NFL Alphabet Preview: Week 7


NFL Alphabet Preview: Week 7

It's Week 7, and time for another installment of the Alphabet NFL Preview.

Or is it the NFL Alphabet Preview?

Let's go to Mike Pereira for clarification . . .

Actually, let's just get started.

A is for ALTER EGO
On Sunday in Houston, the Ravens begin life without Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb two leaders on the defense who will watch the rest of the season from the couch (or in Lewis case, more likely, from the sidelines in a full Nike jumpsuits). To make matters worse, Ed Reeds playing with a torn labrum, Haloti Ngata has a sprained knee (troublesome when youre 330 pounds) and even if Terrell Suggs returns this week, hes still months away from being his old Brady-obsessed self.

But even before this rash of injuries, it hasnt been a great year for Dean Pees and the legendary Ravens D. They rank 26th in total yards, and their run defense has been sketchier than a casual encounters post on Craigslist.

Not exactly the best time to head out on the road against Arian Foster and the Texans' fifth ranked offense. Baltimore's best bet might just be to hope that Bernard Pollard can eliminate all of Houston's best players by halftime.


You give any quarterback in this league time to throw (Correction: Any non-Kansas City Chiefs quarterback), and theres a good chance hell make you pay. You give a future Hall of Famer enough time and hell leave you naked on the side of the road sucking your thumb in the fetal position.

Anyway, through six games, the Giants offensive line has been impregnable, allowing a league-low four sacks, including none over their last three games. In fact, screw the sacks, Eli Manning only been hit 11 times (including only once last week against the insane San Francisco D). Twenty NFL QBs have been sacked more than Manning has been hit.

The Giants host the Redskins this week, and unless Washington can break through and get some pressure, we might have a bloodbath on our hands. The Skins secondary has given up more passing yards than anyone in the league, and is tied for last in passing touchdowns allowed (15) with the Pats and Browns.


There's no doubt that the Dez Bryant is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL. I'm talking pure, raw talent. It's just that, to this point, injuries and the space between his ears have prevented Dez from realizing his sick potential. But those days may be coming to an end. Bryant's been targeted by Tony Romo a team-high 28 times over the last two weeks, and more astoundingly, has caught 21 of those targets for 200 yards and a two scores.

Now we shouldn't get too carried away yet. Dez is still a wild card. Much like the last guy to wear No. 88 in Dallas, he's just as likely to stab a teammate in the neck with a pair of scissors as he is to carve up the Panthers this week. But I'd say it's fair to be cautiously optimistic that Bryant has finally turned the corner.

Or if you're the rest of the NFL, legitimately terrified.


Believe it or not, were six weeks into the season and Robert Griffin III has yet to play a game within the NFC East. But this week, the rookie gets thrown into the fire under the most daunting circumstances: Against the Giants, at MetLife Stadium. Yikes. Thats like going out for your driving test on Memorial Ave. in Cambridge.

Its going to be a ton of fun to watching RGIII go up against the Giants defensive line. So far this season, the rookie hasn't done much damage through the air, as he ranks 21st in passing yards and 27th in attempts (granted, he does lead the league with a 70.2 completion percentage), but hes making a historic impact with his legs. Through six games, Griffins 15th in the NFL in rushing yards (ahead of Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson and Darren McFadden), second in rushing TDs (6) and second in yards per carry (6.9).

You know that RGIII is dreaming big for Sunday, but seeing that it's his first NFC East rodeo, it might smart to set a few more modest goals. For instance, to not be eaten by Jason Pierre-Paul.


It feels like forever since the Arizona Cardinals were on top of the NFL world; 4-0 with wins against Seattle, New England and Philly, and boasting a defense that looked ready to hang with anyone.

These days, the Cards have lost two straight (to St. Louis and Buffalo), will be without Kevin Kolb for at least six weeks, their two best running backs for the foreseeable future and find themselves 6.5-point underdogs this week against the Vikings. To make matters worse, their upcoming schedule is straight out of Ken Whisenhunt's cruelest nightmare, as Arizona's next three games come against San Francisco, at Green Bay and at Atlanta.

Said Kolb: "Phew."


In last years Fiesta Bowl, Brandon Ego Weedens Oklahoma State Cowboys beat Andrew Lucks Stanford Cardinal in an overtime classic , 41-38. On Sunday, well witness a rematch of sorts when the Browns visit the Colts.

If you need any reminder that this isn't last year, just take a look at the overunder: 45.5.

And if you need a good laugh, here's a ridiculous picture of Jim Irsay.

G is for GUTTER

Through six game, the Jaguars rank last in the NFL in total offense, last in passing yards per game and last in scoring. Theyve also run for only one touchdown, rank 25th in points allowed and have sacked opposing quarterbacks an NFL-low three times.

But running back Maurice Jones-Drew, for one, is undeterred.

Just kidding. He sounds about two steps away from taking a bath with his toaster.

It's been the same thing for five years," he said. "Obviously, we're not working hard enough. I don't know. We're just not playing well right now. We have to figure something out. No one here is going to save us.

Jacksonville travels to Oakland on Sunday.


Earlier in the week, the NFL announced that Beyonce will be the halftime entertainment at this years Super Bowl in New Orleans.

I'm installing early 3-to-1 odds that baby Blue Ivy makes an appearance on stage and, at 13 months old, delivers a freestyle rap verse that trumps anything I could do if I had 10 years to rehearse.


Czar Goodells BountyGate crusade took another hit this week when the NFL Players Association filed papers in federal court pointing out that the NFL permitted the Packers Reggie White to run a smash-for-cash incentive program back in 1996.

Goodell responded by suspending the NFLPA for the rest of the season.


We already expected to see Tim Tebow line up for a few snaps at QB this week against the Pats. Not to mention maybe a snap or two as a wide out and a few more in punt coverage. But this week, Rex Ryan says that we may also even see Tebow at running back, and to be honest, that's not a bad idea. Last week's breakout aside, I think Tebow could at least be as effective as Shonn Greene.

But for all the mixing and matching, it's amazing that Ryan can't come to grips with reality that the best way to use Tim Tebow is as his every day quarterback . . . while Mark Sanchez settles into his more suited dual role as water boycougar hunter.


The Bills defense is bad. How bad? Bad enough that they had to re-sign Shawne Merriman this week. Bad enough that Matt Hasselbeck is going to have all the time in the world on Sunday, allowing finally healthy Kenny Britt and breakout rookie Kendall Wright to lead the way in a big win in Buffalo.

Hell, Chris Johnson might even get in on the action.

Nah, probably not.


According to Rotoworld, the Browns Greg Little has dropped 30 percent of his catchable targets this season. 30 percent! As if Cleveland fans needed to feel any worse about trading the pick that could have landed them Julio Jones.

Little's the young receiver Mike Holmgren drafted in Julio's stead. Granted, Little went at No. 59, as opposed to No. 6, so the expectations aren't in the same stratosphere. Still, Little's well on his way to being remembered as the biggest second round bust since Chad Jackson.

More likely, not remembered at all.


How's this for a potential Sunday milestone:

The Texans have never beaten the Baltimore Ravens.

N is for NO. 1 PICKS

It's a tale of two No. 1 picks in the NFC right now, as the Sam Bradford, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft is improving every day, taking the Rams to new heights and inspired one scout to tell the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel this week that he's take Bradford over Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler in the "short and long term."

And then there's Stafford. The No. 1 pick in the 2009 Draft, who finally broke out last year but has fallen right back in this season. Stafford was criticized publicly by two former QBs this week Ron Jaworski and Phil Simms and has thrown only four touchdowns to go with five intereceptions for the 2-3 Lions.

But hey, on the brightside, he's not JaMarcus Russell.

O is for OOPS

The Vikings had nine red zone snaps in the first quarter of last weeks loss to the Redskins, and Percy Harvin (quickly becoming one of the versatile and devastating offensive weapons in the league) was on the field for only four of them.

"That was just the way the personnel groups went, Minnesota offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said later. "That was part of our plan, which we're not proud of . . . We're hoping to use him down there both run game and play-action when he's in the backfield."

Wow. I guess it's hard to criticize Musgrave's honesty. His answer is certainly better than anything that came out of Bill Belichick's mouth during the Welker fiasco. But If I'm Ziggy Wilf, I say: "Bill, I appreciate your honesty, but you're fired." I mean, how is part of the plan to have Harvin on the bench when you're in the red zone?

I'm guessing he'll be out there this week against Arizona.

Quick note: Is it possible to look more like a guy named "Ziggy Wilf" than the actual Ziggy Wilf?


After a frustrating start to his sophomore season, Cam Newton's feeling fresh of the bye and ready to lead the Panthers this Sunday against Dallas. Newton said that this newfound optimism stems from a conversation he had with his father.

Well, that's all I have to hear. I mean, when has Cecil Newton ever led his son astray?


While the rest of the league takes the battle for Week 7, one of the saddest QB competitions in NFL history will be unfolding in Kansas City. Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn . . . Who's is gonna be!?!?!

I think they'd probably be better off luring 42-year-old Elvis Grbac out of retirement.


Time to take a quick look back at last week's predictions and see how I did:

The Good: Brandon Weeden will play well against Bengals; Lions will beat Eagles; Colts will have let down against the Jets; Peyton will get the best of Chargers; Brian Hartline will struggle against Rams

The Bad: Shonn Green should be benched; Cardinals will beat Bills; Randy Moss will have a tantrum.

That's 5-3 I'll take it.

S is for STEP IT UP

The Bengals had one of the easiest early season schedules in the NFL, with two games against the Browns, and dates with the Jaguars and Dolphins over the first six weeks . . . but they blew it, and head into Sunday night's game against Pittsburgh at 3-3.

Bengals fans have to hope that better competition brings out a better team, because Cincinnati schedule doesn't look great from here. After the Steelers, they play the Broncos, then the Giants, at Kansas City, Oakland, at San Diego, Dallas, at Philadelphia, at Pittsburgh and then finish the season the way they started it with a game against the Ravens.

Wow. I'd say Marvin Lewis' job might be in trouble, but he's proven to be the George Costanza of NFL coaches. Lewis could show up at a meeting wearing Anthony Munoz's jersey and wipe cherry juice all over it . . . he could drive around the parking lot with the 1988 AFC Championship trophy tied to his bumper . . . and he still wouldn't be fired.


Last nights game between the Seahawks and 49ers was low-scoring, but still entertaining thanks to the unbelievable defenses on both sides. However, the next four weeks will likely be low-scoring and borderline unwatchable. Week 8: Tampa Bay at Minnesota. Week 9: Kansas City at San Diego (in a stadium that might be three quarters full). Week 10: Indianapolis at Jacksonville (same) and Week 11: Miami at Buffalo.


With last week's Lions win in Philadelphia, I'm 1-1 on the Upset Special this season. Soon to be 2-1 after the Rams beat Green Bay on Sunday.

Why? Go re-read "N" then check out the last part of "W" then place a call to your bookie and thank me next week.

V is for VOLANT

volant (adjective): Flying, or capable of flight.

Use in a sentence: The Saints offense will be volant on Sunday in Tampa, regardless of whether Jimmy Graham plays, thanks to the Bucanneers 31nd ranked pass defense.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean anything about the outcome of the game, seeing how Drew Brees is averaging nearly 30 more passing yards a game (344) than anyone in the league and the Saints are still only 1-4. Still, with the Saints defense as pathetic as it is this season, New Orleans can only stay in games if they're able to pick up yards in the air, and the fact that that's a very real possibility against Tampa bodes well for Brees and Co.'s chances.

Random note: You know what surprised me a little about this SaintsBucs match-up? Over the last 10 years, Tampa actually has the edge in the head-to-head competition 11-10.


James Jones has been the most obvious benefactor of Greg Jennings' groin injury using his added reps to catch a league-leading seven touchdown passes. But as far as the Packers are concerned, Jennings absence has been opened their eyes to Randall Cobb.

Cobb has 29 receptions this year on only 35 targets, and this week Aaron Rodgers said that the second-year man out of Kentucky is "probably going to go down as one of the better picks of Ted Thompson's career, if not the best."

Well, as long as you don't count that future Hall of Fame quarterback that Thompson snagged with the 28th pick in the 2005 Draft.

Anyway, Rodgers, Cobb and the Pack are riding high after their big win in Houston, but the passing game may be up for a test this week in St. Louis. The Rams have allowed a league-low four touchdown passes, and rank fifth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (208), opposing QB rating (72.8) and interceptions (8).

X is for XENIAL

Xenial: Relating to, or constituting hospitality or relations between host and guest.

Did you catch the story that the director of PR for the Chargers wrote, and then posted ON THE FRONT PAGE of last night? Here it is, if you feel like reading the whole thing, but I promise you can get the gist from the first few sentences. (Reminder: This was in the aftermath of Monday's despicable loss to the Broncos. Also, in the aftermath of GM AJ Smith making an assembly line of horrendous decisions over the course of the last few years)

"Whats with you people? Yes, Monday nights loss was bad. Horrible. Embarrassing. OK . . . enough already. No mas. I get it. Now get over it. It was a loss. One loss."

Imagine if the Pats sent out something like that after last week's mess in Seattle?

Y is for YO-YO

Win. Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss.

That's the Steelers' season so far, and on Sunday night they'll head to Cincinnati where they've won 10 of their last 11 games. But who cares what their history in Cincy suggests . . . the yo-yo tells all. (As does Cincy's surprisingly bad defense). Count on the Steelers to get back in the win column.

Z is for ZINGER

OK, I've finally heard back from Pereira on the name discrepancy and he says that: "The only thing more tedious and drawn than sitting through an NFL replay challenge is reading this God damn preview."

Yikes. Sorry, Mike.

Enjoy the games, everybody.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: What's going on between Patriots, Butler?


BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: What's going on between Patriots, Butler?

0:41 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith discuss what’s going on between the Patriots and Malcolm Butler after Bill Belichick praised Jonathan Jones and Eric Rowe but didn’t have much to say on Butler.

5:39 - John Farrell thinks David Price out of the bullpen can be similar to Andrew Miller with the Indians last year in the playoffs. Our panel on BST break it down.

10:35 - Curran, Holley, Smith, and Phil Perry talk about the NFL ratings being down and why that continues to be.

15:15 - Evan Drellich joins BST after the Red Sox win to explain why Drew Pomeranz could be even more threatening, how good the bullpen actually is, and the offense not driving in runs.

Dorsett (knee) hoping to be able to practice this week


Dorsett (knee) hoping to be able to practice this week

FOXBORO -- The picture at wide receiver wasn't pretty for the Patriots by the time the clock hit zeros in the fourth quarter in New Orleans over the weekend. 

Chris Hogan looked hobbled for much of the second half. Phillip Dorsett left with a knee injury. Danny Amendola was ruled out well in advance of kickoff with a concussion and a knee injury. Matthew Slater was ruled out due to a hamstring injury. Brandin Cooks looked like the only Patriots wideout to finish the game feeling spry.


But as the team prepares for the Texans this week, Dorsett is hoping he'll be back on the field with his teammates for practice. 

"I feel good," Dorsett said in the Patriots locker room Monday. "Just a little sore, but I'm alright."

Not only would it help the Patriots offense to have another body available at receiver, but Dorsett understands how crucial it is for him to practice as much as possible. He was acquired in a trade with the Colts just before the season, and he knows he has work to do to get adjusted to his new offense.

"It's just me going out there and getting the plays in practice," Dorsett said when asked about his confidence level in running New England's system. "I feel like practice builds my confidence. If I get to play in practice, I feel more comfortable when it comes to the game."

Dorsett looked comfortable in Week 2, catching three passes for 68 yards. His first grab in the first quarter went for 23 yards and came on a play when Tom Brady, who was hit as he released, threw a floater down the right sideline. Dorsett alertly saw the pass falling short and worked back toward the line of scrimmage to make the catch. 

"I think he trusts me," Dorsett said of Brady. "We work a lot during practice and after practice. Hopefully we can continue to gain more trust as the season goes on. It's only the second game. We got a long way to go."

More practice time would be helpful in allowing that relationship to continue to grow. We'll see if Dorsett gets any when the Patriots take the fields behind Gillette Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.