Skip to content

NFL morning after: Statement Sunday — or was it?

Falcons tight end Gonzalez celebrates after a touchdown against the New York Giants in the first half at their NFL football game in Atlanta Reuters

With six different games matching up teams with winning records, yesterday was hyped by the NFL as “Statement Sunday.” And while it didn’t deliver a lot of particularly competitive games, it certainly did deliver a lot of statements: Statements about the strengths of the Falcons, Packers, Broncos, Texans, Cowboys and 49ers, and statements about the weaknesses of the Giants, Bears, Ravens, Colts, Steelers and Patriots.

But the thing about statements made in the NFL in December is that they often don’t hold up in January. And I’m not so sure that the teams that made statements on Sunday are going to be the teams that continue to make statements in the playoffs. So let me go through a few of the statements that were made on Sunday, and explain which ones are true and which ones are false.

1. The Falcons are the best team in the NFC. FALSE: Yes, the Falcons can make the statement that they’re the best team in the conference, both on the strength of their 34-0 win over the Giants and on their status as the team with the best record in the NFC. But the Falcons don’t play that well consistently — let’s not forget that a week earlier, they lost by 10 to a bad Carolina team. I’d pick either the Packers or the 49ers to win at Atlanta in January.

2. The Giants are in danger. TRUE: The flip side of the Falcons’ blowout over the Giants is that it really did expose some serious problems with the Giants, namely that Eli Manning has been painfully inconsistent, and that injuries in the secondary have done major damage to the defense. Early in the season it looked like the NFC East would belong to the Giants, but now it’s a three-team race, and the Redskins and Cowboys actually appear to be in better shape. The good news for the Giants is that they’ll make the playoffs if they win their final two. The bad news is that the way they played on Sunday, I don’t have a lot of confidence that they’ll win their final two.

3. The Bears are in free fall and will miss the playoffs. FALSE: It’s easy to see why Bears fans are panicking, having lost five of their last six games. But Chicago’s schedule is about to get a lot easier, with trips to Arizona and Detroit. I see the Bears winning both games, finishing 10-6, and sneaking into the playoffs.

4. The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC goes through Houston. TRUE: After the Texans’ disastrous loss in New England on Monday night, it would have been easy to disregard the Texans as legitimate title contenders. But the Texans clinched the AFC South with Sunday’s win over the Colts, and they’re now a win away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. I think they’ll get that win against the Vikings on Sunday and ensure that if they rematch the Patriots, it will be in Houston.

5. The Broncos are the best team Peyton Manning has ever played on. TRUE: Does it sound premature to say that this year’s Broncos are better than Manning’s Super Bowl-winning 2006 team in Indianapolis? Maybe. But that team — like many of Manning’s teams in Indianapolis — had major holes on both defense and special teams that the Manning-led offense had to overcome. This Broncos team is winning every bit as much because of its defense as because of the Manning-led offense. If we could stuff these 2012 Broncos into a DeLorean and send them back in time to play any of Manning’s Indianapolis playoff teams, I’d pick these Broncos to win.

6. The Steelers blew it in overtime in Dallas and blew their postseason hopes. FALSE: The Steelers’ final two games are both at home, against the Bengals and the Browns, and if they win both they’re in the playoffs. I think Pittsburgh is going to do it.

7. New England’s Super Bowl hopes were dealt a big blow on Sunday night. FALSE: The Patriots’ loss to the 49ers probably means they’ll have to host a wild card team in the first playoff weekend, then win a couple of road games after that to get to the Super Bowl. But you know what? As much as I like the Broncos and Texans, I like the Patriots’ chances of winning at Denver and at Houston in back-to-back weeks. New England is still a formidable Super Bowl contender.

That’s where I stand on the statements NFL teams made on Sunday. And now here are my statements about the rest of Sunday’s action:

Adrian Peterson is making Eric Dickerson nervous. After his 212-yard effort on Sunday, Peterson needs to total 293 yards over the final two games of the season to break Dickerson’s NFL record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season. Gaining 293 yards in two weeks isn’t easy, but it’s certainly doable for Peterson, considering that he has 366 in the last two games. In the last eight games, Peterson has rushed for 1,313 yards, a stunning yardage total that no NFL player has ever matched over an eight-game stretch of a season.

Calvin Johnson is making Jerry Rice nervous. After his 121-yard effort on Sunday, Johnson needs to total 181 yards over the final two games of the season to break Rice’s NFL record of 1,848 receiving yards in a season. Johnson tied an NFL record with his seventh consecutive 100-yard game on Sunday, so totaling 181 yards over the next two games shouldn’t be a problem. Johnson also became the first player in NFL history to gain 1,600 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons. Unfortunately for Johnson (and unlike Peterson), he’s threatening an NFL record while playing meaningless games for a bad team.

What’s JaMarcus Russell up to these days? I ask because the Raiders chose Russell first overall in the 2007 NFL draft, leaving Johnson available for the Lions to draft second overall, and Peterson available for the Vikings to draft seventh overall. Sorry to have to bring that one up, Raiders fans.

Trent Richardson’s first touchdown run was a thing of beauty. If you love good, old-fashioned, hard-nosed football, it doesn’t get much better than Richardson taking a handoff up the middle at the six-yard line, plunging into the middle and getting stacked up just as he crossed the line of scrimmage, and then simply refusing to go down as he drove forward, churning his legs and getting help from his entire offensive line while the entire Redskins’ defensive line was trying to stop him, and finally falling forward through that massive rugby scrum and into the end zone. As a rookie Richardson hasn’t been the big-play runner the Browns were hoping they’d get when they traded up to take him with the third overall pick in the draft, but he might be the toughest runner to tackle in the league.

Randall Cobb is better than you realize. Cobb had an unreal leaping catch along the sideline in the second quarter in Chicago, picking up 31 yards on third-and-six and somehow getting both feet down in bounds despite taking a hard hit just as he was grabbing the ball. Cobb has been an excellent player for the Packers since arriving last season as a second-round draft pick, but I don’t know if most fans realize just how excellent. Cobb has 2,241 combined rushing, receiving and return yards this season, and 3,857 all-purpose yards so far in his NFL career. That’s an incredible career total for a guy who’s only 22 years old.

The Seahawks are stunning. After beating the Cardinals 58-0 last week, the Seahawks beat the Bills 50-17 this week. The last NFL team to score 50 or more points in back-to-back weeks was the 1950 New York Giants, who beat the Chicago Cardinals 51-21 and then beat the Baltimore Colts 55-20 a week later. (A note of caution for Seahawks fans: Those 1950 Giants were held to just three points in a postseason loss that year.)

I guess Cam Cameron wasn’t the only problem with the Ravens’ offense. The Ravens fired Cameron as their offensive coordinator last week. So how did the offense in Baltimore do in the first game without him? Badly: The Ravens had six three-and-outs, the most of any team in the NFL all season, as they lost 34-17. On Statement Sunday, the Ravens made a statement that they’re not contenders in the AFC, and Cameron made a major statement in his absence: Don’t blame me.

Permalink 48 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Features, Rumor Mill, Top Stories
yo

Bucs not concerned about Winston giving up football for baseball

Winston AP

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have plenty of reasons to potentially be concerned about quarterback Jameis Winston.  But they continue not to be, in large part because they’ve done their homework on him.

One potential area of concern comes from the possibility that, if discouraged by the difficulty of adjusting to the next level of football, Winston will trade in the pigskin for the horsehide, leaving the NFL and embarking on a baseball career.  That’s a possibility the Buccaneers have considered, and they’re confident it won’t happen.

It always has been my dream, but I’m just playing football right now,” Winston said in February, leaving the door slightly ajar for the possibility of playing baseball and football professionally.

For the Buccaneers, who wasted the first overall pick 29 years ago on a running back who opted for baseball (Bo Jackson), the nightmare scenario would entail Winston deciding that football at the NFL level is much harder than he thought it would be, and opting instead to give baseball a try.  For that reason, Tampa Bay’s research on Winston has included getting a frank assessment of his baseball prospects.  While a role as a major-league relief pitcher wouldn’t be impossible for Winston, it wouldn’t be automatic, either.  In turn, it wouldn’t provide the kind of quick-fix that could tempt a guy to trade NFL football for Major League Baseball.

The Bucs realize that nothing can be completely ruled out, but as they stand poised to make him the first overall pick in the draft, they’re confident that this Bo will know to stick with football.

Permalink 2 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Nike reaches deals with Mariota, Winston, three other top prospects

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptkxnmjimgjin2ixnjbiywvlodrkm2m5ztniymq4odzk AP

If it’s draft season, then it’s time for apparel companies to strike deals with some of the top incoming NFL prospects.

According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Nike has signed Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon to endorsement contracts.

News of the Nike deal with Winston comes as he faces a civil lawsuit regarding a sexual assault allegation levied by a Florida State student in 2012. Winston was never charged criminally in connection with the allegation.

“Jameis has stated his innocence regarding serious charges made against him. We’ll continue to monitor the situation,” a Nike spokesperson told ESPN.com.

Winston, Mariota, Gurley and Cooper played for schools that sported Nike-branded uniforms. Gordon, meanwhile, wore an Adidas-branded uniform at Wisconsin.

Permalink 13 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Raiders show interest in Adrian Peterson

Minnesota Vikings v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

If the Vikings are going to trade Adrian Peterson, the Cowboys won’t be the only team interested.

The Raiders have also shown interest in Peterson, NFL Network reports.

In one important respect, the Raiders actually make more sense than the Cowboys: The Raiders have about $12 million more in cap space available than the Cowboys do. Peterson’s enormous cap hit would be tough for the Cowboys to squeeze in, but it would be doable for the Raiders.

But the Raiders aren’t exactly a team that’s one star player away from a championship, and adding an expensive veteran wouldn’t necessarily make a lot of sense. This move feels like a long shot.

For their part, the Vikings say they expect Peterson to play for them this year. It remains to be seen whether Peterson will try to force his way out, and whether some other team will offer a lucrative deal that makes the Vikings willing to part with their biggest star.

Permalink 94 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Packers re-sign S Chris Banjo

Green Bay Packers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Packers reserve safety Chris Banjo has signed his exclusive rights contract offer from the club, according to the NFL’s Friday transactions.

Banjo, 25, was active for Green Bay’s final three regular season games and both of its postseason games in 2014. He spent most of the season on the practice squad. The previous season, Banjo appeared in every game for the Packers, earning a role on special teams.

Banjo is likely to compete for one of the backup safety spots behind Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in 2015.

Permalink 52 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Raiders work out Vic Beasley in South Carolina

Discover Orange Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Getty Images

The Raiders took linebacker Khalil Mack with the fifth pick in last year’s draft and it looks like they got a cornerstone for their defense to build around in the coming years.

That wasn’t enough to lift them past the fourth pick in this year’s draft, which they may use on a player to help Mack on that side of the ball. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and other Raiders coaches travelled to South Carolina on Friday to work out Clemson’s all-time sack leader Vic Beasley.

The team sent linebackers coach Sal Sunseri and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin to the workout as they try to sort out how Beasley would best fit into their 4-3 scheme. Wherever they might line him up, Beasley has the kind of speed off the edge that the Raiders Defense could use as they try to drop to a lower draft position in 2016.

Rapoport adds that the Jaguars have also sent defensive line coach Todd Wash for another look at Beasley, which could leave the Raiders looking in another direction come the end of the month.

Permalink 21 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

49ers working on new deal for Michael Wilhoite

Aldon Smith AP

In early March, there were reports that the 49ers were shopping inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite to other teams.

Patrick Willis and Chris Borland announced their retirements a short time later, which bumped Wilhoite into a more prominent position with the team. It looks like he’s on track to get a contract to match that new status.

General Manager Trent Baalke said Friday that the team is working on a new deal for Wilhoite, who is an exclusive rights free agent. He hasn’t signed that tender, which would pay him $660,000 a year after he started all 16 games while Navorro Bowman and Willis missed time with injuries.

“We’re working on something with him as we speak … He’s kind of in a unique situation. He was kind of caught in a numbers deal,” Baalke said, via the San Francisco Chronicle.

If Wilhoite played out the year on his ERFA tender, he’d be in line to become a restricted free agent next year. With the change in circumstances for the 49ers, Wilhoite may not be going down that path.

Permalink 11 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Tony Boselli’s son commits to Florida State

Boselli Getty Images

The son of Tony Boselli could be on his way to the NFL.

Via USA Today, Andrew Boselli has committed to Florida State.  A junior at Episcopal High School in Jacksonville, Boselli will be a member of the class of 2016.

“Coach [Rick] Trickett is just an offensive line coach — a technician — that knows how to teach,” Boselli said after visiting the school in February. “And they run a pro-style offense.  It’s a place that, if you want to go to the NFL, it a place you want to go.  They’ll teach you how to do it.”

Indeed they will.  With 18 players drafted in 2013 and 2014 combined, coach Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles are 10 draft picks in 2015 away from tying the three-year record for any school.

Elite high school football players play in college not because they want to but because they have to.  League rules, as validated by the NFLPA, prevent players from entering the draft until three years after the graduation of their high school class.  So the only choice is to play in college, and at college the players necessarily are majoring in football.

Why not select a school that is more likely to get the football player ready to play in the NFL? When the only compensation is the wholesale cost of an education (and snacks!), the least a college football program can do is prepare the player for the next level.

Tony Boselli played at USC, and he was the second overall pick in the 1995 draft.  A five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All Pro, Boselli was elected to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1990s.

Permalink 24 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Bruce Miller not attending 49ers offseason workouts

Bruce Miller AP

Last season, the 49ers drew criticism for their decision to allow defensive tackle Ray McDonald to keep playing after an August arrest on domestic violence charges.

Things are playing out a bit differently with fullback Bruce Miller following his March arrest on suspicion of spousal abuse. General Manager Trent Baalke said Friday that Miller isn’t taking part in the team’s offseason workouts and said the team will revisit his status as the case moves forward.

“Yeah, once again, they don’t have to be here at this stage in the season,” Baalke said, via CSNBayArea.com. “We sat down with Bruce and feel it’s very important for him to handle this situation and once it’s handled, we’ll move on from there.”

No charges have been filed in the Miller case at this time. The only mandatory practices before training camp come during the team’s June minicamp.

McDonald wasn’t charged in the domestic violence case, but wound up being released later in the season after being investigated for sexual assault.

Permalink 4 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Tim Shaw: ALS weakens my body, not “my heart and mind”

Tim Shaw AP

Former NFL linebacker Tim Shaw, who announced in August he had been diagnosed with ALS, released a message Friday giving an update on how he was coping with the disease.

Shaw, who said he learned of his diagnosis one year ago Friday, signaled that while the disease had taken a toll on him, his resolve remained in tact.

“Today, tho my body struggles, my heart and mind grow stronger,” Shaw wrote on his Twitter account, posting a picture of him lifting a weight with his right arm.

The 32-year-old Shaw played seven NFL seasons, with his most extensive work with Tennessee from 2010 through 2012. Born in Exeter, England, Shaw played collegiately at Penn State.

Permalink 8 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Dorial Green-Beckham visited Bengals, 49ers

2015 NFL Scouting Combine Getty Images

If draft prospects were judged on talent alone, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham might be taken high in the first round.

The potential for off-field trouble is another factor, however, and Green-Beckham carries a lot of baggage. He was dismissed from the Missouri team after two drug arrests and a domestic violence allegation and then transferred to Oklahoma, but never played a game for the Sooners before declaring for the draft this year.

That makes it much harder to peg where Green-Beckham will land, but he’s drawing interest around the league. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Green-Beckham visited the Bengals on Thursday and also had a recent visit with the 49ers. They join the Vikings and Ravens as teams that have spent time with the wideout.

All of those teams could use a receiver of Green-Beckham’s ability, even if it might remain raw after two years of college experience. There are plenty of other teams in the same boat and one of them may make a bet that the ability outweighs the risk before the first night of the draft comes to an end.

Permalink 13 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Ravens re-sign TE Phillip Supernaw

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Ravens have re-signed one of their reserve tight ends.

Phillip Supernaw, an exclusive-rights free agent, has signed his tender with the club, the team’s website said Friday.

The 25-year-old Supernaw appeared in six games for Baltimore in 2014, catching two passes for 27 yards. He previously had stints with Kansas City (2014) and Houston (2013).

Tight end could be a position the Ravens address in the draft after losing Owen Daniels to Denver and with Dennis Pitta coming off a second significant hip injury. If Pitta cannot recapture his best form, second-year pro Crockett Gillmore could be the top target at the position.

Permalink 8 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

NFL declines to clarify website article tampering exception

Adrian Getty Images

On Thursday, the Cowboys posted on their official website an article explaining why the team should be interested in Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  Some wondered whether statements of interest in a player under contract with another team violates the tampering rules.

At first blush, it seemed clear that there was no violation, based on this language from the Anti-Tampering Policy:  “Articles that appear on the website of a club that identify prospective free agents that the team might be interested in, or that rate prospective free agents, shall not be considered violations of the Anti-Tampering Policy unless they include a direct quote or expression of interest by an employee of the club (other than the author of the article) about a specific player.”

But as multiple readers quickly pointed out, Peterson isn’t a “prospective free agent”; he’s under contract with the Vikings for three more years.  So PFT asked the NFL for clarification on the question of whether the website article exception to the tampering policy encompasses Peterson, who won’t be a free agent for three years.

“We do not have a comment,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email.

Absent clarification from the league, it remains unclear whether a team-owned website may write articles expressing interest in players under contract with other teams who are not “prospective free agents,” and it remains unclear what constitutes a “prospective free agent.”

For those of you who think this is part of an anti-Cowboys vendetta (because some of the fans of any team we scrutinize in any way automatically assume we’re motivated solely by hatred of said team), the Cowboys aren’t alone in this boat.  Last month the Cardinals’ website had an article containing quotes from receiver Larry Fitzgerald regarding the potential addition of Peterson.

We can already hear the “why do you hate the Cardinals?” emails being typed.

Permalink 19 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

After losing Gore, 49ers talk up Hunter and Hyde

Kendall Hunter AP

Before the start of free agency, the 49ers thought they would keep running back Frank Gore. As it turned out, Gore left to sign with the Colts.

But the 49ers feel good about two running backs who have stayed in San Francisco.

San Francisco General Manager Trent Baalke has talked up running backs Kendall Hunter and Carlos Hyde as both looking ready to play a big part in the 49ers’ offense this season. Hunter missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in training camp, but Baalke said Hunter has worked hard to get ready to go for this year’s camp.

He has progressed very well,” Baalke said, via NBCBayArea.com. “Talk about a guy that works. . . . He’s a grinder.”

And Baalke told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee that Hyde has slimmed down to his lowest weight since he was an underclassman at Ohio State. Baalke described Hyde as looking “extremely good.”

If Hyde and Hunter are as good as Baalke thinks, and if Reggie Bush has something left, the 49ers may be in good shape at running back. Even after losing one of the best they’ve ever had in Gore.

Permalink 58 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Which quarterback will take the most snaps for the Browns this year?

Browns AP

The Browns will be wearing new uniforms this year, but it’s still unclear which quarterback will be taking the snaps when the real games start.

So which quarterback will take the most snaps this year?  That’s the subject for today’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN poll question.

Answer the question and then dial us up at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, which will take a closer look at the news of the day and also ponder the draft plans of the Patriots and the Seahawks.

Permalink 27 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall had foot surgery

Indianapolis Colts v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Broncos re-signed linebacker Brandon Marshall as an exclusive rights free agent last week, which was an easy decision for them after Marshall put together a strong 2014 season while starting 13 games.

The time Marshall missed came late in the season when he was diagnosed with a foot sprain. He returned for the playoff loss to the Colts, but it appears that the foot issue wasn’t totally resolved.

Vic Lombardi of CBS4 in Denver reports that Marshall had foot surgery last month. Lombardi adds that Marshall should be ready for training camp, although missing time this offseason could impact how quickly he’ll be able to make the move from outside linebacker in last year’s 4-3 look to playing on the inside of Wade Phillips’s defense.

He’ll be playing next to Danny Trevathan, who is coming off an injury-wrecked season thanks to three knee injuries that limited him to three games. He says, via the team’s website, he’s back to 100 percent now, however, and plans on the 2015 season being “a big comeback for me.”

Permalink 2 Comments Feed for comments Back to top