LaRon Landry Suspended Four Games

Intro: On Monday afternoon, the NFL announced that safety LaRon Landry had been suspended for four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances. What does the Colts safety position look like without Landry?

landry-laron-01INDIANAPOLIS – Coming into 2014, the talk about the Colts safeties focused on who would line up next to LaRon Landry.


Now the question, for the next four weeks, becomes who will be starting for Landry?


On Monday afternoon, it was announced that Landry has been suspended for four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.


The Colts currently have four safeties on the team’s 53-man roster.


Veteran Mike Adams has started all four games in 2014 alongside Landry and has been a durable piece at the backend of the Colts defense.


Colt Anderson (four starts in 51 career games) and Sergio Brown (three starts in 59 career game) are the backups, with virtually all their contributions in 2014 coming on special teams.


Anderson and Brown have each played seven defensive snaps, compared to the 162 logged by Landry after four weeks.


With Landry missing a major part of the offseason, Anderson and Brown have gotten their fair share of first team reps.


The Colts also signed safety Dewey McDonald to the team’s active roster on Monday afternoon. McDonald is an undrafted free agent, who has spent the entire season on the Colts practice squad.


The suspension for Landry will have him miss the next 4 weeks (Baltimore, @ Houston, Cincinnati and @ Pittsburgh. He will return to the Colts following the Pittsburgh game, prior to the team traveling to take on the Giants for Monday Night Football on November 3.

Bears fail to make most of chances

In Sunday’s shootout at Soldier Field, the Bears desperately tried to keep pace with the Packers, who scored touchdowns on five of their first six possessions.

cutler_insideslant_centerpiece_092814But producing a total of only three points after reaching the 1-yard line on two first-half possessions cost the Bears dearly in a 38-17 loss to their arch rivals.

After a pass interference penalty against the Packers gave the Bears first down at the 1, right guard Kyle Long was flagged for a false start. On third-and-goal from the 5, Jay Cutler threw slightly too high for Alshon Jeffery and the Bears settled for Robbie Gould’s 23-yard field goal.

“I have to see it [on tape], see how high exactly it was,” Cutler said. “Alshon said he should have got it. I would like to bring it down a little bit. You just get a little weary throwing the ball late over the middle like that. You never know who’s coming. I just put it a little too high for him.”

With :09 left in the first half and the Bears out of timeouts, they had the ball at the Green Bay. The Bears sent four receivers on vertical routes and Cutler hit tight end Martellus Bennett, who was stopped inches short of the goal line by rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

“We called a play where everybody is headed to the end zone,” said coach Marc Trestman. “I don’t know if Marty flattened his route, working to get open. I thought we made the right call. We had plenty of time. It really was an excellent play defensively to make that stop at the 1-yard line.

“We didn’t get it done, so we certainly gave up the three points as there was a short decision to be made there. But clearly with :09 left, we were going to take a shot in the end zone. We had the play we wanted. We just came up short.”

What We Learned: Vikings vs. Falcons

The week of practice is over and the Vikings are set for their game this Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. Here’s what we learned this week about the Vikings as they prepared for Week 4.

ft-atl-eaAnthony Barr is a Perfectionist
Vikings rookie linebacker Anthony Barr is off to an impressive start. He leads the team in tackles with 32, and already has a sack and pass defensed. In his first three games, Barr played in 88% (St. Louis), 100% (New England) and 97% (New Orleans) of the Vikings defensive snaps.

But Barr remains a tough critic of himself, telling reporters this week that he believes there’s a lot upon which he can improve. It sounds like the Vikings may have a perfectionist rookie linebacker on their hands.

“No doubt about it,” Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said. “I think he is, I think he knows there’s a lot of things coming in and out of games that he can get better at and it’s going to come with experience. That’s our human nature, we look at the things that we did wrong and try to go out and improve them from day-to-day. That’s what we’re trying and it’s a good trait to have. He’s in here working every day to correct those mistakes from the game and just to keep working on his craft and his toolbox of different things we’re asking him to do.”

Vikings Anticipating No-Huddle from Atlanta
The Falcons are known for using a no-huddle offense from time-to-time, a tactic that can keep a defense in a bad personnel grouping against an offense that is explosive and has the ability to win a lot of matchups.

The good news for the Vikings is that by playing the New England Patriots earlier in the season, they have already prepared for a no-huddle attack.

“Well we practiced it a lot when we got ready to play New England so it’s actually good to get them in a row so you can continue to practice those things,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer explained. “You know the tempo of the game is speeding up now anyway usually…obviously it’s always a little bit of stress.”

That wasn’t the last of Zimmer’s thoughts on Atlanta’s no-huddle offense. He went so far as to mention it the opening remarks of his customary Friday press conference.

“Hopefully, our fans will be nice and loud for this no-huddle offense that Atlanta runs,” Zimmer commented.

Coaches Want to Use Bridgewater’s Mobility
In the NFL, the best quarterbacks are those who can win from the pocket. But it doesn’t hurt to have some mobility to move around and make some plays. As the Vikings begin the process of developing Teddy Bridgewater into a starting quarterback, it sounds like they will be sure to use every part of the rookie’s skill set – including his mobility.

“Well it does add a lot,” Zimmer said when asked what Bridgewater’s mobility adds to the Vikings offense. “You tend to worry about him running (as a defense), so usually it slows the (pass) rush down a little bit typically. It keeps some of the coverages that you might normally get because you’re nervous about the guy running.”

Aside from slowing down the pass rush and dictating coverages, mobility can do another thing to a defense that may take away a tactic typically used against inexperienced quarterbacks.

“You have to be careful when you blitz because if there is one place that you’re missing in the blitz and he gets out then it has a chance to be a big, big play with him running too,” Zimmer explained. “It adds another dimension, yes.”

Even Cordarrelle Patterson Looks Up to Devin Hester
Cordarrelle Patterson just may be the NFL’s best kickoff returner at the moment. He led the NFL in kickoff return average last year and also had two return touchdowns. While Patterson may be at the top of the return game now, though, the best of all-time will be on the opposing sideline this Sunday.

Devin Hester will one day be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of his return ability. The former Chicago Bear logged his 20th career return touchdown last week, a NFL record. Even Patterson, who is on a track of his own to be a great returner, looks up to Hester.

“I would say everybody looks up to Hester,” Patterson said. “Hester just broke Deion’s (Sanders) record. Everybody looks up to him. Me, personally, I look up to a guy like that. It’s always good to look at guys like that who can do the things he does and just watching film of him gets me excited.”

Greenway’s Streak Will Come to an End
They don’t make them any tougher than Chad Greenway. The Vikings linebacker has led the club in tackles each of the past six seasons and he hasn’t missed a game since the knee injury that ended his rookie season – 115 consecutive games played. That streak appears to be heading to a conclusion this weekend, though, because Greenway is listed on the week’s final injury report as “out.”

In Greenway’s place, a combination of players will be called upon, including Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti. Zimmer also indicated that the Vikings could use dime personnel (DBs) in some situations.

Vikings Ready to Avoid Hester-Induced Headaches

When Devin Hester left the Chicago Bears via free agency this past offseason, everyone associated with the Vikings breathed a sigh of relief. In eight seasons with the NFC North rival Chicago Bears, Hester played 15 games against the Vikings and found the end zone nine times – five as a receiver and four times on returns.

Buccaneers Falcons FootballBut the good news that Hester had left the Bears was quickly met with the bad news that he had joined the Atlanta Falcons, who just happened to be on the Vikings 2014 schedule. The Hester-induced headaches would not be going away, after all.

While nine touchdowns in 15 games against one opponent are impressive enough, it was the manner in which Hester scored those nine touchdowns that was so remarkable, and so headache-inducing.

2006: 45-yard punt return
2007: 89-yard punt return
2007: 81-yard reception
2008: 65-yard reception
2010: 64-yard punt return
2010: 19-yard reception
2010: 15-yard reception
2011: 98-yard kickoff return
2011: 48-yard reception

Do the math on the list above, and you’ll see Hester’s average touchdown length against the Vikings is 58.2 yards, and he’s scored touchdowns on kickoff returns (one), punt returns (three) and receptions (five).

In facing the Vikings this week, Hester returns to the field in which he scored twice against the Vikings in 2010. On that snowy Monday night at TCF Bank Stadium, Hester scored on a 15-yard pass from QB Jay Cutler in the 2nd quarter and then dashed 64 yards on a punt return for another touchdown to help lead the Bears to a 40-14 victory.

Hester, now 31 years old and in his ninth season, isn’t slowing down quite yet. He had a 62-yard punt return touchdown last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which gave him 20 career return touchdowns and made him the NFL’s career leader in that category, surpassing Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.

With his past success against the Vikings and with that 62-yard return fresh in their minds, you can be sure the Vikings will be aware of their familiar nemesis.

“Great task, great challenge ahead of us this weekend with the best returner that’s every played this game, in my opinion, a future Hall of Famer,” Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said on Thursday. “Unfortunately, he hasn’t skipped a beat. Watching him on tape, he still has the great vision, great explosion, great speed. He’s kickoff return and punt return unfortunately this year, again, like he’s been in the past. We have a great challenge, and our work cut out for us.”

But the Vikings seem to be up for the challenge. Last week K Blair Walsh blasted four touchbacks, eliminating the chance for any returns, and P Jeff Locke had one of the better games of his career, punting four times for a net average of 46.0 and doing his part in the punt coverage team holding explosive returner Brandin Cooks to negative three yards on one return.

Priefer and his group won’t rest on last week’s success, though. They have too much respect for Hester to make that error.

“Every time we go against him he’s a huge challenge,” Priefer said. “He’s a great player.”

Fantasy Factor: Week 4

Andy Lindahl of 850 KOA’s Broncos Primetime show takes you through the players you should keep an eye out for if the injury bug has hit your fantasy roster.
team600-092214bjpgWelcome to to Week 4 of the fantasy football season. Judging by the injury reports, it’s week 13. It feels like the waiver wires are already getting a CrossFit type of workout thanks to a heavy dose of injuries and disappointments.

In my league it feels like bargain bin shopping at a time when I needed something in a flash. I’ve been dealing with an injured Doug Martin (though I’m not sure a healthy Doug Martin will be much better behind that line), a disappointing Matt Forte, an injured T.Y. Hilton and an inconsistent Jordy Nelson. My only performer is Nick Foles. Ugh! This is why I love DraftKings’ leagues to save what feels like a lost fantasy season, but I digress.

So who’s out there that you can trust? At quarterback, there are the usuals like Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. Nick Foles has been good so far, too, and players like Kirk Cousins, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer have shown up as well. Speaking of Palmer, he is expected to play against Denver. If you need players, it might be time to trade high with guys like Tony Romo and Jay Cutler. That Bears offense is beat-up right now, and you wonder if injuries are going to cease or linger.

At running back, I don’t know who you trust. Rashad Jennings should be consistent. The West Coast system looks like it might be getting traction, but beyond Jennings, what top back is out there? Adrian Peterson is likely done, Arian Foster has his usual leg issues, Eddie Lacy is risky considering the Packers have offensive line problems, and the Panthers can’t keep any of their options healthy. DeMarco Murray, if healthy, may continue to be the Cowboys best option, so keep playing him. The Chiefs have received good efforts from their backs as well, so that’s an offense—along with the Eagles—you can trust for now.

Here are some waiver wire pickups if you’re in deep trouble (like me) thanks to the early injury bug. Carson Palmer has been dropped in many leagues after being injured and now coming into his bye, he might be a great move for the future. His team is 3-0. Kirk Cousins might be available, and if he is you better grab him now. Jay Gruden loves him. Andy Dalton is out there on a lot of waiver lists too. At running back, Isaiah Crowell for Cleveland is their hammer back. The Browns offense has been effective enough that he may get you through the start of the bye period. Lorenzo Taliaferro could be the guy in Baltimore after he had a good game in Week 3.

At wide receiver try Jordan Matthews because the Eagles offense is made for warm weather, and the Browns’ Andrew Hawkins, who has a good number of targets. For tight end, Jacob Tamme is still available in many leagues, and he’s one of Manning’s guys. He may get more time if Virgil Green is out. The Colts’ Dwayne Allen seems to be stealing some receptions from Andrew Luck’s old Stanford teammate Coby Fleener.

And remember, if you’re losing hope, there are always the weekly leagues on!

Titans Regroup, Keep Loss in Perspective

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans returned to work on Monday, seeking to correct mistakes following the team’s 33-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

team600-092214bjpgHead coach Ken Whisenhunt began his weekly press conference with an injury update that included quarterback Jake Locker (wrist), tight end Delanie Walker (shoulder) and tight end Taylor Thompson (knee).

Locker had an MRI on his right wrist Monday morning and Whisenhunt said he wouldn’t have any more information until later in the week. Whisenhunt told reporters that Locker’s wrist got bent under him at some point during the contest with the soreness increasing post-game.

As for the game itself, Whisenhunt didn’t leave much to question in regards to his feeling about Sunday’s loss.

“We all need to understand what happened these last two weeks is not acceptable and we’re looking at ways to change it,” he said.

The Titans played well in spurts. They continued to run the ball well and held the Bengals to just 3-of-9 on third down. That said, it’s on the players to feel the pressure to perform and execute consistently, Whisenhunt said.

“The great thing about football is that it’s a team sport,” Whisenhunt said. “One success depends on what other people do. What’s happening with us is that when things get tough, we’re having some guys take the path of least resistance. That’s when you get hurt. We’re looking for guys that are going to be disciplined and fight through that. The guys that do that are going to be the guys that play, so you have to create that sense of urgency.”

Rookie running back Bishop Sankey had his best day as a pro, running for 60 yards on 10 carries. His shiftiness at the line of scrimmage and burst around the edge still comes with details he needs to work on.

“I’ll tell you what I liked about Bishop,” said Whisenhunt of his rookie. “He’s got good vision and looks to have good movement skills. What I didn’t like was his attention to detail. If he can get the attention to detail better, his reps will increase.

“In his footwork, there were a couple of handoffs where he’s not doing it the right way and there almost was a fumble. When he gets those things correct, he’ll get the opportunity to get more play time,” Whisenhunt continued.

With the Texans losing on Sunday, the Titans remain just a game back of the division leaders. No one is making excuses, but everyone also recognizes that it’s still very early in the season.

“There’s not a sense of panic within this team,” said Whisenhunt. “There’s not a sense of panic with me. I’ve been in this situation. I was in this situation in San Diego last year where we started off 1-2 [and made the playoffs]. Are we putting our head in the sand and saying everything is ok? No, it’s not. It’s not status quo. We’re not happy with what happened yesterday or happened last week. I believe our players got the message today that we’re going to work to get that corrected.”

The Titans have a prime chance to turn things around in Week 4 with their first AFC South matchup of the season, a road game against the Indianapolis Colts.

“Division games are always important and we’re going against the division champs,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for us to correct a lot of the things that we’ve done wrong, and if we can go in and get a win I’m sure we’d all feel a lot better about ourselves.”

One of the hardest parts of losing for all involved is the feeling of letting fans down. Whisenhunt and the rest of the locker room urged Monday that they will continue to work tirelessly to evolve into a team that Titans faithful can be proud of.

“It’s very difficult to stand up here after the last two games and say everything is ok…I said a long time ago, I’m not asking for patience,” Whisenhunt continued to reiterate. “We expect to win. It tears me up. It hurts right now to sit here and talk to you after the way we played. We didn’t represent ourselves very well yesterday. We didn’t represent our fans very well and that hurts. All I can tell you is that we’re working very hard to make sure we get better. At some point, we’re going to be a good football team, that I will say.”

Washington Redskins Morning Clips: 9/22

– Desean Jackson’s return to Philadelphia saw him score one of his classic long touchdowns, as he bolted past the Eagles’ defense for an 81-yard score during the third quarter of yesterday’s game.

tempredskins_eagles_exclusive_18--nfl_mezz_1280_1024– Quarterback Kirk Cousins dazzled in his first start of the season, as he threw for 427 yards and 3 touchdowns. In the first quarter, he became the first Redskins quarterback since Mark Brunell to throw 2 touchdown passes in the first quarter of a game.

–’s Andre Walker with a complete game summary from yesterday’s hard fought 37-34 loss.

– Special teams miscues factored into the loss, as they gave up a kickoff return for touchdown and kicker Kai Forbath missed an extra point.

– The Redskins face a short week, as they’ll host the New York Giants on Thursday at FedExField.

– Redskins Blog with more on Cousins and Jackson, to include tweets throughout game day of their performance and video of their press conferences.

– CSN Washington’s Rich Tandler wonders if the Redskins ran the ball enough against the Eagles, and he has some notes to see as well.

– ESPN’s John Keim has 10 initial observations from yesterday’s game, while The Washington Post’s Mike Jones has five quick hit impressions as well.

– The Washington Times’ Thom Loverro on the intensity the Redskins brought to the City of Brotherly Love, and what it could mean going forward.

37 Observations from a Day of NFL TV

With the Buccaneers enjoying a weekend off, Sunday was a golden opportunity for the author to join millions of other viewers in a glorious – and sometimes peculiar – day of NFL action
For me, Sunday afternoons in the fall are synonymous with one thing: Tampa Bay Buccaneers football. I have been fortunate enough to spend most of the last two decades’ worth of autumn Sundays wherever the Bucs are playing ball.

Lacy09_22_14_1_aThis particular weekend, however, the Buccaneers are idle, having already plied their trade on Thursday night in Atlanta. So when Sunday afternoon rolled around, I was like Ricky Bobby in front of the camera, not sure what to do with my hands. Then I recalled a couple occasions last season in which I used these free weekends to check in on the NFL as a whole. Specifically, I located the couch that was facing the largest television in my home and sat down for an afternoon of simply being an NFL fan. I enjoyed it last year, so let’s do it again.

Forthwith, what you’ll find below is an observational timeline, beginning an hour before the games on Sunday and finishing up, oh, maybe halfway through the second round of action (I mean, I do have a few other things to accomplish this weekend). These are the things that struck me as interesting while engaging in that wonderful experience of sitting on the couch and letting a full day of NFL action wash over me.

1. Let me start by saying this: I’m not a big fan of pregame shows. I usually don’t bother with them, but today, for you, I’m tuning in and…wow, what a mistake. I hope you’re happy. “FOX NFL Sunday” opens with a poem that feels like it’s straight out of 300, what with the “bitter rivalries” and “greatness” and “brutality.” What I like best, though, is the ending, which suggests that some of the players we’re about to see are so good, “it’s hard to believe they are mere mortals.” That is…well, that’s just over the top.

2. Whether you’re watching FOX or CBS at this point, you’re getting a solid 10 minutes of the studio hosts taking turns excoriating the league office. Whether or not it’s deserved, it’s boring. At about 12:09, Curt Menefee says, in so many words, “Hey, maybe everyone just wants to watch some football today.” You think?

3. Sorry, can’t take it. There’s a Law & Order marathon on TBS. That will do for the next 50 minutes. These are their stories, dun, dun!

4. I flip back over to football to see if I’m missing anything. There’s Mike Pereira, distinguished former Vice President of Officiating for the NFL and current FOX expert on questionable calls. Like me, he’s seated on a couch. His couch, however, is red and white and, apparently, a Kentucky Fried Chicken couch. That is really a rare kind of couch. There are chicken buckets built into the armrests. Presumably, there are buttery biscuits hidden between the cushions. Mike Pereira has a better couch for this afternoon than I do.

5. The Arizona Cardinals are talking and now it’s official: “Next Man Up” is the most commonly-used cliché in the NFL. It’s not wrong, it’s not offensive, it’s not mathematically ridiculous like “giving 110%,” it’s just…everywhere. It’s the only thing a player or coach is contractually allowed to say when someone on the team gets hurt.

6. Never, ever, ever run sideways on a punt return. Unless it happens to work, like it just did for Randall Cobb. It feels like things are going to work out really well for the Packers today in Detroit. (Edit: Ha!)

7. So, I’m not really enjoying the Eddie Lacy Fantasy Football Experience to this point.
8. Maybe somebody can check for me, but I’m willing to bet that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a very good “tackling” rating in Madden.

9. Over on CBS, I just saw Oakland’s Derek Carr take a sack. He learned everything he knows from his older brother.

10. Hey, don’t you just love it when your team calls a timeout on offense; then comes back out and nearly lets the play clock run out; then runs a play that seems like it was designed to fail, while also committing an illegal formation penalty; then calls another timeout; then throws a pass that is batted down at the line of scrimmage? I know I do. I mean, I really love that. Oh, yeah, just before this sequence, the announcer said that Oakland was “dominating” this scoreless game because of their time-of-possession advantage.

11. This will obviously be prominently featured in the highlight shows, but Detroit LB Stephen Tulloch just injured his knee while celebrating a sack. In response, I hustled to my keyboard to type out a, “That’s Bill Gramatica territory,” joke, only to have color guy John Lynch beat me to the punch. Curse you, John Lynch!

12. I do not have an iPhone. I have never had one, so I’m not really tuned in to iPhone culture. Yet, somehow, I have a very vague feeling that there’s a new version out. Is this true?

13: I’ve just realized what a novice I am at this, since I’ve spent most fall Sundays in a press box for the last 23 years. I say that because I’m suddenly hungry, and I’m surveying the table in front of me and there are no Frito Lay products and nary a single thing involving melted cheese. Now, this is actually a good thing, because more melted cheese in my life is not necessarily recommended. But, still.

14. Detroit QB Matt Stafford amazingly escapes a sure sack by two Green Bay linemen, rolls out to his right and…decides to stop dead and survey the field for open men. It’s like he’s on a stroll through the meadow and he’s spotted a particularly interesting flower. This is not a good idea in a football game, however, as he is immediately turned into Wile E. Coyote by a blindside steamroller named Mike Neal.

15. Just got an update that Washington QB Kirk Cousins is 16-of-18 with two TDs so far against Philly. Hey, didn’t we hear that Washington was going to trade Cousins to the Rams after Sam Bradford went down in the preseason? Well, right now Cousins is lighting it up for Jay Gruden and Rams third-stringer Austin Davis is having another impressive outing. Is this the bizarro no-trade version of the “trade where everybody wins?”

16. So it’s my understanding that Matthew McConaughey has had a career transformation of late. After years of being seen as a shirtless and mindless rom-com star, he’s now a serious actor thanks to well-received roles in things like Dallas Buyers Club and TV’s True Detective. It has been called a McConaissance, which is cute. Personally, I wasn’t ready to buy into the McConaissance…until I saw these atmospheric Lincoln commercials where McConaughey can go home again. What gravitas. What depth. Okay, I’m a believer. Oops, I’m sorry. What I mean is: Alright, alright, alright, I’m a believer.

17. I went to the grocery store during halftime. Did I miss anything important in the halftime shows? Just kidding.

18. That store run, by the way, was primarily for ice. Primarily. Let’s just say I also solved that aforementioned melted-cheese deficiency. I did not pack any willpower for this particular couch-sitting assignment.

19. FOX play-by-play guy Kevin Burkhardt (who’s very good, by the way), is making quite a bit out of the Detroit Lions’ rash of injuries in the secondary. He seems stunned by how many Lion corners have been hurt at the same time. Um, Kevin? I’ve got the Buccaneers’ defensive line on the phone for you.


21. Okay, where are we on this Hans and Franz commercial with Aaron Rodgers? Nostalgia? Desperation? I have to say, I kind of like it. So sue me.

22. Buccaneer great John Lynch breaks out the Kent Tekulve reference. I approve. We would have also accepted “Dan Quisenberry.” (Gosh, that was awfully Bill Simmonsy, wasn’t it? As Simmons might say, that was the Homeless Man’s version of a Bill Simmons riff.)

23. Lots of commercials right now. I have to say, I already wanted an Audi, but now I really do after that “Life is Scripted” commercial. That’s the best ad I’ve seen all day.

24. The Packers trail 19-7 in Detroit with 10 minutes to play. Maybe it’s just me, but that seems pretty dire. However, I’m told by the announcers that it’s not as bad as it seems, and why? Because Green Bay always beats Detroit. Oh, okay. I would have gone with Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, but whatever you say.

25. John Rocker is going to be on the new Survivor. We have obviously pleased the gods.

26. 0-2 Oakland is down, 16-9, in New England, with six minutes to play and a rookie quarterback at the helm. Is anyone really worried about this outcome? Well, yes: about four million people who picked the Patriots in their Last-Man-Standing NFL pools.

27. Speaking of which, calm down, everyone. As everyone knew would happen all along, this one was sealed by a Vince Wilfork interception.

28. Philadelphia breaks a 27-27 tie against Washington with a pretty 27-yard seam pass from Nick Foles to Jeremy Maclin for the score. Joe Buck is rightfully impressed, so much so that he says it is, “…literally the perfect pass.” Literally? I mean, it was nice, but Maclin had to extend his arms and go into a tuck-and-roll after catching it. I think he would have been able to take the perfect pass into the end zone standing up. That said, what is the “perfect pass?” A 99-yarder from the one that settles into the receiver’s hands like a downy-soft feather as he lopes effortlessly into the opposite end zone? We may never see the literal perfect pass.

29. Philly comes up with a big interception and we learn from the FOX graphics that this is their 15th straight game with a turnover. That’s the longest current streak in the NFL. That’s nice, but it also underscores how ridiculous the Buccaneers’ defense was around the turn of the century. In case you forgot, Tampa Bay went 50 straight games during that time in which they had at least one takeaway AND at least one sack. It seemed normal at the time. Now it seems incredible.

30. Last year’s Super Bowl began with the ball being snapped over Peyton Manning’s head for a safety and ended with Seattle forcing four turnovers in a 43-8 route. The rematch happened on Sunday in Seattle, and I’m sure the Broncos came in chanting, “Things are going to be much better this time. Things are going to be much better this time.” After all, the Broncos didn’t commit a single turnover in their first two games. First play from scrimmage for Denver: Montee Ball fumble. Uh oh.

31. Seattle runs a play that involves QB Russell Wilson faking one handoff, flipping the ball to WR Jevon Kearse and going out for a pass. It works, for a gain of 17. Yawn. We’ve already seen this today, Russ. In the world of throwback-passes-to-the-quarterback, Andy Dalton is The Simpsons and you’re Family Guy.

32. True story: I just missed the last 20 minutes because a neighbor knocked on my door asking for a jump for the dead battery in her minivan. I’m not going to lie – I was pretty excited. I am the opposite of a handyman; I can fix virtually nothing around the house. But I do know my way around some jumper cables. I know where you hook them up and everything. It’s pretty impressive. So, anyway, I’m done playing neighborhood superhero (they will tell tales of me for years) and I’m back for more football snark.

33. I’m semi-convinced that the job description for 80% of the people in an NFL bench area is to wildly gesture “catch” (exaggerated and repeated fair catch signal) or “no-catch” (emphatic criss-crossing of arms) any time a pass nears the sideline.

34. More commercials for a new TV show called “Scorpion.” I’m not getting it – I’m told it’s about a team of “the five smartest people on the planet,” so of course the whole preview is everybody in a Ferrari chasing a jet plane.

35. Phil Simms: “These punters punt the ball so far these days, it’s hard to change field position.” Um…

36. Jim Nantz: “[Denver punter Dustin] Colquitt is having a busy day.” Well played, Jim. He’s saying that the Broncos’ offense is struggling, and that’s the nicest euphemism I’ve heard since my boss said we would need to have some “extra days of action” over the weekend.

37. So I’m wrapping things up here with this experiment, and I just saw a commercial for Eliquis, a drug that is used to reduce the risk of stroke. Now, I know that making fun of drug ads is about as inventive as riffing on airplane food, but this one was still pretty remarkable. Remember when the slow-motion, soft-focused protagonists of these commercials were chopping wood or stringing up a hammock or taking bizarre side-by-side baths on the beach? Well, the main characters in this one, dig up a giant, rare fossil! I mean, this is a major archeological find, and we have Eliquis to thank for it!

Is Devin Hester worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement?

Moments after Devin Hester high-stepped his way to a record-breaking 20th career return touchdown on Thursday night, Ian Eagle — calling the game for Westwood One — excitedly referred to the Atlanta Falcons veteran as a “future Hall of Famer.”

It was a thought-provoking description. Guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning — those are safe figures for play-by-play guys to describe as certain Canton inductees. Had Devin Hester really reached that same plain?

Devin Hester,Johnthan BanksFirst, the facts. Hester’s 20 return TDs moved him past Deion Sanders on the NFL’s all-time list. Sanders, of course, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011. Rod Woodson, next on the all-time list with 16 return scores, slipped on his gold jacket in 2009. Ronde Barber, fourth with 14 return scores, will have a very strong case when he becomes eligible in a few years.

That’s fine company, but even Hester would admit he’s an outlier in that group. Sanders was a dominant shutdown cornerback in addition to his return skills. Woodson’s 11 Pro Bowl nods are the most ever for a defensive back. Barber was a five-time All-Pro cornerback and star of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history (the 2002 Bucs).

Hester had some decent receiving years with the Chicago Bears and appears to have a healthy role with the Falcons’ offense this season. But he’s never sniffed a 1,000-yard campaign. He was never a true No. 1 receiver in Chicago. He’s the fourth receiver in Atlanta.

That begs the question: Are 20 big plays enough to get somebody into the Hall of Fame?

We know he has Primetime’s support. Bears kicker Robbie Gould, a 10-year NFL veteran, said Hester is “maybe one of the greatest players I’ve ever played with of all time.” Matt Forte, another former teammate, said Thursday’s 62-yard return against the Bucs put Hester over the hump.

“He’s Hall-of-Fame worthy now,” Forte said, according to

Barring a late-career production surge, it still feels like a stretch to put Hester in Canton. Then again, a lot of people thought Ray Guy would be on the outside looking in forever.
The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps the Falcons’ lopsided win over the Bucs and previews every other game in Week 3.

Know Your Opponent: New Orleans Saints

The Vikings will hit the road this week and try to get back on the winning track after last week’s loss to the New England Patriots. This week’s opponent is the New Orleans Saints, a team anxious to play at home for the first time this season after starting 2014 with consecutive road losses.

tempprac-091714-1-ah091714--nfl_mezz_1280_1024There is plenty more to know about the Saints. Here are the basics…
2014 Record: 0-2
Last Week: Lost 26-24 at Cleveland on a last-second field goal
Division: NFC South
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Superdome (indoors – artificial surface)

Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Sean Payton
Defensive Coordinator: Rob Ryan
Offensive Coordinator: Pete Carmichael
Special Teams Coordinator: Greg McMahon

Defense (3-4 front)
– Ranks tied for 21st in rushing yards allowed, 28th in points allowed, 29th in passer rating allowed
– Strong starting safety tandem of Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro
– Starting RDE Cameron Jordan is the son of former Vikings TE Steve Jordan

– QB Drew Brees is the 2nd player in NFL history to pass for over 4,000 yards in 8 straight seasons
– TE Jimmy Graham is widely considered the best player at his position in the NFL and has 18 catches through 2 games this season
– Starting RB Mark Ingram is expected to miss Sunday’s game with a hand injury

Special Teams
– Under McMahon over the past 7 seasons, the Saints have recovered 14 fumbles and scored 10 touchdowns on special teams
– P Thomas Morstead finished 3rd in the NFL in net punting average (42.3) and tied for 4th in touchbacks on kickoffs last season.
– K Shayne Graham ranks 5th in NFL history in field goal accuracy (85.5%) and was on Cincinnati Bengals teams in 2008 and 2009 with Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer