United “football” player. And that means, playing for their fans. Manchester United’s stadium, Old Trafford — the second largest football stadium in the United Kingdom, is home to industrial workers.

“We are their pride,”  says Coach Jim Murphy (David Tennant). “At the end of the week, we set the world right for them. At least until Sunday morning. And we owe them the best. Now if you want to play for them, me and Mr. Busby need to know you’ll give them the best in front of these 80,000 at 3 o’clock on a Saturday.”

Murphy carries that sentiment throughout the tragic plane crash that killed eight players. Murphy insists on continuing the Manchester United football club despite their losses.

“It’s about showing who we are to the world,” Murphy says. “Showing we will not be bowed by tragedy. Because how we are in the future will be founded on who we are today.”

What’s interesting about “United” is that as much as it centers around the plane crash, you don’t see the actual crash. You see the before and the aftermath. Bits of blood on the snow. The turbulence and shakiness. Cards sliding off the table’s surface as it quivers from the impact. A bottle of vodka crashing on the floor. Glass shattering. And then it fades to black — only for us to awaken to a barren white wasteland in Germany.

Charred bloody bodies are slew across the snow. Bobby has blood running down his face. His Man U. teammate Harry Gregg (Ben Peel) is leaping back into the flames, saving victims of the crash; a woman hugs her son like he was a life-preserver. Flames threaten to swallow Harry up. Bobby freezes in shock.

Strong cultivates the drama with his use of sound. The cacophony from the crash is more powerful than seeing the plane hit the ground. Likewise, you don’t see much of the English premier league soccer games, but the announcers and radio broadcasts bring the excitement of each game.

The music keeps us united to Man U.’s story. The song’s tragic, but it’s also hopeful — full of rebirth like a phoenix rising above the flames. And from the distance, one tower looms, united where two pillars once stood apart.

 “United” was directed by James Strong and written by Chris Chibnall. 

 

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Fantasy Football: NFL Week 8 Pickups http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/fantasy-football-nfl-week-8-pickups/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/fantasy-football-nfl-week-8-pickups/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 17:10:33 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142482 This week saw an entire backfield committee get hurt, just to create another possible backfield timeshare. However, it also saw the possible rising of two RBs that you should be able to go all out for in auction leagues. These are just a few of the things I will be discussing in this week’s pickups. There are some other positions that had people step up, but this week is mostly about the RB spot. So without wasting any more time, let’s get right to the NFL Week 8 Pickups.

 

QBs

Rays

Ryan Tannehill – With him doing so well the last couple weeks, I’m surprised Tannehill isn’t owned in even 50% of most leagues yet. After 3 straight good performances and going against the Jags this week and the Chargers next week, you’d think he’d start rising. If he’s still on your waiver wire, he’s a borderline #1 and a very good backup during bye weeks.

Carson Palmer – Talk about no respect, Palmer has not had a bad game this year yet, has thrown for 250 or more yards and 2 TDs in all 3 games he has played this year, and yet, just like Tannehill, is not even owned in 50% of most leagues. He has one of the softest 2nd half schedules for QBs, pick him up quick and if he stays healthy, he can get you into a championship game.

Robert Griffin III – The Kirk Cousins experiment came to a crashing end on Sunday and no disrespect to Colt McCoy, but I doubt he’s the answer. RG3 looks like he will be back in the fold and starting for the Redskins, most likely, after their bye week. Even though Skins fans were ready to dump RG3, with how his replacements have played, he’ll probably now get a King’s welcome back.

RBs

Denard Robinson – All the RBs I mention in this space are worth a solid #1 waiver wire pickup. The reason I put Robinson ahead is because in Yahoo, Robinson has eligibility at both RB and WR. That is a HUGE thing in fantasy. For more leagues that have 2 RBs 2 WRs and 1 Flex, you can technically start 4 RBs and 1 WRs. For those who don’t know, RBs typically score more points per game than WRs.

Tre Mason – If you’re in a PPR league, Mason maybe your best bet. Out of 51 snaps last week, Mason played in 57, Benny Cunningham played in 19, and former starter Zac Stacy played only 1 snap. The bigger differential was the 18 carries for Mason, while Cunningham had 7. Stacy is 5’8 207 lbs and is a good pass catcher.

Anthony Dixon/Bryce Brown – This one is tough. CJ Spiller went down and is practically done for the year. Fred Jackson also went down and will miss a month. That now leaves a decision on if to pick up the bigger, bruising back Anthony Dixon or the overall more talented back, Bryce Brown. From what I’m hearing, the Bills LOVE Dixon and he’ll get 1st crack, but both backs will get carries.

WRs

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Doug Baldwin – Only 1 WR on the list this week and that is because of the Percy Harvin trade from Seattle to the NY Jets. Baldwin embraced the #1 WR role by going off for 7 catches and 123 yards on 11 targets. He is the most experienced and consistent WR, so you can expect him to be solid the rest of the way as their #1 option.

TEs

None – There’s nothing to see here. If you have a normal league that pays attention, people like Jared Cook and Owen Daniels shouldn’t be available.

DEFs

Miami Dolphins Defense – The Jaguars are a defense’s best friend. They allow defense to score more points against them that any other team in the league. The Dolphins are playing well right now and this is a prime chance for them to win 2 in a row and get over the heartbreaking loss to the Green Bay Packers on the last play of the game.

Kansas City Defense – The Chiefs have not played well on defense so far. However, this is about now and the future, not what have you done in the past. Over the next 3 games Kansas City will play the Rams, the Jets, and the Bills, 3 teams that don’t exactly scream offensive powerhouse. They should get a wakeup call and help teams over the next 3 weeks.

 

Those are your NFL week 8 pickups. Enjoy the games.

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NFL: NFC West Week 8 Game Previews http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nfl-nfc-west-week-8-game-previews/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nfl-nfc-west-week-8-game-previews/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 16:12:27 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142587 The Cardinals continued their great run last week as they improved to 5-1. The 49ers ran into an impossible situation as they were walking into history with Peyton Manning, a situation where they pretty much had a slim shot in the 1st place with all the emotion in the crowd. However, the game that exemplifies the strength of this division from top to bottom was the St Louis Rams knocking off the Seattle Seahawks, but we’ll get into that a little later. Let’s get right into the NFC West Week 8 Game Previews:

 

Arizona Cardinals (5-1) vs Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) +3.5

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It wasn’t a pretty as it probably should have been, but the Arizona Cardinals will take it. They went into Oakland and won a tough game against the Raiders 24-13. Carson Palmer threw for 253 yards and 2 TDs and Andre Ellington had another huge yardage game, racking up 160 total yards. This team is really on a roll and they are starting to exude confidence now that Palmer is back on the field. Before the year, I said they were my sleeper team out west and they seem to be rising up the rankings on everyone’s NFL power polls.

Now, it time for the Cardinals to put up or shut up as they will host the, also 5-1, Philadelphia Eagles. As much as someone would think this could have a video game type score, I think defense will actually be the deciding factor in who wins this game. Eagles should be able to pass at will as they have the 7th best passing offense and the Cardinals have the worst pass defense, but the key to the Eagles offense is RB LeSean McCoy and the Cardinals have the 2nd best rush defense. In the end, this game can go either way and it should be a 3-4 point difference. The line makers definitely got this right.

Prediction: Cardinals 27, Eagles 23

 

Seattle Seahawks (3-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-3-1) +5

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Last week was a rough one for the Seahawks. They lost their 2nd straight game and the way they lost it was just heartbreaking. In the 2nd quarter, the Rams ran back a 90 yard punt return by fooling the entire Seahawk defense into thinking the ball was on the other side of the field. The late in the 4th, with 2:55 left, at their own 18 yard line, the Rams pulled off a fake punt, something no one could expect. They got their 1st down, but that wasn’t it. RB Tre Mason fumbled with 1 min to go, and even though it looked like Seattle had recovered the ball, the Rams were awarded the ball and that’s how it ended, 28-26, Rams.

It’s almost unthinkable that the Seahawks would lose 2 straight, it’s even more unthinkable that they would lose 2 straight by losing at home to the Cowboys and they lose to the Rams. Now here comes Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. So far this year, the Panthers have not played near as well as last year and it because they defense isn’t as dominant. We all know the Seahawks are not the same team on the road as they are at home, so this one will be closer that the odds makers think. Can the Seahawks really lose 3 straight though? I think it’s possible.

Prediction: Seahawks 20, Panthers 23

 

St Louis Rams (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) -7.5

Seattle Seahawks vs St. Louis Rams

As I explained earlier, the Rams are riding high after knocking off the defending Superbowl champions. They made some gutsy calls last week and all of them seemed to pay off. Austin Davis had an extremely efficient game with only 3 incompletions. He ended up with 155 yards, but most importantly, no turnovers. The big thing that came out of last week’s game was the emergence of RB Tre Mason. He took control of the Rams backfield committee and ran for 85 yards and a TD on 18 carries. Benny Cunningham was help to 2 carries and 5 catches, but previous starter, Zac Stacy had zero touches and was on the field for only 1 play.

Now the Rams have a very should trip, in state, to Kansas City to face the Chiefs, who are coming off an impressive win in San Diego. The Chiefs have won 3 of their last 4 and their 2 headed RB combo of Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis has been wrecking shop on the league. They have combined for 749 total yards and 7 TDs. The Rams are going to have a tough time trying to stop that duo. Tre Mason will have to be big again as the Chiefs are the 2nd best team against the pass, so they will have to wear KC down with the run. I think it maybe too tall of a task and the Rams come back to earth a little bit.

Prediction: Rams 13, Chiefs 24

 

San Francisco 49ers – Bye

 

The Percy Harvin Trade

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This was the biggest story in the division. The deal was completed right before last week’s games, so this is the 1st chance I’ve gotten a chance to address it. This was a deal that, on the field, I don’t like for the Seahawks. They lost their most explosive player and now teams will inch a little closer to the line. It’s now up to Russell Wilson to make them play. For the Jets, it gives them a much needed playmaker. With Harvin, Eric Decker, and Jeremy Kerley, the Jets have a good legitimate group of WRs. They just have to hope they can get the right QB to make them work. We’ll have to see how this plays out as the year continues.

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Brian Hoyer Still Worthy of Starting Quarterback Position http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/brian-hoyer-still-worthy-starting-quarterback-position/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/brian-hoyer-still-worthy-starting-quarterback-position/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 16:05:52 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142461 While the Browns found themselves disheveled and unable to execute on the offensive side of the football in their 24-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mike Pettine is not quite ready to hit the panic button. “Brian is still firmly our starter,” Pettine said.

Hoyer vs Jags 2

Though Brian Hoyer completed just 16 of 41 passes for 215 yards and an interception, Hoyer has the confidence of his teammates and his coaches and rightfully so. Prior to Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville, he led his team to a 3-2 record with a league leading 138.9 passer rating out of play action. Hoyer was lauded for his decision-making and command of the huddle. Additionally, rumors regarding the conditions of his next contract were being discussed by multiple media outlets.

So after one poor performance should we stop believing in Hoyer? Absolutely not! Hoyer has been one of the more efficient quarterbacks in the NFL prior to the Jacksonville outing. Clamoring for Johnny Manziel to take the reigns at this juncture is certainly an improper narrative to derive from one bad showing. Pettine has certainly stood by his quarterback following the loss to Jacksonville. However, the vote of confidence he’s given Hoyer did not stop him from highlighting areas for improvement in the passing game.

 “Obviously Brian didn’t play that well, especially statistically. A lot of it was because of those circumstances that we were forced to throw it. He was harassed. He was hit, sacked. That’s hard to be successful when you’re rushed.”

Pettine also held his quarterback accountable for occasionally getting rid of the football too early and not letting plays develop, but stopped shy placing the Hoyer vs Jags 1blame squarely on his shoulders. The Browns’ head coach also cited center Alex Macks’ injury as a contributing cause of their offensive woes.

“I think when you lose somebody the caliber of Alex, I think everybody needs to step up, and that wasn’t the case. Our guys across the board, I don’t know what the individual grades were, but I think it’s safe to say that none of those guys played their best game or, in a clear fashion, stepped up. It’s difficult. You just don’t replace him. There were some issues up front. They did a good job movement on the front. They were rolling off, penetrating. That’s the best defensive front that we’ve played, and it showed up.”

Pettine and his team remain optimistic with offensive lineman Nick McDonald on the mend, and nearing a return to action. Once he’s cleared by team doctors, he will likely be inserted into the lineup at the center position which will free up John Greco to return to right guard.

If the Browns are able to re-establish the run game with new personnel along the offensive line, and force the Raiders to commit extra defenders to stop the run, expect them to have multiple explosive plays off of play-action in week eight.

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Don’t feed your positive energy to someone being negative @RGIII http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-football-featured-tweet/dont-feed-positive-energy-someone-negative-rgiii/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-football-featured-tweet/dont-feed-positive-energy-someone-negative-rgiii/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 12:30:57 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142387

Don't feed your positive energy to someone being negative

— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) October 20, 2014

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Oakland Raiders at Cleveland Browns Preview http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/oakland-raiders-cleveland-browns-preview/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/oakland-raiders-cleveland-browns-preview/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 12:30:25 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142568 After the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns last week, the Oakland Raiders are the only winless team in the NFL. After playing well against the San Diego Chargers in Week 6, the Raiders were outgained 365-220 in their 24-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

There are a number of reasons why the Raiders are 0-6 this season. The team is last in several categories including yards per game (282.7), points (92), first downs (94), red zone drives (10), and time of possession (25:01). If you added in the fact that they are allowing an average of 26.3 points per game, then it is easy to see why they have a zero in the win column.

This week, the Raiders will face the Browns who were outscored 17-0 in the second half in their loss against the Jaguars. Quarterback Brian Hoyer, who was having a solid season prior to last week, finished the game 16 of 41 for 215 yards with an interception and a lost fumble.

Hoyer struggling was far from the only reason why the Browns lost to Jaguars. Cleveland ran for a season-low 69 yards on 30 carries. The Browns also converted 4 for 17 on third downs last week.

One thing that hurt the Browns last weekend was the fact that the Jaguars defensive line bullied their offensive line. Jacksonville was able to get ample pressure on Hoyer as he was sacked three times and pressured all day long.

Both the Raiders (29th) and Browns (32th) have two of the worst rushing defenses in league, so the game could be decided on which team is able to run the football effectively.

The Raiders averaged 69.3 yards per game, which ranks dead last in the league. Running back Darren McFadden ran for 80 yards two weeks ago against the Chargers, but only gained 48 yards on 14 carries last week against the Cardinals. Oakland needs to be successful in the running game in order to take pressure off of rookie Derek Carr.

Carr wasn’t as successful against the Cardinals as he was the previous week against the Chargers. After throwing for 282 yards and four touchdowns in Week 6, Carr only threw for 173 yards against the Cardinals.

The Browns rank 17th in pass defense, so there will be opportunities for the Raiders to take shots down the field much like in their game against the Chargers.

This is the best opportunity for the Raiders to get a win during the next three weeks. After playing the Browns, the Raiders will play at the Seattle Seahawks, get the Denver Broncos at home, and are at San Diego.

The Raiders certainly have a chance to win this game, but they will have to play their best defensive game of the season. Oakland ranks next to last in the league in sacks (six), so they rookie Khalil Mack and the rest of the defensive line will need to get into Hoyer’s face to force mistakes.

Oakland ranks ninth in the NFL in red zone defense. They’ve allowed touchdowns on 51.9 percent of their opponents’ trips inside the 20. So the Raiders have done a solid job in force teams into kicking field goals in the red zone.

If the McFadden is able to provide some sort of running game, that will open things up for their passing game. Raiders’ offensive coordinator Greg Olson has to be aggressive with his play calling. If he is, the Raiders certainly have a chance to win this game.

Prior to last Sunday, Hoyer had a 99.5 passer rating for the season. While many are calling for backup quarterback Johnny Manizel to replace him, Hoyer should be able play well against a suspect Raiders defense.

This game could go either way, but it should end up being one of the closer game of the day.

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Dolphins, Jaguars Preview http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/dolphins-jaguars-preview/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/dolphins-jaguars-preview/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 12:00:59 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142544 Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has had his fair share of criticism during his first two and half season in the NFL.  While Tannehill doubled his touchdowns from 12 to 24 in 2013, he also increased his interception total.

Tannehill went from throwing 13 interceptions in 2012 to 17 in 2013. In the Dolphins’ last six quarters of football, the former Texas A&M Aggie has played some of his best football of his career.

In the second half against the Green Bay Packers, Tannehill threw two touchdowns in a close 27-24 loss in Week 6. Last week against the Chicago Bears, the quarterback finished 25 for 32 for 277 yards and two touchdowns in the Dolphins 27-14 victory. After almost being benched after the 34-15 loss against the Kansas City Chiefs, Tannehill is happy he and the team have been playing much better.

“I’m just glad we’re playing good football,” said Tannehill. “You want to improve every week, and you know I think we’ve done that. I think we’re improving consistently, and that’s what you want is guys getting more comfortable on the field, myself included and things start clicking.”

Not only has Tannehill been playing well for the Dolphins, so has Mike Wallace and rookie Jarvis Landry. Wallace leads the Dolphins in catches (30) and receiving yards (359). Landry has 22 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown catch. 

If the Dolphins are to continue their success on offense, they will have to contain the Jacksonville Jaguars exceptional pass rush. Jacksonville ranks second in the NFL in sacks with 22. Defensive end Chris Clemons leads the team with four sacks. That’s nearly the same amount of sacks he had playing 14 games for the Seattle Seahawks last season. 

Last week against the Cleveland Browns, the Jaguars defense only allowed a total of 266 yards. They also sacked Browns’ quarterback Brian Hoyer six times in the Jaguars’ 24-6 win. 

The Jaguars’ offense is ranked 31st, but last week against Browns, the offense was able to run for 185 yards. Denard Robinson was responsible for a number of those yards as he finished with a career-high 127 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. If Robinson can have success against the 10th-ranked defense of the Dolphins, that will help alleviate pressure of off quarterback Blake Bortles. 

Despite the Jaguars getting their first win of the season last week, Bortles threw for 159 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. You can expect the defensive line of the Dolphins to try get pressure on Bortles and force the rookie into making mistakes. 

It will be interesting to see which team can carry the momentum of last week’s win into this game.  The Jaguars have been playing better football ever since their 17-9 Week 5 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, so the Dolphins better not take them lightly. Since traveling to play the Oakland Raiders in London in Week 4, the Dolphins have appeared to turn their season around. 

You can expect Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley to disguise his defense in order to put a lot of pressure on Tannehill. If Tannehill can look similar to the quarterback he was last week in Chicago, the Dolphins should win this game pretty easily. If the Jaguars can get pressure on Tannehill early and often in this game, then this could be a lot closer than people expect. 

Losing linebacker Paul Posluszny is a huge blow to a young Jags’ defense that up to this point has been improving. The Jaguars will keep it close early, but the Dolphins should win by double-digits, unless head coach Joe Philbin wants to get timeout happy again.

24-13 Dolphins

 

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Around the AFC West: Broncos Zap Chargers on Thursday Night Football and other Week 8 Division Storylines http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/around-afc-west-broncos-zap-chargers-thursday-night-football-week-8-division-storylines/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/around-afc-west-broncos-zap-chargers-thursday-night-football-week-8-division-storylines/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142577 This week’s Around the AFC West will be a little different than usual, as we were treated to the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football last night, the first time since writing this feature that we have had a AFC West team play in Thursday’ nights game.

It’s good for you the viewer, as you will get some immediate reactions to what we saw on the field last night; as the Broncos took a strong control of 1st place in the AFC West with their 35-21 win along with putting themselves right back in the front of the discussion for best team in professional football.

Without further ado, let’s go Around the AFC West.

 

Standings (with last week’s result*)

Denver Broncos…….6-1 (W, 35-21 v. SD)

San Diego Chargers..5-3 (L, 21-35 v. DEN)

Kansas City Chiefs…3-3 (W, 23-20 v. SD)

Oakland Raiders……0-6 (L, 13-24 v. ARI) 

*Last Night’s “TNF” Game is included in the standings 

 

Denver Broncos

  • Congarts to Peyton on 509; Keeps the Strong Season Going Against Chargers

We didn’t get a chance to congratulate Peyton Manning for his 509th career touchdown pass yet in the column, so I just wanted to start off with that. For those of you with the inconvenience of being stuck under a rock for the last week, the 509th touchdown gave Manning the career lead for career touchdown passes.

To be honest, we all know how great Manning is and seeing as it is five days after 509, I’m sure you have been covered to death of it by this point. So this is it; just a quick congrats on the career achievement for one of the best players to ever play the quarterback position.

Like us at the site, Manning wasn’t spending time reliving 509 either, as he shredded the Chargers defense in a game that after the second quarter wasn’t really that close.

The Broncos put 35 points up on the board against a defense that was the third best scoring unit coming into this game. Denver didn’t commit a turnover and didn’t allow a single sack.

This offense is scary good with all of the weapons at each position. It is going to be another record setting year for Manning (1,848 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and 118.2 quarterback rating), who has made throwing for three touchdowns a game seem like commonplace for NFL quarterbacks this season.

  • Emmanuel Sanders Continues Breakout Season

No one was really giving Emmanuel Sanders much of a chance to turn in a season like Eric Decker (the player he replaced) just the year before.

Sanders has emerged this season as a playmaker for Peyton Manning, learning a new offense and earning the trust of his quarterback with just one off-season together.

Coming into this game, Sanders had 51 targets that he turned into 38 receptions for 514 yards and a touchdown. Those 51 targets were more than Decker, Jimmy Graham, Randall Cobb, Larry Fitzgerald and DeSean Jackson.

After his 9 reception, 120 yard and 3 touchdown performance last night, Sanders has already set his career high with 634 receiving yards through the first seven games of the season.  He is also just 20 off his career high of 67 receptions in a season.

Sanders has stepped right into his role as number two receiver and taken off with it. The Broncos offense with Manning is all about exploding match ups and Sanders gives Denver a dynamic playmaker who takes pressure off of others while also possessing the skills to make tough catches under heavy defensive pressure.

He has already proven that if it is a one-on-one match up, Sanders is going to win it.

  • Von Miller is playing at a Crazy Pace to Start Career; Defense Looks Much Improved

Von Miller is good.

No, Von Miller is really, really good.

Miller racked up his 9th sack on the year in this game, and his 44th sack in 47 career games played!Von Miller

The biggest difference between Miller of old and this year is not only is he constantly getting better, but the Broncos defense is taking a step forward as a unit too.

It was a point of emphasis for Denver in the offseason and the Broncos made sure to address it by adding defensive end DeMarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and corner Aqib Talib in the off-season.

The results on the field have been promising, as the entire unit continues to get better and grow each week. They are really starting to gel together as a unit, and are going to be a force to be reckoned with as the season goes on.

It was just a few weeks ago in which it was just the offense getting the press in Denver. You have to make sure you don’t forget about this defense too.

San Diego Chargers

  • Stop Calling this man Old! Antonio Gates Goes off Again

I am guilty of it myself, so I would like to apologize to Chargers tight end Antonio Gates for calling him old, as he is playing like anything but his age.

The future hall of famer was Phillip Rivers favorite target in the red zone against the Broncos and finished the day with 5 receptions for 54 yards and two touchdowns.

Gates now has 9 touchdowns and over 400 yards receiving yards through the Chargers first 8 weeks of the season. He is now on the verge of reaching double-digit touchdowns for the fourth time in his 12-year career. It would also be the first time that Gates reached the milestone since 2010.

  • Running Game Stagnant; Factor Offense Couldn’t Overcome

Chargers running back Branden Oliver is no stranger to this column, but this week it is for all the wrong reasons.

The Denver Broncos completely shut down the Chargers and Oliver, as he was able to rush for just 36 yards on his 13 carries. The worse part about that is 23 of those yards came on his last carry in the game, in which the Chargers and Broncos were just trying to run out the clock. Before that last one, Oliver was able to manage just 1.08 yards a carry on his first 12 carries of the game.

The lack of rushing game put all of the pressure on Phillip Rivers, who still managed to have a productive game.

Rivers threw 3 touchdowns on 30 of 41 passing. He also finished with 252 yards through the air, but learned at how stingy a defense the Broncos could be. They not only pressured Rivers throughout the evening while also sacking him twice, they also had two interceptions.

Rivers is a great quarterback who is going to lead this team to a lot of victories. They just weren’t the better team in this one and the Chargers offense was turned one-dimensional before they really had a chance to keep up with Denver’s attack.

  • The Shine of a 5-1 Start is Starting to Wear Off

This isn’t a bashing of the team, as they are a very good unit from top to bottom. It is just an objective look at their season so far.

They started off the year as one of the best, but have looked like a team with a few holes in their last two defeats. The defense is good but the offense still relies way too much on Phillip Rivers to produce results week in and week out.Rivers to Gates ©desireeastorga.com

The Chargers can right the ship with some very winnable games in the upcoming future, as the Dolphins, Raiders, and Rams are all beatable teams.

The schedule ends tough though with matchups against the Ravens, Patriots, Broncos, 49ers and Chiefs to end the year.

San Diego needs to get the wins now so they don’t fall in the middle of the AFC race, you don’t want your season coming down to tiebreakers.

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Statement Win to Get back in the Playoff Race

A couple of weeks ago, I wondered if the Kansas City Chiefs were going to be able to stay in the playoff race this year. I stated they were better than their record, but wondered out loud if they would be able to not only keep up in their division (which I thought was out of reach) but in the AFC wildcard race as well.

After a big win over the San Diego Chargers last weekend, the Chiefs now sit at a respectable 3-3, along with improving them to 1-1 in their division.

Don’t look now, but Kansas City is now 3-1 in their last four games and have three very winnable games on the schedule coming up in two straight home games against the St. Louis Rams (2-4) and New York Jets (1-6) before heading to Buffalo to take on the Bills (4-3).

If the Chiefs can take two of the next three, all of a sudden they find themselves right in the thick of a playoff race in what is usually a very wide-open AFC.

In the end, it’s the final three weeks of the season (against the Raiders, Chargers and Steelers) that decide whether the Chiefs are playoff football come January. They need to make sure they keep themselves in the hunt so that they can still make a move late in the season to leapfrog what I imagine is going to be a very crowded field for the last wildcard spot.

  • Alex Smith Shows Again he Can Win a Football Game Late

Quarterback Alex Smith is one of the most underrated signal callers in the entire National Football League.091613-smith-alex-600

He isn’t going to throw it all over the field every week (he has yet to eclipse more than 255 passing yards in a game this season), but when he has a chance with the game on the line the veteran seems to deliver.

Smith has lead 12 fourth quarter comebacks and 14 game-winning drives in his career to this point, the latest just coming last weekend in which he completed three passes in a row for 53 yards on the final drive to help set up Cairo Santos’s 48-yard game winning kick.

Smith is good enough to make all the throws in the NFL and he has proven time and time again that he can lead his time on late game drives. He will be one of the biggest reasons whether or not the Chiefs can continue their run of recent success.

It isn’t often that you can say you trust a guy who is leading the 30th ranked passing offense (199.7 yards per game through the air) to step up when the game matters most.

The Chiefs will be playing in a lot of close games this year, and they are going to need Smith to lead them to a couple more victories.

  • On Tap: vs St. Louis Rams (2-4), 1:00 PM Sunday (eastern)

Both the Rams and Chiefs are coming off of huge divisional victories from the week before (the Rams upset the Seattle Seahawks).

On paper, the Chiefs are a more talented team and have an advantage in having a veteran quarterback presence at the position while the Rams have been starting the pleasantly surprising Austin Davis (135 for 205 for 1,520 yards, 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in six games played.

Even with a spark at quarterback, the Rams offense is very middle of the pack and has to go up against one of the better defenses in the league. The Chiefs enter the game with the 2nd ranked pass defense, only allowing an average of 209 yards a game while picking off three passes so far this year.

The gameplan should be feed Jamaal Charles, who will be in line for a big game going against a defense that is allowing 145 rush yards per game (28th in the NFL).

The good times in Kansas City should continue another week, as I am predicting a Chiefs win in a game that looks a lot more closer on the scoreboard than what it was on the field.

Oakland Raiders

  • 12 Straight Loses and Counting

The Oakland Raiders dropped another one last week, which was their 12-straight loss dating back to last season, along with their current 0-6 start being the worst in franchise history since 1962, in which the Raiders lost their first 13 games of the season that year.

To put that in perspective, 1962 was the year before the late Al Davis joined the franchise.

It has been a very rough year in Oakland, as there are a lot of young players who are experiencing growing pains as they get used to football at the next level. Playing the Browns this weekend might be their last chance at a win for quite sometime, as after Cleveland the Raiders have to play the Seahawks, Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs in that order.

“This is as bad as you’re going to get through the first part of the season,” Safety Charles Woodson stated after the game last weekend. “We haven’t won a game. How much worse can it get than that, than not winning a game?”

  • LaMarr Woodley Headed to the IR

What could possibly make a rough season worse?lamar woodley

How about losing a big free agent signee, veteran LaMarr Woodley (who signed a 2-year/$12 million contract in the off-season) for the year?

It was announced just yesterday that Woodley, who had just five tackles in six games this year, will miss the rest of the season with a bicep injury and will be placed on injured reserve.

C.J. Wilson and Benson Mayowa will fill in for the Raiders in his place.

It might not matter much for the struggling Raiders, who defense isn’t very good to begin with.

It looks like this could be another failed signing in the decade long list that is the current Oakland Raiders.

  • On Tap: at Cleveland Browns (3-3), 4:25 PM Sunday (eastern)

Coming into the season, you could have thought that this game would be between two teams on the bottom of the AFC standings.

Instead, the Browns come in looking to continue their strong start to the year. Their defense is top notch and they have gotten great quarterback play from Brain Hoyer (1,439 passing yards, 7 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions) who must be laughing about all the Johnny Football drama the media created in the off-season.

The Browns are the much better team coming into this one, and I have a feeling the Raiders will still be searching for their first win of the season after this weekend.

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Emmanuel Sanders Keys Broncos Convincing Win http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/emmanuel-sanders-keys-broncos-convincing-win/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/emmanuel-sanders-keys-broncos-convincing-win/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 11:07:17 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142574 In what was once a close game, the Denver Broncos used a potent passing game and an opportunistic defense to turn back the San Diego Chargers 35-21 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.

Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (9 catches for 120 yards and 3 scores tonight) was the key to the Broncos sending the Chargers home with another loss in Denver. Throughout the game he had a propensity to get open and aggravate the Chargers defense with YAC or yards after the catch receptions. Denver Broncos team 350

With this win, the Broncos (6-1 overall) sit atop the AFC West with a 2-0 division record with the New England Patriots on the horizon; that game is at Gillette Stadium a place that has served as a headache for the Broncos in the past. But as of now the Broncos are enjoying this win.

After a scoreless first quarter someone finally got on the board and that someone Sanders who caught a 2 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Peyton Manning (25 of 35 for 286 yards and 3 touchdowns) in the back of the end zone. That touchdown reception gave the Broncos a 7-0 lead with 13:35 left in the second quarter.

But three drives later the Chargers answered that score when quarterback Philip Rivers (30 of 41 for 252 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions) threw a touchdown pass from 2 yards out to receiver Keenan Allen (9 catches for 73 yards and 1 score) who ran a hitch-route on the play. That play tied the score at 7-7 with 3:07 left in the first half.

But Sanders again showed why he is one of the better number two receivers in the AFC when he latched on to his second touchdown pass of the night, this one a 31 yard reception in which he beat Chargers cornerback Richard Marshall to the ball and to the end zone. Marshall was darn near dead in the water as soon as the ball left Manning’s right arm. It was now 14-7 Denver with just 32 seconds left in the first half.

Then early in the third quarter, Sanders ran between double coverage from safety Eric Weddle and cornerback Shareece Wright and then threw his hands up high in the air to snag Manning’s pass for a 3 yard touchdown reception and a 21-7 lead with 10:58 left in the quarter.

The Broncos’ next touchdown was set up by a defensive pass interference call on the Chargers, when one of two defenders covering on the play got a little too grabby with tight end Jacob Tamme. That pass interference penalty set up running Juwan Thompson’s 2 yard touchdown run up the middle to give the Broncos a 28-7 lead with 7:38 left in the third quarter.

The Chargers pulled to within 28-14 with 2:39 left in the third quarter when Rivers zoomed a 5 yard touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates (5 catches for 54 yards and 2 scores) on 4th and goal from DEN 5 yard line.

To show the Chargers that the Broncos weren’t finished putting their foot on the gas pedal, running back Ronnie Hillman (20 carries for 109 yards and no score) sped down the left sideline for a 37 yard gain to the SD 28 yard line where Weddle was waiting for him. That play set up a 1 yard touchdown run in which Thompson followed a Louis Vasquez drive block into the end zone for a 35-14 lead with 13:29 left in the game.

The Chargers still had a pulse, as Gates caught a 10 yard touchdown pass just inside the pylon from Rivers to make the score 35-21 Denver with 9:31 left in the game.

But that would be the last time that the Chargers would threaten the Broncos with a score, as the latter used time management and a bending but not breaking defense to subdue the Chargers for the remainder of the contest.

 

 

 

 

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Bills Thursday Practice Notes: Goodwin, Orton, Brown http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/bills-thursday-practice-notes-goodwin-orton-brown/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/bills-thursday-practice-notes-goodwin-orton-brown/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 22:51:15 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142567 Injury report and status on individual players:

  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hamstring), linebacker Ty Powell (ankle), and running backs  C.J. Spiller (shoulder) and Fred Jackson (groin) did not participate in practice on Thursday. Spiller is currently on the injured reserve designated to return, and Jackson is expected to be out a month.
  • Goodwin’s hamstring has severely limited him this season, as he has only been targeted six times, with one catch for 42 yards against the Detroit Lions. Head coach Doug Marrone says what Goodwin has been through has been “tough for any player”. “Again, availability is a big thing,” said Marrone. “It’s very difficult, especially when they occur early in your career, to continue to get better and better. It’s almost like when those things happen, I don’t want to say you start back at square one, but there’s definitely a move back before you can start working to move forward. He’s definitely frustrated with it.” With Spiller out for an extended period of time, Goodwin’s ability to return kicks would have been an asset, but Marrone is saying the team is looking at Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and Leodis McKelvin returning kickoffs in the case that Goodwin is unable to play.
  • Wide receiver and special teams ace Marcus Easley (knee), and safety Aaron Williams were limited participants in practice. Marrone declined to get into detail about how Williams is coming along, but did say that Easley is “progressing well”, and could be able to play Sunday against the Jets. Full participants in practice with ailments were defensive end Mario Williams (thumb), wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin), and linebacker Brandon Spikes.

Defending Percy Harvin

  • In last year’s loss 27-20 in New York, the Bills allowed Geno Smith to throw for 331 yards, and both Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill to go over 100 yards receiving. Now, the duo Buffalo will have to defend is Eric Decker and the recently traded for Percy Harvin, but Marrone insists that the team has to prepare for the entire Jets offense. “We’ve got to prepare for all of them,” said Marrone. “They have a very good offensive line. They have outstanding backs. They have the skill positions. They just resigned the slot. They have guys that can play on the outside. If there’s nothing on tape, it’s kind of hard to go ahead and prepare for things like that. We’ve just got to be disciplined in what we do defensively.”

Kyle Orton a “regular guy”

  • “You can go out in Buffalo and meet a guy with his personality anywhere,” Marrone said of his quarterback. “In a bar, in a bowling alley, in a pool room, in a place where your family is. Just a normal, regular guy. No ego. Highly competitive. That’s probably the thing you wouldn’t see until you watched him compete and saw how competitive he is, how hard he is on himself, how well he prepares. I think, generally, the people in this region would be able to at least understand him. He’s a lot like us and like people from here.” The starter for the past three weeks, Orton is only the second quarterback since 1960 to throw for over 280 yards in his first three games with a team (the first being Jeff George), something that surprises Marrone because “many people have been through this game”.

Preston Brown looking like starter at strong side linebacker

  • While his stats are down from early on in the season (40 tackles in first four games compared to just 11 in last three games), Brown has improved and continued to play well, becoming a much better player in pass coverage and playing much more often at the position then Keith Rivers. “He’s playing well,” said Marrone. “Matchups are a big part of it”. With Brown’s youth, speed, and quickness, along with his versatility to play snaps at inside linebacker and weakside linebacker when Nigel Bradham was suspended for the first game against Chicago, the rookie from Louisville has proven to be among the team’s top three available linebackers.
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NFL Week 8: AFC East Weekly Buzz http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nfl-week-8-afc-east-weekly-buzz/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nfl-week-8-afc-east-weekly-buzz/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:00:02 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142487 Buffalo Bills

Since Kyle Orton has taken over as the starter over E.J. Manuel, he has developed chemistry with two young targets.

The first is the obvious in rookie Sammy Watkins, as Orton has targeted the young receiver 29 times in the past three games, including 12 against Detroit and a season-high 14 versus Minnesota last Sunday, an average of 9.66 times per game. In the first four games of the season, Watkins was targeted 32 times by E.J. Manuel, an average of 8 per game, but when you factor in that Watkins’ second game with Orton was against Darrelle Revis and the Patriots’ No.1 ranked pass defense (Watkins was only targeted three times), Orton appears, for the most part, far more willing to go to Watkins more than Manuel.

Though he is going to Watkins more, Orton has been more efficient with his attempts compared to Manuel, completing 18 of 29 passes (62%) for 236 yards (13.11 yards per catch) and two touchdowns, both scored against the Vikings. In Manuel’s 32 targets toward Watkins, there were 17 completions (53%), 207 yards (12.17), and two touchdowns.

The other player is a bit of a surprise: Chris Hogan. Despite being behind Watkins, Robert Woods, Mike Williams, and Marquise Goodwin in the receiver rotation, Hogan has gone from having zero targets in the opening four games to 14 in the past three games, resulting in 12 catches (85.7%), 162 yards, and a touchdown.

The element of trust has been the key, as despite mistakes by both players (Watkins and Orton misconnected on a hitch route that was intercepted and returned for a pick six in Detroit, while Hogan had a redzone fumble on Sunday), Orton has looked to both in key situations. Hogan caught a 21 yard pass against the Lions to help the conversion of a 1st and 30 situation, caught a fourth-quarter touchdown against New England, and had a 28 yard leaping catch to set up Watkins’ game-winner on Sunday.

With a New York Jet defense that has a strong front seven, but is last in the league in passing touchdowns allowed (18), there should still be plenty of opportunities for Watkins and Hogan to make plays, especially if Orton continues to throw heavily in their direction. Going to Watkins often needs to be in the gameplan, as Buffalo is 1-3 when he is targeted nine times or less, and 3-0 when he is thrown to on 11 or more occasions.

NFL: Preseason-Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Miami Dolphins

Since a very rough start to the season that led to speculation that his starting job may be in jeopardy, Ryan Tannehill has looked far better.

In the first three games of the season, a 1-2 start for the Dolphins, Tannehill was 70 of 124 (56.45%), 624 yards (208 yards per game), four touchdowns and two interceptions at 5.03 yards per attempt. Since, the third-year quarterback is 68 of 94 (72.34%), 799 yards (266.3 yards per game), six touchdowns and three interceptions at 8.5 yards per attempt, and has also had more of an impact in the running game, as after only 8 carries for 18 yards (2.33 yards per carry) in the first three games, the one-time college wide receiver at Texas A&M has 14 carries for 132 yards (9.43 yards per carry).

When taking a look at overall efficiency, it is clear that Tannehill has been a much better player, with his QBR’s for games 1-3 being 34.9, 27.3, and 21.2, and games 4-6 being 94, 71.1, and 93.9. Some of it is better pass protection with additions like Branden Albert and rookie Ja’Wuan James on the offensive line, as Tannehill has been sacked 14 times this season, on pace for 37 sacks, much lower than the 58 he suffered last season.

But the use of the zone-read has been a huge help, as he has been more comfortable out of the shotgun formation, and his speed in the open field is deceptive enough to force teams to be wary of it. With deep targets like Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline forcing teams to play over the top, Tannehill has utilized hybrid tight end Charles Clay down the middle of the field, with 9 catches on 14 targets for 125 yards (13.89 yards per catch) and a touchdown in the last three games, as well as rookie receiver Jarvis Landry, who has 10 catches on 12 targets for 121 yards and a touchdown.

Miami will need this version of Tannehill, as after a game at Jacksonville this weekend, the Dolphins will have to play contenders like San Diego, Detroit, and Denver in upcoming weeks, along with divisional match-ups. For the first time in a while, it appears Miami fans have reason to be confident that the former No.9 pick can play at a high level consistently, but for how long still needs to be answered.

Percy Harvin

New York Jets

Coming off of greatly aiding the Seattle Seahawks win a Super Bowl last February in an explosive performance, few saw last Friday’s trade to the Jets as even a remote possibility.

Yet, New York was able to acquire the talented playmaker who had been limited to 22 catches for 133 yards, both by teams paying extra attention to him, and an offense that didn’t often take downfield chances with him. As for how he will be used in the Big Apple, the New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta gathered the following from what head coach Rex Ryan said on Wednesday.

With Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley in the fold at receiver along with Harvin, the two-headed combination of Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson in the backfield, and the two tight end tandem of rookie Jace Amaro and Jeff Cumberland, it appears the Jets are doing all they can to help out Geno Smith at quarterback.

In his last two games before the move, against very good defenses in the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, Smith has only one turnover, and thrown three touchdowns. His best recent showing was against the Patriots last Thursday, where he was 20 of 34 for 226 yards and a touchdown, leading a potential game-tying drive, and a drive to set up a late field goal that was blocked.

With this weekend’s game against Buffalo, followed by a trip to Arrowhead Stadium to face Kansas City, and then a home game against the Steelers before a bye, a last-ditch effort to get hot and make a run at the postseason would have to begin this Sunday. Thus, Harvin’s contributions need to be immediate to prove if Smith is capable of being the team’s quarterback for the long haul by performing well the rest of the season.

Photo by Ed Runyon

New England Patriots

After linebacker and team captain Jerod Mayo was lost for the season against Buffalo, there could be another long-term absence on a defense that already allowed over 400 yards of offense to the Jets last Thursday night, according to the Boston Globe’s Shalise Manza Young.

While the team acquired 2011 second-round pick Akeem Ayers for a very low price, there will still be continuity and communication issues, something a high-power Chicago Bears offense can take advantage of Sunday.

On the season, Jones has 4.5 sacks, including 1 in each of the past two games against the Bills and Jets, and helped build a good pass rush with Rob Ninkovich on the other side. Now, however, it will likely be all up to Ninkovich to get pressure on the quarterback, and though he has 4 sacks on the year, 3 were against Buffalo two Sundays ago.

With the combination of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall towering at receiver, Martellus Bennett at tight end, and Matt Forte at running back, it will be up to a talented secondary led by Darrelle Revis to limit the effectiveness of quarterback Jay Cutler. It will be a much tougher task if Jamie Collins can’t cover Forte 1 on 1 in pass situations, and if Cutler has a lot of time to throw the ball.

However, New England is tied for second in takeaways with 14, and having home-field advantage may also be a huge plus for the Patriots in this matchup.

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The question isn’t did you fail, but did you pick yourself up and move ahead? @carlester http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-football-featured-tweet/question-isnt-fail-pick-move-ahead-carlester/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-football-featured-tweet/question-isnt-fail-pick-move-ahead-carlester/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:30:39 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142385

The question isn't did you fail, but did you pick yourself up and move ahead?

— Carlester Crumpler (@carlester) October 20, 2014

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Around the AFC North: Week Eight Sizzling Storylines http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/around-afc-north-week-eight-sizzling-storylines/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/around-afc-north-week-eight-sizzling-storylines/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:20:27 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142508 The teams in the AFC North endured an up and down week of football in week seven. The Pittsburgh Steelers finally got to unveil rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant but had to keep rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier on the shelf for another week due to injury. The Cincinnati Bengals were shut out by the Indianapolis Colts. Things didn’t get any better as the Cleveland Browns lost to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. The Baltimore Ravens have discovered a pass rush over the last few games and it has led to a few wins for them. Let’s take a look at the week eight sizzling story lines for the AFC North.

Baltimore Ravens

Elvis+Dumervil+Baltimore+Ravens+v+Dallas+Cowboys+VIkXuORFRpexThe Ravens have put together a nice string of games in which their pass rush has had a heavy influence on the positive outcome. Elvis Dumervil has 3.5 sacks in the last two games. Pernell McPhee has three sacks in the last two games as well. As a unit, the Ravens have had at least five sacks in back to back games for the first time since  2006. The defense has 24 quarterback hits in last two games including 9 against Atlanta on Matt Ryan and 15 at against Tampa Bay on Mike Glennon.

Much of the success on defense is because of McPhee. He was able to generate momentum in training camp and it has carried over. He has four sacks on the year. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will line McPhee up everywhere in the front seven. McPhee can rush the passer from many different angles. He seems to be most effective when rushing off the edge. His speed and size combination makes him a force to be reckoned with. Most linebackers are not 6-3, 280 pounds like McPhee. Some Steelers fans may be reminded of another over-sized linebacker when they see McPhee play. That linebacker would be none other than Levon Kirkland.

Dumervil is leading the Ravens in sacks with seven and is tied for second most in the NFL. He is well aware of the Ravens hot streak when it comes to rushing the passer. “The first couple weeks have been more a hit and kind of getting to the guy, and then obviously, sacks come in bunches. True sack artists know that. So, we just have to continue to be disruptive. And obviously, the guys in the back end helping us with coverage is definitely huge.”

This week, the Ravens will have to go against the Bengals in Cincinnati. The pass rush will need to get to Andy Dalton quickly. It is just too difficult to defend a quarterback like Dalton without the benefit of having some rushed throws.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals still have some things to be straightened out on the defensive side of the ball. Vontaze Burfict was limited in practice this week due to a neck injury that he sustained by using poor technique when he tackled Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Burfict led the NFL in tackles last year, so getting the ball carrier to the ground isn’t the problem. Doing it safely is where the issue lies. Burfict also suffered a concussion during the season opener against the Ravens due to not tackling with his head up.

The Bengals need Burfict in the huddle because he is the one that calls the plays and he is a play maker that will make have an impact even when the play is not coming towards his side. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther spoke about Burfict needing to adopt proper tackling techniques during a press conference on Wednesday.

“I tell him to keep his face up. I tell him he’s my quarterback. You tell your quarterback to slide and not get hit,” Guenther said. “I tell him to keep his head up so he can stay in the game because when he starts the game and comes out, it affects everything. It affects me, it affects the unit, it affects the linebacking crew. So yes, I’m trying to do the best I can with him. Sometimes it’s like telling a dog not to eat red meat, but he’s got to do it. He’s got to get it right. He can’t keep coming out of games. Like I told him: it’s ridiculous. When I’m counting on him to play, he’s got to keep his face up. It’s improving now.”

The Bengals will need Burfict in the game when they go against a surging Ravens offense that has put up 48 and 29 points in the last two games.

Cleveland Browns

Ben+Tate+Cleveland+Browns+v+Pittsburgh+Steelers+0nnBbq5sYZVx

The Browns lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in what has been a developing pattern on the season. It seems like the Browns will win one game then lose the next. The team had gotten away from the running game a bit but will make a commitment to get it going again. Rookie running back Terrance West has seen his carries decrease after getting 19 carries in the second game of he season. Isaiah Crowell and Ben Tate had the bulk of the carries in the convincing 31-10 win over the Steelers but it was Tate and West who had the rushing attempts last week against the Jaguars.

As a unit, the Browns are sixth in the NFL averaging 133.5 yards per game. The team is built to have a power running game aspect to their offense. Getting the running game going opens up so much more for the Browns offense. It also makes some things a bit easier as defenses start to stack eight in the box, leaving wide receivers in one on one match ups. Play action is always an essential to teams that like to play smash mouth football.

Browns head coach Mike Petine has his formula for success on offense and shared it with the media on Wednesday. “We’re the type of offense that we can’t fall behind the sticks,” said Pettine. “We have to be efficient on early downs. When we were successful in moving the ball on offense in previous weeks it’s because we ran the ball well, which set up the play action, which got guys wide open downfield. Play pass isn’t as effective on second-and-10 when they know it’s coming.”

Next up for the Browns will be the winless Oakland Raiders. This game will give them the perfect opportunity to get the running game back on track. The Raiders are giving up 145.0 yards rushing per game. The Browns are likely to have all three of their running backs active on Sunday.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The big story this week for the Steelers is the debut of rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant. Bryant only had two catches for 40 yards but it was his first catch that made the difference. The first reception as a pro by Bryant was a 35 yard touchdown. The Steelers are looking for someone to help draw attention away from standout receiver Antonio Brown.

Bryant is already having an impact.  “I felt pretty good out there. It’s all about improving. As long as I keep on showing what I can do in practice, know my assignments and handle my business, I’ll be fine. As long as I continue to show the coaches and my teammates and Ben what I can do, I’ll be fine.”

Bryant is a legitimate deep threat because of his top end speed. The team is welcoming him back from injury because at 6-4, he can also be a red zone threat. Ben Roethlisberger is the kind of quarterback that will work to push the ball down field. Bryant is the kind of receiver that will go up and make the contested catch.

The Steelers will take on the Colts this week. The Colts have played both the Ravens and the Benglals very well and will be looking to sweep the division.

Follow on Twitter: @TDavenport_PPI / @PlayerInsiders

 

 

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NFL Match-Up Mania: Week 8 http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nfl-match-mania-week-8-2/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nfl-match-mania-week-8-2/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:10:22 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=142503 There were 6 games decided by a field goal or less last week. That’s a lot of NFL parity. Geno Smith had his best game of 2013 and still lost, the Rams used special team trickery more than once to take Seattle to 3-3, Colt McCoy came in to save the Skins in a 1 point win, the Chiefs grounded the Chargers, and a veteran in Drew Brees collapsed to help the Lions win while rookie receiver Sammy Watkins won the game for the Bills with a touchdown. This much action and it’s only seven weeks into the season — Awesome! Here’s where you’ll find more excitement — in the Week 8 edition of the Student of the Game’s Match-Up Mania.

Chargers v Broncos

The Chargers appear to be the AFC version of Bronco kryptonite to the Superman known as quarterback Peyton Manning (yes, the Seahawks are a better analogy for kryptonite beating Denver in the Super Bowl 43-8 while also wearing green — no continuity tweets from comic book nerds, please). In their typical tendency to play up (or down) to their opponent, San Diego actually won a game in this pairing that was crucial to their 2013 ascension to the post season. Add that to the improvement of Phillip Rivers, the emergence of Branden Oliver running the football, and the defense’s improved tenacity, and the Bolts have a chance to shock the world as a contender in the AFC West.

43 Branden Oliver 2

However, let’s not assure the Mile High Marauders a loss quite yet. Manning and company still are a legitimately awesome offense (especially coming off of Manning breaking Brett Favre’s all-time passing TD record last week) and they too have a better defense than they did last season.

Games like this are subject to divisional physics. The Chargers showed how they play down to opposition 2 weeks ago when they squeaked by the Raiders, 31-28 and Week 7′s 23-20 loss to the Chiefs. Now we’ll see if they play up to the challenge of facing Denver. Will it be enough to have more points on the scoreboard? In my opinion, not quite.

Eagles v. Cards

I’ve said it before . . . “there’s no good reason for the Arizona Cardinals to have accomplished everything they have thus far in 2014″. Despite preseason roster losses, suspensions, and injuries this team is producing at a level where they are competing to win the NFC West and Head Coach Bruce Ariens should be in discussions surrounding winning his second SoTG Coach of the Year honor.

Carson Palmer_Arizona Cardinals.jpg1

They also have the model for stopping the Eagles much like the Niners did when they prevented Philly from scoring an offensive touchdown. An relentless defensive front, and an offense that can hold the football to keep their defense rested enough to stay stout for 60 minutes.

Chip Kelly’s offense is still a force to be reckoned with none the less. Let’s not forget the array of talented tight ends and wide receivers featured in their scheme as well as the arrival of LeSean McCoy to his previous form. The Special Teams unit has also done amazing things recording multiple punt blocks for touchdowns and solid field position throughout the whole season. It’ll be close In this bird battle, but I expect the migrating Eagles to drop.

Honorable Mention

Ravens v Bengals

Our first significant division rematch of the season. After a defensive battle that ended on back to back haymaker TD passes of 70 yards or more, these teams face each other in a contest with playoff implication all over it.

rsz_j-green-atlanta-falcons-v-cincinnati-bengals-6gurpr2iewex

The X factor for this game is the status of AJ Green. He’s missed time or has been hindered the past few weeks due to a toe injury. As Green is limited, so too were the Bengals who were shut out by the Colts in Week 7. Couple that with neck injuries to star LB Vontaze Burfict, and they certainly have their claws clipped.

It could be argued that Cincy still is a far better opponent than the powder puffs played by the Ravens in the past 2 weeks. Both Steve and Tory Smith have decimated defenses while tight end Owen Daniels represents a solid chunk in support with a mediocre run attack. If the Raven defense can slow any stripe hype in the run game, look for Baltimore to take a commanding lead of the AFC North.

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