Michael Vick

Vick's Ability as a Starter, Leader in Question

It’s week nine in the football world, and with many predicted contenders beginning to play as expected, things are finally starting to make a little sense.  The Patriots blew out the lowly Rams in London 45-7, the 49ers crushed the Cardinals 24-3 on Monday Night Football, and the Broncos became the latest team to put a pounding on the Saints. Finally, some stability. But alas, it’s still the NFL, and things can turn around quickly in this league. That being said, here are a few things to look for this week in pro football:

1) Michael Vick to be replaced?

The four-time pro bowler and 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year has struggled all year with ball security, turning the ball over a total of 17 times. Nobody expected this type of play from Vick when the Eagles signed him to a six year, $100 million contract back in 2011, especially Andy Reid. With his job hanging in the balance, Reid is desperate to win, and rumors are circulating that Vick’s time as the Eagle’s quarterback is running out. Will he step his game up, or will we see Nick Foles under center for Philadelphia soon? Much of that depends on how Vick plays on Monday Night Football against the Saints.

2) Power Outage

The San Diego Chargers looked awful on Sunday, suffering an ugly 6-7 loss to the Cleveland Browns. The Bolts have now lost their last three games, and are faced with a short week as they play the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football. Though it’s still early and they’re only a game behind in the division, the Chargers have a history of losing streaks in the Norv Turner era that have cost them shots at the playoffs. They need a big win over an awful Chiefs team to get back on track and stay on the Broncos’ heels.

3) Marquee QB Matchup of the Future

When the Panthers and Redskins take the field in Landover, MD, on Sunday, the two teams will have combined for a 4-11 record so far this season. However, these teams share a common bond beyond their poor play this year: hope. Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III have already become arguably the most electrifying players since entering the league in the past two seasons, and are expected to do great things for their franchises. Though both quarterbacks have a ways to go, this matchup could be a preview of much greater games to come between the two.

4) Can the G-Men Keep Their Magic Going?

The New York Giants are 6-1 since losing their opener to the Cowboys, a span that includes several games that easily could have been losses. After stunning the Redskins a week ago, New York did it again on Sunday, squeezing out a 29-24 win in Dallas thanks to Dez Bryant’s massive hand grazing the back of the end zone on what would have been the game-winning catch. They face another tough test on Sunday, when Big Ben and the Steelers come to town in what should be a great game.

5) Boys-Falcons on National Television

Sunday Night Football’s matchup features two teams headed in opposite directions, with the Dallas Cowboys heading into the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons. Although they’ve had some close games, the Falcons have looked dominant over the first half of the 2012 season, jumping out to a 7-0 record. The Cowboys, on the other hand, have looked inconsistent not only from game to game but also from half to half, nearly erasing a 23 point deficit on Sunday’s against the Giants after turning the ball over 4 times in the first 17 minutes. What makes this game interesting is that the Cowboys have a history of handing undefeated teams their first losses, beating the 9-0 Colts in 2006 and the 13-0 Saints in 2009. Can they do it again? Tune in on Sunday night to find out.

Fantasy Frenzy: Week 11

Fresh off his three month “retirement,” Carson Palmer has returned to lead the Oakland Raiders to a 5-4 record so far this season.
Fresh off his three month “retirement,” Carson Palmer has returned to lead the Oakland Raiders to a 5-4 record so far this season.

It’s week 11 and the start of the home stretch of your fantasy season, so here is some advice on who to start and who to sit.

Start:

1. Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders — Palmer had a bit of a rough start in his first two games in Oakland, but last week against San Diego he came through and led the team to an important division win. His numbers were good. He threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns against a tough Chargers defense. This week Palmer goes against the fourth-worst passing defense in the league Minnesota, making Palmer a smart start or wavier pickup.

2. Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins — Don’t look now but the Dolphins are playing well, winning two of their last three, and Reggie Bush is a big part of that. He has seen lots of touches in both the running and passing game, and has scored three touchdowns. This week the Dolphins face the Bills, who have a poor rush defense, giving up 169 yards on the ground to Dallas plus passing yards to backs out of the backfield their last time out. So Bush has an excellent matchup this week.

Sit:

1. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles — The Eagles are reeling and have started off the season 3-6, despite the expectations they accrued in the offseason. On top of that, Vick has a pair of broken ribs to deal with this week, which is painful for any position and especially tough for a quarterback. Don’t expect much from Vick this week — if anything at all — because he might not even play.

2. Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos — The list this week has its share of high profile and overly discussed players on it, but none of the previous three have Tebow level hype. Tebow has performed well in his time as a starter going 3-1, while being an above average fantasy player as well. But this week he comes up against the Jets defense, a much stiffer test than any of the other opponent he has seen thus far. He only completed two passes against Kansas City last week, and going up against a stellar Jets secondary, he might not even get one. Sit him this week.

Fantasy Football: Start or Sit?

Week 4 of the fantasy football season is here and the deadline to set your lineup is quickly approaching. There are always players that are borderline options for your team, so here are two players at each of the three key fantasy positions — quarterback, running back and wide receiver — that you should start and sit.

Players to Start:

1. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh — Big Ben has had a very average start to the fantasy football season so far, putting up 16 points a game. In fact, he’s listed as 20th-best fantasy quarterback option. But this week, the Steelers match up against a Houston squad that struggles to defend the pass, so expect big numbers from Roethlisberger.

2. Tim Hightower, Washington — Hightower did not have a great game against Dallas on Monday night, with only 41 yards on 14 carries. But this week Hightower should bounce back against a weak Rams defense. Expect him to get many goal line carries and at least one touchdown this week to give many owners a nice 15- to 20-point boost.

3. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City — Bowe was a top-five fantasy receiver last season, but the Chiefs have gotten off to a 0-3 start and Bowe’s numbers have reflected that. So far he’s averaged only 8 points a week thus far. This game should be different though as Kansas City’s top receiving option is going against a weak Minnesota secondary. Expect him to see the ball early and often and to finally have a 100-yard game.

Players to Sit:

1. Michael Vick, Philadelphia — Vick has been all over the news this week with his comments about the referees not protecting him the way they do other quarterbacks. But the problem for fantasy owners this year is Vick not protecting them, as he’s failed to live up to his status as a top-10 pick. He has only averaged 17 points a game so far and has been off the field almost as much as he has been in the huddle. With his hand injured now, you just can’t trust him.

2. Frank Gore, San Francisco — Gore has been unproductive and hurt much of this season. This week he is questionable once again. Even if he does see the field he won’t be very effective as a result of his injury. Owners should sit him this week, and if you need help filling in for him look at his backup Kendal Hunter, who should see the bulk of the carries against a weak Eagles front seven.

3. Anquan Boldin, Baltimore — Revis Island is not a fun place for wide receivers to be and Boldin will find himself there this week. It would be a smart move for his owners to look elsewhere for wide-out production, as Boldin will most likely be stranded.

Printed on September 30, 2011 as: Hightower in line for big week, Boldin set to visit Revis Island

Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been on fire this year, while leading his team to a 3-0 record.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

It was another turbulent week in the world of fantasy football, with a number of key injuries and numerous breakout performances that just make you ask, “He did what?” So, let’s explore how last week’s games affect your lineup: who is truly hot and who is not.

HOT

Any Buffalo Bills offense player
If you haven’t been watching football this season and you took a look at this story, you’d probably think I was crazy, and to be honest, it feels a little bit weird seeing the Bills in this spot. But they are on fire. Buffalo is averaging 37.66 points a game, and everyone is getting touches. Harvard graduate Ryan Fitzpatrick is scorching with at least 18 points in his first three games, making him a viable starting quarterback in any league. Running back Fred Jackson is quickly establishing himself as a top-10 back with at least 11 points in every game — he has also broken the 20-point mark in the last two. Plus, wide receiver Steve Johnson and tight end Scott Chandler have both firmly announced their fantasy prowess as strong starting options. It’s not too late to get on the Bills’ bandwagon: Chandler is still available in 51 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues.

Wes Welker, New England Patriots
 Not much to say here. When paired with Tom Brady, this guy is a monster. The former Red Raider had 217 receiving yards and two touchdowns last Sunday and is a must-play week to week.


Torrey Smith, Baltimore
Who? That’s what many will say when they look at the Week 3 scoring leaders and see this rookie at the top of the list. Smith, a second-round pick from Maryland, went off for 152 yards receiving and three touchdowns against the St. Louis Rams. He is still available in 99 percent of ESPN leagues, and while he won’t consistently post such ridiculous numbers, he should still see quite a few balls from Joe Flacco the rest of the season.

NOT

Michael Vick, Philadelphia
This guy cannot seem to stay healthy. A week after suffering a concussion against the Falcons, Vick reportedly broke his non-throwing hand Sunday against the Giants. It’s uncertain if he’ll be good to go in Week 4, disappointing news for owners who picked Vick in the top-10 of the draft. If you did, it’s probably time to pick up Fitzpatrick or Eagles’ backup Mike Kafka because Vick’s injury pattern is a troubling one.

Kenny Britt, Tennessee
The wide receiver has been a fantasy beast this year, but on Sunday, he tore ligaments in his knee and will miss significant time. For those desperately scrambling after his loss, think about picking up his teammate Nate Washington, who is available in 90 percent of leagues, or Oakland’s Denarius Moore, available in 60 percent of leagues.

Frank Gore, San Francisco
Gore continued his slow start to the season Sunday with only 42 yards on 17 carries. The running back is fighting nagging injuries and is starting to show signs of aging. Astute owners might look to pick up his backup, Kendall Hunter. 

Printed on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 as: Who's hot, who's not in fantasy football

Michael Vick has just signed a 6 year, 100 -million dollar deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, making him the third highest player in the NFL. This is just two years after he was released from jail.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Quick — name the three best quarterbacks in the NFL. Most people come up with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady right off the bat. The third quarterback chosen might be Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Philip Rivers.

All of these players are deserving of consideration for the spot, but none of those signal callers are the third-highest paid at the position. That distinction belongs to the Eagles’ Michael Vick, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract on Tuesday.

This is the same player who, just over two years ago, was serving jail time. He was out of work and bankrupt. Now he’s the first player ever in league history to sign two deals worth $100 million.

“The thing for me was believing in the people who were there for me in my time of need,” Vick said at his press conference.

“You never know what’s going to happen.”

Vick’s story is a great one, and completely exemplifies the beauty of the American justice system and the way it gives people the opportunity to redeem themselves.

But has Vick really earned that sum of money in just two years back in the NFL? The short answer to that question is no, not yet.

In his first year back, he rarely saw the field, just coming in briefly to run the wildcat package behind Donovan McNabb.

In his second year — a season that began on the bench behind Kevin Kolb — he put up some gaudy numbers, throwing 21 touchdowns and running for nine more in 11 starts. He finished second in the Most Valuable Player voting to Brady.

The key number there is 11 — as in only 11 starts out of 32 chances since he has been back. That’s not enough of a sample size to support a $100 million contract.

Vick is also injury prone, and has only been healthy for a full 16-game schedule just once in his eight-year career.

But perhaps most importantly, Vick has not proven himself as a winner in the big games yet with a 2-3 all time playoff record. Manning, Brady, Brees and Rodgers have each won at least one championship.

So while Vick’s story is a great one, a redemption story for the ages, the Eagles may have jumped the gun a little on the contract, paying an injury-prone 31-year-old like an all-time great. 

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Vince Young laughs as he is introduced to the media after the morning session of NFL football training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., on Saturday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Vince Young hasn’t had a lot go his way recently.

The days of him doing a Heisman pose with a crystal ball, leading comeback after comeback and playing in Pro Bowls seem like a distant memory after the turmoil and controversy that have characterized Young’s career recently. All fans seem to remember now is Young getting hurt too often, throwing his pads into the stands and never getting along with his coach, Jeff Fisher.

Young’s days in Tennessee are over, and he gets a fresh start in Philadelphia, where he will try to replicate the turnaround Michael Vick has enjoyed there. The former Longhorn was released by the Titans last Thursday and signed a one-year deal for up to $5.5 million with the Eagles two days later. It was one of many masterful moves made by Philadelphia, who also acquired defensive end Jason Babin and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (a member of last year’s Super Bowl-winning Green Bay Packers), along with cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha, who was considered the finest member of this year’s free agent class.

Both sides should benefit from this agreement for many reasons. First, Young may only be in Philadelphia for one season but should be comforted by the drastic improvements Eagles quarterbacks have made before him. Donovan McNabb was booed by Philadelphia fans the day he was drafted and he was a revered Eagles legend by the time he left. Kevin Kolb went from an unproven system quarterback to being handed the reins to the Arizona Cardinals offense. Remarkably, Vick has gone from a loathed dog-killer to a redeemed gun-slinger.

Reid and his coaching staff will also be more supportive of Young and his playing style than the Titans’ staff was. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow never seemed to realize trying to make Young a pocket passer was like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Fisher never even wanted Young. Titans owner Bud Adams’ desire to draft Young trumped Fisher’s wish to get USC’s Heisman-winning quarterback Matt Leinart. Reid won’t mind Young scrambling to move the chains, because he’s seen it work for Vick. He won’t call the cops on Young because he mistakenly thinks he’s going to kill himself, and he certainly won’t throw him under the bus the way Fisher did.

Michael Vick is the most electrifying starting quarterback in the NFL, but he’s also the most injury-prone. At 6’0”, 215 pounds, Vick runs like a gazelle but doesn’t absorb hard hits like other, bigger quarterbacks do. The Eagles’ front office is aware Vick is more susceptible to injury than most and knew they needed a quality backup after sending Kolb to Arizona. That’s why they got Young. With skill players like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy, Young not only has a chance to play, but to play well.

That being said, this isn’t a move that will only benefit Young. There aren’t many teams who have a backup quarterback who’s been to two Pro Bowls, won over 60 percent of their starts and been Rookie of the Year. If Vick gets hurt, not only will they have a proven winner still taking snaps, but they won’t have to change their offense much because the way Young and Vick play is so similar. Vick is as good as it gets when it comes to quarterbacks, but if he gets injured, the Eagles will still be left with one of the league’s most talented signal-callers.

Young had his ups and downs in Tennessee, but it was time for him to go. His last few months there were filled with injuries, controversies and scandals. The Titans didn’t want him anymore and Young had nothing left to gain from them. They felt they needed to go in a different direction (even if it meant starting from scratch again with veteran Matt Hasselbeck preparing rookie Jake Locker). Bottom line: Tennessee was no longer a good fit for Young. Philadelphia is.

HOUSTON — David Carr was sacked an NFL record 76 times in 2002, the Houston Texans’ inaugural season. Three years later, he went down behind the line 68 times, third-most in league history.

The Texans would love to put that issue to rest — and they have made significant upgrades in virtually every area since Carr was cut in 2007 — but protecting the quarterback is unfortunately back in the conversation.

Matt Schaub has been sacked 11 times in three games, tied with Philadelphia’s Michael Vick for the most this season. Only the Eagles have allowed more sacks than Houston (14), and Vick became the starter after Kevin Kolb left the first game with a concussion.

“We’ve got 11 sacks, way too damn many,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “I don’t care whose fault it is — mine, Matt’s, the O-line. We’ve got to fix it. We’ve got way too many.”

The Texans (2-1) play at Oakland (1-2) this week. The Raiders rank second in total defense (260.7 yards per game) and have seven sacks in their first three games.

Kubiak doesn’t have a Vick as his No. 2 quarterback. He’s got Dan Orlovsky as the backup, but he may need to go to him if Schaub keeps getting hit like this.

He was sacked five times in the Texans 30-27 win over Washington two weeks ago, and took another hard shot after throwing a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Andre Johnson. Schaub was sacked four more times in Sunday’s 27-13 loss to Dallas, three times by DeMarcus Ware. Keith Brooking had the other one, charging in unblocked to hammer Schaub on a third-down play from the Cowboys’ 3-yard line.

“It’s frustrating as an offensive line,” center Chris Myers said. “You take pride in not having that many sacks and when you’re close to last in the league in giving up sacks, it’s really embarrassing. We’ve got to take it upon ourselves, take pride in that and get better.”

The offensive front faced Dallas without starting left tackle Duane Brown, who was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on banned substances. Five-year veteran Rashad Butler made his first career start in Brown’s place, and let Ware get by him on one of the sacks.

Right tackle Eric Winston isn’t making excuses. No matter who is starting, Winston said the line needs to hold up.

“It doesn’t matter if he holds it for 15 seconds back there if he wants,” Winston said. “We have to stay on them and somehow get them blocked and that’s just what we’re going to keep doing.”

Kubiak said the entire offense, not just the line, shares blame for the protection breakdowns. Schaub said he’s at fault for some of them, holding onto the ball longer than the blocking could last.

“There’s a few times where I could’ve thrown the ball away or gotten rid of it, just trying to extend plays,” Schaub said. “We’re getting it right, we’re going to be fine. It’s not a big deal. We’re going to get it right.”

Schaub was only sacked twice in Houston’s opening win against Indianapolis. But he only attempted 17 passes because the Texans ran so effectively, rushing 42 times for 257 yards.

Schaub has thrown 84 passes in two games since, and Johnson said Houston’s receivers must take pressure off Schaub by running sharper routes.
“We just have to try to work ourselves open a little but more quickly than we’ve been doing,” Johnson said. “You definitely don’t like to see him get hit. It pretty much takes a toll on the body.”

Schaub can attest to that. He missed five games in 2007 with a shoulder injury and concussion, and four more in 2008 with a knee injury. Schaub started all 16 games last season, and the Texans finished with the NFL’s top passing offense (291 yards per game).

“The thing we were able to do last year was keep him healthy,” Johnson said. “That’s something we’re going to have to continue to do. When he’s healthy, he goes out and plays great.”