WHO IS FLACCO COMFORTABLE THROWING TO?
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has put up pretty impressive numbers this season, especially for a quarterback that is supposed to be stuck in a more run-first conservative offense. However, according to the
Baltimore Sun, Flacco may be focusing in on wide receiver Derrick Mason and running back Ray Rice too much. In fact roughly 46% of the quarterback’s 219 completions have gone to the duo. It begs the question: Is he not comfortable with throwing to guys like Todd Heap, Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington?
“Well, I think he’s got a comfort level with those guys,” head coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “If you look throughout the season, he’s hit those guys on a lot of plays. [Heap] has been hitting some big plays, obviously, [Washington] — Mark Clayton earlier in the year. Different plays, different guys are open, and in different situations they’re not open. Every play stands on it’s own, and we’ve studied those with Joe. So, we’re going to try to get the ball to everybody.”
“I think you just let the game plan run its course, and at the end of the game you look up and see what’s happened,” Flacco said. “For the most part, we try to get as many people involved as we can, and I think we’ll do a good job of that when we put the game plan together and when it’s all finalized come Saturday and Sunday.”
Honestly, I don’t blame the young quarterback for using Mason and Rice exclusively this season. Todd Heap has lost his confidence since going through an injury phase. Mark Clayton only seems to show up when he wants to. And Kelley Washington will be nothing more than a journeyman fill-in. The only problem is that with that lack of talent that surrounds his two preferred targets defenses can focus more on shutting those two down each week.
This week will be the perfect opportunity to get the supporting cast more involved though. The Pittsburgh Steelers rank first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (69.2), and will be without star safety Troy Polamalu. Expect a heavy dose of the Ravens air attack, but don’t necessary expect the young quarterback to look anywhere but Rice and Mason’s direction. The numbers don’t lie. They expose the truth, and in this case they could expose Flacco.
FAVRE BELIEVES CUTLER WILL COME AROUND.
ChicagoBears.com Favre believes that amidst all his struggles this season Cutler will eventually thrive as a Bear in the Windy City.
“They picked him up for a reason,” Favre said. “I think he’s damn good. I think he will be good and he’ll be fine. I know he knows that, and I’m sure to a certain extent that’s what Donovan [McNabb] may have been talking to him about at the end of the [Bears-Eagles] game the other day.
“Physically-speaking, [Cutler] is as good as any guy in the league. Mentally, you’ve got to have a lot of resolve to begin with, and I know he does. So he’ll be fine and that team will be much better off with him than without him.”
This is certainly not surprising news. Cutler and Favre have always had good words for each other. In fact, according to a
USA Today article posted on October 25, 2007 Cutler had nothing but “great” words to say about Favre.
“I’m a huge fan,” Cutler said at the time. “He’s like a kid out there. You can tell he still loves the game, still loves being out there, loves making plays. It’s fun to watch. Brett’s one of the greatest of all time.”
But was Cutler truly worth the price the Bears initially paid, especially considering the style of play he’s best suited for and the history of bad luck that has plagued the quarterback position in Chicago?
“I haven’t played up to my expectations. I think that’s the most important part. I can play better. I know that. They gave away a lot to get me here. Expectations were high, so it’s something that comes with the territory, especially in a big market like Chicago with the fan base and how excited everyone was,” Cutler told the
Canadian Press of being the center of attention. “It’s nothing that I wasn’t prepared for or didn’t see coming.”
And what about Matt Forte? He seemed to be the up-and-coming star the Bears were so desperately searching for, but one year following his 1700+ yard, 12 touchdown rookie campaign he’s turned in to a mere afterthought (three touchdowns).
The bottom line here is that until the Bears get back to their style of play of hard-nosed run-first football they’re not going to produce wins and their rocket-armed quarterback will continue to disappoint no matter what the great No. 4 gunslinger believes.
Having said all that, this week look for Cutler to produce decent yardage numbers, but don’t be surprised if he throws a few interceptions, especially is he and his Bears mates fall behind early to his boyhood idol.
HOW GOOD IS Thomas Jones?
Did you know that Thomas Jones is on pace to rush for a career-high 1,414 yards and 13 touchdowns? If you didn’t, don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. According to the
New York Post, very quietly Jones has gone under the radar off the field, but according to his teammates his contributions this season have not gone unnoticed on the field.
“I think the people that know, that really watch the game, know how good Thomas is,” Jets left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson said. “When those people sit down and talk about the top backs in the league they cannot have that conversation without mentioning Thomas. There have been countless games where defenders will come up to him and give him his props and say, ‘Hey, you’re a heck of a back and I want to let you know that.’ “
“He’s probably not on the top of everybody’s list, but he’s one of those guys where people pick up his stat sheet and they’re like, ‘Whoa, he’s up there,’ ” Jets left guard Alan Faneca said. “Guys around the league get the stat sheet and probably wouldn’t have put him in, but there he is in the top six.”
“What makes him different is the size of his heart and the desire he has, his will to win.
We just left the weight room and he’s still in there training,” fullback Tony Richardson said. “I haven’t been around another back that’s worked harder than him in the weight room. Each week he’s trying to get better.”
As for Thomas Jones himself; all he’s worried about is winning.
“It’s cliche, but it’s hard to focus on individual statistics when the team is not winning,” Jones said. “Everything I’m doing during the week getting prepared to play and everything I’m doing on Sunday is to help the team win. So when you don’t win it’s kind of hard to enjoy any type of personal achievements.”
Of the Jets remaining six games four are against defenses allowing at least 126.1 rushing yards per game, including two against the 31st and 32nd ranked Bills and Buccaneers run stuffers. And with Leon Washington lost for the season, Shonn Greene not seeing much time on the field, and Mark Sanchez continuing to struggle Jones should have no problem eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark and could even make a run at those, at one time, lofty career highs.
This week the Jets will host the Carolina Panthers who have allowed 11 rushing touchdowns and are being gouged for 4.7 yards per carry. Start Jones if you have him.
DIXON TO START FOR STEELERS?
During last week’s game against the Chiefs a string of injuries hit the Steelers offense hard. First, Big Ben Roethlisberger left the game after taking a shot to the head and suffering a concussion. And then, before Charlie Batch could even get in rhythm he exited almost immediately with a wrist injury.
Now, according to
Fox Sports the Steelers long-time durable starting quarterback has been ruled out for his team’s crucial showdown with division rival Baltimore this Sunday night. Wait, it gets worse. Batch, who has been a nice fill-in for Big Ben in recent seasons is also out with that wrist injury he suffered against the Chiefs.
Insert Dennis Dixon, who will make his first NFL start, and on national television. “I’ve been very pleased with Dennis’s progress as a third quarterback,” head coach Mike Tomlin told the media earlier this week referencing Dixon possibly starting. “That’s different, of course, than playing against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night television. No question that we would have to do some things to help him. If he plays in this game, and plays extensively in this game, we have to do some things schematically.”
The news gets even worse for the Steelers. Why? The Ravens defense ranks in the top five in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (92.1), and unless the Steelers offensive line totally dominate the point of attack up front the Steelers may have a hard time moving the football period.
It is worth noting that Dixon has had a completion percentage of 51.5 in the past two pre-seasons, and has yet to find the NFL end-zone. However, do keep in mind that the inexperienced signal caller did have a fantastic 2007 college campaign with the Oregon Ducks throwing 20 touchdowns through the air and running for nine on the ground. Then again, it’s the same Ducks program that produced NFL busts Joey Harrington and Akili Smith.
ON THE INJURY FRONT……..
WR Antonio Bryant — Probable
TE Kellen Winslow — Probable
RB Michael Turner — Questionable
RB Jerious Norwood — Questionable
LB Curtis Lofton — Questionable
WR Roddy White — Probable
S Jairus Byrd — Questionable
RB Cedric Benson — Questionable
WR Laveranues Coles — Questionable
K Adam Vinatieri — Out
WR Anthony Gonzalez — Out
DE Dwight Freeney — Questionable
RB Joseph Addai — Probable
RB Donald Brown — Probable
LB DeMeco Ryans — Questionable
RB Adrian Peterson — Questionable
CB Antoine Winfield — Questionable
RB Jonathan Stewart — Questionable
RB Clinton Portis — Out
DT Albert Haynesworth — Questionable
RB Brian Westbrook — Out
CB Asante Samuel — Questionable
RB Julius Jones — Questionable
QB Marc Bulger — Out
QB Kurt Warner — Questionable
K Neil Rackers — Questionable
WR Steve Breaston — Probable
WR Justin Gage — Doubtful
LB Shawne Merriman — Questionable
WR Vincent Jackson — Probable
CB Rashean Mathis — Out
CB Nate Clements — Out
WR Isaac Bruce — Doubtful
LB Takeo Spikes — Questionable
QB Charlie Batch — Out
S Troy Polamalu — Out
LB Terrell Suggs — Doubtful
LB Ray Lewis — Questionable
S Ed Reed — Questionable (ill)
TOP 4 SURPRISE PERFORMERS FOR SUNDAY?
Kyle Boller — With Marc Bulger out this week, a Seahawks pass defense that is allowing 236.8 yards per game on tap, and the inevitability of the Seahawks going up early, Boller could put up some nice fantasy numbers this week at home in the dome.
Jamal Lewis — Lewis missed the first game against the interstate rival Bengals earlier this season, but in 15 career games against the black and orange he has scored 11 rushing touchdowns and is averaging 113.7 yards per game. He was limited in practice this week, but he should play, and play well, if he can stay on the field long enough.
Nate Washington — The Titans wide receiver hasn’t had much past success against the Cardinals, but with Justin Gage most likely out and the Cardinals likely to put up the ball through the air Washington could see some balls flying his way, especially if the Titans fall behind early or are inside the red-zone.
Dustin Keller — Both linebackers Thomas Davis and Landon Johnson are on injured reserve for the Panthers. Combine those injuries with the already soft Panthers run defense and Keller should have no problem finding some open space in the middle of the field when the Jets aren’t eating up clock with Thomas Jones.
Note: I don’t recommend starting any of these players unless you are in absolute dire need of a starter. Just don’t be surprised if they perform at a higher level than what is expected from them this week.
As always, thanks for reading!