1. With the Rams playing the Patriots this week in London, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick took a little of the shine off 2nd year running back Stevan Ridley, basically drooling over St. Louis running back Steven Jackson. While reminiscing about how Jackson was a player he personally made a trip to see on an individual basis prior to the 2004 rookie draft, Belichick heaped praise on Jackson for his toughness, ability to make tacklers miss on the second level, pass block and catch the ball out of the backfield, reminding Ridley owners and New England fans of the team’s long history of acquiring veteran backs through trades or free agency. With none of New England’s current backs providing the type of dual threat and punishing running style that Jackson has displayed throughout his career and the Rams in a rebuilding phase and satisfied with the play of rookie 7th round pick Daryl Richardson (and having 2nd round pick Isaiah Pead also on the roster), it won’t be a complete surprise if Jackson ends up going home with the Patriots on Sunday night.
2. Veteran 49ers tight end Vernon Davis has had a bit of an uneven run to start the season, scoring four touchdowns in his first three games but failing to find the end zone and being held to under 37 receiving yards in three of his last four games, including a Week 7 performance in which he was not targeted once. That marked the first time since Week 13 of the 2008 season that Davis failed to catch a pass, a streak of 58 consecutive games. A consummate team player, Davis hasn’t whined about his lack of use but team observers are certainly questioning the team’s failure to get the ball to their most explosive playmaker on offense. However, the attention that Davis has been receiving from opposing defenses has opened up holes for the running game, an area that opposing defensive coordinators are likely to focus on in the upcoming weeks. The bottom line is that head coach Jim Harbaugh will make the required adjustments to get Davis involved in the team’s passing attack, making him a solid buy low candidate if you can grab him in your league.
3. Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill dropped a key pass this week that would have given New York an opportunity to upset the Patriots but the team has been pleased with his performance during the games that he has been healthy this season. A hamstring injury caused him to miss two games and he failed to catch a pass in two others but Hill has displayed big play ability when given an opportunity, averaging 13.9 yards per reception and scoring three touchdowns. Look for him to improve on his performance over the 2nd half of the season and emerge as a solid option in the Jets passing attack.
4. With a tear in the plantar plate of his right foot, Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon is unlikely to return to the lineup after Washington’s Week 10 bye and with tight end Fred Davis having been placed on injured reserve, there is an opportunity for a player to emerge amongst the team’s group of receivers and tight ends. Over the past three weeks, veteran receiver Santana Moss has been targeted the most with 13, catching nine passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns. That makes him the Redskins receiver to target if you need a bye week fill-in but the player with the most upside is 2011 3rd round pick Leonard Hankerson. Unfortunately, Hankerson hasn’t received a steady diet of targets, getting seven or more three times and three or less three times. However, having caught six of his eight looks this past week against the Giants, that might change going forward.
5. Signed in the offseason to be the leading receiver in the Jaguars offense, Laurent Robinson had a pair of decent games to start the season before putting up a dud in Week 3 and suffering a concussion in Week 4. While he is back on the practice field this week, there are no guarantees of when he will return and also no guarantees that he will resume his spot in the starting lineup. With the team struggling to a 1-5 record and now without the services of their main offensive weapon in running back Maurice Jones-Drew for several weeks, look for Jacksonville to continue to utilize 2011 4th round pick Cecil Shorts in the starting lineup. While Shorts has made some mistakes on the field and caught just 12 of his 29 targets, he has also displayed playmaking ability in an offense desperate for it. He has averaged 23.7 yards per reception on his 12 catches and found the end zone three times and is coming off the best game of his career with four receptions for 79 yards and a score. With Robinson proving to be injury prone once again this season and fellow $6-million a year receiver Mike Thomas having caught just nine passes for 61 yards, look for the team to cut ties with both players prior to next season.