Tag:Philip Rivers
Posted on: November 29, 2010 4:15 am
Edited on: November 29, 2010 1:35 pm
 

10 stories worth your attention Week 12

Posted by Andy Benoit

1. Status quo in prime time


The Indianapolis Colts have always had trouble against 3-4 defenses. The crux of the problem has often been Indy’s shortcomings at the guard position. For years, the Colts fruitlessly attempted to block 3-4 outside linebackers by pulling their guards to the edges in pass protection. Those were the pre-Super Bowl days when Peyton Manning was derisively referred to as a great regular season quarterback. The Colts no longer pull their guards against 3-4 outside rushers, but that doesn’t mean Colts guards aren’t still are major liability against teams like New England, Pittsburgh or, as we saw Sunday night, San Diego. P. Manning (US Presswire)

How big of a bust is Mike Pollak? The ’08 second-round pick can’t even get on the field ahead of Jeffrey Linkenbach, an undrafted rookie tackle-turned-guard who, since you started reading this paragraph, has been driven into the backfield by Antonio Garay two more times. Mike DeVan, the starter on the left side, has been almost equally as inept.

Manning, as a consequence of a shaky offensive line, injuries at running back, receiver and tight end and a few uncharacteristic misreads of his own, has now posted back-to-back three-interception games for the first time since his ’98 rookie season. By the way, on Manning’s third interception, NBC coaxed the audience into believing that Eric Weddle’s pick was the result of an uncalled pass interference penalty. The reality is, Weddle got away with a bit of a hook, yes, but Reggie Wayne went to the ground on his own. It was a calculated gamble by a star receiver who had an unusually terrible night (three drops and the failed fall). That gamble simply backfired.
The headline above – “Status Quo in prime time” – does not apply strictly to the Colts’ issues against 3-4 defenses. It also applies to the fact that we’ve reached the holiday shopping season and Norv Turner’s Chargers are white hot. By now you’ve seen the graph depicting how San Diego’s winning percentage always climbs dramatically with each month of the regular season. The Chargers, with the league’s top-ranked offense AND defense (in terms of yardage) are winners of four straight and head into December as the clear team to beat in the AFC West.

Sunday night was supposed to mark the San Diego passing game’s return to full health. Instead, Antonio Gates remained hobbled by his ailing plantar fascia (Gates played but was not himself) and Vincent Jackson either hurt his calf or found a creative new way to holdout. In response, Philip Rivers morphed into a dink-and-dunk quarterback. Rivers was 19/23, with 10 of those completions going to running backs Mike Tolbert, Jacob Hester and Darren Sproles. It was just another example of Rivers’ malleability as a leader and Turner’s brilliance – yes, brilliance – as an offensive coach.

Colts fans, no need to worry. Your team is 6-5 but still atop the surprisingly mediocre AFC South. The Colts will only get healthier – assuming they don’t pay for stupid mistakes like trotting Manning and Wayne back on the field late in the fourth quarter after having already waved the white flag – and likely cruise to either 10-6 or 11-5. There won’t be the familiar late-season tank job, but that’s not all bad considering the last time this team had to actually play all 16 games was 2006, when it won a Super Bowl. The Colts will have to concoct a plan for those pesky 3-4 defenses though. They’re almost certain to host either the Jets, Patriots, Ravens or Steelers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.



2. So maybe running does matter

A leading factor in the Colts’ three-out-of-four-game losing streak has been the offense’s utter inability to run the ball. The thinking – okay, MY thinking – has been that teams with superstar quarterbacks don’t need to run. The Colts ranked 32nd on the ground last season and nearly went undefeated on their way to a Super Bowl. The year before that, the Cardinals ranked 31st in rushing but won the NFC.

I still think running is overrated for teams with great passers. However, of the 12 lowest-ranked running offenses in the NFL this season, only the Colts, Packers and Saints are legitimate playoff contenders (the Seahawks, technically, are playoff contenders, but their standing membership in the NFC West violates the “legitimate” stipulation). The Colts and Packers both showed on Sunday that it’s one thing to be bad on the ground, while it’s another to be utterly inept. When you’re utterly inept, you become one dimensional.

Indy knew going into the game against San Diego that its run game would be stuffed. That turned out to be one of the few things that went according to plan, as Donald Brown and Javarris James combined for 24 yards on 13 carries. The one-dimensionality of the Colts allowed the Chargers to play downhill the entire night. That helped the pass-rusher unload on Manning, which sparked the turnovers that heavily influenced the game.

Earlier in the day, in the terrific Packers-Falcons game – which we’ll dive into in a moment – Packers running backs managed just 26 yards on 11 carries. (Quarterback Aaron Rodgers inflated the team’s rushing statistics with 12 runs for 51 yards, most of which were improvised scrambles). Green Bay’s ineptitude on the ground hindered Mike McCarthy’s play-calling on more than one occasion late in drives.
So often the offensive line gets blamed for a team’s poor run game. Indeed, the Colts front five is below average. The Packers’ front five is a tick above average, though it can be inconsistent. But in the case of these two teams, the run game problems derive mainly from the running backs themselves.

Both clubs are missing their starters (Joseph Addai has been out since October 17 with a neck injury; Ryan Grant was lost for the season in Week 1 with an ankle injury). The backups have been inadequate. Indy’s Donald Brown is an especially bad NFL runner. He’s indecisive, undersized and, aside from when he’s catching passes in the flats, he’s the opposite of quick. Brown appears destined to be the only first-round pick that Bill Polian has whiffed on. For Green Bay, Brandon Jackson is equally limited. The former second-round pick is decent in the passing game, but as a traditional first-and second-down back, he’s far too lethargic.

Contrary to popular opinion, a running back influences an offensive line more than an offensive line influences a running back. The Colts and Packers are being painfully reminded of this.



3. Time to start talkin’ Dirty Bird

What an absolutely fantastic football game we had in the Georgia Dome Sunday afteM. Turner (US Presswire)rnoon. Just take a look at the drive charts. The Packers had five drives that went either nine-plus plays or 80-plus yards. The Falcons had three such drives, including a pair of 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drives.

Aaron Rodgers made a litany of spectacular individual plays down the stretch, as he was able to buy time against Atlanta’s three-man rush/eight-man zone. It was surprising that Atlanta leaned on this conservative defensive concept. Those who watch ESPN’s brilliant NFL Matchup Show learned Sunday Morning that the Packers love to give Rodgers ample time to throw in the pocket, even if it means employing a six-or seven-man protection scheme. Thus, one figures, a three-man pass-rush is a tactic that plays right into Green Bay’s hands. Indeed, Rodgers spent much of Sunday holding the ball for eternity before lasering passes to his third or fourth read or scrambling to move the chains.

The only negative about Rodgers’ game-tying fourth down touchdown strike to Jordy Nelson was that it came with 56 seconds still left on the clock. That was enough time for Matt Ryan to complete four consecutive passes for a total of 20 yards to set up Matt Bryant’s game-winning 47-yard field goal. (The Falcons began that drive on the 50 after Eric Weems’ 40-yard kick return was buttressed by a 15-yard facemasking penalty.)

Ryan was as efficient as a Google search Sunday, but the hero for Atlanta was Michael Turner. The thundering Pro Bowler went over 100 yards for the sixth time this season and fourth time in five games. Turner carried the ball at least 23 times in all four of those 100-yard games. (Surprisingly, Jason Snelling has slid from being the “two” of a 1-2 punch to being a scantly-used backup.)

The Falcons seem intent on hitching their wagon to a true workhorse running back. This 1990’s mentality suits Mike Mularkey and his tight end/fullback-heavy offense well. Turner has responded in large part because, unlike a lot of teams that rely heavily on a power runner, the Falcons are not handcuffed by mediocrity in the passing game. Roddy White has been the best wide receiver in the NFC this season (he easily leads the conference in both receptions and yards) and Tony Gonzalez (six catches, 51 yards and a touchdown Sunday) remains of Hall of Fame caliber.

There’s still a long ways to go, but the Falcons, at 9-2, are on track for homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs. That’s significant considering Ryan is 19-1 in the Georgia Dome.



4. Da Bears

Who would have guessed that a “homefield advantage” mention would be an appropriate segue to the Chicago Bears? The heater beneath Lovie Smith’s seat was officially switched off after the Bears held off the electrifying Eagles and improved to an NFC North-best 8-3. How’d they do it? The same way they did it the previous three weeks: by running the ball effectively enough to give the offense the necessary balance to execute Mike Martz’s scheme.
E. Bennett (US Presswire)
Early in the season, Jay Cutler was dropping back to throw on every down, and teams were able to tee off against Chicago’s unathletic front five. In the past month, however, Martz has taken more to calling Matt Forte’s number. Forte, averaging 18.5 carries per game his past four outings, has been 80 percent stellar, 20 percent spectacular (he had 117 yards on 14 carries against the Eagles).

The running game itself has not propelled Chicago – the THREAT of the running game has. Having just enough balance to keep defenses guessing is what has allowed the Bears to successfully usher in two new starting tackles (Frank Omiyale on the left side and rookie JaMarcus Webb on the right side).

It helps that Jay Cutler is playing well. Cutler’s career-high four touchdowns against the Eagles were a showcase of the quarterback’s arm strength and of the now clearly-defined roles of Chicago’s receivers. Earl Bennett and Greg Olsen have become the preferred red zone targets (Bennett found the end zone twice; Olsen found the end zone for a second time in three games). Johnny Knox is the explosive speedster between the 20’s. Devin Hester – finally! – is being used the gadget weapon in the slot. (By the way, why did the Bears replace Hester at kick returner a few times with Daniel Manning on Sunday? Manning glides with scintillating speed, but we’ve been over this with Chicago: Hester is the greatest return ace of all-time. Watching the Bears re-insert him at kick returner one week but de-insert him a few times the following week is like watching someone trying to quit smoking. Old stupid habits die hard; the Bears still have not completely broken their old stupid habit of inexplicably removing Hester from special teams.)

The Bear defense has been as impressive as the offense, thanks to the familiar excellence of the linebackers and the emergence of Julius Peppers (he’s been far more valuable than his six sacks on the season suggest). Offense, defense and special teams are all clicking in Chicago. Unlike September, this wave of success is a product of continuity. Get used to the Bears – you’ll be seeing a lot of them in a few weeks. They have a trap game at Detroit in Week 13 but then a matchup with the Patriots that could get flexed into primetime in Week 14. After that, it’s their annual Monday night showdown against the Vikings.

Speaking of the Vikings…



5. Minnesota sticks it to Brad Childress

Did you see the way the players serenaded Leslie Frazier after their win at Washington Sunday? There was the Gatorade shower (imagine Chilly getting one of those. Seriously, just imagine it. You can’t, can you?). There were the handshakes and smiles. And there was Brett Favre handing Frazier the game ball. Nice touch, Brett.

The Vikings-Redskins game itself wasn’t much to write home about. Both teams had strapping opening drives (Minnesota seven plays, 71 yards for a touchdown; Washington 13 plays, 83 yards for a touchdown) but did little after that. Both quarterbacks posted pedestrian numbers. Adrian Peterson left in the first half with an ankle injury (he wanted to go back in but instead got scheduled for an MRI Monday). There weren’t many defensive plays of note, aside from E.J. Henderson’s diving interception off a bad Santana Moss deflection.

At the end of the day, this was an uneventful contest between what are now two non-playoff contenders. So why is it one of 10 stories worth your attention? Because it still gave us a chance to refer to the Childress-Favre drama again.



6. Poor Stevie

Who knows why Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson dropped that surefire game-winning touchdown against the Steelers in overtime. Perhaps Johnson was thinking somewhere in the back of his mind about his four previous drops on the afternoon. Perhaps he succumbed to the incredulity about his sudden emergence that everyone else has experienced at some point this season (it’s still hard to believe that this unknown Kentucky product has been as good as he has). Or, perhaps the Steelers secondary put in a special little request to their buddy upstairs during one of those prayer circles that they frequently conduct on the sideline during games (you know, those prayer circles that cameras always catch but that no broadcaster has had the gall to acknowledge yet?) S. Johnson (US Presswire)

If you asked Johnson to pick one of those three, he’d probably pick the prayer circle. He seemed to have a rift with God after the game. Check out the 24-year-old’s tweet: “I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO...”

Since God has already been dragged into this, has anyone from the Bills considered asking Him for a hand in run defense? As heartbreaking as the Bills’ most recent overtime loss was, the cold reality is the outcome was a result of Pittsburgh ramming the ball down their throats. The game began with the Steelers marching 78 yards on 13 plays, nine of which were runs, for a score. The game ended with the Steelers marching 58 yards on 13 plays, nine of which were, again, runs, for a score.

The Bills came into Sunday allowing a league-worst 167.4 yards on the ground. The Steelers rushed for 206 yards on 45 carries. Rashard Mendenhall, who is fast becoming the premiere fourth quarter closer in the NFL, had a jarring 36 carries for 151 yards (how’s that for getting ready to face a physical Ravens defense in Week 13?).

One other note from this game: the magnificence of Troy Polamalu. After missing practice all week with a muscle strain near his Achilles, the superstar safety made a game-saving interception near the goal-line late in regulation and unloaded several open field tackles in overtime.




7. The Bucs are who we thought they were

Look, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not an elite team. Their loss at Baltimore dropped them to 0-4 against teams with a winning record. It was a fairly convincing loss that followed the script. In fact, instead of reading a recap of the game, go ahead and read the Key Matchup breakdown from Friday – it’s all the same.

So the Bucs are not an elite team. And their outcomes are predictable. Okay, fine. But you know what else they are? They’re a young upstart club that’s 7-4 because they know how to take advantage of inferior opponents. The loss at Baltimore was similar to the loss at Atlanta in that the Bucs came to play but ran into a better team. They get a crack at the Falcons again next week. It’s likely they’ll drop to 7-5. But after that, the Bucs face the Redskins, Lions and Seahawks. From a pure mathematical standpoint – and seriously, that’s all this is here – this team’s patterns in 2010 suggests that a 10-win season is still in order.



8. Suspend them both

The Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan fight: Whoa! Fines are on the way. If the league is wise, so are suspensions. Johnson was throwing genuine haymakers at a player on the ground who was wearing no helmet. True, the normally reserved receiver has a clean track record. But if those punches were thrown in the NBA or in MLB, there’d be a multiple-game suspension. The violent nature of football casts a different light on fighting in the NFL, but that wasn’t a football fight – it was a FIGHT fight. Sit him down a game.
A. Johnson (US Presswire)
Finnegan should be suspended, too, on the grounds of being a repeat jackass. Not joking here. Just like multiple misdemeanors can eventually equal a felony in our justice system, Finnegan’s continuously chippy play needs to be curtailed with a felonious punishment. Every week the guy is drawing flags or small fines for various personal fouls. He’s not even a superstar yet we all recognize his face simply because he loses his helmet in a scuffle seemingly at least twice a game.

Finnegan’s antics after the fight were just as appalling. He was grinning and jabbering at the Texans bench. When he left the field, he raised his arms to mockingly pump up the Houston crowd. It would have been cute if not for the fact that Titans were getting thumped 17-0 at that point. Who does Finnegan think he is, Vince Young?

Because Finnegan was an unheralded seventh-round draft pick, we’ve all championed his behavior as feistiness and scrappiness. We praise him for having one of those chips on the shoulders. But Finnegan’s actions have gotten to the point of bush-league.
Back in October, the league issued the cornerback a warning about his dirty hits and behavior. The league now has a chance to act harshly on that warning.




9. Dwayne Bowe

I’ve been holding out on a Dwayne Bowe feature these past few weeks. I haven’t been able to shake the fear that the second I step in this guy’s corner, he’ll pull the rug out from under me. But after his 13-catch, 170-yard, three-touchdown performance at Seattle (convincing win on the road for the Chiefs, by the way), I’m willing to take the risk and trumpet the fourth-year pro’s maturation.

Bowe no longer pays rent in Todd Haley’s doghouse. And he no longer drops passes with regularity. He’s gone over 100 yards receiving in each of his last three games, and he’s caught a touchdown pass in a team-record seven straight outings. (Even more remarkable is that he’s had multiple touchdowns in six of those outings.)

Bowe is sculpted like a possession receiver, though he’s become a downfield target as well. All the more impressive is that he’s doing this even though the Chiefs don’t have an authentic No. 2 wideout (Chris Chambers has less than 200 yards receiving on the season).

Bowe will have plenty of chances to prove – or, I guess now, verify – his merits during Kansas City’s playoff push these final weeks. He faces Champ Bailey next week, Quintin Jammer in Week 14, the formerly scrappy but currently bush-league Cortland Finnegan in Week 16 and Nnamdi Asomugha in Week 17.



10. Quick Hits

***Sam Bradford took advantage of a Broncos defense that refused to rush the passer by logging his first 300-yard game as a pro. The Rams, 5-6, are now in first place of the sickening NFC West.

***It was just like old times Sunday: Jake Delhomme threw two interceptions (including an inexcusable pick-six to Captain Munnerlyn) and managed to give the Panthers a loss.

***What are the odds that Chris Johnson’s worst game as a pro (sevenD. Garrard (US Presswire) carries for five yards) would come in sixth-round rookie quarterback Rusty Smith’s starting debut? The Titans ran just 44 plays Sunday (32 less than the Texans).

***Arian Foster carried the ball 30 times for 143 yards. He’s been by far the best running back in the AFC this season.

***The best part about Shaun Smith’s touchdown run for the Chiefs was Pete Carroll’s dumbfound expression after it.

***Speaking of Carroll, what the hell was he doing calling timeouts as the Chiefs were extending the courtesy of kneeling on the ball with a 42-24 lead?

***Don’t know how I got all the way to Quick Hits before mentioning the Jaguars-Giants game….I watched virtually this entire contest and loved every minute of it. The game, in a nutshell, was this: Jaguars dominated on the ground in the first half and David Garrard played well because of it. In the second half, the Giants forced the Jags to play more through the air. Garrard suddenly became shaky in protecting the football, and ultimately New York’s dynamic front four was too much for Jacksonville. That’s the game in a nutshell. And, come to think of it, that’s probably the 2010 Jaguars in a nutshell, too.

***The best one-on-one matchup Sunday may have been Ravens wideout Derrick Mason against Bucs corner Aqib Talib. On the mano-a-mano front, I’d say the youngster got the better of this one (how about Talib’s interception between the knees, huh?). But from an all-encompassing standpoint, the nod obviously goes to Mason. He led all players with 87 yards on eight catches, including an important touchdown out of the slot in front of coverage liability Sean Jones.

***If the Raiders weren’t blacked out all the time, everyone would be talking about rookie receiver/kick returner Jacoby Ford. He’s one of the most explosive big-play creators in the NFL. He had his second kick return for a touchdown Sunday, and he added another score in going over 100 yards receiving.

***The best part about Sunday was that there were six early window games and five late window games. Why can’t we get that kind of scheduling balance every week?


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Posted on: November 29, 2010 3:48 am
Edited on: November 29, 2010 4:20 am
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Posted on: November 28, 2010 11:42 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2010 5:27 am
 

Chargers converting to complete contender

Posted by Will Brinson

Philip Rivers didn't post raw "MVP numbers" on Sunday night as San Diego manhandled Indianapolis on the road .

But he didn't need to -- the Chargers played like a complete team from start to finish and, despite sitting at 6-5, took on the appearance of an elite team in the NFL.

It warrants mentioning that they've historically dominated the Colts and Peyton Manning in recent years -- any number of statistical comparison will show you how much worse Manning is against the Bolts than the rest of the league. And things can change quickly -- after all, it's been the rare occasion this year when we've been able to name someone "elite."

But the Chargers, having made the necessary changes to put veterans on the special teams unit to fix their one really problematic area, look like they're getting there, even if they can't explain why they get so hot so quickly after a slow start to the season.

"I don't know, but hopefully we can keep it going -- we got it going good right now" Rivers said after the game. "When you talk about a team win, this is just what it was. We got turnovers on defeense, we didn't turn it over on offense, we covered kicks and we didn't get kicks blocked, and when you do that, most of the time you're going to win."

That seems blasé, but it's true -- don't make mistakes and you'll win football games.

On the hand, in Manning's case, if you lob up a 31/48, 285-yard, two TD and four interception line for the evening, things might not go so well. Those stats didn't lie on Sunday night, and they provide direct evidence of a quarterback who was consistently flustered by a Chargers defense that dominated the Colts at the line of scrimmage, refused to allow Indy to run, snuffed out screen passes and generally looked more prepared than their opponent.

That's not all Peyton's fault, because the Colts simply can't run, and they knew that going in. San Diego has a stupendous defense, and Indy, with 24 rushing yards on 13 carries, didn't ever really bother trying to establish a ground game.

For Rivers, however, the stats are a bit deceiving -- he was helped by a defense that took two interceptions to the house and a special teams unit that was on point, something that troubled them earlier in the year. All that while dealing with a still-injured Antonio Gates and a re-sidelined (this time for a calf injury) Vincent Jackson.

But he was efficient as hell, going 19/23 for 185 yards, throwing short passes when Indy tightened up over the top, and allowing the ground game to turn what seemed like a shootout into a grinder of a game.

"It turned into that," Rivers said "We found out early on they weren't going to let us throw it over their head. I threw as many checkdowns tonight as I have in a long time."

The weird thing, though, is that most people who watched this game understand that Rivers not forcing passes and picking up a huge road win in whatever way it took is the real sign of an MVP. Yeah, he might not catch Dan Marino for the single-season passing record now, but if the Chargers keep developing like they have over the past four weeks, there's a pretty good chance he'll have a chance to catch him in total Super Bowl rings.

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Posted on: November 27, 2010 10:40 pm
 

Week 12 injury news and analysis, part IV

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Rams at Broncos

Denver LB D.J. Williams, who’s not had such a great past few weeks, is questionable to play with a concussion. Following his arrest on a DUI charge two weeks ago, he was knocked out of Monday’s game after a blow to the head. But he returned to practice two days later, so it looks like he’ll probably play. LB Robert Ayers is probable to play.

Three of the four St. Louis players on the injury list are probable. That leaves only WR Danario Alexander as questionable. Apparently, he had a great practice Wednesday, and it looks like he’s ready to make his first game appearance since Oct. 24.

Chargers at Colts


The biggest star for San Diego, TE Antonio Gates, is questionable with plantar fasciitis, but it seems highly unlikely he’ll play, because he’s still in a significant amount of pain. WR Malcom Floyd is questionable with a hamstring problem, but Chargers QB Philip Rivers will be happy to welcome back WR Vincent Jackson to the team. Also, WR Legedu Naanee, who hasn’t played since Oct. 3, is probable.

The Colts list seven players as questionable. Since TE Brody Eldridge, LB Gary Brackett and LB Clint Session didn’t practice all week, we’ll just assume those three won’t play.

49ers at Cardinals


K Joe Nedney is doubtful with a knee injury, and he’ll likely miss his second-straight game. San Francisco signed Shane Andrus to replace him Nov. 17, but since the 49ers were shut out last week, he wasn’t needed. It’s likely that won’t happen two games in a row.

For Arizona, DE Calais Campbell is questionable with a bad ankle, and he’ll be a gametime decision for Monday Night Football. Though LB Clark Haggans hasn’t played since Week 7 and is questionable, it sounds like he’ll be ready to play. As will RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, who also is questionable and very well could play.

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Posted on: November 26, 2010 1:03 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2010 1:41 pm
 

Antonio Gates likely to miss Week 12 too?

Posted by Will Brinson

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Philip Rivers' season so far has been that, at times, he's had success through the air without the assistance of Antonio Gates.

He might be without his favorite target in Week 12, as well -- Gates is practicing, but according to the North County Times , not likely to play after a Thursday practice that had him "grimacing" "in extreme pain" afterwards.

"I wanted to see how I would respond to defenders being in the way and making unexpected cuts in the flow of a route," Gates said. "Everything has been controlled to this point. I didn't finish, but I'm incredibly sore."

In other words, don't expect to see him Sunday night against the Colts. Clearly, Rivers and Norv Turner would prefer to have him on the field, but it's pretty important that he heal from the injury if the Bolts hope to make a run deep into the postseason.

"Last week, I didn't respond well," Gates said. "I did this kind of running last week and then I couldn't go for two days. I couldn't even walk on a treadmill. I don't know what my response is going to be, but I feel like I'm making progress because I was able to double up on my activity. But it's so painful, and I have to figure out if I can play through that."

Vincent Jackson's return to the lineup is critical , especially because of the injury to Patrick Crayton, and will help lessen the likely continued loss of Gates.

And while San Diego would clearly like to have their All-World tight end back before their marquee matchup this weekend, there's no question that getting him healthy is the most important priority, considering just how much of a division advantage their weak schedule is the rest of the way.

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Posted on: November 26, 2010 8:40 am
 

Hot Routes 11.26.10: Josh Freeman No. 1 overall?

Posted by Will Brinson



Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • Raheem Morris told Baltimore writers this week that regardless of what pick the Bucs had in the 2009 NFL Draft, they would have taken Josh Freman. Now, typically, that's either a statement entirely fueled by the hindsight of a Joe Montana-like steal or a really, really crappy draft. It's a little bit of both in this case, as there have been some good selections that developed out of those top picks (Pro Bowlers Brian Orakpo, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews in addition to Mark Sanchez, Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin and Hakeem Nicks) but Freeman's also a special talent that people are falling in love with. That being said, this is similar to the "We're the best team in the NFC" bit -- if Tampa had the first pick, they COULDN'T take Freeman first overall, because his inherent awesomeness would be suppressed because of his monster contract. Instead, they'd trade down and pick him up later in addition to something else. But I get what Raheem's saying.
  • Keith Null is "braced for action" when it comes to playing with the Panthers. What I wanna know is why the Panthers haven't called my cuz Riley Skinner (from Wake Forest, currently living in Charlotte) yet. Null came to Carolina when Brian St. Pierre turned them down the first time by the way.
  • I'm a little biased towards Andre Brown (NCSU guy), but I agree with him, and the Redskins coaching staff, in an optimistic view that he could succeed with Mike Shanahan and the Redskins. It's a much better fit than his first 25 teams.
  • Pete Carroll's got "mad respect*" (that's what the kids are saying after all) for Matt Cassell's tenacity in refusing to give up, always playing as hard as he can on the practice squad and eventually getting an incredible injury opening that led to a monster contract. Or something. *No, he didn't actually say that.
Posted on: November 23, 2010 7:42 pm
 

Analysis: Chargers need V-Jax's services

V. Jackson will return this week, and San Diego really needs him (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The Chargers officially added WR Vincent Jackson to its roster today (and, in the process, released K Kris Brown), so it’s time to figure out what this means for San Diego.

Obviously, his inclusion will help the Chargers. Or, at least, it should.

QB Philip Rivers has been awesome this year – he’s on pace to break Dan Marino’s record for most passing yards in a season – and as a result, the Chargers average 418.2 yards per game, tops in the NFL. San Diego, by the way, ranks 17th in the running game, so the fact the Chargers are No. 1 overall is an impressive accomplishment for Rivers (and TE Antonio Gates).

Let’s assume for a second that Jackson will perform somewhat close to what he’s provided on the field in previous seasons.

The past two years he’s averaged 63.5 catches for 1,132.5 yards and eight touchdowns – that equals four catches, 73 yards and 0.5 TDs per game, respectively – and if he can provide his team that kind of production, the Chargers offense will get even better.

For now, Jackson will have to be as good as advertised.

WR Patrick Crayton, who’s having one of the best seasons of his career, will be out for the next couple weeks because of the wrist injury he suffered Monday, WR Malcom Floyd is still dealing with a hamstring issue that’s affecting his playing time and WR Legedu Naanee can’t kick his hamstring problem. Plus, Gates’ plantar fasciitis continues to hamper him.

The other question, though, is whether Jackson can perform at the same level after not playing all season because of that nasty contract dispute. According to teammates, he’s practiced at a very high level for the past three weeks, and judging by Sidney Rice’s performance last week (three catches, 57 yards), it’s possible for a WR who hasn’t played all year to be effective after missing 10 games (or, in Rice’s case, nine games).

At this point, though, Jackson’s effectiveness has become a need instead of simply a nice addition for a Chargers team who, once again, is thinking about the postseason. And Jackson will get his chance to prove he's worth the extraordinary amount of money that he feels he deserves.

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Posted on: November 23, 2010 12:20 pm
 

Pro Bowl Voting: Peyton leads, Vick follows

Posted by Will Brinson

The initial Pro Bowl vote-counting is all taken care of and, you'll never believe this, but Peyton Manning is really, really popular.

How do I know? Well, 496,658 people have voted for him thus far, making him the No. 1 overall leader in the race to a free vacation to Hawaii.

More interestingly is that Michael Vick, who did lots of mean things to lots of dogs and therefore isn't always popular with everyone, is second overall, and the top NFC vote-getter.

Following Vick are Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, Tom Brady of the Patriots, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, Drew Brees of the Saints, and Philip Rivers of the Chargers.

Chris Johnson (Titans), Arian Foster (Texans) and Antonio Gates (Chargers) round out the top 10.

Rivers having the most ridiculous offensive season in a while -- at least to this point -- and somehow only being the third ranked quarterback in the AFC should tell you all you need to know about this voting. (Fans, by the way, can vote up to December 20th by going to NFL.com/ProBowl and casting their ballots. Apparently you can access it via your phone, too, if it's smart enough.)

Back to the balloting, though -- it's just frustrating when fans vote for names they know. It's cool and everything that fans get a say (they should!), but this happens in every sport. It's why Yao Ming is always an All-Star, it's why Derek Jeter is always an All-Star, and it's why Ed Reed is the top AFC vote-getter at free safety, even though he's only been active for a few weeks.

But, hey, it's fun, and that's all that matters. Plus, the NFL is smart enough to split the votes between the players, coaches and fans, rather than leave the entirety of the voting up to the masses.

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