After a long night its time for Showboating Sunday Lets Kickstart the week to welcome Laree MartinSaturday may have been a little too crazy, but don’t let that stop you from seizing the day! Here’s yet another brilliant set of stylish showboating from the past week. We’ve got a busy one coming up; there’s the epic return leg of the Champions League Semis between Barça & Inter, Bayern & Lyon, not to mention the next set of matches that could determine who will spend the summer as champions of Europe’s biggest leagues. I personally have finals coming up this week, so if posting is a little slow, don’t worry! Anyway, I’m also throwing in a special musical treat, just because I can. UK-based rapper “Example” is about to launch a brilliant new single next month on June 13th, which is called Kickstarts. The single from his upcoming sophomore album “Won’t Go Quietly.” Kickstarts is an epic, electro-pop piece & it’s definitely something that should start you right and send you straight through to the summer! I know this is making my final exams seem a little lighter than they should, so enjoy & give some feedback! Although we told you that the roster for our team of writers for the World Cup was full, we made an exception to welcome a footy-obsessed fútbolita, Laree Martin. Laree started following the English Premier League on the advice of a friend after a bad break-up, and has not looked back since. Living the hard, often depressing (not this season though), and sometimes amazing life of a Tottenham Hotspur supporter in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Laree is a well-traveled student who studies literature and military history, but teaches neither of the two. After graduation she hopes to volunteer for the better part of a year in London where she plans to see her boys at ‘The Lane’ as often as she possibly can, and following that either volunteer for another job for the Girl Guides in Switzerland, or with the Peace Corps. This summer, when she won’t be watching the World Cup, she will be teaching kids ages 5-17 environmental education and geology in the woods in the middle of nowhere. Her favourite teams, other than Spurs, are the Chicago Red Stars (Women’s Premier Soccer), Seattle Sounders (Major League Soccer), and the Republic of Ireland National Team. Laree plans to try and write articles on lesser-known or less highlighted players. The ones who are great talents, but aren’t as well known (at least to an American crowd) because they are over-shadowed by the “Greats” on their team (like Rooney or Messi). She will also attempt to write about how the World Cup affects South Africa and other nations competing; shedding light to those of us in places of the world where watching the games involve turning on our TV’s, that there are places in the world where watching the games and competing in the World Cup are much, much greater than that. That’s pretty much all you need to about Laree; she’ll be holding down the female perspective with Soraya this summer, so give her a warm welcome to the AFR team! After the jump there’s a video of Spurs partaking in the crossbar challenge, just because!
European superpowers discover their fates from Champions League Group Stage Draw
The Champions League group stage of the competition starts with Matchday One on September 15/16, but yesterday the respective European superpowers found out their respective adversaries.
2009 UEFA Champions League Winner FC Barcelona will quickly renew acquaintances with their former marksman Samuel Eto’o when they begin the defence of their trophy at Inter Milan in their opening Champions League match next month.
The draw also brings AC Milan and nine-time European champions Real Madrid together for another mouthwatering Italian versus Spanish clash with Brazil forward Kaka facing his old club at his new Bernabeu home on Matchday Three.
Eto’o left Barca for Inter in the close season in a swap deal worth 66 million euros with Zlatan Ibrahimovic moving in the opposite direction.
The Cameroon forward scored for Barcelona in the Champions League finals of 2006 and last May when they won the trophy for the third time and, just like his Swedish counterpart, will now be looking to put one over on his former team mates.
“It will be emotional having Samuel Eto’o back at the Nou Camp Nou and Ibrahimovic at the San Siro,” Barcelona president Joan Laporta told Italian Sky television.
“That’s football. It was destiny. We know we have a complicated group. We are very proud of last year but it’s over and we are starting again. We must show the same motivation as last year. Dream and work hard.”
Kaka, the sensation who left Milan to join Real for 67 million euros, will also relish facing his former club.
Kaka won the European Cup with Milan in 2007, but is now set on bringing Madrid supporters a 10th European title in their own Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, this year’s venue for the competition’s final on May 22.
Real host Milan on October 21 with the return leg in Madrid two weeks later.
Manchester United, last season’s finalists, face three clubs for the first time in Group B where they have been drawn alongside CSKA Moscow, Besiktas and VfL Wolfsburg.
United chief executive David Gill told reporters: “We cannot complain about that, apart perhaps from the long distances involved, but we will be looking forward to going back to Moscow, we have good memories there winning the trophy in 2008.”
Chelsea, bidding to win the competition for the first time under new coach Carlo Ancelotti – a previous winner as player and coach with Milan – will meet Porto, Atletico Madrid and APOEL Nicosia, who are taking part in the competition for the first time.
Another intriguing battle will take place in Group A with former winners Bayern Munich taking on Juventus while Girondins Bordeaux and Maccabi Haifa complete the group.
Drawn alongside Milan and Madrid in Group C are former European Cup winners Olympique Marseille, who beat the Italian side in the 1993 final, and FC Zurich, back in the elite competition for the first time in 28 years.
Barcelona and Inter will also face Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine and Russian newcomers Rubin Kazan in Group F.Average Bloke asked, “Out of interest, looking at the top four and only those challenging for the title, who would you recommend each club to sign, but limited to one player for each of the clubs?” Answer: The top four has really become an elite three this season (sorry Liverpool, don’t kill the messenger). The race for fourth is completely up in the air, although Liverpool and Manchester City appear most likely to claim the spot, but Aston Villa and Tottenham are also in good position to fight for fourth. But enough about the struggle for a spot in the Champions League, I do feel that title-challengers Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United all have a few issues they would be smart to address over this transfer window. “At the moment, we are not on the verge of signing anybody,” said Arsene Wenger, who is set to be without injured Holland international Robin van Persie until April. “It is very difficult in January to find players who are available for the Champions League, who are just good enough to play for Arsenal and at the right price. You never know, but at the moment it [to sign a striker] is unlikely.” Now I, for one, agree with Arsene’s reluctance to sign a striker at this moment. The system the Arsenal gaffer implements is an incredibly meticulous attacking philosophy. Any striker would need a bit of time to get used to Arsenal’s style of play, so I think bringing in a striker at this point would not do too much good for a side that already has great chemistry. While Sol Campbell could conceivably help Arsenal if he needs to, the Gunners’ depth in the back is quite weak. Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy are undoubtedly world-class, but Kieran Gibbs is now out for the season and Arsenal are without a good backup on the wings. Someone like Marseille defender Taye Taiwo would be a very good signing to strengthen the squad in the back. On to Manchester United. United have had defensive problems throughout the campaign so far. Like Arsenal, United could make very good use of another wingback. While Patrice Evra is class, neither Rafael or Gary Neville are fit to be defenders for a top four side. Fergie has been rumoured to be interested in Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, who I think would do well with the physicality of the English game. With loads of energy and an attacking prowess, Chiellini would be the signing that United should make. On to Chelsea. This might seem like a cop-out, but Carlo Ancelotti has maintained that Chelsea will not add anyone of the transfer window, and I think that he is quite right in saying that. But now that Michael Essien has been ruled out for over a month, the Blues may feel they need to fill that gap with the likes of Mohamed Sissoko. But I don’t think that is really necessary considering that the likes of Jon Obi Mikel are already at Chelsea’s disposal. So those are my picks for Arsenal, Manchester United, and Chelsea. What do you think the elite three need to address?
Angela Merkel frowned, probably. Here was Giorgos Karagounis, a Greek man with a Greek name, taking the plaudits for something that they had both done; though not together. The Germans have kept the Greek economy alive – just – but it was Karagounis who bailed out the Greeks against Russia on Saturday.Whoever Germany’s quarter-final opponent was going to be, there would always be darker clouds hanging over the match. Many had thought that Germany would face Poland, which would have had commentators the world over reaching for their 20th century history tomes, flicking through the pages that covered the Second World War. Alternatively, a meeting with the Russians might have awaited the Germans on the 22nd of June, on the anniversary of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany. Such has been Germany’s role in the shaping of modern Europe, it would come as little surprise for them to face any side at these European Championships and have it deemed as a grudge match of sorts. What few expected was that the animosity that they shared with their quarter-final opponent would be derived from something far more recent than a rivalry from the World Wars. Rather, we are presented with a match with an immediate political, and indeed economic, history. The meeting between Greece and Germany will, in all likelihood, mean little else to the Germans than another inconvenience to their divine demolition of the European international football scene. They are amongst the favourites, if indeed they don’t stand alone at the top of such an esteemed pile. Greece, meanwhile, reside at the other end of the spectrum – yet here we are. In Germany, Bild towered over the minnows: “Be happy dear Greeks, the defeat on Friday is a gift. Against Jogi Löw, no rescue fund will help you.” “Bring us Merkel,” Goal News replied. “You will never knock the Greeks out of the Euro”. The pun is very much intentional. We are left, it seems, with a modern day David versus Goliath. As Greece struggles to find a sense of constructive national pride, Karagounis and his ensemble of similarly weary-looking men are striving to provide. We have seen shocks this year before. Not once, but twice, Chelsea defied the odds to win the European Cup. Manchester United effortlessly blew an eight point lead over Manchester City to effectively hand their rivals the title. Greece, by some miracle, clawed their way out of their group at Russia’s expense. This challenge goes beyond. Should Greece scrape past Germany, they will not be cleared of any debts – football doesn’t work like that. For a moment, however, its people might be allowed to forget that they are a nation in desperate crisis. “Greeks want to stay in the euro [currency] and they will fight for their right to be in it,” says Stavros Drakoularakos. “Despite the “lazy and corrupt” stereotypes that are attached to them lately, there is a young, well-educated generation who are working hard and are not afraid of bruises while working their way through austerity and reform. “This is the mentality of the Greek national team and their players. They don’t have the talent of the Dutch, they don’t possess the flair of the Spaniards, they didn’t inherit the footballing culture of the Italians, they don’t even have the automated style of play of the Germans. But they have a fighting spirit and refuse to give up without giving their all.” Just as in politics, in the sporting sphere there are two distinct sides. There are those who believe Greece should be left to drown in the flood they have created for themselves, and those who believe the EU, and by extension Germany, are not doing enough – that Greece are, to a point, struggling in an intra-European mercantilist wrestling match. On the football field, the memories of 2004 have not yet faded. Today, Greece are an underdog for the people. Then, for many, they were not. “I can’t rejoice in the Greek success because of the way it was achieved,” said one. Said another, “They stifle the opposition, wear them down and then try to score on the break, or from a set-piece. If everyone played like this, who would bother going to watch?” This time, they appear to be doing very much the same, but we’re enthralled. The Greeks are explosively raw, and it makes for compelling viewing. Writes Andrew Thomas, “Look at Karagounis after that penalty claim [against Russia] was rejected. He’s not just upset, or angry; he genuinely looks as though the world is crashing in on him. He crosses himself, frantically, again and again, eyes wheeling to the heavens, pleading with the Divine for forgiveness, or mercy, or something else incredibly important and necessary. This sense that it really, really matters is a dying (or maybe dead) one in club football, but at international level, it still turns up from time to time.” The players are not so unenlightened as to ignore the political overtones of this match. They are aware of which result means what. From Georgios Samaras to Lars Bender, the men who will be watched by hundreds of millions understand that football offers an escape; an amnesty from another life. Greece’s achievements, so far, have provided something of a distraction from the disastrous economic situation, and they realise as much. It is a pity, then, that sport can be so remorseless. We must remember just how good the German juggernaut is. “It is not a day for politics,” said a representative of the Angela Merkel. “It is a day for sport.” In Athens, young journalist Efthimia Efthimiou echoed this sentiment. “It’s important because we love football; when we beat Russia [in the Greeks’ previous match], the whole cafe I was in erupted on to the street. In fact, we love football too much to mix it with politics. We have enough politics here; for two hours, let’s just have football.”Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawk. Why doesn’t that sound as strange to me as I think it should?
The Minnesota Vikings have traded the talented, but troubled WR to the Seahawks in exchange for Seattle’s 1st and 7th round picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, plus an undisclosed middle round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. That’s a pretty good score for a player who, while possessing a wealth of talent, has yet to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards or 6 receiving TD’s in 4 NFL seasons. He probably would have reached the yardage milestone though in 2012 if his season hadn’t been cut short by an ankle injury.I’m not saying that Harvin doesn’t have the potential to become a top level WR in terms of production, but his lack of maturity and list of off-field issues have detracted him from fulfilling the promise of his talent. Of course, it didn’t help that for the last 2 seasons Harvin’s been plagued by poor play from the Vikings QB’s. Weak-armed Christian Ponder, aged Donovan McNabb, and erratic Joe Webb hardly brought out the best in what we could have seen from Harvin. But that is now history and only time will tell if the Vikings got more than they should for Harvin, or, as many think, got less than what Harvin is worth. So what can we expect in Seattle from Percy Harvin? First, he goes to one of the few teams that possess a rushing attack to rival that of the Vikings. Marshawn Lynch has been outstanding the last two seasons and the addition of Robert Turbin last year just made them deeper at the RB position. Lynch and Turbin will keep opponents honest defending the run. Second, he gets a young QB in Russell Wilson who just tied the rookie record in passing touchdown passes with 26 in 2012. Wilson started the season slowly as a passer, but progressively got better as the year went on. He possibly could have done much better if not for a WR corps that was mediocre at best and in desperate need of a quality talent. That’s what Harvin will bring to Wilson. Third, he gets a head coach who seems to excel at taking on players who present a challenge. Pete Carroll doesn’t discourage his players from having their own personalities. He seems to even somehow create an atmosphere of “team” while also encouraging individual attitude within players. On the surface, this appears to be a way of reaching players like Harvin and getting them to step up their play. Another thing with Carroll: he doesn’t seem to care how he lists players on injury reports. Guys can not practice at all, be listed as doubtful, and still end up playing on game days. That should definitely appeal to Harvin as he appears to come up with various injuries/illnesses during the NFL’s regular season that prevent him from practicing. Now for what’s important for fantasy football owners: will Percy Harvin step up his production in 2013 now that he is in Seattle? I say “YES”. In my early 2013 fantasy football top 10 WR rankings, Harvin checked in at #10 despite the uncertainty of his situation. Now that I know where he will be playing in 2013 I see no reason to move him out of that spot.
Nice to see you today! It is very good when I spent a whole morning to bring you a preview for Fantasy Football last week. We also make some predictions of Betting Lines and hope you get the big money from that.AFC EAST Buffalo: QB E.J. Manuel has a sprained LCL in his right knee and will miss anywhere from 4-8 weeks depending on the optimism of the reports. Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel finished the Thursday night game and was predictably awful. Look for the Bills to quickly sign a veteran free agent QB to compete right away with Tuel. Tuel has no fantasy value. WR Steve Johnson has a lumbar strain and is tentatively expected to be okay for week 6. Despite playing with injuries, RB’s C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson looked fine. The extra days off to rest should allow both to get back to where the injuries aren’t a concern, but the timeshare between them is. It’s back to almost exactly where it has been before: a split in favor of Jackson with both players having enough fantasy value to be starting worthy, but the presence of the other prevents either from being a really strong, reliable consideration. Miami: We’re starting to see Lamar Miller push Daniel Thomas into just a complimentary role. It’s not there quite yet, but will be soon. As it stands Miller is a middling fantasy RB2 while Thomas is barely a RB4/5. #3 WR Brandon Gibson should play week 5 despite being Questionable on the injury report with an ankle injury. He practiced on it all week so I expect he’ll be okay. Through 4 games WR Mike Wallace has just 1 game with more than 25 receiving yards. The Dolphins are not using him the way they should be. Meanwhile his teammate, Brian Hartline, has 3 games with 50 yards or more and twice as many TD’s (2 to 1) than Wallace. Hartline is the more reliable WR3/4. Expect the Dolphins to figure out they need to find ways to get Wallace the ball more often. He just has so much more playmaking potential than Hartline. New England: I hate talking about the Patriots. Most of their injury report is a farce. He’s the easy stuff: RB Stevan Ridley is OUT week 5 with a knee injury. I’m not sure if the Patriots are using it as an excuse to get their struggling starting RB out of the lineup for a week or two or not as I don’t recall Ridley being really hurt in week 4, but no matter. With Brandon Bolden (knee) and Leon Washington (thigh) both Questionable and both likely to be limited even if active, LeGarrette Blount will start and likely dominate rushing attempts and playing time. Blount isn’t an accomplished receiving RB but he may just get an opportunity to show whether he can be trusted in that capacity. Blount is actually a strong fantasy RB2 this week. Now for the not so easy: WR Kenbrell Thompkins is Questionable with a listed shoulder issue but he is fully expected to play and be fine. WR Danny Amendola is listed as Questionable with his groin injury and while he is tentatively expected to play, he may not be and is considered a game time decision. WR Aaron Dobson is Questionable with a neck injury and I was surprised he was able to practice in limited fashion all week. While it appears he will be active this week he may be limited some. WR Austin Collie was signed off the street this week to provide depth in case both Amendola and Dobson are declared out just before game time. TE Rob Gronkowski is listed as Questionable again but he is not expected to play despite getting in another week of practices in limited fashion. The new speculation is that Gronkowski will return next week. And that may hold true to a few more weeks at the pace he’s going. One last thing of note, TE Zach Sudfeld was released this week. So much for all that off-season and pre-season hype we instinctively knew we shouldn’t have bought in on. New York Jets: Santonio Holmes is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a hamstring injury. Stephen Hill is expected to miss the Monday night game because of a concussion suffered week 4. That leaves Jeremy Kerley and Clyde Gates as the starting WR’s for the Jets this week. Chris Ivory has been able to practice some this week but he is unlikely to be ready to return from his hamstring injury in time to play Monday night. But a week 6 or 7 return is likely. Mike Goodson returns from his league imposed 4 game suspension. He is likely to immediately claim the 3rd down RB role and top backup to Bilal Powell. What happens when Ivory returns in the next 2 weeks is anyone’s guess. TE Kellen Winslow is fully expected to play despite sitting out most practices with soreness in his balky knees. While the Jets say they won’t bench turnover prone QB Geno Smith, you would have to consider the Jets as one of the two likeliest landing spots for recently released former Bucs QB Josh Freeman. Freeman would be an immediate upgrade for the team. AFC NORTH Baltimore: 4 WR’s are listed as Questionable for week 5: Marlon Brown (thigh; expected to play, possibly limited though), Jacoby Jones (knee; game time decision), Brandon Stokley (thigh; game time decision), and Deonte Thompson (concussion; not expected to play). While I think both Brown and Jones will play, I wouldn’t recommend either and wouldn’t be surprised if Tandon Doss actually got the bulk of the playing time opposite Torrey Smith. Expect Joe Flacco to bounce back after throwing 5 interceptions last week. That wasn’t very Flacco like and the matchup this week is pretty decent. Neither Ray Rice nor Bernard Pierce is listed on the injury report. While I doubt Rice is 100% recovered from his hip injury, he is healthy enough to be a good starter again. The Ravens said they wanted to get back to making Rice the focal point of their offense like he used to be. If they’re serious, it would bode well for his fantasy owners. Cincinnati: We finally saw Giovani Bernard get a majority of the playing time over Benjarvus Green-Ellis in week 4 and likely we’ll see that continue the rest of the season. Bernard is the primary RB now and BGE just a short yardage and power RB complement. Andy Dalton has been struggling and it has led to A.J. Green having poor yardage totals the last 3 games. Green has caught 17 passes for 138 yards and 1 TD in the last 3 games combined. Dalton needs to start taking more shots downfield and it should happen starting this week in a potential shootout with the Patriots. Cleveland: And the Browns are back to Brandon Weeden as their starting QB. Brian Hoyer tore his ACL early in the Thursday night game and his season is done. Through 2 games Hoyer had looked pretty good so he could remain a dynasty league stash. Willis McGahee got a huge workload carrying the ball 26 times. But he barely averaged 2.8 yards per attempt and a rushing TD salvaged his fantasy value. McGahee looks slow and sluggish, but is clearly the top RB in Cleveland. He’ll be a borderline RB2/3 most weeks going forward based just on sheer volume. Pittsburgh: Le’Veon Bell was everything advertised in his first game action since suffering a foot injury in preseason. He certainly didn’t seem bothered by it and he is instantly in the fantasy RB2 mix right away when the Steelers return from their week 5 bye. Ben Roethlisberger suffered a dislocated finger but will be fine when he returns. Rookie WR Markus Wheaton required surgery to repair a fractured pinkie finger and his status for week 6 is uncertain. Jerricho Cotchery likely will remain the Steelers #3 WR for the near future. It speaks volumes about how bad your offensive line is when a trade for an Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle is considered a big upgrade. Levi Brown will do a decent job run blocking but he’s a turnstile in pass protection. Good thing Big Ben is used to that. AFC SOUTH Houston: Despite being listed as Questionable with his bruised shin injury Andre Johnson is fully expected to start and be fine week 5. While QB Matt Schaub is being vilified by the Texans fans for his 3 consecutive games with a pick-6, he’s in no danger of being replaced. Schaub has actually been a strong fantasy starting Q through 4 games, but he’ll even out. His M.O. is to sprinkle a few great games around a bunch of mediocre games. The mediocre are coming, and could be as early as this week against the 49ers. Arian Foster is really starting to pull away from Ben Tate in the RB situation. Expect it to be a 70/30 split more weeks than not between them. Indianapolis: Ahmad Bradshaw is OUT week 5 and is likely to be out at least one more week before making a decision on whether to have surgery to repair a neck injury or not. I expect Bradshaw will need to have the surgery and that he will miss the rest of the 2013 season, but that’s just my guess. Donald Brown takes over as the handcuff to Trent Richardson and Richardson is a virtual lock to handle at least 75% of the Colts rushing duties each week. While the perceived matchup against the Seahawks is that it isn’t good for Richardson, their fantasy run defense is ranked 15th; it’s their pass defense that is far superior. That makes Andrew Luck a weak play this week for getting much going through the air. Reggie Wayne is not likely to be a strong fantasy WR this week because of the matchup. Jacksonville: WR Cecil Shorts is Questionable and while he is tentatively expected to play week 5, he was unable to practice at all this week and could be very limited if active. I’m much higher on returning Justin Blackmon. Blackmon has completed serving his 4 game suspension and steps right back into the Jaguars starting lineup. At least his return means I don’t have to waste time writing that two other Jags WR’s (Mike Brown and Stephen Burton) are both OUT with injuries as that information is irrelevant for fantasy owners. TE Marcedes Lewis aggravated his calf injury in week 4 and he is out indefinitely. He can be dropped in all fantasy leagues. Blaine Gabbert was predictably horrible again last week failing to lead the Jags to a single TD for the second time this season. So far, in 2 complete games he’s played, Gabbert has led Jacksonville to 1 FG. Chad Henne wasn’t much better but at least he did well in garbage time; Gabbert’s not even doing that. Don’t be surprised if the Jags play musical QB’s between Gabbert and Henne. However, if they never give Henne another chance, we’ll know for sure they are just throwing in the towel and doing their level best to ensure they have the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft. They shouldn’t worry too much. They’ve already been beaten by the Raiders. They may accidentally win a game this year, but I won’t be surprised if they don’t either. Tennessee: Jake Locker will miss anywhere from 4-8 weeks with his sprained hip and knee injuries. He’s lucky it wasn’t worse. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start in his place and while Fitzpatrick gets bashed for having a weak arm that causes him to struggle later in the season when it gets cold, he should be fine for the next few weeks as Locker’s replacement and not hurt the Titans. He certainly has to be better than Matt Hasselbeck was last season. WR Kenny Britt is Probable after missing week 4 with neck and ribs injuries. Britt is on the trading block and the Titans would dearly like to move him to another team but in order to do that they’ll need to showcase him. Currently Britt’s believed to be no higher than 3rd on the Titans WR pecking order behind Nate Washington (who should be owned in all fantasy formats although he will not be consistent) and Kendall Wright. I expect the Titans to try forcing several passes each game to Britt and hope he does enough for another team to give them at least a 5th round pick in exchange for him. RB Shonn Greene is out at least one more game and probably 2 as he recovers from minor knee surgery a couple of weeks ago. Jackie Battle remains the Titans backup and goal line RB behind Chris Johnson. Speaking of Johnson, I support him in his derogatory comments about fantasy football earlier this week. Fantasy Football is supposed to be about FUN, and too many people take it way too seriously. Especially when they complain about how players are performing on that player’s twitter account or any other social media outlet. I mean, really? Do you think Chris Johnson is purposely trying to screw fantasy teams by not getting into the end zone? AFC WEST Denver: Peyton Manning is well on his way to shattering most every single season passing record through 4 games. While I question whether he really can keep up a pace that has him pegged for 5,880 passing yards, 64 TD’s, and zero interceptions, I think he can certainly try. His WR trio and new pass catching TE are all on torrid paces. Demaryius Thomas is on pace for 116 receptions for 1,572 yards, and 16 TD’s. Wes Welker is on pace for 104 receptions for 1,064 yards, and 24 TD’s. Eric Decker 96 receptions for 1,360 yards and 4 TD’s. Julius Thomas 72 receptions for 948 yards and 16 TD’s. While I think the TD paces for Welker and TE Julius Thomas will drop and the TD pace for Decker increase, I think these stats bear out something we all wondered about in preseason: can the Broncos offense sustain this many players with high fantasy value? The answer is a resounding YES. Decker is Probable on the injury report with a minor ankle/shoulder issue and he will be fine. Kicker Matt Prater had a minor calf injury but he is Probable and fully expected to be fine to kick week 5. Kansas City: With Anthony Fasano Questionable again with knee and ankle injuries, and rookie Travis Kelce out with a knee injury, we could see Alex Smith checking down plenty again this week to TE Sean McGrath. While it was nice to see Dwayne Bowe get a TD last week Smith’s inability to threaten opponents with deep passes is going to cost Bowe fantasy points. At least Jamaal Charles owners should be happy. Smith will make sure to dump off enough passes to Charles to make him a prime contender for leading all RB’s in receptions in 2013. Oakland: Terrelle Pryor returns after missing week 4 with a concussion. While the stats don’t indicate it, Matt Flynn was so bad in week 4 replacing Pryor that he’s been demoted to 3rd string behind undrafted rookie Matt McGloin. The Raiders are the very logical landing spot for Josh Freeman. Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olsen worked with Freeman his first 3 seasons in the league and under Olsen Freeman was flourishing. Pryor has been a surprise, but Freeman could really be the QB the Raiders have been missing for several years now. I give a Freeman/Raiders signing by the middle of next week a 50% chance of happening. RB Darren McFadden will miss week 5 with a hamstring injury. He is officially Doubtful for week 5 but is expected to miss week 6 as well and with the Raider shaving the bye in week 7, McFadden is tentatively expected to return in week 8. With Marcel Reece Questionable with a knee injury, Rashad Jennings is likely to be the lead RB for Oakland Sunday night. Jennings isn’t an exciting RB, and failed miserably in Jacksonville when Maurice Jones-Drew went down, but he’ll get the majority of the RB load. Reece should be active, but limited in what he can do after his knee injury turned out to be less serious than originally believed. San Diego: With Malcom Floyd having been placed on injured reserve with his neck injury, it solidifies the top 3 WR’s in the Chargers WR corps: Eddie Royal, Vincent Brown, and Keenan Allen. I know Brown has been frustrating to owners but I still believe his superior talent is going to start making him more heavily featured in the Chargers offense soon. IT’s been nice to see Antonio Gates looking better than he has in any of the last 2 seasons. Age and injuries have zapped some of his athleticism, but he’s still a smart TE. After spending the first game behind Ronnie Brown, Danny Woodhead has blown past Brown as the top backup to Ryan Mathews and the preferred 3rd down RB. Woodhead has ppr RB2/3 value, but he will also have those games where he gets very little. NFC EAST Dallas: Miles Austin is Doubtful on the injury report with a hamstring injury and he won’t play week 5. Terrence Williams will start again opposite Dez Bryant and even though Dwayne Harris is listed as Questionable with a minor knee issue, he’ll be the Cowboys #3 WR this week. With a lot of asses expected to be in the air against the high flying Broncos, Williams might make a serviceable emergency spot start this week. New York Giants: After the Giants released RB Da’Rel Scott earlier in the week, it became apparent that they are going to finally bite the bullet and feed David Wilson the football going forward. Scott wasn’t bad, but the only explosive player the Giants have at RB is Wilson and whether he has ball security issues or not, he’s the only guy who is going to make plays from their RB’s. I expect Wilson to be a strong fantasy RB2 this week against Philadelphia’s weak defense. The Giants are talking up RB Brandon Jacobs as being part of a 1-2 punch with Wilson but Jacobs looks very much like a RB who was signed off the street two weeks ago. I hope they aren’t serious about giving him many carries. If Hakeem Nicks doesn’t get over his drops this week, I can’t imagine him being more than a fantasy WR3/4 going forward. He has the talent to be so much better than he has been. Victor Cruz should be in line to feast on the burnable Eagles secondary but this is usually the exact type of game where Cruz pulls one of those confounding disappearing acts. You never sit Cruz, and the matchup dictates he should be in for a monster game this week, but he’s come away with 2 catches for 25 yards before in games like this and therefore I’m just saying… Philadelphia: Despite suffering a minor knee injury week 4, WR Demean Jackson is not on the injury report and he is fine. The Eagles get a gift this week in taking on a Giants team that has been pretty terrible at stopping any opponents from moving the football or scoring points. Michael Vick is easily a top 5 fantasy QB play, LeSean McCoy a top 5 fantasy RB, and DeSean Jackson likely a top 10 fantasy WR. However, outside of these 3, it’s really difficult to trust any other Eagles players for fantasy purposes. None of WR’s Jason Avant and Riley Cooper, nor any of TE’s Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, and James Casey can be relied on as anything more than the fantasy football version of the “Hail Mary” pass play. Washington: It’s hoped that the bye week allows RB Alfred Morris to get over his rib injury. It won’t be totally healed up, but maybe it will be healed up enough for him to start without issue week 6. That said, there’s a reason why I’ve been pounding the table for Morris owners to have Roy Helu on their benches for the insurance. If Helu is still available, and you have Morris, go get Helu. The WR situation appears to be coming into focus. Leonard Hankerson’s playing time has been on the increase and he is now the clear #2 WR both for the Redskins and for fantasy purposes. NFC NORTH Chicago: Despite missing practice on both Wednesday and Thursday with a foot injury, Brandon Marshall is listed as Probable for week 5 and he is fully expected to start and be fine. Likely the Bears are just taking every precautionary measure necessary with any type of boo-boo Marshall incurs this season. TE Martellus Bennett is Probable despite a minor shoulder issue. While Matt Forte may not be the goal line RB, as long as it’s further than 4 yards away, he should be the guy in the game over Michael Bush. Forte has fit the Bears new offense like a designer glove and is one the top fantasy performers at RB. Detroit: Even though Calvin Johnson is listed as Questionable for week 5 with a knee injury it’s not believed to be a serious issue and Johnson is fully expected to play without restrictions. Maybe Jim Schwartz just wants in on the fun the Patriots and Falcons have each week listing WR’s as Questionable when they’re really Probable or Doubtful. WR Patrick Edwards is Probable and will play and likely start this week after missing last week with an ankle injury. That pushes Kris Durham back into the 3rd or 4th WR role. Ryan Broyles so far has been an extreme disappointment despite getting on the field for good amounts of time the last 2 games. Reggie Bush isn’t on the injury report at all and his knee injury appears to be well behind him. Green Bay: The bye last week allowed Eddie Lacy to get past his concussion and he is Probable and will start week 5 and be the Packers primary RB. With James Starks OUT with a knee injury Johnathan Franklin will be the change of pace RB to Lacy. The return of FB John Kuhn shouldn’t affect either one that much. Jermichael Finley is also Probable after using the bye week to get over his own concussion and he will start without issue. Start your Packers with confidence this week against Detroit. Minnesota: There’s a QB controversy in Minnesota after Matt Cassel looked a lot better in week 4 than Christian ever has. Cassel got both Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson incorporated into the offense and threw the ball very well. Now the Vikings say there is no controversy and that Ponder is their starter, but expect them to use Ponder’s fractured rib injury as an excuse to keep starting Cassel the next couple of games after they return from the bye next week. They will let Cassel either play his way in, or play his way out of the starting job. I’ve seen enough of Cassel to know he can look good for a while, but in the end is just another stopgap veteran QB. NFC SOUTH Atlanta: RB Steven Jackson is out week 5 so Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling will split up the duties Monday night against the Jets. The Falcons have the bye in week 6 and Jackson is expected to return at full strength in week 7. Both WR’s Julio Jones (knee) and Roddy White (ankle) are likely to be listed as Questionable for Monday night. However both are fully expected to play and be fine. Actually, I am expecting White to start producing quality fantasy stats again here very soon. He played the vast majority of the offensive snaps in week 4 for the Falcons and that shows that his ankle is finally getting better. With the bye looming, it would be a smart move to target White for acquisition now before he starts putting up his usually high quality weekly fantasy stats. If White doesn’t produce Monday night (and it’s his turn to; just like I said Tony Gonzalez was going to last week in this weekly column) he’s a sure bet to in week 8. Carolina: As expected, the bye in week 4 allowed WR Steve Smith to get over the hip injury he suffered in week 3. Smith isn’t even on the injury report. The Panthers also will finally have rookie RB Kenjon Barner available for the first time this season. Barner won’t get enough carries to be fantasy relevant though. DeAngelo Williams remains the lead RB, but is only a RB3 this week with a matchup against a surprisingly strong Cardinals run defense. The Cardinals allow the second fewest fantasy points on the ground and did a very good job stopping Doug Martin last week. But one player I expect to have a great game is QB Cam Newton. Newton cut his teeth in the NFL by playing Arizona in his first game as a rookie and torched them. For some reason, I get the feeling he’s going to do it again. New Orleans: RB Mark Ingram (toe) and WR Lance Moore (hand) have both been ruled OT for week 5. Ingram is in need of a change of scenery and I expect the Saints would take a 5th or 6th round pick in exchange for him since he simply does not fit their offense. Khiry Robinson appears to be doing well taking Ingram’s role of power RB, but he won’t get enough carries to be fantasy relevant. Pierre Thomas’s role is inconsistent thusly making him an inconsistent fantasy play and not trustworthy as more than a flex option or RB3. Darren Sproles at least seems to have found his role again and hopefully it continues to be consistent moving forward. With Moore out, Robert Meachem is likeliest to start but he’s inconsistent and I think Kenny Stills makes the better desperation WR play for those grasping at straws. Tampa Bay: The divorce is final as the Bucs cut Josh Freeman. It was apparent that Freeman and Greg Schiano couldn’t co-exist. The Bucs will sink with Mike Glennon at QB this year when they return from their week 5 bye. The bye should allow WR’s Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams plenty of time to get over the injuries they played through week 4. NFC WEST Arizona: For the first time all season RB Rashard Mendenhall is not on the Cardinals injury report. It’s hoped that he truly is healthy so he can start being the “featured” RB the Cardinals have said they wanted. But I think we’ll still see a bit of a split. I think Mendenhall will be the primary with Andre Ellington serving as the pass catching and change of pace RB. Mendenhall is a RB3 with Ellington a borderline RB3/4 in the ppr format. Larry Fitzgerald is not on the injury report either and he has put his minor hamstring issue behind him. It’s rare that trading away your starting left tackle makes a QB feel better, but that’s probably the case with Carson Palmer after the team traded away turnstile Levi Brown. Not sure Bradley Sowell will be any better but the consensus is that he can’t be much worse. St. Louis: Still no word on who the Rams will start at RB this week against the dead last ranked Jacksonville run defense. The general feeling is that Zac Stacy is the most likely candidate with Isaiah Pead the second most likely, and a committee between them to be expected. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Daryl Richardson was made inactive after yet another pitiful rushing performance last week. But these are just my best guesses based on what I’ve read and using a little intuition. It’s failed me before. Whoever the Rams trot out there is going to be worth at the very least flex consideration as the Jaguars give up an average of 164 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD per game. Sam Bradford should also be a strong bye week or injury filler at QB this week. The Rams need to make a statement against an opponent and the Jaguars are easy pickings. San Francisco: WR Quinton Patton’s fractured foot injury will likely cost him several weeks at least. This opens the door for Jonathan Baldwin to get playing time and I think Baldwin stands a very good chance of taking over as the starter over Kyle Williams opposite Anquan Boldin. Baldwin is simply more physically talented than Williams and the 49ers need some talent out there for Colin Kaepernick to throw the ball to. Currently, the offense is looking a lot like it did when Alex Smith was winning games as a game manager. Kaepernick is destined to be much better than that. While TE Vernon Davis is listed as Questionable, he played through the hamstring injury in week 4 and suffered no setbacks. I fully expect he’ll be fine for week 5. Seattle: Marshawn Lynch is Probable on the injury report but it says that it isn’t injury related. Lynch is fine for this week. Last week showed that the Seahawks offense has its limits and outside of Lynch there is no one who is a reliable option each week. TE Zach Miller is Questionable because of a hamstring injury and will be a game time decision. Even if active you shouldn’t trust him. It could open the door for backup TE Luke Wilson though. Wilson is an intriguing talent that is worth keeping an eye on.
Ahhh! The end of May is nearly upon us and training camps open in less than two months. Before you know it, preseason games will be upon us and fantasy football drafts will be happening nearly every day leading up to the first game of the season. But right now, we have OTA’s (Organized Team Activities; a fancy term that used to be called mini-camps. I have no idea why they changed it), and as usual, since we are parched for anything to read or talk about NFL and fantasy-wise, we see reports and start to worry about the little injuries preventing players from participating, and those who are not attending these voluntary workouts at all. I’ll try to put the headline news into perspective here:New England TE Rob Gronkowski: The lingering infection from previous arm surgeries finally cleared up and Gronk had a successful 4th surgery on his arm May 20th. While this injury could linger into training camp and preseason, it should be fully healed up before the start of the regular season. Of greater concern is the combination of this and an impending back surgery scheduled for sometime in mid-late June. Conflicting reports have surfaced about whether this back surgery is related to the back surgery Gronk had in college that caused him to miss a season. While the majority of the reports claim the back procedure is “minor”, the simple fact is that you have to be concerned any time a player who has a history with a particular injury has to have another surgery. We won’t know if Gronk will be able to play at the start of the regular season and that makes him a dicey bet as an early draft pick in fantasy drafts. Houston RB Arian Foster: Foster suffered a calf muscle strain in OTA’s and while he walked off the field on his own, he was carted to the training room and is now sporting crutches. All signs indicate that this is not a major injury. We have to remember that it’s likely that if this was the regular season he might not even miss a game. There’s no reason for teams to rush players back right now. The real games don’t start for 3 months. Foster is very likely to be fine by the time training camp rolls around and be one of the first 4 RB’s selected in fantasy drafts. Cleveland RB Trent Richardson:
Richardson has been sitting out practices because of a strained lower leg muscle. It’s concerning that Richardson can’t seem to stay healthy even in the off-season as his rookie year was marred by various minor injuries. He only missed one game though proving his toughness. The Browns are smart to not push him as they have more to lose than gain by it. But it is something to keep an eye on once training camp starts up. Currently Richardson is still considered a strong RB1 for fantasy purposes and remains locked in as one of the top 10 fantasy RB’s in the 2013 fantasy football rankings.Dallas RB DeMarco Murray: Murray has been held back in OTA’s because of a hamstring strain. While it’s believed to be minor, Murray has had a host of injuries his first two seasons in the NFL causing him to miss 9 games in that span. Murray is naturally talented but remains a boom or bust type of RB because of his inability to stay healthy and on the field. But this hamstring issue should be fine before training camp starts up and there’s currently no reason to be overly concerned about it anymore than you would be with a player boasting Murray’s injury history. These are just some of the NFL player news that has been making some headlines in recent weeks. And with the exception of Rob Gronkowski, there really isn’t anything here to be worried about for the regular season. But we’re all gluttons for any news we can get this time of year and we have to remember that right now, 3 months before regular season games start, all teams are going to treat every minor injury with extreme caution. Only if these (or future) injuries linger into training camp should they really have you concerned. Fantasy News and Notes 10-16-13: BYE WEEKS: New Orleans, Oakland Quarterbacks Minnesota named Josh Freeman their starting QB for Monday night’s game against the New York Giants. Freeman s likely to remain the Vikings starting QB the rest of the season barring awful performances. Christian Ponder is expected to be the backup and Matt Cassel drops to being the #3. Thaddeus Lewis practiced in full today and is expected to be able to start this week for Buffalo despite having a sprained foot. One of the things that made Lewis look good last week was his mobility so a drop in that could mean for a much poorer performance this week. But apparently Buffalo believes a hobbled Lewis is a better option than Matt Flynn. E.J. Manuel is not expected back until week 11 or 13. The Bills have the bye in week 12. Matt Schaub was unable to practice today and while he hasn’t been ruled out yet for week 7, it’s considered unlikely he’ll be able to play with his ankle injury. T.J. Yates and Case Keenum split up the first team reps in practice today and there’s been no word on which player the Texans are leaning towards. It may take until Friday before a starter is announced. Just like last week, Michael Vick is practicing in limited fashion this week, but he will not start week 7. Vick is still having some issues with his hamstring injury and the Eagles won’t bring him back until the injury is totally healed up. Nick Foles will start again for the Eagles this week. Jake Locker was able to take part in a very limited practice today for the Titans. Locker has been out the last 2 games because of hip and knee injuries. He isn’t expected back until week 9 the soonest, and maybe not even then. Ryan Fitzpatrick will continue to start until he can return. Running Backs As expected, both DeMarco Murray (knee) and Lance Dunbar (hamstring) were unable to practice today. Neither is expected to play week 7. Rookie Joseph Randle is expected to start for Dallas this week and be backed up by Phillip Tanner. C.J. Spiller was held out of Bills practice today because of his ankle injury. Spiller played through it week 6 but was clearly affected by it and while expected to play this week, at best it looks like he’ll be on the wrong side of a split situation again with Fred Jackson this week. Until Spiller gets over the injury he’s a dicey fantasy bet as a RB2/3. Steven Jackson still has yet to practice for Atlanta despite it having been nearly 5 weeks since he injured his hamstring. He hasn’t been ruled out yet, but he’s not expected to play week 7. Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling will split the load again in his place. Snelling practiced in full today and appears to have gotten over a concussion he suffered week 5. Marshawn Lynch is Probable for Seattle’s Thursday night game against Arizona. He’ll be fine despite a minor hip issue. The Rams held Zac Stacy out of practice today. This is just like last week when Stacy sat out Wednesday’s practice to rest a chest injury. Stacy has literally taken the Rams RB starting job and ran away with it and is fully expected to be fine for week 7. Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t practice today but the Jaguars say it wasn’t injury related. It’s probably just a scheduled day of rest for him. Detroit’s Joique Bell got in a limited practice today despite having bruised ribs. He should be okay for his normal backup role to Reggie Bush week 7. James Starks has already been ruled OUT for week 7 because of his lingering knee injury. Johnathan Franklin looks like he’ll backup Eddie Lacy again this week. With the way Lacy is playing, Starks is purely a Lacy handcuff for fantasy owners when he eventually gets healthy. The Giants signed Peyton Hillis today. Hillis is expected to get some playing time Monday night as a backup to Brandon Jacobs, but he’ll split backup duties with rookie Michael Cox. Jacobs has a sore hamstring, but is fully expected to be fine for Monday night. Wide Receivers Larry Fitzgerald practiced in full today and is listed as Probable for Arizona’s game against Seattle tomorrow night. Fitz may be limited some because of his hamstring injury but he will play and you can consider him if you lack other quality options. Justin Blackmon sat out practice today. He’s listed as having a hamstring issue. But I expect he’s just a little sore after such a huge workload week 6. Providing he returns to practice tomorrow he should be fine for week 7. His teammate, Cecil Shorts, also didn’t practice. But unlike Blackmon, Shorts is in real danger of not playing this week because of his sternoclavicular joint sprain. Calvin Johnson was a surprise participant in practice today. Officially, Johnson got in a limited practice. Johnson rarely practices on Wednesday’s even when healthy so this could be a good sign that he’ll be able to be more than a decoy week 7 for the Lions. If he practices again Thursday and Friday, I might even consider starting him in my lineups. James Jones didn’t practice today and while he hasn’t been ruled out for week 7 yet, he’s not likely to play. Jarrett Boykin is expected to start in his place for the Packers. Andre Johnson was limited in practice because of his shin injury. He’s been playing through it though and is fully expected to do so again week 7 for the Texans. Danny Amendola missed practice today because of a concussion suffered week 6. He isn’t expected to play this week for New England. Roddy White was held out of practice today because of his hamstring and ankle injuries. White is very questionable to play for Atlanta week 7. Buffalo’s Steve Johnson was able to practice in limited fashion today. Johnson missed week 6 with a back injury. Barring any setbacks, I expect Johnson will be able to play this week. It’s hoped that after getting in a limited practice today Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams will be able to play week 7. Williams sat out week 6 with a hamstring injury. Eddie Royal missed practice today because of a toe injury. Royal’s been bypassed by rookie Keenan Allen in the Chargers WR pecking order. Tight Ends Seattle’s Zach Miller is listed as Probable and will play tomorrow night for the first time in a couple of games. Miller has been battling a hamstring injury. Considering the problems the Cardinals have had covering TE’s, Miller can be considered by the truly desperate. Chicago’s Martellus Bennett was held out of practice today. This is becoming the norm for Bennett on Wednesday’s because of a minor knee injury he’s been playing through. He should be fine for week 7. Rob Gronkowski was limited in practice today. Gronkowski reportedly has the power to make himself active or inactive each week and it’s anyone’s best guess whether he’ll choose to play this week or not. Greg Olsen sat out practice today with a foot injury. Olsen missed last Wednesday’s practice but was able to play. I expect that will be the story again this week. Jacksonville may have Marcedes Lewis back this week. Lewis practiced in limited fashion today and barring any setbacks in the calf injury that has plagued him so far this season he should be able to play week 7. I wouldn’t think of starting him though until he makes it through a complete game with any issue.
Well, it’s here. The first week of preseason games in the NFL. And with it (hopefully) comes the answer to many questions about certain situations for those of us who indulge in our favorite hobby: fantasy football. Now it’s unlikely we’re going to get definitive answers this early in the preseason, but there are some things I am hoping we start getting answers to sooner rather than later. I recently blogged about what to look for in preseason, but that was a list of things in general. These are a bit more specific.How is the chemistry between Tom Brady and his WR’s in New England? We heard some glowing reports out of the joint practices between the Patriots and Eagles about Brady, but seeing him in action with a new crop of WR’s (and TE’s) will go a long way in determining if he retains his status as an elite fantasy QB. Julian Edelman is the only viable holdover from last season at WR but he’s an oft-injured middling talent. Can Danny Amendola be the new Wes Welker? How will drafted rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce look? Is undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins really as good as all the training camp hype he’s received? Can we finally put Michael Jenkins out to pasture? Another undrafted rookie getting a lot of hype is TE Zach Sudfeld. Reports say he is pushing Daniel Fells for being the pass catching TE until Rob Gronkowski gets back on the field. These are the things fantasy players will be paying special attention to tomorrow night and throughout the preseason. Will it be Michael Vick or Nick Foles for Philadelphia? I never really bought into the hype about Foles leading the competition to be the Eagles starting QB throughout OTA’s, and even though Vick supposedly has outplayed Foles in training camp, Chip Kelly says Vick will start the first preseason game Foles the second. You would expect that if Kelly really felt that one guy was superior to the other he would want to make sure that player was getting as many reps as he could with the starters. I’m 75% convinced that Vick will be the guy in week 1 of the regular season, but there’s that other 25% of me that isn’t so sure. Will Giovani Bernard push Benjarvus Green-Ellis into a short yardage/goal line role? There’s been a lot of talk about Bernard from Bengals camp. He’s an excellent receiving RB and offers a lot more burst and explosion as a runner than BGE. It’s not that BGE is a poor RB (he did manage to rush for over 1,000 yards last season, but averaged less than 4 yards per attempt to do it) but simply put, he is just a power RB with little speed, mediocre hands, and is not a very creative runner in open space. Bernard is supposed to be the opposite. Some think it may take a few weeks into the season for Bernard to really push BGE out of the starting role, but a good preseason by Bernard can make that happen a lot sooner. Which Packers RB will be “the guy”? Up until recently it was a common question, but Eddie Lacy reportedly blew away everyone in a recent scrimmage and has the inside track. I liked Lacy coming out in the draft and wasn’t nearly as concerned as some about his foot issue. But Mike McCarthy made some waves earlier today when he referred to DuJuan Harris as his “starter”. While I think this was just a way to make sure Lacy doesn’t just assume the job is his from here on out, Harris did do pretty well in this past postseason. I do fully expect Lacy to be the lead RB, but will he be a 3 down workhorse RB? His ability to catch the ball and provide good pass protection blocking will be the key. Which Rams RB will assert himself as being the lead RB? This one has all the look of a true RBBC heading into preseason, but there’s a chance one of Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Zac Stacy, and Terrence Ganaway will stand out over the others. Richardson and Pead both lack the size to be more than 12-15 carry guys and both are more like change of pace speed guys. Stacy is a power runner who lacks specialness to his game and Ganaway is a big bruising RB with little wiggle. Stacy seems to be the best suited for lead RB on early downs, but he’s done little in training camp to stand out. Richardson gets a lot of the publicity, and did fairly well last season when he was given chances, but it’s hard to really believe in a 5’11”, 195 lbs primary RB. Pead is almost exactly the same size and his suspension for the first game of the season could cost him if one of the others stands out. Will any of the Ravens WR’s besides Torrey Smith distinguish themselves? Jacoby Jones has had his opportunities to be a starter with mediocre results before when he was with the Houston Texans, but the other candidates aren’t that appealing. Deonte Thompson, Tandon Doss, Tommy Streeter, Aaron Mellette, and a host of even lesser knowns are jockeying for position. None command any excitement, but someone has to step up, don’t they? Will either E.J. Manuel or Geno Smith do well enough in preseason to win the QB jobs in Buffalo and New York? While rookie QB’s usually struggle to make an impact, we’ve seen it happen quite a bit recently. And since Kevin Kolb and Mark Sanchez are the only things in their way, it doesn’t take much imagination to see both of these rookies getting the start week 1 for their respective teams. And if the coaches are smart and make sure the offense they run is friendly to that QB’s strengths and doesn’t make it too hard for them right away, either or both could actually sneak into the realm of being a consideration as a backup fantasy QB. Tim Tebow: New England Patriot. The words go together like peanut butter and olive loaf. I know several weeks ago I blogged about how Tebow deserved better
than he received from the Jets. Not because he is a good QB (he’s not) but because he handled himself with class during their debacle and was never given a chance despite the Jets having nothing to lose. But of all the places Tebow could have landed, the Patriots seemed the least likely.It was reported by Yahoo several weeks ago that Patriots Coach Bill Belichick “hates” Tebow. So a reunion with Tebow and the coach who made him a first round draft pick back in 2010 (Josh McDaniels, who is now the Patriots offensive coordinator) was deemed to be a pipe dream. Should have guessed it was most likely just blowing smoke. However, an even more than normally unhappy looking Belichick cut short his press conference today to address the signing. Peppered with what seemed like questions he should have expected, Belichick seemed disgruntled having to answer questions about why the Patriots signed him, and what position he is going to play? His answers of how talented Tebow is, and that the Patriots will do what is best for the team just had the feeling of someone who has had a player forced on him. Get used to it Bill. It comes with the Tebowmania that follows him wherever he goes. Maybe it was McDaniels saying that he’d rather have Tebow to develop than Mike Kafka (the 3rd string QB released by the Patriots when they signed Tebow)? Maybe it was Bob Kraft seeing some type of marketing deal? Maybe it was secret resentment that the Bruins and Red Sox were getting all the media love in Boston while the Patriots were still being questioned for letting Wes Welker get away to a conference rival? Who knows? Or maybe it was that they were intrigued by the fact that Tebow, despite his shortcomings as a typical NFL quarterback simply has the heart of a winner? Has proven capable of defying the conventional thinking of “he can’t win as a quarterback” by having won as a starter in the NFL? Maybe there is some magic there that an organization lie the Patriots can develop? McDaniels obvious saw something in Tebow when he made him a first round selection while running the show in Denver. Now this sounds more like the Belichick we know. And it cost the Patriots nothing besides their already established 3rd string QB. Reportedly, there was no guaranteed money in the two year deal Tebow signed. Can McDaniels and Belichick develop Tebow? Can they find the right mix of uniting poor traditional QB skills but intriguing talent with an offense that can win in the NFL? Maybe. Maybe not. We won’t know until it’s tried. And since Tom Brady has a couple more years left in him, there will be no rush to find out. And at worse, they simply cut Tebow without any financial ramification. So for now, let the media hype this up. It gives them more of what they know the public likes: Tim Tebow.