Roddy White, Victor Cruz taking shots at one another

Who has a better pair of playmaking wide receivers?

The Atlanta Falcons with Roddy White and Julio Jones or the New York Giants with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz?

Well, White is biased and the Falcons veteran has come out throwing some barbs in the direction of Cruz during an interview on NFL Network with Michael Irvin.

Victor Cruz is a lot more of a slot receiver; the big boys play on the outside,” White said, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

Cruz, who had a breakout season a year ago, is off to another fine start as he has 23 receptions for 279 yards and one touchdown. It’s a little tough to evaluate the Giants’ pair because Nicks has been banged up in recent weeks.

“I couldn't care less about what anybody else has to say,” Cruz told the Star-Ledger. “I got a ring back at home. I don't care about what Roddy White has to say.”

There is that too. White and the Falcons have been postseason underachievers and Atlanta got drilled at New York in the wild-card round of the playoffs last season.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Michael Brockers hopes to make debut on Sunday

St. Louis Rams first-round draft pick Michael Brockers hopes to make his regular-season debut Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome against the Seattle Seahawks.

Brockers has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain since the team’s preseason finale, missing the first three-regular season games. Although the Rams have officially listed the defensive tackle as questionable, he expects to be in action.

We'll give it a go,” Brockers said, according to Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I will be playing Sunday. The ankle's holding up pretty well, so I expect to play a heavy amount in Sunday's game.”

Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Brockers has a “chance.” The Rams have been excited about Brockers, who they picked up after trading down in the first round. He has an opportunity to anchor a line that already has some nice players on the edge in Chris Long and Robert Quinn.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Giants rule Hakeem Nicks out for Sunday

The New York Giants have ruled wide receiver Hakeem Nicks out for Sunday’s game and he will not travel with the team to Philadelphia.

Nicks has swelling in his knee, according to, and that has plagued him since he hit the turf in Week 2. Nicks did not play last week and will be replaced by Ramses Barden.

Nicks has been dealing with foot issues too following surgery in the summer but the knee issue is what has him on the shelf right now.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Vikings excited to have Jerome Simpson in the mix

With his three-game suspension behind him, Jerome Simpson is ready to make an impact for the Minnesota Vikings, who took a chance on the speedy but occasionally troubled wideout.

Simpson is expected to play Sunday at Ford Field now that he has satisfied his suspension from the league for a felony drug conviction from last year. Simpson had marijuana shipped to his home when he was with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hopefully, me just being fresh, I can just be that little extra spark that we need,” Simpson said, according to the Associated Press.

Simpson has speed which has been sorely missing in Minnesota’s attack but he’s only been a proven performer for one season in the NFL. The Vikings have been nothing but happy to have him and believe his up-tempo attitude is a real plus for a young team.

“Everyone feeds off of that energy,” quarterback Christian Ponder said. “He’s got so much energy that he brings to the table, and he loves being out here.”

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

NFL 'not overly concerned' Green Bay-Seattle game affects playoffs

IRVING, Texas—Just as the NFL hoped a critical mistake by replacement officials would not swing the balance of a game, the league now has to hope the botched outcome of Monday’s Packers-Seahawks game doesn’t swing the balance of the standings such that it affects the playoffs.

The Fail Mary as many have called it Monday – Russell Wilson’s touchdown pass to Golden Tate on the final play of the game – no doubt spurred along talks between the officials and NFL resulting in a labor agreement Wednesday night.

Now, it’s back to football with regular crews working this week’s games, including the Cleveland-Baltimore game on Thursday night.

“We hope the whole thing is behind us now because we played with the regular officials on Thursday night and did a good job,” the NFL’s executive vice president of operations Ray Anderson told me this morning at a hotel where the officials were meeting. “Part of our message to this crew was we are delighted to have them back and we’re excited about this weekend’s slate of games so we can get back to pure football.”

But is the NFL concerned the Green Bay-Seattle game will have a significant impact on the postseason?

We are not overly concerned,” Anderson said. “That was the third week of the season. We have 13 more weeks to go. There are a lot of things that impact how teams do overall, including their own performances. We will let that natural laws of the NFL take care of themselves and we’ll see where we are at the end of the year.”

One of the wins for the league in negotiations was the creation of a developmental system to get future officials ready. It will allow the NFL to replace underperforming officials as typically the turnover for the 121 officials has only been about four or five a year, almost always because of retirement.

“There is nothing better for human nature and motivation than competition for positions and accountability for your performance and that is what having a bench, having a development squad will provide for us long term,” Anderson said. “We think it will make us better because everyone is going to be motivated to work hard to get that field time.

“Part of being able to make sure that you can control the quality is to have something more than retirement motivating you to perform and that is competition for your starting field time. That is good for all of us long term. That is better for the integrity of the game.”

Some would argue three weeks with replacement officials was quite damaging to the integrity of the game.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

NFP Saturday Tailgate

Week 4 is in the books, and Week 5 kicked off Thursday night with a Pac-12 upset as Washington beat Stanford behind a sound defensive game plan from Huskies coordinator Justin Wilcox.

Conference play heats up this week, as Derek Dooley begins a critical four-game stretch at Tennessee, while Andrew Maxwell and Michigan State will look to take care of business at home against undefeated Ohio State.

So once again, dust off that grill and get it fired up because we’re starting this weekend’s tailgate.

The marquee matchups

Ohio State at Michigan State

X-Factor: Spartans quarterback Andrew Maxwell…Michigan State has been able to rely on Le'Veon Bell for two games of over 200 yards, but Bell was limited by the Notre Dame front seven in the Spartans' loss to the Fighting Irish. And in that loss to ND in East Lansing, Maxwell was unable to move the football through the air. Against Ohio State, Bell should be able to be productive on the ground, but he won't be able to carry the offensive load. The first-year starting quarterback must develop rapport with someone other than Dion Sims, the tight end who has been Maxwell's safety valve. Receivers Keith Mumphery, Bennie Fowler and Tony Lippett must be able to stretch the field and help give this offense a vertical look.

Tennessee at Georgia

Rajion NealUS PRESSWIRERaijon Neal will need to have a big game if Tennessee has any chance to knock off Georgia.

X-Factor: Vols running back Raijon Neal…What are some of the best ways to slow down an attacking, blitzing defense such as the one coordinator Todd Grantham fields every week for Georgia? Run right at the heart of the defense, use misdirection, utilize the screen pass and call for draw plays. Expect all of that in Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's arsenal on Saturday in Athens when Derek Dooley begins a make-or-break four-game stretch against Mark Richt's Bulldogs. Neal will need to have a similar game as the one he had against Akron, because Vols quarterback Tyler Bray cannot single-handedly win this game for Tennessee.

Other games to keep an eye on

Wisconsin at Nebraska: It appears that Badgers running back Montee Ball will play under the lights at Memorial Stadium after suffering a head injury last week. How effective will he be after enduring his second head injury in the last two months? Meanwhile, Cornhuskers dual-threat signal-caller Taylor Martinez has improved as a passer and has made this Huskers offense much more effective.

Texas at Oklahoma State: The Longhorns have the luxury of being able to rush just four, drop seven into coverage and still generate a serious pass rush. And that's bad news for a Cowboys passing attack that still has not named their starting quarterback. What's worse news is that Longhorns defensive coordinator Manny Diaz still loves to utilize exotic blitzes, so the Pokes' signal-callers will have a tough task on Saturday in Stillwater.

Baylor at West Virginia: The Mountaineers begin Big 12 play with a matchup against Baylor, which boasts a similar high-octane offense. Dana Holgorsen's squad gets a boost from the return of running back Shawne Alston, which should help an already-stellar offense. And Baylor doesn't have the defensive prowess to contain Geno Smith and Co.

Arkansas at Texas A&M: These teams played a classic last year at Cowboys Stadium, but Razorback fans fear that this one can get out of hand after some of the efforts they've seen from John L. Smith's squad the last few weeks. Defensively, Arkansas has not improved under new coordinator Paul Haynes. Can Aggies freshman dual-threat signal-caller Johnny Manziel continue the Hogs' woes?

Oregon State at Arizona: It seems like Mike Riley's Beavers are still going under the radar. But better line play on both sides of the ball have this squad sitting at 2-0 but heading into a tough environment in Tucson.

Don't forget about…

North Carolina State at Miami (FL)
Minnesota at Iowa
Louisiana Tech at Virginia
Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati*

Email or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

Overrated Prospect – Devin Taylor

Devin Taylor Defensive End South Carolina

6060 (Estimated) 285 (Estimated) 4.85 (Estimated)

One third of the way into the 2012 college season conference games have just begun. While Missouri has received a rude awakening in their first two SEC games, not all of the players they have faced have impressed as much as expected. This week I break down South Carolina defensive end Devin Taylor who has yet to become the dominant college player he was expected to be when he arrived in Columbia as one of the most recruited players in the country. Despite being hyped in the media as a likely first round pick, Taylor did not receive high grades this spring from the combines (Blesto and National) and has not shown us first round production or talent on film.

There is little question that Taylor looks the part of an NFL player “on the hoof” at over 6’6, with a muscular physique and long arms. However, the issue is that he is a “tweener” and does not play aggressively on a consistent basis, both of which have limited his production. In today’s NFL to play defensive end in a 43 defense you must be productive rushing the passer, while in a 34 scheme a defensive end has to consistently play strong at the point of attack, but Taylor has not proven he can make an impact doing either.

Taylor lacks the first step quickness and explosive burst to threaten the corner as a speed rusher and does not change directions fast enough to defeat pass blocker with quick pass rush moves. Additionally, while he has the natural strength to be an impact “bull rusher,” too often he gets upright and high rushing the passer and does not use hands aggressively to jolt pass blocker, which limits his strength as a pass rusher. Lacking consistency as a pass rusher makes him much better suited to be tried as a defensive end in a 34 defense, but then other issues with his play become concerns.

In the world of “line play” the two important rules are – “first hands win” and “low man always wins.” Taylor’s lack of aggressiveness with hands allows offensive linemen to “get a good fit” on him and they are able to tie him up and keep him out of the play too easily. By popping upright at the snap and taking on blockers high at the point of attack, Taylor loses leverage and allows himself to be tied up and driven off the ball too easily by run blockers. By playing without leverage, Taylor also gets stopped in his tracks when he tries to “bull rush.”

While Taylor’s lack of explosiveness and inconsistent technique limit his production, more concerning and debilitating are his inconsistent motor and often passive style of play. He does not attack the blocker in front of him or chase hard after the play to make plays in backside pursuit. His tendency to stop fighting to defeat blockers once they get ahold of him, leads to him being tied up and eliminated from the play way too easily for a player with his talent.

In terms of physical talent, Taylor reminds me of former Northwestern star and current Bears backup defensive end Corey Wooten, but Taylor does not play with the passion or competitiveness that Wooten displayed in college. In the end, many may expect Taylor to be a first round pick, but from what I have seen on film and heard from scouts, he is more likely to be a third to fifth round pick who will need to produce at a much higher level if he wants to be more than a backup in the NFL.

Email Russ at and Follow Russ on Twitter @RUSSLANDE

No practice again for Britt

Kenny Britt missed a full week of practice for the Tennessee Titans, but the receiver is still hopeful he can play in Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

Britt told his ankle is feeling better, but it will all depend on what he can do in warmups Sunday as to whether the Titans will have him active Sunday.

It's feeling better than yesterday, so that's a good sign. We've still got two more days till Sunday.” said Britt, who is listed as questionable on the Titans injury report.

Tight end Jared Cook is listed as questionable, but practiced for a second straight day with his injured left shoulder.

Follow me on Twitter @Terrymc13

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for

Winslow awaits next NFL opportunity

Kellen Winslow tweeted that he is looking forward to his next NFL opportunity after reportedly asking for his release from the New England Patriots. reported that Winslow had asked the team to release him.

That request was granted by the team on Thursday, just days after the veteran tight end had one catch for 12 yards against the Baltimore Ravens.

Winslow's tweet read: I'm lookin forward to my next opportunity in the NFL and continuing to play the game I Love!

Follow me on Twitter @TerryMc13

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for

Start 'em, Sit 'em, Smash 'em

Before we get down to business, just a reminder that the GameDay live chat will begin at 10:30am eastern on Sunday and will run for one hour. You’ll be able to access the chat through an article posted on the main page of the NFP Sunday morning.

FADE OF THE WEEK (Season: 0-3)

Last week: SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (-3) vs. Atlanta Falcons (loss)

NEW YORK GIANTS (+2.5) at Philadelphia Eagles: This one comes down to the ability of Philadelphia’s banged-up offensive line to provide adequate protection against that vicious pass rush from the defending Super Bowl champions. If Michael Vick spends the day running for his life, you can expect the Eagles to once again struggle in the turnover department.


A miserable 2-3 effort in Week 3 puts our overall record at a lackluster 6-9. I’ve got to turn this thing around soon or the year will be lost.

NEW YORK GIANTS (+2.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
CAROLINA PANTHERS (+7) at Atlanta Falcons
GREEN BAY PACKERS (-7.5) vs. New Orleans Saints
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-1) vs. San Diego Chargers
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (-4) at New York Jets


We’ve now 2-1 on the season with our survivor selections after picking the Bears to defeat the St. Louis Rams last Sunday. That’s nothing to write home about, because losing one week in a survivor contest means the dream is dead. But we’ll keep firing regardless.

Week 4: Green Bay Packers OVER New Orleans Saints


New format this week: Just a $2 entry fee, but there’s still a $1,000 prize pool. CLICK HERE to enter. Matt Bowen and I will both be looking to take home the title.


Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills (vs. New England): He’s tossed three touchdown passes in two of three starts this season and has topped the 300-yard mark in each of his last two outings against the Patriots. In addition, New England is currently surrendering an average of 21.7 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (10th-most in NFL), so we believe Fitzpatrick could be in for a big day, especially if Tom Brady and company turn this game into a shootout.

Cedric Benson, RB, Green Bay Packers (vs. New Orleans): There’s nothing like a game against that leaky faucet of a Saints defense to pad your stats and build your confidence. If Benson gets enough carries, he should have no problem bringing home a solid stat line against a team that is currently giving up more fantasy points to opposing running backs than any other unit in the league (33.5 fantasy pts/gm).

Wes WelkerICONWith Aaron Hernandez out of the lineup, Wes Welker has recorded an abundance of targets.

Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots (at Buffalo): Welker’s been targeted 21 times over his last two starts and should play a big role in New England’s quest to end their current two-game losing streak. Take note that despite playing quarterbacks Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden this year, the Bills are still giving up a staggering 30.2 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers (fourth-most in NFL). So what’s going to happen now that they have to try and limit future Hall of Famer Tom Brady?

Ryan Williams, RB, Arizona Cardinals (vs. Miami): With Beanie Wells out of commission for the time being, the second-year back out of Virginia Tech now has an opportunity to solidify his spot as Arizona’s running back of the future. Williams rolled up 83 yards on just 13 carries last week against the Eagles (6.3 YPC) and should find plenty of running room against a Dolphins defense that is surrendering an average of 18.4 fantasy points per game to opposing ball carriers this year (11th-most in NFL).

Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Washington): The Redskins have given up 32, 31 and 38 points, respectively, to each of their three opponents so far on the season, with fantasy wide receivers averaging a ridiculous 40.3 points per game during those contests (most in NFL). If the $55 million man can’t get it going on Sunday, owners might have to think about sending Jackson to the bench for an extended period of time.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings (at Detroit): Rudolph is averaging 6.0 targets per game this season and has scored three touchdowns over his last two outings. And when you throw in the fact that only the Tennessee Titans are surrendering more fantasy points to opposing TEs on the season than the Lions, you’ve got a favorable situation in which Rudolph should be anywhere but your bench.

St. Louis Rams, D/ST (vs. Seattle): You won’t get a whole lot out of this unit over the course of the season, but Sunday is an excellent opportunity to start the Rams D/ST if you’re looking to play a favorable matchup. The Seahawks currently rank 29th in the NFL in total offense (269.0 yds/gm) and 26th in scoring (19.0 pts/gm). In addition, Vegas has the total for this game posted at 39, meaning the bookmakers are expecting a low-scoring defensive affair as well.


Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears (at Dallas): Over his last two starts, Cutler is completing just 48.3% of his passes with one touchdown, five interceptions and nine sacks. That’s downright dreadful. And we don’t see his game improving much on Monday night at Dallas against a Cowboys defense that is currently surrendering an average of just 12.5 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (second-fewest in NFL) this season.

Steven JacksonBetween a lack of production and a tough matchup, Jackson is better off on the bench this weekend.

Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams (vs. Seattle): Jackson is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, has failed to top 60 rushing yards in a game this season and has yet to score a touchdown. Does that sound like a guy you want in your starting lineup? Oh yeah, we forgot to mention that the Seahawks are giving up an average of just 11.8 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (seventh-fewest in NFL). Leave Jackson on the bench.

Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers (at Atlanta): Smith has been kept out of the end zone in each of his three starts this season and has scored a touchdown in just one of his last six games against the Falcons. Throw in the fact that Atlanta is giving up an average of just 17.0 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts in 2012 (fifth-fewest in NFL) and you’re probably better served going with an option that offers more upside in Week 4.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants (at Philadelphia): The Eagles have done a much better job against the run this season than they did in 2011, surrendering an average of just 13.0 fantasy points per game (t-ninth-fewest in NFL) to opposing runn
ing backs so far on the year. Bradshaw will start for Big Blue on Sunday, but Andre Brown is going to handle a portion of the workload after what he did against the Panthers in Week 3. The upside here is limited.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. San Diego): Bowe has found the end zone only once in his last four games against the Chargers and is averaging just 36.3 receiving yards per outing during that same stretch. And with the Bolts giving up an average of only 17.1 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (sixth-fewest in NFL), you’d be better served going in another direction at the WR position in Week 4.

Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. NY Giants): Celek has been solid so far in 2012 (14-258 on 25 targets), but runs in to a Giants defense this Sunday that has been equally impressive defending the tight end position (5.2 fantasy pts/gm, seventh-fewest in NFL). This isn’t a terrible start, but if you have another option with a more favorable matchup, we advise that you go in that direction.

Green Bay Packers, D/ST (vs. New Orleans): Green Bay’s defense has been very impressive over the last two weeks, giving up an average of just 12.0 points per game while forcing four turnovers and notching eight sacks. But for as bad as the New Orleans Saints have been this season, keep in mind that Drew Brees and company are still averaging 27.6 points per game and will come out throwing in this one. With a current total of 53.5 points, Vegas is expecting this game to be a shootout.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh