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NFL News and Notes Week 5

Re: NFL News and Notes Week 5

Line of Scrimmage: Week 5 - Bucs Are a Quiet Surprise
October 3rd, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - They won't soon be celebrated like those 4-0 teams, the Colts, Cowboys, Packers, and Patriots. All four of the remaining NFL undefeateds can boast star power at the quarterback position and have been mostly viewer-friendly on the offensive end of the football, which means lots of headlines and strong network ratings forthcoming.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not undefeated, have a journeyman taking their snaps, and have not set the world on fire in the offensive realm.

The only thing the Bucs have in common with the four teams above is that they are alone in first place, which you have to believe is just fine with head coach Jon Gruden.

Tampa Bay did not accrue a ton of style points in its 20-7 road takedown of the Carolina Panthers last Sunday, a victory that gave the Buccaneers early control of the top spot in the NFC South. In fact, quarterback Jeff Garcia and company shot out to an early 14-0 lead and coasted thereafter, never scoring another touchdown all day but riding a blossoming defense to its third consecutive win.

The Bucs shut down Panthers playmakers David Carr (19-of-41 passing, 155 yards), DeShaun Foster (15 carries, 64 yards) and Steve Smith (5 receptions, 32 yards). For the second straight week, the Buccaneers took a shutout into the fourth quarter. For the third consecutive Sunday, Tampa Bay failed to allow a single meaningful point.

The casual NFL observer might not recognize that this team has given up just 44 points in its first four games, and that roughly half of those came in a compass-finding 20-6 loss on opening day at Seattle.

Since then, the Bucs have been outstanding, even if their Q rating doesn't yet reflect it.

"More than anything, we're not allowing big plays," said Buccaneers middle linebacker Barrett Ruud of the defensive effort. "We're keeping the ball in front of us, and guys are doing a good job of tackling. We're always going to hustle, but when your assignment is sound and you keep the ball in front of you, that's how good things happen. And when you make an offense go on a 12 or 13-play drive, that's tough to do. That's what we're going to try to keep doing."

Correction Barrett, that's what you'll have to keep doing.

Sunday's win came with a hefty price, as left tackle Luke Petitgout and running back Cadillac Williams were both lost for the season with knee injuries.

Petitgout, the team's major free agent signing on the offense this past offseason, will be replaced by inexperienced second-year-pro Donald Penn, with former starter Anthony Davis waiting in the wings if Penn falters.

Williams, who had gotten off to a slow start and had actually been outplayed by Earnest Graham and Michael Pittman in recent weeks, could be easier to replace, though his injury robs Garcia and the offense of one more much-needed weapon.

The new look offense's first assignment will be contending with Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Bob Sanders and the Indianapolis defense when the Buccaneers come calling upon the RCA Dome this Sunday.

With that in mind, and also knowing that the key to beating the Colts is slowing Peyton Manning and the Indy passing game, look for Gruden and the Buccaneers to again lean hard on an underrated defense.

"Standards are high," said Gruden following Sunday's win. "We want to win games and to do that we have to play very good defense; stop the run, get some three-and-outs, get turnovers. We need to do that Sunday.

"We realize the Colts are very talented and we'll probably be a heavy underdog."

Let's take a look at the week that will be in the National Football League:


Vince Young, QB, Tennessee (vs. Atlanta) - Falcons' nondescript defense won't have a clue against the multi-dimensional Young.

DeShaun Foster, RB, Carolina (at New Orleans) - Saints have been terrible against the run so far, and that trend isn't likely to change against Carolina.

Jerricho Cotchery, WR, N.Y. Jets (at N.Y. Giants) - Eric Mangini will find a way to exploit the Giants' weak secondary, where Andy Reid could not.

Donald Lee, TE, Green Bay (vs. Chicago) - He's developing into one of Brett Favre's most trusted targets.

Dallas Defense (at Buffalo) - A strong pass-rushing and turnover-forcing team playing against a rookie quarterback? You betcha.


Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego (at Denver) - With the type of mistakes he's making, unbelievable that he's in his fourth year.

Shaun Alexander, RB, Seattle (at Pittsburgh) - Steelers front seven owned Alexander in the Super Bowl, and will own him again.

Michael Jenkins, WR, Atlanta (at Tennessee) - After two-touchdown performance against Texans, he'll recede quietly back into the night.

Kellen Winslow, TE, Cleveland (at New England) - Having a strong year, but will have trouble getting open against the Patriots.

Tampa Bay Defense (at Indianapolis) - Colts showed how bad they could make a talented defense look last week against Broncos.


1. New England (vs. Cleveland) - This one should be over by halftime.

2. Tennessee (vs. Atlanta) - Falcons are unlikely to put up back-to-back strong performances.

3. Indianapolis (vs. Tampa Bay) - Bucs have been a pleasant surprise, but they are nowhere near being ready to handle to the Colts.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 5

Edwards to again fill in for gimpy Losman
October 3, 2007

Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- Bills rookie Trent Edwards will make his second straight start when Buffalo hosts Dallas on Monday night after J.P. Losman missed practice Wednesday.

Coach Dick Jauron ruled Losman out, saying the quarterback is recovering steadily from a sprained left knee but it's not clear when he'll be able to resume practicing with the team.

Losman has been out since he was hurt during the first series of a 38-7 loss at New England on Sept. 23.

Edwards was inconsistent standing in for Losman against the Patriots, but shined leading the Bills to their first victory in his first career start, a 17-14 win over the New York Jets last weekend.

The third-round draft pick out of Stanford went 22-of-28 for 234 yards passing with a touchdown and interception, helping the Bills produce a season-high in yards passing, yards offense (304), first downs (19) and points. Edwards' 78.57 completion percentage was the eighth best in team history and his performance raised speculation that he will retain the No. 1 job once Losman is healthy.

Jauron continued to sidestep questions about whether Losman would get his job back.

"The response to that question has always been the same for me, and it has been for a number of years: Any position on our team is up for grabs. It always is," Jauron said. "The best guy will be the guy that plays. Other than that, there's not a whole lot to say about that position right now because J.P. isn't able to practice."

The Bills enter their bye week after playing Dallas, and then host Baltimore on Oct. 21.

Edwards is attempting to keep an even keel in preparing for a prime-time game.

"It's definitely been a fun experience so far. I never thought it would happen this quickly for me. But that's the way the pieces fall sometimes," he said. "I am going to just try and keep doing my job. I know I still have a lot to learn."

Buffalo remains a banged-up team as it prepared to host its first Monday night game since Sept. 26, 1994.

Backup safety Jim Leonhard (calf) and reserve linebacker Kevin Harrison (knee) were ruled out after both were hurt last weekend. Reserve cornerback Ashton Youboty's status is uncertain after he missed practice with an ankle injury also sustained against the Jets.

That further depletes a defense that already has three starters on the season-ending injured reserve list. And that doesn't include reserve defensive end Ryan Denney (broken foot) and reserve linebacker Coy Wire (sprained knee), both of whom aren't expected back until after the bye.

Starting linebacker Keith Ellison practiced Wednesday for the first time since hurting his knee in Buffalo's preseason finale, but it's not clear whether he'll be ready to play Monday.

The Bills could get back one player on Sunday: reserve defensive end Anthony Hargrove, who finished serving the NFL's four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

The Bills have not yet decided to activate Hargrove, although he has returned to practice. The Bills have until Monday afternoon to make a decision whether to activate or release him.

Jauron said he's pleased Hargrove stayed in condition while he was suspended, but added the player is not yet in game shape.

"We're pulling for him," Jauron said. "He's a very likable guy, a guy you want to have everything to go well for him. We're in his corner."

Hargrove said he'll be playing after he practiced with the Bills first special teams unit.

"Look for me. If we're kicking off first, I'll be out there getting this thing bumping and jumping," Hargrove said. "Monday night, prime-time TV: That's nothing but setting the stage for me."

And he was thankful the Bills stuck by him during his suspension.

"This is a gift. Not everybody gets to play this game," he said. "They gave me a second chance. They believe in me. And I don't want to let them down."

Hargrove still faces potential trouble from a confrontation he had with police outside a Rochester nightclub during training camp in August. He pleaded not guilty to three misdemeanors and is next scheduled in court on Oct. 11.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 5

Colts down four starters against Bucs
October 3, 2007

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Tony Dungy hopes three of his injured starters can play against Tampa Bay this week. He just can't count on it.

So when the Indianapolis Colts went back to work Wednesday, Dungy was making contingency plans for the possible absences of receiver Marvin Harrison, running back Joseph Addai and safety Bob Sanders, all of whom were hurt in last Sunday's victory over Denver.

"No one's out, and if they can practice by Friday, it would be a plus, definitely," the coach said Wednesday before practice. "You can sit and wait and hope that they'll come back, but I've never been one to do that. You have to move on."

None of the three practiced Wednesday and the only certainty was that outside linebacker Rob Morris, another starter, would be placed on injured reserve, ending his season. Morris, the Colts' first-round pick in 2000 and a key ingredient in the defense's postseason resurgence, had surgery Tuesday to repair a tendon in his left knee.

But uncertainty continued swirling around three of the Colts' biggest names.

Harrison, fourth on the NFL's all-time receptions chart, injured his left knee when Denver linebacker D.J. Williams rolled into Harrison's leg while tackling Addai. When the series ended, Harrison headed to the locker room with what the Colts called a bruised knee.

"I can't say it would not be different if he wasn't out there," Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning said. "We certainly hope he will be."

Addai, last year's top rookie rusher, bruised his right shoulder in the fourth quarter when he was tackled near midfield. Sanders, the heart of the Colts' defense, didn't play in the second half against Denver after hurting his ribs.

It's a familiar theme for the former Pro Bowl safety who entered this season hoping to play all 16 games for the first time in his four-year career. He missed 24 of 48 games in his first three seasons.

"Obviously, Bob is a big part of our defense and if he's not out there, we'll miss him," middle linebacker Gary Brackett said.

Another factor in Dungy's decision might be timing.

The Colts (4-0) have a bye next week and because Tampa Bay plays in the NFC, the game won't have the same tiebreaker implications as an AFC opponent. Holding all three players out would give them more than two weeks to recuperate.

Plus, Indianapolis appears to have enough depth to overcome most of the injuries.

Backup safety Matt Giordano played extensively in Sanders' absence last season, and has been even better this year in limited action.

Six-year veteran Rocky Boiman, who has one start, 11 tackles and an interception this season, replaces Morris.

If Harrison can't play, the Colts' options include more frequently using rookie receiver Anthony Gonzalez, a first-round pick; moving tight end Dallas Clark into the slot, which Indy did successfully in the playoffs after Brandon Stokley went down with a torn Achilles' tendon last year; or reverting to their two tight-end formations.

"I think we're preparing for a little bit of everything like we always do," Clark said. "We've just got to go in and see, kind of, what the personality of the game is."

Finding a replacement for Addai would be tougher.

The only other running backs on Indy's active roster are Kenton Keith, Luke Lawton and Clifton Dawson, who was signed last week. Keith spent the last four seasons in the Canadian Football League and none of the three had an NFL carry until the season opener.

Last week, Keith carried 10 times for 80 yards, primarily after Addai left, and is confident he can do the job this week if needed.

"I'm ready to roll," Keith said. "I'm always ready to roll."

But will Dungy need all those replacements?

"We're preparing to play without those guys," he said. "Hopefully, they'll practice by Friday, but you never know. So we've got to get the other guys ready to go."

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 5

Dolphins' Tillman undergoes knee surgery
October 3rd, 2007

Miami, FL (Sports Network) - Miami Dolphins safety Travares Tillman underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Wednesday, joining a growing list of defensive players who will not be available for the team's game Sunday with the Houston Texans.

Tillman's operation was performed by Dr. George Caldwell at Broward General Medical Center, and he, along with Vonnie Holliday, who has a fractured right ankle, will definitely not play Sunday in Houston.

Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder is recovering from a sprained right ankle and did not practice Wednesday. Linebacker Zach Thomas participated in limited action in his return from a concussion.

Donovan Darius, who had nine tackles in Miami's loss to Oakland last week, will likely start in Tillman's place in the secondary.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 5

Rams injury problems continue
October 3rd, 2007

St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) - The St. Louis Rams will miss four players for the team's contest Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

Guard Adam Goldberg is out with a knee injury, running back Steven Jackson is sidelined with a partial tear of his groin, wide receiver Dane Looker has a thigh issue and linebacker Raonall Smith is nursing a right knee sprain.

In addition, wide receiver Isaac Bruce and safety Corey Chavous did not practice on Wednesday. Bruce left in the third quarter of last Sunday's 35-7 loss to Dallas with a left hamstring injury, while Chavous strained a pectoral muscle in Sunday's game.

Starting quarterback Marc Bulger, who has struggled during the Rams' 0-4 and has been replaced by backup Gus Frerotte for Sunday's game, had limited participation in Wednesday's practice due to broken ribs.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 5

Pats re-sign TE Rivers, place TE Thomas on IR
October 3rd, 2007

Foxboro, MA (Sports Network) - The New England Patriots re-signed veteran tight end Marcellus Rivers and placed tight end David Thomas on injured reserve on Wednesday.

Rivers was previously signed by New England as a free agent on August 8, but was released on September 1. He was re-signed two days later only to be cut loose again on September 8.

Rivers, 28, is a veteran of five NFL seasons and has played in 75 games for the New York Giants (2001-04) and the Houston Texans (2005). He also spent time with the Oakland Raiders in the 2006 preseason and was on the New Orleans Saints roster for one game during the 2006 regular season, but was inactive for that contest.

The Oklahoma State product has recorded 51 career receptions for 395 yards and four touchdowns.

Thomas, a second-year tight end, has played in 17 career regular-season games with New England and has caught 12 balls for 168 yards and a touchdown.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 5


We’re barely a quarter of the way into the 2007 NFL campaign, but the new season has already taken on some definition. And with the September portion of the calendar now closed, we have enough material to award some bests and worsts of NFL date, that is.

BEST TEAM, AFC...Although the defending champion Indianapolis Colts certainly haven’t done anything wrong, and are off to another of their customary fast starts (their 4-0 mark should come as no surprise after going at least nine weeks without a loss from the gate the past two seasons), it’s hard not to give this honor to the New England Patriots. “Belichick-gate” or not, the Pats have been nothing short of breathtaking, winning each of their their first 4 games by 21 points or more, while scoring exactly 38 their first three outings. Monday night’s dominating road win at Cincinnati, when New England “only” scored 34, might have been more impressive than any of the first three wins. The defense is as solid as ever, and we are reminded what Tom Brady was missing a year ago when the Patriots ddn’t have a legit deep threat at the wideout spots. A rejuvenated Randy Moss has certainly changed that dynamic, however, and if that wasn’t enough, New England is also demonstrating admirable depth, as the running game didn’t miss a beat at Paul Brown Stadium despite Laurence Maroney missing action with a groin injury (backup Sammy Morris cracking the century mark in his absence).

BEST TEAM, NFC...No arguments here, as the Dallas Cowboys have looked head and shoulders above anyone else in the conference. They’re already galloping away in the NFC East, and their victories have been every bit as impressive as New England’s, especially that 34-10 romp at Solider Field againat the Bears that might have officially passed the “torch" in the conference to the Cowboys. QB Tony Romo has so far resembled the Romo that took the league by storm during midseason a year ago (as opposed to the Romo that labored down the stretch in ‘06), and, for the moment, at least, Terrell Owens is not proving a distraction. And sources say the team is enjoying life under new HC Wade Phillips, and that Bill Parcells’ boorishness and over-inflated ego are not missed one bit. Maybe Jerry Jones finally hit the coaching homerun that has eluded him the past decade when Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, and Parcells failed to get the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl.

SURPRISE TEAM, AFC...There are a few viable candidates here, but we’re going to opt for the Cleveland Browns. Things certainly didn’t look smooth out of the gate, when the Brownies were popped by Pittsburgh, 34-7, in their opener, and then immediately made a switch at QB from Charlie Frye (traded to Seattle after his demotion) to Derek Anderson, who appeared to be simply keeping the seat warm until rookie Brady Quinn was deemed ready. But Anderson has ignited the Browns, who have scored 102 points in his three starts, and many sources are crediting a change at the offensive coordinator spot as the main reason. It’s now apparent that many of HC Romeo Crennel’s (right) problems his first two seasons in charge stemmed from the subpar work of his old friend Maurice Carthon, who was out of his depth in the offensive coordinator role before resigning his duties midway through 2006. New o.c. Rob Chudzinski, imported from San Diego, has brought the offense up to speed, his scheming and play-calling skills superior to Carthon’s. Honorable mention goes to the Oakland Raiders, who indeed own a win over the Browns and find themselves tied for the top spot in a surprisingly soft-looking AFC West. New HC Lane Kiffin has also revitalized what was the league’s most moribund offense under Art Shell’s watch a year ago, and picking QB Daunte Culpepper off the scrap heap might turn out to be one of the most-inspired personnel moves of the season.

SURPRISE TEAM, NFC...Can it be any team other than the Green Bay Packers? “Shocking” is the best word to describe the Pack’s 4-0 break from the gate, which, on the heels of a similar 4-game streak to close 2006, gives Green Bay a rather remarkable 8-game win skein heading into October. Anyone who doubted Brett Favre’s ability to deliver at this stage of his career has certainly been convinced otherwise after Favre’s work the first month of the campaign, as he has adjusted to 2nd-year HC Mike McCarthy’s “short area” pass system, which stresses utilization of many receivers, who are then expected to make plays after they catch the ball. Favre suddenly loves this system, which resulted in ten different Packers catching a pass last week at Minnesota, with 2nd-year wideout Greg Jennings proving he can take those shorter throws and still go the distance (as San Diego painfully discovered September 23). Sooner or later the Pack will likely come back to earth, especially since they have no credible ground game to speak of (and therein the major difference between Green Bay and Dallas), but the “D” is good enough to keep the Pack in most games, and Favre, of course, remains the ultimate x-factor. Honorable mention to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are upholding the recent pattern of teams rising from nowhere to succeed in the NFC South. QB Jeff Garcia is providing the on-field leadership last year’s injury-ravaged Bucs didn’t have, but the medical report has suddenly reared its ugly head again, with RB Cadillac Williams and OT Luke Petitgout (the ex-Giant had been the early-season glue for a young OL) now both out for the season.

DISAPPOINTING TEAM, AFC...Who else but the San Diego Chargers? The Bolts have borne no resemblance to the 2006 team that won 14 regular-season games, and most onlookers have already conceded that the dismissal of HC Marty Schottenheimer, coupled with the ill-suited and bland Norv Turner (left) as his replacement, is the main reason, as we mentioned on these pages a week ago. So dismal have the Charger efforts been under Turner that the Qualcomm Stadium fans were chanting “Mar-ty, Mar-ty” at the end of San Diego’s latest humiliation against the Chiefs. Sure, the Bolts are still in the AFC West race that no one seems to be willing to take over, but the on-field product has been such a far cry from last season that it is almost startling.

DISAPPOINTING TEAM, NFC...There’s no better reminder that things can change dramatically from one season to the next than the New Orleans Saints, everybody’s darlings when rising from the ashes (literally) in 2006, but, to this point, 2007's whipping post. The fact is that the New Orleans defense wasn’t very good last season, and still lacks playmakers. The stark difference from a year ago is that the “O” hasn’t been able to overcome those deficiencies. The attack has simply lost its bearings, reflected in QB Drew Brees’ horrible stats (1 TDP and 7 picks in 3 games, plus a few more fumbles lost). The young WR corps was overrated (not crisp on intermediate routes, and just not getting enough separation from opposing DBs) and misses vet Joe Horn’s leadership. Meanwhile, defenses are ganging up on Reggie Bush (whom the Saints might have fallen too much "in love" with in the first place), and the offense had mostly forgotten about Deuce McAllister even before his season-ending knee injury suffered in week three against the Titans. McAllister’s ability to get the tough yards was more important to the Saints’ success a year ago than many realized, and without that dimension, the attack could continue to flounder.

DISASTER TEAM, AFC...We were going to give this one to the Buffalo Bills, who had been ripped by injuries the first three weeks, but they bounced back with a gutty effort behind surprisingly-composed rookie QB Trent Edwards (one of Bill Walsh’s last recommendations, by the way) against the overrated Jets in week four. And if the Houston Texans’ offense figured to be as decimated for longer than a few weeks by its recent wave of injuries, we might consider the otherwise-improved Texans for this honor. Instead, we opt for the Miami Dolphins, who have performed listlessly while losing their first four games for new HC Cam Cameron (who, it should be noted, presided over a similarly moribund period of Indiana Hoosier football during his lone previous HC stint in the late ‘90s).

DISASTER TEAM, NFC...Hands down, it’s the St. Louis Rams, who are the latest reminder that fantasy stats don’t translate into wins and losses on the field. Of course, injuries along the OL have hindered the Rams’ offense, but now the injury plague has spread to RB Steven Jackson (groin) and QB Marc Bulger (ribs), as well as WR Isaac Bruce (hamstring). The Rams have been non-competitive in all of their games save a close week two loss vs. the 49ers. And now, some worried fans in the ‘Lou are concerned about a possible 0-16 campaign. It’s a little early to be that alarmist, we think, but even we have to admit that we don’t see a win on the immediate horizon for the Rams, at least until they get a bit healthier. Meanwhile, close on St. Louis’ heels could be the 49ers, just a couple of plays from being 0-4 themselves, and now forced to go with vet Trent Dilfer at QB (which, short-term, at least, might even give them a better chance to win) after Alex Smith separated his shoulder last week vs. the Seahawks. Mike Nolan’s defense appeared to have improved enough to where the Niners could win “ugly” (as they did the first two weeks vs. the Cards and Rams), although the season-ending injury to key LB Manny Lawson was a blow to an improved stop unit that might have the NFC’s best rookie in LB Patrick Willis. Still, Lawson or not, the Niners didn’t really have the defense for Nolan to replicate a version of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, which might have been his hope in the early going.

MVP, AFC...Hard not to give the nod to New England QB Tom Brady, who is apparently having almost as much fun on the field as he does off it with his latest supermodel girlfriend (Giselle Bundshen) thanks to the arrival of Randy Moss as a dangerous downfield target. Brady completed almost 80% of his passes the first four weeks, with the percentage approaching 90% in the second half of the Patriots’ games. And already, he’s tossed 13 TDs!

MVP, NFC...Not to be outdone in any category by Brady is the aforementioned Tony Romo, who has his own hottie these days (Nashville superstar and former American idol winner Carrie Underwood, with Tony at right), is passing for almost 300 yards per game, and has 11 TD tosses of his own through four weeks. As well as leading an undefeated team, just like Brady. And in Big D, the comparisons to past Dallas QB flameouts Gary Hogeboon and Steve Pelleur we were hearing at the end of last season are now being replaced by those with Hall-of-Famers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Close on Romo’s heels, however, is the rejuvenated Favre.

COACH OF SEPTEMBER, AFC...Certainly, Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy are right at the top of the list, and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin and Oakland's Lane Kiffin merit consideration, but we’re going to opt for Tennessee’s Jeff Fisher (left) instead. After enduring the Pacman Jones distractions in the offseason, some believed the Titan defense would suffer, but to this point the stop unit has been more than adequate. Moreover, Fisher and sage o.c. Norm Chow have developed a fairly smooth-functioning offense that has been able to effectively camouflage some of 2nd-year QB Vince Young’s shortcomings, instead putting "VY" in positions where he can best make plays. Tennessee has been running the ball better than expected, too, and that’s been a big plus.

COACH OF SEPTEMBER, NFC...Wade Phillips and Mike McCarthy are obvious choices, but W-L records aside, we’re not sure any coach has done as much as Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona. Not only has the Big Red emerged as a contender in the NFC West, but Whisenhunt has changed the mindset of the team, which is more physical, can run the ball, and plays nastier defense than it ever did the past several years for Denny Green or Vince Tobin. Moreover, he’s proven creative and daring on the offensive end, unafraid to effectively platoon QBs Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner. Although those tactics have usually worked better in college football than the NFL, for the moment, at least, Whisenhunt has Leinart and Warner peacefully co-existing.

ROOKIE OF SEPTEMBER, AFC...A close call, but we’ll opt for Kansas City WR Dwayne Bowe, who has provided almost all of the fireworks for a limited Chiefs offense, scoring the winning TD in a crucial week three win over Minnesota, and the turnaround score with his 51-yard pass-run TD reception (shown at right) in week four vs. the Chargers. In a few weeks, however, we might be inclined to switch our vote to Buffalo QB Trent Edwards, the Stanford rookie who opened more than a few eyes with a remarkably poised performance (22 of 28 for 234 YP) in the Bills’ 17-14 win over the Jets. Now, there’s talk of a QB controversy in Buffalo, with injured J.P. Losman no guarantee to get his job back when he returns from a knee injury.

ROOKIE OF SEPTEMBER, NFC...It was obvious from San Francisco’s first game that Ole Miss rookie LB Patrick Willis was going to be something special, and he’s done nothing to dispel that notion. Tremendous athleticism and instincts, and already being mentioned as a future All-Pro...maybe as soon as this season.

COMEBACK PLAYER, AFC...Considering his lack of impact during his stint in Oakland, many thought Randy Moss' days as an effective producer were over. But the draft day trade to New England has rejuvenated Moss’ career, and he is a big reason the Patriot offense has been roaring during the first month of the season. In a few weeks, however, we might be mentioning Daunte Culpepper for this award as well.

COMEBACK PLAYER, NFC...After losing the starting QB job in Arizona to Matt Leinart, Kurt Warner (left) was apparently contemplating retirement in the offseason. But Arizona fans are glad he decided to delay those plans. Warner has proven a big spark for the Cards, as aforementioned HC Ken Whisenhunt hasn’t hesitated to pull Leinart and give Warner a shot to run the Cards’ no-huddle offense, in which he has excelled. Now there are plenty of observers who believe Whisenhunt is close to naming Warner the starter once more, although he has been quite effective in his reliever’s role.

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 5

Week 5 NFL Power Rankings
by Robert Ferringo

After a strong 6-3-1 weekend NFL week (+7.5 Units), I'm forgoing the flood of statistical information that I normally pack into my NFL Power Rankings and we're going to get back to basics. Sometimes, NFL handicappers can make things too complicated when it's really as easy as, "New England is awesome and Cincinnati can't possibly stop them. I'll lay the points and start spending that money at halftime." I know it seems odd to change things up after a big Sunday, but I'm just trying to stay sharp by looking at both sides of the coin.

So this week, Robert Ferringo is taking some time off and Captain Obvious is stepping in to spice up the column. Hope you enjoy it. And without further ado, here's Doc's Sports Week 5 NFL Power Rankings:

1) New England Patriots (4-0) - With the exception of this week against Cleveland - a putrid team but one that I think could score enough to slide in the back door of this 16- or 17-point spread - I'm taking the Patriots every week. Every single week. Without exception, and with no handicapping necessary. They're that good.

2) Indianapolis Colts (4-0) - Decidedly not soft. That's my take on this Colts team. And I actually think that they're ready to stand up to the Patriots on a physical level. Will they win that game? No, because Tom Brady is unbeatable in domes. The Colts are 3-1 ATS against the Bucs and are 6-2 ATS recently.

3) Dallas Cowboys (4-0) - I'm not trying to knock the Cowboys. They are clearly the class of the NFC and are the legit Super Bowl contender that I didn't have them pegged to be (mainly because their offensive line is the best it's been since the mid-90s).

4) Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) - I wouldn't normally hold their loss in Arizona against them. It was just a bad setup from go - in the desert, where the Cards actually defend, against their two former coaches and two guys who got a kicking tee shoved up their ass on the way out of town. But there's one thing that stood out that kind of rattled me: Big Ben once again turning the ball over with horrid interceptions at the goal line. It was the Oakland game from last year all over again, and I though that "Shell Shocked Ben" got all those throws out of his system last year.

5) Tennessee Titans (2-1) - Tennessee is just 5-5 ATS as a home favorite coming out of a bye week. The Titans have covered four straight against the Falcons. We know that Vince Young is a fantastic underdog play but this week we're going to see what he can do as a nearly double-digit favorite against a team that's better than teams are giving them credit for.

6) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) - I think there is a ceiling on this club due to the fact that they simply do not have playmakers in the passing game. I think it's a bit premature to have the Jags posted as a road favorite in Arrowhead, especially considering the Chiefs have played well for three straight weeks. Jacksonville is 1-6 ATS in October as a non-divisional road favorite.

7) Green Bay Packers (4-0) - Things are going perfectly for the Pack. Maybe too perfectly. They are 4-0 ATS and facing a Chicago team that is 0-4 ATS. This game seems a bit too easy for the Pack, and five-game ATS winning streaks in the NFL are rare.

8) Seattle Seahawks (3-1) - The Seahawks are 3-0-1 ATS in their last four trips to Pittsburgh and a stellar 6-1-1 in their last eight against the Steelers, with the lone loss coming in Super Bowl 40. However, the Hawks are 2-9 ATS in AFC road games and 7-19 ATS in road games, on grass, against teams in the Central or Eastern Time Zones.

9) Washington Redskins (2-1) - Between 1981 and 1992, Joe Gibbs was 86-11 SU when his team held a lead at halftime. However, since 2004 the Redskins are tied with Miami with an NFL-worst 11 blown halftime leads. Washington has dropped four straight home games in which they led at halftime and six of eight at home in those spots since the start of 2005.

10) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) - I really don't think that the Bucs will miss Cadillac Williams. But I know they'll miss Luke Petigout. But that right there is why the Giants let the talented tackle walk: the guy just can't stay healthy. The Bucs haven't allowed a single point in the first half of each of their past three games. I see that changing this week against Indianapolis.

11) San Diego Chargers (1-3) - Norv. Oh, and San Diego simply wasn't as good as they thought they were after last year's 14-2 season.

12) Chicago Bears (1-3) - Three-fourths of Chicago's secondary is on the shelf right now and the fourth member, Adam Archuleta, has a broken hand and is awful in most phases of the game. I think the offense will be fine but for the first time in about seven years I wonder if the defense can stop an opponent from throwing the ball.

13) Detroit Lions (3-1) - I know I'm going to catch hell from Lions fans for having Detroit listed behind Chicago. Well, I hate to be the one that breaks it to you but I don't think the Lions have more than three or four wins left on their schedule. They're converting 32 percent of their third downs and I think we're three weeks away from their season-altering injury to Jon Kitna. I've already got my pen ready to sign his full body cast.

14) Houston Texans (2-2) - Houston's weakness this year was their depth, particularly on defense. To this point, the injury bug has only taken a bite out of the offense but Houston is simply not good enough to overcome those losses. For the second weak in a row Houston is favored over a desperate, winless, healthier team. I smell trouble.

15) Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) - I'm not going to join the litany of "Poor Winston Justice" criers. That was, plain and simple, a horrendous coaching job by the Philadelphia staff. The good news is that the defense showed some signs of life.

16) Baltimore Ravens (2-2) - The thing that pisses me off is that I knew these guys weren't going to be any good this year and yet I haven't been betting against them. I think Baltimore has to make a move to Kyle Boller - as horrifying as that idea is - because Steve McNair is completely and totally washed up. McNair is 3-for-10 in the red zone (TDs only) while Boller is 2-for-4 (including Todd Heap's drop in the MNF opener).

20) Denver Broncos (2-2) - You can't really hold it against the Broncos that they got mauled in Indianapolis. But it's the way that they lost that's so troubling. We know that they can't get any pass rush with their front four, but now Denver is 31st in rushing defense and they are 30th in per-rush against average (5.0).

21) Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) - Again, Herm Edwards teams are notorious for their slow starts. But that was a big-time win against San Diego and we finally saw the Damon Huard that looked so calm and skilled navigating the offense in the middle of last season. Now they just need to figure out how to get L.J. into the second level and this team could be back in the mix.

22) San Francisco 49ers (2-2) - To this point, the 49ers are completing just 24 percent of their third-downs. Not good. And without Alex Smith and Vernon Davis I wonder just how much it can improve.

23) Carolina Panthers (2-2) - Never, ever, back this team as a home favorite. Ever. Simply put: the same holes that were on this team last year are there again this year because they didn't have the cap room to fix them. Throw David Carr in the mix and you've got yourself a 7-9 team. Also, there are a lot of rumors that Julius Peppers is already mailing it in. He's in a contract year so the door may be hitting him on the way out.

24) New York Jets (1-3) - Tough to be a Jets fan and not be disappointed by how amazingly soft this team is. On both offense and defense these guys are weak-willed girls. Also, this team needs to take a shot down the field whether Chad Pennington's shoulder can handle it or not. Only two of his 82 pass attempts have traveled over 20 yards in the air.

25) Oakland Raiders (2-2) - This team is so predictably unpredictable. The underdog is 4-0 ATS in Oakland's four games this year. Oh, and for all of you that think that Daunte Culpepper is back, I guarantee you're going to be kicking yourself by Week 10. Guaranteed. His knee may be OK, but he's still got some five-turnover days left in those hands.

26) New York Giants (2-2) - The Giants are who we thought they were. Did I call it or what: the Giants are fantastic when no one expects anything from them (see: back-to-back SU wins as an underdog) and they are a perennial disappointment as a favorite.

27) Arizona Cardinals (2-2) - I don't know about you, but I don't know if I want any part of the Arizona Cardinals as a road favorite. The Cards are 5-1 ATS in their last six trips to St. Louis, but they've been getting at least nine points in four of their last five there.

28) Atlanta Falcons (1-3) - With all of the off-field distractions going on in Atlanta last week that was a really impressive win for Bobby Petrino against Houston. The Falcons have yet to top the 100-yard mark rushing this year. I really think they need to go to Jerious Norwood as a 20-carry back and that situation will be remedied.

25) Cincinnati Bengals (1-3) - Ocho Cinco, T.J., and Carson Palmer can do all the interviews, commercials, and endorsements they want but this is a terrible, terrible team and Marvin Lewis is a terrible, terrible coach. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it was the Ravens players in Baltimore that made that defense tick and clearly not any coaching or scheming that Lewis brought to the table. Every week they put on a missed tackle clinic, and that, my friends, is coaching.

26) New Orleans Saints (0-3) - They miss Joe Horn. And I'm not just talking numbers. The Saints are 0-6 ATS in their last six home games against the Panthers.

27) Cleveland Browns (2-2) - I had to see it with my own eyes, but now I believe it - Derek Anderson is for real. Not "for real" in that Honolulu kind of way, but "for real" in that Jon Kitna kind of way.

28) Buffalo Bills (1-3) - If teams like Carolina, New Orleans, or San Diego had half the heart of this Buffalo team they'd be 4-0 right now. Despite all of the injuries, this team just keeps playing hard. I still don't think they'll win more than four games, but they will battle.

30) Miami Dolphins (0-4) - I've alluded to it, but now I'm just going to come right out and say it: Cam Cameron is going to be an absolutely awful NFL head coach. I just hope he sticks around long enough for me to cash in on it.

31) Minnesota Vikings (1-3) - Wait, does this mean you can't win in the NFL with Kelly Holcomb, TV Jackson, or Brooks Bollinger at quarterback? Oh, really? But how is this for twisted: right now the Vikings have a better offense than New Orleans (No. 1 in 2006), San Diego (No. 4 in 2006), and St. Louis (No. 6 in 2006). Weird.

32) St. Louis Rams (0-4) - Fearless prediction for this weekend's action: if your fantasy league has 10 teams or more in it, someone is going to pick up Gus Frerotte off waivers after he throws for at least three TDs this weekend. That's a hunch play.

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Jets S Erik Coleman has concussion; status for Giants game uncertain
October 4, 2007

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Jets starting safety Erik Coleman has a concussion and his availability for New York's game against the New York Giants on Sunday was uncertain.

``We'll evaluate it as we go,'' coach Eric Mangini said Thursday. ``We take concussions extremely seriously. He'll be out for practice today and we'll see how it goes through the rest of the week.''

Coleman was injured during the Jets' 17-14 loss at Buffalo last Sunday, but didn't show symptoms of a concussion until after the game.

``Any time a player has an issue, we always go through that protocol,'' Mangini said. ``This was something that actually developed after the game in terms of the symptoms and things like that.''

Mangini added that Coleman told the team Monday he was having discomfort. Coleman was listed as out for practice on Wednesday with a head injury, but was it was changed to a concussion Thursday as the result of, as Mangini termed it, ``a clerical oversight.''

Coleman, who was not in the locker room during media availability, has started the Jets' first four games and leads the team with 35 tackles. If Coleman can't go Sunday, Eric Smith would likely get the start, with Rashad Washington and Abram Elam filling in.

``Well, if that opportunity does present itself, I've got to take advantage of it,'' said Smith, who was unaware of the extent of Coleman's injury. ``We're still waiting to see. It's a few days off, so we'll have to wait and see what happens.''

Smith, a third-round pick out of Michigan State last year, was pushing Coleman for the starting spot before injuring his right leg a few days before the preseason opener against Atlanta in August.

``I feel like I made a lot of progress during training camp and I feel like it went pretty well,'' Smith said. ``I did get hurt and it was real frustrating to have to sit out a while. Now, I'm still working back from it and trying to get to where I was.''

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Re: NFL News and Notes Week 5

Carr likely to start; Delhomme still sidelined
October 4, 2007

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -David Carr appears likely to making his second straight start at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers after Jake Delhomme missed practice again Thursday.

While coach John Fox would not identify a starter for Sunday's game at New Orleans, Delhomme hasn't thrown a football since straining his right elbow on Sept. 23 against Atlanta.

Carr completed 19 of 41 passes for 155 yards, one touchdown and one interception in Carolina's 20-7 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Linebackers Dan Morgan and Adam Seward also missed practice Thursday. Morgan has a partially torn Achilles' tendon, while Seward has missed the past two games with a calf injury.

Running back DeShaun Foster returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's workout because of a coach's decision.

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Giants' Smith to miss Sunday's game
October 4th, 2007

East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) - New York Giants wide receiver Steve Smith will miss Sunday's game against the New York Jets with a broken shoulder blade.

Smith suffered the injury during a 35-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 2. A rookie out of USC, Smith had one catch for 10 yards in that game. He has four catches for 26 yards on the season.

Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress and defensive end Osi Umenyiora did not practice on Thursday, but both are expected to be ready for Sunday's contest.

Umenyiora, who registered six sacks last Sunday against the Eagles, is battling a knee injury suffered in the season-opener against Dallas. Burress has fought through an ankle problem since late August but has played in each of the Giants' four games this season.

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Cards WR Boldin, T Brown questionable
October 4th, 2007

Tempe, AZ (Sports Network) - Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin and offensive tackle Levi Brown did not participate in team practice on Thursday and are questionable for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams.

Boldin missed last Sunday's 21-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers due to a sprained hip suffered in the Cardinals' 26-23 loss to Baltimore on September 23.

In three games this season, the Florida State product has 22 catches for 286 yards and three touchdowns.

Brown, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury also suffered against the Ravens, practiced on Wednesday but did not participate Thursday. If Brown is unable to play, Elton Brown gets the nod in his place.

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Ravens DE Pryce out for Sunday's game
October 4th, 2007

Owings Mills, MD (Sports Network) - Baltimore Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce will not play in the Ravens' game against San Francisco on Sunday due to a broken left wrist.

Price is recovering from surgery on the wrist, which he injured during the third quarter of a 20-13 win over the New York Jets in Week 2

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Texans' Johnson still questionable for Miami game
October 4th, 2007

Houston, TX (Sports Network) - Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson sat out of practice for the second straight day Thursday, and it remains to be seen whether he will be healed from a knee injury in time for the team's game against the Miami Dolphins Sunday.

Johnson was injured in the fourth quarter of the team's Week 2 win over the Carolina Panthers after taking a hit to the knee from Carolina defensive back Chris Harris, and had missed the two games - both losses - since.

Fellow wide receiver Jerome Mathis also did not participate Wednesday or Thursday because of an injury to his fibula.

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Ward, Polamalu among Steelers in doubt for Sunday
October 4th, 2007

Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward missed practice again Thursday, as did a pair of Pro Bowlers on the defensive side of the ball, safety Troy Polamalu and defensive tackle Casey Hampton.

Ward suffered a knee injury in the third quarter of the Steelers' Week 3 victory over the 49ers, and sat out last week's loss to Arizona. Hampton (thigh), Polamalu (abdomen), and cornerback Bryant McFadden (ankle) are also nursing injuries that have prevented them from practicing all week.

The Steelers host the Seattle Seahawks Sunday.

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Travis Henry tries to stop NFL from revealing drug test result

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos running back Travis Henry, the league's leading rusher, is trying to prevent the NFL from suspending him over the results of a drug test, Newsday reported Thursday.

Henry was granted a temporary restraining order in Suffolk County (N.Y.) Supreme Court to prevent the league from using a urine specimen against him and to prevent the league from disclosing the test results, but an appellate court vacated the order, according to court papers filed in Brooklyn federal court.

The report on the newspaper's Web site said Henry claims the league violated its substance abuse policy by not allowing his experts to be present for testing of his urine sample, according to court papers.

The league wants the matter transferred to federal court because it involves interpretation of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, generally covered by federal labor laws.

Pending an appeal, Henry would be subject to a yearlong suspension if he tested positive again. While in Tennessee, Henry was suspended four games in September 2005 by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

He signed a five-year, $22.5 million free agent contract with the Broncos that included $12 million in guarantees this offseason after the Titans released him in a cost-cutting move and the Broncos sent last year's starter, Tatum Bell, to Detroit.

The Broncos declined comment Thursday.

''Have to refer you to the League, we have no comment,'' general manager Ted Sundquist told The Associated Press in response to an e-mail inquiry about a Denver TV report that Henry had tested positive for marijuana.

A league spokesman said the NFL had no comment.

Henry, who injured his right knee and right ankle in a loss at Indianapolis on Sunday, has not practiced this week nor has he been available to reporters. His agent, Hadley Engelhard, didn't return messages left by the AP, nor did Henry's lawyer, Robert Dapelo.

Henry, who started his career with the Buffalo Bills, is the centerpiece of Denver's revamped offense.

The Broncos had hoped he could be their first workhorse running back since Clinton Portis in 2003, and he got off to a fantastic start, rushing for 433 yards and one touchdown over the first month. He also caught five passes for 52 yards.

Henry's backup is undrafted rookie Selvin Young out of Texas, who has rushed 15 times for 138 yards and a league-best 9.2-yard average. The Broncos might move second-year pro Mike Bell back to tailback if Henry isn't available. Bell was moved to fullback last month.

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Blackmon to miss season after foot injury in practice
October 4, 2007

Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Will Blackmon's second NFL season will end just like his first -- on injured reserve.

The Packers' second-year cornerback suffered the fourth significant injury of his 18-month pro career when he broke his right foot in practice. Coach Mike McCarthy revealed the injury following Thursday's practice.

Blackmon, who broke the same foot during a May 2006 minicamp, was covering a receiver during the final 11-on-11 team period of Wednesday's practice when they got their feet tangled up.

The injury is the latest in a string of bad luck for Blackmon, who came back from the foot injury after missing the first five games of last season, only to suffer a broken rib in his fourth game on the active roster and winding up on IR.

Then, Blackmon won the kickoff and punt return jobs in preseason, only to suffer a broken left thumb during the Aug. 23 preseason game against Jacksonville. The injury required casting and cost him the return job, although Blackmon did play as the No. 4 corner in the dime defense.

"I feel terrible for Will. He was coming on strong. We all saw what he did as a returner," McCarthy said. "We felt he and Jarrett Bush were right there neck-and-neck as the No. 3 corner. It's a shame. He was contributing on special teams and was really making a move."

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Niners LT Jennings out indefinitely
October 4, 2007

Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Left tackle Jonas Jennings will be out of the San Francisco 49ers' lineup indefinitely while dealing with a "private matter," coach Mike Nolan said Thursday.

The oft-injured Jennings is healthy, but Nolan wouldn't disclose the reason for the seventh-year pro's absence, which could extend through the 49ers' bye next week -- though Nolan said Jennings will return to the team this season.

"As always, our most important interest is in the well-being of our players," Nolan said.

Jennings was at the 49ers' training complex Thursday, but didn't practice. After the morning walkthrough, Jennings consulted with Nolan and team chaplain Earl Smith outside the team's locker room.

Third-year backup Adam Snyder will start in place of Jennings, who started 13 games last season. Jennings won't go back to his offseason home in Atlanta, Nolan said.

Jennings played just three games in his first campaign with San Francisco in 2005, missing most of the year with a shoulder injury. His absence is another blow to the 49ers' already struggling offense, which is last in the NFL in total yards.

Quarterback Alex Smith will miss Sunday's game against Baltimore with a shoulder injury, while tight end Vernon Davis will be out at least one more game with a knee injury.

San Francisco has a bye week after facing the Ravens, but Nolan wasn't certain Jennings would be back for the 49ers' road game against the New York Giants on Oct. 21.

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The oddmakers’ take on the NFL’s new starters

It’s only four games into the season and several teams have already had to hand the ball to their backup quarterback.

Several of these new starters have spent large chunks of the past few seasons warming the bench, making it difficult for bettors to know what to expect. We spoke to two of the top oddsmakers in Las Vegas about what they made of these backup-turned-starting quarterbacks.

Bob Scucci is the director of race and sportsbook at the Coast Hotels, while Pete Korner heads up Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

Brian Griese (Chicago Bears)

Griese replaced Rex Grossman last Sunday, but it was hard to tell the difference. Griese threw three interceptions in a 37-27 loss to Detroit that dropped the club to 1-3. He’s expected to start Sunday’s game against Green Bay.

Scucci: “While Griese hasn’t played in a lot of big games in his career so far, he is still a good NFL quarterback with a lot of experience. He got that one game he needed under his belt against the Detroit Lions last week and I think he could kick off from that and have a good season.”

Korner: “He’s experienced, but he’s just not a winner. As far as backups go, he’s going to come in and perform. In comparison to Rex Grossman, he might actually exceed the starter he is replacing. He’s on a very good team, with a particularly good defense, and if he can just cut out the INTs this could be good for both the Bears and bettors.”

Gus Frerotte (St. Louis Rams)

Rams coach Scott Linehan will bench Marc Bulger in favor of Gus Frerotte for this Sunday’s game against Arizona, according to reports. Playing with three broken ribs, Bulger has compiled a 64.9 rating so far this season, throwing for 765 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.

Frerotte threw for 2,996 yards, 18 TDs and 13 picks as a starter with Miami in the 2005-2006 season.

Scucci: “Another former starter who has a lot of experience, but I think his career is on the down slope at the moment. Frerotte’s best days are well and truly behind him and I wouldn’t be too eager to put my money on him to be honest.”

Korner: “Frerotte has got both experience and success on his side. While he is capable of coming in and doing well, he is not as good a starter as (Marc) Bulger, so there is a bit of a dropoff here. But most bettors know that and will approach the next few Rams games a bit more cautiously.”

Trent Edwards (Buffalo Bills)

To be a successful athlete in any sport you have to take your chances when they come. That’s what Trent Edwards seems to have done at Buffalo. With J.P. Losman out, the rookie QB came in and led the Bills to their first win of the season.

Edwards threw for 331 yards and a touchdown in a 17-14 win over the Jets last Sunday and is tipped to start this Monday night against Dallas.

Scucci: “Edwards is unproven. There’s nothing you can look at that says ‘Hey, this guy can handle himself in the big situations.’ I think this is more guesswork and desperation on the part of the Bills and I would wait to see how he does under pressure as the season goes on.”

Korner: “Losman simply hasn’t performed and Edwards took his chance and provided a badly needed win. Edwards is filling in – or replacing – a quarterback who just hasn’t done the business, so there is no real drop in value. But it still remains to be seen how much success he can bring to Buffalo. Bettors and oddsmakers don’t know a whole lot about him, but he’s still an improvement on Losman.”

Daunte Culpepper (Oakland Raiders)

Revenge can be sweet and Culpepper exacted it in a big way last Sunday. He was handed his first start for Oakland when Josh McCown was ruled out with a broken toe. Culpepper ran for three touchdowns and passed for two in a 35-17 win against his former team, the Miami Dolphins.

The Raiders have a bye week this week but with McCown still struggling, Culpepper should make his second start of the season against San Diego on Oct. 14.

Scucci: “In the past few years I haven’t liked Culpepper in any role, for Minnesota, Miami or Oakland. Basically, he hasn’t had a good season in about four years and he is another guy that I wouldn’t trust in pressure situations.”

Korner: “His first game back he had a big incentive to win against Miami and I’m not sure if he will produce a performance like that again. This guy could – and should – have been a superstar and as far as backups go, there probably isn’t a better one out there. Bettors know this and will act accordingly.”

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Five NFL teams still unbeaten (vs. spread)

LAS VEGAS – It's hard to believe the NFL regular season is already a quarter of the way over as all but the four teams that had a bye last week have played four of their 16 games.

So now is a good time to look at how teams are faring not only in the standings but also against the oddsmakers' lines. The accompanying chart ranks each team by its record against the spread ("ATS" in the middle column). While four games is a short sample, it can give bettors some clues as to what teams the oddsmakers have yet to make the proper adjustments on when setting the lines.

As most people know, the Patriots, Cowboys, and Packers are all 4-0 both straight up and against the spread. But what most casual observers probably don't know is that the Cardinals, despite a 2-2 overall record, are also 4-0 against the spread, and the Titans are undefeated ATS at 3-0. Of course, oddsmakers are adjusting on these teams as we speak and the Patriots are a whopping -16 vs. the Browns this week, the Cowboys are -10 vs. the Bills, and the Packers are -3 vs. the Bears (just three weeks ago in advance lines available at the Las Vegas Hilton, the Bears were -3 in this game). Even the Cardinals are -3 1/2 vs. the Rams.

The Colts are 4-0 straight up, but only in the middle of the pack at 2-2 against the spread as they failed to cover in their wins over the Titans and Texans. The latter line was -6 at a lot of books and resulted in a push for a lot of bettors, but for the sake of consistency, I'm using the closing lines at the Hilton, where the Colts-Texans line closed at 6 1/2.

The Rams, Bears, Broncos, and Ravens have all disappointed bettors every week and are all 0-4 against the spread, with the Saints at 0-3. The Dolphins have also yet to cover, but they do have two pushes.

The final column in the chart shows each team's record with the over/under, and even though they're not listed in order, we can see that the Browns and Raiders, two teams that were expected to have decent defenses and woeful offenses, are both 4-0 with the over. Don't you wish you had known this back in Week 3 when the two teams met with a total of 41 and the Raiders won 26-24? The Raiders are idle this week, but the Browns are playing the Patriots - who are in a group at 3-1 with the over - with a total of 48.

The Rams, who were expected to have a high-scoring offense and swiss-cheese defense, are 4-0 with the under. The Redskins and Titans are 3-0 with the under while the Vikings are 3-0-1 after pushing last week. The Vikings are idle this week, but the Rams-Cardinals game has a total of 40, the Lions-Redskins is 46 (but beware the Lions are 3-1 with the over) and the Titans-Falcons is 40 1/2.

NFL-wide betting trends

Underdogs have been barking through the first four weeks at 35-22-5 against the spread (61 percent), and that's especially impressive since they were 6-9-1 in the first week. Home dogs have been especially potent as they are not only 14-7 against the spread (67 percent) but also have won 11 of those 21 games straight up, many at juicy money-line prices. After offering nine home dogs last week (the public went 6-3 both straight up and against the spread), the schedule has only four home dogs this week - the Chiefs +2 1/2 vs. the Jaguars, Rams +3 1/2 vs. the Cardinals, 49ers +3 1/2 vs. the Ravens, and the Bills +10 vs. the Cowboys.

* Another favorite subset of mine in the NFL is double-digit underdogs, but they haven't fared as well in the early going as they are only 1-4 against the spread with the Chiefs' win over the Chargers last week being the first one to cash. But double-digit dogs will get a chance to rebound this week with the Browns +16 vs. the Patriots, the Buccaneers +10 vs. the Colts, and Bills +10 vs. the Cowboys. Even though the big dogs haven't had much bite, mid-range dogs - which I define as those more than a touchdown and less than double digits - or from +7 1/2 to +9 1/2 underdogs - are 5-2 against the spread. This week's only mid-range dog is the Falcons +8 vs. the Titans, though the Colts-Bucs might fall into this category as some books have moved to 9 1/2.

o Conventional wisdom says the AFC is far superior to the NFC, but the NFC has been holding its own in interleague play as the games have been split 8-8 overall and the NFC holding a slight edge of 7-6-3 against the spread. But an argument can be made that the AFC hasn't shown its dominance yet as the Patriots have yet to play an NFC team and the Colts are just 1-0 with the win over the Saints. An interesting thing to note is that the AFC teams that are over .500 in the standings (Colts, Patriots, Steelers, Jaguars, and Titans) are a combined 4-1 against the NFC while the teams under .500 (Bengals, Jets, Bills, Chargers, and Dolphins) are a combined 1-4. The six teams that are 2-2 overall are a combined 3-3 vs. the NFC. So, if you still think the AFC is superior and the cream will rise to the top, there would be six interconference plays this week: The Titans -8 vs. the Falcons, Steelers -6 vs. the Seahawks, Jets +3 1/2 vs. the Giants, Colts -10 vs. the Buccaneers, the Ravens -3 1/2 vs. the 49ers, and Bills +10 vs. the Cowboys. Personally, I'll back the NFC with the Falcons, Seahawks, and Bucs.

* On a side note to the AFC/NFC debate, the line on the Super Bowl that is up at many Vegas sports books. It was around AFC -5 during the summer and is now around -8 and as high as -9 (at the Wynn Las Vegas) with the Cowboys' impressive start probably the only thing keeping it from being double digits.

o One last betting note, the Wynn has a proposition wager that asks if any NFL teams will go either undefeated or winless. It opened at -1500 on the "no" with +1000 on the "yes" and was adjusted this past weekend to -1700 on the "no" and +1100 on the "yes" after the Falcons and Bills got off the schnied last week. The undefeated teams are the Patriots, Colts, Cowboys, and Packers, though there are some elimination games as the Pats play both the Colts and the Cowboys. Among the winless teams (the Dolphins, Saints, and Rams), the Saints and Rams also play each other.

NFL Betting Standings

Team (record) ATS O/U

Patriots (4-0) 4-0 3-1

Cowboys (4-0) 4-0 3-1

Packers (4-0) 4-0 1-2-1

Cardinals (2-2) 4-0 2-2

Titans (2-1) 3-0  0-3

Steelers (3-1) 3-1 2-2

Buccaneers (3-1) 3-1 1-3

Browns (2-2) 3-1 4-0

Texans (2-2)  3-1 3-1

Lions (3-1) 2-1-1 3-1

Seahawks (3-1) 2-1-1 1-3

Chiefs (2-2) 2-1-1 1-3

Vikings (1-3) 1-1-2 0-3-1

Redskins (2-1)  1-1-1 0-3

Colts (4-0) 2-2 2-2

Raiders (2-2) 2-2 4-0

Panthers (2-2) 2-2 2-2

Giants (2-2) 2-2  1-3

Falcons (1-3) 2-2 2-2

Bills (1-3) 2-2 1-3

Jaguars (2-1) 1-2 1-2

Jets (1-3) 1-2-1 2-2

Bengals (1-3) 1-2-1 2-2

49ers (2-2) 1-3 1-3

Chargers (1-3)  1-3 3-1

Eagles (1-3) 1-3 1-3

Dolphins (0-4) 0-2-2 3-1

Saints (0-3) 0-3 1-2

Ravens (2-2) 0-4 3-1

Broncos (2-2) 0-4 3-1

Bears (1-3) 0-4 2-2

Rams (0-4) 0-4 0-4

SU – straight-up record; ATS – against the spread; O/U – over/under; records based on closing lines at Las Vegas Hilton

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