Tuesday, October 31, 2006

NFL News and Notes

League MVP Shaun Alexander won't be rushing to the rescue of the struggling Seahawks just yet. Tests unexpectedly showed that Alexander's foot remained cracked on Monday. That means Seattle likely will not have its 2005 NFL rushing leader for next Monday night's game against Oakland.

Alexander has been pain-free for more than a week. But he agrees with team doctors who are trying to ensure the crack is completely gone before he plays again, and to prevent a full fracture that would require surgery.

Veteran linebacker Chris Claiborne was signed by the New York Giants on Monday.

The Giants (5-2) did not announce a roster move to make room for Claiborne, who was signed a day after starting weakside linebacker Brandon Short injured a quadriceps in a win over Tampa Bay.

New York lost strongside linebacker LaVar Arrington to a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury the previous game against Dallas.

Claiborne has spent eight seasons in the NFL with Detroit, Minnesota and St. Louis. He has played in 108 games with 89 starts, 399 tackles, 13 sacks and eight interceptions. He started seven of 14 games with the Rams last season and had 49 tackles and a half-sack before going on injured reserve with a patella tendon knee problem.

Claiborne was the ninth draft choice overall by the Lions in 1999. He played four seasons in Detroit, appearing in 63 games with 58 starts. He signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an unrestricted free agent in 2003 and started all 24 games over the next two seasons.

The Cardinals are sticking with Dennis Green as coach.

Green was back at work Oct. 30, one day after a road loss at Green Bay dropped Arizona to a league-worst 1-7.

After rampant speculation Green was on the brink of being fired after the team's seventh loss in a row, Cardinals vice president and general counsel Michael Bidwill -- son of team owner Bill Bidwill -- released a statement late Oct. 30 supporting the coach.

Sunday's 28-14 loss at Green Bay capped the team's worst first half-season since 1997. The Cardinals have a bye week before playing Dallas at home on Nov. 12.

New England 31, Minnesota 7
Tom Brady threw for 372 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Patriots (6-1) to the victory over the Vikings (4-3) on Monday night. Brady is now 10-0 all-time playing inside a dome. New England's defense had four sacks and four interceptions, forcing Brad Johnson into a handful of uncharacteristic mistakes.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

NFL Roundup: Week 8

Some observations, comments and opinions about Sunday's NFL games.

Chicago 41, San Francisco 10
The 7-0 start by the Bears is their best since 1985 - the year they won the Super Bowl. Rex Grossman threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns and Thomas Jones racked up 111 yards rushing with one TD. The 49ers fell to 2-5 on the season.

Jacksonville 13, Philadelphia 6
The Jaguars (4-3) ran for 209 yards, with Fred Taylor getting 103 of those,, to hand the Eagles (4-4) their third straight loss. Jacksonville limited the Philadelphia offense to only 227 total yards.

Atlanta 29, Cincinnati 27
Michael Vick had another impressive outing throwing the ball in the Falcons victory over the Bengals (4-3). Vick threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns on 20-of-28 passing. He also rushed for 55 yards with one score. Atlanta is tied with New Orleans for first place in the NFC South with a 5-2 record.

Green Bay 31, Arizona 14
How low can the Cardinals season really go? Apparently all the way to the bottom as Green Bay (3-4) gets two 100-yard rushers and racks up 383 yards of total offense on Arizona, who are now 1-7 on the season. Ahman Green (106 yards) and Vernand Morency (101 yards) back the first Packer backs to rush for 100 yards in the same game since 1985 against Tampa Bay.

Kansas City 35, Seattle 28
Larry Johnson ran for 155 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead the Chiefs (4-3) to the win over the Seahawks (4-3). Kansas City picked up 499 yards of total offense, while holding Seattle to 47 yards rushing. Damon Huard, playing for the injured Trent Green, passed for 312 yards and a touchdown.

New York Giants 17, Tampa Bay 3
The Giants (5-2) take over sole possession of first place in the NFC East with the victory over the Bucs (2-5). Despite playing without three injured defensive starters and losing another early, New York held Tampa Bay to just 174 total yards.

Baltimore 35, New Orleans 22
The Ravens (5-2) became the first team to beat the Saints (5-2) in the Louisiana Superdome this season and made it look easy with their biggest offensive output of the year. Steve McNair threw two TD passes and Jamal Lewis ran for 109 yards to pace the offensive attack. The Baltimore defense held New Orleans to just 35 yards rushing.

Tennessee 28, Houston 22
Vince Young ran for one touchdown and threw for another as the Titans (2-5) won their second straight game with a victory over the Texans (2-5). Houston coach Gary Kubiak benched David Carr after turning the ball over threw times and backup Sage Rosenfels passed for three touchdowns to make the game close. Houston has now lost 11-straight games on the road.

Indianapolis 34, Denver 31
We finally learned one way to score on the Broncos defense. Put the ball in Peyton Manning's hands. Manning was 32-of-39 for 345 yards and three touchdowns leading the unbeaten Colts (7-0) to the victory over Denver (5-2) in a battle between the two premier teams in the AFC. Reggie Wayne caught 10 passes for 138 yards and three TDs to lead Indianapolis, while Mike Bell ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns for the Broncos. The Colts became the second team in NFL history to start consecutive seasons with seven straight wins. The Packers did it in three consecutive seasons from 1929 to 1931.

Oakland 20, Pittsburgh 13
The defending Super Bowl champs saw their sinking season hit rock bottom with a loss to the Raiders on Sunday. Despite getting only 98 total yards of offense, Oakland (2-5) intercepted four Ben Roethlisberger passes and returned two for touchdowns. One of those was a 100-yard score by Chris Carr. Pittsburgh has now dropped to 2-5 on the season, losing for the fifth time in six games.

Cleveland 20, New York Jets 14
Reuben Droughns ran for 125 yards and a touchdown to lead the Browns (2-5) to the upset victory over the Jets (4-4). New York appeared to have a touchdown late in the game when TE Chris Baker made an amazing one-handed grab in the endzone, but the officials ruled he was out of bounds and the play was not reviewable.

San Diego 38, St. Louis 24
LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 183 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Chargers (5-2) to the victory over the Rams (4-3). Tomlinson tied Emmitt Smith as the second-fastest to 90 TDs (in 86 games. Jim Brown is first in 81 games). St. Louis QB Marc Bulger passed for 327 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort.

Dallas 35, Carolina 14
Tony Romo rallied the Cowboys from a 14-point first-quarter deficit, throwing for 270 yards and a touchdown, and Julius Jones ran for 94 yards and a score to help Dallas (4-3) beat the Panthers (4-4) on Sunday night. Carolina has now lost two straight after winning four in a row.

The Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the pack as far as home-field advantage is concerned.

Manning and company picked up a huge win against a rugged team in the unfriendly confines of Mile High. That has to be an even bigger confidence builder and with Joseph Addai staring to come on in the Indy backfield - Manning now has another weapon to play with in his arsenal of destruction.

The Bears had a slight slip up in concentration against the Cardinals two weeks ago but seem to be back on track with another dominating performance yesterday. Chicago hosts Miami next so look for them to be 8-0, while Indianapolis has to travel to New England for a Sunday night game against Manning's nemesis - the Patriots.

New England (5-1) has its work cut out for them against the Minnesota Vikings (4-2) on Monday Night Football and can't afford to look ahead to Indy. Minnesota has a solid defense that has given up only 95 points all season. The Patriots will need a maximum effort from Tom Brady to come away with the victory.

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West Virginia Moves to No. 3 in BCS

By The Associated Press

West Virginia was a precarious No. 3 in the Bowl Championship Series standings Sunday, leading a tightly packed group of nine teams trailing Ohio State and Michigan.

The Mountaineers replaced Southern California, which had been in third place before losing 33-31 at Oregon State on Saturday. But unlike the Trojans, West Virginia's hold on third isn't strong enough for the Mountaineers to control their destiny in the national title race.

West Virginia's BCS average of .7862 was just slightly ahead of Florida (.7791) and Big East rival Louisville (.7621).

Auburn, Texas, USC, Notre Dame, California and Tennessee all had BCS averages of at least .7000, giving each of those one-loss teams legitimate hopes of reaching the national title game.

West Virginia plays at Louisville on Thursday night. The winner should get a big boost in the next BCS standings, but with the numbers the way they are now, going undefeated might not keep either Big East power from eventually getting passed by one of the one-loss teams.

"We still have to prove the Big East is a force in the national title picture," West Virginia offensive lineman Dan Mozes said Sunday.

Ohio State and Michigan don't have any such worries.

For the second straight week, the Buckeyes and Wolverines held the top two spots in the BCS standings. All they have to do to play for the BCS championship is win out. The catch, of course, is that the Big Ten rivals meet on Nov. 18 in Columbus.

The Buckeyes are No. 1 in all the polls and have a BCS average of .9864 out of a possible 1.000. Michigan is first in the computer rankings and second in polls, with a BCS average of .9697.

The coaches' poll and Harris poll count for two-thirds of a team's BCS average. A compilation of six computer polls accounts for the other third.

The top two teams in the final standings play for the BCS title in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 8.

Unbeaten Boise State moved up a spot to 14th in the standings, still two spots behind where the Broncos from the Western Athletic Conference must finish to secure an automatic berth in the five BCS games. The Broncos' BCS average was .4763. Rutgers was in 12th with a .5153 average.

Ninth-place Notre Dame was also still outside where it needs to be to clinch an automatic berth. An eighth-place finish guarantees the Fighting Irish a spot, though staying in the top 12 is enough to make them eligible for selection.

As for the Mountaineers, they should benefit by the fact that the toughest part of their schedule lies ahead, which should help impress poll voters and bolster their lagging computer rating.

After Louisville, West Virginia plays Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Florida and Rutgers. All have records above .500.

The Mountaineers are third in each poll, but only 13th in the computer ratings, the worst among the top 11 teams.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Big East Teams Rise in AP Poll

Thanks to USC's fall, the pivotal game between West Virginia and Louisville will be the first top-five matchup for the rebuilt Big East. The third-ranked Mountaineers and fifth-ranked Cardinals each moved up a spot in The Associated Press Top 25 on Sunday. The two unbeatens were off last week and play Thursday night in Louisville.

Southern California's 33-31 upset loss to Oregon State on Saturday opened up a spot in the top five. USC dropped from No. 3 to No. 9 after its first regular-season loss since falling 34-31 in triple overtime to California on Sept. 27, 2003. The last time the Trojans were ranked lower in the media poll was after that loss to Cal, when they were 10th.

No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan remained on top of the AP poll.

The Buckeyes have been No. 1 all season. They received 63 of 65 first-place votes. The Wolverines were second for a third consecutive week. The Big Ten rivals meet Nov. 18 in Columbus.

In between West Virginia, which received two first-place votes, and Louisville is No. 4 Texas, which rallied from three touchdowns down to beat Texas Tech 35-31 on Saturday night.

The rise of West Virginia and Louisville is a boon to the Big East.

The conference lost perennial national championship contenders Miami and Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference three seasons ago in a move that severely damaged the Big East's reputation. Boston College followed the Hokies and Hurricanes the next season.

Louisville, along with Cincinnati and South Florida, was brought in from Conference USA last year by the Big East to make up for the losses.

Now, in the second season of the new-look Big East, the Cardinals and Mountaineers have replaced Miami and Virginia Tech as the league's two national title contenders.

No. 15 Rutgers was the third ranked team from the Big East.

No. 6 Auburn, No. 7 Florida and No. 8 Tennessee gave the Southeastern Conference three top-10 teams for a third consecutive week.

No. 9 USC is followed by two of its remaining opponents: No. 10 California and No. 11 Notre Dame.

The first nine teams in the USA Today coaches' poll were the same as the AP's.

In the AP poll, No. 12 Arkansas and No. 13 LSU gave the SEC five ranked teams, tied with the ACC (No. 16 Boston College, No. 19 Clemson, No. 20 Georgia Tech, No. 22 Wake Forest and No. 23 Virginia Tech) for the most by one conference.

Unbeaten Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference was 14th and the only team from outside the six conferences with automatic bids to the Bowl Championship Series in the Top 25.

Wisconsin was No. 17 followed by Oklahoma.

Texas A&M was No. 21 and the Top 25 was rounded out by two Pac-10 teams, No. 24 Oregon State and No. 25 Washington State.

Virginia Tech, which has been out of the rankings the past two weeks, moved back in after a 24-7 victory over Clemson last Thursday.

Washington State was ranked for the first time since finishing the 2003 season No. 9.

Falling out of the rankings were Big 12 North rivals Nebraska and Missouri. The Cornhuskers and Tigers play next week in Lincoln, Neb.

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College Football Notes: Week 9

The Oregon State Beavers did what no Pac-10 has been able to do for 27 straight games - beat USC.

The unranked Beavers (5-3) pulled the upset of the day and opened up the BCS road for West Virginia by defeating the third-ranked Trojans, 33-31. The loss ended a 38 game regular season winning streak for USC (6-1).

The Mountaineers, who had a bye this week, are now in a solid position to play for the national championship. A move up to number three in the BCS and the AP Poll is a given and if West Virginia wins out - a national championship game against the winner of Ohio State-Michigan is likely to happen.

Oregon State jumped out to a 33-10 lead only to watch the Trojans storm back. USC scored a touchdown with seven seconds remaining to make it 33-31, but missed the two-point conversion when John David Booty's pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage. Steve Smith had 11 catches for 255 yards and two TDs in a losing effort.

The top two teams in the country had easy times of it. No. 1 Ohio State crushed Minnesota 44-0 behind 183 yards passing and two touchdowns from Heisman front-runner, Troy Smith. Tailback Antonio Pittman finished with 116 yards as well.

No. 2 Michigan, who held Penn State to minus-16 yards rushing two weeks ago, limited Northwestern to minus-13 yards on the ground in the 17-3 victory. RB Mike Hart ran for 95 yards and a score.

No. 5 Texas and No. 17 Wisconsin had to battle back from big deficits to pick up victories on Saturday.

The Longhorns (8-1) rallied from a 21 points down to defeat Texas Tech, 35-31. Redshirt freshman Colt McCoy led the comeback by going 21-of-31 for 256 yards and four touchdowns. Red Raider QB Graham Harrell threw for 519 yards, but Texas Tech was held to minus-1 on the ground.

The Badgers (8-1) scored 20 unanswered points to defeat a pesky Illinois squad, 30-24. With RB P.J. Hill out with a sore neck, the Badgers looked to senior quarterback John Stocco, who threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns.

In a battle of ranked teams, No. 19 Oklahoma (6-2) capitalized on three turnovers to hand No. 23 Missouri (7-2) the 26-10 defeat. Allen Patrick, filling in for the injured Adrian Peterson, ran for 162 yards for the Sooners.

No. 9 Florida improved to 7-1 on the season with a 21-14 victory over SEC rival Georgia (6-3) in the World's Largest Outdoor Party. Andre Caldwell led the Gators with eight receptions for 86 yards and two TDs.

Tashard Choice ran for 107 yards and a touchdown to lead No. 21 Georgia Tech to the 30-23 ACC victory over Miami (5-3). The Yellowjackets need to win just two of their final three games to secure a spot in the ACC championship game.

The other big upset of the day saw unranked Oklahoma State (5-3) hand No. 20 Nebraska the 41-29 loss. Dantrell Savage ran for 122 yards and two scores to lead the Cowboy attack. The victory was only the fourth for the Cowboys in 41 games against the Cornhuskers (6-3).

Other scores from the top 25: Virginia Tech 24, No. 10 Clemson 7; No. 11 Notre Dame 38, Navy 14; No. 7 Auburn 23, Mississippi 17; No. 18 Boston College 41, Buffalo 0; No. 24 Wake Forest 24, North Carolina 17; No. 13 Arkansas 44, Louisiana-Monroe 10; No. 25 Oregon 55, Portland State 12; No. 22 Texas A&M 31, Baylor 21; and No. 8 Tennessee 31, South Carolina 24.

Highlight games for week 10 include: West Virginia (7-0) at Louisville (7-0); LSU (6-2) at Tennessee (7-1); Missouri (7-2) at Nebraska (6-3); Maryland (6-2) at Clemson (7-2); Penn State (6-3) at Wisconsin (8-1); Oklahoma (6-2) at Texas A&M (8-1); Boston College (7-1) at Wake Forest (7-1); and Oklahoma State (5-3) at Texas (8-1).

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Colts vs. Broncos: Prelude to AFC Title Game?

Week eight of the NFL season features the two best teams in the AFC - the Denver Broncos (5-1) and the Indianapolis Colts (6-0) - squaring off for what could be home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Both teams, arguably the best in the conference, feature very different styles and philosophies.

Denver wins by a strong running game (Tatum Bell is third in the league in rushing with 585 yards) and an even tougher defense. The Broncos have given up only two touchdowns all season long and are ranked first in scoring defense (7.3) and fourth in total defense (272.0).

Indianapolis wins by its offense and in particular, its passing offense. The Colts are ranked third in total offense (373.0), fourth in scoring offense (28.5), and second (261.8) in passing offense.

Peyton Manning is the catalyst and with Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Brandon Stokely and Ben Utecht, he has plenty of weapons to spread the ball around and drive opposing defenses crazy.

The weak spots on each club are opposite from the strengths. Indy has a below average defense that has trouble stopping the run and Denver has an offense near the bottom in nearly ever statistical category.

Regardless of the analysis - the team that wins on Sunday will have a nice foothold in the quest for home-field advantage and the AFC championship.

There are plenty of excellent games on tap for any football connoisseur, so set back, grab your chips and dip, get your fantasy football sheets out and enjoy the games. There will be no Sunday night game because of the World Series.

Here's the Corners predictions for week eight in the NFL:

Indianapolis at Denver
Offense versus defense. Finesse versus power. In what could be the battle for home field in the playoffs look for the thin air in Mile High and the Denver defense to give Peyton and company their first loss. Winner: Broncos.

Baltimore at New Orleans
Steve McNair may be back for the Ravens but the running game is virtually non-existent. Brian Billick is calling the offense now so will see how that works out. The Saints have been awfully good at home this season and look for that trend to continue on Sunday. Winner: Saints.

Atlanta at Cincinnati
Both teams came away with big wins last week and look to keep the momentum going. Vick will probably never throw four touchdown passes in one game ever again, so go with Cincy at home. Winner: Bengals.

Seattle at Kansas City
The Seahawks will be without Matt Hasselbeck, Shawn Alexander, Bobby Engram and Sean Locklear against a team that is almost unbeatable at Arrowhead. Winner: Kansas City.

St. Louis at San Diego
Despite their enormous talent level, the Chargers are a team imploding with way too many off-field distractions. First Steve Foley, then Terrence Kiel and now Shawne Merriman. Look for the Rams to catch San Diego at the right time. Winner: Rams.

San Francisco at Chicago
Let's see. The Bears almost lose to Arizona and that gets them really, really mad. Then they have a week off and two weeks to prepare for the 49ers. Be very afraid Alex Smith. Winner: Bears.

Tampa Bay at New York Giants
There will be no 62-yard field goal to save the Bucs this week. Winner: Giants.

Jacksonville at Philadelphia
Two teams coming of big disappointing losses. The Jaguars will be without Bryan Leftwich so David Garrard will take over. Even worse for Jacksonville, DT Marcus Stroud will not play as well. The Eagles out-gained Tampa Bay 506-196 last week and still lost! Philly should get out of its two-game funk here. Winner: Eagles.

Pittsburgh at Oakland
The Raiders won their first game of the season last week and had a wonderful celebration. Now it's time to get back to what they do best - losing. Winner: Steelers.

New York Jets at Cleveland
The Jets have found a running game, thanks to rookie Leon Washington's 129-yard effort last week. Chad Pennington is having a pro-bowl type season and believe it or not, New York is a playoff contender. The Browns are not. Winner: Jets.

Arizona at Green Bay
How can you possibly lose to the Raiders? Winner: Packers.

Houston at Tennessee
The Texans are slowly but surely getting better week to week under the direction of Gary Kubiak. The Titans are coming off their first win of the season, but who really believes they can do it twice in a row? Winner: Texans.

Dallas at Carolina (Sunday night)
Tony Romo gets his first NFL start and it's on the road against a Jekyll and Hyde Carolina squad. Still, the Panthers are at home and have more overall talent than the Cowboys. How long before Drew Bledsoe is back in? Winner: Panthers.

New England at Minnesota (Monday night)
The Vikings are coming off a huge win at Seattle, while the Patriots are once again building for the playoffs under Bill Belichick. Minnesota has a strong defense, but a so-so offense. The receiving corps for New England is starting to come around. Should be a good game. Winner: Patriots.

The Corner Lowdown
Last week: 6-7 (No!)
Overall: 63-21

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Key ACC Battle; Big Party Highlight College Football

We've already seen Virginia Tech (6-2) jump back into the ACC title picture with a 24-7 victory over No. 10 Clemson (7-2) on Thursday. Hokies RB Brandon Ore led the way with 203 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Now Miami could do the same thing on Saturday against Georgia Tech in another big conference clash. Despite all their problems with the on-field brawl and the future status of head coach Larry Coker, the Hurricanes (5-2) would be right back in the thick of things with a win over the Yellowjackets (5-2), who were blown out last week by Clemson.

Also on tap is the annual World's Largest Outdoor Party when Georgia (6-2) heads to Jacksonville to take on Florida (6-1) in a key SEC matchup. The Bulldogs, 14-point underdogs, could move back into the Top 25 with a victory.

Only one game features a battle of ranked teams and that's No. 19 Oklahoma (5-2) traveling to meet No. 23 Missouri (7-1) in a key Big 12 contest.

Here's the Corners predictions for this weeks Top 25 battles:

Minnesota at Ohio State (1)
The Buckeyes 15-game winning streak is the third longest in school history and it's about to move to 16. Winner: Ohio State.

Northwestern at Michigan (2)
At least the Wildcats won't have to worry about blowing a 35-point lead in this game. Winner: Michigan.

USC (3) at Oregon State
The Trojans are rested coming off a bye week and healthier. That spells bad news for the Beavers. Winner: USC.

Texas (5) at Texas Tech
The Longhorns have been very vulnerable recently and could be primed for an upset. The Red Raiders love to pass the ball and Texas is ranked 84th in the country against the pass. No matter, the Longhorns in the end will prevail because of all their talent. Winner: Texas.

Auburn (7) at Mississippi
The Tigers have won seven straight in the Rebels' backyard. This Saturday should be no different. Winner: Auburn.

Tennessee (8) at South Carolina
The Volunteers are 4-10 against a Steve Spurrier coached team and need to be ready for this showdown in Columbia or else an upset could be brewing. Winner: Tennessee.

Florida (9) at Georgia
The last four games have been decided by seven points or less with the Gators taking three of four. Look for the same trend to continue. Winner: Florida.

Notre Dame (11) at Navy
The Irish have defeated the Midshipmen and amazing 41 straight times! How is that possible? Winner: Notre Dame.

Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas (13)
The Razorbacks last three games have been with SE Missouri State, Mississippi and now the Warhawks. Glad to see that Arkansas goes out of its way to play the best. Winner: Arkansas.

Illinois at Wisconsin (17)
The Illini played well in spots and QB Juice Williams is not bad, but reality sets in this week with a visit to Camp Randall and the Badgers. Wisconsin is seventh in the nation in total defense. Winner: Wisconsin.

Buffalo at Boston College (18)
The Eagles could win this game with their mascot playing quarterback. Winner: Boston College.

Oklahoma (19) at Missouri (23)
The Tigers are favored in this game for the first time since 1998 and with Adrian Peterson lost to the Sooners, Missouri just might pull it out. Winner: Missouri.

Nebraska (20) at Oklahoma State
The scoreboard should light up in this game. Winner: Nebraska.

Miami at Georgia Tech (21)
The Hurricanes almost lost to Duke, while the Yellowjackets were embarrassed by Clemson last week as Calvin Johnson had zero catches. Look for an angry, motivated Georgia Tech team to be ready at home. Winner: Georgia Tech.

Texas A&M (22) at Baylor
The Aggies like to win ugly, but win they do. Winner: Texas A&M.

Wake Forest (24) at North Carolina
My how times have changed. Who would have thought that the Demon Deacons would be the best team in the state of North Carolina? Winner: Wake Forest.

Portland State at Oregon (25)
This is one of those take your huge paycheck and get blown out games. Winner: Oregon.


Connecticut at Rutgers (16)
Why are games being played on Sunday now? Sorry guys that day is for the pros. The Scarlet Knights are ranked second in the nation in total defense. When is someone in the national media going to recognize how good a coach Greg Schiano really is? Winner: Rutgers.

The Corner Lowdown:
Last week: 17-3
Overall: 93-19

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Football Fanatics Show: 6

The Football Fanatics Show is a podcast for college and pro football fans featuring hard-hitting commentary with a tell-it-like-it-is attitude. Hell, we may even offend some people. The show features myself, Rich 'Richie' Hagan and Damon Freed chatting about pro and college football.

Each week will preview the upcoming games and look back at the week before. We'll also be giving away some prizes and freebie stuff in future shows. So stop on in and check us out. The show will be on every Thursday during the football season and twice a month during the offseason.

This week we talk about the injury to Matt Hasselbeck and the suspension of Shawne Meriman and how it will impact Seattle and San Diego.

You can listen to the show in streaming media here.

Or you can download the podcast to your hard drive here. This is a big file so be patient and if you don't have broadband, I suggest you listen to the streaming version.

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NFL Week 8 Injury Report

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS AT CHICAGO BEARS - 49ers: OUT: TE Vernon Davis (Fibula). PROBABLE: G Larry Allen (Knee); T Jonas Jennings (Hand); CB Walt Harris (Hamstring). Bears: QUESTIONABLE: WR Mark Bradley (Ankle); S Chris Harris (Quadricep); LB Leon Joe (Hamstring); DE Adewale Ogunleye (Hamstring). PROBABLE: CB Ricky Manning (Hamstring).

ARIZONA CARDINALS AT GREEN BAY PACKERS - Cardinals: OUT: CB Matt Ware (Shoulder). DOUBTFUL: DT Kendrick Clancy (Ankle); WR Larry Fitzgerald (Hamstring); LB Karlos Dansby (Hip). QUESTIONABLE: RB Obafemi Ayanbadejo (Fibula). PROBABLE: S Adrian Wilson (Groin); G Milford Brown (Ankle); DT Darnell Dockett (Back). Packers: OUT: LB Abdul Hodge (Knee); DT Cullen Jenkins (Ankle). DOUBTFUL: WR Greg Jennings (Ankle). QUESTIONABLE: DT Corey Williams (Knee); G Daryn Colledge (Calf); LB Ben Taylor (Hamstring). PROBABLE: RB Ahman Green (Knee).

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS - Seahawks: OUT: QB Matt Hasselbeck (Knee). DOUBTFUL: RB Shaun Alexander (Foot). QUESTIONABLE: WR Bobby Engram (Illness); LB D.D. Lewis (Toe); G Floyd Womack (Knee); DT Marcus Tubbs (Knee). Chiefs: OUT: QB Trent Green (Head). QUESTIONABLE: CB Benny Sapp (Knee); LB Rich Scanlon (Knee); T Will Svitek (Knee). PROBABLE: LB Derrick Johnson (Ankle).

BALTIMORE RAVENS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - Ravens: OUT: CB Corey Ivy (Abdomen). QUESTIONABLE: QB Steve McNair (Head); S Gerome Sapp (Thigh); S Dawan Landry (Knee). Saints: OUT: TE Ernie Conwell (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: DT Willie Whitehead (Elbow); T Zach Strief (Finger). PROBABLE: RB Deuce McAllister (Hamstring).

HOUSTON TEXANS AT TENNESSEE TITANS - Texans: QUESTIONABLE: S Glenn Earl (Neck); TE Jeb Putzier (Foot). PROBABLE: RB Jameel Cook (Ankle). Titans: OUT: G Zach Piller (Ankle); WR Roydell Williams (Finger). QUESTIONABLE: G Benji Olson (Ankle); LB Ken Amato (Quadricep); K Rob Bironas (Groin); WR David Givens (Hand); WR Brandon Jones (Chest); DE Travis LaBoy (Ribs).

ATLANTA FALCONS AT CINCINNATI BENGALS - Falcons: OUT: DE John Abraham (Groin). QUESTIONABLE: DT Roderick Coleman (Toe); G Kynan Forney (Shoulder); T Quinn Ojinnaka (Ankle). Bengals: OUT: T Levi Jones (Knee); WR Kelley Washington (Hamstring); QB Anthony Wright (Appendectomy); C Rich Braham (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: LB Rashad Jeanty (Foot); WR Antonio Chatman (Groin). PROBABLE: CB Greg Brooks (Knee); RB Jeremi Johnson (Chest); DT Sam Adams (Knee); S Dexter Jackson (Ankle); LB Brian Simmons (Neck).

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES - Jaguars: OUT: CB Terry Cousin (Groin). DOUBTFUL: T Stockar McDougle (Ankle); DT Marcus Stroud (Ankle). QUESTIONABLE: WR Matt Jones (Hamstring); QB Byron Leftwich (Ankle). PROBABLE: S Donovin Darius (Knee); DT Montavious Stanley (Knee); DE Marcellus Wiley (Groin). Eagles: QUESTIONABLE: TE L.J. Smith (Back); CB Roderick Hood (Heel); RB Thomas Tapeh (Groin). PROBABLE: RB Brian Westbrook (Knee); CB Lito Sheppard (Hand); WR Donte' Stallworth (Hamstring); DE Darren Howard (Groin); LB Matt McCoy (Hip); T Jon Runyan (Back); G Shawn Andrews (Back); WR Reggie Brown (Quadricep); G Todd Herremans (Knee).

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT NEW YORK GIANTS - Buccaneers: OUT: QB Chris Simms (Splenectomy). QUESTIONABLE: TE Anthony Becht (Foot); CB Juran Bolden (Hip); WR Mark Jones (Hamstring); LB Shelton Quarles (Knee); DE Simeon Rice (Shoulder); WR Maurice Stovall (Back); DT Ellis Wyms (Ankle). Giants: OUT: LB LaVar Arrington (Achilles). QUESTIONABLE: CB Sam Madison (Hamstring); LB Carlos Emmons (Pectoral); S Jason Bell (Concussion); DE Justin Tuck (Foot); WR Sinorice Moss (Quadricep); DE Osi Umenyiora (Hip Flexor); CB Frank Walker (Hamstring); RB Derrick Ward (Foot). PROBABLE: Plaxico Burress (Heal).

ST. LOUIS RAMS AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS - Rams: PROBABLE: RB Paul Smith (Eye); LB Pisa Tinoisamoa (Hand). Chargers: OUT: DE Igor Olshansky (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: S Bhawoh Jue (Knee); WR Malcom Floyd (Groin); WR Vincent Jackson (Groin); LB Shaun Phillips (Calf). PROBABLE: WR Greg Camarillo (Knee); TE Antonio Gates (Hip); G Mike Goff (Finger).

PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT OAKLAND RAIDERS - Steelers: OUT: LB James Harrison (Ankle); S Mike Logan (Hamstring); WR Willie Reid (Foot). QUESTIONABLE: LB Clark Haggans (Ankle); DT Casey Hampton (Hamstring); LB Joey Porter (Hamstring); QB Ben Roethlisberger (Concussion); WR Cedrick Wilson (Groin). PROBABLE: S Tyrone Carter (Shoulder); WR Santonio Holmes (Toe); RB Dan Kreider (Ankle). Raiders: DOUBTFUL: QB Aaron Brooks (Right Shoulder). QUESTIONABLE: RB LaMont Jordan (Back). PROBABLE: RB Justin Fargas (Shoulder); CB Fabian Washington (Hamstring); TE Randal Williams (Quadricep).

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS AT DENVER BRONCOS - Colts: OUT: DT Montae Reagor (Head). QUESTIONABLE: LB Keith O'Neil (Ankle); WR Aaron Moorehead (Back); G Ryan Lilja (Knee); DE Ryan LaCasse (Foot); DT Dan Klecko (Low Back); CB Nicholas Harper (Ribs); LB Gilbert Gardner (Thumb); C Dylan Gandy (Shoulder); DE Dwight Freeney (Shoulder); DT Raheem Brock (Elbow); C Jeff Saturday (Low Back); DT Darrell Reid (Chest); S Bob Sanders (Knee); P Hunter Smith (Groin); WR Terrence Wilkins (Shin); K Adam Vinatieri (Right Groin); TE Ben Utecht (Low Back); DE Josh Thomas (Ankle); WR Brandon Stokley (Knee). Broncos: OUT: T Matt Lepsis (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: DT Gerard Warren (Toe). PROBABLE: RB Tatum Bell (Toe); RB Cedric Cobbs (Ankle); RB Kyle Johnson (Ankle); LB Al Wilson (Thumb).

NEW YORK JETS AT CLEVELAND BROWNS - Jets: QUESTIONABLE: RB Cedric Houston (Knee); WR Tim Dwight (Thigh); C Trey Teague (Ankle); WR Laveranues Coles (Calf); CB David Barrett (Hip); RB B.J. Askew (Foot). PROBABLE: DT Dewayne Robertson (Hand); WR Brad Smith (Thigh); DT Kimo Von Oelhoffen (Knee); DE Bobby Hamilton (Knee); RB Kevan Barlow (Calf); LB Matt Chatham (Foot); LB Brad Kassell (Thigh); G Pete Kendall (Thigh); CB Justin Miller (Hip); QB Chad Pennington (Calf); S Kerry Rhodes (Thigh). Browns : QUESTIONABLE: CB Leigh Bodden (Ankle); S Justin Hamilton (Ankle); WR Dennis Northcutt (Ribs); T Ryan Tucker (Illness); S Brian Russell (Ankle); TE Kellen Winslow (Knee); S Brodney Pool (Hamstring).

DALLAS COWBOYS AT CAROLINA PANTHERS - Cowboys: QUESTIONABLE: DE Jason Hatcher (Ankle). PROBABLE: S Keith Davis (Ankle). Panthers: QUESTIONABLE: RB DeAngelo Williams (Ankle); LB Thomas Davis (Rib). PROBABLE: S Mike Minter (Knee); CB Ken Lucas (Hip); LB Adam Seward (Thigh).


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS - Patriots: QUESTIONABLE: DT Ty Warren (Shoulder); T Nick Kaczur (Shoulder); G Russ Hochstein (Knee); CB Ellis Hobbs (Wrist); DT Richard Seymour (Elbow); G Steve Neal (Shoulder); LB Don Davis (Lower Leg); TE Daniel Graham (Ankle); RB Kevin Faulk (Ankle); S Eugene Wilson (Hamstring). PROBABLE: CB Willie Andrews (Thigh); QB Tom Brady (Right Shoulder); CB Antwain Spann (Shoulder). Vikings: QUESTIONABLE: WR Marcus Robinson (Back). PROBABLE: WR Bethel Johnson (Hamstring); WR Travis Taylor (Concussion); WR Troy Williamson (Concussion).

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

College Football News

Atlantic Coast Conference leading-rusher James Davis could miss Thursday night's game at Virginia Tech with a shoulder injury.

After practice, Bowden said Davis was probable for Virginia Tech. Earlier in the day he said Davis was "50-50" to play. Davis hurt his shoulder in the 10th-ranked Tigers' 31-7 victory over Georgia Tech last Saturday.

Davis was hurt in the first half, yet played into the fourth quarter and finished with a career-high 216 yards and two touchdowns. After the game, Davis characterized the injury as a stinger and said it wouldn't keep him from playing against Virginia Tech.

Davis leads the ACC with 961 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Michigan wide receiver Adrian Arrington has been charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, stemming from an alleged argument with his girlfriend.

Arrington, 20, was arraigned last week in district court and a pretrial hearing is set for Nov. 1.

If convicted, Arrington could face up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.

According to the police report, officers responded to a call from Arrington's girlfriend, Jodie Hupe, about 3 a.m on Oct. 13. Hupe said she picked up Arrington from a bar and they got into an argument. Arrington grabbed Hupe's keys, pushed her out of the vehicle and drove off, the report said.

An assistant strength coach for LSU was arrested and accused of violating state law by inviting student athletes to his home to meet a sports agent and suggesting the agent should represent the athletes, LSU police said Tuesday.

Travelle Ernest Gaines, 26, surrendered to university police and was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish prison, the university said in a statement.

It was the second arrest in two weeks connected to the school about violations of the law regulating sports agents in Louisiana, the university said.

Gaines had been employed with the athletic department since July.

LSU said the student athletes invited to Gaines' home didn't realize an agent would be there, and the university said there was no evidence that the student athletes violated the law.

Texas defensive tackle Derek Lokey is out indefinitely after breaking his left leg and will have surgery this week.

Lokey, who also doubles as a short-yardage fullback, was injured in the second quarter of Texas' 22-20 win Saturday over No. 20 Nebraska. He will be the sixth defensive starter this season to miss at least one game for the Longhorns.

Texas has now lost two starters — Lokey and offensive tackle Cedric Dockery — for what is likely the rest of the season.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

NFL News and Notes

Two NFL regular-season games will be played each year outside the United States in Mexico, Canada and Europe, starting in 2007.

The plan, first announced last month, was approved Tuesday at the recommendation of new commissioner Roger Goodell.

No specific sites were given for the games. But when the proposal originally was disclosed, the league suggested that Britain and Germany likely would host the European games.

The plan would be set up so that teams would rotate over a 16-year period, with each team playing outside the country twice over that span, once as a visitor, the other as a home team. That means a team would lose one home team during that span.

Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham will miss three to four weeks following surgery Tuesday to repair a torn lower abdominal muscle.

The Falcons did not release details on the procedure, but coach Jim Mora said the torn muscle "is related to but not solely linked to" the groin injury that has limited the oft-injured three-time Pro Bowler to only two games this season.

The announcement came as a surprise because Mora said on Monday that Abraham may be able to play against Cincinnati Sunday. The torn muscle was discovered when Abraham was having his groin examined Monday.

Maurice Carthon resigned as Cleveland's offensive coordinator Tuesday, two days after the Browns' NFL-worst offense scored seven points in a loss to Denver.

Carthon, whose head-scratching play calls and personnel moves angered fans and puzzled players, was in his second year running the offense.

Despite having two weeks to devise a game plan, the Browns (1-5) picked up only 165 total yards in losing 17-7 to the Broncos and are ranked at or near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will miss at least three weeks with a strained ligament in his right knee.

An MRI taken Monday showed the Pro Bowl quarterback strained his right medial collateral ligament. Coach Mike Holmgren said Hasselbeck has a Grade 2 sprain on a three-grade scale and will miss "around" three games. He will return no sooner than the Nov. 19 game at San Francisco.

New York Giants linebacker LaVar Arrington is out for the season after tearing his left Achilles' tendon in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.

The Giants also lost defensive end Osi Umenyiora to a strained hip in their 36-22 victory. He went down late in the second quarter, returned for the start of the third but lasted only one play. He was helped back to the locker room, and the team said he's questionable for next week.

Arrington was hurt chasing down Dallas' Julius Jones on a running play. Arrington ended up on the turf in obvious pain, with doctors calling for a motorized cart to get him to the locker room.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

NFL Roundup: Week 7; Merriman Suspended

Some observations, comments and opinions about Sunday's NFL games.

Minnesota 31, Seattle 13
Chester Taylor ran for 169 yards and a touchdown, including a team-record 95 yard score, as the Vikings ended the Seahawks 12-game home winning streak. In addition, Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck was injured early in the third quarter and did not return. The early diagnosis is a knee sprain.

Denver 17, Cleveland 7
The stingy Broncos defense was at it again holding a team to single digits for the fifth straight game. Tatum Bell led the way for Denver (5-1) with 115 yards and a touchdown. The Browns fell to 1-5.

Indianapolis 36, Washington 22
The Colts remained perfect on the season at 6-0, thanks to the solid performance by Peyton Manning. The Redskins lost their third straight and fell to 2-5 on the season. Manning finished 25-of-35 with four touchdowns and continued climbing the NFL's career charts. His last TD pass, No. 256, sent him past Dan Fouts (254) and Sonny Jurgensen (255) into 10th in NFL history. He also passed Jim Hart for 14th on the career-yardage list with a 342-yard day, giving him 34,809 career yards. Hart has 34,665.

Oakland 22, Arizona 9
The Raiders ended an 11-game losing streak and won their first game of the season with a victory over the Cardinals (1-6). Randy Moss caught seven passes for 129 yards and a touchdown for his best game of the season for Oakland (1-5).

Atlanta 41, Pittsburgh 38 (OT)
Morten Andersen kicked a 32-yard field goal in overtime to give the Falcons (4-2) the victory over the Super Bowl champion Steelers (2-4) in the best game of the day. Michael Vick threw for four touchdowns, the best passing performance of his career, with three of those going to TE Alge Crumpler. Hines Ward caught eight passes for 171 yards and a career-high three TDs to lead Pittsburgh. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was knocked out of the game in the second half.

Kansas City 30, San Diego 27
Lawrence Tynes kicked the game-winner from 56 yards out with six seconds left to give Kansas City (3-3) the victory over the Chargers (4-2). Larry Johnson ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns, while Tony Gonzalez collected six catches for 138 yards and a score.

Tampa Bay 23, Philadelphia 21
Matt Bryant kicked a 62-yard field goal as time expired to give the Bucs the upset victory over the Eagles (4-3). Bryant's kick, the third longest in NFL history, ruined a Philadelphia comeback that saw the Eagles score three touchdowns late in the game. Tom Dempsey and Jason Elam share the league record for the longest field goal -- 63 yards. The only other kickers who have been successful from beyond 59 yards are Steve Cox and Morten Andersen, who both booted 60-yarders.

Houston 27, Jacksonville 7
Rookie Wali Lundy ran for 93 yards and a touchdown to lead the Texans (2-4) to the upset victory. Houston's defense, which entered the day allowing a league-worst 418 yards a game, forced two turnovers -- both of which led to touchdowns -- and held the Jaguars (3-3) to 220 yards. Houston put up their biggest point total of the season, and they did it against the NFL's only defense with two shutouts.

Green Bay 34, Miami 24
Ranked last in the NFL in pass defense, Green Bay intercepted Joey Harrington three times to beat Miami. Brett Favre threw two touchdown passes, including the clincher to David Martin with six minutes left, and Ahman Green scored on a 70-yard run. The Packer improved to 2-4 on the season, while the Dolphins fell to 1-6 and have lost four straight.

Cincinnati 17, Carolina 14
The Bengals (4-2) scored on a late fourth-quarter drive to end the Panthers (4-3) four-game winning streak. Carolina QB Jake Delhomme, who threw for a career-high 365 yards, drove the Panthers to the Cincinnati 10 before throwing an interception that gave the Bengals a much needed victory.

New York Jets 31, Detroit 24
Leon Washington rushed for 129 yards on 20 carries and scored the first two touchdowns of his career, as the Jets (4-3) held on to defeat the Lions (1-6). The win marked the first time since 2004 that New York had back-to-back home victories. The Jets, who have struggled all season with their running game, finished with 221 yards against the Lions, who were without their starting defensive tackles.

New England 28, Buffalo 6
Corey Dillon ran for two touchdowns and the Patriot defense did the rest in a easy victory over the Bills (2-5). Tom Brady finished 18-of-27 for 195 yards passing and two touchdowns, improving to 29-6 against divisional rivals. Besides improving to 5-1, marking their second-best start since 1997, the three-time defending division champions won their seventh straight and 12th in their last 13 meetings with AFC East rival Buffalo.

It was kickers day on Sunday as three games were decided in the final seconds on field goals. It was an especially tough day for the Eagles, who have now lost two straight games thanks to last-second three pointers.

Upsets continue to abound around the league with Minnesota, Atlanta, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Houston and Kansas City knocking off pre-game favorites. The league has the parity it always wanted - more so know than ever before. Only Indianapolis and Chicago are undefeated and both have struggled at times during the season. It's a wide-open race for the Lombardi Trophy.

The New York Giants (3-2) travel to Dallas to take on the 3-2 Cowboys for first-place in the NFC East on Monday Night Football. With the recent Eagles meltdown the division is wide open and the Giants, who already own a victory over Philadelphia, could take command with a win over the Cowboys.


Reports out of San Diego are saying that Shawne Merriman, All-Pro linebacker and the 2005 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, will be suspended four games for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. The report did not specify when the suspension would begin, but Merriman would be eligible to return Nov. 26 against the Oakland Raiders if he sat out immediately.

Besides Merriman's suspension, the Chargers have had five separate off-field issues dating back to April.

Outside linebacker Steve Foley was shot three times outside his suburban home on Sept. 3 by an off-duty police officer who suspected him of drunk driving. Foley will miss the entire season and was charged with two counts of DUI.

Safety Terrence Kiel was arrested on five felony drug counts in September and has pleaded not guilty.

Cornerback Markus Curry, who had been demoted to the practice squad, was released on Oct. 9, just hours after he was arrested on suspicion of committing domestic violence.

Foley and linebacker Shaun Phillips were each arrested for scuffling with San Diego police officers a week apart in April. Neither was charged.

Merriman, who started in the Pro Bowl as a rookie, is second on San Diego with 5 1/2 sacks.

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Big Ten 1-2 in BCS Poll

By The Associated Press

Michigan slipped in front of Southern California into second-place in the Bowl Championship Standings on Sunday, but there's no reason for the Trojans to worry.

USC is still a solid No. 3 behind first-place Ohio State and Michigan. And with the Buckeyes and Wolverines slated to meet on Nov. 18 in Columbus, Ohio, the Trojans remained in good shape to secure a spot in the BCS championship game with an undefeated regular season.

The Buckeyes, who have been No. 1 in the polls all season by a wide margin, have a BCS average of .9764 out of a possible 1.000. The Wolverines' .9451 gives them a slight edge over the Trojans (.9430).

What is more important for the Trojans is their wide margin over fourth-place West Virginia. The unbeaten Mountaineers moved up a spot this week, switching places with Auburn. But West Virginia's .7551 average leaves it with loads of ground to make up on the top three.

The BCS title game will played Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.

Ohio State, USC and Michigan are in control of the national championship race. If two of those teams finish the regular season unbeaten, it probably won't matter what goes on with the teams behind them.

USC and Michigan are tied for the top spot in the computer ratings with Ohio State third. The Trojans are second in the coaches' poll and Michigan is a close third. In the Harris poll, the positions are reversed.

In the AP poll, Ohio State is No. 1 with Michigan second and USC No. 3.

The BCS average is determined by a team's standing in the coaches' poll and the Harris Interactive poll. Each poll counts for a third of a team's grade. The other third is determined by a compilation of six computer ratings.

West Virginia does not grade out well in the computers. The Mountaineers are fourth in both polls, but only the 14th-best team in the country according to the computers.

West Virginia's schedule is about to get much tougher and that should give its computer rating a boost over the final month of the season.

The Mountaineers next play unbeaten Big East rival Louisville on Nov. 2. The Cardinals are in eighth place in the BCS standings, Auburn, Florida and Texas. All of those teams have lost once.

Notre Dame is in ninth place. The Fighting Irish are guaranteed a spot in one of the five BCS games by finishing eighth in the final standings.

California is in 10th place, followed by Tennessee and Clemson.

Unbeaten Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference remained in 15th place. The Broncos — or any other team playing in a conference without an automatic bid — need to reach the top 12 in the final standings to secure a bid to either the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar or Orange bowls.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ohio State Spends Ninth Week at No. 1

By The Associated Press

Ohio State's run at No. 1 is now one week short of the Buckeyes' longest to start a season. Ohio State was on top of The Associated Press Top 25 for the ninth consecutive week when the poll was released Sunday. In 1969 under coach Woody Hayes, Ohio State started the season No. 1 and stayed there for 10 weeks. A loss to Michigan dropped the Buckeyes from the top spot.

The 1998 Buckeyes also spent nine weeks at No. 1 to start the season before being upset by unranked Michigan State on Nov. 7.

The Wolverines were No. 2 in the latest media poll, which had few changes after a weekend with far more close calls than upsets.

Southern California was No. 3, followed by West Virginia and Texas. The Mountaineers received two first-place votes. Ohio State got the other 63.

No. 5 Texas needed a late field goal by backup kicker Ryan Bailey to beat Nebraska 22-20 in Lincoln.

No. 6 is Louisville, which struggled for a half before beating Syracuse 28-13. The Cardinals and West Virginia, both 7-0 and among seven remaining unbeaten teams, are off until their Big East showdown Nov. 2 in Louisville.

Three Southeastern Conference teams followed Louisville. Auburn was No. 7, Tennessee was No. 8 and Florida No. 9.

The Volunteers got a scare from rival Alabama, scoring the go-ahead TD with 3:28 remaining to win 16-13.

Clemson, coming off a 31-7 rout of Georgia Tech, moved up two spots to No. 10. The Tigers are in the top 10 for the first time since October 2000.

No. 11 Notre Dame needed a late touchdown pass from Brady Quinn to Jeff Samardzija with 27 seconds left to beat UCLA 20-17.

No. 12 California allowed Washington to tie the game with a 40-yard desperation pass into the end zone as time expired in regulation, but the Golden Bears won 24-17 in overtime.

Two more SEC teams, No. 13 Arkansas and No. 14 LSU, followed Cal and were just ahead of the two other undefeated teams.

No. 15 was Boise State (8-0) and No. 16 was Rutgers (7-0). For the Scarlet Knights, it's their highest ranking since a No. 15 finish in the final 1961 poll.

Wisconsin was No. 17, followed by Boston College, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Georgia Tech dropped eight spots to No. 21. Texas A&M, Missouri, Wake Forest and Oregon, which fell nine spots to 25 after losing 34-23 at Washington State, complete the Top 25.

There were no new teams in the poll this week.

Dating to the final regular-season AP poll of 2003, there have been only three No. 1 teams. USC was No. 1 for a record 33 consecutive polls before Texas beat the Trojans in the Rose Bowl to finish No. 1 last season. Ohio State began this season top-ranked.

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College Football Notes: Week 8

I guess Touchdown Jesus really can work miracles.

Notre Dame was out-played for 59:30 by the UCLA Bruins only to score the game-winner with 27 seconds left on a 45-yard pass from Brady Quinn to Jeff Samardzija, giving the Irish the 20-17 victory and improving their record to 6-1.

And while Notre Dame may move up or stay at its 10 spot in the rankings, UCLA showed that Charlie Weis and company have a decent team, but not a national championship caliber one.

No. 1 Ohio State continued its domination of the Big Ten with a 44-3 thrashing of Indiana. Buckeye QB Troy Smith threw for 220 yards and four touchdowns and separated himself even further from the Heisman Trophy pack.

Michigan finally ended the number two jinx by defeating a tough Iowa squad, 20-10. RB Mike Hart ran for 124 yards and two TDs to lead the Wolverine attack.

The fifth-ranked Texas Longhorns needed a 22-yard field goal with 23 seconds left to defeat No. 17 Nebraska, 22-20. The Longhorn defense forced three turnovers on a much-improved Cornhuskers squad and that was the difference in the game.

No. 7 Tennessee improved to 6-1 on the year with a hard-fought 16-13 SEC win over Alabama. Vols QB Erick Ainge threw for 302 yards. Tennessee RB Arian Foster scored with 3:23 left to give the Volunteers the win.

No. 11 California fought off a pesky Washington club, playing without injured QB Isaiah Stanback, to come away with a 31-24 victory in overtime. Golden Bears RB Marshawn Lynch rushed for 150 yards and two TDs, including the game-winner in OT.

Clemson, ranked 12th in the nation, proved it is the class of the ACC with a 31-7 pounding of No. 13 Georgia Tech. Tigers tailback James Davis ran for 216 yards and two touchdowns, while C.J. Spiller rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown. Yellowjackets star receiver Calvin Johnson was held without a reception for the first time in his career.

No. 19 Rutgers improved to 7-0 on the season with a 20-10 victory over Pittsburgh in a Big East contest. Scarlet Knights RB Ray Rice ran for 229 yards and a touchdown, his third 200-yard game this season, to lead the Rutgers offensive charge.

Boston College QB Matt Ryan, playing on a gimpy ankle, threw for 262 yards to lead the No. 22 Eagles to the 24-19 victory over Florida State in Tallahassee. The Seminoles are now an uncharacteristic 4-3 this season.

The upset of the week occurred in Pullman where Washington State knocked off 16th ranked Oregon, 34-23. The Cougars (5-3) jumped out to a 27-3 lead and never looked back as RB Dwight Tardy wasn't late at all as the junior rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown. The Ducks, now 5-2 on the season, got only 28 yards rushing from star tailback Jonathan Stewart.

Michigan State rallied from a 38-3 deficit in the third quarter to defeat Northwestern 41-38 for the biggest comeback victory in the history of college football. The 35-point deficit surpasses the 31-point comeback by Maryland over Miami, Fla. in 1984 and Ohio State over Minnesota in 1989. The Terps won that game 42-40 and the Buckeyes captured 41-37 victory.

Other scores from the top 25: No. 4 West Virginia 37, Connecticut 11; No. 6 Louisville 28, Syracuse 13; No. 8 Auburn 38, Tulane 13; No. 14 LSU 38, Fresno State 6; No. 15 Arkansas 38, Mississippi 3; No. 18 Boise State 42, Idaho 26; No. 20 Oklahoma 24, Colorado 3; No. 21 Wisconsin 24, Purdue 3; No. 23 Texas A&M 34, Oklahoma State 33 (OT); and No. 24 Missouri 41, Kansas State 21.

Highlight games for week nine include: Clemson (7-1) at Virginia Tech (5-2); Notre Dame (6-1) at Navy (5-2); Miami, Fla. (5-2) at Georgia Tech (5-2); Oklahoma (5-2) at Missouri (7-1); Florida State (4-3) at Maryland (5-2); Penn State (5-3) at Purdue (5-3); Georgia (6-2) at Florida (6-1); and Washington State (5-3) at UCLA (4-3).

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Bengals Season Could Be Slipping Away

The Cincinnati Bengals have been in a tailspin since January and if the spinning isn't stopped soon, the season could be over for Marvin Lewis and company.

It all started with Carson Palmer and his knee injury in the playoff game with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Palmer is clearly not the same quarterback he was last season and may have rushed back too soon.

A tumultuous offseason followed with six players being arrested, and one, Chris Henry led the way with four arrests in a two-month span. Now comes even more problems in the regular season.

After a 3-0 start, Cincinnati is in an offensive funk - dropping its last two games and only scoring 13 points combined in losses to New England and previously winless Tamp Bay.

Injuries to T Levi Jones and C Rich Braham have seriously weakened the offensive line, not to mention the fact that Henry will miss his second game due to suspension.

Traveling to a hot Carolina squad isn't going to help a team that's down emotionally and mentally. The Panthers have won four straight since the return of Steve Smith and look to be back on track for a playoff berth. It should be an interesting matchup come Sunday.

There are plenty of excellent games on tap for any football connoisseur, so set back, grab your chips and dip, get your fantasy football sheets out and enjoy the games. There will be no Sunday night game because of the World Series.

Here's the Corners predictions for week seven in the NFL:

Cincinnati at Carolina
Two teams going in opposite directions. The Bengals offense has stalled (Chad Johnson has only one touchdown in 2006), while the Panthers are rolling along. It will be a tough task to beat Carolina at home. Winner: Panthers.

Minnesota at Seattle
Steve Hutchinson returns to Seattle and the place should be rocking. The Seahawks accused the Vikings of tampering in the offseason to get Hutchinson and Seattle returned the favor by grabbing Nate Burleson. Sparks should fly. Winner: Seahawks.

Pittsburgh at Atlanta
Two teams who like to run first and pass hardly never. The Steelers have a little bit better defense and Michael Vick has been complaining about the way he's being used, but the Falcons still should be able to pull it out at home. Winner: Falcons.

Denver at Cleveland
The Broncos have allowed only one touchdown all season and are on a four-game win streak. The Browns shouldn't pose any problems. Winner: Broncos.

Washington at Indianapolis
Inconsistency abounds in Redskins Land and the Colts had a week off to prepare. Winner: Colts.

New England at Buffalo
It's difficult to play the Bills at home, but it's even more difficult to beat Bill Belichick when he's had a week off to prepare. Winner: Patriots.

San Diego at Kansas City
Arrowhead is notoriously tough to play in if you're a visiting team, but San Diego may be the best team in the AFC right now. Winner: Chargers.

Philadelphia at Tampa Bay
The Eagles need a bounce back game after falling to New Orleans last week and the Bucs will be the perfect fit. Rookie Bruce Gradkowski will get an unpleasant indoctrination into the Jim Johnson School of Blitzing. Winner: Eagles.

Arizona at Oakland
Despite the Dennis Green meltdown and the firing of his offensive coordinator, the Cardinals still have enough to beat the Raiders. Winner: Arizona.

Detroit at New York Jets
Get ready Jets fans, you're about to be over .500 for the first time since who knows when. Winner: Jets.

Jacksonville at Houston
Houston is improving, but the Jags defense will be too much to stop. Winner: Jaguars.

Green Bay at Miami
I really honestly don't know who to pick between two awful teams that could play all week long. When in doubt, go with the home team. Winner: Dolphins.

New York Giants at Dallas (Monday night)
Excellent Monday night matchup between two hated division rivals. The Giant defense lead by Michael Strahan had seven sacks on Vick last week. What do you think they'll do against an immobile Drew Bledsoe? Winner: Giants.

Last week: 8-5 (No!)
Overall: 57-14

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Michigan Tries to Avoid Number Two Jinx

Michigan will try to be the first team in three weeks to hold down the second spot in the AP Top 25 poll when the Wolverines (7-0) host the Iowa Hawkeyes (5-2).

Auburn and Florida occupied the number two spot for only one week before giving way. The Tigers were beaten 27-10 by Arkansas and last week, Auburn handed the Gators their first loss of the season, 27-17.

It marked the second time this season that two No. 2 ranked teams lost in back-to-back weeks. Texas and Notre Dame fell from the second spot during the weeks of September 9 and 16th. This is the first time in the history of the AP Top 25 poll that four different teams lost the No. 2 ranking in consecutive weeks.

Only two games feature ranked teams facing each other: No.5 Texas at No. 17 Nebraska and No. 13 Georgia Tech at No. 12 Clemson.

Here's the Corners predictions for this weeks Top 25 battles:

Indiana at Ohio State (1)
Another cruise control victory for the explosive Buckeyes. Winner: Ohio State.

Iowa at Michigan (2)
The Wolverines lead the nation in rush defense as the showdown with Ohio State looms on the horizon. Winner: Michigan.

West Virginia (4) at Connecticut
The Mountaineers are going for a school-record 14th straight victory in this Big East matchup. Should be an easy time. Winner: West Virginia.

Texas (5) at Nebraska (17)
The Longhorns lead the Big 12 in total defense, the Cornhuskers lead in total offense, so something has to give. Look for it to be the Nebraska offense. Winner: Texas.

Louisville (6) at Syracuse
Do you remember when the Carrier Dome was a tough place for visitors to play? Brian Brohm threw for 324 yards last week in his first game back from a thumb injury. Winner: Louisville.

Alabama at Tennessee (7)
The Vols have won nine of their last 11 against the Tide. Erick Ainge is playing at a high level and 'Bama doesn't have the oomph on offense to keep up. Winner: Tennessee.

Tulane at Auburn (8)
Ugly, Ugly, Ugly. Winner: Auburn.

UCLA at Notre Dame (10)
My upset special of the week. Nobody is giving the Bruins a chance, despite the fact their defense is rated ninth in the nation. The Irish are giving up 134 yards a game on the ground. Look for Chris Markey to have a big game. Winner: UCLA.

Washington at California (11)
The Bears are loaded with weapons and the Huskies' only one - QB Isaiah Stanback - is out for the season. Winner: California.

Georgia Tech (13) at Clemson (12)
This is a battle between the two most consistent teams in the ACC. Calvin Johnson and company must solve the Tigers defense or it could be a long day. Give it to the home squad. Winner: Clemson.

Fresno State at LSU (14)
At least Fresno State will get a huge paycheck from this game. Winner: LSU.

Mississippi at Arkansas (15)
The Razorbacks are playing solid football under the direction of freshman Mitch Mustain. The hogs have won four of the last five against the Rebels. Winner: Arkansas.

Oregon (16) at Washington State
Potent Duck offense, first in the Pac-10, invades Pullman. Winner: Oregon.

Boise State (18) at Idaho
The Broncos have slowly but surely become the best of all the mid-major schools. Winner: Boise State.

Rutgers (19) at Pittsburgh
My how times have changed. The Scarlet Knights are six point favorites on the road against the Panthers. Greg Schiano should be given the key to New Jersey. Winner: Rutgers.

Colorado at Oklahoma (20)
Even without Adrian Peterson and Rufus Alexander the Sooners have enough to beat the Buffaloes. Winner: Oklahoma.

Wisconsin (21) at Purdue
P.J. Hill is the latest in a long line of successful backs for the Badgers. The Boilermaker defense is a sieve just waiting to give up points in bunches. Winner: Wisconsin.

Boston College (22) at Florida State
This isn't your dad's Seminole team, but with Eagles QB Matt Ryan possibly on the shelf, FSU should pull of the small upset at home. Winner: Florida State.

Texas A&M (23) at Oklahoma State
Head coach Dennis Franchione is getting the job done in College Station with Bobby Reid as the leader. Winner: Texas A&M.

Kansas State at Missouri (24)
The Tigers have a strong defense and a dynamic multi-threat quarterback in Chase Daniel. Winner: Missouri.

The Corner Lowdown:
Last week: 17-2
Overall: 76-16

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Football Fanatics Show: 5

The Football Fanatics Show is a podcast for college and pro football fans featuring hard-hitting commentary with a tell-it-like-it-is attitude. Hell, we may even offend some people. The show features myself, Rich 'Richie' Hagan and Damon Freed chatting about pro and college football.

Each week will preview the upcoming games and look back at the week before. We'll also be giving away some prizes and freebie stuff in future shows. So stop on in and check us out. The show will be on every Thursday during the football season and twice a month during the offseason.

This week we talk about the aftermath of Miami/Florida International brawl and just who is the best team in the AFC?

You can listen to the show in streaming media here.

Or you can download the podcast to your hard drive here. This is a big file so be patient and if you don't have broadband, I suggest you listen to the streaming version.

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NFL Week 7 Injury Report

Get your fantasy lineups ready for this weekends contests by studying the week seven injury report released by the NFL.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT HOUSTON TEXANS - Jaguars: DOUBTFUL: T Stockar McDougle (Ankle); DT Marcus Stroud (Ankle); WR Matt Jones (Hamstring). QUESTIONABLE: DE Marcellus Wiley (Groin). PROBABLE: S Donovin Darius (Knee); RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Foot); G Chris Naeole (Knee); S Nick Sorensen (Calf); WR Reggie Williams (Shoulder). Texans: QUESTIONABLE: S Glenn Earl (Neck); T Zach Wiegert (Knee); DE Antwan Peek (Hamstring); TE Jeb Putzier (Foot). PROBABLE: CB Demarcus Faggins (Foot).

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS - Chargers: OUT: DE Igor Olshansky (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: T Shane Olivea (Knee); T Marcus McNeill (Hand); S Bhawoh Jue (Knee). Chiefs: OUT: QB Trent Green (Head); CB Benny Sapp (Knee); T Will Svitek (Knee); LB Rich Scanlon (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: RB Michael Bennett (Hamstring).

PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT ATLANTA FALCONS - Steelers: OUT: LB James Harrison (Ankle). DOUBTFUL: LB Joey Porter (Hamstring); WR Willie Reid (Foot). QUESTIONABLE: G Kendall Simmons (Foot). PROBABLE: C Jeff Hartings (Knee); RB Dan Kreider (Ankle); CB Deshea Townsend (Hamstring). Falcons: QUESTIONABLE: DT Roderick Coleman (Toe); T Quinn Ojinnaka (Ankle); DE John Abraham (Groin). PROBABLE: DE Patrick Kerney (Hamstring); DT Grady Jackson (Knee); QB Michael Vick (Right Shoulder).

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT BUFFALO BILLS - Patriots: QUESTIONABLE: TE Daniel Graham (Ankle); CB Ellis Hobbs (Wrist); T Nick Kaczur (Shoulder); S Eugene Wilson (Hamstring); G Russ Hochstein (Knee). PROBABLE: CB Antwain Spann (Shoulder); CB Willie Andrews (Thigh); QB Tom Brady (Right Shoulder). Bills: OUT: LB Josh Stamer (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: S Matt Bowen (Shin); C Melvin Fowler (Thigh); WR Roscoe Parrish (Hamstring); G Tutan Reyes (Shoulder).

CAROLINA PANTHERS AT CINCINNATI BENGALS - Panthers: DOUBTFUL: RB DeAngelo Williams (Ankle). QUESTIONABLE: S Shaun Williams (Foot); LB Thomas Davis (Ribs); DE Al Wallace (Forearm). Bengals: OUT: C Rich Braham (Knee); T Levi Jones (Knee); WR Tab Perry (Hip); WR Kelley Washington (Hamstring); QB Anthony Wright (Appendix). QUESTIONABLE: S Dexter Jackson (Ankle); LB Rashad Jeanty (Foot); LB Brian Simmons (Neck). PROBABLE: DT Sam Adams (Knee); CB Greg Brooks (Knee); WR Chad Johnson (Shoulder).

GREEN BAY PACKERS AT MIAMI DOLPHINS - Packers: OUT: WR Robert Ferguson (Foot). DOUBTFUL: LB Abdul Hodge (Knee); DT Cullen Jenkins (Ankle); LB Ben Taylor (Hamstring). QUESTIONABLE: RB William Henderson (Calf); CB Charles Woodson (Knee); CB Will Blackmon (Shin); RB Ahman Green (Hamstring). Dolphins: DOUBTFUL: QB Daunte Culpepper (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: WR Marty Booker (Chest); DE Kevin Carter (Knee); CB Travis Daniels (Knee); CB Andre' Goodman (Shoulder); CB Michael Lehan (Hamstring); TE Justin Peelle (Knee); LB Derrick Pope (Hamstring); WR Wes Welker (Calf). PROBABLE: DE David Bowens (Hamstring).

DETROIT LIONS AT NEW YORK JETS - Lions: OUT: S Kenoy Kennedy (Foot); DT Shaun Cody (Toe). QUESTIONABLE: LB Alex Lewis (Knee); RB Cory Schlesinger (Hamstring); T Rex Tucker (Knee); G Ross Verba (Hamstring). PROBABLE: RB Kevin Jones (Hip); DE James Hall (Shoulder). Jets: QUESTIONABLE: RB B.J. Askew (Foot); CB David Barrett (Hip); WR Laveranues Coles (Calf); WR Tim Dwight (Thigh); RB Cedric Houston (Knee); C Trey Teague (Ankle). PROBABLE: DE Dave Ball (Hand); S Kerry Rhodes (Thigh); WR Brad Smith (Thigh); DT Kimo Von Oelhoffen (Knee); RB Kevan Barlow (Calf); LB Matt Chatham (Foot); T Anthony Clement (Shin); G Pete Kendall (Thigh); QB Chad Pennington (Calf).

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES AT TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS - Eagles: DOUBTFUL: CB Roderick Hood (Heel). QUESTIONABLE: T Tra Thomas (Back); DE Darren Howard (Groin); WR Donte' Stallworth (Hamstring); LB Shawn Barber (Neck). PROBABLE: G Shawn Andrews (Neck); WR Reggie Brown (Quadricep); S Sean Considine (Shoulder); S Brian Dawkins (Wrist); G Todd Herremans (Knee); RB Reno Mahe (Ankle); LB Matt McCoy (Hip); CB Lito Sheppard (Hand); TE L.J. Smith (Shoulder); RB Brian Westbrook (Knee). Buccaneers: OUT: QB Chris Simms (Splenectomy). QUESTIONABLE: TE Anthony Becht (Foot); CB Juran Bolden (Hip); WR Mark Jones (Hamstring); CB Brian Kelly (Foot); LB Shelton Quarles (Knee); DE Simeon Rice (Shoulder); WR Maurice Stovall (Back). PROBABLE: CB Torrie Cox (Hip); TE Dave Moore (Rib); C John Wade (Ankle).

ARIZONA CARDINALS AT OAKLAND RAIDERS - Cardinals: DOUBTFUL: G Milford Brown (Ankle); DT Kendrick Clancy (Ankle); WR Larry Fitzgerald (Hamstring). QUESTIONABLE: LB James Darling (Calf). PROBABLE: RB Marcel Shipp (Hamstring). Raiders: OUT: LB Grant Irons (Back); QB Aaron Brooks (Right Shoulder). QUESTIONABLE: CB Fabian Washington (Hamstring); T Langston Walker (Concussion); RB Justin Fargas (Shoulder); TE Randal Williams (Quadricep). PROBABLE: RB Reshard Lee (Neck); DE Lance Johnstone (Knee); LB Sam Williams (Ankle); TE John Madsen (Quadricep).

MINNESOTA VIKINGS AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS - Vikings: PROBABLE: LB Ben Leber (Knee); QB Tarvaris Jackson (Knee). Seahawks: OUT: WR Bobby Engram (Illness); RB Shaun Alexander (Foot); G Floyd Womack (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: LB D.D. Lewis (Toe); DE Joe Tafoya (Knee).

DENVER BRONCOS AT CLEVELAND BROWNS - Broncos: DOUBTFUL: RB Cedric Cobbs (Ankle). QUESTIONABLE: RB Kyle Johnson (Ankle). Browns: QUESTIONABLE: CB Gary Baxter (Pectoral); CB Leigh Bodden (Ankle); S Justin Hamilton (Ankle); WR Dennis Northcutt (Ribs); S Brian Russell (Ankle); WR Travis Wilson (Knee); TE Kellen Winslow (Knee).

WASHINGTON REDSKINS AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS - Redskins: DOUBTFUL: CB Carlos Rogers (Thumb). QUESTIONABLE: DT Cornelius Griffin (Hip); DT Joe Salave'a (Calf); WR David Patten (Thigh). PROBABLE: CB Shawn Springs (Groin); LB Marcus Washington (Hip); LB Lemar Marshall (Ankle); G Derrick Dockery (Hip). Colts: QUESTIONABLE: LB Rocky Boiman (Knee); DE Dwight Freeney (Shoulder); LB Gilbert Gardner (Thumb); CB Kelvin Hayden (Ankle); CB Marlin Jackson (Calf); DT Dan Klecko (Low Back); DE Ryan LaCasse (Quadricep); G Ryan Lilja (Knee); WR Aaron Moorehead (Back); DT Montae Reagor (Knee); DT Darrell Reid (Calf); RB Dominic Rhodes (Ankle); CB T.J. Rushing (Low Back); S Bob Sanders (Knee); C Jeff Saturday (Low Back); P Hunter Smith (Groin); WR Brandon Stokley (Knee); DE Josh Thomas (Ankle); TE Ben Utecht (Low Back); K Adam Vinatieri (Right Groin); WR Terrence Wilkins (Concussion).


NEW YORK GIANTS AT DALLAS COWBOYS - Giants: DOUBTFUL: WR Sinorice Moss (Quadricep); RB Derrick Ward (Foot). QUESTIONABLE: LB Carlos Emmons (Pectoral); S Gibril Wilson (Toe). Cowboys: DOUBTFUL: DE Jason Hatcher (Ankle). PROBABLE: S Keith Davis (Ankle).

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cards, Ravens Fire Coordinators

A pair of NFL offensive coordinators lost their jobs for failing to produce points. A couple of players will have to sit out for awhile for failing drug tests.

Offensive coordinators Jim Fassel of the Ravens and Keith Rowen of the Cardinals were fired Tuesday, while Atlanta guard Matt Lehr and Detroit defensive tackle Shaun Rogers were suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Packers wideout and kick-returner Koren Robinson was suspended a year for a drunk-driving incident.

Tuesday also happened to be the NFL's trading deadline, which passed with only one major deal: Tampa Bay sent defensive tackle Anthony McFarland to the Indianapolis Colts for a second-round pick in next year's draft.

Baltimore coach Brian Billick announced Fassel's dismissal in a news conference at the Ravens' headquarters, calling the firing of his close friend and former Giants coach "one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make."

Billick said he will assume the duties of offensive coordinator, which includes calling plays on game days.

Cardinals quarterbacks coach Mike Kruczek replaced Rowen in Arizona, becoming Dennis Green's third offensive coordinator in the coach's 2 1/2 seasons in Arizona. Rowen took the job after Alex Wood was fired following the 2004 season.

Rogers will be suspended for taking a banned, over-the-counter substance, an official within the league told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the NFL is expected to announce the suspension Wednesday.

The NFL announced a four-game suspension for Lehr and a year-long one for Robinson, who pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of drunken driving and fleeing police stemming from a high-speed chase in August.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Let's Not Go Overboard With the Saints Just Yet

The New Orleans Saints have been the surprise, warm and fuzzy, feel good story in the NFL thus far. And rightly so.

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina displaced the Saints to Baton Rouge and San Antonio in 2005, New Orleans struggled with the destruction at home and getting up to play football on Sunday's. It's no wonder a 3-13 season followed.

In the offseason, Jim Haslett was let go and Sean Payton, former offense coordinator for the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, was hired.

Payton got to work immediately and in the NFL Draft grabbed two future stars, one (Reggie Bush) was a Heisman Trophy winner with tons of press. The other (Marques Colston) an unknown receiver from Hofstra, can you say Wayne Chrebet, who was picked fourth from last in the seventh round.

And now we've arrived in October and after last weeks defeat of the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans stands at 5-1 and first place in the rugged NFC South. A great start to the season no doubt.

As we all know when a team has some success the bandwagon jumpers will come on board. It's a sad fact in sports that certain individuals will hop from team to team just so they can be associated with a winner. Disgusting to a real, loyal sports enthusiast but all too true nonetheless.

Needless to say, the bandwagon is filling up and Saints supporters are coming out of the woodwork - even in the media.

Many sports pundits are proclaiming New Orleans a team of destiny and Super Bowl bound. Excuse me folks, let's have a reality check here. The Saints are a decent team and they do have a legit chance of making the playoffs, but a Super Bowl berth, that's a little over the top for me and here's why.

History: New Orleans has won one, that's right, one playoff game in its 39-year history. You have to walk before you can run. This team is coming along and could be really good in time, but they're not going to re-write history just yet.

Schedule: The Saints opened up the season with games against Cleveland, Green Bay and Tampa Bay, who have a combined record of 3-12 on the season. New Orleans got Philadelphia and Atlanta at home and every team plays better at home, unless you're Oakland. The Saints played one difficult team on the road and lost (Carolina). The second half of the schedule features road games at Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Dallas and the New York Giants as well as home contests with Baltimore, Cincinnati and Carolina. Things get much more difficult after the bye week.

LB and DB: The offensive unit with Drew Brees, Bush, Deuce McAllister, Colston and Joe Horn is a very nice nucleus. Jammal Brown is a future star at left tackle and the rest of the o-line is decent. The defensive line is strong with Charles Grant, Hollis Thomas, Brian Young and Will Smith. The problem is when you get to the back seven. The linebacking corps is a hodge-podge mix of characters playing above their ability right now and the secondary of Fred Thomas, Omar Stoutmire, Josh Bullocks and Mike McKenzie scares no one. How long the secondary can keep playing at a high level remains to be seen.

Home Field: The reality of the situation is Chicago and Seattle are most likely in the running for home field advantage in the playoffs. The Bears and the Seahawks are in much weaker divisions than the Saints. Chicago and Seattle already own victories over their only rivals - the Vikings and Rams. A young, inexperienced team like the Saints are going to find the journey pretty rough if they have to go on the road in the playoffs.

Sean Payton is a very good coach and a great communicator who has his players believing his system and his message. In time, the city of New Orleans may finally see their team in the big show. It's just a little too soon to be talking about Super Bowls just yet.

Chicago 24, Arizona 23
The Bears rallied from a 23-3 deficit to pull out a 24-23 victory over the Cardinals, all without scoring an offensive touchdown. Chicago's defense returned two fumbles for touchdowns and Devin Hester returned a punt 83 yards for a score. Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers missed a 40-yard field goal late in the game that would have given Arizona the victory.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

NFL Roundup: Week 6

Some observations, comments and opinions about Sunday's NFL games.

New York Giants 27, Atlanta 14
The Giants defense sacked Michael Vick seven times and beat on him all day long to pick up the road win. Tiki Barber rushed for 185 yards and Jeremy Shockey caught two touchdowns passes to move the Giants to 3-2 on the season.

Dallas 34, Houston 6
Terrell Owens caught three touchdown passes and unfortunately for all of us, we'll have to hear T.O. and his big mouth say how good he is and how Dallas should get him the ball more.

Detroit 20, Buffalo 17
The Lions, behind the running of Kevin Jones (127 yards, 1 TD) and the receiving of Roy Williams (10 catches, 161 yards, 1 TD), led Detroit to its first win of the season.

Seattle 30, St. Louis 28
The Seahawks battled back from a 21-7 halftime deficit to pull out the victory on Josh Brown's 54-yard field goal as time expired. The win gave Seattle first place in the NFC West at 4-1, while the Rams dropped to second at 4-2. Marc Bulger threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns in the loss.

New Orleans 27, Philadelphia 24
The Saints fought off a furious second-half rally by the Eagles to move to 5-1 on the season. John Carney broke the tie with a 31-yard, game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter. Drew Brees threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns and Joe Horn caught two TD passes for the NFC South leaders.

Tampa Bay 14, Cincinnati 13
Rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski led the Bucs to a late touchdown to give Tampa Bay its first victory of the season. Michael Clayton hauled in an 8-yard pass with 3:26 remaining to seal the victory over a suddenly punchless Bengal offense.

Tennessee 25, Washington 22
Vince Young got his first win as a starter and the Titans won their first game of the season with the upset victory over the up-and-down Redskins. Travis Henry ran for 178 yards and a touchdown to lead the Tennessee offense.

Carolina 23, Baltimore 21
The Panthers are 4-0 since Steve Smith returned from injury and he proved his value with another outstanding day (8-189-1). Jake Delhomme threw for a career-high 365 yards, while the Carolina defense knocked Steve McNair out of the game and sent the Ravens to their second straight loss.

New York Jets 20, Miami 17
Laveranues Coles caught two touchdown passes as the Jets held off a late Dolphins rally to improve to 3-3 on the season. Olindo Mare missed a 51-yarder that could have sent the game into overtime.

Pittsburgh 45, Kansas City 7
The Steelers offense broke out in a big way with RB Willie Parker (21-109-2) and QB Ben Roethlisberger (16-of-29, 238 yards, 2 TDs) having solid games. The Pittsburgh defense held Larry Johnson to only 26 yards rushing.

San Diego 48, San Francisco 19
The Chargers continue to impress on both sides of the ball. LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 71 yards and four touchdowns, while Philip Rivers (29-of-39, 334 yards and 2 TDs) continues to improve and play solid football. The Charger defense pressured Alex Smith all game long and recorded five sacks.

Denver 13, Oakland 3
The Broncos have won four straight since an opening day loss to the Rams. The defense is giving up only 7.4 points per game and have surrendered only one touchdown all season. The Broncos (4-1) are the first team since the 1934 Lions to start off a season by yielding just one TD through five games. Oakland is now the only winless team in the NFL.

It's time to stop calling the New Orleans Saints a surprise team playing on emotion. This is a solid offensive and defensive football team that staked a claim to legitimacy with its win over the Eagles on Sunday.

Head coach Sean Payton has his team believing and with the addition of Drew Brees, the Saints finally have a quarterback who protects the ball and has a winning, confident attitude. Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush are a dynamic 1-2 punch and Joe Horn, along with surprising rookie Marques Colston, gives Brees two legit receivers. The defense is not great, but gets the job done. Trust me, the Saints are not going to fade away.

Seattle proved that its still has a say in what goes on in the NFC. The Seahawks were dead in the water against St. Louis in the first half, but had the look of a champion when they rallied for 20 unanswered in the second half. All this without Shawn Alexander and Bobby Engram.

San Diego is fast becoming the team to beat in the AFC, despite the Colts setting atop the AFC at 5-0. With Philip Rivers getting better and better, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates on the offense and a rugged defense that drives opposing quarterbacks crazy. Forget all the 'Martyball" stuff. This team is for real. A definite, strong candidate for the Super Bowl.

The undefeated Chicago Bears (5-0) travel to Arizona to take on Matt Leinart and the Cardinals on Monday night. Leinart could have a tough go of it against the Bears defense, but as Tennessee, Tampa Bay and Detroit proved yesterday, there are no sure things in the NFL.

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