Monday Morning MD: Easy to just blame the coach

When a player returns early and is re-injured, it is too simplistic to blame the coach for pushing a player to hurt. Bills head coach Rex Ryan faced that criticism when LeSean McCoy played through and aggravated a hamstring strain in a Dolphins loss on Sunday.
Mid-week, McCoy was originally declared with only muscle tightness that turned out to be “coach speak” for a mild to moderate strain per media reports. It would be easy for me to say “I told you so” after the Bills star RB left the game in the second half feeling pain after 8 carries for 11 yards. I did warn of ineffectiveness and aggravation but that is nothing the Bills medical staff would not be aware of and had considered. The offensive coordinator even said earlier this week, “I don’t want to do what we did last year. I don’t want him playing 85% re-injuring the hamstring and this thing lingering all year.”
Return-to-play decisions are not solely made by the team doctor or the head coach. Typically it needs to be a unanimous group decision between three parties: the medical staff, the team and the player. Any of the three has “veto power” and must share in the responsibility of all return-to-play scenarios.
The medical staff input is a combination of the doctors and athletic trainers. The team decision requires varying input from coaching (head coach, coordinators and position coaches) and management (general manager and sometimes owner). The player component includes the athlete, agent and often family. (Certainly agents have stepped up and prevented their guys from playing before.) All three combined parties must agree, otherwise a player doesn’t step on the field. Decisions like these are always joint discussions and are never made in a vacuum.
Ryan acknowledged, “We never play a guy our doctor and trainers don’t clear”. I am sure the medical staff was aware of and discussed risks of re-injury and ineffectiveness. McCoy accepted his role in the decision to play as well, saying “I felt good…I wouldn’t play, if I wasn’t 100%”.
Given this situation plus the Sammy Watkins, Aaron Williams and Shaq Lawson decisions to play through injury, it is inevitable critics will blame the Bills for allowing these players to push the envelope and get back to action prematurely, causing a bigger risk for re-injury down the line; however, that would not be telling the whole story. At least in this case McCoy himself acknowledges his role in pushing to play and admitted it might have been better to hold off.
MMMD 1: Geno Smith injury “not too significant”
The Jets Sunday starter exited with a left knee injury. By video, there was no major ligament injury but there is some worry for a meniscus tear (similar to Roethlisberger’s injury last week) that will be cleared up by a MRI. Smith himself indicated it wouldn’t be “anything too significant”; however, he spent the second half in street clothes on the sidelines. Unlike Big Ben who was cleared to play the 2nd half, doctors didn’t clear Smith to return as a precaution. The thought is Smith will avoid a knee scope and it doesn’t appear to be serious, even though he may not be the starter anymore.
MMMD 2: Steelers hope to get healthy with bye week
Antonio Brown took a knee to the quad and was hampered the rest of the game. Fortunately muscle contusions heal quickly and the week off comes at a perfect time for the Steelers star WR. With rehab, expect Brown to be 100% for the next game.
It would also help if Ben Roethlisberger would be throwing him the ball. Despite some doom and gloom reports of missing up to six weeks, I have never waivered (and a new CBS report agrees) from my feeling that Big Ben is most likely to return for the post-bye divisional games versus the Ravens.
MMMD 3: Giants injury designation faux pas
Odell Beckham Jr. and five other players were listed as “probable”, a designation that doesn’t exist anymore on the Friday injury report. Perhaps, the Giants share in the thoughts of fantasy players in wanting that category reinstated.
All six players were subsequently removed completely from the injury report, as downgrading to “questionable” would have proven the fallacy of the new system. Beckham did play as expected with a hip pointer, but he was seen working with trainers pregame and perhaps was not 100%. With the post overseas game bye, OBJ should not be hobbled for his next game.
MMMD 4: No Reggie Bush touchdown
It didn’t matter in the outcome of the game but it could matter for future safety. A play is dead when the ball carrier’s helmet comes off. Reggie Bush’s helmet was completely off just before he crossed the goal line yet he was still awarded the score.
Officiating guru Mike Pereira agreed. The NFL and NCAA rule are similar here except that the professional player is not required to leave the field for a play after his helmet comes off like the collegiate players. I would lobby that non ball carriers deserve the same protection. If the helmet comes off, any player should be deemed a non-participant meaning he can’t tackle, be hit, block or be blocked.
MMMD 5: 2016 Health and Safety Report
The annual medical update was released this week. The NFL has been far from perfect in dealing with head injury over the years but before anyone criticizes the league’s current action, they should read this comprehensive 39 page report of all of the health initiatives.
One piece of unfinished business is the NFL has yet to announce it’s new Chief Medical Officer.  The often maligned previous medical adviser was forced to retire in July but the new full-time position has yet to be filled.
MMMD 6: Injury rundown
Jay Ajayi was cramping and not injured. Who can blame him after two consecutive 200+ yard performances in Miami.
Russell Wilson still seems to be hampered by the knee and ankle injury, which I expected to be behind him after the bye.
Jamaal Charles was limited by knee swelling and only had 1 carry for 0 yards. Knee effusion is common after ACL surgery but the swelling usually goes away quickly. Only if it persists, is it time to worry.
Tevin Coleman left with a hamstring strain but it is difficult to discern severity off video so his absence is yet to be determined.
Brian Hoyer’s doctors were working Sunday despite the Thursday game this week. The Bears QB underwent surgery with plate and screws into his radius (forearm) bone. Contrary to popular belief, team doctor’s have “day jobs” outside of the NFL and likely the regular weekly workload made the off day schedule more convenient.
Ron Brooks of the Eagles ruptured his quad tendon and will need surgery. This injury is similar to patellar tendon tear and will require a minimum of 6-9 months recovery.
Aaron Williams left the Dolphins game in an ambulance for a precautionary MRI that was negative and flew home to Buffalo with his team. Jarvis Landry apologized for the penalized hit that may still draw a fine.
Jeremy Hill seemed to aggravate again what by video seems to be a left AC joint sprain.
Jerick McKinnon by video suffered a high ankle sprain but had a limited return for the Bears.
Josh Norman and Cody Kessler suffered concussions.
Jordan Reed was out again and admitted to hiding his concussion.
John Brown missed the game as his sickle cell trait work up continued. Expect a full return as most teams have at least one player with the trait that play without issue.
Saints special teams ace, Jake Lampman is hoping to avoid major knee ACL and/or MCL injury.
Josh Doctson was placed IR for recalcitrant Achilles tendonitis.
Dez Bryant cut his fingers making soup, but his knee and digits should be fine after the Cowboys bye this past week.
MMMD 7: ProFootballDoc scorecard
Please be clear that I take the time to chronicle the correct/incorrect video and injury analysis to publicly vet my stats. This allows readers and twitter followers the chance for a public audit of my numbers.
This week, Russell Wilson does not seem to be over the knee and ankle injury as I expected, thus will count as a mistake. Unfortunately LeSean McCoy did aggravate his hamstring. Carson Palmer played with his as expected. Jerick McKinnon had a mild high ankle sprain confirmed. Brian Hoyer did have an isolated radius and needed surgery, Dwayne Allen missed the Colts game with a high ankle sprain. Michael Bennett did avoid serious knee injury and played.
Add these into last week’s 83-3 (96.5%) drops the numbers to 89-4 (95.7%).

Brock Osweiler Returns To Denver For Pricey Monday Night Showdown With Broncos

The defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos (4-2) have suddenly dropped two straight games since their 4-0 start, but a Monday Night Football contest at home in Week 7 may curse their ills when the Houston Texans (3-3) come to town for a matchup that figures to be all about defense.

Denver rode their strong defensive unit to a title last season, capped off by an impressive 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 in which they pretty much manhandled one of the league’s best offenses. However, in their upcoming tilt, they’ll be taking on a club that is similarly built, as Houston boasts one of the AFC’s better defenses, while sporting a pretty good offense that features some big-time players. And of course, the top storyline in this one will be Denver taking on their former quarterback Brock Osweiler, who had a big role in last year’s championship triumph.

That’s just some of the reasons why Houston Texans vs. Denver Broncos tickets are currently trending high on the secondary market, being one of the most expensive games for Week 7. In fact, according to Razorgator, tickets to see the Texans and Broncos go at it are averaging $368.47, while the get-in price is as high as $144. Unsurprisingly, in Osweiler’s return to Denver, it’s one of the priciest games of the season for both clubs. Fans can at least save some money on their Sports Authority Field at Mile High parking by electing to go through, which has numerous cheap parking options all around the stadium.

This contest will be the second straight primetime affair for both teams. In Week 6, Denver dropped a tough 21-13 decision to the San Diego Chargers on Thursday Night Football. Playing without head coach Gary Kubiak, Denver was unable to generate any offense against a resurgent San Diego front-seven. Houston, on the other hand, had a big showing on offense on Sunday Night Football against the Indianapolis Colts, pulling off a thrilling comeback victory that they would ultimately finish off in overtime. The likes of Osweiler, Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins will be seeking to continue that momentum in this anticipated encounter.

These two teams have only played five times — and Denver holds a slight 3-2 series lead. This will be their first meeting since 2013, though, when Denver won 37-13 at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Peyton Manning threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns in the victory, while Matt Schaub only threw for 176 yards and two interceptions. Of course, both of those quarterbacks are gone from their respective franchises, so there will be a completely different feel to this matchup.

Above all, the Broncos will be hoping their new quarterback, Trevor Siemian, can get back on track following a bit of a lackluster outing versus the Chargers. In his defense, it was his first game back from injury, and he might have been playing at less than 100 percent, so he’ll be leaning on the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and CJ Anderson to return to form. It won’t be easy though, as even without superstar JJ Watt, the Texans still boast one of the stronger defenses in the league. And in a showdown like this one, it will probably be defense that dictates how it all plays out.

Ravens Return To Big Apple For Showdown With Jets, Tickets Yielding Solid Value

After dropping their Week 6 tilt in New York to the Giants, the Baltimore Ravens (3-3) will return to the Big Apple for the second consecutive week to face the reeling New York Jets (1-5) in Week 7. Considering how poorly the Empire State’s other football franchise looked this past Monday night, this could be the perfect remedy for a Ravens club that has lost three straight after starting 3-0.

After relatively strong starts to their seasons, both team have dropped at least three games and both teams find themselves in a ‘must-win’ situation. Luckily for Baltimore, they’ve historically dominated the Jets, being 8-1 all-time against Gang Green. These two teams haven’t played since 2013, though, when Baltimore won 19-3. Five field goals were kicked and Baltimore scored a late defensive touchdown to preserve the win, a formula that could very well play out in their 2016 matchup based on how both clubs have looked in the early going.

Despite the collective struggles, Baltimore Ravens vs. New York Jets tickets are drawing higher prices than several other Week 7 games on the secondary market. In fact, according to Razorgator, tickets to see the Ravens and Jets duke it out in this important AFC clash are averaging $170.52 on the resale market, while the get-in price is clocking in at $53. Fans traveling to the game can also save money on their MetLife Stadium parking by going through, which sports cheap parking options at just about every sporting venue throughout the country.

After two tough road losses in Pittsburgh and Arizona, the Jets will be needing to get back in the win column in order to turn their season around. Their run defense has been a strength thus far, but New York’s pass defense, which used to be really good, is leaking big plays all over the field. Those defensive issues may rear their ugly head against a Baltimore team that wants to take deep shots on occasion. Armed with an impressive trio of wide receivers, expect Joe Flacco to push the ball downfield and challenge the weak Jets secondary. Of note, Mike Wallace has been great as a vertical and red-zone option, while Steve Smith is great all over the field, though his status is still in question for this game.

The Ravens have also experienced struggles in their pass coverage, but they may be in luck, as New York’s passing game has been woefully bad and arguably their biggest weakness. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a mega disappointment after his breakout campaign of a year ago, though his No. 1 wideout, Brandon Marshall, has still managed to put up some solid numbers. He’ll need to help Fitzpatrick get back in a rhythm, or the Jets’ 2016 season could continue to spiral out of control, even before the calendar hits November.

It’s a big game for both teams, and as a result, the above-average ticket prices should continue to sustain at high levels in the days leading up to Sunday’s affair at MetLife Stadium.

Heinz Field To Host Huge Patriots-Steelers Showdown In Week 7, Tickets Soaring On Secondary Market

A potential AFC Championship Game preview will play out in mid-October when the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) host the New England Patriots (5-1) at Heinz Field in one of the biggest matchups for Week 7.

Through six games, there’s no denying that the Steelers and Patriots are the two best teams in the AFC. Therefore, the winner of this game will gain a distinct advantage in the race for home-field advantage, if the Patriots and Steelers indeed continue on their pace as the conference’s two best teams.

Since Ben Roethlisberger debuted in 2004, these two teams have engaged in some highly entertaining matchups over the year, though it is Tom Brady who has gotten the better of the rivalry, holding a 6-2 edge in head-to-head matchups opposite Big Ben. In fact, Brady is even 3-1 against Roethlisberger at Heinz Field, which is a trend that may not even come into play after the veteran Pittsburgh quarterback went down with an injury in Week 5 versus the Miami Dolphins that is expected to keep him on the sidelines for at least the next few weeks. That being known, the Patriots will be looking to capitalize on the situation.

No matter who is under center for the Steelers come Sunday, tickets to see the Patriots and Steelers are trending mighty high, having a whopping average price of $421.58 on the secondary market, according to Razorgator. Furthermore, the get-in price for Patriots vs. Steelers tickets is going for as high as $151, though perhaps this isn’t too surprising, considering the teams involved in this anticipated clash between top AFC contenders. Fortunately, fans going to the game can at least save a little bit of money by acquiring their Heinz Field parking on, which features numerous cheap parking options all around the stadium. In addition, boasts parking at any sports venue in the country.

New England’s offense, with Brady back leading the way, appears to already be back in elite form, as the future Hall-of-Famer can choose to feed the likes of Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and Martellus Bennett regularly. Of note, Gronkowski scored three touchdowns in last year’s season-opening 28-21 victory over the Steelers, and after Gronk’s monster game on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, expect to be heavily involved.

Another intriguing storyline will be comprised of how Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount fares against his old club. Blount has been out to a solid start in 2016, and there’s no question he’ll be extra motivated when he returns to his old stomping grounds.

For Pittsburgh, it looks like Landry Jones will be suiting up as quarterback, but the game plan should still be focused around superstars Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Brown caught nine passes for 133 yards and one touchdown in the aforementioned opener a season ago, but he might have a tough time duplicating that strong performance without Big Ben throwing him passes. New England also may elect to stack the box to minimize the damage done by Bell, but of course, the Steelers have also been using their stud running back at receiver as well, so that should make for an interesting dynamic in terms of how the Patriots cover him.

Although fans might prefer to wait until ticket prices go down, you should still expect to pay premiums, as this showdown between the Patriots and Steelers looks like it will end up as the priciest game of Week 7.

Week 6 Fantasy Disappointments

There were many unfortunate fantasy letdowns in Week 6 but here are the top three under-achievers of the week. Some of us might look at our lineup and say, “What, only three?” Anyway, these are the players we hope will turn it around in Week 7.
Matt Forte
Matt Forte posted 2.20 fantasy points in the Jets debacle with the Cardinals.  The Jets’ defensive line desperately needed to perform at the highest level in order to give the Jets an opportunity to compete, which they did not.  With the game quickly out of hand, Forte rushed nine times but gained only 19 yards and also caught only one of three passes that came his way. He was even targeted one less time than Bilal Powell. How the glory has departed! Forte has rushed for less than 30 yards in the last 3 games. In Week 5, he collected 6.0 fantasy points, and in Week 4 it was 4.30, so this has been going on for a while.
It’s not that Matt has lost a step because in Week 2 he blew up for 28.90 points against Buffalo. It’s that Jets coach Todd Bowles simply needs to use him more. The Jets are 1-5, so what are they thinking? If they have a better option, Forte owners might want to bench him until the Jets make this obvious decision. Otherwise, owners can simply wait it out.
Travis Benjamin
Travis Benjamin ended up with -0.30 points against Denver. Ok, it’s Denver, but negative points, really? He caught three of five passes, but for only 17 yards and, as a punt returner, muffed a punt on the 11-yard line. Fortunately, he’s been replaced there by Dexter McCluster.
Many see Benjamin as a “boom or bust” player. But he can be more boom than bust. In Week 5, he brought in a respectable 11.70 points and, in Week 2, 23.40 points. Benjamin was a productive staple in a poor Cleveland offense, and he’s filled in admirably for the injury-stricken Chargers. Through Week 5, he scored the 15th-most fantasy points of any wide receiver. It is a safe bet to start Benjamin in Week 7 against the Falcons.
Jordy Nelson
Jordy’s 4.80 points against the Cowboys was just part of the general Packers meltdown, following Aaron Rodgers’ QB struggles. Week 6 presented Nelson with a season low in targets while gaining plenty of attention from the tough Cowboys defense. Aaron Rogers spreads the ball around and has a completion rate of 60.2%, which also makes it tougher for Jordy. What’s more, in the first quarter, the Cowboys defense forced Nelson to fumble on the Packers 36 yard line.
But all is not lost. In Week 7, the Packers play the Bears, who are struggling more than they are. The Bears defense ranks 21st in total tackles, with only 2 interceptions. The Bears offense also spends little time on the field, wearing their defense out, so the Packers will be able to pick it apart. Nelson gets the most targets on the team, so he’s a sure start for Week 7.
So here’s hoping your fantasy world is looking up. Last week frustrated, this week elated!