The Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles feature.
Richard Moore presents the week's top NFL stories.
It’s Miller Time!!
To date, opponents have thrown 251 passes against the 6-0 Denver Broncos, the second most in the NFL. However, Denver’s defense has chalked up seventeen sacks and ranks 22nd in sacks per pass play - a category in which they led the league in 2012-13.
This is where the return of outside linebacker Von Miller from his six game suspension, cannot be underestimated. The Broncos defensive scheming is pretty much build to exploit the strengths of Miller, schemes that allow him to rush from a two-point stance at the line of scrimmage, very much in the manner of a 3-4 outside linebacker operating out of multiple fronts.
Defensive end Shaun Phillips assumed much of Miller’s responsibilities, during the latter’s absence for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, but its Miller is clearly the superior athlete and causes greater concern amongst offensive coordinators.
Even the woefully inept Jacksonville Jaguars, through quarterback Chad Henne, were able to post 303 passing yards, despite being sacked twice. An eventuality that has contributed significantly towards Denver ranking 32nd against the pass (337.7-yards-per-game), 29th in total yards allowed (407.5-yards-per-game), and 24th in points allowed (26.3 points-per-game).
After a poor passing performance against the Chargers for Colts QB Andrew Luck, the return of Von Miller to the Broncos this weekend is particularly bad timing.
Also of concern is the fact that the Broncos are without elite corner cover. Any successes are predicated on getting a rush on opponents. Losing a genuine sack master in Elvis Dumervil hardly helps your capacity to create multiple turnovers. But, if Miller is in the required physical condition to wreak serious havoc, the AFC’s best team will get a whole lot better.
A week after being abruptly cut by the ‘Silver and Black’, Matt Flynn agreed terms with the Buffalo Bills, after working out for the team Monday morning.
The sixth year signal caller provides a valuable insurance package, although Coach Doug Marrone confirmed via the clubs official twitter page that Thad Lewis will remain the starter if healthy ‘Thad Lewis will start if healthy, Flynn the backup if he learns #Bills system. Confidence in Tuel as starter or reserve if needed’.
The Green Bay Packers will have to do without the considerable threat of Randall Cobb, for at least a few games, but remain optimistic that Cobb, the team’s leading receiver through 2013 so far, with 378-yards from 29 receptions, and 3 touchdowns, will play again, despite the team placing the 23-year-old on the injured reserve/designated for return list. Cobb exited last Sunday's 19-17 win against the Baltimore Ravens with a leg injury that ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen confirmed was a fractured fibula.
The designated-for-return rule, which went into effect last season, allows any given team to place one player per season on injured reserve and then bring him back later in the season. Cobb is required to stay on that list for eight weeks before he can return.
He can begin practicing after six weeks. That would allow Cobb to return for the Packers' final three regular-season games, beginning with the Dec. 15 game at Dallas.
The status of fellow receiver James Jones is also the subject of conjecture, after the receiver was unable to practice yesterday.
However, Coach Mike McCarthy was quoted as saying via CBS reporter Larry Hartstein’s twitter page “Hopefully Friday will be the day we find out about James," McCarthy said. "He's very positive about where he is, how he feels."
Time will tell.
The New York Jets and their 14th ranked rushing attack (115.5 yards-per-game) suffered a sizeable blow when running back Mike Goodson suffered a season ending injury when tearing both the anterior cruciate, and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee during the Jets (3-3) 19-6 home loss the previously winless Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4).
The injury came during the fourth quarter when he was hit trying to make a tackle, following a Geno Smith interception.
The 26-year-old signed a three-year $6 million contract in March, after three seasons with the Carolina Panthers, and one with the Raiders, thus ensuring the onus well and truly on Chris Ivory (3.4-yards-per-carry, 115-yards from 34 carries, and 0 touchdowns) and the impressive rookie Bilal Powell (4.1-yards-per-carry, 360-yards from 87 carries, and 1 touchdown) to carry the load for ‘Gang Green’.
Dallas Cowboys (3-3) defensive end DeMarcus Ware is due to miss his first NFL game in nine years, after straining his right thigh muscle during the first quarter of Sundays 31-16 victory over division rivals Washington (1-4) at ‘Jerry World’.
Despite the fact that Ware (115.5 sacks to date) has played through the pain barrier on numerous occasions, mostly due to a continuous neck problem, is doubtful for Sunday’s trip to Philadelphia.
The Chip Kelly offense is beginning to take on an even stronger resemblance to the offense he ran at Oregon, only it appears more balanced with Nick Foles under center.
No, the Tampa Bay buccaneers and a 16th ranked defense that’s giving up on average 350.8-yards-per-game, showed little by way of respect to the extra gap on zone-read looks on Sunday afternoon, and why would they? After all, Foles hardly represents the dual threat that perhaps an RG3, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and more importantly, Micheal Vick would.
That being said, the play-action concepts can be particularly dangerous when taking the form of an accurate pocket passer, as demonstrated by Foles completing 67.2% of his passes in four appearances, including Sunday’s game, where he went 22-for-31 for 269-yards and 3 touchdowns (though, one was the result of a four-yard run on a quarterback draw).
Vick on the other hand, despite being tailor made for Kelly’s offense, has completed a more moderate 53.8% of his passes.
Regardless, with LeSean McCoy (630-yards, 3 touchdowns) and DeSean Jackson (598-yards, 5 touchdowns) being the focal point of the attack, Foles greater efficiency under center could well ensure that he remains under center for some time…
Top of the class?
Top Five Heisman Trophy Contenders
Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Oregon.
Mariota continues to decimate the college scene, and could well go onto surpass his efforts of 2012, where he completed 230 of 336 passes for a completion percentage of 68.5, threw thirty-two touchdowns to only 6 interceptions, and achieving a passer rating of 163.2.
Though six games played thus far, the ducks triggerman has achieved a passer rating of 182.4, after throwing for 1724-yards, 17 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Johnny Manziel, quarterback, Texas A&M.
The man known as ‘Johnny Football’ may come to represent the most polarizing figure on the college scene at present, and may not be producing the seemingly flawless performances of his contemporary in Oregon, but one look at his astonishing performance where he went 28-of-39 for 464-yards, and 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in the Aggies agonizing loss to Alabama, where he led his team to within 7 points of tying the game, will ensure that Manziel stays well in contention for a second Heisman trophy.
Taj Boyd, quarterback, Clemson.
A top 10 quarterback recruit coming out of Hampton, Va., Boyd chose Clemson over Ohio State and Oregon In what would be a precursor to the toughness Boyd has displayed at Clemson, he played his senior year of high school with a torn ACL that required surgery after he led Phoebus High to the second of two state titles. Boyd redshirted and saw limited time as a freshman in 2010.
He became the starter in 2011 and wowed many as Clemson won the ACC and earned a spot in the Orange Bowl. If the Heisman Trophy was awarded after eight games, Boyd would have been the clear favourite in 2011 as he led Clemson to an 8-0 start with a 24-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
However, just like Clemson, he struggled down the stretch. Boyd struggled through some more inconsistency in 2012, but continued to put up staggering numbers en route to being named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year.
He led the Tigers to an 11-2 record while setting regular-season ACC records for touchdowns responsible for in a single game (eight) and season (41) He saved his best for last, engineering a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback victory over LSU in the ‘Chik-fil-A Bowl’.
The final drive included an excellent completion through what should have been an impossibly tight window on a fourth-down situation that kept Clemson's hopes alive. It's the impressive skills and toughness Boyd displayed against LSU that will make scouts review his tape extremely closely.
But, his inconsistency could well divide the scouting community as to Boyd's value on draft day. As many times as Boyd bailed Clemson out of a jam, he had almost as many puzzling mistakes and questionable decisions.
AJ McCarron, quarterback, Alabama.
Alabama's quarterback, AJ McCarron, is putting together another quality year in Tuscaloosa. The senior has led the Tide to two straight BCS Championships and has designs on walking out of Alabama with a third ring. As a starter, McCarron has only lost two games, 2011 against LSU and 2012 against Texas A&M, lofty numbers for a guy many looked upon as nothing more than a mere to ‘game manager’.
McCarron certainly boasts the attributes to keep top ranked Alabama (6-0, 3-0 in the South Ease Conference - West) on the path towards a third consecutive title.
After surviving that dramatic 49-42 shootout with Texas A&M this year, LSU and the SEC Championship Game are the biggest road blocks to Alabama, and its impressive triggerman, AJ McCarron, getting that third straight ring.
Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback, Louisville.
Bridgewater has an excellent physical skill set and possesses the passing ability to be a starter in the NFL. He has a powerful arm with natural accuracy. From a size perspective, Bridgewater is solid. He isn't as tall as the ideal height (but then, is Russell Wilson?) but he is tall enough and plays at a good weight.
Bridgewater made some astounding throws downfield last year.
He was able to fire the ball deep despite getting some pressure and not being able to step into the throw. Bridgewater generally has good ball placement in the intermediate and deep part of the field.
There are a few areas in which Bridgewater could stand to improve. His footwork could get better for the NFL and it will help his accuracy. He could stand to improve on his anticipation, too, but he has a good starting point and should continue to improve in conjunction with experience.
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