Tag:Anquan Boldin
Posted on: August 12, 2011 1:17 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2011 6:26 pm
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Bills trade Lee Evans to Ravens for 4th-rounder

Posted by Will Brinson

Lee Evans, on the trading block for just over 24 hours, has a new home: the Baltimore Ravens.

We speculated earlier that the Panthers, Dolphins, Ravens and Cardinals could be interested in trading for Evans, but Baltimore announced on Friday that they had dealt a 2012 draft pick in exchange for Evans.

"He’s a quality veteran receiver who stretches the field and gives us a significant downfield presence," Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said Friday. "He's the type of person you want on your team. He brings leadership and maturity to the locker room."

Ravens Preseason

Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, that draft pick is a fourth-round selection.

It's not a tremendous haul for Buffalo, per se, but they were able to unload a receiver who's underperformed for most of his career in a market that saw a heavy need for wide receivers.

Evans also won't be leaned on in Baltimore the way he was in Buffalo (at least prior to the emergency of our Super Bowl buddy and would-be rapper Stevie Johnson) thanks to the presence of Anquan Boldin, which should make him a much more viable threat.

Plus, despite what Ravens fans think of Joe Flacco, it's pretty clear he's an upgrade over either Trent Edwards or Ryan Fitzpatrick.

For the Ravens, this is a huge move -- it was noted that rookie Torrey Smith struggled during Thursday night's action, and receiver was a clear-cut need for Baltimore as the season nears.

Now they've addressed it, and if Evans can produce, he'll be a tremendous value in exchange for a fourth-rounder.

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Posted on: August 9, 2011 8:44 am
Edited on: August 9, 2011 5:05 pm
 

Mason: Jets give me better chance at Super Bowl

D. Mason is now in New York and seemingly happy about it (AP).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Now that 37-year-old WR Derrick Mason is with the Jets instead of the Ravens, he thinks he has a better chance of reaching the Super Bowl with his new team. Well, OF COURSE, he’d say that after Baltimore shocked him by getting rid of him.

"It's the business of football, and I understand it. Was I blindsided? Yeah, I was, and when you're blindsided, yeah, you're upset about it," Mason said, via USA Today.

"If you felt that you were going into a situation where you were on the cusp of something special, and you never thought that you would be released, or fired, or whatnot, you would be a little bit upset. But I had my moment. After that, I understood it's the business of football. It happened to me before, and it happened to me again. It happens to everybody in this business, whether you're great at your position or not.”

Even after the Ravens released him last month, Mason thought hard about re-signing with Baltimore anyway. But when the Jets came along and offered him a one-year deal with a guaranteed salary of $910,000 (the veteran’s minimum), he decided he wanted to rejoin coach Rex Ryan, who was a defensive assistant for many years in Baltimore.

While the Jets WR corps isn’t overly-impressive -- the addition of Mason, still a solid player who caught 61 passes for 802 yards and seven touchdowns last season, and Plaxico Burress doesn’t make up for the loss of Braylon Edwards -- it’s in a better position than the Ravens, who feature Anquan Boldin and a bunch of younger guys who haven’t done anything (or had the chance to do anything) at the pro level.

"When you have someone sitting across from you that understands and knows your work, and knows that you can play this game and still play it at a high level and respects that, that means a lot," said Mason. "That's what Coach Rex basically echoed to me: 'You still can play this game. I've seen tape of you last year. You still can play this game at a high level and you can help us.'

"That's all it took, was someone else believing that you could still play this game. So, like I said, why not come down here with the big fella and try to win a championship?"

At least with the Jets, Mason feels wanted. Which seems like the opposite of how the Ravens felt about him.

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Posted on: July 14, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 6:01 pm
 

Colquitt: Haley mad at McDaniels for cheating



Posted by Ryan Wilson

Todd Haley has been known for his short temper long before he landed the Chiefs' head coaching gig. Five years ago, when Haley was a wide receivers coach with the Cowboys, he and Terrell Owens had a falling out that ended with Owens stating that the two would have "no other dialogue" after Haley berated him for being late to a team meeting.

And then, in January 2009 when Haley was the Cardinals offensive coordinator, he got into it on the sidelines with receiver Anquan Boldin.

We mention this because last season, when the Broncos defeated the Chiefs, Haley refused to shake hands with then-Denver coach Josh McDaniels and instead decided to give him a finger-wagging lecture right there at midfield.


Haley later apologized saying, "I do believe in doing what's right and and that was not right. I probably let the emotions of the situation get to me too much and I apologize to the fans and to Denver and to Josh."

Well, on Wednesday, Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt appeared on the "Vic and Gary" show on 102.3 the Fan in Denver and he had some thoughts on why, exactly, Haley wasn't particularly happy with McDaniels.

“I don’t know if I can answer that within the locker room, but I know that it has something to do with the Spygate, the videotaping,” Colquitt said, according to PFT. “All the stuff like that. And I think that Haley was like, ‘Listen, based on that game I can tell what you are doing, and you are cheating.’ . . .

“I think it was just a culmination of rumors and [McDaniels] had been involved in that in New England possibly before, and so Todd was just kind of saying, ‘Look, with the game plan we had and what you guys already knew we were gonna do, this is’ . . . basically saying it was ‘bush, bush league.’”

So there you have it. According to Colquitt, Haley was miffed because he thought McDaniels, who came to Denver from New England, was cheating. We eagerly await Eric Mangini's thoughts on the matter.

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Posted on: March 24, 2011 12:35 pm
 

Offseason checkup: Baltimore Ravens

Posted by Andy Benoit 



Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups. Also, check out our checkup podcast:





Another strong Ravens season ended with a playoff loss to the Steelers. While a 12-4 regular season record is nothing to scoff at, in the absence of postseason success the Ravens presumably at least wanted to see more progress from their young offense.

Joe Flacco made strides in his third season, but it wasn’t reflected in his numbers. Very telling was that Flacco’s de facto mentor, Jim Zorn, was fired less than 12 months after coming aboard. Fellow third-year star Ray Rice wasn’t healthy early on and struggled to find his rhythm.

A superstar-laden defense continued to mask most of the offensive inconsistencies (and to be clear, Baltimore’s wasn’t a bad offense overall). Ed Reed was in his usual All-World form (NFL leading eight interceptions), while defensive lineman Haloti Ngata surpassed Ray Lewis and the perpetually underrated yet still well known Terrell Suggs as the brightest star up front.




SYMPTOMS, SYMPTOMS

Willis McGahee was stellar as the team’s backup running back and short-yardage specialist. But Le'Ron McClain, though considered a fullback, could be a cut better than that. For starters, recall that McClain rushed for 902 yards as the team’s featured ballcarrier in 2008. At 260 pounds, he’s one of the most physical lead-blockers in the game. That physicality can easily apply to short-yardage running situations.

Surprisingly, McClain is also light-footed enough to handle the rock in space. What’s more, he has softer hands than McGahee and quicker hips which allow him to catch and turn upfield. This isn’t to say the fifth-year pro is a lightning bolt, but in filling McGahee’s void, he’d be an upgrade.

If McClain became the No. 2 running back, the Ravens could still use him as the primary fullback. In that case, they would just need to find a No. 2 fullback (if they want someone other than incumbent Jason McKie). A No. 2 fullback can be had on the cheap.




1. Wide Receiver
This somehow is a need every year in Baltimore. The addition of Anquan Boldin has given Joe Flacco a true go-to target, though watch closely and you’ll see that Derrick Mason was actually Flacco’s first option whenever the chips were down last year. Mason is 37 but shelved his annual retirement vacillation early this offseason. Even with his return, a long-term replacement must be sought. And in the short-term, that long-term replacement could fill the No. 3 receiver void if petulant T.J. Houshmandzadeh and non-achieving Donte’ Stallworth are not brought back. In that case, consider the Ravens not just in need of a wide receiver, but rather, a speedy wide receiver. There’s no one on this offense fast enough to stretch the field at this point.

2. Running Back/Fullback
GM Ozzie Newsome will wisely not pay Willis McGahee the $5 million he’s owed in 2011, so a backup to Ray Rice is needed. Fullback Le'Ron McClain could fill this void (as mentioned above) but either way, depth is an issue.

3. Cornerback
Getting Domonique Foxworth back healthy helps, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be the same as before his knee operation. Lardarius Webb is arguably the best deep ball defender in the NFL, but he lacks size and might be better suited for a No. 3 role (the jury is still deliberating). Josh Wilson came on strong down the stretch, making cornerback a less dire need than it’s been in recent years. But Wilson is not under contract long-term.




The Ravens remain stacked on both sides of the ball. If Flacco can take that next step (which includes having greater presnap authority in shifting formations and plays, as well as throwing more over the middle of the field) the rest of this offense will follow.

Defensively, Ray Lewis is aging, but he’s surrounded by enough stars to still thrive. The expectations for 2011 are pretty simple: win the AFC.

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Posted on: January 28, 2011 11:27 pm
 

Eric Smith fined $10K for hit on Emmanuel Sanders

Posted by Will Brinson

Jets safety Eric Smith did a pretty good job filling in for Jim Leonhard after Leonhard's season-ending injury. But it also ending him costing him, financially, as the safety was reportedly hit with a $10,000 fine for his hit on Emmanuel Sanders in the second quarter of the AFC Championship game.

That's according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, and it's not the first time Smith's been fined this season -- he got nailed $7,500 for crushing Wes Welker earlier in the year.

Smith also got nailed for a $50,000 fine against Anquan Boldin back in 2008 to the tune of $50,000, so this isn't his first run-in with the law, needless to say.

Given the warning the NFL handed out before the divisional playoff games, it's no surprise to see them hand out fines now, even if the amounts (like the $10,000 Julius Peppers was fined for his hit in the NFC Championship game) might seem a little low.

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Posted on: January 3, 2011 2:05 am
Edited on: January 4, 2011 10:19 am
 

10 Wild Card stories worth your attention

Posted by Andy Benoit

1.) Momentum schmo-mentum

When a columnist or analyst starts talking about the momentum a team has or doesn’t have heading into the playoffs, really what they’re telling you is they don’t have anything to say about that particular team. Citing a team’s momentum is like citing a quarterback’s moxie or a head coach’s energy: it’s meaningless drivel.

The 2007 New York Giants lost two of their final three regular seasons games. How did momentum work out for them? Or what about the 2008 Arizona  Cardinals? They lost four of their last six regular season games, with three of those four losses by 21 points or more. They lacked momentum…heading into their Super Bowl run. Or there’s always the 2009 New Orleans Saints, who entered the playoffs on a three-game losing streak. If only they’d had momentum…they could have blown out the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, rather than beat them by a mere two touchdowns.

Momentum is relevant DURING games (we saw that early at rowdy Qwest Field in the Seahawks-Rams contest). But it’s not relevant week-to-week. It’s only logical that “momentum” would disappear after the game. After all, there are six days between games. And – just a guess – but the do-or-die scenario of an NFL playoff game changes the mood in the locker room over the course of those six days.

So here’s a promise: these next eight stories about the eight Wild Card teams will have nothing to do with “momentum”. The only references to what’s happened in recent weeks will pertain to actual events and tangible data – not that mythical force that lazy sportswriters have been allowed to pretend is real.



New Orleans Saints (No. 5 seed; 11-5) @ Seattle Seahawks (No. 4 seed; 7-9)   Saturday, 4:30, NBC


2.) Seahawks: undeserving

On Sunday night, many people saw the Seahawks play for the first time this season. Give them credit – thP. Carroll (US Presswire)ey deserved that win more than the Rams. The Seahawks got a solid game out of backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. In the second half they discovered their long-missing rushing attack, registering 141 yards (their third highest total on the season) They stifled the fruitless St. Louis passing attack and used the famous Qwest Field buzz to their advantage.

Now, let’s hope America doesn’t get short-sighted and say, “Sure, the Seahawks are only 7-9, but they actually looked pretty good Sunday night; maybe they deserve to be in the playoffs after all.”

Make no mistake: it is an embarrassment that this club is in the postseason tournament. The Bucs and Giants were both three games better than Seattle. Yes, it is an honor to win your division…but the old-timers who say winning a division warrants an automatic playoff spot are just plain wrong. Division titles meant more back in the five-team division format. But since realignment in 2002, a team now just has to beat out three other teams to win a division. The problem is, the NFL’s current playoff format was in place long before the 2002 realignment. A division title should warrant an automatic playoff bid…just as long as the division winner is ABOVE .500. Yes, there have only been three instances where a team with a .500 record or worse reached the postseason. But two of those instances have come since realignment. And in both of those instances, the outdated playoff system screwed over playoff caliber teams.

This time, it’s also screwing over NBC. The network pays the NFL $1.1 billion a year to cover the NFL. You think Dick Ebersol likes getting stuck with a losing team on the Sunday Night Football regular season finale? How about having to broadcast that losing team again the next week in the Wild Card opener?

If you’re wondering why the NFL would stick the Seahawks on NBC for a second consecutive week (not to mention give the Seahawks a short week after making them play late on Sunday), it’s because of the way the playoff television format shakes out. Here’s how it works (based on observation): the NFL views the Saturday night late game as the premier television slot and alternates between using an AFC and NFC game in that slot. Last year the league took the Philly-Dallas matchup from FOX and put it in NBC’s Saturday night slot. This year, it was CBS’s turn to give up its premium game. Thus, you get Colts-Jets (the NFL’s most marketable player against the biggest market team). Because the Colts-Jets is a 3 seed vs. 6 seed, the NFL chose the NFC’s 4 seed vs. 5 seed matchup to fill the other Saturday slot. D. Brees (US Presswire)

Why are we discussing the logistics of the broadcasting schedule rather than the Seahawks themselves here? Because this article is designated for true playoff teams.


3.) Saints: Unable to march in?

Last season the New Orleans Saints ranked sixth in the league in rushing. This season they ranked 28th. The Saints come into the postseason averaging just 68.3 yards per game on the ground over their last three outings. They have barely even bothered with establishing the run in any of those outings.

Injuries have likely factored into Sean Payton’s thinking here. Until this past Sunday, leading rusher Chris Ivory had been out with a bum hamstring. No. 1 running back Pierre Thomas has battled a bad ankle all season. Veteran midseason pickup Julius Jones is too inconsistent to feature, while Reggie Bush has stolen about $8 million from the team this season (Bush has often looked sluggish because he hasn’t been processing information well).

The lack of a run game is part of the reason Drew Brees threw 22 interceptions this year (Brees finished the season with a 12-game interception streak, the longest the NFL has seen since Jon Kitna in 2006).

Is this play-calling unbalance a major problem? Meh; there are worse things than relying heavily on the reigning Super Bowl MVP and his litany of receiving targets. But make no mistake: this is NOT the formula New Orleans used in its Super Bowl run last postseason.



New York Jets (No. 6 seed; 11-5) @ Indianapolis Colts (No. 3 seed; 10-6)   Saturday, 8:00, NBC

4.) Jets: Surprisingly under-hyped?

At least the New York Jets didn’t sneak into the postseason through the backdoor like last year. Though the 11-5 Jets are two games better than they were in ’09, and though the offense has opened up considerably in Mark Sanchez’s second season, no one seems to consider this club on the verge of taking that next step. Except their head coach, of course. “I think we’re going to win it [all] this year,” Rex Ryan said after his team’s easy Week 17 victory over the Bills.

Because the Jets gave up 45 points in primetime to the Patriots and 38 points on a widely-watched Sunday afternoon game against the Bears, there is the perception that Ryan’s defense has dropped off from a year ago. But look at the numbers:

2009 Jets
98.6 rush yards allowed per game (8th in the NFL)
153.7 pass yards allowed per game (1st)D. Revis (US Presswire)
51.7 percent completion given up (1st)
32 total sacks (tied 18th)

2010 Jets:
90.9 rush yards allowed per game (3rd in the NFL)
200.6 pass yards allowed per game (6th)
50.7 percent completion given up (1st)
40 total sacks (8th)

All in all, the numbers between the two years are nearly identical. And the ’09 Jets forced just one more turnover than the ’10 Jets. The major difference between the ’09 Jets and ’10 Jets is that the ’09 Jets were not on Hard Knocks, were not playing on national television every other week and were not filling the tabloids with stories about harassment of a female supermodel reporter or foot fetishes.

A more important difference between the two is that the ’09 Jets could control games with their rushing attack (which always buttresses a good defense) while the ’10 Jets cannot. Expected breakout running back Shonn Greene has come close to topping his Wild Card performance against the Bengals last season. Thus, the ’10 Jets are still relying heavily on 31-year-old LaDainian Tomlinson, who has not rushed for more than 55 yards in a game since Week 5.



5.) Colts: Peeking at the right time

Okay, so the Titans gave the Colts a tighter Week 17 contest at Lucas Oil Field than anticipated. Defensively, ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were neutralized by the stellar Tennessee tackles (Michael Roos and David Stewart). Offensively, Peyton Manning and company were held to just 23 points.
D. Rhodes (US Presswire)
Fine – go ahead and bet against Indy’s pass-rush and passing attack. A lot of you did earlier in the season (you know, when Manning showed he might be washed up by throwing 11 bad passes over a three-week stretch).

It’s easy to say these 10-6 Colts are not their usual dangerous selves. But the Colts failed to earn a bye in 2006, when they went on to win Super Bowl XLI. The Colts didn’t find momentum in the’06 playoffs – they found their run defense. That was the postseason in which Bob Sanders returned after playing just four regular season games.

Sanders won’t return again this time (IR, biceps), but that doesn’t mean the Indy run defense won’t progress. The progression is already underway, in fact. This past Sunday, the Colts held Chris Johnson to just 39 yards on 20 carries. The Titans as a whole managed just 51 yards on the ground. The week before, Indy held Oakland’s No. 2 ranked rushing attack to just 80 yards. The week before that, they held Jacksonville’s No. 3 ranked rushing attack to 67 yards.

What’s more, the Colts seem to have rediscovered their own rushing attack. Joseph Addai (who also helps tremendously as a pass-blocker) is back after missing eight games with a neck injury. Addai has rushed for 45 and 44 yards the past two weeks. More impressive has been veteran Dominic Rhodes. The soon-to-be-32-year-old locker room favorite was a member of the UFL’s Florida Tuskers just a few months ago. Since resurfacing in Indy, Rhodes has rushed for 172 yards in three games His quickness and veteran savvy give the offense everything it was missing when first-round bust Donald Brown was starting.

And, of course, the Colts still have Manning. And, while they’re without Austin Collie and Dallas Clark, they still have one of the league’s premier one-two punches at wide receiver in Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon.



Baltimore Ravens (No. 5 seed; 12-4) @ Kansas City Chiefs (No. 4 seed; 10-6)   Sunday, 1:00, CBS


6.) Ravens: Joe Flacco to come of age?

Last year in the Wild Card Round, the Ravens went into Foxboro and punched the Patriots in the mouth/nose/throat/gut/groin. They ran the ball 52 times for 234 yards, which is why few people crowed about Joe Flacco’s almost irrelevant performanJ. Flacco (US Presswire)ce. The then-second-year quarterback was 4/10 for 34 yards…on the day. An interception made Flacco’s passer rating an imperfect 10.

We wont’ see another Pop Warner gameplan like this from John Harbaugh’s club. Sure, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will be enticed to attack the Chiefs’ 15th-ranked run defense– especially given that Ray Rice looks fresher than he did early in the season and that Oakland’s Michael Bush gashed the Chiefs for 137 yards in Week 17 (most of those yards came from attacking the undersized defensive ends on off-tackle runs). But the Ravens have been grooming Flacco for this opportunity. His 2010 numbers wound up being nearly identical to his 2009 numbers – just 10 fewer attempts, nine fewer completions and nine more passing yards overall – but the Ravens used less six-man offensive line formations and more spread receiver sets this season. In other words, they put more on Flacco.
This makes sense considering Baltimore traded a small ransom for wideout Anquan Boldin, signed veteran T.J. Houshmandzadeh, signed speedster Donte’ Stallworth and drafted tight end Ed Dickson. The Ravens have more aerial weapons than they’ve ever had, which is why this time they’ll ask their third-year franchise quarterback to be a weapon himself.



7.) Chiefs: Can coaches carry them?

For a man known for being difficult to work with, Todd Haley sure showed admirable humility this past offseason. The second-year head coach and respected offensive guru realized that clearing play-calling duties off his ultra crowded head coaching plate would ultimately help the team. So, Haley welcomed Charlie Weiss to his staff, knowing full-well that the former Patriots offensive coordinator would almost certainly get the lion’s share of the credit if, you know, Matt Cassel went from being a hot seat starter to 27 TD-7 INT passer.

Operating in Weiss’ familiar system (a system Cassel learned primarily from Josh McDaniels in New England), the 28-year-old ex-USC backup has been exactly what a team with the league’s best rushing attack needs: a caretaking quarterback capable of making the occasional big play. Much of the credit for Cassel’s success belongs to Weiss.

Weiss isn’t the only coach who has turned in a masterful season for the Chiefs. Offensive line coach Bill Muir has been fantastic with a callow unit that was originally thought to be very vulnerable at the tackle and center positions, while running backs coach Maurice Carthon has helped Jamaal Charles blossom into a 1,467-yard rusher (a 1,467-yard rusher who primarily comes off the T. Haley (US Presswire)bench, no less).

Defensively, coordinator Romeo Crennel’s system has flourished despite an undersized front seven and inexperienced secondary. That secondary, which has often featured dual rookies at the safety spots (first-rounder Eric Berry and fifth-rounder Kendrick Lewis) plus a rookie in the slot (cornerback Javier Arenas) has benefitted from the tutelage of Hall of Fame defensive back Emmitt Thomas. Finally, give credit to linebackers coach Gary Gibbs, who has overseen a unit that successfully transformed nickel inside ‘backers Derrick Johnson and Javon Belcher into starters. The emergence of the young safeties and those speedy linebackers has infused speed into the interior of Kansas City’s defense.

You could argue that no team maximizes its talent through a variety of personnel packages better than the Chiefs. But is the reliance on coaching a good thing? The Chiefs did not look very well coached in their season finale against the Raiders, particularly on offense. Cassel completed 11 of 33 throws and was under immense pressure the entire afternoon. One can’t help but wonder if the news about Weiss heading to Florida isn’t distracting (especially given that the relationship with Haley likely wound up having something to do with Weiss’ decision).



Green Bay Packers (No. 6 seed; 10-6) @ Philadelphia Eagles (No. 3 seed; 10-6)   Sunday, 4:30, FOX


8.) Packers: DE-FENSE! (boom, boom) DE-FENSE! (boom, boom)

Columnists and analysts will be most tempted to fall back on the moment myth when talking about the Green Bay Packers this week. They’re that team that “nobody wants to face heading into the playoffs”. It’s true, Green Bay is hot right now. But the reason isn’t momentum – it’s talent, deception and aggression on the defensive side of the ball.
C. Woodson (US Presswire)
Injuries have ravaged the Packers D, but only in the front seven. Coordinator Dom Capers has still be able to prove what Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams proved last season, and what Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau proved the season before that: you can basically do whatever you want with your front seven as long as you have an elite back four. In the NFL, an elite back four includes: a true cover corner (Tramon Williams, ala Jabari Greer/Ike Taylor), a rangy safety (Nick Collins, ala Darren Sharper/Ryan Clark) and a versatile playmaker (Charles Woodson, ala Roman Harper/Troy Polamalu).

What Capers has that Williams did not have (but that LeBeau certainly had) is a dominant pass-rusher. In fact, Green Bay might suddenly have two. Clay Matthews continues to punish teams with his speed off the edge (by the way, a side note, don’t listen to analysts who simply look at Matthews’ somewhat slender stature and determine he can’t anchor against the run – the guy has been a tremendous playside run defender the past few weeks). In addition to Matthews, undrafted rookie Erik Walden has exploded since filling in for injured Frank Zombo (another undrafted rookie who was filling in for injured Brandon Chillar….who was filling in for injured Brady Poppinga – seriously). Walden led the Packers with 11 tackles and two sacks Sunday against the Bears.

Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback. Or, given that he hasn’t yet won a playoff game, perhaps we have to say he’s a quarterback with great skills. Either way, Rodgers makes Green Bay’s offense capable of greatness. But the absence of an adequate running back also makes Green Bay’s offense vulnerable.

The reason the Packers are in the postseason is because of their defense. It allowed just three points in the make-or-break finale against the Bears, and it forced six turnovers in the make-or-break matchup against the Giants the previous week.



9.) Eagles: A quarterback change?

Hard to believe – maybe even impossible to believe – but according to ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio (via Pro Football Talk), Andy Reid may consider benching Michael Vick in Philly’s Wild Card game against Green Bay. The Eagles coaching staff is extremely alarmed by Vick’s inability to recognize presnap blitzes. As ESPN’s NFL Matchup Show pointed out, M. Vick (US Presswire)recognition problems are what led to most of the sacks Vick took against the Vikings in the Tuesday night loss.

Vick did not practice with the team prior to the meaningless Cowboys game (which he sat out in order to rest his battered 6’0”, 215-pound body). Instead, he spent the week studying Green Bay’s 3-4 defense. Vick torched that defense in his 2010 debut off the bench back in Week 1, but that was only because the Packers had spent the week preparing for quintessential pocket passer Kevin Kolb (whom they destroyed, by the way).

It’d be great to know how much time the Packers spend preparing for Kolb this week. Do they – or anyone – really believe Reid would have the gall to pull the league’s presumed MVP runner up in the playoffs? The backlash Mike Shanahan took for pulling Donovan McNabb in a regular season game at Detroit would be a mere blip compared to the backlash Reid would take for pulling Vick in the City of Brotherly Love.

The Eagles obviously hope it won’t come to this. And it probably won’t. But this Sunday will prove whether Vick has really become a student of the game. No question he’s putting forth the effort to study the film and playbook; the question is whether that effort will pay off.




10.) Quick Hits: The bye week teams

With so much focus on the immediate playoff matchups, it’s always amazing how far off the radar the No. 1 and 2 seed teams drop during Wild Card week. Here’s just a little something to help keep the bye week clubs in the back of your mind.;

**The Patriots finished with an NFL-best 14-2 record. It’s the fourth time in Bill Belichick’s career that he’s reached 14 wins. (Too bad this stat, like virtually all other regular season stats, will be rendered virtually moot in two years when the NFL decides to water down its flourishing product by adding two more games to the regular season).

**The Steelers will be as well rested as a BCS bowl team once they take the field for their Divisional Round matchup. Pittsburgh will have played the hapless Panthers on Thursday night in Week 16, rested for 10 days, played the hapless Browns in Week 17, then rested for another two weeks.

**The Falcons might be the most banal, methodical No. 1 seed in NFL history. Their season has consisted of nothing but 12-play, 77-yard drives capped with a Michael Turner/Tony Gonzalez/Roddy White touchdown.

**Lovie Smith was true to his word: the Bears played to win in Week 17. The Bears didn’t get the win, of course, but no player in that locker room regrets the effort. And doesn’t it just seem like ever since the Giants gave the undefeated Patriots all they could handle on that epic Saturday night contest at the end of the ’07 season, more teams have played to win in their meaningless games?

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Posted on: December 6, 2010 5:50 pm
 

Hot Routes 12.6.10: box score tidbits Week 13

Posted by Andy Benoit

Hot Routes
  • The Steelers and Ravens both converted four third downs, went 1/2 in the red zone and committed nine penalties Sunday night.
  • Rashard Mendenhall carried the ball 19 times (45 yards) after handling the rock a whopping 36 times the previous week at Buffalo.
  • Anquan Boldin had five catches for 118 yards, seemingly all of them on the game’s final drive.
  • The Saints were just 1/8 on third down against the Bengals. They won because they generated 248 yards on their five biggest plays.
  • Roman Harper led the Saints with 10 tackles, a sack (on the final play) and two tackles for a loss.
  • Jay Cutler was 21/26 for 234 yards and a touchdown against the Lions. Cutler also went “interception-less” for the fifth time this season. On the year, he has a passer rating of 92.8.
  • Earl Bennett is quietly becoming a go-to receiver for the Bears. The possession target had seven catches for 104 yards.
  • Cliff Avril had three sacks for Detroit. That’s seven on the year and six in Avril’s last four games.
  • Troy Smith completed just 10/25 passes against Green Bay. His limitations in reading the field from the pocket were obvious at times.
  • For the second straight week, Tennessee had fewer than 50 plays offensively. They’ve now gone a franchise-record 12 quarters without a touchdown.
  • Dexter McCluster had five carries(11 yards) and two receptions (25 yards) in his first game back from a high ankle sprain. (He also had a fumble.)
  • Turnovers once again doomed Miami. They were minus-three against the Browns.
  • Browns tight end Ben Watson exploded for 100 yards on 10 catches.
  • Sidney Rice looks to be in top form. He had 105 yards and two touchdowns Sunday.
  • The Redskins did not convert once in the red zone against the Giants Sunday. Reason being, they were never in the red zone.
  • Derek Hagan led the Giants with seven receptions. No one else caught more than two passes for New York.
  • Jason Campbell was just 10/16 passing in Oakland’s surprising win at San Diego.
  • The Chargers fell behind early and ran the ball just eight times. The Raiders ran the ball 52 times (for 251 yards).
  • Peyton Manning completed 36/48 for 365 yards on what everyone agreed was one of his worst games as a pro.
  • The Cardinals had three different quarterbacks attempt passes Sunday. All completed 50 percent or fewer of their attempts.
  • Carolina’s Steve Smith had 39 of his 54 yards receiving come on one play. It was Smith’s longest catch of the season.
  • Marshawn Lynch punched in three touchdowns (and had 83 yards rushing) for Seattle.
  • One of Matt Ryan’s two interceptions was a result of the receiver slipping on bad turf. The Falcons turned the ball over for the first time in nearly five games Sunday.
  • Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes had an interceptions and six pass breakups.

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Posted on: November 5, 2010 12:15 am
 

Houshmandzadeh wants more PT (obviously)

T. Houshmandzadeh would like an expanded role in Baltimore's offense, but he think he's not going to get it (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The fall from being one of the league’s top possession receiver to near irrelevance has been a quick ride for Ravens WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

From 2005-2009, he caught at least 78 passes a season for at least 900 yards, and though he was never an elite downfield (or home run) threat, he was always one of the better guys in the league at securing that third-down catch and making the tough grab in traffic across the middle of the field.

This year, though, has been a bit of a disaster. Despite signing a five-year, $40 million contract with Seattle in 2009, the Seahawks released him in September. He signed with the Ravens, where he was the third receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason (not to mention TE Todd Heap), and now that Donte Stallworth is returning to the team, Houshmandzadeh (nine catches, 128 yards, one touchdown) figures to fall further into the abyss.

Naturally, he’s not pleased with his role.

"I like being here, I really do," Houshmandzadeh told Fox 1370 radio, via the Baltimore Sun. "It's just, anybody that's a competitor, you want to play, period. I'm no different than anybody else. That’s it. You’re winning. And that’s just the situation I’m in. I’m not going to cry about it.

"Do I like it? No. You work for Fox 1370 AM, and if you weren’t allowed to do what you thought you did well, I don’t think you would like that. I’m no different than anyone else on the work force, I just happen to play football. That’s it. It’s no different. I want to play because I think I’m good at what I do, but we have a lot of good players, so it’s not just me."

But as for regrets with signing with Baltimore, he doesn’t have any. The ultimate goal is still within reach.

"As long as you have a chance, an opportunity (to play in the Super Bowl), then it’s always worth it," Houshmandzadeh said. "Once you get to that point – it’s so far away, you know – but just to get an opportunity to have that chance, then of course it’s worth it."

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