Kurtz: All-Out Blitz: NFL News & Notes Week 8

(By George Kurtz, Special to Gotham Gridiron)

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals running game is going to be a guessing game each and every week. Larod Stephens-Howling was the hot hand versus Minnesota last week, so he carried the rock more than William Powell, but that doesn’t mean LRS is the favorite this week to lead the team in carries, just that he may get first crack at the job…..You heard Minnesota state after the game that there plan was to stop WR Larry Fitzgerald and see if the Cardinals could create enough offense with a subpar running game and QB John Skelton throwing short passes. It worked, and you have to wonder if upcoming teams on the Cards schedule are going to follow that exact same game plan.

Atlanta Falcons: Looking forward to the game this week between Atlanta and Philadelphia. Both teams are coming off a bye, both could be seen as favorites in the NFC. Very curious to see how the Falcons will go about challenging the Eagles defense…..Do you think CB Asante Samuel (former Eagle) has this game circled on his calendar? Samuel is a very aggressive cornerback but has been known to bite on the double move, look for Philadelphia to try this a time or two with Jeremy Maclin and/or DeSean Jackson.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens were absolutely hammered by the Texans last week. This seems to be a team that doesn’t play all that well on the road. Sure, there defense is banged up. That’s not going to change, in fact, will probably get worse as the season rolls along. Ravens should still be considered the favorite in the AFC North but have some issues to work through. Not to quarterback Joe Flacco: If you want to be considered elite, you need to play just as well on the road as you do at home.

Buffalo Bills: Defensive end Mario Williams underwent a procedure Wednesday on his ailing wrist. How long he will be out for is still in question. Some believe he could be back at practice as soon as next week. This team wasn’t playing good defense with Williams, scary to think what might happen without him…..The team is in a bit of disarray, with some players now calling out other players for not giving their all. This is not going to end well.

Carolina Panthers: You just knew that someone was going to take the fall after QB Cam Newton stated his frustration with the game plan after another close loss Sunday. General Manager Marty Hurney was that person as he was fired. Was it his fault? Some of it, yes, but Newton has regressed this season and the team has failed to make the adjustment of teams taking WR Steve Smith out of the game. The running game is still non-existent. It still makes no sense that they signed RB Mike Tolbert in free agency when they already had Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams in fold, and don’t seem to know how to use any of them right now.

Chicago Bears: We all talk about the 49ers, Seahawks, Texans, and Cardinals, but the best defense in the NFL may once again belong to the monster of the midway. That unit is playing fantastic football right now and should only get better as LB Brian Urhlacher get closer to 100% as the season rolls along…..Quarterback Jay Cutler came out of the game for a play Monday night after getting sacked and landing on the football, he is expected to play this week but I would be worried that he could be hindered during the game. He didn’t look good in the second half of the game and his throws certainly did not have his normal zip.

Cincinnati Bengals: Before anyone takes the Bengals as serious contender in the AFC North, they are going to have to defeat the Ravens and Steelers, something they have not yet been able to do the past two seasons…..Teams are starting to game plan around WR AJ Green, they are going to force QB Andy Dalton to find a different way to beat them. Now receivers Andrew Hawkins and Armon Binns are nice player, but they aren’t game breakers. A running game would help also, but no one is really afraid of Benjarvus Green-Ellis, he’s more of a bruiser than someone who is going to break a long run, and he may himself break down as the season rolls along.

Cleveland Browns: Really believe the Browns did the right thing with RB Trent Richardson last week. I know he was upset at only getting a handful of carries, but he didn’t do anything with those carries and I’m sure the coaching staff was thinking that he wasn’t quite recovered from his flank injury and that resulted in poor play. Better to be safe than sorry with your franchise back, it’s not like they’re going to the Super Bowl or even the playoffs this season.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys probably saved their season with a victory over Carolina last week. Now it wasn’t a pretty win, but an ugly win is better than a pretty loss. Not thrilled with head coach Jason Garrett’s play calling once again. Playing for a field goal rather than a game clinching touchdown is gutsy with a defense that has come up small in the past, but hey, it worked. That being said he is going to have to open up the offense for the next few weeks as Dallas plays the Giants at home, before going on the road to Philly and Atlanta. Lose all three and it’s over, win two of three and you’re set for a big finish to the season with five of your last eight games at home, lose two of three and you’re behind the eight ball with little room for error.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos had a very uneventful bye week, which is a good thing. They are in the driver’s seat in the AFC West, schedule isn’t that hard, and their division isn’t either…..This week should be fun however as New Orleans comes to town for a Sunday night affair. Anyone want to guess how many points are going to be scored in this game? Should be a blast to watch.

Detroit Lions: What is wrong the Lions offense? They played well enough on defense Monday night (shocking I know) to beat the Bears, but turnovers in the red zone cost them the ball game. QB Matthew Stafford looks uncomfortable in the pocket. Reminds me of someone who doesn’t want to get hit anymore. Once again teams are taking Megatron out of the game, there is always a safety over the top. They lose WR Nate Burleson for the season with a broken leg, Titus Young and Ryan Browles have to step up now or it’s going to get late early for Detroit.

Green Bay Packers: Remember all those who were worried about QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense a couple of weeks ago? Yeah, neither do I…..There is reason to be worried about WR Greg Jennings however. He saw a specialist today to find out why his injured groin is taking so long to heal. Not a good sign…..Receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb are reaping the benefit however of Jennings being out of the lineup. Have to wonder if the Packers would try and trade Jennings or Jones had Greg been healthy…..Someone who is not healthy is CB Charles Woodson who will miss at least a month with a broken collarbone.

Houston Texans: Have to love the way the Texans rebounded after getting smoked by Green Bay. They took it out on Baltimore and have to be considered the favorites in the AFC to reach the Super Bowl at this point in time…..Tight end Owen Daniels is having a good season after having been forgotten about due to some injuries. His success however and the great running game haven’t helped WR Andre Johnson put up big numbers yet. Perhaps he isn’t the same player he used to be.

Indianapolis Colts: You have to love that what has to be considered a design flaw at Lucas Oil Stadium (bright sunlight shining onto the field) probably helped the Colts beat the Browns last week. Browns WR Josh Gordon had what looked like an easy touchdown pass within his grasp but ran into the sun part of the field (end zone) just as the ball came into his hands and dropped it. Now he still should’ve caught it, but divine intervention may have been on the Colts side in this one.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Had been wondering if the Jaguars should consider trading RB Maurice Jones-Drew before the deadline Tuesday due to the team not being in contention for the next couple of seasons. Well that is all for naught now as MJD suffered a foot injury that will cost him to miss multiple games, eliminating his trade value. Rashard Jennings is a must pick up in most fantasy leagues, especially if you had Jones-Drew on your roster…..The good news, I think, is that QB Blaine Gabbert will start this Sunday despite a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. Things might be different if QB Chad Henne had shown anything in relief.

Kansas City Chiefs: Like the Jags, the Chiefs are another team that is a complete mess. Brady Quinn is actually going to start at QB over Matt Cassel. You know you’re not getting the job done when Quinn is starting over you…..RB Peyton Hillis is practicing however this week and could possibly play Sunday, yippee.

Miami Dolphins: After their bye week, the Dolphins are pretty much a completely healthy team. They will need any and all the weapons they have if they want to stay competitive for the remainder of the season…..If there is one team that I think could make a big splash by the trade deadline, Miami would be it.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings announced this week that RB Adrian Peterson will have no more restrictions for the rest of the season. Could it be because he is the third leading the rusher in the NFL and looks like the player he once was. Scary to think he might only get better as the weeks go by…..Christian Ponder had a terrible game behind center last week and some could say the Vikings won despite him. Have to wonder if the Vikings will rely more on their running game from here on out.

New England Patriots: The Patriots don’t seem to be the great team we thought they may be. Quarterback Tom Brady seems to be a bit out of sync a little bit, making decisions he normally would’ve been. The question is why? The running game has played much better than expected, but could this be hindering Brady because he doesn’t throw enough? Brandon Lloyd hasn’t been the big play threat at WR that the Pats were hoping for. Wes Welker seemed to be in coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse to start the season, and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have been banged up. Perhaps things will get better this Sunday in jolly old England.

New Orleans Saints: So much for the return of LB Jonathan Vilma helping the Saints defense. This defense has more holes than any one player can fill. It’s going to be up to the offense to outscore the opponents on most occasions, but that can be a daunting task. They will need all of their weapons to be healthy and that starts with tight end Jimmy Graham. Supposedly he is practicing this week and should be able to play Sunday night, but we thought that last week as well.

New York Giants: The Giants are quickly emerging as one of the better if not best team in the NFC. That being said, losing division games earlier this season to Dallas and Philadelphia means they can’t afford any slip ups. A loss to the Cowboys this Sunday would mean they lose all tiebreakers with Dallas, not a good spot to find yourself in…..Victor Cruz has been a godsend to the Giants. Where would they be without him? It almost seemed against Washington Sunday that Cruz and QB Eli Manning just said enough of this, Cruz you go deep, I’ll find you, and we will put this game away.

New York Jets: Mark Sanchez is a very hard QB to figure out. He looks terrible one minute, great the next. Must drive the Jets crazy. Hard to take him out of the game though as you just don’t know when his next hot streak is going to hit. Still though, I’m surprised the Jets haven’t used QB Tim Tebow more, especially down by the goal line…..Now that tight end Dustin Keller is back fantasy owners should keep him in mind if they’re in a pinch during bye weeks.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders may have beaten the Jaguars, but RB Darren McFadden still hasn’t hit his stride only rushing for 50+ yards. Could teams be taking him away? Yes, but the passing game is performing well enough that he should have holes to run through, he’s just not hitting them.

Philadelphia Eagles: We all know the stat by now, the Eagles are 13-0 coming off a bye week under head coach Andy Reid. Have to expect their defense to play better, perhaps even perhaps as good as we thought they might coming into the season, they certainly should be more aggressive in getting to the quarterback. Question is will the bye week help QB Michael Vick stop his little problem turning the ball over. That is probably more the key to their season than the defense. Might be nice to use RB LeSean McCoy near the goal line as well.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Jonathan Dwyer had a real good performance in place of Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman, rushing for over 120 yards in a win over Cincinnati, they may need him again this week as the Steelers backfield is still a bit banged up…..The Steelers/Redskins game this week has shootout written all over it. The Skins defense is far from good and the Steelers D is living off of reputation…..WR Mike Wallace had a game to forget Sunday with no less than four dropped passes. With a big contract in his future he better start to become a more reliable target for big Ben.

San Diego Chargers: Looking forward to seeing how QB Phillip Rivers plays this Sunday after his horrible performance in the second half against Denver in their last game before the bye. Still wonder if he is dealing with an injury or if his throwing mechanics, throws the ball like a shot put, have added to much wear and tear over the years…..The Chargers placed K Nate Kaeding on IR ending his season and more than likely his career in San Diego. Nick Novak will take over the kicking role from here on out.

San Francisco 49ers: Even though the 49ers won last week, tight end Vernon Davis was none to happy about being held without a reception. It seems defenses are taking away his favorite routes and he would like to remedy that situation…..Critics are also starting to wonder if the continued insertion of QB Colin Kaepernick into the wildcat formation is hurting QB Alex Smith’s play. Seems Smith has committed a couple of turnovers recently right after coming in for Kaepernick. I can see why you would blame this on the wildcat, lack of flow and all, but then wouldn’t Smith also have a tendency to throw interceptions on the first pass attempt after his offense gets the ball back?

Seattle Seahawks: Still think the Seahawks are going to be better in the long run with Matt Flynn at quarterback, he can just make throws that Wilson can’t…..Have to think wide receiver will be a number one priority next off-season for Seattle.

St. Louis Rams: Mentioned earlier about Jacksonville possibly wanting to trade Jones-Drew before the trade deadline, couldn’t the Rams do the same thing with RB Steven Jackson? Daryl Richardson looks good, and Jackson seems more than likely to test the free agent waters in the off-season…..Fantasy owners may want to take a look at QB Sam Bradford this week. If the Jets Mark Sanchez and the Seahawks Russell Wilson can light up the Pats secondary, why not Bradford?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Have heard quite a few complaints about the ruling that cost WR Mike Williams the tying touchdown last week. For those that don’t know, Williams was pushed out of bounds by a Saints corner and since he was the first player to touch the ball, the TD was nullified. It wasn’t a hard push by the CB, just enough to get Williams out of bounds. Seems to me Williams or any other receiver for that matter should just be more aware of their surroundings.

Tennessee Titans: Okay, RB Chris Johnson looked great last week, some might even believe he is back to being CJ2K, but keep this in mind, the Buffalo defense has been pathetic against the run all season, and although Johnson has another tasty matchup against the Colts this Sunday, he will then go up against Chicago, Miami, and Houston in three of their next four games…..QB Matt Hasselbeck will get at least one more start this week. Can the Titans really go back to Jake Locker should Hasselbeck win again? Fans certainly won’t be happy.

Washington Redskins: Some people are actually saying that QB Robert Griffin III should be the MVP this season. Back up folks, he’s only played seven games. Everyone was ready to crown QB Cam Newton last year also. Look how the sky has fallen once defenses figured him out. RGIII is really good and fun to watch, but I’ll take QBs Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

George Kurtz is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and is the co-host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87). His published work can also be found at RotoWire.com and Seamheads.com.

You can follow him on Twitter @georgekurtz

Kurtz: All-Out Blitz: NFL News & Notes Week 7

(By George Kurtz, Special to Gotham Gridiron)

Arizona Cardinals: Well we all knew it was just a matter of time until QB Kevin Kolb got hurt. That offensive line is truly putrid. Remember John Skelton was also injured. The Cardinals are lucky in some ways that he is healthy enough now to return to the starting lineup just as Kolb is leaving it. Question is, how long until Kolb gets hurt again? As for those fantasy owners who were hoping that Lard Stephens-Howling could help the running game, apparently not.

Atlanta Falcons: I know the Falcons are the only undefeated team left in the NFL, but I’m still not ready to declare them the best team in the game. They have been pretty lucky to win the past few weeks. Probably should’ve lost to Carolina at home if not for a mid-field Hail Mary that set them up for a game winning field goal. Then they defeat Washington on the road after knocking QB RBIII from what was a very close game. Last but not least they defeat the Raiders at home on a last second field goal. Not one of these teams are anywhere near the best of the best. True ugly wins are better than pretty losses, but right now Atlanta is either not as good at their record indicates, or they are playing down to their competition.

Baltimore Ravens: Have to wonder if the Ravens would’ve rather taken a loss to the Cowboys last week and have a healthy LB Ray Lewis and CB Lardarius Webb for the remainder of the season than vice versa. Game day I don’t believe the Ravens lose much with Lewis out, he’s nowhere near the same player he used to be and the run defense was certainly showing it. They will miss his leadership however and is ability to motivate the troops. He could convince his teammates to run through fire…..Webb however is a huge loss as he was one of the better corners in football. Now the Ravens may have equal problems with the pass as well as the run.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills answer to their logjam at running back is to have Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller alternate starting every two series. Seems to me this was a better team with Spiller as the lead back…..Somehow despite all of the problems that the Bills have had they are still for the lead in the AFC East, along with every other team, at 3-3, perhaps this won’t be a lost season after all…..The wrist injury that DE Mario Williams has been complaining about seems to be a thing of the past as he finally has begun practicing in full.

Carolina Panthers: Hopefully the week off will have allowed the Panthers time to fix their problems on offense. We can harp on QB Cam Newton all we want, but of bigger concern should be the running game. What has happened to DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart? Those of you hoping that LB Jon Beason would get back in the starting lineup this week had better think again, he has yet to practice this week.

Chicago Bears: One team the bye week had to help was Chicago as it allowed RBs Michael Bush and Matt Forte to heal from their assorted injuries…..WR Earl Bennett will get back in the lineup now that Alshon Jeffrey is out, he could be a sneaky add in fantasy leagues, so might Devin Hester. Quarterback Jay Cutler can’t throw to Brandon Marshall on every pass play…..The bad news for the Bears is that even with a bye week LB Brian Uhrlacher is still nowhere near 100% with his knee injury.

Cincinnati Bengals: Everyone loves WR A.J. Green, rightfully so as he is quickly becoming one of the top receivers in the NFL, but what may be benefitting him most is the addition of Andrew Hawkins and Armon Binns. Neither of those two may be great WRs, but they do give defenses something else to think about besides Green. Even though the Lions have Calvin Johnson, their offense is struggling because no one else has stepped up thus allowing teams to take Megatron out of the game.

Cleveland Browns: Running back Trent Richardson’s status for the game Sunday is still a question mark due to the flank injury but he is expected to play, however if he were to miss the game Montario Hardesty’s value take a huge jump…..Not a shock to see GM Mike Holmgren leave the team. Whether it was voluntary or not really doesn’t matter, once a new owner took over, it was only natural that he would want to bring in his own people…..Holmgren seems to have set the team in the right directions. Richardson looks to be a franchise RB, Josh Gordon may be the real deal at WR, and Brandon Weeden looks pretty good at QB.

Dallas Cowboys: Dallas did a pretty good job of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Sunday’s game at Baltimore. They dominated the Ravens in every part of the game yet lost. Why might you ask? A kickoff returned for a touchdown. A dropped two-point conversion by Dez Bryant. Lack of any turnovers on defense once again. Terrible clock management at the end of the game (think Arizona from last year). There are no moral victories in the NFL. This was a game Dallas needed an had to have, especially with their upcoming schedule. One thing for sure, this week’s game at Carolina is almost a must win as the Cowboys have the Giants at home, than are at Atlanta and Philadelphia, need to go 2-2 at worst during this stretch.

Denver Broncos: Any doubt about Peyton Manning’s ability to play this game has been pretty much put to rest these past few weeks. He’s putting up fantastic numbers, and his comeback from a 24-point deficit Monday night to beat the Chargers was a thing of beauty. His passes may not have the zip they once did, but he gets the job done…..Are the Broncos back to being the favorite to win the AFC West.

Detroit Lions: Pretty sad news for the Lions and RB Javhid Best this week as it was announced that he won’t be able to play this season as he can’t pass his concussion test. Hopefully the additional time off will allow him to play next season, better safe than sorry…..Is it me or does QB Matthew Stafford just not look like the same guy. I know teams are taking away WR Johnson, but his accuracy has been terrible no matter who he is throwing to.

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers certainly looked like the Rodgers of old last week as he ripped apart the Texans defense with six touchdown passes. Those fantasy owners who gave up on him and traded low a week or two ago may certainly be regretting that decision now…..The Pack has announced that RB Alex Green will be the starter. How quickly James Starks has fallen. First he loses his job to Cedric Benson, and then can’t get it back once injury happens…..WR James Jones has played pretty good in the absence of Greg Jennings, but once Jennings does return he won’t see anywhere near the targets he is now.

Houston Texans: Wouldn’t really panic if I was the Texans over the blowout loss to the Packers on Sunday. Sure it was ugly watching Aaron Rodgers destroy your pass defense, but that happens, not like they had dreams of an undefeated season anyway. The bright side is that now they get to play the Ravens, a team that has been gouged by the running game of the Chiefs and Cowboys. Imagine what the Texans think they can do to them…..The Texans have also been making excuses as to why WR Andre Johnson is not having a better year. Perhaps all of those injuries over the years have caught up to him, and he just isn’t the same player anymore.

Indianapolis Colts: Don’t give up on RB Vick Ballard just yet. Sure his numbers didn’t look all that pretty last week but the Colts were down in the game pretty quickly and had to abandon the running game…..The return of LB Robert Mathis to the lineup would be a big help as well, but that will have to wait at least another week as he is out until at least Week 8…..LB Pat Angerer could return this week, but Week 8 seems to be a safer bet there as well.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Laurent Robinson, the big free agent addition at WR, still hasn’t passed his concussion test and is once again unlikely to play this week…..The Jags need to face the music here, they are a bad team, going nowhere, the remainder of this season should be about finding out what you have. Specifically, is Blaine Gabbert the quarterback of the future. Here is another idea, might want to trade RB Maurice Jones-Drew if you can get a good package for him.

Kansas City Chiefs: Should be fun times in KC. Somehow they got destroyed last week in Tampa, not exactly a powerhouse team. Now they have a QB controversy brewing between Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel, neither of which is a true starting QB, season is sinking real fast for the Chiefs…..Trade rumors are swirling around WR Dwayne Bowe. Should come down to this if you’re the Chiefs. Bowe is a good, not great receiver. If you have no plans on re-signing him next season, than get what you can for him now.

Miami Dolphins: Dolphins have to be ecstatic about how well QB Ryan Tannehill has played with virtually no weapons to throw to and a running game that has been stymied since Reggie Bush went off in Week 1. This is a quarterback driven league, and finding a true number one is the most important thing in developing your organization into a contender…..The Dolphins are the team rumored to be interested in Bowe, but one has to wonder if they want to give up draft picks once again for a WR from the AFC West, didn’t work out so well last time. Not to mention you would have to sign Bowe to the type of contract he wants. You’re not giving up draft picks without signing the player to a long term deal.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings come down to Earth a little bit after a beating at the hands of the Redskins last week. This Sunday they have the offensively challenged Cardinals who are down to their third string running back and John Skelton at QB…..Will this be the week that RB Adrian Petersen scores a touchdown? He doesn’t have one since Week 1, and admits that his ankle is feeling worse, not better.

New England Patriots: How did the Patriots lose to the Seahawks last week? Well, QB Tom Brady threw some ill timed interceptions and also intentionally grounded the ball at the end of the first half which automatically ran 10 seconds off the clock which cost the team a field goal attempt, and the defense, mainly the secondary gave up big play after big play. One has to think coach Belichick will have fixed that problem this week. Have a feeling the Pats put a big hurt on the Jets this week.

New Orleans Saints: Linebacker Jonathan Vilma is trying his best to get on the field this week. The Saints have until Saturday to take him off the PUP list. This may be Vilma’s only game this season if commissioner Roger Goodell rules that the suspension will be upheld, suspension he handed down in the first place. This is certainly headed back to court…..It is starting to look like TE Jimmy Graham may be forced to miss the game due to that ankle sprain, Dave Thomas could be a sneaky pickup in fantasy leagues.

New York Giants: Big win by the Giants in San Francisco last week and even though their record stands at 4-2, they may be the best team in the NFC at this point in time…..WR Hakeem Nicks is still dealing with a knee problem and RB Ahmad Bradshaw may have the same foot injury that has plagued him in past seasons depending on who you listen to, so not everything is rosy, but if that front four on defense gets it going, it may not matter who is healthy with the exception of QB Eli Manning.

New York Jets: Somehow the Jets won a game 35-9 against the Colts last week despite QB Mark Sanchez throwing for less than 100 yards, welcome to the 2012 season RB Shonn Greene…..Rumors abound this week that the Jets may use QB Tim Tebow at running back this week. Probably not, but I have to wonder if Tebow’s best position might end up being tight end…..Cornerback Antonio Cromartie has been playing great and backing up his boast as the best CB in the league.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders put up a strong effort in a loss to the Falcons last week, but moral victories will only get you so far…..WR Denarius Moore could be a future star in the making…..Fantasy owners are banging their head about RB Darren McFadden. Not much you can do, if you try and trade him you’re certainly selling low, might be a better buy high candidate.

Philadelphia Eagles: Well the Eagles fired their defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo, this week. Granted the defense hasn’t played up to expectations, but it would seem the offense has been the main culprit, not the defense, although the fact that the defense hasn’t been able to get to the QB has to be of utmost concern…..Good news is that WR Jeremy Maclin looks to be recovered from his hip injury and even if he isn’t, the bye week will make sure he is.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are running into problems at the running back position again. Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman didn’t practice Thursday and will both be questionable at best to play Sunday. Fantasy owners had better take note and make sure they have adequate replacements…..The lack of a running game could be good news for the passing game as they will be forced to throw the ball to score points, something they are very well suited for.

San Diego Chargers: What happened to QB Phillip Rivers during the second half Monday night. You can excuse the fumble, that happens, but four picks has to be of major concern especially when it looked like his ball floated a few times. We pretty much excused all of the turnovers from Rivers last season as just a bad year and the possibility that he was dealing with an injury, but perhaps his arm strength just isn’t what it used to be.

St. Louis Rams: I think we’re starting to see the reason why the Rams are letting RB Steven Jackson hit free agency next season. Daryl Richardson looks pretty good and can also hit the big play now and then which is something Jackson may no longer be able to do…..Wonder if the Rams are starting to regret not taking QB Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. Sam Bradford is just not doing it for me.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Running back Doug Martin owners can’t be happy that LeGarrette Blount could be his touchdown vulture…..It’s amazing what having a true number one receiver opposite him has done for Mike Williams, he actually looks like a good fantasy play again…..Da’Quan Bowers who tore his Achilles in May is back practicing with the team. He’s unlikely to play this week, but his return may not be that far off.

Tennessee Titans: It took WR Kenny Britt a few times but he finally caught that touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck last week. Hopefully this is the breakout that all Britt owners have been waiting for…..Speaking of fantasy owners, what are they to do with running back Chris Johnson? He’s only had two acceptable fantasy weeks this season, but you know the week you don’t start him, he’s just going to go off…..Hasselbeck, by the way, only needs two more TD passes for 200 in his career. Quite an accomplishment.

Washington Redskins: Guess RGIII didn’t have any post concussion problems, pretty much ran and threw all over the Vikings…..Is WR Pierre Garcon ever coming back? He has an inflamed capsule underneath his toe and can’t seem to overcome it, certainly driving not only his fantasy owners crazy, but the Redskins as well…..Has to be surprising to those same two groups that TE Fred Davis hasn’t been a bigger part of the Skins offense.

(Editor’s Note – George got this story to me before the Thursday night game, but I was out until late and well, blew it. The following notes on SF-SEA are my own – MH)

San Francisco 49ers: For all of their talent on defense, the 49ers continue to underwhelm me. On Thursday. The Niners (5-2)  held on for a 13-6 victory over Seattle and now are a half-game lead over Arizona  (4-2) in the NFC West. The play of QB Alex Smith (who I was forced to start this week, as Matt Ryan’s Falcons are off), is mediocre at best, and that’s evident from coach Jim Harbaugh. I know they went to the NFC title game last year, and they are a solid group, but when your QB is this dull, I’m out.

Seattle Seahawks: As bad as Smith was for the NIners, Russell Smith went 14 of 23 for 140 yards in a second straight subpar performance. 9 of 23 for 122 yards, an interception and two sacks. Granted, thgere at least six dropped passes that should have been caught, but Pete Carroll’s decision to start a rookie QB with this defense and the NFC’s leading rusher in Marshawn Lynch ( 103 yards in the loss to SF), looks worse and worse by the week. He’ll be stubborn about it as well, so don’t go adding Matt Flynn to your roster just yet

George Kurtz is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and is the co-host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87). His published work can also be found at RotoWire.com and Seamheads.com.

You can follow him on Twitter @georgekurtz

Kurtz: All-Out Blitz: NFL News & Notes Week 6

(By George Kurtz, Special to Gotham Gridiron)

Arizona Cardinals: Not that the Cardinals were tearing it up on the ground anyway but losing RB Ryan Williams for the season right after losing Beanie Wells until at least late November is a crippling blow. Those fantasy owners who are looking to claim either Lerod Stephens-Howling or William Powell shouldn’t expect big things, that offensive line is putrid, not like either one of these guys is the next big thing at running back…..QB John Skelton is said to be 90% healed, Kevin Kolb is still the starter, but if he were to falter, Skelton could get his job back.

Atlanta Falcons: Are the Falcons the best team in the NFL? Possibly, but they do seem to be the best team in the NFC, although they haven’t impressed the past two weeks as they squeaked by Carolina and Washington, but ugly wins are better than pretty losses…..Those football pundits who thought that RB Michael Turner had nothing left seem to be mistaken as Turner has looked good the past few weeks…..It’s to early to think about this, but if Atlanta doesn’t win a playoff game this year, QB Matt Ryan is going to be accused of not being able to win the big one.

Baltimore Ravens: Well if QB Joe Flacco wants to be considered elite, he’s going to have to play just as good on the road as he does at home, that was a pretty bad performance at Kansas City last week…..How will Baltimore attack the Dallas defense this week? Dallas is strong against the pass, average against the run, with the amount of mistakes the Cowboys have been making on offense, might be wise to play it close to the vest and just wait for them to turn the ball over.

Buffalo Bills: Someone might want to tell the Bills that the 49ers team they played last week didn’t have QB Steve Young or RB Jerry Rice on it, that was 600 yards of offense they gave up…..C.J. Spiller still seems to be trying to recover from his shoulder injury of a few weeks back as he doesn’t seem to be the same explosive player he was early on this season…..The defense however should have a better time of it this week against a Cardinal offense that has issues of their own on offense.

Carolina Panthers: Amazing what a difference a year can make for QB Cam Newton. Not only is he being criticized for poor play, but also for his attitude on the sidelines during games. Once again that should get better in time, but his poor play is due to teams taking WR Steve Smith out of the games, forcing him to look elsewhere. Defenses did the same thing in the second half of last season, and the Panthers have yet to adjust. Might be nice if the running game would pick it up also to take some of the pressure off.

Chicago Bears: When was the last time a defense scored two touchdowns in back to back games, by the same two defensive players. Linebacker Lance Briggs and CB Charles Tillman have pulled it off. Shame they have a bye coming up this week…..Chicago has to love the shape their in this season. Green Bay is having all sort of problems and could be 2-4 after this week. Detroit can’t get their high flying offense off the ground, and I don’t think they are all to worried about the hot start that Minnesota has gotten off to. Plus the bye week will allow them to get RBs Matt Forte and Michael Bush back to full strength.

Cincinnati Bengals: I know Miami is an improved team, but if the Bengals want to be taken somewhat seriously, you can’t lose to them…..What has happened to RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis? That was 13 whole yards he rushed for last week. They will need him to pick it up now that there really isn’t anyone available to help out with the loss of Bernard Scott for the season…..Fantasy wise, QB Andy Dalton is someone to watch. He can at least be a good bye week filler.

Cleveland Browns: Wait, I think the Giants just scored another touchdown against the Browns defense. CB Joe Haden will return this week after serving his four game suspension, doubt he will solve all of their problems on that side of the ball, but he will help…..Have to wonder why the Browns got cute in their game calling in the second half last week, having QB Brandon Weeden throw on a couple of 3rd/4th and short plays rather than run the ball with Trent Richardson. Isn’t this why you took Richardson in the 1st round?

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys are hoping the bye will help them solve their problems, but playing in Baltimore is more than likely not where you want to visit to figure out what’s wrong. Baltimore hasn’t lost at home in what seems like forever, and Dallas has never defeated Baltimore anywhere…..The key to the Cowboys is the offensive line, protect Romo, open up holes for DeMarco Murray and all of the other problems go away…..Dallas has two punters on their roster (only team in the NFL that does) and both are hurt.

Denver Broncos: Defensive end Elvis Dumervil had a slow start to the season, but has picked up his play of late with three sacks in his last three games. If Elvis can be the same player he was before injury cost him the 2011 season, than the Broncos will have a pretty good 1-2 punch with him and LB Von Miller…..Peyton Manning’s deep ball still doesn’t look all that crisp, but who cares, for the second consecutive game he looked great in throwing for over 300 yards.

Detroit Lions: Detroit is another team that needed the bye week to fix some problems. Mainly problems on their offense. What has happened to the aerial assault. Seems teams are doing their best to take WR Calvin Johnson out of the game and force QB Matthew Stafford to find another way to beat them. The Lions need either WR Titus Young or Nate Burleson to step up their game. Would be a bonus if RB Mikel Leshoure can give them a true threat in the running game as well.

Green Bay Packers: It’s understandable that the passing game would suffer a bit. WR Greg Jennings has missed a good part of the season due to a groin injury he can’t seem to get over. He’s likely to miss this week as well, but what has happened to WR Jordy Nelson? James Jones seems to be the go to guy for QB Aaron Rodgers right now…..Running back Cedric Benson was put in the IR this week, but could return later this season, for now look at Alex Green and James Starks to share the rushing load. This might not be a bad thing for Green Bay as both are better receivers out of the backfield than Benson.

Houston Texans: Huge loss for the Texans on Monday when LB Brian Cushing was lost of the year when he tore his ACL on a questionable hit from the Jets Matt Slauson. Slauson took out the knees of Cushing from the side on a block. He is likely to hear from the NFL if they deem it an illegal hit. The hit itself seems to be in gray area as far as chop blocks are concerned. Question for me is this, why are chop blocks legal in any situation? If we’re looking to protect the players, this should be removed from an offensive lineman’s arsenal.

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts lost RB Donald Brown for 2-3 weeks Wednesday when it was announced that he will undergo knee surgery, look for Vick Ballard and Mewelde Moore to handle the load in his absence, LB Robert Mathis will also miss the same amount of time with a knee injury of his own…..In deeper fantasy leagues, if you’re looking for a WR don’t forget about Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Wide receiver Laurent Robinson still hasn’t passed his concussion test and won’t play this week…..Have to wonder if the Jags are starting to wonder if Blaine Gabbert is their quarterback of the future or if they will have to be in the market for one in the off-season.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs’ fans have taken a beating this week, and rightfully so, after cheering when QB Matt Cassel went down with an injury last week. That being said, Cassel is more than likely going to miss a game or two and possibly more as he was playing pretty badly anyway. Brady Quinn will get a chance to start in his place and could keep the job with a good performance or two. This may be Cassel’s last year in a KC uniform…..Might be nice if RB Peyton Hillis would play sometime soon, but he still isn’t practicing with that ankle injury.

Miami Dolphins: Whereas a team like the Jaguars may not know if they have their QB of the future or not, Miami can be pretty sure that they do as Ryan Tannehill certainly looks like the real deal, imagine what he might do once he has a true number one receiver…..RB Daniel Thomas suffered another concussion last week, his second of the season, not a good thing for a player who has to lead with his head so often.

Minnesota Vikings: Some people believe that WR Percy Harvin deserves some MVP consideration. He’s having a very good year, but not sure I can go that far. Adrian Peterson owners though have to be livid that he keeps getting running plays inside the 10 yard line…..It doesn’t look like the injury to WR Jerome Simpson will keep him out long. He suffered a back injury that sapped the strength out of his legs. There was some thought that he could miss a considerable amount of time, but now it looks like he could return this weekend.

New England Patriots: Fantasy owners have to love the big numbers that RB Stevan Ridley is putting up, but they also have to be extremely worried what might happen to his playing time should he put the ball on the ground another time or two, especially with that offense and the fact that Brandon Bolden is running well also…..WR Brandon Lloyd has been okay so far this season, but not the big play guy we had envisioned when he signed with New England…..Tight end Aaron Hernandez could return to the lineup this week, just what this offense needs, another weapon.

New Orleans Saints: Congratulations to QB Drew Brees for setting the record with 49 straight games with a touchdown pass, have a feeling though that in today’s NFL, this record won’t last forever…..WR Lance Moore missed the game with a groin injury, than TE Jimmy Graham injured his ankle early on, both contributed to Devery Henderson having a big game. If I’m a fantasy owner I tap the breaks however, Moore and Graham should be healthy after the break which could lead to Henderson once again being nothing more than a deep threat.

New York Giants: Hello RB Ahmad Bradshaw and welcome to the 2012 NFL season. If he can become consistent and make defenses respect the running game as well as the passing game, look out, this offense will be extremely difficult to stop, but one thing to consider, the Giants three wins have come against Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and Carolina, not exactly the greatest defenses on the planet…..WR Hakeem Nicks missed another game due to the knee injury and while there are some rumors that it may be serious and possibly require surgery, he is listed as questionable to play Sunday against the 49ers.

New York Jets: The Jets seem to have no idea how to use QB Tim Tebow. He is only playing a handful of plays each game. Now I’m not a big fan of Tebow, but the Jets have no running game, and next to nothing at WR. They seem to know that Mark Sanchez isn’t the answer at QB and the season is circling the drain. Wouldn’t now be the time to start Tebow? He may not be the greatest passer, but he is a football player and might be able to move the offense in his own way, whether that’s running with the ball, passing it, or just being a decoy. Seems they don’t really have anything to lose at this point in time.

Oakland Raiders: Have to feel bad for the Raiders. They don’t have a ton of talent on the field and are still down a few draft picks from past trades. It could be quite a few years before they turn it around…..WR Darius Heyward-Bey who missed the last game (9/23) with a concussion, has been cleared to play this weekend.
Philadelphia Eagles: All of the attention for the Eagles has been on QB Michael Vick and all the turnovers he has committed so far this season which is masking that the Eagles haven’t put as much pressure on opposing quarterbacks as what was expected coming into the season. Where have you gone DEs Trent Cole and Jason Babin?…..Speaking of Vick, if you’re a fantasy owner of his, this has to be the weekend he goes off doesn’t it? They are playing Detroit for crying out loud.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The good news for the Steelers is that RB Rashard Mendenhall returned to the lineup last week and looked really good, this should allow the Steelers to be more balanced and even more dangerous on offense from this point forward…..The bad news is that S Troy Polamalu and LB Lamarr Woodley are out for the game Thursday due to injury, not that the Steelers will have much of a problem defeating Tennessee with or without these two players.

San Diego Chargers: I can understand the need to punish RB Ryan Matthews and start Jackie Battle in Week 4. You need to make a point and let Matthews know he has to be more careful with the ball, but to start Battle again this week just seemed petty. Matthews did end up having a great game anyway and should be the starter from this point forward…..Can’t say I was shocked that WR Robert Meacham had a big game against his former team Sunday night, he had two touchdowns, and would’ve had a third, but he dropped it.

San Francisco 49ers: Already talked about the 600 yards of offense the 49ers put up last week, 300 both in rushing and passing, just incredible…..Now not everything was rosy, QB Alex Smith did suffer a sprained finger on his throwing hand, but it looks to be a minor injury that won’t affect his availability for the game this weekend…..QB Colin Kaepernick has done a great job in limited playing time and once again looks like the QB of the future in SF, but that future is not now.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks defense gets another test this week as Tom Brady and the Patriots come to town. Have a feeling the defense will play well, but not well enough to win as the offense just isn’t prepared to beat a team like the Pats yet. Also wonder if Russell Wilson’s days as the starting QB are coming to an end. Matt Flynn is getting healthy now and would seem to have a better chance at moving the offense than Wilson does.

St. Louis Rams: Good news for the Rams this week is that RB Steven Jackson is not on the injury report this week bad news is that WR Danny Amendola will miss the next six weeks or so after suffering a shoulder injury last week. Rams can’t afford this kind of hit to their offense, they don’t have much depth there to begin with, might be about time for TE Lance Kendricks to live up to his potential.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: What to make of the Bucs? WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are off to good starts. Williams is certainly benefiting from no longer being the main guy. The running game is solid with Doug Martin in the backfield, just be nice if the defense picked things up…..

Tennessee Titans: So much for RB Chris Johnson turning things around. He had another pathetic performance last week versus Minnesota, this offense will go nowhere until he can figure out how to turn things around…..WR Kenny Britt is another problem, he always seems to be hurt, and even when he does play, he doesn’t contribute much…..Of course we can’t leave out the QB position. Jake Locker will miss the game Thursday, leaving Matt Hasselbeck behind center once again. Good luck with Pittsburgh Tennessee.

Washington Redskins: I know running QBs are all the rage nowadays, and Robert Griffin III is no different, but just like last week, if he keeps running and taking hits, he’s going to miss some action, especially as the season goes on, he may be big for a human, 6’2″ and 215 lbs, but for a football player, that’s average size. Learn to slide and/or go out of bounds and you will live to play another day.

George Kurtz is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and is the co-host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87). His published work can also be found at RotoWire.com and Seamheads.com.

You can follow him on Twitter @georgekurtz

Kurtz: All-Out Blitz: NFL News & Notes Week 2

(By George Kurtz, Special to Gotham Gridiron)

Arizona Cardinals: Well, John Skelton’s reign as starting quarterback lasted all of about three quarters as he had to leave the game Sunday due to a low ankle sprain. This opens the door for Kevin Kolb, a door he has had hit him in the backside quite a few times…..Neither Beanie Wells nor Ryan Williams distinguished themselves in Week One, both are coming off injuries, Williams is the more talented, but also the one who may take longer to get into the flow of the season.

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons certainly lived up to what they stated during the pre-season about becoming a passing offense. Problem is they may have no choice. The running game is questionable at best with the decline of Michael Turner. Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling are nice backups, but neither is a starting caliber NFL running back. Teams are going to do their best to take away the pass and force the Falcons to run in the coming weeks. How Atlanta handles this could go a long way towards deciding how good a team they are. Losing CB Brent Grimes for the season is a huge blow, good thing they picked up Asante Samuel.

Baltimore Ravens: Uh oh, if QB Joe Flacco is ready to take the next step at QB this team may very well be on its way to a long playoff run. This is a team that at the very least should’ve forced the Patriots to overtime in the AFC Championship game last season, and probably should’ve won the game outright. They have long been considered a running team with a great defense, if Flacco is able to make teams respect the pass as well, look out.

Buffalo Bills: What happened to this team versus the Jets? They looked out and out terrible. Did they really think they were good enough to just show up and beat them? Sure seemed like it. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looked tentative and that led to a couple of picks. Mario Williams who signed the nine figure contract in the off-season was invisible and losing RB Fred Jackson for 3-8 weeks certainly won’t help matters any…..The good news, C.J.Spiller will now get plenty of opportunities to touch the ball and he is their best playmaker. Have a feeling this may still be the case when Jackson returns also.

Carolina Panthers: Without RB Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers running game came to a grinding halt in Week One. I understand Stewart is a good back, but so is DeAngelo Williams, or so I thought. What happened there? Mike Tolbert didn’t do anything, but he wasn’t expected to…..Cam Newton has a solid game at QB, throwing for over 300 yards and seemed to have solid chemistry with WR Brandon LaFell, who might be a sleeper in fantasy leagues.

Chicago Bears: Well QB Jay Cutler and WR Brandon Marshall picked up right where they left off when they were teammates with the Broncos. They have great chemistry together and Cutler even looked for Marshall in the end zone on 1st down twice before handing the ball to RB Michael Bush for short touchdown runs…..Speaking of Bush, he’s going to have quite a bit of value in fantasy leagues, but it’s tied to him getting those goal line carries. Guessing which weeks those will come in will drive fantasy owners crazy.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals like the Bills, may be a team that is not as good as they were advertised to be during the pre-season. The Ravens wrecked them last week but things should get a bit better this week as Cleveland can cure a lot of woes…..RB Bernard Scott should be back this week but free agent addition BenJarvus Green-Ellis looked pretty good for Cincinnati and may give the Bengals a legitimate solid RB, but not really a big play threat.

Cleveland Browns: For as bad as Cleveland’s offense played in their Week One loss to Philadelphia, they would’ve won the game if not for a dropped interception one play before the game winning touchdown pass…..That being said, QB Brandon Weeden looked lost behind center throwing interception after interception and looks to be best served by backing up Colt McCoy. Problem is, Weeden is 28 years old and doesn’t really have time to learn on the job.

Dallas Cowboys: Pretty big win by the Cowboys over the Giants in Week One, don’t know anyone outside of Cowboy fans who thought that would happen…..Problem for Dallas is the offensive line was pretty bad, but QB Tony Romo performed his escape routine time after time in avoiding sacks and buying extra time for his receivers to get open. Sooner or later that won’t work…..WR Kevin Ogletree is going to be the hot waiver wire pickup in fantasy leagues but remember, he was the third option for Romo this week, TE Jason Witten should take over that role against Seattle on Sunday.

Denver Broncos: Outside of Steeler fans have to think everyone was very happy to see QB Peyton Manning with a successful comeback, his passed looked crisp, he took some shots, and he looked good doing so…..For those of you hoping that rookie running back Ronnie Hillman would have a big season for Denver, that seems highly unlikely after coach John Fox stated that Hillman is behind mentally and physically due to the time he missed in training camp with a hamstring injury.

Detroit Lions: Detroit was lucky to escape with a W last week over St. Louis as QB Matthew Stafford was yet another signal caller who had trouble deciding which color jersey to throw to…..Don’t go overboard on RB Kevin Smith, I know he had a good game in Week One, but remember, the Lions play the 49ers this week, a team in which no one runs against, and then Mikel Leshoure returns in Week Three which should eat into some of his carries…..Good to see the Lions have team discipline under control, WR Titus Young took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during the game, keeping up the Lions reputation from last season as a team that is out of control.

Green Bay Packers: You never want to say that a team has a must win game in Week Two, but after losing at home to the 49ers last week, really don’t think the Packers can afford to lose yet another home game to the Bears on Thursday…..WR Greg Jennings will be a game time decision with a leg injury. If he were to miss the game, receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb would get a boost…..RB Cedric Benson did almost nothing last Sunday and things don’t figure to get much easier versus the Bears this week.

Houston Texans: Andre Johnson was downgraded on quite a few WR lists in fantasy drafts, if he and QB Matt Schaub stay healthy, they are going to put up really good numbers…..Arian Foster left practice early Wednesday due to illness, he should be fine for the game Sunday.

Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck had a rough beginning to his pro career in Sunday’s loss to Chicago. That being said, this kid is the real deal, but the Colts are a work in progress and it’s going to take another off-season and draft or two before we see the results…..LB/DE Dwight Freeney didn’t practice Wednesday and may be out for a few weeks with a high ankle sprain…..WR Austin Collie who missed last week with a concussion, shocking I know, has been cleared to play this week.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew was only supposed to play on third downs last week after ending his holdout, but after RB Rashard Jennings suffered an injury, MJD was once again the main focus of the Jags running game and things should remain that way going forward…..Do you think the Jags are second guessing signing WR Laurent Robinson to a big contract after watching Kevin Ogletree have a big game as the Cowboys new 3rd WR? Yeah, it was more Tony Romo making him look good than the other way around.

Kansas City Chiefs: Not a good start to the season for KC but also not totally unexpected after half their secondary missed the game due to injury and things may not get much better this weekend either, though the Bills don’t possess the offensive firepower in the passing game that Atlanta does.

Miami Dolphins: If Cleveland is one of the two teams I want nothing to do with offensively, than Miami is the other. There is no passing game here and like Cleveland with McCoy, Miami almost certainly would’ve benefitted by having Matt Moore start the season at quarterback while Ryan Tannehill learns from the bench…..RB Daniel Thomas suffered a concussion last week and although he has been cleared to play, will be held out this week meaning Lamar Miller could see a bigger role in the backfield.

Minnesota Vikings: What a performance by RB Adrian Peterson last week. He wasn’t supposed to play much in his first game back from major knee surgery and had a great game. It’s safe to start AP this week, also safe to plant Toby Gerhart on your bench…..Passing offense still needs some work though as QB Christian Ponder has a long way to go before he is a true threat behind center.

New England Patriots: The Patriots actually played like a conventional team in Week One. Once they had the game won they milked the clock with the running game rather than trying add on points and blow Tennessee out of the water. Perhaps this is their new found way of protecting QB Tom Brady, certainly worked well for RB Steven Ridley who had over 100 yards rushing, but not so much for WR Wes Welker who wasn’t a big part of the game plan with only four receptions.

New Orleans Saints: Have to admit that I didn’t see the Saints losing to Washington in Week One. Not at home with those fans and especially not with all the hoopla of the arbitration board overturning the suspensions of several defensive players…..Without head coach Sean Peyton, the Saints also abandoned the run completely and didn’t even use RB Darren Sproles out of the backfield all that much.

New York Giants: Giants certainly had a reality check with their loss to the Cowboys last week. Super Bowl is over, time to get back to work…..WR Hakeem Nicks is still missing practice time with a foot injury, he’ll play in games, but he’s not 100%…..The Giants are also banged up in their secondary so opposing teams will more than likely continue to throw on them…..Rookie RB David Wilson found out pretty quickly what putting the ball on the carpet under Tom Coughlin will get you, a place on the bench.

New York Jets: The Jets are pretty much living proof that pre-season means absolutely nothing. They only scored one touchdown the entire pre-season and that didn’t even come from their first team offense, but then scored 48 points against what is supposed a good Buffalo defense. It wasn’t even the wildcat offense that put them over the top as QB Tim Tebow was a non factor in the game. It was starting QB Mark Sanchez who looked great. Perhaps having Tebow on the roster will be a good thing after all.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders admitted after the game Monday that they might’ve abused RB Darren McFadden in the game by letting him touch the ball almost 30 times. This is the same player that seems to be made out of fine China and is the key to their offense. They absolutely must be more careful…..WR Jacoby Ford is out until at least Thanksgiving after undergoing surgery on his foot Wednesday. Pretty big loss for the Raiders, not like they’re loaded with playmakers.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles were extremely lucky to escape Cleveland with a victory in Week One as QB Michael Vick was absolutely terrible, this is what happens when you only play 12 snaps during the pre-season…..As for Vick, he hasn’t changed his style of play any. He still holds onto the ball way to long, taking unnecessary hits, no way he lasts the season at this rate…..WR Jeremy Maclin is dealing with a hip pointer and may not be able to play Sunday, Jason Avant is also a bit banged up.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Now I know Steelers management got rid of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians because of his pass happy philosophy and they hired Todd Haley to make the offense more of a balanced attack, but it looks like to score points on a consistent basis they are still going to have to throw the ball…..This might change once RB Rashard Mendenhall returns from his knee surgery and performs up to his capabilities.

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers may have won versus Oakland on Monday but they also displayed some flaws, mainly that their offensive line looks like a bunch of cones that could get QB Phillip Rivers killed…..Now, when RB Ryan Matthews returns from his broken collarbone (probably in Week 3) that should make life considerably easier on the offense…..Antonio Gates is once again banged up, but it’s his ribs that are a bit sore, not his feet.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers showed right away why they are going to be a team to be reckoned with. Not many thought they would beat Green Bay up north, but indeed they did…..WR Randy Moss made his presence felt also with a touchdown reception, but is still only being used for about 20-25 plays, making him nothing more than flex worthy in fantasy leagues.

Seattle Seahawks: Kind of a rough beginning for WR Russell Wilson as he couldn’t lead a comeback victory over the Cardinals even though the officials handed him what seemed to be a dozen chances to do so and an extra timeout…..RB Marshawn Lynch was able to suit up, and played okay, so it doesn’t look like the back spasms will be a problem going forward.

St. Louis Rams: Rams almost pulled of a major upset win over the Lions in Week One, perhaps they aren’t as bad as we thought they might be…..New kicker Greg Zuerlein has a monster leg, if you’re looking for long field goals, he could be a nice addition…..For those of you who thought that WR Brian Quick would be a good addition to your fantasy team, he saw exactly zero targets in his first professional game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Don’t let the touchdown reception by Mike Williams fool you, he was only targeted a few times, QB Josh Freeman is going to look Vincent Jackson’s way first…..Doug Martin looks like a franchise RB in the making for Tampa, have a feeling that LeGarrette Blount’s days as a valuable back are over…..Another rookie, S Mark Barron also looks like the real deal.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans not only lost the game on Sunday but now have more questions than answers about their offense…..QB Jake Locker had to leave the game after separating his non-throwing shoulder and RB Chris Johnson didn’t even reach double digits in rushing yardage, throw in the injury to WR Nate Washington and things are a huge mess…..Now the good news, Washington should play this week, and Kenny Britt is also scheduled to return after missing Week One due to suspension. Britt may only be in for about 20 plays though.

Washington Redskins: What a debut for QB Robert Griffin III. He certainly looked like the real deal against the Saints. Now the Skins protected him by having a roving pocket and using his legs, but he certainly looks like a star in the making…..RB Alfred Morris was also a star in Week One, but don’t let that fool you, one bad game could find him on the bottom of the depth chart as Mike Shanahan loves to rotate his backs.

George Kurtz is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and is the co-host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87). His published work can also be found at RotoWire.com and Seamheads.com.

You can follow him on Twitter @georgekurtz

Kurtz: All-Out Blitz: NFL 2012 Predictions

(By George Kurtz, Special to Gotham Gridiron) Rather than place the teams in alphabetical order as I usually do, I’m going to put them in the order of the place I believe they will finish inside their division along with my reasoning.

American Football Conference
1.New England Patriots: If there is any team that could possibly make a run at an undefeated season, the Patriots are it. Not only are they a good team, but they play an extremely weak schedule, have fixed their biggest weakness from last season, defense, and added yet another playmaker in WR Brandon Lloyd. Would be stunned if they didn’t end up with home field advantage come January.
2.Buffalo Bills: Could this be the year the Bills get back to respectability and make the playoffs? Possibly as they certainly have the defense to do it, especially after adding DE Mario Williams. The key to their season will be the health and consistency of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ryan was really good over the first half of last season before a rib injury derailed his campaign. A second receiver to complement Steve Johnson would be huge as well.
3.New York Jets: In case you have been living under a rock you know all to well that the Jets offense only scored one touchdown this season, ouch. Now the Jets never did unveil their wildcat package with QB Tim Tebow, but his only puts more pressure on current starting QB Mark Sanchez. A slow start to the season will lead to a chorus of boos and fans/media asking for his head. One has to wonder if head coach Rex Ryan could be in trouble if the Jets disappoint this year.
4.Miami Dolphins: What is there to like about the Dolphins? Not much. They are starting a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill who probably isn’t ready for prime time. Their receiving corps not only lacks a number one receiver, but probably a number two as well. Running back Reggie Bush had his best season last year but can he duplicate it again when defenses will be painting a target on his back?
1.Baltimore Ravens: Not an easy pick here as I worry about the Ravens defense without LB Terrell Suggs for at least the first six games and probably not at full strength this entire season, not to mention age is eventually going to catch up to LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed. The offense is getting better however. We all know how good RB Ray Rice is, but QB Joe Flacco could be in for his best season, and WR Torrey Smith is a player to keep an eye on, especially if he’s running through your secondary.
2.Cincinnati Bengals: I might feel better about the Bengals, even pick them to finish first if I trusted their running game. Totally understand them letting Cedric Benson go as he is far from a game breaker, but Benjarvus Green-Ellis hardly inspires confidence. Sure he won’t fumble the ball, but he wasn’t exactly a dynamic runner with New England where opposing defenses never played the run, how will he do in Cincinnati where they will, and is QB Andy Dalton good enough to win games when the rush offense is shut down? Just have to many doubts.
3.Pittsburgh Steelers: Now I picked the Steelers to finish third, but truth is any of these top three teams could finish in any order, they are all so close to each other in terms of talent. Why did I pick Pittsburgh to finish behind the other two? Mainly because of injuries. They don’t know when RB Rashard Mendenhall will return, although it does seem like it will be sooner rather than later. Rookie David DeCastro hurt his knee in pre-season and will likely miss most if not all of the regular season, and it wasn’t like the Steelers offensive line was all that great to begin with. Linebacker James Harrison is dealing with his knee after off-season knee surgery and WR Mike Wallace only reported to camp last week after finally signing his franchise tender. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Steelers were able to overcome all of this, but I’ll play the odds and say they won’t.
4.Cleveland Browns: Like the Dolphins, the Browns passing offense is a work in progress. They will also start a rookie at quarterback in Brandon Weeden, matter of fact, give NFL teams will start rookie QBs this season, the most ever. Weeden does have more weapons to work with than Tannehill, but not by much as Cleveland is still waiting for just about any receiver to prove they are NFL worthy. Trent Richardson however could be the real deal at running back, but two surgeries in the past six months may stem that tide a bit. The team is also waiting to hear of a possible suspension for CB Joe Haden. This will be another long year for the Browns, but they do have a new owner coming in, perhaps things are looking up.
1.Houston Texans: Oh if only QB Matt Schaub had remained healthy last season, they may have been the team representing the AFC in the Super Bowl, and not New England. That being said, Houston is still primed to make another run this year, but Schaub will need to stay healthy and so will WR Andre Johnson. The only knock I can make on the Texans is that they have yet to find a suitable number two WR opposite Johnson. The Texans running game however probably does that as Arian Foster is possibly the best RB in the game and Ben Tate could start for quite a few teams himself.
2.Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker may not be a rookies, but he is yet another young player that will get the full-time quarterback job this season. Is he ready? Maybe more than most as he did get a few starts last season. He has some weapons at his disposal. Can RB Chris Johnson regain his Pro Bowl form, you know, the one had had before signing a big contract? Can WR Kenny Britt, who is suspended for the first game, completely recover from this knee surgery to give the Titans the big play threat at receiver that they need. Can TE Jared Cook become one of the better pass catching tight ends in the game?
3.Jacksonville Jaguars: Another team that is a mess with their passing offense. Is Blaine Gabbert the answer at quarterback? Well the Jags are saying he looks more confident in the pocket, but what are they supposed to say. First round pick, WR Justin Blackmon, has already gotten himself in trouble this off-season. The Jaguars need Blackmon to be the big play threat at receiver they have been missing. The running game received good news when Maurice Jones-Drew reported this week, let’s hope he doesn’t suffer a leg injury that always seems to accompany a player who reports to came in the last week of pre-season.
4.Indianapolis Colts: Have a feeling they will be a little bit better than people think, but not much. Love QB Andrew Luck and think he will have to throw the ball a ton as the defense is poor and the Colts will be behind early and often. Don’t forget about RB Donald Brown in fantasy leagues or WR Reggie Wayne. Just because they don’t have QB Petyon Manning doesn’t mean these two won’t have value. How will DE Dwight Freeney and LB Robert Mathis adjust to the new 3-4 defense?
1.Denver Broncos: This is another toss up division as I could see anyone outside of Oakland winning it. Why not go with QB Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Granted there is some risk here as we don’t know how Peyton will hold up to getting hit, here’s hoping he will be close to the same player he always was. The real reason I picked Denver however is that I just trust them more than San Diego or Kansas City. They seem to have less question marks.
2.San Diego Chargers: If the Chargers do indeed flop this season, than you have to think that head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith will be looking for employment elsewhere. On offense the questions are, who replaces WR Vincent Jackson and can RB Ryan Matthews stay healthy for any length of time. Robert Meacham was brought in to take over for Jackson but this has boom or bust written all over it. Wasn’t like Meacham was lighting it up on a regular basis with Drew Brees and New Orleans. Matthew will more than likely miss Week One with a broken collarbone. He has proven to be quite brittle during his short career. Does anyone really think he can remain healthy for the final 15 games?
3.Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs could win this division, but it’s hard to pick them over Manning and Phillip Rivers, this is a quarterback league after all, and when your QB is Matt Cassel, you’re starting behind the eight ball. The return of RB Jamaal Charles and the addition of Peyton Hillis will give the Chiefs quite a twosome rushing the ball. Don’t forget about Hillis in your fantasy league, he is going to be worth more than just a traditional backup.
4.Oakland Raiders: Quarterback Carson Palmer has had a full off-season to learn the playbook and get to know his receivers, something he didn’t have the luxury of doing last season, but so far that hasn’t helped as Oakland has struggled offensively this pre-season. Big question of the Raiders offense, can RB Darren McFadden stay healthy and possibly play 16 games. Probably not, but if he did, he just might lead the AFC in rushing.
National Football Conference
1.Philadelphia Eagles: Real simple here, the Eagles have the most talent on both sides of the ball in this division, they just need QB Michael Vick to stay healthy and not take any unnecessary risks. There is nothing wrong with sliding rather than taking a shot. “He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day”. I do wonder about locker room chemistry after WR DeSean Jackson came out and stated that he didn’t give it his all last season because he didn’t want to get hurt, as he was playing for a new contract.
2.New York Giants: The Super Bowl champions are already once again dealing with injuries in their secondary as CB Prince Amukamara will miss at least the first game and Terrell Thomas the entire season due to injury. Not a good thing in today’s NFL where balls are always flying through the air. Of course the G-men can combat that by unleashing what may be the best pass rush in the game with Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, and Justin Tuck manning the defensive line.
3.Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have the talent to finish with double digit wins. What will keep them from such lofty goals however is that their offensive line looks borderline terrible right now. If they can’t fix this problem, than it doesn’t matter how many playmakers you have on offense, they won’t get a chance to get the ball. Quarterback Tony Romo will of course take the blame for poor line as he was in charge of drafting them and coaching them up.
4.Washington Redskins: The Skins finally have their franchise QB in Robert Griffin III, but it cost them a bundle in draft picks and it may be a while until Washington can develop an offensive line of their own in front to protect him. Might be nice to have a reliable running game also, but with head coach Mike Shanahan we know that’s easier said than done. The Skins will improve this season, but a rough division and tough schedule still have them finishing last in the East.
1.Green Bay Packers: The Packers have believed this entire off-season that the reason they lost to the Giants in the playoffs was because of their defense. You know what? They are right. No need to talk about the passing game as we know QB Aaron Rodgers and company can score points almost at will. The defense however needs improved play in the secondary and more importantly, someone else who can get to the passer besides LB Clay Matthews. Cedric Benson should give them more consistency in the running game, but they still lack a big play threat.
2.Chicago Bears: The Bears are loaded for, well, um, Bear on offense. The addition of WR Brandon Marshall gives QB Jay Cutler a receiver he is extremely comfortable throwing the ball to. If Marshall can get over his yips in the end zone, he could be in for a big season. Running back Matt Forte is back and at full strength and the addition of Michael Bush gives the Bears not only a solid 1-2 punch with Forte, but also someone who excels in short yardage situation, something Forte did not.
3.Detroit Lions: I like the Lions, they are going to score a boatload of points this season. Problem is, they are going to give them up also. This is a passing team first and foremost as their running game is completely banged up with Javhid Best on the PUP list and Mikel Leshoure out the first two games due to suspension. Kevin Smith is not the answer. This will lead to QB Matthew Stafford dropping back to pass 40+ times a game, and with that offensive line in front of him, that may be a ticking time bomb.
4.Minnesota Vikings: Another offense in a state of flux. What can QB Christian Ponder do? Is Percy Harvin a true number one receiver? Will Adrian Peterson play in Week One? Will he be anywhere near the Peterson of old? If not, when will he? Can Toby Gerhart handle the load if AP can’t? So many questions. Vikings will be in the running for first overall pick next season.
1.Atlanta Falcons: Another tough division. We have kept hearing all off-season how the Falcons are going to open up their offense with QB Matt Ryan throwing the ball all over the field to WRs Roddy White, Julio Jones, and TE Tony Gonzalez. Well, we have heard this song before as they said the same thing last year. Once the bullets are live, you have to wonder if they will play more conservative, but with RB Michael Turner looking to have lost a step, it may not be a bad idea.
2.New Orleans Saints: How will the Saints recover from bounty scandal? Offensively I doubt they miss a beat. Think they will score a ton of points, and they may have to as their defense is certainly sketchy, not terrible mind you, just no better than average. The running game is where the most interest lies. Mark Ingram is good enough to put up solid numbers but may not be used enough to do so. Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory are also in the backfield, and we know most of the catches will go to Darren Sproles.
3.Carolina Panthers: Not sure how come pundits can pick Carolina to win this division. Are they better? Absolutely, but they still have a bit to go before there even with the Saints or Falcons. Cam Newton was great last season, no doubt, but over the second half of the season, when defenses took away WR Steve Smith, his numbers tumbled, and the Panthers still don’t have a solid option opposite Smith. Still scratching my head over the signing of RB Mike Tolbert also.
4.Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Well the Bucs did their best to get Raheem Morris fired last season, mission accomplished. Will they now play up to expectations this season? Better hope so. Quarterback Josh Freeman needs to show the potential he displayed in 2010. The Bucs gave him a new number one receiver in Vincent Jackson, which should also be good for Mike Williams as he now won’t be up against the opposing defenses top cornerback. Still, they will finish last in this division, but they aren’t a bad team, just play in the wrong division.
1.San Francisco 49ers: I’ll give the 49ers the division, but still don’t see them as one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Yeah they have a very good defense, but don’t think it’s a lock down defense. Certainly don’t trust QB Alex Smith, he was horrendous in the playoff loss to the Giants, I’m just not sold that he will be a consistent NFL QB. This is a run team first, and second, and in today’s NFL, I’m just not sure that pays off.
2.Seattle Seahawks: Who would’ve thought Russell Wilson would be the starting QB for the Hawks on opening day? Especially after signing Matt Flynn during the off-season. You have to hand it to head coach Pete Carroll, he stated the best man would start, and backed it up. RB Marshawn Lynch looks like he won’t get suspended this season but he still may miss the first game due to back spasms, this certainly wouldn’t be good as he is their offense.
3.Arizona Cardinals: Another surprise as John Skelton will start over Kevin Kolb at QB. Why do you ask? Because Kolb looks like a deer caught in the headlights when he is in the pocket. Skelton will get the ball to WR Larry Fitzgerald, always a good thing, now if they can just incorporate rookie receiver Michael Floyd into the action. Speaking of incorporating players, how will the Cardinals use RB Ryan Williams. He’s back and could be a franchise back if given the opportunity. How they handle the carries between him and Beanie Wells should be interesting to watch.
4.St. Louis Rams: Can quarterback Sam Bradford from what was an extremely disappointing season last year? Maybe, but he still doesn’t have a receiver to throw to. Justin Blackmon was there for the taking in the draft, but they went in another direction. Have to wonder if that will come back to bite them and stunt the development of Bradford. Can’t see how the Rams aren’t drafting in the top five once again.

George Kurtz is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and is the co-host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87). His published work can also be found at RotoWire.com and Seamheads.com.

You can follow him on Twitter @georgekurtz

Kurtz: Behind The Star: Cowboys at Giants

(By George Kurtz, Special to Gotham Gridiron) Mercifully the pre-season has finally ended. Sure the Cowboys finished 3-1 but they also battled a multitude of injuries along with major questions along their offensive line. The injuries are as follows:

1.Miles Austin (hamstring): Austin missed a big chunk of last season due to hammy issues and now they are creeping up again. He missed all of pre-season and thus has had very little work with QB Tony Romo and the offense. Does it matter? Probably not as long as these issues don’t creep up again.
2.Dez Bryant (knee): Bryant’s injuries weren’t as worrisome and he did play in pre-season. Outside of the incident with his mother (still being investigated), Dez looks like he could indeed be ready for a monster season.
3.Jason Witten (spleen): Unless you have been living in a cave, you know that Witten injured his spleen during the first pre-season game versus Oakland. He does not need surgery, but is questionable at best to play Wednesday against the Giants. The question becomes this, would it be more beneficial to hold Witten out Wednesday and give him an additional 10 days to heal? Have to think that answer is yes.
4.Mike Jenkins (shoulder): Jenkins is coming off a trying off-season, one in which he had surgery and missed all of camp, not to mention the moaning about wanting a new contract. Jenkins only started to practice Saturday and would seem unlikely to play until Week Two at Seattle. Jenkins may not be a starter anymore for the Cowboys, but in this day and age, the more cornerbacks the better.
If Dallas stays healthy, they are a very good team. They have fixed their biggest problem from last season, the secondary with the additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, but there offensive line could undo all of the fixes they have made. Their offensive line is average at best and quite a few would say it’s actually one of the worst in the league. Without an offensive line, you can’t run the ball or protect the passer. If you can’t protect Romo, than it doesn’t matter how good Dez and Miles are, they won’t see the ball enough. The OL is the key to the season for Dallas.
Dallas has a rough schedule. Not only do they open up on the road against the defending champion New York Giants, but six of their first nine games are away from home. We all know how tough their NFC East division games will be, thrown in that they also play Chicago, New Orleans, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati, and you can see why quite a few prognosticators have the Cowboys at 8-8 to finish the season. Have to admit I’m right there with them, although I think the talent level is better than what their overall record will indicate, but that seems to be the case every season.

Week One: at New York Giants. Not the best of matchups for the Cowboys. The Giants ended the Cowboys season last year with a win on the final day of the season. The Giants biggest strength will go against the Cowboys biggest weakness. The Giants possess some of the best pass rushers in the game in Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. They will give the Dallas OL all they can handle and then some. Look for head coach Jason Garrett to try and establish the running game early to take some of the heat off of Romo. The good news for Dallas is that if they can find time to throw the ball they could have a good time against a Giants secondary that is pretty beat up. CBs Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas will both miss the game with injuries. Thomas is actually out for the season. Question remains though, can Romo find time to throw.

In the end, have to believe Eli Manning and the Giants pull this one out, 24-20.

Feel free to follow me on twitter, @georgeKurtz

Kurtz: All-Out Blitz: Fantasy Football Notes

Arizona Cardinals: Looks like John Skelton will be the starting quarterback for the Cards this year, not Kevin Kolb…..I’ve already participated in five fantasy drafts, and no one seem to have much faith that rookie WR Michael Floyd will have much of an impact…..The running game is sort of still in flux as both Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells are coming back from injury. Williams however will play this weekend.
Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones has been going earlier than Roddy White in the leagues I’ve drafted in so far…..Michael Turner has definitely slipped into the third tier of running backs in drafts, but I wouldn’t be so quick to give up on him…..Some think the Falcons defense is ready to step up to the next level. They lost LB Curtis Lofton to New Orleans and DE John Abraham is a year older, not sure CB Asante Samuel makes that big a difference.
Baltimore Ravens: Speaking of defense, you really have to wonder how the Ravens are going to do this season. They have no idea when LB Terrell Suggs will return after rupturing his Achilles in the off-season, LB Ray Lewis has lost a few pounds to get quicker, but he is still 37 years of age, and S Ed Reed is no spring chicken himself at 34 years old. Have to wonder if this unit suffers as the season rolls along.
Buffalo Bills: Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller should both touch the ball a decent amount for the Bills this season, with Jackson being the man on 1st and 2nd downs, Spiller on 3rd downs, but don’t be surprised if the Bills try and split Spiller out wide in order to use his explosiveness in the open field…..WR Steve Johnson who is coming off off-season surgery on his groin is fine and shouldn’t be forgotten about come draft time.
Carolina Panthers: If you’re asking me who my pick is for most overrated player in fantasy right now, QB Cam Newton would be it. He is going in the first round of some drafts and has been ranked as high as fourth on some draft boards behind Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady. That’s insane. His numbers over the second half of last season weren’t all that good as defenses adjusted to him and took away his only true threat at WR in Steve Smith, plus with DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert at running back there is no way he rushes for 14 touchdowns again.
Chicago Bears: Big things are expected out of QB Jay Cutler this season now that he has been reunited once again with WR Brandon Marshall, hopefully the wideout won’t have butter fingers once again when it comes to catching touchdown passes…..RB Matt Forte is back and healthy but it has already been announced that at the very least RB Michael Bush will be the short yardage and goal line back.
Cincinnati Bengals: Outside of the fact that ne never fumbles, what is it the Bengals see in RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis that makes them think he can be an every down running back…..TE Jermaine Gresham could be a nice pick late in your draft if you don’t want to spend for the luxury types…..RB Bernard Scott has a broken hand and could be out another week or two, but will be back before the season starts.
Cleveland Browns: General manager Mike Holmgren may want to continue on with the team and finish what he started, but as a pure business decision, the reason you put that clause in your contract that you can walk away if the team is sold is for immense leverage…..Browns may be cursed, RB Trent Richardson has already undergone his second knee surgery and is unlikely to start in Week One, this is extremely bad news for an offense that needs all the help it can get…..The Browns did eliminate any chance of a quarterback controversy when they announced that rookie Brandon Weedon will be the starter over Colt McCoy.
Dallas Cowboys: The news just keeps getting worse and worse for the Cowboys as they have suffered a plethora of injuries in training camp. First it was WR who is out for a couple of weeks with a hamstring issue, than CB Morris Claibourne missed time with a knee injury (he’s back), Dez Bryant also a leg issue, the interior of the offensive line has been hit hard with injuries, and now tight end Jason Witten is out with a slightly lacerated spleen, ouch…..Witten is questionable as of now for Week One…..If the Cowboys can’t fix their OL, this is going to be a long season for the men with the star on the helmet.
Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning is another quarterback that I am staying away from in fantasy leagues. Now I love Peyton and he is the definition of a first ballot Hall of Famer, but he is with a new team, with a new offense, has yet to take a hit, and will play 15 of 16 games outdoors. Just to much of a risk for me to draft him early…..LB DJ Williams, who is suspended for the first six games of the season, was found guilty Wednesday of driving while ability impaired, this is his second offense and could find himself suspended for most of if not all of the 2012 season.
Detroit Lions: As for a QB I’m not afraid to take in a fantasy draft, Matthew Stafford would be it. Why you might ask? He’s brittle you might say. Every QB could get hurt when you have a 300 pound lineman trying to plant you in the ground 30-40 times a game. The Detroit running game is pretty much non-existent. Javhid Best was put on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and will miss at least the first six games on the season. Mikel Leshoure is suspended for the first two games and has still yet to carry the ball once in the NFL, and I’m not banking on Kevin Smith. This offense is going to throw the ball quite a bit.
Green Bay Packers: The fact that the Packers signed RB Cedric Benson tells you all you need to know about the state of the running game, this is another team that will pass the ball as often as possible, and with that in mind, if you’re looking for a sleeper wide receiver, Randall Cobb should be it…..The Packers have the same problem on defense that the Cowboys have. Can someone other than LB Clay Matthews get pressure on the opposing QB? The answer to that question should go a long way towards deciding how far the Pack goes this season.
Houston Texans: I still believe that is QB Matt Schaub remained healthy last season the Texans would’ve been the AFC representative in the Super Bowl, and while I will still pick them to win their division, not feeling as confident right now that they are the best team in the AFC…..Biggest problem for the Texans on offense will once again be finding an suitable WR to go with Andre Johnson.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck’s first game at the helm for the Colts was a rousing success as he starts to justify his first overall selection in the 2012 NFL Entry Draft, the Colts are still a work in progress however and Luck will take his lumps at times this season just like all rookie QBs do…..In case there was any doubt, Donald Brown has been named the number one back for Indy…..LB Pat Angerer, a top 15 pick in IDP leagues, will miss about six weeks after needing surgery for a broken foot.
Jacksonville Jaguars: When will RB Maurice Jones-Drew report to camp? The good news I suppose is that in a fantasy league I play in with MJD (SiriusXM hosts league), Jones-Drew had the first pick in the draft and selected himself. MJD is actually a pretty serious (pun) player and wouldn’t have done that if he planned on holding out into the season. Best guess is he reports sometime after the second pre-season game and before the regular season begins, he doesn’t want to miss those big paychecks.
Kansas City Chiefs: Don’t be shy about selecting RB Peyton Hillis in the middle rounds of your fantasy drafts. Sure Jamaal Charles is back and looks healthy and will get more carries, but the Chiefs plan to utilize Hillis as well and he will get somewhere around 10 carries a game including the ones at the goal line…..WR Dwayne Bowe has yet to report to camp also, but like MJD, he should be back before Week One.
Miami Dolphins: The original plan coming into training camp was to have David Garrard and Matt Moore battle for the starting QB job, but the injury to Garrard changed all that. Now it looks very plausible that rookie Ryan Tannehill could start the season with the team if he plays better or even with Moore…..It may not matter who starts at QB as the Dolphins have very little to work with at wide receiver. There are just no big time players there even before Chad Johnson was released. This team will rely on the running game and defense, and that’s probably not good enough to get it done.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings and fantasy owners received some good news this week when RB Adrian Peterson was taken off the PUP list. The team will take it easy with AP through the remainder of the pre-season and maybe even a game or two into the regular season, but he should be good to go full bore after that…..After saying all that however, if you draft Peterson, I’d be looking to grab Toby Gerhart as a handcuff.
New England Patriots: Now we all know the Patriots are going to score a load of points this season but that doesn’t mean each and every offensive player is going to have a huge season. Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, and Brandon Lloyd can’t all have 10 TD and 1000 yard seasons. Someone could be left on the outside looking in. I’m just not on board with those who are taking Gronkowski in the 1st round, to big a gamble for me.
New Orleans Saints: Same goes for TE Jimmy Graham as far as taking him in the 1st round…..I’m not afraid though of taking Saints players as I normally would. Some are downgrading these players a little bit because of the bounty scandal. I wonder if the Saints are going to play offense like the Patriots did after they were penalized in “spygate” and look to blow teams not only out of the water, but out of the ocean as well.
New York Giants: The Giants keep whining about teams not paying them the proper respect after winning the Super Bowl last year. Giants need to realize, yeah, you won, congrats, but you were a 9-7 team that only got into the playoffs on the last day of the season, hard to give you to many props as a great team. That being said, that defensive line they can throw out there with Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyoria and Justin Tuck is nothing but scary, and they have to be licking their chops at going against the Dallas offensive line in Week One.
New York Jets: Jets owner Woody Johnson actually made a comment during training camp that he didn’t realize the type of publicity that would come along with having QB Tim Tebow on the team. Really, you didn’t. Has your head been buried in the sand for the past two years? Were you living on Antarctica? Of course he was going to be a distraction, you traded for him to get the publicity…..I am curious however to see how this all plays out with Tebow and Mark Sanchez, have to believe it’s just a matter of time however until the fans/media cries for Tebow to start over Sanchez.
Oakland Raiders: How far the Raiders go this season, which won’t be very, is in direct correlation to the health of RB Darren McFadden. If he can stay on the field and play a full season, 1500+ yards and 10+ TDs could easily be in his future, that’s a huge if however as McFadden has yet to prove he can stay on the field for any length of time…..QB Carson Palmer has to be better this season after getting a full off-season to learn the system…..Still though, I’m not in love with his receivers, they have some upside, but still some work to be done there.
Philadelphia Eagles: Last year QB Vince Young (now on Buffalo) said this could be a dream team and now this season QB Mike Vick stated they could have a dynasty. How about making the playoffs first? They have the talent in place. LeSean McCoy is one of the best RBs in the league. WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are threats to score long TDs every time they touch the ball and TE Brent Celek had a great second half to last season as Vick learned to trust him. Well all know the defense is good, maybe even really good. The question surrounding this team will be the health of Vick. He needs to stay on the field. If that means learning to slide instead of fighting for that extra yard and taking unnecessary hits, then so be it, the same goes for throwing the ball away in the pocket.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers offense is a mess right now. The offensive line is not playing well. RB Rashard Mendenhall will most likely begin the season on the PUP and continue to rehab from surgery for his torn ACL, his backup Isaac Redman is battling groin and hip injuries, WR Mike Wallace has yet to report to camp, and defensive leader LB James Harrison underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Wednesday, yikes.
San Diego Chargers: Should anyone really be shocked that RB Ryan Matthews is hurt once again? What is the old saying, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Yeah, when he is on the field he can do some good things, true, the Chargers really don’t have anyone else that can run the football, but Matthews is just not an every down back, and has to be managed very carefully. The broken collarbone should put him out for Week One and possibly Week Two, in three drafts I have participated in since the injury, he has gone in the second round of each.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers came out and said this week that in order to keep WR Randy Moss fresh for the entire season he will only play 20-25 snaps a game. Not so sure Randy feels the same way…..I’m hating the SF running game for fantasy this season, just to many cooks in the kitchen for me…..I still believe the 49ers are the best team in their division, but just don’t see them as a powerhouse in the NFC, not with that offense, and I don’t know if the defense can have that great a season once again.
Seattle Seahawks: Where to draft RB Marshawn Lynch has been driving fantasy owners crazy so far this year, and the reason is not because of what he will do on the football field, but because of what he has done off of it. Once again Lynch had another run in with the law that is going to lead to a suspension, it’s just a matter of when, and each day it seems more and more likely that the suspension will come next season and not this one.
St. Louis Rams: I thought the Rams made a mistake during the April draft when they traded down and didn’t take one of the top receivers (Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd). Quarterback Sam Bradford just doesn’t have anyone to throw to and RB Steven Jackson is still good, but no longer great. Have a feeling the Rams are going to be one of the worst teams in the NFL this season once again.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Can the Bucs rebound after pretty much quitting on coach Raheem Morris last season? Maybe. They certainly made some upgrades, getting a number one receiver in Vincent Jackson, a TE who will buy into the system in Dallas Clark, and drafting a RB in Doug Martin. The weapons are certainly there for QB Josh Freeman, time to put up the numbers.
Tennessee Titans: We all know WR Kenny Britt is going to get suspended, even he knows this, it’s just a matter of when and how long. Best guess is it’s a least four games…..It looks like QB Jake Locker has pulled ahead of Matt Hasselback for the starting job, but Hasselback will still have a shot to surpass Locker before the season begins…..Fantasy owners are having a hard time figuring out where to place RB Chris Johnson, is he the fourth best back behind the big three, or should he be a little lower on your list. One thing that seems to be certain however is that he is a first round pick due to the dearth of true number one backs.
Washington Redskins: I like QB Robert Griffin III and believe the Skins did the right thing in giving away the farm to trade up for him, but without a true running game and a weak offensive line, I wonder if this could be a rough season for RGIII…..Why does WR Santana Moss still get no love in drafts. He’s lost 15 pounds so that he can be extremely quick playing in the slot and is still the most proven receiver the Skins have.

The Gotham Gridiron Podcast: The Cookie That Did Not Crumble: Remembering Cookie Gilchrist

He was considered by many to be the AFL equivalent of Jim Brown; a powerful rugged runner who was as outspoken as he was fearsome. But for many football fans, Cookie Gilchrist is an unknown, That fact is sad in its own right, considering his amazing talent as well as his efforts to make professional football an establishment that treated all of its players fairly and equitably.

But the greater crime is illustrated in a new book by Chris Garbarino; “The Cookie That Did Not Crumble”. Garabino is a retired NYPD detective who befriended a severely ill Gilchrist — via Facebook, no less
— during the last year of his life.

The New York Daily News:

Before Gilchrist died, Garbarino promised him he’d tell his story and, when no publisher or author was interested, he decided to do it himself, in spite of a total lack of writing experience, unless you count police reports.

For someone who considers himself a sports historian, and who thought he was familiar with the player Cookie Gilchrist, this writer found it to be an extremely educational and fascinating read.  To learn more about Gilchrist and his story, listen to the Gotham Gridiron podcast interview with Garnarino here.

The book is available on Amazon.con, and you can purchase it here.

Culture Mob: Dan Picca: All Pro Acts of Kindness

Recently, popoular blog site Culture Mob shut down its sports department. In his last article for the site, Dan Picca wrote a great story illustrating the power of athletes who “get it”.

Andre Carter with Daniel
Andre Carter with Daniel
It was late August and at the midpoint of the too-long pre-season the NFL is looking to eliminate in the next collective bargaining agreement. The Washington Redskins were at the New Meadlowlands for the third of four exhibition games. The Skins pulled out a 16-11 victory over the New York Jets that night. Toward the end of the game a group of youngsters went down to the railing behind the Washington bench. Some were heckling the visitors. Others were just seeking their heros’ attention. Dan Salomon is an 11-year old Jets fan. He was respectfully calling out to defensive end Andre Carter. Even though the game was still going on, Carter’s day was done. So he politely posed with the lad for photos. Dan proclaimed, “I can’t believe he came over and took a picture with me!” But it got better for the Central Jersey sports fanatic.


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