1. We all know that the NFL has become a passing league over the last decade, with several quarterbacks regularly putting up numbers that would have been considered remarkable 10 to 20 years ago. Two years ago, Saints quarterback Drew Brees came within 15 yards of tying Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a season, a record that was considered unbreakable after Marino’s amazing 1984 season. However, after five weeks this year, three quarterbacks are on pace to break that record. The trio of Philip Rivers (on pace for 5,629 passing yards), Kyle Orton (5,545), and Peyton Manning (5,149) all have a chance to eclipse Marino’s single-season numbers, with Rivers likely having the best chance if the Chargers running game fails to breakout.
2. The Rams passing attack was dealt a major blow when wide receiver Mark Clayton suffered a torn patellar tendon during this week’s loss to Detroit. Since being acquired from the Ravens just prior to opening day, Clayton had quickly emerged as the team’s top receiver and had caught 22 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns during the first four games. Although Laurent Robinson may seem like the obvious choice to replace Clayton in the starting lineup, look for rookie fourth-round pick Mardy Gilyard to get the nod. Clayton was playing flanker in the Rams offense, and Gilyard has been learning the slot and flanker positions while Robinson has been lining up at split end, where Brandon Gibson usually gets most of the reps.
3. With their win over the Rams this week, the Lions won their first game of 2010 and just their third over their last 38 games. This week in New York against the Giants, they will attempt to win back-to-back games for the first time in 45 contests, dating back to the 2007 season.
4. This week, the Bills announced they were abandoning their 3-4 defense and moving back to the 4-3 as their base package. Head coach Chan Gailey wanted to run the 3-4 and brought in former Dolphins assistant George Edwards to be the team’s defensive coordinator and lead the switch. However, Gailey and general manager Buddy Nix failed to obtain the proper personnel to run the 3-4, so it comes as no surprise that Buffalo has not been able to stop the run in 2010. The Bills don’t have a run-stuffing nose tackle to anchor the front line, their outside linebackers consist almost exclusively of former defensive ends in their first year at a new position, and they were relying on former Dolphin and Giant retread Reggie Torbor to provide a pass rush along with overrated 2009 first-round pick Aaron Maybin, who routinely gets steamrolled in the rushing game by opposing offensive lineman.
5. Keeping with the Bills, if you’re in an IDP league, roll with any defensive lineman that is facing the Bills in the coming weeks. Left tackle Demetrious Bell continues to struggle as he recovers from knee surgery, and right tackle Cornell Green is expected to miss several weeks with a sore knee that has bothered him since the preseason. Even though Green hasn’t been very good in his first year in Buffalo, the Bills failed to bring in a veteran swing tackle backup, so they will turn to undrafted rookie free agent Cordaro Howard to start in Green’s absence.
6. The Texans, as expected, didn’t re-sign cornerback Dunta Robinson in the offseason as he entered free agency, choosing instead to go with a group of young players at the position. The team’s top four cornerbacks entering the season were a pair of second year players in Brice McCain and Glover Quin and a pair of rookies in Kareem Jackson (first round) and Sherrick McManis (fifth round). Quin and Jackson have struggled in starting roles, and the Texans currently rank last in the league in passing defense, giving up 330 yards per game. They have also given up a whopping 11 touchdown passes, ranking second-worst in the league in that category. Although general manager Rick Smith has maintained that the pass defense will come around, the team signed aging veterans Adewale Ogunleye and Ryan Denney (since released) to help out in pass rushing roles (and thus to help the cornerbacks). They also claimed former Bears defensive end Mark Anderson off waivers this week.
7. Greg Jennings of the Packers has never been mentioned in the same category as the league’s diva wide receivers, such as Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, but he apparently went off on the coaches over his lack of use during this week’s loss to the Redskins. He has had a disappointing start to the season with just two receptions in three straight games and 101 receiving yards over the last four. However, he figures to get more looks in the coming weeks with Green Bay’s other receivers coming off poor performances against Washington (six drops between Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson) and tight end Jermichael Finley out at least eight games (and possibly for the year) with a knee injury. That makes Jennings a great buy-low candidate.
8. The sports world is full of stories of players and their agents turning down lucrative contract offers, only to sign at a later date for far less money. It’s just not often that you see a pair of players from the same team do so over a two-week period with such differing results. Chargers left tackle Marcus McNeill and wide receiver Vincent Jackson both received restricted free agent tenders back in February for just over $3-million, and both players vowed they would not sign the tenders, opting to sit out the 2010 season instead. However, McNeill backed down and signed his tender two weeks ago, agreeing to a five-year contract extension for $48.5-million that contains $24.5-million in guaranteed money. This week, word leaked out that Jackson will sign his tender but will not receive the $3.3-million contract he was tendered back in February. Chargers general manager A.J. Smith reduced the tendered amount back on June 15th, and Jackson will play for a prorated portion of the new tender of $583,000. That means he will make $218,000 if he reports in time to play six games—the minimum number of games required for him to become an unrestricted free agent next year.
9. Keeping with Jackson, he faces numerous hurdles in order to have a productive stretch of games when he returns. First of all, he will not be in game shape, and that will put him at a significant disadvantage for his first couple of games. While Jackson is a quality wide receiver, he doesn’t rank among the league’s elite yet. Secondly, it remains to be seen whether he will show up in the proper frame of mine and be motivated. There is certainly a chance that he will simply go through the motions. Finally, as we have seen with other players who have missed time with holdouts, there is an increased chance of injury for those who attempt to get up to game speed quickly and try to do too much, too early. If you are a V-Jax owner and a team comes looking for him in a trade, I would seriously consider moving him, given the various obstacles he faces in becoming a quality fantasy contributor in 2010.
10. The Saints haven’t been nearly as explosive this season as in 2009. New Orleans is currently on pace to finish with just 317 points after scoring 510 last season. The question is: why has there been such a dramatic drop off? Well, there are two main reasons. First off, the team’s rushing attack has suffered with the loss of Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. After ranking sixth in the league in rushing in 2009, with 21 rushing touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards per carry, they now rank 31st, with just a single rushing touchdown in five games. Secondly, with Bush out of the line-up, opposing defenses can play both safeties deep, thereby taking away the big plays that were the Saints’ hallmark over the last two seasons. Don’t expect much to change until both Thomas and Bush return to the lineup.