2014-10-23 NFL Preview - Houston (3-4) at Tennessee (2-5) (ET) - Quarterback Zach Mettenberger is expected to make his first career start for the Tennessee Titans on Sunday as his club takes on the Houston Texans at LP Field. … Click to Continue » Sports News | The Kansas City Star & KansasCity.com
    2014-10-23 Michael Beller: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Do Anthony Dixon, Tre Mason belong in lineups Week 8? - In fantasy football, some players you start no matter which team they?re facing (from the Packers, Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb,... SI.com Writers
    2014-10-23 The Film Room: Xavier Su'a-Filo's First Start - Battle Red Blog's resident Xavier Su'a-Filo expert Matt Weston unleashes the .gifs, and images to break down the rookie's first professional start. Recommended Reading The Film Room: Xavier Su'a-Filo (College) Back when I was young whipper-snapper in college I always wondered how someone could be an expert on the mating habits of beatles or just what it was about the Labour Supply Curve that could make a man want to devote his life to the marginal utility of leisure. But now I know. Life just kind of happens. You fall into something that interests you that very few people know a lot about, you become good at it, you read a lot about it, and after X amount of time people come to you for the answers that you once searched for. Now you are now the one Pearson calls when they need a quote for their newest textbook. See I too and am expert in something nearly as obscure as the Battle of Masan. Back in May before I took a Battle Red Blog hiatus I wrote 7,000 words about Xavier Su'a-Filo. I was just someone interested in the newest offensive lineman the Texans took to fill their Pro-Bowl sized hole at left guard. I never wanted this power. I never wanted to be an expert. I just kind of fell into it. One day my phone squealed at me, and I saw the following: This was my Pearson calling me for advice on the Navajo Sandstone layer of rock that resides in the geological formations at Zion National Park. This was a Grad Student filming a documentary on aquatic plants and needed someone to interview about Texas Wild Rice. Xavier Su'a-Filo following me on Twitter supplanted me as the Su'a-Filo expert. So because of this power I have a responsibility to him, and the masses on BRB to write this article. Heading into week six Brandon Brooks was hit with an Ebolic flue virus that left him crawling into a hospital bed. There he lay sprawled in a bedlam of white sheets as he puked up fifteen pounds of goo and bile. That opened the door for Su'a-Filo to make his first career start. Up until that Thursday night game against the Colts Su'a-Filo saw limited time when Houston went into six OL sets, and played a series against Dallas. His snap count totals going into Indy were: Game Snaps WSH 3 OAK 2 NYG 3 DAL 12 This was frustrating to see. After draft day, I and nearly everyone else assumed he would start immediately after being selected with the thirty-third pick. There was only one guard selected ahead of him, and that was Zach Martin. Houston had their choice of anyone, and we assumed they would get not only a top talent, but someone who could start right away. This didn't occur. He was in fact beaten out by Ben Jones. This was disparaging enough as is and even more so when you still see QB1: RYAN FITZPATRICK on the depth chart. Despite the anguish and hoopla, and suffering, and torture we finally had our first chance to get an extended look at the future of guard for the Houston Texans. The results were o.k. to say the least. On the second offensive snap of the game we saw what made Su'a-Filo a second round pick, and what makes him sit and watch on the sideline as Ben Jones gets all the snaps. In the first quarter with 14:56 remaining Houston ran the staple of their offense, the outside zone run towards Su'a-Filo's side. It's second and ten, Houston is lined up in a 122 set (1RB, 2TE, 2WR), and we get to play BFD's favorite game, "How many defenders are in the box?". The answer this time is eight, eight men in the box. Indy knows Houston is running to try and set up a more manageable third down for Ryan Fitzpatrick to pick up in an empty backfield set. When it comes to blocking this defensive formation it's as straight forward as it can get. There is a man in every gap so every offensive lineman will block the player in the gap to the right of them. This leaves Su'a-Filo with a brutal block. He is matched up one vs. one against the 318 pound Corey Redding (#90). Su'a-Filo is quick off the snap. He's taking his zone step (a short six inch diagonal step) and as you can see below he's moving before the rest of the line of scrimmage is. The aiming point for linemen on the outside zone run is the outside shoulder. If they can get to that outside shoulder they can drive the defender vertically rather than horizontally down the line of scrimmage. When the back-side gets outside shoulder head placement they can turn the defender away from the play to open up cutback lanes. At the moment, Xavier is in decent position to reach his aiming point. Here's when the trouble begins. It doesn't derail the block this time, but it's a crucial problem to Su'aFilo's game. Throughout this game Xavier had terrible head placement. This isn't because of his feet because they are stellar. It's because he dips his head when he punches and he makes contact too soon. Right now XSF can delay contact for a little longer and fight for the outside shoulder. Look at the rest of the line of scrimmage. Everyone other than Myers who had a man playing inches from his face has yet to attack the defender. They are all delaying to reach their target. This seems like a rookie mistake. A player who's making his first start, and is overly excited to hit the defender. A player who's still young and is crude oil rather than sweet gasoline. Su'a-Filo instead takes a step forward and makes contact on Redding's inside shoulder. Here is the point of impact. We see Su'a-Filo's head on the inside shoulder, and we see his hands are on the outside of the pads. The other problem he has right now is hands are abysmal. He doesn't punch the numbers, and he fails to grasp the pads when he makes contact. We will see more on the latter later. The good news though is that Su'a-Filo has a sturdy and voluptuous lower body. The one thing that you have to have to play offensive line is strength relative to your level of play. Without it you can't play the position. There's a incredible leap in athleticism from college to the pros. The players are bigger, faster, and stronger. If you lack the athleticism then the blocks you could make in college dissipate into invisible memories, and tackles in the backfield. When Xavier is lower than the defender and rolls his hips he can drive defenders, even ones like the underrated Redding. This is even more telling to his lower body strength when you take in account his head and hand placement. Foster cuts behind the crease made by Xavier's block. The other thing I like about Xavier is he's tenacious. Going back to college I loved how he played to the whistle and worked to put defenders flat on their back. Foster is down on the ground, but Xavier keeps working until the whistle and knocks Redding over the pile. Just like in college: For every block he makes with perfection there is another he makes that's horrendous. Nearly everything is perfect, but he's just missing one thing to turn from good to extraordinary. In the NFL Xavier is still missing one or two components on everyone one of his blocks. On the previous play we see Xavier take perfect steps to put him position to reach the outside shoulder, but he makes contact early and hits in the inside one. This plagues him throughout the game: By bending too early it leads to poor head placement, and him falling over and off his block. When you duck your head down early you can't see where the defender is moving or your aiming point, which opens up space for defenders to shed the block. In my time watching NFL offensive line play, I have never seen a player end up on the ground as often as he did in this game. And again, it's not a case of poor feet, he gets to the block. He doesn't have to flail as a last ditch effort. It's because he lacks patience and makes contact too soon. Also when he makes contact he's low with a good base, but he punches the outside shoulders rather than the chest. It works here to create a lane for Foster, but on other plays these inadequacies become detrimental. He makes 80% of a good block on this play. Later in the first quarter we see the same outside zone play ran to his side. Except here we see a "Duece" block with Derek Newton (right tackle #75) where Su'a-Filo peels off to the second level. The goal for Su'a-Filo here is to take his zone step to the right, offer a hand of help to Newton, and be in position in case the end (Corey Redding #90) stunts inside. Since the end is playing as a "5" he's too wide for Su'a-Filo to get a true hip to hip double team. So he will need to punch the end while staying square to seal the block for Newton before moving to the second level. Xavier takes his zone step right. It's hard to see in the images, but pay special attention to his feet in the .Gifs. He takes short, quick, choppy steps. Feet are the foundation to offensive line play because if you can't get there and put yourself in a position to make a block then you'll never have any type of consistency, and offensive line play is all about consistency. Right now his feet are the best part of his game. Newton has perfect footwork here, and makes contact at the precise moment. He's low, square, his hands are inside, and his head is on the outside shoulder. Xavier looks lovely right now. He's coming at a flat angle to help Newton get movement on the block. He doesn't assume that he can't help because the end is a "5" technique and automatically scamper to the linebacker. Xavier has his eyes on Reddding. His hands are up to punch his side. He makes his punch while his eyes watch the linebacker. This is key. After his punch is made he will know exactly where the linebacker is when he scrapes off the block. Xavier seals and creates movement. Redding is now traveling to the left thanks to Su'a-filo's help. Now he will block the linebacker. The linebacker, D'Qwell Jackson (#52), makes a nice play by attacking the block and slipping underneath. But you would like to see Xavier come off the block square with his shoulders turned. He gives Jackson the angle to get underneath. Rather than punch Jackson in the chest Su'aFilo has his hands crumpled shoving Jackson's side. He just rubs his belly into him instead of blocking him. This leads to Jackson getting into Su'a-filo's chest out of the block. This isn't a bad block. Su'a-Filo does everything perfectly until he gets to the second level. His feet are precise. The strength is there to move the heavy Redding. He goes to the second level at the perfect time. It's a great double team, but by not leaving the block square he creates space for Jackson to sneak into. Again, everything is nearly great, but... I'm sorry for the redundancy this sentence structure is going to be bludgeoned to death. In the second quarter we see another outside zone play except here we see Su'a-Filo on a weak scoop (back-side double team). Before the snap XSF is thinking he will be blocking a power scoop. The difference between the two is that on a power scoop Su'a-Filo is expecting to take over the block while Myers punches the outside shoulder until he feels his presence and then heads to the second level. It's more of a true double team. On a weak scoop Su'a-Filo offers only a shove if possible before going to the line backer. The reason why he assumes pre-snap that it will be a power scoop is because the alignment of the nose. He's playing as a "1" on the back-side of the play, which is close enough for Xavier to make an impact. At the snap the "1" slants towards the play-side. Myers and Xavier do a nice job taking their zone steps and reacting to the stunt. They aren't surprised. They just go with the flow of the play and understand how their assignments change. Xavier keeps flowing to the left to try and help seal the play until it no longer becomes feasible. He can offer a hand of help until he needs to move to the second level. I enjoy his patience here too. He doesn't attack up field once he sees the slant. He continues with the assignment and moves to the next level when he's supposed to. He has a nice feel for the zone run game. Since he's on the back-side he's trying to split the defense in half. So his aiming point is for the left shoulder of the linebacker. Except rather than drive him towards the play-side or up the field he's trying to turn his back to the right sideline and be a wall between the defender and the ball carrier. Already his angle is perfect. The linebacker will flow left so Xavier will stay at the current angle he's going at so he can get to the outside shoulder. He comes up the field at a 75 degree angle. Xavier makes contact. Unlike the previous plays with terrible head placement this time it's alright. It's not ideal yet it will do. His hands are inside on the chest and his head is centered. It's acceptable even if you would rather see it on the outside shoulder. This is when the wheels tremble and fall off the wagon. I mentioned that his hands are one of his biggest flaws. Xavier doesn't grasp when he makes contact. Instead he goes for a kill-shot and tries to scramble Jackson's brains. Yes, you want to be physical when you get there, but you want punch the chest, and grab. That way the defender can't bounce off the hit and make a play. He had the same problem in college too as can be seen in this .Gif (he's the left guard). In this run scheme this type of block is unnecessary. The goal of the back-side is to put a hat on every hat. In this still below if Foster was able to cut back or if Myers didn't get beat then Jackson could have made a tackle on the play and turned twenty yards into five yards. Throughout this game and in college Xavier didn't grasp the chest. It's a smaller issue in the run game that becomes exasperated in the pass game. A few plays later with 13:16 left in the second quarter we see the same type of play except this time it's a power scoop rather than a weak scoop. The defensive alignment is the same as last time yet here the "1" doesn't slant to the left. This is a really difficult block. Xavier takes a nice zone step left. The only problem is he's a little too high. Myers chips the outside shoulder to try and turn the nose tackle's pads to open him up for Su'a-Filo. Xavier has a nice angle to take over the block. But again he could be playing lower. He knows he needs to get to that outside shoulder so he speeds up his movement at the expense of his leverage. Myers's movement naturally takes him off the block and up field towards the back-side inside linebacker. Xavier is now moving forwards rather than at a 45 degree angle to block the nose tackle. Here he's a little lower. The key though is going to be if he can get his head inside. He's unable to. He punches the side of the defender. Again the head placement is awful. The good news is that Xavier is strong. The blocks he misses aren't because a lack of strength, and that's the first concern when it comes to evaluating a rookie offensive lineman. It's a great sign that he can have head placement this atrocious and still drive the defensive lineman up-field. Xavier gets tripped in the pile and falls down. Reaching the "1" and getting to that inside shoulder is an incredibly difficult to block. He still got the job done even if he didn't get his head inside. As most of you know the Texans are a zone run team with some power and man scheme plays sprinkled in. These plays utilize pulling, isolating defenders, and have the lineman block one on one more often. I've depicted all of the blocks Xavier made in the zone scheme so now I want to touch on two plays that used power concepts. At UCLA Su'a-Filo did pull a fair mount of the time even though UCLA was more of an inside zone read team. The wart when he pulled was that he would pull too quickly and miss defenders completely or arrive to the block out of control. Here we see the same sort of problems continue to thwart him. On this play with 10:20 left in the second quarter we see the Texans run power out of the shotgun, which is one of their favorite redzone plays to run. Ben Jones (left guard #60), and Myers (center #55) block down on the nose, everyone else has one vs. one blocks, and Su'a-Filo is going to pull through the hole and off the down blocks. The first thing you watch for when an offensive lineman pulls is does he gain ground with his first step. You can't just jump out of your stance and start running. You need to take a pull step (six inch step parallel to the line of scrimmage) that is flat to the line of scrimmage and takes him towards the hole. Su'a-Filo does exactly this. The other aspect about pulling is you want to stay flat on the line of scrimmage. You can't waste your steps and run like a sloppy drunk. You need to stay in your lane. Su'a-Filo does a swell job staying on his path even though there's slight penetration coming from the defensive tackle. Now Su'a-Filo plants to head up the hole. He needs to come right off of Jones's hip when he gets around the corner. Everything is beautiful so far. He's taken a perfect pull step, has stayed flat on the LOS, came tight around the down block. Yet here is when the trouble came to him when he was in college. Can he a.) find the correct defender b.) not be out of control when he makes contact? Su'a-Filo is in great position at the moment. His head is aimed at the outside shoulder since he can't let the inside linebacker get across his head to make a play on the ball carrier. Xavier makes contact. But here is when he screws up. He finds the right man, and he's in control when he makes contact. The problem is there's no technique whatsoever when he hits the linebacker. He kind of just mashes himself into the defender like he's a Freshman at homecoming. His hands are at his side. He just smushes into the defender. If someone had never played offensive line before and I told them what they were supposed to do without telling them how to block the man this is what I would expect. I wouldn't expect this from a second round pick. What he needs to do is place his head on the outside number, bring his hands to punch the chest, and roll his hips up into the defender. As a result, the linebacker is able to swing around the block and get to the inside of the play. I'm sorry if you have heard this before--Su'a-Filo took great steps, had a perfect path to the defender, but he made an awful block when he got there. I saw him have trouble pulling in college again and again and again. Most of his problems in college were because he missed the defender or wasn't in control. Against Indy he had problems making the block when he arrived. Yet he showed the ability to block the second level in the zone game. There's just no consistency or professionalism in his game. The last run play to look at is a one vs. one block on a lead play. What a lucky dog, Su'a-Filo has Ricky Jean Francois (#99) all to himself. His block is detrimental to the play because Jay Prosch (fullback #45) is going to come off his block to the linebacker. If there's any penetration it shuts the casket on this one. Here the defensive tackle is lined up as a "3" technique. So Su'a-Filo should take a short slide step (one six inch horizontal step) with his left foot to cover up the defender, and then one step forward with his right foot to initiate contact. Instead Xavier takes a slide step with his left foot. He opens the door for the defensive tackle to get into the backfield. Offensive line is a position all about precision and sloppy play like this leads to murderous monstrosities occurring. Su'a-Filo goes to make contact, but can't. His left arm is hanging pendulously and his right arm is going towards the chest of the defender meekly. Francois is in complete control. He has outside placement, has taken on exactly half of the lineman, and has both hands inside. All Xavier can do now is fight for a stalemate. On the bright side he's lower than the defender and is able to recover and bring his hands inside. Now they each just fight back and forth to try and gain position in a game of human tether-ball. This is an awful play by the defensive lineman, but Xavier deserves credit for recovering like he did. Despite it all, XSF ends up squaring the defender up and gets his hands inside on the numbers. I know this is a Su'a-Filo article. Yet I need to point this out. Jay Prosch is the worst fullback I've ever seen. He rarely blocks the right defender, and when he does he just lowers his head and butts into them. He plays with horrendous technique. He never has correct head placement. He's just a wreck of a player. Prosch is running a lead play and rather than block one of the linebackers who's uncovered he runs into the side of the defensive lineman. It's a lead play. Everyone knows what that is, and what his job is, and look at him now. Foster has absolutely nowhere to run. Xavier is able to recover on this play. Yet the wrong steps leads to him having the wrong head placement, which opens the door that a better defensive lineman would have blown right through like the big bad wolf. The strength is there, the leverage is there, the hands are here for once, but everything else is gross. If you thought that was nauseating, cheer up because it's about to get worse. Xavier was admirable in the run game. In the pass game he was pre-2014 Derek Newton bad. XSF has the "B" gap and is matched up against his new bestie Corey Redding (#90). Redding lines up as a "3". At the snap he rushes straight forward through the gap. Xavier does a nice job putting his quickness to work and snaps out of his stance. He has a good base, and is in sound position to mirror Redding. When it comes to pass blocking as a guard you don't want to allow a ton of space. Unlike playing tackle, you are trying to make contact as soon as possible. Space is a premium because of the distance to the quarterback. Interior rushers have a shorter path to the quarterback. You don't want to make contact two yards back because then the defender is a rip away from the sack, and the quarterback has no time to react. The center and guards are trying to create a horizontal wall in the center of the line of scrimmage for the quarterback to throw behind. A guard tries to snap out of the stance, and punch. They don't kick slide nearly to the extent that tackles do. Yet here we see Su'a-Filo retreating backwards and creating space between him and the defensive tackle. He doesn't punch until him and Redding are head up. The issue though isn't when he makes contact it's his feet. When you punch the defensive lineman, you want to be strong and back on your heels. You don't want to be on your toes when you punch because this leads to leaning and zaps your power. Yet what we see here is that when Su'a-Filo goes to punch Redding his left leg is balancing on his toes. When he punches he extends forward. Redding takes his arms and knocks them off of Su'a-Filo. This is a direct result of not staying on his heels and leaning forward when he makes contact. Redding swims over the top as Su'a-Filo drops his files onto the floor. Now he fight back to recover. It doesn't matter because Redding has a wide open path to the quarterback. When you watch Xavier pass block you see this constantly. You see him mirror the defender well, but when he punches he leans forward and plays on his toes too much. All of this weight going forward leaves him susceptible to swim moves, and for defensive lineman to pull him forward and yank the rug out from underneath him. The other issue that plagues him in the pass game is his hands. He plays patty cake too much. Just like in the run game when he heads to the second level and pushes rather than grasps he does the same in the pass game. He punches without grabbing the chest, resets, and punches again. On this play Su'a-Filo is away from the call so he's playing big on big rather than a gap. He is lined up with Drake Nevis (#94) who's in proximity as a "3" technique. Su'a-Filo gets out of his stance. And he continues to retreat backwards. Like the last play he's giving the defensive tackle room to rush. This would be acceptable if he was going against a "5" technique that he had to hurry over and meet, but not in this situation. It's surprising to see someone who's had extensive time playing guard do this even if he played tackle and guard in college. Xavier reels back for his punch. Unlike the last play Su'a-Filo has a nice base when he punches. He's not leaning forward. His knees are fairly bent, and he's back on his kneels. Yet he doesn't grab the chest. He punches, retreats and then... ...punches again. This completely dismantles the pocket. The goal is to create a wall. So you want to minimize space, punch, and grab so you can control the defender at the line of scrimmage. Once the hands are inside you just shuffle along and mirror him. Now Nevis has speed, and momentum going forward, which makes him a more powerful player. He shoves Su'a-Filo's chest and just drives him into Fitzpatrick. Su'a-Filo comically stumbles like a cartoon character snagged on a carpet or like in Psycho when Arbogast meets Mother. Oh, this is not a one time occurrence though. Xavier refuses to snag jersey in pass protection. It's perplexing to me to see such a fundamental aspect of the game never used. You punch and grab to control the defender. Su'a-Filo doesn't so after contact is made they can bounce off his block, shed, and then chase after the quarterback. I really have no idea what's going on. It maybe because even though his lower body is sturdy his upper body maybe weak, and he's afraid of getting pulled down. This would also explain the leaning shown earlier. But his bench press in the combine was above average, and he is able to get separation when he punches in this game. It maybe a bad habit he still has from his college days, but here, and here he's grabbing after punching. Whatever the reason is it's something a man and laptop can't tell. It's something between Xavier, and the coaching staff to figure out. Yet that doesn't change the fact that there's cracks in the foundation of how he pass protects. The surgery was a success, but your father still died. The car runs, but we had to put in a new transmission. We are offering a you a promotion, but it doesn't come with a pay raise only a title change. Xavier drove the tackle two yards backwards, but his head placement was inside rather than outside and he fell off the block. Xavier took a great angle to the linebacker, but he failed to grasp the chest which closed the cutback lane. Xavier had a great mirror on his pass protection, but he was on his toes when he punched and ended up falling forward while the defender ran away. At the moment Su'a-Filo is a wrinkled shirt underneath the bed. He needs to be starched, dry cleaned, and ironed. His edges are corroded and grimy. He's a second round pick who needs more time and polish. He will need to learn how to grasp the chest, be more patient with when he makes contact, be square and on his heels when he punches in pass pro, hit the right target, and play with his hands inside. These are all just subtle technique changes though. There isn't any reason why he can't fix these flaws with coaching, and practice. The things that can't be taught, quick feet, strength, and instinct are all there. The guard that Houston took in the second round to start right away doesn't and shouldn't. He's a sixth offensive lineman with the potential to be a stalwart on the line of scrimmage for years to come. Battle Red Blog
    2014-10-23 The Film Room: Xavier Su'a-Filo's First Start - The Film Room: Xavier Su'a-Filo's First Start The Palm Beach Post
    2014-10-23 The Film Room: Xavier Su'a-Filo's First Start In The NFL - The Film Room: Xavier Su'a-Filo's First Start In The NFL The Palm Beach Post
    2014-10-23 5 keys for the Titans to beat the Texans - Jim Wyatt breaks down what the Titans need to beat Houston.          The Tennessean
    2014-10-23 Bleach Social: Where Are You Watching Texans-Titans? - The Houston Texans are on the road again this week as they head to Nashville to tangle with the Titans. Where will you be watching? Once upon a time, your Houston Texans were 3-1. Then October came, and with it came three straight losses. This week, the Texans look to right the ship against the team formerly owned by Bud Adams. What your plans for Texans-Titans on Sunday afternoon? Will you be at LP Field, cringing at every Tennessee fan wearing an Oilers jersey? Will you be watching at home, analyzing every sideline shot of Brian Cushing? Will you be at a sports bar, debating the merits of Ryan Fitzpatrick versus Ryan Mallett with other boozehounds? Whatever your plans, let us know in the Comments. If you're still trying to figure out what you're going to do, or if you're a stranger in a strange land looking for somewhere to catch the game, pose any queries here; someone might have a suggestion for you. Similarly, if you've got a worthy spot staked out somewhere and want to clue fellow Texans fans in to it, please divulge that information in the Comments as well. Texans vs Titans coverage Battle Red Blog
    2014-10-23 NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Updated 2014 Analysis Before Thursday Night Football - Didn't expect some of the outcomes of Week 7? Join the club. The NFL was full of surprises last Sunday. The Seattle Seahawks dropped a game to Austin Davis and the St. Louis Rams. The Kansas City Chiefs barely squeaked by the San Diego Chargers. The Jacksonville Jaguars even got off the schneid by taking care off business against the Cleveland Browns. There was so much to digest from Sunday's action that it has taken some time to process. Now that Week 8 is set to begin on Thursday Night Football when the Chargers take on the Denver Broncos, it's time to reveal the latest league power rankings.   32. Oakland Raiders (0-6) There's no question as to which team is the worst in the NFL. The Raiders are just plain bad. They remain the last winless team in the league. Both the offense and defense are below-average units. Derek Carr doesn't have the offensive line or weapons to light up the scoreboard like he did at Fresno State. He has shown flashes of being a franchise quarterback, but much has to be done to fix the parts surrounding him.   31. New York Jets (1-6) Geno Smith has regressed during his sophomore season, even if his past two games against the Broncos and New England Patriots haven't been all that bad. That said, losing six games in a row makes more headlines than two straight decent games. Eric Decker and Chris Johnson have also underperformed, and their contributions moving forward will measure how successful this team is. Trading for Percy Harvin will aid the team's 4.8-yards-per-play average, which ranks 31st in the NFL. But the fact remains that he's a wild card.   30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) They're on the board! The Jaguars dominated the Cleveland Browns in Week 7, even if Blake Bortles was miserable under center. He completed 17 of his 31 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. He was picked off three times, however. The emergence of Denard Robinson in the backfield is something to watch moving forward. CBS Sports' Chris Towers wrote about why he was successful: Sure, he wasn't necessarily muscling his way through tackles, but he showed enough slipperyness to make me think he can make plays the other backs in Jacksonville aren't necessarily capable of. He picked up 56 yards after contact Sunday, an average of 2.5 per carry, compared to just 1.9 for the rest of the team's backs this season. If Robinson can maintain some semblance of this type of production, Jacksonville could steal a few more wins before the season ends.   29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5) There's very little to like in Tampa Bay. The defense needs work and the quarterback play has been subpar. The only real positive is the athletic group of receivers and tight ends that Mike Glennon has at his disposal. He's on a short leash, however, so they may not be his group for very long.   28. Minnesota Vikings (2-5) A lack of a consistent running game has hurt rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon just haven't gotten it done at a high level, though McKinnon is likely the guy they'll go to more moving forward, as Bridgewater told reporters, per Derek Wetmore of 1500ESPN.com: Jerick, he's a great athlete. He's a great back and he can do it all. When we're in the passing game, he'll keep plays alive if you have to check [down] the ball to him. Or in the run game, he's one of those guys who can get in and out of blocks and of tackles. He's going to be a guy that we continue to look forward to make plays for this team. A better run game will open up the passing game for the rookie.   27. Tennessee Titans (2-5) The Titans are lucky they aren't even lower. Colt McCoy looked like a serviceable NFL quarterback against the defense in the second half on Sunday. Colt McCoy! Very little is going right in Tennessee.   26. Washington Redskins (2-5) You just read it above. Kirk Cousins was benched in favor of McCoy. The offense (with and without Robert Griffin III) hasn't been good. Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed and Alfred Morris are interesting pieces to build around, but there has been no consistency in this team's attack.   25. Atlanta Falcons (2-5) The offense is very good and the defense is very bad. Unfortunately for the Falcons, the defense has carried more weight than the offense. And the offense now stands to regress some, as Matt Ryan just lost starting center Peter Konz to injury for the year. The offensive line already wasn't playing all that well. It will be interesting to see how it plays now.   24. St. Louis Rams (2-4) Austin Davis was a last-resort option for the Rams when Sam Bradford and Shaun Hill were lost to injuries, but he's played pretty well so far. After his surprising victory against the Seahawks, Davis earned high praise from Brett Favre, via ESPN.com: Not to sound off my rocker, but [Davis] -- in my mind -- can be the next Tom Brady or Kurt Warner. [Brian] Hoyer as well. Austin, like those mentioned, just needed a legit opportunity. The Rams still appear headed for a top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL draft, so it will be interesting to see if they take one of the many quarterbacks presumably available in that range.   23. New Orleans Saints (2-4) The Saints are horrible away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. All four of their losses have come on the road, while each of their two victories came in the friendly confines of home. They're home in Week 8, so we'll have to see if the trend continues.   22. Houston Texans (3-4) The Texans blew a 10-point lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night, but the team is still surprisingly competitive. Ryan Fitzpatrick shouldn't be at the helm of an NFL offense, yet that hasn't stopped head coach Bill O'Brien. Houston likely won't finish the season at .500, so look for a downward trend over the next few weeks.   21. New York Giants (3-4) Losing two divisional games in a row will be difficult to come back from, and their upcoming stretch of games isn't easy in the least, but the Giants offense enters the bye week at a good time. Once the bye is over, Rashad Jennings will likely be back running the ball. The offense has struggled with Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis getting carries.   20. Cleveland Browns (3-3) Fans of the Browns had it out for Brian Hoyer on Sunday, as he was unable to take down the previously winless Jaguars. Of course, much of the blame should've gone to a defense that allowed Denard Robinson to rush for over 100 yards. The Raiders are next on the schedule. A loss in back-to-back weeks to 0-6 teams would be brutal for a team that looked like it could compete in the AFC North.   19. Chicago Bears (3-4) A big disappointment thus far, the Bears might have received the jolt they desperately need from Brandon Marshall this past week. He doesn't regret the comments he made about his teammates following last week's loss to the Miami Dolphins, per NFL.com's Mike Coppinger: Oh, absolutely my voice was heard. The only thing I regret is that the door wasn't closed, you know, but I wouldn't change any of my reaction because it came from my heart, and that's how I felt, that's how I still feel. I think that we have all the coaches we need, I think we have all the players that we need to get that job done. And 3-4 is unacceptable, but we have everything that we need to turn this ship right now. The New England Patriots are never a team you want to face when struggling, though, so the Bears could drop further down this list after Week 8.   18. Carolina Panthers (3-3-1) Defense led the charge last year for the Panthers. Carolina's defense this year has been nowhere near as dominant. They rank 27th in yards per game, second-worst in yards per play allowed, seventh in penalties and first in total touchdowns allowed. This team will not make the playoffs with a defense that susceptible to big plays and mistakes.   17. Miami Dolphins (3-3) Ryan Tannehill earned some confidence following the defeat of the Bears, but now it's time for him to build off that performance and string together multiple wins in a row. The Jaguars are up next, and they've allowed the most passing yards per game this season. Miami should be looking at a 4-3 record in a week's time.   16. Buffalo Bills (4-3) Getting to the quarterback with ease has made the Bills one of the most surprising teams of the 2014 season. Buffalo leads the league with 24 sacks, as Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus have made opposing quarterbacks uneasy in the pocket. Offensively, things aren't too great. Sammy Watkins has mostly lived up to expectations, but Kyle Orton still leads the offense and injuries to Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller mean Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown are in line for big carries. That's not an ideal situation.   15. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1) The Bengals did not come to play in Week 7. Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis defense stifled the Bengals, as Cincy lost 27-0 and showed serious flaws in the process. ESPN's Field Yates (subscription required) highlighted what's gone wrong: The Bengals have been outscored 107-54 during their three-game winless streak, including being shut out on Sunday for the first time since 2009. The defense, which played as well as any other during the first three weeks of the season, is now yielding 23.3 points per game, 18th in the NFL. The offense hasn't been much better, but it should be noted that star wide receiver A.J. Green -- the team's best player -- has missed the past two games due to a recurring toe injury. Cincy looked like a real AFC contender early in the year, but they'll need to string together some decisive wins to restore faith.   14. Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) San Diego proved no match for the Chiefs on Sunday, as they stole a hard-fought contest and moved to 3-3. The Chiefs could realistically move to 5-3 after squaring off against the Rams and the Jets in the next two weeks.   13. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) DeMarco Murray has rightfully earned the attention of everyone in the NFL this season, but Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell hasn't been too far off in terms of production. He and Murray are the only two players this season to post 100 yards from scrimmage in every game. The game plan for the Steelers must revolve around getting Bell the ball. This will open up the passing game for Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.   12. San Francisco 49ers (4-3) Peyton Manning torched Jim Harbaugh's secondary en route to setting the NFL career touchdown record, and injuries to the entire defense have made the unit a bit of a liability. The bye week is certainly welcomed, as this team needs to get healthy—and fast.  The NFC West is wide-open with the Seattle Seahawks scuffling and the Arizona Cardinals somewhat unproven.   11. Seattle Seahawks (3-3) Doug Baldwin stepped up in Week 7, but even his strong performance couldn't stop the Seahawks from dropping what looked like an easy win to the Rams. The defense hasn't been nearly as stifling as it was last season, hence most of the struggles. Russell Wilson is a true leader, and it will be up to him to rally his guys together and pick up a win this week against the Panthers.   10. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) This weekend's matchup against the Bengals will be somewhat of a litmus test for the 5-2 Ravens. Sure, the Bengals have struggled recently, but they're still a strong divisional rival. ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote about what trend they'll need to continue in Week 8: In winning five of their last six games, the Ravens are winning the battle at the start of the game. During this stretch, they have outscored teams, 45-10, in the first quarter. The 35-point differential ranks only behind the Indianapolis Colts. The Ravens have scored on four opening drives this season, which includes touchdowns the past two weeks.  Joe Flacco has played very well lately. That's bad news for Cincy.   9. Detroit Lions (5-2) No Calvin Johnson? No problem. He hasn't made an impact since Sept. 21, but Matthew Stafford has spread the ball around and benefited from strong performances from Golden Tate and Joique Bell. Arguably the NFL's most stifling defense has also led the way, and it looks as if the Lions are legitimate contenders. Then again, we've said that in previous years—and then they tanked late in the season.   8. Arizona Cardinals (5-1) Carson Palmer is 10-2 in his past 12 starts and the Cardinals are the current leaders of the NFC West. It has been a complete effort for Arizona. The defense has played well. Andre Ellington has run well. Drew Stanton surprised the league by playing quite well in Palmer's stead. With their leader back, the Cardinals are in good position to maintain their division lead.   7. San Diego Chargers (5-2) San Diego took a step back by not beating the Chiefs, but their Thursday Night Football matchup against the Denver Broncos can erase the disappointment of Week 7. The Chargers always play well against Denver, and this is by no means an easy game for the Broncos. Philip Rivers is an early MVP candidate even though he's had to rely on Branden Oliver to open up the passing game. Antonio Gates is enjoying a resurgence of sorts, and he'll be utilized heavily against Denver.   6. New England Patriots (5-2) Remember all those critics after the Patriots started 2-2? They're gone now. Since their loss to the Chiefs, the Pats have beaten up on the Bengals and Bills. Last week's close win against the Jets was a bit unexpected, but a win is a win. Taking care of business in a close game from time to time is always good for a team's morale.   5. Green Bay Packers (5-2) Aaron Rodgers has tossed just one interceptions this year. He's been as on target as you can be under center. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have helped his effectiveness. Their explosiveness off the line and their ability to run crisp routes has made Rodgers' job pretty easy. The Packers face stiff competition from the Lions in the NFC North. The Bears could also sneak back into the discussion if they iron out their issues.   4. Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) The Eagles watched the Cowboys take down the Giants during their bye week. Dallas remains Philly's top competition in both the NFC East and the conference in general. That means the Eagles must come out of the bye strong against the Cardinals. LeSean McCoy returned to his old rushing ways against the Giants in Week 6, but Arizona is one of the best at stopping the run.   3. Indianapolis Colts (5-2) This Colts team is something special. Andrew Luck is an MVP front-runner. T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen have given the young quarterback stellar options both deep and in the middle of the field. The defense has been strong without top star Robert Mathis, and this team has all the confidence in the world—especially after shutting out the Bengals.   2. Dallas Cowboys (6-1) DeMarco Murray is the man to thank for this team's 6-1 start. Teams are loading the box against the Cowboys, therefore opening up the passing game for Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Even loading the box hasn't stopped Murray, though. Look for Dallas to continue to succeed if Murray can keep racking up yards.   1. Denver Broncos (5-1) Everything is clicking for Denver. Now that Manning's record is out of the way, this team can focus on avenging their gut-wrenching Super Bowl loss to the Seahawks. They're in great shape to get to the big game yet again, but the overall success of the team will be dictated by Manning.   Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BRRead more NFL news on BleacherReport.com brvideo
    2014-10-23 Fantasy: Week 8 Rankings - Analysis - Over the last two seasons, theScore's Justin Boone has finished in the top 10 in FantasyPros' Most Accurate Expert Competition. This year he's first overall after seven weeks. Scroll down to see his rankings for Week 8.A final rankings update will be available on Sunday morning.Quarterbacks RkPlayerOpp 1Peyton Manning - DENvs. SD2Aaron Rodgers - GBat NO3Andrew Luck - INDat Pit4Russell Wilson - SEAat Car5Drew Brees - NOvs. GB6Philip Rivers - SDat Den7Tom Brady - NEvs. Chi8Tony Romo - DALvs. Was9Jay Cutler - CHIat NE10Nick Foles - PHIat Ari11Carson Palmer - ARIvs. Phi12Cam Newton - CARvs. Sea13Matthew Stafford - DETat Atl14Ryan Tannehill - MIAat Jac15Ben Roethlisberger - PITvs. Ind16Matt Ryan - ATLvs. Det17Alex Smith - KCvs. StL18Joe Flacco - BALat Cin19Kyle Orton - BUFat NYJ20Teddy Bridgewater - MINat TB21Derek Carr - OAKat Cle22Mike Glennon - TBvs. Min23Andy Dalton - CINvs. Bal24Austin Davis - STLat KC25Ryan Fitzpatrick - HOUat Ten26Blake Bortles - JACvs. Mia27Brian Hoyer - CLEvs. Oak28Geno Smith - NYJvs. Buf29Colt McCoy - WASat Dal30Zach Mettenberger - TENvs. Hou Aaron Rodgers has been on cruise control over the last month, throwing for at least three touchdowns with no interceptions in four straight games. Rodgers has tossed 18 touchdown passes and just one pick this season and should continue that success against a soft Saints defense on Sunday night. The only thing that can stop Rodgers at this point is his bye next week. Russell Wilson became the first player in NFL history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in a single game last week. Anyone who waited for Wilson in their draft is being rewarded. His matchup with the Panthers defense allowing the sixth most fantasy points to quarterbacks has him firmly in the top 5. After his ridiculous 27:2 touchdown to interception ratio in 2013, Nick Foles has thrown 10 touchdowns and seven picks through six games this year. Foles' play hasn't slowed the 5-1 Eagles down much, but the team will need him to sharpen up if they are going to maintain that pace. Coming off a bye, a tough matchup on the road in Arizona will be a good test. The Jaguars pass defense has been impressive the last two weeks, shutting down both Charlie Whitehurst and Brian Hoyer. However, Week 8 opponent Ryan Tannehill is a legitimate NFL starter who has found his game as of late. Tannehill has three multi-touchdown games in row and could sneak into the QB1 discussion this week. If you're looking further down the list for help, Teddy Bridgewater gets a Buccaneers defense that has given up 13 passing touchdowns in their last four games, including five in the first half in their last game before the bye. Bridgewater has struggled the last two weeks, so he should be available on the waiver wire. Zach Mettenberger is the latest rookie to get his shot as a starter. The move seems to be a sign the Titans are giving up on the season, but Mettenberger's big arm could help Justin Hunter find a spark. Unfortunately, his first matchup comes against J.J. Watt and a Texans defense that may also have Jadaveon Clowney back in the lineup. Good luck, Zach. Running Backs RkPlayerOpp 1DeMarco Murray - DALvs. Was2Jamaal Charles - KCvs. StL3Matt Forte - CHIat NE4Marshawn Lynch - SEAat Car5Arian Foster - HOUat Ten6Le'Veon Bell - PITvs. Ind7Andre Ellington - ARIvs. Phi8Lamar Miller - MIAat Jac9LeSean McCoy - PHIat Ari10Ben Tate - CLEvs. Oak11Joique Bell - DETat Atl12Shane Vereen - NEvs. Chi13Giovani Bernard - CINvs. Bal14Ahmad Bradshaw - INDat Pit15Ronnie Hillman - DENvs. SD16Jerick McKinnon - MINat TB17Mark Ingram - NOvs. GB18Branden Oliver - SDat Den19Justin Forsett - BALat Cin20Eddie Lacy - GBat NO21Darren McFadden - OAKat Cle22Alfred Morris - WASat Dal23Chris Ivory - NYJvs. Buf24Reggie Bush - DETat Atl25Tre Mason - STLat KC26Trent Richardson - INDat Pit27Doug Martin - TBvs. Min28Denard Robinson - JACvs. Mia29Bishop Sankey - TENvs. Hou30Bryce Brown - BUFat NYJ31Jonathan Stewart - CARvs. Sea32Jeremy Hill - CINvs. Bal33Anthony Dixon - BUFat NYJ34Isaiah Crowell - CLEvs. Oak35Bobby Rainey - TBvs. Min36Travaris Cadet - NOvs. GB37Roy Helu - WASat Dal38Khiry Robinson - NOvs. GB39Steven Jackson - ATLvs. Det40James Starks - GBat NO41Chris Johnson - NYJvs. Buf42Benny Cunningham - STLat KC43Jonas Gray - NEvs. Chi44Knile Davis - KCvs. StL45Bernard Pierce - BALat Cin46Antone Smith - ATLvs. Det47Stepfan Taylor - ARIvs. Phi48Juwan Thompson - DENvs. SD49Matt Asiata - MINat TB50Daniel Thomas - MIAat Jac51Darren Sproles - PHIat Ari52LeGarrette Blount - PITvs. Ind53Joseph Randle - DALvs. Was54Robert Turbin - SEAat Car55Dexter McCluster - TENvs. Hou56Alfred Blue - HOUat Ten57Devonta Freeman - ATLvs. Det58Storm Johnson - JACvs. Mia59Maurice Jones-Drew - OAKat Cle60Brandon Bolden - NEvs. Chi Consider this your weekly reminder to pick up Joseph Randle. We all want to see DeMarco Murray stay healthy and challenge for a 2,000-yard season, but somewhere deep down we all know better. LeSean McCoy is coming off his best game of the season with 155 total yards prior to the Eagles' Week 7 bye. Yards won't be nearly as easy to come  by on the road against a Cardinals defense that allows the third fewest points to running backs, but McCoy's arrow is still pointing up the rest of the season. He's impossible to bench, especially coming off a bye. Ben Tate had his worst game of the season in what should have been an excellent matchup with the Jaguars in Week 7. The loss of center Alex Mack doesn't help, but the Browns offense imploded in the loss. Tate gets another favorable matchup on Sunday facing a porous Raiders run defense. He remains in the top 10 despite his off week. Shane Vereen proved he is the most valuable Patriots back to own and is a borderline RB1 in fantasy this week. Due to the unpredictable nature of Bill Belichick's backfield, there is a certain amount of risk that comes along with Vereen, giving him a lower floor than most running backs ranked near him.   This could be a huge week for Jerick McKinnon if the Vikings can take advantage of the Buccaneers defense like other teams have this season. Tampa Bay has given up the fourth most fantasy points to running backs and McKinnon is the clear lead back in Minnesota.  With Pierre Thomas sidelined, Mark Ingram is a solid RB2 play against the Packers this week. Travaris Cadet is also worth a look as someone who could pick up the passing down work in Thomas' absence. Cadet has 20 targets over the last three weeks, including a pair of games where Thomas was in the lineup. If James Starks ends up being ruled out this week, Eddie Lacy will get a bump up the rankings. When Starks is in the lineup, this is more of a timeshare than people seem to realize. If Darren McFadden has a strong outing against the Browns, his owners should search hard for a trade partner before next week. McFadden's schedule is vicious after the matchup with the Browns. Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown are likely going to split touches in the Bills backfield, making both RB3 or flex plays. Bobby Rainey is an interesting name to consider this week. The Vikings are giving up the sixth most fantasy points to running backs. Doug Martin hasn't done much to secure his starting job, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry this season, while Rainey has gained 4.9 yards per rush. Wide Receivers RkPlayerOpp 1Jordy Nelson - GBat NO2Demaryius Thomas - DENvs. SD3Dez Bryant - DALvs. Was4Antonio Brown - PITvs. Ind5Julio Jones - ATLvs. Det6Randall Cobb - GBat NO7Brandon Marshall - CHIat NE8T.Y. Hilton - INDat Pit9Golden Tate - DETat Atl10Jeremy Maclin - PHIat Ari11Sammy Watkins - BUFat NYJ12Mike Wallace - MIAat Jac13Emmanuel Sanders - DENvs. SD14Alshon Jeffery - CHIat NE15Vincent Jackson - TBvs. Min16Michael Floyd - ARIvs. Phi17Kelvin Benjamin - CARvs. Sea18Steve Smith - BALat Cin19DeSean Jackson - WASat Dal20A.J. Green - CINvs. Bal21Andre Johnson - HOUat Ten22Terrance Williams - DALvs. Was23Julian Edelman - NEvs. Chi24Pierre Garcon - WASat Dal25Roddy White - ATLvs. Det26Eric Decker - NYJvs. Buf27Doug Baldwin - SEAat Car28DeAndre Hopkins - HOUat Ten29James Jones - OAKat Cle30Larry Fitzgerald - ARIvs. Phi31Torrey Smith - BALat Cin32Keenan Allen - SDat Den33Marques Colston - NOvs. GB34Cecil Shorts - JACvs. Mia35Mohamed Sanu - CINvs. Bal36Brandin Cooks - NOvs. GB37Wes Welker - DENvs. SD38Andre Holmes - OAKat Cle39Mike Evans - TBvs. Min40Allen Robinson - JACvs. Mia41Kendall Wright - TENvs. Hou42Percy Harvin - NYJvs. Buf43Brian Quick - STLat KC44Eddie Royal - SDat Den45Brandon LaFell - NEvs. Chi46Cordarrelle Patterson - MINat TB47Davante Adams - GBat NO48Malcom Floyd - SDat Den49Jermaine Kearse - SEAat Car50Reggie Wayne - INDat Pit51Andrew Hawkins - CLEvs. Oak52Justin Hunter - TENvs. Hou53Dwayne Bowe - KCvs. StL54Greg Jennings - MINat TB55Jarvis Landry - MIAat Jac56John Brown - ARIvs. Phi57Jordan Matthews - PHIat Ari58Robert Woods - BUFat NYJ59Kenny Britt - STLat KC60Miles Austin - CLEvs. Oak61Riley Cooper - PHIat Ari62Kenny Stills - NOvs. GB63Jarius Wright - MINat TB64Corey Fuller - DETat Atl65Brian Hartline - MIAat Jac66Brandon Tate - CINvs. Bal67Jeremy Ross - DETat Atl68Devin Hester - ATLvs. Det69Paul Richardson - SEAat Car70Jerricho Cotchery - CARvs. Sea71Andre Roberts - WASat Dal72Allen Hurns - JACvs. Mia73Martavis Bryant - PITvs. Ind74Hakeem Nicks - INDat Pit75Nate Washington - TENvs. Hou76Jeremy Kerley - NYJvs. Buf77Brice Butler - OAKat Cle78Donte Moncrief - INDat Pit79Travis Benjamin - CLEvs. Oak80Damaris Johnson - HOUat Ten Calvin Johnson flew with the team to London, but my guess is that he still doesn't play. His presence overseas could be more for marketing the team and league than a sign he is on track to take the field. Golden Tate will remain a solid play if Megatron is out. A.J. Green is tentatively ranked 20th, but it's situation that could change greatly depending on if he practices over the next two days. If Green is out, Mohamed Sanu would become a WR2. You shouldn't have any worries playing Brandon Marshall this week, even after his reported post-game tirade in the locker room following the loss to the Dolphins. Marshall is an emotional player and he will come back strong. Sammy Watkins is a borderline WR1 in fantasy for Week 8, facing one of the weakest secondaries in the league. If the Jets aren't able to get pressure on Kyle Orton, Watkins could have a monster day. Everyone is predicting a regression for Terrance Williams, who has six touchdowns in seven games. Williams won't sustain that pace in the second half of the season, but he has a good chance to continue it this week against the Redskins, who have allowed 15 passing touchdowns in seven games. Percy Harvin owners should be prepared for a slow start to his time in New York as he gets up to speed with the offense. Harvin's true impact may come in the form of freeing up Eric Decker, who could have a nice game against the Bills. However, you always have to remind yourself that Geno Smith is the one responsible for throwing passes in the Big Apple. Doug Baldwin is a WR3 with WR2 upside the rest of the way. He isn't going to post 100-yard games every week, but when the Seahawks take to the air like they did on Sunday, Baldwin will lead the way. Mike Evans should continue to get better as the season goes on and I like him more than most this week against the Vikings. The rookie has 15 targets over his last two games and hauled in a touchdown in both contests. He's a player I would be targeting in trades this week. I wish I could quit on Cordarrelle Patterson, but for some reason I have held him on my bench all season... hoping. The Buccaneers give up more fantasy points to wide receivers than any other defense. If Patterson can't make it happen against Minnesota, I may finally be able to let go. Tight Ends RkPlayerOpp 1Julius Thomas - DENvs. SD2Rob Gronkowski - NEvs. Chi3Antonio Gates - SDat Den4Greg Olsen - CARvs. Sea5Jimmy Graham - NOvs. GB6Martellus Bennett - CHIat NE7Jordan Reed - WASat Dal8Zach Ertz - PHIat Ari9Jordan Cameron - CLEvs. Oak10Owen Daniels - BALat Cin11Travis Kelce - KCvs. StL12Dwayne Allen - INDat Pit13Delanie Walker - TENvs. Hou14Charles Clay - MIAat Jac15Jared Cook - STLat KC16Jason Witten - DALvs. Was17Heath Miller - PITvs. Ind18Coby Fleener - INDat Pit19Scott Chandler - BUFat NYJ20Jace Amaro - NYJvs. Buf21Clay Harbor - JACvs. Mia22Eric Ebron - DETat Atl23Ladarius Green - SDat Den24Austin Seferian-Jenkins - TBvs. Min25Jermaine Gresham - CINvs. Bal26Tim Wright - NEvs. Chi27Andrew Quarless - GBat NO28Luke Willson - SEAat Car29Gavin Escobar - DALvs. Was30John Carlson - ARIvs. Phi Jimmy Graham owners were burned by his zero-catch game in Week 7, but that was the risk going with a player who was limited. Graham will likely see reduced snaps once again, but when he's active he has to be in your lineup. The bye week may have caused owners to drop Zach Ertz, and if they did you should have picked him up for a fantastic matchup against the Cardinals. Arizona has struggled against tight ends in recent years and Ertz is coming off a 47-yard, one-touchdown game in Week 6. Ertz's snap count is worrisome, but his targets have remained consistent (5.2 per game). Jordan Cameron had an awful game in Week 7 with one catch for five yards. Cameron did get six targets and was badly overthrown in the end zone for what would have been a short touchdown. I wouldn't be scared to roll with Cameron the rest of the way. Owen Daniels had six catches for 58 yards a touchdown in last week's win over the Falcons, but didn't practice on Wednesday with a knee injury. You'll have to monitor his status all week, but if he does play, he'll go up against a Bengals defense giving up the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Travis Kelce's usage has been disappointing, but owners need to stay the course. Kansas City needs playmakers in the passing game and Kelce has far too much talent to keep him off the field. Defense/Special Teams RkPlayerOpp 1Miami Dolphins - Miaat Jac2Buffalo Bills - Bufat NYJ3Detroit Lions - Detat Atl4Houston Texans - Houat Ten5Baltimore Ravens - Balat Cin6Kansas City Chiefs - KCvs. StL7Seattle Seahawks - Seaat Car8Dallas Cowboys - Dalvs. Was9Cleveland Browns - Clevs. Oak10Indianapolis Colts - Indat Pit11New England Patriots - NEvs. Chi12Philadelphia Eagles - Phiat Ari13Minnesota Vikings - Minat TB14Arizona Cardinals - Arivs. Phi15Cincinnati Bengals - Cinvs. Bal16New York Jets - NYJvs. Buf17Denver Broncos - Denvs. SD18Chicago Bears - Chiat NE19Tennessee Titans - Tenvs. Hou20Carolina Panthers - Carvs. Sea21Tampa Bay Buccaneers - TBvs. Min22St. Louis Rams - StLat KC23Pittsburgh Steelers - Pitvs. Ind24Green Bay Packers - GBat NO25Oakland Raiders - Oakat Cle26Atlanta Falcons - Atlvs. Det27Jacksonville Jaguars - Jacvs. Mia28San Diego Chargers - SDat Den29New Orleans Saints - NOvs. GB30Washington Redskins - Wasat Dal Kickers RkPlayerOpp 1Stephen Gostkowski - NEvs. Chi2Dan Bailey - DALvs. Was3Justin Tucker - BALat Cin4Adam Vinatieri - INDat Pit5Steven Hauschka - SEAat Car6Cody Parkey - PHIat Ari7Mason Crosby - GBat NO8Nick Novak - SDat Den9Dan Carpenter - BUFat NYJ10Chandler Catanzaro - ARIvs. Phi11Brandon McManus - DENvs. SD12Shaun Suisham - PITvs. Ind13Blair Walsh - MINat TB14Caleb Sturgis - MIAat Jac15Matt Prater - DETat Atl16Matt Bryant - ATLvs. Det17Robbie Gould - CHIat NE18Nick Folk - NYJvs. Buf19Mike Nugent - CINvs. Bal20Shayne Graham - NOvs. GB21Graham Gano - CARvs. Sea22Randy Bullock - HOUat Ten23Kai Forbath - WASat Dal24Cairo Santos - KCvs. StL25Greg Zuerlein - STLat KC26Billy Cundiff - CLEvs. Oak27Ryan Succop - TENvs. Hou28Patrick Murray - TBvs. Min29Sebastian Janikowski - OAKat Cle30Josh Scobee - JACvs. Mia Copyright © 2014 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license. theScore NFL
    2014-10-23 Andre Johnson rides to Ryan Fitzpatrick's defense http://t.co/9IFC7WC7Ha - None twitter
    2014-10-23 Andre Johnson rides to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s defense - When Texans receiver Andre Johnson was staying away this offseason, amid reports he was disturbed about the team’s rebuilding phase, it was natural to assume he wasn’t happy with the quarterback, or lack thereof. But even as coach Bill O’Brien said Ryan Fitzpatrick made some bad reads and missed Johnson for some big gains recently,… Pro Football Talk
    2014-10-23 How Pittsburgh Steelers Manufactured Pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick - One of the high points of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 30-23 win over the Houston Texans was the inspired play of the Steelers defense. After bending in a big way in the first quarter, the defense stiffened and held off a late rally for the win. The Pittsburgh defense impressed in several areas. The group forced three turnovers in the game. This is a major step in the right direction. And after giving up 73 yards rushing to Texans running back Arian Foster in the first quarter, it only surrendered 29 to him in the final three quarters. However, one area that has been a bone of contention is the cause for the lack of pass rush. Much like Pittsburgh’s red-zone offense, the pass-rushing woes are generally attributed to either a lack of talent or poor scheme. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you are looking for a game to mimic in terms of rushing the passer, this one might not be textbook. This team still must address outside linebacker in the next offseason. That’s why right now, Pittsburgh must manufacture a pass rush. ESPN’s Mark Schlereth had this to say about it. I can't remember a time when the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't have an outside linebacker that was a viable pass rush threat! — mark schlereth (@markschlereth) October 21, 2014 Nevertheless, Pittsburgh did take advantage of some opportunities and use some creative play design, along with showing outstanding individual effort to bring heat when it was needed against Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of plays that show excellent individual effort as well as some creative scheming. On this first play, the Steelers come up to crowd the line of scrimmage on first down. The Steelers had been getting carved up on the ground, so they have nine guys up around the line, as Foster is a full seven yards deep. The first key to how this play works is the position of safety Troy Polamalu. By setting up on the inside shoulder of Texans right tackle Derek Newton, he must account for him as a potential blitzer. This gives outside linebacker Jason Worilds the matchup he wants with tight end Garrett Graham. Worilds goes wide at the snap and beats Graham around the corner, forcing Fitzpatrick up into the pocket. Not a sack, but pressure, and a play the defense can point to and use later on in the season. On this next play, we see the Steelers once again crowding the line. On the first example, the Texans had the option to check to a run. In this case, there’s no doubt with five wide receivers and Fitzpatrick in the shotgun, this is pass all the way. The Steelers can attack. The Steelers counter this with four guys up on the line of scrimmage, none of whom have their hand on the ground. Then, just before the snap, you see linebacker Lawrence Timmons creep up to the line as an additional rusher. Once again it is Newton they target, and again he comes up short. Timmons whips him off the ball and chases down Fitzpatrick. These are just two plays that showed how the Steelers were able to create confusion along the Texans’ line, and then the Steelers player whom the scheme put in a position to win did just that. Overall, Worilds had a strong game coming off the edge. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave Worilds a 7.7 grade. It might not have shown itself statistically, but you can see flashes of the player everyone expected to see all season long. It might take some creativity, and Pittsburgh is going to have to pick its shots. However, all things considered, this team has a shot to keep putting heat on opposing quarterbacks.Read more NFL news on BleacherReport.com B/R NFL
    2014-10-23 .@sportywineguy Ryan Fitzpatrick changes sides for this #Texans-#Titans meeting http://t.co/D159goDA2J - None twitter
    2014-10-23 Quotes from the #Texans: Bill O'Brien http://t.co/c6OJvI3b8i | Ryan Fitzpatrick http://t.co/p8jtjoSKDT #Titans #HOUvsTEN - None twitter
    2014-10-23 RT @Mbw987: @battleredblog @SpaceCityFan Ryan Fitzpatrick. - None twitter
    2014-10-23 RT @sandy_therrien: @battleredblog @SpaceCityFan Ryan Fitzpatrick... Can we make it happen? - None twitter
    2014-10-23 Fitzpatrick, O’Brien not worried about familiarity with Titans - Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t worried about the Titans’ defense knowing his tendencies. (AP Photo/Wade Payne) Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is a well-traveled 10-year veteran, so it’s no surprise when he plays against one of his former teams. He helped the Texans beat Buffalo. Now he’s playing at Tennessee, where he helped the Titans defeat the Texans 16-10 in the last game of 2013. “I’m familiar with them, and they’re familiar with me,” he said. “I know (cornerback Jason) McCourty knows some of my tricks. And a guy like (safety) George Wilson – we played together for five years. They’ll know me and my tendencies, so it’ll be interesting to watch. But I [...] Houston Chronicle
    2014-10-22 Texans sticking with Ryan Fitzpatrick fow now, but Ryan Mallett getting reps in practice: http://t.co/dwrF3ajctt - None twitter
    2014-10-22 Fitzpatrick, On Calls For QB Change: “It Doesn’t Really Affect Me To Be Honest” - Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t hear the critics, or the calls for the Houston Texans to swap him out for Ryan Mallet. Even if he did, the current Texans starter and 10-year NFL veteran said Wednesday that […] CBS Local
    2014-10-22 Texans Transcripts: Wednesday press conferences - Quotes from players and coaches as they spoke with the media on Wednesday. Houston Texans
    2014-10-22 No, Fitzpatrick’s Familiarity With Titans Doesn’t Give Texans An Edge - Yeah, it’s kind of not a big deal. Though Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played for the Tennessee Titans last season, and so practiced against many current members of their defense, Fitzpatrick and head coach […] CBS Local
    2014-10-22 Ryan Fitzpatrick: "The Titans know all my tricks" - Missed Ryan Fitzpatrick's weekly Wednesday press conference? Don't worry, we've got you covered. Ryan Fitzpatrick took to the podium today to talk about the Texans’ recent three game skid and their upcoming divisional showdown with the Titans this weekend. You can watch the full presser on the Mothership by clicking here. On handling criticism from media and fans… "I think as a quarterback, and especially as a guy that really started at the bottom and has kind of worked my way in in every situation I’ve been in I’ve seen and heard a lot of that. It’s just always important, the message that  I send to other guys, guys that I’ve played with or guys that I’ve talked to, it’s the confidence that you have in yourself. You’ve got to have confidence, you’ve got to believe, and you’ve got to go out there and play. Ignore the noise, ignore everything that goes on outside, and have confidence in who you are and why you are in the situation you’re in, and just continue to go out there and work hard and make plays." "At this point in my career it really doesn’t affect me. I have at this point done a lot of different things, but I take a lot of pride and criticize myself harder than anybody else does, so I think that in itself is what helps me through it too…is being your harshest critic. Knowing that there’s things that I need to continue to work on, and there have been some things that we’ve done that have been pretty good. It’s eliminating the bad plays and having more of the good plays." On the Titans defense being familiar with his tendencies… "It’s almost the same thing I guess. As I said with Buffalo, sitting there watching the tape I’m very familiar with most of their players on defense. There’s a lot of the same faces from last year, and they are very familiar with me so I don’t know if there is an edge one way or the other just because I’ve got a good feel for a lot of those guys and I’m sure they have a good feel for me. I know McCourty knows some of my tricks and Griff and a guy like George Wilson…we played together for five years so they’ll certainly know me and my tendencies and things so it’ll be an interesting thing to watch." On having a handful of bad plays cause losses… "We’ve got to get back on track here in terms of winning some games. You look at every game and all the sudden it comes down to three or four plays, mistakes by us, great plays by the other team, whatever it is. That’s the NFL for you, and we’ve been on the bad end of it for the last few weeks here and we’ve got to turn that around." Battle Red Blog
    2014-10-22 Ryan Fitzpatrick: "The Titans Know All My Tricks" - Ryan Fitzpatrick: "The Titans Know All My Tricks" The Palm Beach Post
    2014-10-22 Texans-Titans Preview - From what first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt has observed, people surrounding the Tennessee Titans organization expected failure even before the season began. CSN Houston
    2014-10-22 NFL Week 8 Game Capsule: Texans v. Titans - Fresh off their third loss in a row, the Houston Texans prepare to travel to Nashville for a divisional matchup against the Titans. Take a look inside the numbers. Courtesy of NFL Communications, I give you these numbers, notes, and food for thought as your Houston Texans look to end their three-game losing streak in Tennessee on Sunday against the Titans: TEXANS TITANS SERIES LEADER 15-9 STREAKS 3 of past 4 COACHES VS. OPP. O’Brien: 0-0 Whisenhunt: 1-0 LAST WEEK L 30-23 at Steelers L 19-17 at Redskins LAST GAME 12/29/13: Texans 10 at Titans 16. Tennessee RB Chris Johnson rushes for 127 yards & TD. Titans K Rob Bironas converts all 3 FG attempts (42, 55, 37). LAST GAME AT SITE 12/29/13 BROADCAST FOX (12:00 PM CT): Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa (Field reporter). Westwood One: Kevin Lee, Ross Tucker. SIRIUS: 137 (Hou.), 125 (Ten.). XM: 229 (Ten.).  PASSING Fitzpatrick: 125-192-1530-8-7-88.2 Locker: 65-112-764-4-4-75.9 RUSHING Foster: 126-615 (1C)-4.9-5 (1C) Sankey: 66-267-4.0-1 RECEIVING A. Johnson: 39-496-12.7-1 Wright: 32-297-9.3-4 OFFENSE 345.0 320.3 TAKE/GIVE +2 +2 DEFENSE 387.3 371.6 SACKS Watt: 5 Casey: 4 INTs 6 tied: 1 3 tied: 2 (T3C) PUNTING Lechler: 48.1 (1C) Kern: 44.8 KICKING Bullock: 53 (17/17 PAT; 12/14 FG) Succop: 43 (13/13 PAT; 10/12 FG) TEXANS: QB RYAN FITZPATRICK played 11 games with 9 starts for Titans in 2013, passing for 2,454 yards & 14 TDs. In last meeting versus the Titans (10/21/11 with Buf.), he completed 27 of 35 passes (77.1 pct.) for 225 yards with 3 TDs vs. 1 INT for 109.8 rating. In 5 career starts vs. Ten., RB ARIAN FOSTER averages 136.8 scrimmage yards per game (684 total; 461 rush, 223 rec.) with 6 total TDs (5 rush, 1 rec.). He has rushed for 100+ in 5 of 6 games in 2014. Since 2010, Foster leads NFL with 47 rush TDs & has 5,421 rush yards, the most in AFC. In past 10 vs. Tennessee, WR ANDRE JOHNSON has 64 catches for 806 yards & 6 TDs. For his career, he averages 6 catches/game, the best in NFL history (min. 100 games). 'Dre had 77 receiving yards last week & now has 13,157 career, surpassing HOFer STEVE LARGENT (13,089) for No. 14 all-time. WR DE ANDRE HOPKINS has 18 receptions for 287 yards in past 3 on road. In 19 career games vs. AFC South, DE J.J. WATT has 20.5 sacks, 3 FF & 4 FR. Since 2012, Watt leads NFL with 36 sacks. LB BRIAN CUSHING leads the team with 50 tackles. LB WHITNEY MERCILUS had 2 sacks last week. TITANS: In his last meeting against the Texans (9/15/13), QB JAKE LOCKER had 2 TD passes & 92.1 rating. QB CHARLIE WHITEHURST had 2 TD passes for a 91.8 rating last week. He aims for his 4th game in row with 87+ rating. RB SHONN GREENE has 3,908 career rush yards & needs 92 to reach 4,000 for his career. Rookie RB BISHOP SANKEY (Rd. 2, No. 54 overall) rushed for a team-high 56 yards vs. Washington. WR KENDALL WRIGHT led the team with 6 receptions for 68 yards & TD last week. He has 5+ catches in 4 of past 5 games. Since joining Titans in 2009, WR NATE WASHINGTON leads the team in catches (280), receiving yards (4,113) & TD catches (26). Last week, WR DEREK HAGAN had 45 receiving yards & scored his 1st TD since joining Titans. TE DELANIE WALKER leads AFC TEs in receiving yards (438) & has 31 catches. S MICHAEL GRIFFIN leads the team with 48 tackles, including 6 tackles & a sack last week. DT SAMIE HILL had a sack last week. LB DERRICK MORGAN aims for 3rd in row with sack vs. Houston. LB WESLEY WOODYARD had an INT last week. Texans vs Titans coverage Battle Red Blog
    2014-10-22 Texans-Titans Preview - From what first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt has observed, people surrounding the Tennessee Titans organization expected failure even before the... SI.com Top Stories
    2014-10-22 Johnson defends Fitzpatrick, says everyone needs to play better - Bill O’Brien has implied that Ryan Fitzpatrick made wrong reads on plays where Andre Johnson was open for what could have been significant gains and Fitzpatrick also admitted he needed to do a better job of finding Johnson. But Johnson himself declined to complain. If anything, he came to Fitzpatrick’s defense. “When you don’t win, everybody needs to look at themselves and see what they can do better,” he said. “We all need to pick our play up, fix the mistakes we’re making and do what we need to do to win. You can’t dwell on one person or one guy. Head coaches and quarterbacks are going to get the [...] Houston Chronicle
    2014-10-22 Ryan Fitzpatrick lauds Titans QB Jake Locker for his toughness - Ryan Fitzpatrick’s tour of his former teams continues Sunday when the Texans play at Tennessee. But Fitzpatrick admits his emotions won’t run as high as they did for Buffalo a month ago, when he was captured on camera making a wildly impassioned pregame speech. “There’s certainly not as many stirrings of emotions going on, for a variety of reasons,” he said, adding that if he does address the Texans again, “It will probably be behind closed doors.” Fitzpatrick signed with the Titans last year as Jake Locker’s backup after spending four seasons as the Bills’ starter. But he wound up starting nine games for Tennessee when Locker first suffered a [...] Houston Chronicle
    2014-10-22 Houston Texans Snap Count Report, Week 7: Cushing Come Back! - The Houston Texans played the last prime time game of the season last Monday; here's how Bill O'Brien and Romeo Crennel deployed their roster. Offense Name POS Snaps PCT% Season Snaps Season % Snaps PCT% Duane Brown T 63 100 439 99 5 16 Derek Newton T 63 100 441 100 5 16 Tyson Clabo T 5 1 5 16 Brandon Brooks G 63 100 387 87 Ben Jones G 63 100 427 96 Xavier Su'a-Filo G 73 16 5 16 Chris Myers C 63 100 441 100 Ryan Fitzpatrick QB 63 100 438 99 Ryan Mallett QB 4 0 Andre Johnson WR 62 98 403 91 DeAndre Hopkins WR 58 92 421 95 Damaris Johnson WR 34 54 173 39 Keshawn Martin WR 8 13 109 24 4 12 Arian Foster RB 56 89 296 67 Jonathan Grimes RB 40 9 15 47 Alfred Blue RB 7 11 105 23 19 59 Garrett Graham TE 59 94 290 65 7 22 C.J. Fiedorowicz TE 24 38 230 52 5 16 Ryan Griffin TE 2 3 60 13 5 16 J.J. Watt TE 1 2 4 0 8 25 Jay Prosch FB 4 6 71 16 It's been a very short seven weeks of the season, and the offense has been relatively healthy throughout. With this in mind, we can look at their stats with plenty of confidence that they're representative of their talent level. So let's take a look. Offensive YPG: 345, 19th in the league Passing YPG: 216, 25th Rushing YPG: 129, 8th Points Per Game: 20thThird Down Pct: 36.4%, 26th Arian Foster shimmying and slicing through defenses serves as the only saving grace of an otherwise well-below average offense. The issues at quarterback are well-documented and not worth going into now.  Mostly because there's plenty of blame to go around. Garrett Graham has been completely ineffectual. Chris Myers is getting pushed around quite a bit. Andre Johnson, bless him, isn't the game-changer he once was. DeAndre Hopkins has been as advertised, but has been hampered by a weak passing game. Unfortunately, he's the only infusion of young talent on the roster. Xavier Su'a-Filo, C.J. Fiedorowicz and Jay Prosch simply aren't ready (or all that important in the case of Prosch) to contribute to a highly-efficient offense. Defense Name POS Snaps PCT% Season Snaps Season % Snaps PCT% D.J. Swearinger FS 63 97 465 94 7 22 Kendrick Lewis FS 65 100 477 97 9 28 Danieal Manning S 18 28 217 44 15 47 Kareem Jackson CB 64 98 459 93 5 16 Johnathan Joseph CB 52 80 397 80 J.J. Watt DE 64 98 384 78 8 25 Tim Jamison DE 19 29 233 47 5 16 Jared Crick DE 44 68 303 61 8 25 Brooks Reed LB 35 54 370 75 7 22 Brian Cushing LB 51 78 366 74 5 16 A.J. Bouye CB 18 28 182 37 8 25 Whitney Mercilus LB 65 100 405 82 14 44 Mike Mohamed LB 36 55 210 42 17 53 Jadeveon Clowney LB 23 4 Jerrell Powe NT 17 26 163 33 6 19 Ryan Pickett DT 29 45 121 24 8 25 Justin Tuggle LB 26 40 192 39 14 44 John Simon LB 8 12 34 6 15 47 Andre Hal DB 30 46 127 25 14 44 Darryl Morris CB 100 20 Jeoffery Pagan DE 7 11 49 9 Jeff Tarpinian LB 36 7 19 59 Eddie Pleasant SS 13 2 20 62 Elbert Mack CB 3 5 9 1 19 59 Jumal Rolle CB Josh Aubrey SS Akeem Dent LB 1 2 1 1 19 59 Watching Brian Cushing whiff and chase after LeVeon Bell multiple times was pretty sad. His knee injuries have seemingly robbed him of all his speed. Bill O'Brien remains hopeful though: I think in dealing with a lot of these guys over the years that are coming off of knee injuries, that first year back, it always takes them awhile to get back into the swing of things. I think if you look back at some of the guys I’ve dealt with that have come off of knee injuries, maybe it is eight, nine games into it where they’re truly trusting their knee and they’re full-speed. For now though, it's been Mike Mohamed and Justin Tuggle as the all-important linebacker in dime coverage. This is absolutely less than ideal.  Get well soon, Cushing. Battle Red Blog
    2014-10-22 #Texans' Ryan Fitzpatrick lauds #Titans QB Jake Locker for his toughness http://t.co/fRx3S4L5JC #NFL - None twitter
    2014-10-22 Fitzpatrick on facing former team, more - QB Ryan Fitzpatrick met with the media Wednesday at NRG Stadium. Houston Texans
    2014-10-22 Fitzpatrick on facing former team, more - QB Ryan Fitzpatrick met with the media Wednesday at NRG Stadium. Houston Texans
    2014-10-22 Houston Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s latest (and telling) 1-32 quarterback ranking - Every week, from now through the Wednesday before the Super Bowl, the editors at cover32 will gather to rank the NFL’s 32 starting quarterbacks. Depending on what’s happened the previous week, some will rise and some will fall, and even some of the names on the list will change. It’s a never-ending evolution, as the status of the league’s top signal callers is always in flux. Seven weeks into the 2014 season, here’s how the starting quarterbacks in the NFL shake out: 1. Peyton Manning – Manning’s record-setting night against the 49ers was a quarterback clinic, showing he’s still the best in the business. (LW: 1) 2. Aaron Rodgers - Right now, the Packers are absolutely cruising to wins, led by their cool-customer QB, who is playing better than ever. (LW: 2) 3. Andrew Luck – Nobody is putting up better numbers than Luck who has the Colts rolling after five straight wins. (LW: 3) 4. Tony Romo – When a guy has led his team to the best record in the league, it’s worthy of praise. No matte YardBarker
    2014-10-22 Ryan Fitzpatrick calls Jake Locker very instinctive, one of the toughest guys he's been around, despite the injuries. #Texans #Titans - None twitter
    2014-10-22 Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is Not Who We Thought He Was Going to Be - When the Houston Texans signed journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick fans of the team everywhere let out a collective groan. With the exception of one really good season in Buffalo he--well, he wasn't that good. He was good enough to be a back-up maybe, but if he was your starting quarterback you better have a solid defense and a good running game.Opinions were pretty low of the bearded Ivy League graduate, and while he has not done a lot to make them better he really hasn't been that bad.@SBNationGIF/TwitterRead more » YardBarker
    2014-10-22 Fantasy football rankings, Week 8: Quarterbacks - The SB Nation Fantasy staff stacks up the quarterbacks for Week 8. Though fantasy football leagues were turned upside-down with Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning and Ryan Fitzpatrick cracking the top 10 in points among quarterbacks for Week 7, no one could touch Seattle's Russell Wilson, who continues his tremendous season by racking up points on the ground as well as through the air. Wilson dominated the St. Louis Rams in a losing effort, racking up 313 passing yards, 106 rushing yards and three total touchdowns. Wilson's on pace to rush for a whopping 872 yards and is now above Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers in fantasy points per game. His recent success is reflected in our staff's QB rankings for Week 8 in a juicy matchup versus the Carolina Panthers. Elsewhere, Joe Flacco, who has recently flashed the form of his dominant 2012 postseason run, is expected to turn back into a pumpkin once the Baltimore Ravens hit the road versus a struggling Cincinnati Bengals defense. Flacco's Week 7 opponent, Matt Ryan, also took a plunge down the rankings after going his third straight week of scoring just one touchdown. How do the rest stack up? Have a look below: Quarterback rankings, Week 8 (DK: Daniel Kelley; DC: Dan Ciarrocchi; SK: Scott Kaliska; John Daigle has the week off) Rank Consensus Team Opponent DK DC SK 1 Peyton Manning DEN SD 1 1 1 2 Aaron Rodgers GB @NO 3 2 2 3 Andrew Luck IND @PIT 2 3 3 4 Drew Brees NO GB 6 4 4 5 Tony Romo DAL WAS 4 6 8 6 Russell Wilson SEA @CAR 8 5 5 7 Philip Rivers SD @DEN 5 8 6 8 Tom Brady NE CHI 7 7 7 9 Nick Foles PHI @ARI 12 9 9 10 Jay Cutler CHI @NE 11 10 10 11 Matthew Stafford DET ATL (London) 10 11 11 12 Cam Newton CAR SEA 9 13 13 13 Carson Palmer ARI PHI 14 12 12 14 Ryan Tannehill MIA @JAC 13 15 14 15 Joe Flacco BAL @CIN 15 14 15 16 Matt Ryan ATL DET (London) 18 16 17 17 Alex Smith KAN STL 19 17 18 18 Ben Roethlisberger PIT IND 21 18 16 19 Kyle Orton BUF @NYJ 16 20 19 20 Mike Glennon TAM MIN 17 21 22 21 Andy Dalton CIN BAL 22 19 20 22 Teddy Bridgewater MIN @TAM 23 24 21 23 Brian Hoyer CLE OAK 20 25 25 24 Austin Davis STL @KAN -- 22 23 25 Derek Carr OAK @CLE -- 23 -- -- Jake Locker TEN HOU 25 -- 24 -- Blake Bortles JAC MIA 24 -- -- SB Nation
    2014-10-22 Texans sticking with Fitzpatrick, but Mallett getting reps - The Houston Texans sound like they're committed to Ryan Fitzpatrick with Ryan Mallett waiting in the wings. Despite their recent struggles, the Houston Texans are sticking with starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for the time being. After winning just two games a year ago, everything was looking good for the Texans after their 3-1 start to this season. Behind a dominant defense and a run-heavy offense led by a game-managing Fitzpatrick, Houston made quick work of three mediocre teams in Washington, the Raiders and the Bills. However, once the schedule got tougher, the losses started coming, and the Texans have now dropped three straight to the likes of the Colts, Steelers and Cowboys. Still, head coach Bill O'Brien isn't ready to give up on Fitzpatrick in favor of backup Ryan Mallett just yet, via the official team website: "Fitzy is our quarterback and when you look at our tape, again, you cannot just point to one position and say that’s the position that is at fault. There are a lot of positions that need to play better; we need to coach better, all those different things. It all goes into why sometimes we stall offensively. It’s not one guy." Anytime a team endures a losing streak, there are usually questions surrounding the starting quarterback, especially when it's clear Fitzpatrick isn't a franchise quarterback. O'Brien did admit that Mallett is continuing to improve and practice while getting more acclimated to the offense, and he'll keep giving Mallet reps in practice, saying: "So we’re going to continue to work with both of these guys in practice and we’ll see how it improves and hopefully it will get better and better and that will help our offense get better." Mallett was acquired prior to the start of the season for the Patriots, where O'Brien was the offensive coordinator when New England drafted Mallett in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He has yet to start a game in his NFL career. SB Nation
    2014-10-22 Mailbag: Are the Texans finished, team issues? - Alex, at 3-4 and losing three straight games (all to good teams,) should we consider the Houston Texans finished in terms of making the playoffs? Joe, Seattle Hi Joe, Obviously it’s far too early to write them off, but my early indication is they won’t make it. Not only is Ryan Fitzpatrick terrible, and the defense can’t stop anything unless J.J. Watt is involved, but the AFC is a tough conference. Indianapolis, San Diego, Baltimore, Denver and New England all have five wins. Pittsburgh is 4-3. Cincinnati is 3-2-1. Kansas City is 3-3. Buffalo is 4-3. All of those teams are better than Houston, who still has to play Philadelphia, Baltimore and Indianapolis as quality teams down the stretch. I don’t see how in the world they’ll overcome those other teams and make it. Alex, what is the Texans main issue that’s causing a self-destruction? Fred, Houston Hi Fred, I think the biggest problem is the defense. We can blame Ryan Fitzpatrick all we want, but it’s the defense that couldn’t stop the Giants, YardBarker
    2014-10-22 Mailbag: Are the Texans finished, team issues? - Alex, at 3-4 and losing three straight games (all to good teams,) should we consider the Houston Texans finished in terms of making the playoffs? Joe, Seattle Hi Joe, Obviously it’s far too early to write them off, but my early indication is they won’t make it. Not only is Ryan Fitzpatrick terrible, and the defense can’t stop anything unless J.J. Watt is involved, but the AFC is a tough conference. Indianapolis, San Diego, Baltimore, Denver and New England all have five wins. Pittsburgh is 4-3. Cincinnati is 3-2-1. Kansas City is 3-3. Buffalo is 4-3. All of those teams are better than Houston, who still has to play Philadelphia, Baltimore and Indianapolis as quality teams down the stretch. I don’t see how in the world they’ll overcome those other teams and make it. Alex, what is the Texans main issue that’s causing a self-destruction? Fred, Houston Hi Fred, I think the biggest problem is the defense. We can blame Ryan Fitzpatrick all we want, but it’s the defense that couldn’t stop the Giants, YardBarker
    2014-10-22 Mailbag: Are the Texans finished, team issues? - Alex, at 3-4 and losing three straight games (all to good teams,) should we consider the Houston Texans finished in terms of making the playoffs? Joe, Seattle Hi Joe, Obviously it’s far too early to write them off, but my early indication is they won’t make it. Not only is Ryan Fitzpatrick terrible, and the defense can’t stop anything unless J.J. Watt is involved, but the AFC is a tough conference. Indianapolis, San Diego, Baltimore, Denver and New England all have five wins. Pittsburgh is 4-3. Cincinnati is 3-2-1. Kansas City is 3-3. Buffalo is 4-3. All of those teams are better than Houston, who still has to play Philadelphia, Baltimore and Indianapolis as quality teams down the stretch. I don’t see how in the world they’ll overcome those other teams and make it. Alex, what is the Texans main issue that’s causing a self-destruction? Fred, Houston Hi Fred, I think the biggest problem is the defense. We can blame Ryan Fitzpatrick all we want, but it’s the defense that couldn’t stop the Giants, YardBarker
    2014-10-22 2015 NFL Mock Draft: Latest Predictions Before Week 8 - Another week's action has made the needs of every NFL team even more glaring than the week before, and the latest 2015 NFL mock draft reflects the way each team should address the holes on their rosters. Of course, things can change over the next few months. The 2015 NFL draft doesn't start until April 30. There's plenty of time for teams to fix their issues and scout the next crop of league talent. While the end of April may seem far down the road, that doesn't mean it's too early to get a good look at how the first round of the draft could look. *Note: Draft order is based on current NFL Super Bowl odds, courtesy of OddsShark.com.   1. Oakland Raiders: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M Texas A&M has been a breeding ground for quality NFL linemen in recent years, and Cedric Ogbuehi figures to make a difference at the next level as well. He's been the consensus No. 1 pick for quite some time, but his flaws are beginning to show. Bleacher Report's Scott Carasik is beginning to question if he'll even go in the first round: He stays No. 1 overall for now because of his past success and his potential, but look for him to begin a long slide down draft boards if this keeps up. The Raiders need big men to protect Derek Carr in the pocket, so they could look his way at No. 1.   2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon Mike Glennon and Josh McCown can throw the football, but it will be difficult for the Buccaneers to pass on a talent like Marcus Mariota. The Oregon quarterback is mobile and can chuck the ball accurately down the field, making him a perfect fit in an offense with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans catching passes. The Heisman candidate has yet to throw an interception this season. He has 19 touchdowns and 1,957 passing yards. He also has five rushing touchdowns. Tampa Bay didn't invest much in the current signal-callers on the roster, so don't be surprised if they select Mariota to compete with Glennon and McCown.   3. New York Jets: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama Geno Smith still needs more weapons. Eric Decker has been a decent addition. Percy Harvin might help as well. But the fact remains that Smith needs guys who can go up and get the football. It may seem like a stretch to take Amari Cooper at No. 3, but the other players projected in this range don't fit what the Jets need. That is, of course, unless John Idzik and head coach Rex Ryan decide that Smith isn't the guy the franchise can trust moving forward. But that seems unlikely.   4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Williams, DE, USC Leonard Williams is an absolute animal. He's a versatile lineman who can excel in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. He can create havoc off the edge given his speed and power. He can also burst through the middle and disrupt the quarterback. There isn't much he can't do. As a result, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has him ranked highly: The Jaguars could use some ferocity on defense, and Williams will provide them with just that.   5. Tennessee Titans: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State Jameis Winston will likely declare for the draft, making him a candidate to go within the top five picks. A handful of teams should be in the market for quarterbacks in that range, and the Tennessee Titans are certainly one of them. Jake Locker can't be relied upon anymore. The experiment was given plenty of time to yield the preferred results, but nothing positive materialized. It's time to move on.   6. Minnesota Vikings: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia Unquestionably one of the best runners to come out of college in years, Todd Gurley would provide a huge boost to the Vikings rushing attack. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata currently do the bulk of the work for Minnesota, and it's undeniable that Gurley would help take the pressure off Teddy Bridgewater.   7. Washington Redskins: Landon Collins, S, Alabama Landon Collins is a safety who can make plays and attack the ball, and his ferocity would be a welcome addition to a Washington defense that doesn't boast strong play in the secondary. Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather have underperformed, meaning that the team could replace Clark with Collins in the draft.   8. St. Louis Rams: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State Nobody could have predicted how well Austin Davis would play behind Sam Bradford and Shaun Hill this season, but the Rams cannot rely on him moving forward. In fact, they shouldn't rely on any of the aforementioned quarterbacks. St. Louis will look for a quarterback early in Round 1. They have to if they want to get back to relevance. Connor Cook or Brett Hundley will likely be the available names, at which point it will be a matter of preference. Cook can throw the ball downfield and command attention in the huddle, something this young offense desperately needs.   9. Houston Texans: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA Ryan Fitzpatrick is not capable of leading an NFL offense. Head coach Bill O'Brien needs a quarterback who can get the ball to Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins with regularity. Brett Hundley can do that. The junior has completed 72.5 percent of his passes for the 5-2 UCLA Bruins, tossing 13 touchdowns and racking up 1,856 yards. Maybe not a Week 1 starter, Hundley should develop quickly and take over the Texans offense next season.   10. Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson Outside linebacker is an obvious area of need for the Falcons, as Prince Shembo and Jonathan Massaquoi haven't played well enough to make a difference. Clemson's Vic Beasley is an immediate upgrade over both Shembo and Massaquoi. He can use his speed to effectively get off the edge and create pressure in the backfield, but he can also play well enough in coverage against tight ends and as a spy against running backs. This is a no-brainer if Beasley is still available.   11. Cleveland Browns: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia With Beasley off the board just one pick earlier, the Browns will go to the next-best outside linebacker available. Leonard Floyd is quick with decent power, but his small frame has raised some questions about his ability to translate into the NFL. CBS Sports' Dane Brugler is one of the questioners: It's a risk the Browns can take, however, as the likes of Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger will help to hide his weaknesses.   12. New York Giants: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska The best Giants teams of the past decade possessed suffocating pass rushes that made life for opposing quarterbacks miserable. They don't have that this season. Randy Gregory is a hybrid defensive end who can also line up at linebacker. Bleacher Report's Dan Hope says that all has to do with his athleticism: Gregory can be a spark plug on this defense next season if taken at No. 12.   13. Miami Dolphins: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa The play of the Dolphins offensive line has been a problem for a few years now, and they're only a few pieces away from having a respectable unit. Many consider Brandon Scherff one of the safest picks in the entire draft, as CBS Sports' Rob Rang pointed out: Scherff's balance in the running and passing games will help Lamar Miller and Ryan Tannehill flourish.   14. Chicago Bears: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington Kyle Fuller has been strong as a rookie in the secondary, and his success could lead the Bears to go with a cornerback with the first pick yet again. Marcus Peters likely won't make an impact right away, but he'll blossom into a serviceable corner.   15. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo Bills): Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan The Bills and Browns made a trade last draft that netted Buffalo Sammy Watkins. This pick was sent Cleveland's way as part of the compensation for Watkins, and the Browns will now use it to take a wideout of their own. Devin Funchess can make plays, because he catches nearly everything he can get his hands on. Brian Hoyer (or Johnny Manziel) will need playmakers in 2015 to maintain the fluidity of the offense. Funchess will help.   16. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon The Steelers need a big boost in the secondary. They need guys who can outplay the likes of Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay and Brice McCain. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu can do that right out of the gate. The Oregon product would have gone in Round 1 last year had he declared, but another season with the Ducks will only help his game. He has the speed and coverage ability to get a fast start to his NFL career.   17. Carolina Panthers: Nelson Agholor, WR, USC Kelvin Benjamin has been everything Cam Newton could have asked for in a wide receiver, but it's clear the passing game in Carolina is still lacking. Pairing Benjamin with another young wideout like Nelson Agholor would help to make the air attack more complete.   18. Kansas City Chiefs: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri The Chiefs could stand to improve at defensive end, and they'll have a choice at No. 18. Shane Ray and Shilique Calhoun should both be available, but it will ultimately be the acceleration of Ray that catches K.C.'s eye. Ray gets a strong first push against offensive tackles because of how quickly his motor gets going, making him a force in the backfield. The Chiefs' dominant defense was a huge reason why they were so good in 2013, and getting back to that wouldn't be a bad strategy.   19. New Orleans Saints: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State Calhoun is a beast at defensive end. He's ferocious off the edge, as he doesn't just tackle the quarterback or ball-carrier—he levels them. The Saints haven't had as good a defense this season as they thought they would, so improvements are on the horizon. Calhoun will play from Day 1, and he will play well.   20. Cincinnati Bengals: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State Leon Hall and Terence Newman have 20 years of experience between them in the secondary. That's useful for young corners, but it also creates the need for younger ones. The Bengals have Darqueze Dennard waiting for a larger role, but the team would benefit from adding another young corner. Florida State's P.J. Williams plays very good coverage and is serviceable against the run.   21. Detroit Lions: Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State Williams' teammate with the Seminoles, Ronald Darby would fill an immediate need for the Lions. Detroit's secondary has suffered from running Darius Slay and Cassius Vaughn out there opposite Rashean Mathis, who is in his 12th year. Getting younger (and better) in the secondary is imperative this offseason for Detroit. Darby will come in and start from Day 1.   22. Arizona Cardinals: Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida Not many players earn the type of public respect that Dante Fowler did from Alabama head coach Nick Saban. GatorZone.com's Scott Carter provided his Twitter followers with the quote from the coach: Defensive linemen who can get after the football are what Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians loves, and Fowler will just add to an already strong unit that features Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker and Dan Williams.   23. Baltimore Ravens: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin By no means has Justin Forsett been bad, but the Ravens simply need a more reliable back to shoulder the load. Forsett is a nice depth back, but Melvin Gordon is a three-down guy who can pick up big yardage anytime he touches the ball. Gordon runs a whole lot like Jamaal Charles. That's a bold comparison, but one the Ravens shouldn't mind watching pan out.   24. Philadelphia Eagles: Lorenzo Mauldin, DE/OLB, Louisville The Eagles have done a good job of getting after the quarterback in 2014, ranking eighth in the NFL with 19 sacks. Adding more pressure off the edge would put the pass rush over the top. Lorenzo Mauldin already has six sacks for Louisville this season. He is persistent in his attempts to get to the quarterback, something that the Eagles will certainly appreciate.   25. San Francisco 49ers: Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford It seems like the 49ers are in the market for a wideout every offseason. Anquan Boldin continues to age, though, so San Francisco would be smart to prepare for his future decline. Ty Montgomery has a nice combination of size (6'2", 215 pounds) and speed. As a junior in 2013, Montgomery hauled in 10 touchdowns and racked up 958 yards on 61 catches. He's also a skilled kick returner.   26. San Diego Chargers: Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State Michael Bennett is a safe pick at the end of Round 1 given his ability to play tough in the trenches. His power is good, as is his persistence at getting to the man with the ball. The Chargers already have an above-average defense, but there's nothing wrong with adding a little more beef in the middle.   27. New England Patriots: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford Tom Brady has turned it on in recent weeks, but the struggles of his offensive line are still apparent. Andrus Peat would be a top-15 pick if he were more consistent, but the Patriots shouldn't have a problem with his fall to No. 27. Peat is a natural tackle given his size and athleticism. He'll help protect Brady as he continues to show the NFL that age is but a number.   28. Indianapolis Colts: Carl Davis, DT, Iowa The Colts have struggled getting to the quarterback in 2014 because of the injury to Robert Mathis. That'll fix itself in 2015 when he returns, but adding depth to the defensive line would make Mathis even better. Carl Davis is a good option for Indy because he'll command attention from the center and a guard, therefore making Mathis' job easier on the edge.   29. Seattle Seahawks: Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn Russell Wilson's receiving options are dwindling. Percy Harvin is gone. Golden Tate left last offseason. It's now up to Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Ricardo Lockette and Paul Richardson to make all the plays. The defending champions have struggled this season on both offense and defense. Adding a deep weapon like Sammie Coates would help make the offense more versatile, as pounding the ball with Marshawn Lynch would open up the play-action pass for Coates.   30. Dallas Cowboys: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington Shaq Thompson is a candidate to climb up draft boards if he continues his strong play at Washington, but he's a good fit for the Cowboys if he stays at the end of Round 1. Dallas' defense has improved since last season, but there's still some work to do up front. Thompson can work off the edge to make plays.   31. Green Bay Packers: Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State Benardrick McKinney is a tough linebacker who shows no mercy on those with the football. He plays well in the middle of a defense and would be a nice depth option for the Packers. Once given an opportunity to start, McKinney likely won't relinquish it.   32. Denver Broncos: La'el Collins, OT, LSU La'el Collins is a three-year starter on LSU's offensive line. He has plenty of experience, something the veteran Broncos should appreciate when it comes time to draft. Peyton Manning has been excellent this season, but adding more pass protection will help him stay comfortable in the pocket as he shoots to be the first quarterback to ever throw 600 touchdowns. He can't reach that remarkable number if he gets hit under center.   Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BRRead more NFL news on BleacherReport.com brvideo
    2014-10-22 Texans coach Bill O'Brien backs Ryan Fitzpatrick as starter - Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has won an important vote of confidence.Head coach Bill O'Brien affirmed Tuesday Fitzpatrick would remain the team's starting quarterback in spite of Houston's 3-4 record after three straight losses. "Fitzy is our quarterback,” O'Brien told reporters.Fitzpatrick was named the Texans' starter on June 17, and has so far fended off backup Ryan Mallett. "We’re going to continue to work with both of these guys in practice, and we’ll see how it improves. And hopefully, it will get better and better, and that will help our offense get better."Through seven games, Fitzpatrick has thrown for 1,530 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions, completing 65.1% of his passes. Houston will try to get back on track Sunday, facing off against its AFC South-rival Tennessee Titans.Copyright © 2014 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license. theScore NFL
    2014-10-22 Bill O’Brien: We’ll work both guys in practice, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is our quarterback - The Texans have lost three straight games and four of their last five, which isn’t helping their chances of making the playoffs. It also isn’t hurting Ryan Fitzpatrick’s chances of remaining the team’s starting quarterback. Texans coach Bill O’Brien was asked at his Wednesday press conference about the circumstances that would lead to Ryan Mallett… Pro Football Talk
    2014-10-22 Bill O'Brien: We'll work both guys in practice, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is our quarterback http://t.co/6t3wolTt5H - None twitter
    2014-10-22 Bill O'Brien intent on sticking with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB - Despite losing three straight, Houston is not yet looking for Ryan Mallett to save the day. NFL
    2014-10-22 Bill O'Brien: Ryan Fitzpatrick 'is our quarterback' - Despite losing three straight, Houston is not yet looking for Ryan Mallett to save the day. NFL
    2014-10-22 Houston Texans News: October 22, 2014 - Your one-stop shop for Houston Texans, local sports, and news from around the league for Wednesday, October 22, 2014. Houston Texans News Bill O’Brien on Texans two biggest concernsLess than 24 hours after a devastating 30-23 loss at Pittsburgh, head coach Bill O’Brien still had confidence in his team, one that he firmly believes is still mentally tough. Texans Prove to Be Playoff Pretender in Disappointing Loss to Steelers | Bleacher ReportThree weeks later, the Texans are 3-4 and find themselves adrift on the outskirts of the playoff picture after three losses that were not as close as the scores indicated. Houston Texans handcuffed at QB with Ryan Fitzpatrick at helm | Shutdown Corner - Yahoo SportsFrom Yahoo Sports: The Houston Texans certainly know he's not the future, but is quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick even the present? Texans fantasy football recap: Arian Foster is still king in Houston - SBNation.comThe Houston Texans are on a three-game losing streak courtesy of another loss on "Monday Night Football" to the Pittsburgh Steelers. We break down the fantasy implications. Steelers' defense rebounds after shaky 1st quarter, forces Texans into mistakes | TribLIVEAs an angry crowd bemoaned the Steelers' lackluster effort in the first quarter on Monday Night Football at Heinz Field, safety Mike Mitchell figured the defense had to play with a sense of urgency. Mike Tomlin Pleased With Win Over Texans, Sees Room For Improvement " CBS PittsburghSteelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the teams win over the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football and voiced how pleased he was with his teams performance. Texans focused on eliminating mistakes | FOX SportsTexans focused on eliminating mistakes Clowney "feels good", will practice this weekHead coach Bill O'Brien gave an update on Jadeveon Clowney and when he'll likely return. Antonio Brown tweets image showing he had two feet down in the end zone - Behind the Steel CurtainAn image floating around on Twitter appears to show Brown got both feet in bounds on a touchdown catch that was overturned after review in the Steelers' 30-23 win over the Houston Texans Monday. Colorado, UCLA, SJSU and Navy will honor Houston Texans OL David Quessenberry, who is battling cancer | Dr. Saturday - Yahoo SportsFrom Yahoo Sports: All four programs have a tie to Quessenberry and all play each other this weekend. Around the League Breaking Madden Roster Cuts, Week 8: A Big Gulp full o' poop - SBNation.comIn total, 12 of you will be featured in this week's Breaking Madden. If you're one of them, I'm sorry. Let's talk about the worst days at work we've ever had. Ray Rice files grievance against Ravens, claims wrongful termination - SBNation.comThe former running back is also awaiting a hearing to appeal his suspension from the NFL. The Jets want Percy Harvin to be himself - SBNation.comAcquiring Percy Harvin was a relatively low-risk move that could pay big dividends for the struggling Jets. They also made it clear to him that it might be the last chance he gets in the NFL. Everson Griffen earns his first Hoss of the Week - SBNation.comThe Minnesota Vikings pass rusher brought down Kyle Orton three times last Sunday, earning Stephen White's Hoss of the Week Award for Week 7. Cowboys waive Michael Sam - SBNation.comThe Dallas Cowboys parted ways with the former Missouri defensive end, according to the team's web site. NFL power rankings, Week 8: Broncos, Cowboys still on top - SBNation.comComing off a 42-17 win, Denver remains on top in the latest power rankings. Things have not gone as well for a couple of preseason Super Bowl favorites who have now fallen out of the top 10. It's time to quarantine the NFC South - SBNation.comSB Nation's Department of Football Epidemiology has issued several travel alerts this week, starting with the NFL's worst division. Houston & Collegiate Sports Astros Minors: Solid Lancaster JetHawks pitching staff survives desert in route to championship season - The Crawfish BoxesA solid Lancaster pitching staff helped secure a second league championship for the club Rockets impress in preseason loss to Heat, 95-90 - The Dream ShakeThe game doesn't count, so we just want to enjoy how awesome the Rockets' superstars look. Mack Brown gives first in-depth interview since leaving Texas - Burnt Orange NationBrown talks candidly with sports-glutton.com about his time as the head coach at UNC and Texas. The Education of Pete Robertson - Viva The MatadorsThe former high school quarterback has, fairly or unfairly, been the unofficial poster-boy for the much maligned Red Raider defense this season. His improved play in the last three games has been striking, and bodes well for the future. Game Week: Texas Tech Comes To Play - Frogs O' WarIn what's becoming a very solid rivalry Texas Tech comes to Fort Worth, as the Frogs look to get their first win over the Raiders since joining the Big 12. Big 12 fines Baylor SID $1,000 for commenting on its heavily flagged game - SBNation.comThat seems like a bit much. Elijah Thomas Commits to Texas A&M - Good Bull HuntingWe run this state in basketball recruiting. Charlie Strong Era A Failure: Lacks YOLO And Positive Energy - Barking CarnivalCorey the Intern is back. And he's putting Longhorn Nation on blast. Battle Red Blog
    2014-10-22 ICYMI: Brett Keisel vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Beard vs. Beard. ADVANTAGE: Beard http://t.co/kqdKrQHahB - None twitter
    2014-10-22 Texans focused on preventing mistakes - Whether it is turnovers, penalties or problems on defense, the Texans must limit errors if they hope to bounce back from three straight losses on Sunday against Tennessee. San Antonio Express News
    2014-10-22 Fitzpatrick has a stranglehold on QB position - Who do you want to start at QB for the Texans? Starter Ryan Fitzpatrick Backup Ryan Mallett Rookie Tom Savage Other View Results Your vote is being added to the total. Votes are not reflected in the tallies immediately.  Loading ... Houston’s coaches will continue to field Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starting quarterback. ( Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle ) Case Keenum and T.J. Yates have departed. Matt Schaub has fallen into the past. Ryan Fitzpatrick has become the one, named the Texans’ starting quarterback in mid-June and holding onto the spot through a 3-4 start to the 2014 season. “Fitzy is our quarterback,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said Tuesday [...] Houston Chronicle
    2014-10-22 Unfair to Blame Ryan Fitzpatrick for Texans' Struggles - The Houston Texans opened the season at 3-1 through the first four games before losing the last three games against the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively. Ultimately, they need someone else to score touchdowns besides J.J. Watt. Can they bounce back from this three-loss streak? Who is really to blame for the Texans' struggles?Watch NFL" target="_blank">John McClain of the Houston Chronicle and Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson discuss the Texans' struggles. Read more Houston Texans news on BleacherReport.com brvideo
    2014-10-22 Texans focused on eliminating mistakes - The Houston Texans made mistakes in almost every area in Monday’s loss to the ... Austin American Statesman
    2014-10-21 Texans focused on eliminating mistakes - The Houston Texans made mistakes in almost every area in Monday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. … Click to Continue » Sports News | The Kansas City Star & KansasCity.com
    2014-10-21 Texans focused on eliminating mistakes - Houston Texans looking to eliminate mistakes that doomed them in three-game losing streak          USA Today
    2014-10-21 Texans coach Bill O’Brien: ‘Fitzy’s our quarterback’ - Who do you want to start at QB for the Texans? Starter Ryan Fitzpatrick Backup Ryan Mallett Rookie Tom Savage Other View Results Your vote is being added to the total. Votes are not reflected in the tallies immediately.  Loading ... —– Texans coach Bill O’Brien again insisted Ryan Fitzpatrick remains his starting quarterback despite the team’s three consecutive losses, but for the first time he might have hinted at the possibility that Ryan Mallett could get playing time in the near future. “I think that Ryan has improved every week,” he said responding to question about Mallett’s status. “He’s getting a better grasp of the things we’re trying to [...] Houston Chronicle
    2014-10-21 O'Brien Backs Fitzpatrick and Talks Mallett - Bill O'Brien addressed the comments made on Monday Night Football about Ryan Mallett and continued to back Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Texans' quarterback. Scout - NFL
    2014-10-21 Texans focused on eliminating mistakes (The Associated Press) - HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Texans made mistakes in almost every area in Monday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yahoo Sports - Pittsburgh Steelers
    2014-10-21 Meltsdown: Fitzpatrick’s Harvard Education Doesn’t Matter On Field - Mike is tired of people bringing up Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Harvard education in regards to football skill. CBS Local
    2014-10-21 Andre Johnson Misses Out On Last Second TD On MNF - Texans receiver Andre Johnson caught five balls for 77 yards.Fantasy Spin:Johnson is still the guy Ryan Fitzpatrick looks for first, but defenses key on him too and he's not quite as good as in past seasons. YardBarker
    2014-10-21 Andre Johnson Misses Out On Last Second TD On MNF - Texans receiver Andre Johnson caught five balls for 77 yards.Fantasy Spin:Johnson is still the guy Ryan Fitzpatrick looks for first, but defenses key on him too and he's not quite as good as in past seasons. YardBarker
    2014-10-21 Andre Johnson Misses Out On Last Second TD On MNF - Texans receiver Andre Johnson caught five balls for 77 yards.Fantasy Spin:Johnson is still the guy Ryan Fitzpatrick looks for first, but defenses key on him too and he's not quite as good as in past seasons. YardBarker
    2014-10-21 Post-Game Sound: Ryan Fitzpatrick - Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick addresses the media during a press conference following Monday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Houston Texans
    2014-10-21 Post-Game Sound: Ryan Fitzpatrick - Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick addresses the media during a press conference following Monday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Houston Texans
    2014-10-21 Pro Football Focus gave Ryan Fitzpatrick a +4.1 grade. Wow. - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Targets and Touches: Week 7 Target Watch: AFC - Chet Gresham takes you through the Targets and Touches from Week 7 of the AFC. Fantasy Football Articles - Rotoworld.com
    2014-10-21 Houston Texans handcuffed at QB with Ryan Fitzpatrick at helm http://t.co/kEHQpr7Bep - None twitter
    2014-10-21 The Rundown: Texans Hand Another One Away - The Houston Texans dropped their third consecutive game and handed a win to the Pittsburgh Steelers by giving up another 24-point quarter. Scout - NFL
    2014-10-21 Houston Texans handcuffed at QB with Ryan Fitzpatrick at helm http://t.co/a4tSf2Db4W #NFL - None twitter
    2014-10-21 When Will the Houston Texans Flip the Switch and Start QB Ryan Mallett? - The quarterback situation has been a question mark for the Houston Texans all season. It was evident the team did not entirely trust Ryan Fitzpatrick after trading for Ryan Mallett just before Week 1.  How have the Houston Texans evaluated Ryan Fitzpatrick? When will Ryan Mallett get a start for the Texans? Who is the long-term answer for Houston at quarterback? Watch as Stephen Nelson goes in-depth with Bleacher Report NFL Insider Jason Cole in the video above.Read more Houston Texans news on BleacherReport.com brvideo
    2014-10-21 Steelers score three TDs in 73 seconds, stun Texans - Ben Roethlisberger passed for two TDs and Antonio Brown added another during a decisive surge late in the first half.          Cincinnati Enquirer
    2014-10-21 Texans fantasy football recap; Arian Foster is still king in Houston - Texans fantasy football recap; Arian Foster is still king in Houston The Palm Beach Post
    2014-10-21 Houston Texans handcuffed at QB with Ryan Fitzpatrick at helm - The Houston Texans already have surpassed their 2013 win total. They've been a competitive 3-4 club, with three of the four losses coming by one score. They've done so with No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney having missed six straight games and more than half of the one game he did appear in. The Texans have forced 15 turnovers this season, which — incredibly — already has surpassed the 2013 total of 11. Things, you could say, are slightly brighter in Houston than they were a year ago when the team opened with two straight victories and then collapsed for 14 straight losses. [Join FanDuel.com's $2.5M Week 8 fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 21,905 teams paid] But we all know there's still a lot missing. It's easy to pin the Texans' limitations on one man. Ryan Fitzpatrick, the unlikely placeholder at quarterback, has been no different than most observers have expected him to be based on his itinerant track record: effective enough for him to keep a job but maddeningly ineffective for a team that wants to win games via the turnover battle, clock management and game massaging. Right now, Fitzpatrick is a back cracker. He's the chiropractor who gives you temporary relief until you get up out of the office and limp home in tears, with more nerve pain than you walked in with. Five of Fitzpatrick's seven interceptions have come from inside the Texans' own 20-yard line. Those picks have led to 24 points for the opponents. Those points shouldn't be on the defense. He also hasn't been effective at the ends of halves. In the final two minutes of first and second halves of games, Fitzpatrick has thrown two picks and taken three sacks on only 27 dropbacks. Fitting both of those categories Monday night was the inexcusable interception in traffic that ended up in the hands of the Steelers' Brett Keisel. That pick fueled the Steelers' incredible end-of-half flurry that won them the game. It has been the same story most games. Once the opponent realizes that Arian Foster is really the guy they need to stop, Fitzpatrick can sling a few balls, get Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins involved, but the inevitable game-tilting mistake is just around the corner. That's the thing: Fitzpatrick's stats charm casual observers into the whole he's not that awful routine, as he has more passing yards (on fewer attempts) than Cam Newton; more yards per attempt than Aaron Rodgers; a better completion percentage than Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and a host of other starting quarterbacks. But the mistakes and limitations are what undercut most of what he does. They are what hold this team back from taking the proverbial next step offensively. Every time the TV broadcast shows Bill O'Brien looking down at his Denny's menu of play calls, you almost think he's saying to himself, Hmm, what can't I call here?  The Texans certainly know he's not the future, but is Fitzpatrick even the present? We're not aiming to pick on the hirsute Harvardian here, but the Texans had to know what they were getting when they signed him, and that's on O'Brien and GM Rick Smith. What you've seen from Fitz-pick-trick this season is exactly what he has done through his career, now with his fifth NFL team since 2006, having been released by the previous four. There have been calls to the bullpen for Ryan Mallett, who joined the team via trade just before the start of training camp, or for Tom Savage, who barely averaged five yards an attempt in the preseason and has yet to attempt a regular-season pass. Those calls are misaligned. Oh, sure, finding out if Mallett (he of the four career regular-season attempts himself) or Savage can play might not be a bad idea at some point. But it is both haunting and telling that Fitzpatrick likely remains the Texans' best chance right now. A win next week at Tennessee puts them at 4-4 and, at least according to logic, in the race for a playoff spot. But we all know that's not likely to happen. This Texans team has other limitations certainly, and even a major upgrade at quarterback isn't going to magically whisk those away. But it certainly would put the defense in fewer precarious positions and help take advantage of the limited but potent offensive assets the team does have. That solution won't come until 2015, and the options might not be plentiful to be honest. Potential free agent Brian Hoyer leads a shockingly mediocre crop at the position, and his connection to O'Brien from their New England days will lead to a lot of speculation of a match in Houston should the Cleveland Browns opt to crank up the Johnny Football machine next season. But the draft might not be the perfect salve, either. Maybe O'Brien would see something in Michigan State's Connor Cook if he declares, but Cook's inconsistencies have a startlingly Fitzpatrick-esque look to them, and the pricetag still certainly could cost them a first-round selection. Later options that might intrigue the team include East Carolina's Shane Carden and local product Bryce Petty from Baylor, but neither are likely first-year saviors either. What then? Could the Texans — GULP — be forced to go another season with Fitzpatrick (or Mallett or Savage, equal parts gulp themselves) as the opening act for a yet-to-be-named headliner? If so, the reviews for the O'Brien Variety Show might get a bit ugly. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm Shutdown Corner
    2014-10-21 Watching Ryan Fitzpatrick play QB is rough, but vomit inducing? http://t.co/CKTzHvC5uM http://t.co/oxTw2BRKfE - None twitter
    2014-10-21 ICYMI: Brett Keisel, Ryan Fitzpatrick compared beards (Photo) http://t.co/lVOOvDwQbm - None twitter
    2014-10-21 ReFo: Texans @ Steelers, Week 7 - Ben Stockwell wraps up Week 7 with a review of the Texans and Steelers Monday Night Football contest. Pro Football Focus
    2014-10-21 RT @erincoscarelli: It's a beard off! We want 2 know whose beards BETTER? Houston's Ryan Fitzpatrick or Pittsburgh's Brett Keisel @NFL_AM h… - None twitter
    2014-10-21 73 Seconds That Shook Pittsburgh - The Steelers went from 10 down to 11 up within the span of 73 seconds to shock the Houston Texans, 30-23. Scout - Pittsburgh Steelers
    2014-10-21 From Earlier: Brett Keisel, Ryan Fitzpatrick compared beards (Photo) http://t.co/lVOOvDwQbm - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Three-minute barrage pushes Pittsburgh past Houston - PITTSBURGH — The deluge started with a desperation third-down heave, a trickle that turned into a downpour and led to another abrupt turn in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ confounding season. tucson.com
    2014-10-21 Houston Texans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Full Report Card Grades for Houston - What can I say about Ryan Fitzpatrick and his struggles this season that I haven't already said before or after other games? He's a limited player with a short ceiling; we shouldn't be shocked by poor performances from Fitzpatrick. Not surprisingly the mediocre quarterback put up a mediocre stat line with 262 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 98.7 QB rating. Actually that stat line doesn't look mediocre which is another example of how stats can be misleading at times. A 98.7 QB rating is a very good number, but no one can argue with a straight face that Fitzpatrick played well against Pittsburgh. It's time for a change at the quarterback position. I'm not saying that Ryan Mallett will cure all that ails them, but it's clear that Fitzpatrick can't get the job done, so why not give the younger guy with a bigger arm a chance? Grade: C- Bleacher Report
    2014-10-21 Houston Texans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Full Report Card Grades for Houston - Same story as most of the Texans' games this year: The receivers catch almost everything that hits their hands, but the play from the offensive line and quarterback has limited their opportunities to make plays. Well that at least goes for Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, but unfortunately slot receiver Damaris Johnson dropped a nice pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick that would have put the Texans in a goal-to-go situation. More than just yards, the drop cost the Texans possibly four points as they would have had a first down inside the 10 yard line, but instead had to settle for a field goal early in the fourth quarter while trailing by 11 points. Despite catching the ball well, Hopkins again failed to execute in other painfully damaging ways. Jon Gruden: "That is bad football by DeAndre Hopkins. Put the ball away." — Randy Harvey (@randyharvey) October 21, 2014 The effort to pick up extra yardage is appreciated, but he has to put the ball away. Even on plays before the killer fumble, Hopkins often held the ball with one hand away from his body giving the defender a chance to punch the ball out. Frankly they were lucky that he didn't fumble multiple times. He's a very talented receiver, but he has to work on his ball security. For the game Johnson and Hopkins combined for 11 catches for 185 yards. They have top end talent at the top of the depth chart at receiver, but limited quarterback play, drops and fumbles these last couple weeks has killed their potential impact on winning and losing. Grade: B- Bleacher Report
    2014-10-21 Houston Texans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Full Report Card Grades for Houston - Solid game overall in the running game with an average of 4.4 yards per carry and 132 rushing yards for the game. The Texans' offensive line also only gave up one sack, so they looked better in pass protection this week than last week against Indianapolis when they allowed five sacks. They weren't perfect however as Ryan Fitzpatrick's ability as a scrambler saved them from giving up a few other sacks, but the allowed pressure still disrupted the play and forced him to move around and get rid of the ball earlier than planned. In particular I thought right tackle Derek Newton had a rough game. Grade: C+ Bleacher Report
    2014-10-21 First-half flurry leads Steelers past Texans, 30-23 - PITTSBURGH — The deluge started with a desperation third-down heave, a trickle that turned into a downpour and led to another abrupt turn in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ confounding season. Ben Roethlisberger passed for two touchdowns and wide receiver Antonio Brown added another on a gadget play during a decisive 73-second stretch late in the first half that moved the Steelers (4-3) from down 10 to an 11-point lead. Ryan Fitzpatrick was 21-for-32 for 262 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but the Texans were undone by three turnovers, including consecutive offensive snaps that handed momentum to the Steelers. Roethlisberger then found Martavis Bryant, who struggled staying healthy in the preseason and spent the first six weeks on the inactive list, with a beautiful rainbow that the rookie caught in the back of the end zone to make it 13-10 with 1:27 left. San Francisco Chronicle
    2014-10-21 Turnovers prove costly for Texans in loss to Steelers - DeAndre Hopkins is stripped of the ball by Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell (23) as cornerback Cortez Allen (28) runs over during the fourth quarter. (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle) PITTSBURGH – The Texans’ three turnovers killed them. Arian Foster’s fumble set up a touchdown. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s interception set up a touchdown. Trailing 27-16 in a game they eventually lost 30-23, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a 32-yard pass over the middle to DeAndre Hopkins, who finished with six receptions for 108 yards. Safety Mike Mitchell stripped the ball from Hopkins, and safety Troy Polamalu recovered it and returned it 13 yards to the Texans’ 39. The Steelers finished the drive with a Shaun [...] Houston Chronicle
    2014-10-21 Steelers Rally Past Stunned Texans, 30-23 - Ben Roethlisberger passed for two touchdowns and wide receiver Antonio Brown added another on a gadget play, helping the Pittsburgh Steelers rally for a 30-23 win over the mistake-prone Houston Texans on Monday night. CBS Local
    2014-10-21 Steelers upend Texans with first-half flurry - One dizzying sequence, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were in complete control against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans. San Antonio Express News
    2014-10-21 Steelers ride first-half scoring flurry to 30-23 win over Texans - Turnovers on defense and touchdowns on offense have been hard to come by for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. Then came a magical 73 seconds late in the first half and both occurred relentlessly. … Click to Continue » Sports News | The Kansas City Star & KansasCity.com
    2014-10-21 Texans Prove to Be Playoff Pretender in Disappointing Loss to Steelers - The Texans entered what would prove to be one of the toughest bits of their schedule three weeks ago when they traveled to Dallas with a chance to be 4-1. Three weeks later, the Texans are 3-4 and find themselves adrift on the outskirts of the playoff picture after three losses that were not as close as the scores indicated. Following their loss to Indianapolis, the Texans limped into this week with just a 16.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, per Football Outsiders. With another loss in hand, Houston finds itself at least a half-game behind every serious AFC wild-card contender, staring at trying to come back from the grave with only the benefit of an AFC South schedule to help them.  To say that the Texans lost this game to the Steelers would be an insult to losses. The Texans instead took a winnable road game with a 13-3 lead and set it on fire. They allowed the Steelers 24 straight points in the last 3:08 of the first half, with running back Arian Foster fumbling near the goal line, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing a tipped interception and the baffling ineptitude that is a two-minute drill in Fitzpatrick's hands.  Here's what that looks like from the guise of win probability. The Texans went from an 83 percent chance of a win to a 17 percent chance. In less than four minutes of game time.  Stunning, isn't it? It's hard to even be mad after witnessing such a complete collapse. The Washington Generals couldn't have scripted a scenario that incompetent.  I've been hammering on Houston's quarterback issues all season, so it was no surprise at all that Fitzpatrick threw a gas can on the inferno with his interception. Fitzpatrick is by far the greatest liability for the Texans. Put simply, he's too inaccurate and doesn't have enough of a deep ball to threaten any competent defense. The only "magic" in Fitzmagic is his ability to string together a few completions against soft zone coverage to make the score "magically" seem like less of a blowout.   There continues to be little hope for those beyond Fitzpatrick to make an impact. Turning to Ryan Mallett isn't a terrible idea, but given his lack of accuracy, there's little hope that he'll change Houston's fortunes. Rookie fourth-rounder Tom Savage has yet to be active for a game, and the polite way to describe his preseason of checkdowns was "rudimentary."  Texans head coach Bill O'Brien lauded his team's ability to fight back after the game, per the Houston Chronicle. “These questions are like we lost 50-0. We lost by a touchdown," O'Brien said.  Well, yeah, and it's good that the Texans seem to be in lockstep behind their new coach. Defensive end J.J. Watt is the most valuable non-quarterback in the NFL. Wideout DeAndre Hopkins has emerged as a standout receiver. Older veterans like wideout Andre Johnson and Foster have played well and offer hope for a short-term turnaround next season.  In the NFL, you can have a team without a great quarterback and still make the playoffs. You can also have a crummy team littered with bottom-of-the-roster fodder with a great quarterback and make the playoffs. But if you mix a thin roster with a bad quarterback, your best-case scenario is, well, these Houston Texans.  That's where these Texans are. They're not the worst team in the NFL, and if they can take advantage of a weak schedule, they could even stay on the fringes of the playoff race.  But there's just too many holes on this roster to expect Houston to suddenly buckle down and make a race of this. For every Andre Johnson, there's a Damaris Johnson. For every Johnathan Joseph, there's a middle linebacker who runs like he has tank treads for legs. For every quarterback on the Houston roster, they ... well, they don't have any actual NFL starters. This was Houston's third straight game in the national spotlight, playing on Thursday Night Football, Monday Night Football and against the attention-sphere that is the Dallas Cowboys. This was supposed to be their chance at a coming-out party that would launch them into playoff contention. In the paraphrased words of the immortal Larry Burns, "Put (them) back in, (they're) not done yet!" Bleacher Report
    2014-10-21 Second-quarter surge pushes Steelers past Texans - By Ron Musselman, The Sports Xchange The Morning Call
    2014-10-21 Fitzpatrick on Texans’ collapse: ‘As bad as I’ve ever seen’ - PITTSBURGH — Texans coach Bill O’Brien had little interest in discussing the specifics of the Texans’ late second-quarter collapse, which saw a 13-0 lead suddenly become a 24-13 deficit. Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick echoed the sentiment of many of his teammates, acknowledging Pittsburgh’s outburst was great football for the Steelers and horrible for the Texans. “It was miserable and just a terrible, terrible display of offensive football by us,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was about as bad as it gets and as bad as I’ve ever seen. Two turnovers there and practically gave them the ball inside the five-yard line and giving them 14 points. It was just unacceptable.” Twitter: ChronBrianSmith Houston Chronicle
    2014-10-21 Texans overwhelmed in 30-23 loss to Steelers - Confident and in command, the Houston Texans appeared poised for the biggest win of Bill O'Brien's brief tenure. … Click to Continue » Sports News | The Kansas City Star & KansasCity.com
    2014-10-21 Texans overwhelmed in 30-23 loss to Steelers - Early lead evaporates quickly as Texans fall to Steelers 30-23          USA Today
    2014-10-21 Is It Officially Time for the Houston Texans to Make a QB Switch? - After sticking with Ryan Fitzpatrick for seven games—in which the Houston Texans have gone 3-4—coach Bill O'Brien likely wouldn't face much scrutiny if he decided to give Ryan Mallet a chance at quarterback. Fitzpatrick, who signed a two-year deal with the Texans in March, was never meant to be more than an intermediary, while O'Brien used his touted quarterback development skills to groom Houston's passer of the future. It's unclear whether 2014 fourth-round pick Tom Savage will pan out and become that franchise quarterback, but that's a question for another time.  The question of the present, however, is whether O'Brien is ready to start Mallet. It seemed like a distinct possibility based on comments O'Brien made in his pregame press conference on Friday and, after the ineffective performance Fitzpatrick turned in Monday night, could become a reality in Week 8.  Fitzpatrick didn't have his worst game of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but, in what has become a concerning pattern, he did throw an interception, his sixth of the season. Pittsburgh scored two plays after the pick and never gave up the lead. O'Brien last week praised Mallet's "fantastic arm" and said "he's definitely where we want him to be," noting that the transition was easier for him because he was already familiar with the offense. Mallet worked with O'Brien in New England when he was the Patriots' offensive coordinator in 2011.  "He has good command out there, both in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage," O'Brien said of the former Arkansas Razorback. "He's working to be more consistent on a day-to-day basis with throwing the ball and with accuracy." The obvious challenge to a midseason quarterback switch for the Houston Texans is whether Mallet stepping in for Fitzpatrick would really accomplish anything significant, and it's a valid one. This is an offense operating behind an offensive line that Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranks as the league's 25th-best unit, having allowed 54 total pressures on 184 passing plays prior to Monday night's game.  The Texans are also not built to heavily feature the pass; heading into Week 7 they had 161 passing attempts on the season, by far the fewest in the league. While that dynamic would likely change if an Andrew Luck or even a Tony Romo walked into the Texans locker room tomorrow, it's unlikely that swapping Mallet for Fitzpatrick would increase Houston's passing attack.  Still, Mallet very possibly could do better than Fitzpatrick. Houston has weapons in Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. They have a strong running game led by Arian Foster, which can take pressure off Mallet and set up play-action passes. There are opportunities here for a quarterback who doesn't need to be explosive, just effective.  Mainly, the Texans need a quarterback who can protect the football. Fitzpatrick has six touchdowns and six interceptions on the season, joining Geno Smith (seven each) and Jake Locker (four) as the other quarterbacks who have exactly a one-to-one TD-to-INT ratio on the season. Fitzpatrick has 99 interceptions on his career to 112 touchdowns and has a 30-52-1 record in games he has started, per Pro-Football-Reference.com. Mallet, on the other hand, is extremely unproven, having never started an NFL game and playing in just four for the Patriots in 2012. But O'Brien is one of the best in football at evaluating quarterback talent, and given his previous experience working with Mallet, the fact that he traded for him when he took the coaching job in Houston, the praise he gave Mallet last week should be taken seriously.   Yes, Fitzpatrick wasn't hired to be anything more than a game manager, but he's barely, well, managing to do that so far. In the Texans' three wins this season, the defense held their opponents to 17 or fewer points. Its role in Houston's victories this season can't be underestimated.  In addition to Fitzpatrick's turnover issues, Houston is averaging 208.5 passing yards per game, which is 28th in the league. That shouldn't be the case in a Bill O'Brien offense, and the lack of a passing threat is limiting opportunities for a true weapon like Foster in the running game.  When something's not working, it's easy to believe that a change will solve the problem, and that may not be the case for Houston. But Fitzpatrick's ceiling has been fairly well established over his nine-season career, while Mallet's ceiling is unknown.  If it's more likely than not that neither QB will be starting in Houston this time next year, why not see what Mallet can do in this offense now that he's comfortable?   brvideo
    2014-10-21 Steelers ride first-half scoring flurry to 30-23 win over Texans - PITTSBURGH Turnovers on defense and touchdowns on offense have been hard to come by for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. Then came a magical 73 seconds late in the first half and both occurred relentlessly. Orlando Sentinel
    2014-10-21 Ryan Fitzpatrick on #Texans' collapse: 'As bad as I've ever seen' http://t.co/j3tPWFGW2w #NFL #Steelers - None twitter
    2014-10-21 2015 NFL Draft: Each Team's Biggest Need and Best Fit - The Need: Quarterback | The Fit: Jameis Winston, Florida State The Houston Texans need a quarterback. No disrespect to Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett (a 2014 free agent) or fourth-round pick Tom Savage, but it's highly unlikely that the future of the Texans at quarterback is on this roster. The bad news is that the Texans are winning each game (at least early) to put themselves out of the running for Marcus Mariota. But they might be in perfect positioning for the quarterback who truly fits the offense best. Jameis Winston may not fit what Bill O'Brien wants in a quarterback's personality, but his game is ideal for the pro-style offense O'Brien used in New England, at Penn State and now in Houston. Winston is a big, strong, athletic quarterback with the anticipation and football IQ to make big plays with the ball. And much like the quarterback that beat Houston in Week 7, Winston has a lot of Ben Roethlisberger to his game. If the Texans can look past Winston's off-field, his on-field is ideal for them. Secondary Fits: Connor Cook (Michigan State), Brett Hundley (UCLA), Bryce Petty (Baylor) B/R NFL
    2014-10-21 Steelers look dominant, defiant in comeback win over Texans - Heading into Monday night's 30-23 win against the Houston Texans, the struggling Steelers were perceived as a team in a hole, a team with a lot of... SI.com Top Stories
    2014-10-21 Steelers use wild sequence before halftime to take control, beat Texans - One dizzying sequence, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were in complete control against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans. Ben Roethlisberger passed for two touchdowns and wide receiver Antonio Brown added another on a gadget play during a decisive surge late in the first half. Daily News
    2014-10-21 Ryan Fitzpatrick on end of #Texans' first half: "It was about as bad as it gets and as bad as I've ever seen." #NFL #Steelers - None twitter
    2014-10-21 John McClain grades Texans after 30-23 loss to Steelers - Texans overall grade: F Blowing a 13-0 lead and trailing 24-13 because of a colossal collapse in the last 3:08 of the first half is inept and inexcusable. Not to mention unbelievable. Quarterbacks: C-minus Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes to Alfred Blue and Arian Foster. He also threw an interception that set up a touchdown. Running backs: B Arian Foster carried 20 times for 102 yards. He caught a touchdown pass. He also lost a fumble at the Texans’ 3 that set up a touchdown. Receivers/tight ends: C DeAndre Hopkins had six catches for 108 yards and lost a fumble. Andre Johnson had five for 77. The tight ends [...] Houston Chronicle
    2014-10-21 How the Texans got buried to end the second quarter - PITTSBURGH -- When did the 21-point deluge at the end of the first half start? Depends whom you ask, but the result was three touchdowns in just ov... espn
    2014-10-21 Steelers rally to top Texans, extend Monday night dominance - PITTSBURGH - At home on “Monday Night Football,” the Pittsburgh Steelers are next to impossible to beat. Orlando Sentinel
    2014-10-21 Roethlisberger throws 2 TDs as Steelers rally past stunned Texans - <!-- Start Story Image --> <!-- END STORY IMAGE --> PITTSBURGH — One dizzying sequence, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were in complete control against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans. Ben Roethlisberger passed for two touchdowns and wide receiver Antonio Brown added another on a gadget play during a decisive surge late in the first half, helping the Steelers rally for a 30-23 win over the mistake-prone Texans on Monday night. Pittsburgh (4-3) needed just over a minute to turn a 10-point deficit into an 11-point lead as the Texans self-destructed while losing their third straight. Roethlisberger finished with 265 yards passing. Le’Veon Bell racked up 145 yards of total &hellip; Chicago Sun-Times
    2014-10-21 Steelers rally past stunned Texans 30-23 - PITTSBURGH (AP) &mdash; The deluge started with a desperation third-down heave, a trickle that turned into a downpour and led to another abrupt turn in the Pittsburgh Steelers' confounding season. The Denver Post
    2014-10-21 Brett Keisel's key plays turn J.J. Watt into 'the other No. 99' in Steelers' win - PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers made a statement Monday night, pulling their season from the brink shortly after boos had rained down on them in... espn
    2014-10-21 Postgame: Bill O'Brien and Ryan Fitzpatrick - Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick reacted to the team's loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 7. Houston Texans
    2014-10-21 Postgame: Bill O'Brien and Ryan Fitzpatrick - Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick reacted to the team's loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 7. Houston Texans
    2014-10-21 Texans self-destruct in 30-23 loss to Steelers: Monday Night Football - Ben Roethlisberger passed for two touchdowns and wide receiver Antonio Brown added another on a gadget play The Times Picayune NOLA.com
    2014-10-21 Houston Texans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Result, Highlights And More - Thanks to a strong second quarter, the Steelers defeated the Houston Texans Monday. The Pittsburgh Steelers improved to 4-3 with a 27-16 win over the Houston Texans on Monday at Heinz Field. The Texans were the first ones on the board and had control of the game early. Houston marched down the field, primarily thanks to 59 [&#8230;] Houston Texans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Result, Highlights And More - FanSided - FanSided - Sports News, Entertainment, Lifestyle &amp; Technology - 280+ Sites FanSided NFL
    2014-10-21 NFL: Steelers rally past stunned Texans - Pittsburgh : One dizzying sequence, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were in complete control against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans. Ben Roethlisberger passed for two touchdowns and wide receiver Antonio Brown added another on a gadget play during a de... Salt Lake Tribune
    2014-10-21 Houston Texans play worst game of season, still lose close to Steelers - My goodness. Somehow the Houston Texans only lost 30-23 even though they played their worst brand of football in franchise history, it seems like. An early 13-0 lead evaporated when the Steelers scored 24 points within a couple minutes. They wouldn’t look back and the Texans lost their third straight that probably ends their playoff hopes. MVP-Ben Roethlisberger After a shaky start, Big Ben rallied the Steelers as he completed 23 of 33 pass attempts for 265 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t turn throw any picks and was unstoppable in the second half. LVP-Ryan Fitzpatrick A solid start for Fitz, but it wasn’t enough as the Texans quarterback was sacked once and threw an interception that helped the Steelers score a late touchdown in the first half that would help be the difference. He wasn’t making good throws and kept messing up. Enough is enough. Let’s bench this guy. X-Factor- Le’Veon Bell Bell shredded the Texans secondary when he got the ball, finishing with 57 yards on only 12 rushing yards YardBarker
    2014-10-21 Steelers rally past stunned Texans - Ben Roethlisberger passed for two touchdowns and wide receiver Antonio Brown added another on a gadget play during a decisive surge late in the first half, helping the Steelers rally for a 30-23 win over the mistake-prone Texans on Monday night. Daily Herald
    2014-10-21 Steelers rally past stunned Texans 30-23 - Steelers use 3-touchdown flurry to rally past stunned Texans 30-23 read more...Tag(s): Pro BCSN
    2014-10-21 Steelers rally past stunned Texans 30-23 - One dizzying sequence, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were in complete control against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans. The Palm Beach Post
    2014-10-21 Steelers rally past stunned Texans 30-23 - Dayton Daily News
    2014-10-21 Steelers rally past stunned Texans 30-23 - PITTSBURGH (AP) — One dizzying sequence, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were in complete control against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans. tucson.com
    2014-10-21 RT @nfl: Beard vs. Beard. Fitz vs. Keisel. It's a Beard-Off! @BKeisel99 picks off Ryan Fitzpatrick. #HOUvsPIT http://t.co/5UJtGIy6wL - None twitter
    2014-10-21 RT @nfl: Beard vs. Beard. Fitz vs. Keisel. It's a Beard-Off! @BKeisel99 picks off Ryan Fitzpatrick. #HOUvsPIT http://t.co/5UJtGIy6wL - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Beard vs. Beard. Fitz vs. Keisel. It's a Beard-Off! @BKeisel99 picks off Ryan Fitzpatrick. #HOUvsPIT http://t.co/5UJtGIy6wL - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Steelers rally past stunned Texans 30-23 - PITTSBURGH — One dizzying sequence, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were in complete control against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans. Tulsa World
    2014-10-21 Brett Keisel, Ryan Fitzpatrick compared beards (Photo) http://t.co/lVOOvDwQbm - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Brett Keisel, Ryan Fitzpatrick compared beards (Photo) - Following Monday night&#8217;s game between the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers, Brett Keisel and Ryan Fitzpatrick compared their beards. Yes they were comparing beards. pic.twitter.com/X26LaIV6aR &#8212; Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) October 21, 2014 Loading... ZergNet The post Brett Keisel, Ryan Fitzpatrick compared beards (Photo) appeared first on Pro Football Zone. Pro Football Zone
    2014-10-21 Brett Keisel, Ryan Fitzpatrick compared beards (Photo) - Following Monday night’s game between the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers, Brett Keisel and Ryan Fitzpatrick compared their beards. Yes they were comparing beards. pic.twitter.com/X26LaIV6aR — Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) October 21, 2014 var ACE_AR = {Site: '898551', Size: '468060', CallType: 'IFRAME'}; Loading... ZergNet The post Brett Keisel, Ryan Fitzpatrick compared beards (Photo) appeared first on Pro Football Zone. YardBarker
    2014-10-21 Brett Keisel, Ryan Fitzpatrick compared beards (Photo) - Following Monday night’s game between the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers, Brett Keisel and Ryan Fitzpatrick compared their beards. Yes they were comparing beards. pic.twitter.com/X26LaIV6aR — Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) October 21, 2014 var ACE_AR = {Site: '898551', Size: '468060', CallType: 'IFRAME'}; Loading... ZergNet The post Brett Keisel, Ryan Fitzpatrick compared beards (Photo) appeared first on Pro Football Zone. YardBarker
    2014-10-21 Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brett Keisel comparing beards (via @MarkKaboly_Trib) http://t.co/zAUGCNf0ch - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Highlights: Foster's 1-yard TD - With defensive end J.J. Watt on offense as an eligible wide receiver, Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completes a 1-yard touchdown pass to running back Arian Foster. Houston Texans
    2014-10-21 Highlights: Foster's 1-yard TD - With defensive end J.J. Watt on offense as an eligible wide receiver, Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completes a 1-yard touchdown pass to running back Arian Foster. Houston Texans
    2014-10-21 Steelers overcome early deficit to earn 30-23 victory over Texans - The Pittsburgh Steelers scored 21 points in the final three minutes of the second quarter to help dig out of an early 13-0 hole en route to a 30-23 victory over the Houston Texans on Monday night. The Texans took the early lead on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Alfred Blue and&#8230; ProFootballTalk.com
    2014-10-21 Texans on comeback trail. Ryan Fitzpatrick finds Arian Foster on 1-yard TD pass. Houston trails Pittsburgh 30-23 with 1:31 remaining. - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Ryan Fitzpatrick gonna go wrestle a bear and ride it back to Texas to put this game behind him http://t.co/RHiyCtBO52 - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Steelers rally past stunned Texans 30-23 - PITTSBURGH (AP) &mdash; One dizzying sequence, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were in complete control against J. The Denver Post
    2014-10-21 Steelers' Lawrence Timmons doesn't let kick to gut stop him - PITTSBURGH -- Observed and heard in the Pittsburgh Steelers' locker room after a 30-23 win over the Houston Texans Monday night at Heinz Field. Li... espn
    2014-10-21 Texans lose early lead, fall to Pittsburgh 30-23 - The Texans fall 30-23 to the Steelers in Monday Night Football despite getting off to an early 13-0 lead. Houston Texans
    2014-10-21 Texans lose early lead, fall to Pittsburgh 30-23 - The Texans fall 30-23 to the Steelers in Monday Night Football despite getting off to an early 13-0 lead. Houston Texans
    2014-10-21 Kind of feels like we're due for an unthinkable Ryan Fitzpatrick mental error, doesn't it? - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Jon Gruden loves his quarterbacks, but you can tell he's down on Ryan Fitzpatrick. Very critical of his passes/decisions - None twitter
    2014-10-21 &#8216;The General&#8217; opines on the Texans&#8217; up-and-down first half - My five halftime observations: 1. The Texans should find jobs as magicians. They made a 13-0 lead disappear in 3 minutes, 8 seconds, going from 13-0 ahead to 24-13 behind. 2. Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t consistently complete passes down the field, and he’s terrible on third down. 3. The defense doesn’t have a clue how to cover Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who has receptions of 43 and 28 yards on scoring drives as well as a 2-yard touchdown reception. 4. Once defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau made adjustments after Arian Foster ran for 87 yards on 11 carries, the Texans were helpless. 5. Along with Arian Foster, who has 88 yards [...] Houston Chronicle
    2014-10-21 Steelers’ threw a great touchdown pass (Video) - After going down early,  the Pittsburgh Steelers stormed back late in the first half after defensive lineman Brett Keisel intercepted Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and brought it back inside the ten yard-line. The Steelers pulled off a heck of a gadget play when they handed the ball off to wide receiver Antonio Brown, who [&#8230;] The post Steelers&#8217; threw a great touchdown pass (Video) appeared first on Pro Football Zone. Pro Football Zone
    2014-10-21 Brett Keisel Picks Off Ryan Fitzpatrick To Sum Up Texans Struggle (Video) - When the linebacker on the team is catching picks, you just know you’re screwed. The Houston Texans sadly could not have JJ Watt play QB, so that led to Ryan Fitzpatrick having to save the team. It didn’t go well. The Texans meltdown happened so quick, then the Keisel INT just further summed up the struggle filled night. The post Brett Keisel Picks Off Ryan Fitzpatrick To Sum Up Texans Struggle (Video) appeared first on Geeks & Cleats. YardBarker
    2014-10-21 Ryan Fitzpatrick's beard might be the greatest thing I've ever seen. #lifegoals - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Steelers capitalize on scoring surge to defeat Texans, 30-23 - One dizzying sequence, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were in complete control against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans. Los Angeles Times
    2014-10-21 Texans take early 10-0 lead over Steelers - PITTSBURGH (AP) Ryan Fitzpatrick hit rookie running back Alfred Blue for an 11-yard touchdown pass, and the Houston Texans had a 10-0 lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the second quarter on Monday night. CSN Houston
    2014-10-21 Texans take early 10-0 lead over Steelers - PITTSBURGH (AP) Ryan Fitzpatrick hit rookie running back Alfred Blue for an 11-yard touchdown pass, and the Houston Texans had a 10-0 lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the second quarter on Monday night. CSN Houston
    2014-10-21 Brett Keisel nabs the fat guy interception - Okay, he's mostly beard, but still ... Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard, you know. Brett Keisel apparently lives in the woods somewhere. But the Steelers defensive lineman got the better of Houston's Ivy League quarterback, coming up with an excellent fat guy interception. SB Nation
    2014-10-21 @FO_ScottKacsmar Ryan Fitzpatrick is the 2nd best #Steelers quarterback right now. - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Ryan Fitzpatrick's going to go to take a knee and accidentally somersault out of the end zone for a safety. - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Beard on Beard crime. Brett Keisel stole on from Ryan Fitzpatrick - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Ryan Fitzpatrick has a 7th Cavalry-ish beard going, so I guess that fits. - None twitter
    2014-10-21 I remember when the #Texans traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick and thought he was an upgrade to Matt Schaub. - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Ryan Fitzpatrick picked off by the other beard, Kiesel .#Steelers ball inside the #Texans 20. &gt; http://t.co/o5OkGTjygM - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Texans flip the script in starting out strong against Steelers - PITTSBURGH – Entering Week 7, the Texans had led only once in the first quarter this season. That upside-down statistic finally changed on “Monday Night Football.” Skillfully marching 94 yards during a 10-play drive that ran 5 minutes, 29 seconds off the clock, the Texans grabbed a 7-0 lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers and quieted the Terrible Towel-toting faithful at Heinz Field. A downed punt placed the Texans at their six-yard line. Two Arian Foster runs followed, leaving the Texans staring at third-and-six and Pittsburgh likely regaining the ball. When quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick began to be dragged down, it looked like a repeat of the same first-quarter blues for the [...] Houston Chronicle
    2014-10-21 Ryan Fitzpatrick INT. #Texans meltdown. Pathetic. - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Texans take early 10-0 lead over Steelers - Ryan Fitzpatrick hit rookie running back Alfred Blue for an 11-yard touchdown pass, and the Houston Texans had a 10-0 lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the second quarter on Monday night. &#8230; Click to Continue &raquo; Sports News | The Kansas City Star & KansasCity.com
    2014-10-21 @BradWellsNFL But they do have Ryan!!! ....Fitzpatrick - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Wild three-TD explosion leads Pittsburgh Steelers past Houston Texans - The Pittsburgh Steelers overcame a dreary start to wake up right before halftime. After the Houston Texans took a 13-0 lead and dominated the majority of the first half, the Steelers scored 24 points in the final three-plus minutes of the second quarter — including three TDs in 73 seconds — in a 30-23 victory. According to NFL Network, the Steelers’ 24 points in that short a span was the most in the NFL since 2002. The last time an NFL team scored three touchdowns in a shorter time period was the New England Patriots accomplishing that feat in a 52-second span in the infamous “Buttfumble” game against the New York Jets in Week 12 of the 2012 season. [Join FanDuel.com's $2.5M Week 8 fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 21,905 teams paid] The Steelers raised their record to 4-3 while the Texans fell to 3-4. The Steelers have not lost a Monday night home game since Bubby Brister was quarterback, back in 1991. The Texans looked strong early — something they hadn’t done a lot of coming into the game. After holding the Steelers on the first defensive series before they crossed midfield, the Texans embarked on a 10-play, 94-yard drive that beautifully mixed zone runs and a few timing passes. Arian Foster ripped off a 33-yard cutback run that showed the age and lack of speed on the Steelers’ defense, and rookie back Alfred Blue capped the drive with a sneaky little screen for the touchdown from 11 yards out that seemed to surprise the Steelers. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got the ball back and had the Steelers on the move the following drive, but Whitney Mercilus — who really has come on lately — made two big plays to stunt the drive. First, he tagged Steelers running back LeVeon Bell in the backfield for a two-yard loss then took down Roethlisberger on a strip sack, which was recovered by (of course) J.J. Watt. The Texans converted that into a nine-play drive, but quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick couldn’t connect with Foster on a wheel route, and they settled on a Randy Bullock field goal for a 10-0 lead. The Steelers’ offense continued to look stagnant and unimaginative, and Heinz Field fans started to boo after they went three-and-out on the first possession of the second quarter. After a Fitzpatrick scramble on third down and a fourth-and-inches conversion on a Foster run for 11 yards, the Texans stalled on the edge of the Steelers’ red zone and once more turned to Bullock. His 38-yard field goal made it 13-0 Texans. That’s when the game turned on its head. After Watt jumped offsides on 3rd-and-15, Roethlisberger hit Bell on an angle route — catching Brian Cushing flat-footed — who ran 43 yards to flip the field. But Mercilus once again sacked Roethlisberger, and the Steelers had to settle for a 44-yard Shaun Suisham field goal. The Steelers defense finally stepped up with a three-and-out (and a pass rush!), giving the ball back to their offense just inside the two-minute warning. Roethlisberger dumped it to Bell on a screen for 28 yards and then found rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant for his first NFL reception in his first NFL game — a 35-yard touchdown grab, burning a fellow rookie in Texans corner Andre Hal to quickly cut the Houston lead to 13-10. Bell would finish the game with 145 yards from scrimmage, including 88 receiving. The Texans’ implosion continued. After Danieal Manning bobbled the ensuing kickoff and only got out to the 5-yard line. Then Foster fumbled the ball on third down, which was reviewed on replay, and the Steelers took over at the Houston 3. That’s when embattled Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley pulled out the dumbest/smartest/most amazing play call ever. The Steelers ran a toss sweep reverse pass — with Roethlisberger blocking on Mercilus — with the lefthanded Antonio Brown throwing a touchdown pass to Lance Moore for a 17-13 Steelers lead. Fitzpatrick then did the unimaginable (for most quarterbacks): He gave it right back to the Steelers. His off-balance pass with pressure closing in was intercepted by Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel after the ball deflected off a Texans offensive lineman’s helmet. Two plays later, Roethlisberger hit a wide-open Bell for a touchdown — and a stunning 24-13 lead — after the Texans appeared to blow a defensive assignment. Safety D.J. Swearinger ran out late in coverage of Bell and then yelled at his teammates in disgust. Twenty-one Steelers points on drives lasting 19, seven and 44 seconds before the end of the half — incredible. The Steelers could have stepped on the Texans’ necks to start the second half. They had a fourth down and less than a yard to go from the Houston 40-yard line, but head coach Mike Tomlin opted to punt instead. The Texans, meanwhile, at least were aggressive when they had the chance. They converted a fake punt from their own 40 and moved into Pittsburgh territory but were stopped on third down on their second possession of the second half. Third-down failures were a story all game for the Texans. But they did make it interesting. After Andre Johnson caught a mere one pass for 4 yards in the first three quarters, Johnson dominated the Texans’ first possession of the fourth quarter, catching two passes for 45 yards and drawing a pass interference. But they bogged down in the red zone and had to settle for a Bulluck 31-yarder to make it 24-16, Steelers with just under 12 minutes left. The Steelers then took over. Brown caught an amazing diving pass for 30 yards on the sideline, which was confirmed on replay, and then caught a fade from Roethlisberger on the next play for what appeared to be a 16-yard touchdown to put the game away. But replay showed Brown’s left toe touching out of bounds. Brown made another tremendous catch and run on third down but came up a yard short, and Suisham’s field goal gave the Steelers a 27-16 edge with six minutes left. The Texans had a shot to get back into it after Fitzpatrick hit DeAndre Hopkins on a 32-yard pass past midfield, but Hopkins fumbled and the Steelers tacked on another Suisham field goal for a 30-16 lead. Foster, who would finish with 102 yards rushing on 20 carries, caught a 1-yard touchdown pass with 1:31 left to cut the lead to seven points. But the Texans couldn’t recover onsides kick after a mad scramble — at least six players touched the squirting ball — and the Steelers ran out the clock with Houston out of timeouts. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm Shutdown Corner
    2014-10-21 Lawrence Timmons just sprinted and sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick after puking multiple times on the field about 15 minutes ago. - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Texans take early 10-0 lead over Steelers - PITTSBURGH (AP) Ryan Fitzpatrick hit rookie running back Alfred Blue for an 11-yard touchdown pass, and the Houston Texans had a 10-0 lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the second quarter on Monday night. Fox Sports
    2014-10-21 RT @CBSSports: The @HoustonTexans might need to give Ryan Fitzpatrick a bigger chin strap. http://t.co/oub3DETNl3 - None twitter
    2014-10-21 The @HoustonTexans might need to give Ryan Fitzpatrick a bigger chin strap. http://t.co/oub3DETNl3 - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Texans take early 10-0 lead over Steelers - PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Ryan Fitzpatrick hit rookie running back Alfred Blue for an 11-yard touchdown pass, and the Houston Texans had a 10-0 lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the second quarter on Monday night.... ABQJournal
    2014-10-21 Texans take early 10-0 lead over Steelers - Ryan Fitzpatrick hit rookie running back Alfred Blue for an 11-yard touchdown pass, and the Houston Texans had a 10-0 lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the second quarter on Monday night. The Palm Beach Post
    2014-10-21 Texans take early 10-0 lead over Steelers - Dayton Daily News
    2014-10-21 Texans take early 10-0 lead over Steelers - Fitzpatrick hits Blue for 11-yard score as Texans take early 10-0 lead over Steelers &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&nbsp;&nbsp;&#160; USA Today
    2014-10-21 You see, he actually changed his full name to Ryan Fitzpatrick Wentu-Harvard a few years ago, so it's not the announcers' fault. - None twitter
    2014-10-21 You'd almost think Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard or something with how Gruden is raving about his smarts. - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Highlights: Blue's TD catch - Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completes an 11-yard touchdown pass to running back Alfred Blue. Houston Texans
    2014-10-21 Highlights: Blue's TD catch - Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completes an 11-yard touchdown pass to running back Alfred Blue. Houston Texans
    2014-10-21 RT @Elite11: Back before Ryan Fitzpatrick's beard and Ben Roethlisberger's rings. #HOUvsPIT #MNF #KeepClimbing http://t.co/jjnJZMe9W7 - None twitter
    2014-10-21 RT @Elite11: Back before Ryan Fitzpatrick's beard and Ben Roethlisberger's rings. #HOUvsPIT #MNF #KeepClimbing http://t.co/jjnJZMe9W7 - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Arian Foster powers Texans’ fast start - The Texans rode Arian Foster to a fast start in Pittsburgh. Foster had five carries for 59 yards on Houston&#8217;s first drive as the Texans marched 94 yards in 10 plays to take an early 7-0 lead. The touchdown was scored by Foster&#8217;s backup, Alfred Blue, who took a short pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick and&#8230; ProFootballTalk.com
    2014-10-21 Back before Ryan Fitzpatrick's beard and Ben Roethlisberger's rings. #HOUvsPIT #MNF #KeepClimbing http://t.co/jjnJZMe9W7 - None twitter
    2014-10-21 VINE - Alfred Blue Pass From Ryan Fitzpatrick for 11 Yards and the TD. His 1st career NFL TD! #Texans https://t.co/T6xChcJzP4 - None twitter
    2014-10-21 RT @DanHanzus: The Texans just gave Ryan Fitzpatrick a $62M extension. - None twitter
    2014-10-21 The Texans just gave Ryan Fitzpatrick a $62M extension. - None twitter
    2014-10-21 FANTASY UPDATE: This touchdown doesn't help any fantasy owner but the #Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick connects on a screen pass to Alfred Blue! - None twitter
    2014-10-21 7-0 Texans after a Ryan Fitzpatrick to Alfred Blue 11-yd TD pass. Capped 10-play, 94-yd drive that lasted 5:29. - None twitter
    2014-10-21 We've got an open thread for Monday Night Football. All hail Ryan Fitzpatrick's beard http://t.co/iI2lppnM9c - None twitter
    2014-10-21 Ryan Fitzpatrick AND Brett Keisel in the same game?! The world can't handle the combined awesomeness of these beards! http://t.co/AuIf7AnwrU - None twitter
    2014-10-20 RT @Super_Stud2100: @battleredblog The real problem is Fitzpatrick is the QB - None twitter
    2014-10-20 Anybody else think @Coach_Aurich look like Ryan Fitzpatrick? - None twitter
    2014-10-20 MNF, Week 7: Texans vs. Steelers - The word coming out of Pittsburgh is that the Steelers aren't about to panic, but it should be noted this is what people usually say when they are panicking. In an epic battle between two 3-3 teams (funny story, did you know Seattle is also 3-3?), the Steelers look to rebound from what has been an inconsistent season so far. In this case, whatever Ben Roethlisberger has wanted, did, in actuality, not happen. Maybe the story would be different if their games were played in the bathroom stall? But the next best thing for them is they are on a three-game set at home, starting with the equally inconsistent J.J. Watts, who some people call the Texans. Watt leads the NFL with 20 hits on quarterbacks (please hit Ben a lot tonight), and has 40% of the team's sacks. What would help is Ryan Fitzpatrick showing more of that Fitzmagic. Err, wait, that magic has actually led to a 58.9 passer rating, so maybe less magic here bro. But keep the beard. Trying to figure out if you're a co... YardBarker
    2014-10-20 @Southern_Philly @ByPatrickWall Aren't you just terrified of Ryan Fitzpatrick though? That 6/6 TD/INT ratio is scary. - None twitter
    2014-10-20 Texans take early 10-0 lead over Steelers (The Associated Press) - PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Ryan Fitzpatrick hit rookie running back Alfred Blue for an 11-yard touchdown pass, and the Houston Texans had a 10-0 lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the second quarter on Monday night. Yahoo Sports - Houston Texans
    2014-10-20 Hadn't thought of that one. RT @EricStangel: Who does Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick remind me of… http://t.co/hRW83eyFG7 - None twitter
    2014-10-20 Texans take early 10-0 lead over Steelers - PITTSBURGH (AP) - Ryan Fitzpatrick hit rookie running back Alfred Blue for an 11-yard touchdown pass, and the Houston Texans had a 10-0 lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the second quarter on Monday night. Milwaukee Journal
    2014-10-20 RT @EricStangel: Who does Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick remind me of… http://t.co/bCiYVYVDb3 - None twitter
    2014-10-20 Ryan Fitzpatrick and his BEARD are out on the field warming up. #MNF http://t.co/5K2Bl3xd0a - None twitter
    2014-10-20 Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick Has Very Few Weaknesses - Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will making his fourth-career start against the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday night and while the Harvard product has yet to register a win against black and gold, he figures to be a tough opponent nonetheless. For starters, while Fitzpatrick has just as many interceptions as touchdown passes (6), heading into the […] Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick Has Very Few Weaknesses is a post from: Steelers Depot The post Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick Has Very Few Weaknesses appeared first on Steelers Depot. [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]] YardBarker
    2014-10-20 Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick Has Very Few Weaknesses - Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will making his fourth-career start against the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday night and while the Harvard product has yet to register a win against black and gold, he figures to be a tough opponent nonetheless. For starters, while Fitzpatrick has just as many interceptions as touchdown passes (6), heading into the […] Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick Has Very Few Weaknesses is a post from: Steelers Depot The post Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick Has Very Few Weaknesses appeared first on Steelers Depot. [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]] YardBarker
    2014-10-20 Matchups: Matchup: Texans @ Steelers - Evan Silva examines every critical skill-position Matchup in Monday night's Texans-Steelers game. Fantasy Football Articles - Rotoworld.com
    2014-10-20 Monday Night Football: Steelers vs Texans Pick *5-2 Yesterday* - Houston Texans vs Pittsburgh Steelers The Houston Texans travel to Pittsburgh for a match up with the Steelers on Monday Night Football this week. Both teams are looking to get to 4-3 on the year. Pittsburgh was embarrassed last week against the Cleveland Browns and Houston fell behind early to a streaking Indianapolis team. The Steelers are banged up on the defensive side of the ball. Ike Taylor is lost for the year. Ryan Shazier, Brett Keisel, Steve McLendon, and Shamarko Thomas are all questionable to play tonight. On offense, the Steelers are racking up the yards, but not the points. They are averaging almost 400 yards of offense, but cannot score in the redzone. Houston needs to start out fast. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been one of the slowest starting QB’s in the league this year and it won’t get any easier against a Steelers defense that gives up less than 50 yards on average in the first quarter. Houston is banged up on the defensive side of the ball as well, but they could get Jadeveon Clowney back YardBarker
    2014-10-20 Ryan Fitzpatrick will need to ___________ in order to secure a Houston Texans victory tonight. http://t.co/ev7J6VnGbt - None twitter
    2014-10-20 Steelers pull out victory at home vs. Houston - Ben Roethlisberger passed for two touchdowns and wide receiver Antonio Brown added another on a gadget play during a dizzying stretch late in the first half, helping the Pittsburgh Steelers rally for a 30-23 win over the mistake-prone Houston Texans on Monday night. Las Vegas Review-Journal
    2014-10-20 Matchup: Texans @ Steelers (Rotoworld) - Evan Silva examines every critical skill-position Matchup in Monday night's Texans-Steelers game. Yahoo Sports - Pittsburgh Steelers
    2014-10-20 5 Things to Watch: Texans at Steelers - Here are Five Things to Watch when the Texans face the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football. Houston Texans
    2014-10-20 The Film Room: A Step-By-Step Guide To Attacking The Steelers - Brett Kollmann of Battle Red Blog breaks down film of the Dick LeBeau defense and the best ways for the Texans to move the ball against the Steelers tonight. While the Texans seemingly play the Baltimore Ravens every single season for one reason or another, J.J. Watt and company have not met the Ravens' biggest rival – the Pittsburgh Steelers – on the field in three years. In the last contest between both teams, Andre Johnson went down with a severe hamstring injury, Duane Brown broke James Harrison’s eye socket, Mario Williams finished his last complete game as a Texan, the Texans' offense mounted an unbelievable drive that lasted a full 11 minutes, and Arian Foster tallied 155 yards on the ground, the most by a running back against the vaunted Steelers defense in nearly a decade to that point. For such a seemingly inconsequential Week Four matchup, a lot happened. That was a gut check game for the new and improved 2011 Texans. Nobody had even heard of J.J. Watt back then, nobody believed that Arian Foster was more than just a one year wonder, and certainly nobody believed that such a young, historically awful franchise could overcome a Steelers team fresh off a Super Bowl appearance. And yet they did. Fast forward a few seasons, and both teams find themselves in similar situations. The Texans rose to new heights and sunk to new lows in consecutive campaigns while the Steelers have floundered at 8-8 for the past two years. Both teams are desperately trying to compete in the middle of mild rebuilding phases, and both teams have a lot to prove under the prime time lights. Pittsburgh wants to remain relevant in a tough AFC North division; Houston just wants to show they are relevant at all. If Bill O’Brien and company want to put themselves into the national conversation in front of a huge audience, it all starts with how many points they can put up on a Steelers defense that is far weaker than its 2011 iteration. Step 1: Understand what they do The Dick LeBeau defense has always relied on deception to get to the quarterback, but for a long time the black and gold also had multiple stud pass rushers that could get into the back field without help from overload blitzes or whatever crazy pressure packages the coaching staff could put together. Whether it was James Harrison, Lamarr Woodley, or even Aaron Smith, Dick LeBeau always had personnel that could just flat out whoop people at the line of scrimmage. These days, however, the Steelers have trouble generating any consistent pass rush against good offensive lines without sending the kitchen sink at them. The wins in one-on-one matchups are not happening as frequently anymore. Cameron Heyward can get some work done when he is not being constantly double-teamed, and even Brett Kiesel and Jason Worilds have been disruptive on occasion. However, nobody is coming close to the consistent domination that the team used to enjoy from guys like Harrison in his prime. LeBeau runs what is called a "Zone Blitzing 3-4". The concept is simple – stop the run, get the opponent into third and long, and unleash hell with blitz packages that would make any offensive coordinator lose sleep. Typically the base defense looks something like the diagram below. The defensive line is set up in a traditional "two-gap" alignment with both defensive ends playing either a "4-technique" or a "5i-technique" over the offensive tackles. The nose tackle can be shaded to either side of the center, or even head up on the center in a "0-technique". All three defensive linemen will engage and "stack" on their blocker while tracking the ball. Rather than penetrating into an assigned gap, the linemen will virtually hold two different gaps by stacking on their man and shedding the block into whichever gap the ball carrier decides to run. The better these linemen are at stacking and shedding, the more double teams they will inevitably draw on run plays. The more double teams they draw, the more space the linebackers have to fly to the ball unopposed. At its core, this traditional "two gap" approach is designed to give the linebackers as many opportunities to make plays as possible. On the back end, the secondary typically lines up in a "single high" look with the free safety patrolling the middle of the field deep and the strong safety roaming closer to the line of scrimmage. Both starting corners handle either deep-third duty in zone or shadow their receivers in man coverage depending on the call. LeBeau corners line up in "off coverage" most of the time to remain ambiguous between man and zone looks, but they are asked to press at times as well when they need to disrupt timing routes and give blitzers enough time to reach their target. Speed, fluid hips, and quick feet are the keys here. If the corner is clunky when closing on breaks from seven yards off the line of scrimmage, too slow to keep up in trail technique when pressing, or not fluid enough to adjust to route stems down field, he will be eaten alive. With no guaranteed help over the top or inside with how many blitzes the Steelers run every week, corners have almost no margin for error in this system. Either they do their job, or everyone on this defense suffers the consequences. However, LeBeau – being the defensive genius that he is – does not exclusively subscribe to traditional "two-gap" looks for his 3-4. While his game plan against the Browns last week called for a lot of the bread and butter "5-0-5" alignment, Week Four’s tilt with the Buccaneers saw many more one-gap looks. The secondary and linebackers largely remain the same, but the defensive line has shifted into a 3-1-4 alignment from a 5-0-5. The weak side defensive end is now essentially a 3-technique defensive tackle, the nose tackle is now an aggressive 1-technique penetrator and block absorber for the center and strong side guard, and the strong side 5-technique shifts slightly inside to the 4-technique to allow himself to penetrate through the tackle’s interior shoulder more easily. What’s more, this alignment is vague enough to allow for two-gapping or one-gapping depending on the situation. With Tampa having a young quarterback, a week interior offensive line, and no offensive coordinator (Bucs OC Jeff Tedford is on an indefinite medical leave of absence), LeBeau opted to throw caution to the wind and ruthlessly attack the offense at every available opportunity. In fact, I noticed an interesting trend where after every converted first down for the Tampa Bay offense, the Steelers immediately called for an overload blitz on the next play. As soon as the Bucs felt they had any sort of rhythm building, LeBeau wanted that confidence crushed at all costs. Pittsburgh might not have the talent they used to, but there is no denying that their mentality is the same as ever. Step 2: Mitigate their strengths The Bucs and the Browns both had offensive success against the Steelers, yet both of them did it in different ways. Cleveland neutralized the Pittsburgh blitz-heavy pass rush by continuously running the ball and passing off of play action. With linebackers having to take an extra few beats to read their run keys and fill lanes rather than blitz, Brian Hoyer had enough time to get the ball down field against a very weak Steelers secondary. Not only that, but Pittsburgh was afraid to blitz the Browns offense with the same frequency as they did against Tampa because of Cleveland’s perimeter run game. Kyle Shanahan, who I believe might be one of the best offensive innovators in the entire NFL, ran pitches, reverses, tosses, and sweeps constantly to keep pressuring the edges of the defense. With the linebackers having to be on standby to run down the threat to the perimeter, LeBeau was reluctant to send them flying up the middle while leaving the edges exposed and outnumbered. The perimeter run game might not have busted off big gains on every down, but simply establishing the threat of the run was enough to give Brian Hoyer the time break off some huge gains through the air. Shanahan’s performance for the Browns in Week Six was some of the best offensive play calling you will see all season. Tampa Bay took their fair share of hits from the Steelers defense, which to be honest is expected from a team with no offensive coordinator, but they dished out quite a bit of damage themselves. Before we get too far into the Bucs offense, however, lets dive into the aggressive Steelers game plan that was mentioned in step one. Dick LeBeau, as touched on before, made heavy use of what is known as a "run blitz". A run blitz is different from the "zone blitzes" that the Steelers are famous for because rather than dropping a defensive lineman or linebacker off the line of scrimmage into zone coverage (hence the name zone blitz) as a sort of mouse trap for quarterbacks that they cannot see ahead of time, a run blitz often sends six or even seven players flying towards the back field without anyone dropping into coverage to compensate. The penetrating defensive line and linebackers all have a designated gap to hit as part of the blitz. Every single one of them are essentially playing the run on the way to the quarterback. If a run play is called, they are aggressively disrupting the line of scrimmage to limit any yards gained on the ground. If a pass play is called, protection will likely be overloaded anyway and there is a good chance of the passer being affected in some way. For a smart coordinator like LeBeau who wants to give the Bucs as little chance as possible of developing any rhythm whatsoever, this was a good first down game plan that could disrupt both the run and the pass equally. Let us look at a couple of examples. This is a first down play with 6:19 to go in the first quarter. Just before the snap, the weak side inside linebacker (WILB) sends a very subtle signal to free safety Mike Mitchell just as Bucs tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins motions across the line of scrimmage. Mitchell then times Sefarian-Jenkins’ motion and begins running towards the line before the snap. The blitz is on. Defensive end Cameron Heyward in the 3i-technique and nose tackle Steve McClendon both slant one gap over to the weak side off the snap, a clear indication that they are trying to create space for a blitz from the strong side. Slants are a common call for defensive coordinators that want to get offensive lines either moving in the wrong direction against a blitz or who want to make protection schemes uncomfortable when having to pass off defenders amongst themselves. Slants test unity, they test technique, and they sure as hell test composure. As soon as the line becomes overly concerned with passing off the slanting 3-technique, a blitzing linebacker can barrel his way through and wreck a play. If the line gets nervous about the blitzing backer and does not pass off the slant properly, the defensive lineman will get through and wreck the play anyway. It truly is a lose-lose situation for the offense unless their execution is absolutely spotless.  Spotless execution is not something that is to be expected from a coordinator-less Buccaneers offense. Mitchell is coming into the now-vacant B gap with WILB Sean Spence not far behind on a delayed blitz to the C gap. With Heyward likely drawing the left guard on his slant and Mitchell drawing the left tackle with his blitz, Spence should be theoretically free to come through the line untouched whether the play is run or pass. Luckily for Cameron Heyward, however, the slant discombobulated the offensive line. Logan Mankins passed Heyward off into thin air as the center advanced to the second level without giving the Steelers defensive end a second thought. Now running untouched into the back field, Heyward easily brought Doug Martin down for a crucial first down loss. This is the exact idea that Dick LeBeau had when he put together this run blitz-heavy game plan against the Bucs – punch them in the mouth before they can punch you. Take a look at this play in full speed to get a better appreciation for all the little moving parts at work here. This second quarter play is an equally appropriate example of the Steelers’ plan against the Bucs. After converting a first down on a Doug Martin run in the beginning of the second quarter, LeBeau dialed up yet another run blitz to try to put Tampa Bay back in their place. Weak side 3-technique Cam Thomas and Steve McClendon both slant to the weak side and then stack on the right tackle and center to two-gap against the run. Heyward, the strong side 5i-technique, also slants one gap to the weak side, but instead of two-gapping he intends to penetrate along with the blitzing linebacker, Lawrence Timmons. The goal for Timmons here is essentially to hide behind Heyward off the snap, let the defensive line draw the left guard inside, and then crash the B gap as a free blitzer. Spence, as the weak side linebacker, then rotates over in zone coverage in case the tight end (orange circle) reads Timmons' blitz and runs a "hot route" to the now-vacant part of the field. This is a common baiting tactic that blitz-heavy coordinators use in their schemes to try to generate cheap turnovers. Even if the blitzers do not get a sack, if they can pressure the quarterback into panicking and throwing to a covered hot receiver, eventually the defense will get their hands on the ball. Heyward (yellow circle) does his job and gets Mankins inside. Timmons is now free to hit the B gap without any lineman being in his face. Arthur Moates has also gotten a great jump off the snap and is in the process of beating the left tackle around the edge. Heyward’s swim move across the face of Mankins worked perfectly. Not only did he free up Timmons (who ended up being cut down by Martin anyway), but he outright beat his blocker one-on-one to get into the back field. That is something that has been far too rare for the Steelers so far this season. For the sake of reiterating my point, this was a great plan by LeBeau. Logan Mankins is obviously struggling at left guard on his new team, there is a young quarterback who has not seen this kind of defense before, and in such a close game the Bucs could not be allowed to gain any momentum. Every gap was accounted for, execution was flawless, and Mike Glennon had nowhere to go. Run or pass, rain or shine, this was the perfect call. Out of 15 run blitzes called against the Bucs throughout the course of the entire game, 9 of them were slants to the weak side to open up a blitz from the strong side, 4 of them were slants to the strong side to open up a weak side blitz, and 2 of them were slants to both sides to open up rushes up the gut. That trend speaks to LeBeau’s preference to bring his pressure from areas where he has more bodies to work with. In the Steelers' base defense, there are as many as five defenders lined up on the strong side of the offensive formation between the nose tackle, defensive end, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, and strong safety. That is a lot of firepower at a defensive coordinator’s disposal, and if used properly, that many potential penetrators can do quite a bit of damage. Here are three more examples of at least one defensive lineman slanting weak to free up linebackers and safeties to charge into gaps with reckless abandon. Example One Example Two Example Three And of course here are two more examples of the line slanting strong to free up weak side blitzers. Remember, we are not focusing on the result of the play here, but rather what LeBeau’s defensive call was pre-snap. Some of these blitzes may not be obvious because they happen against a run play, but the slanting of the line and the subtle movements of linebackers and safeties are a dead giveaway to what the Steelers' defense intended to do. Example Four Example Five So how did the Bucs counter the aggressive Steelers game plan? By getting aggressive themselves with a spread passing game. Complex blitz schemes – especially those that involve a lot of moving parts – rely on ambiguity. Having to spread the defense all across the field removes bodies from around the offensive line. With fewer defenders floating near the offensive line, that means fewer people available to disguise and execute a blitz. Stopping the spread is a more straight forward affair than stopping a traditional NFL offense, and Dick LeBeau cannot do "straight forward" with his current personnel. Without disguise, without deception, and without flexibility, the Steelers' pass rush becomes relatively toothless. Cameron Heyward is the only member of the front seven who can consistently win one-on-one matchups with offensive linemen, which is unfortunately (for the Steelers) what stopping the spread demands. Take a look at this snap for instance. Tampa is in a three wide receiver set with Louis Murphy in the slot. Nickel cornerback Brice McCain is showing a blitz from the slot, which is corroborated by Mike Mitchell "capping" on Murphy from way down field. The easy pre-snap read is to take a quick gain by throwing hot to Murphy on the out route and hoping for some magic after the catch. Worst case scenario, the offense gains five yards; best case scenario they get a big play in the face of a neutered blitz. As stated before, spacing out a Dick LeBeau team heavily mitigates his ability to disguise his intentions. The ball is snapped, and Glennon immediately looks for Murphy as his hot. Mitchell has no prayer of stopping this reception from that far out. Despite only gaining five yards on the play, this was an easy five yards that the Bucs really needed. Plays like these discourage blitzing in the first place because they send a strong message that sending extra rushers only leads to automatic five yard gains. If an offense can take away a defense’s best asset, that defense is in for a long day. For those who are wondering just what I mean by a safety "capping" a receiver and how that can lead to effortless gains against the blitz, take a look back at my piece on the ideal Bill O’Brien quarterback and the offense he is bringing to Houston. Here is a Bill O'Brien quote from that article that details the importance of tracking safeties when deciphering blitzes. "When you break the huddle at quarterback, you have to think high to low. You can’t think low to high. I don’t care if it’s a run or a pass. Train your quarterback [when he breaks the huddle] to say ‘Where are the safeties?’ Find the safeties. I always tell the kid to find the weak safety, find the strong safety. Just train the kid to find the safeties. Corners, you guys all know the corners on your team. They’re the sneaky dudes, man. They’re the guys, they got a lot of bravado, and they’re confident, and they’re the ones that can lie to you. Them safeties, those are the guys that direct the show back there. They can lie to you too, don’t get me wrong, but you’ve got to locate them because whether it’s pre-snap or post-snap, they’re going to tell you about what the defense is doing. So here’s what we say. I’m just talking about two high right now, but if the safeties are twelve yards deep and they’re somewhat off the hash, more than likely they’re playing cover two. If they’re eight to ten yards deep and they’re over your number two receivers, more than likely they’re playing cover four. If they’re under eight yards, those two safeties, and maybe the weak safety is cheating to number three or maybe he’s over number two weak. If they’re under eight yards or they’re hovering in that shallow area, something’s up…it’s blitz zero – especially if it’s empty." "[If] we put the running back out there as the widest receiver and the corner just bumps out, well, you know it’s zone coverage. If you get empty and you put the back out there on one side or the other as the widest receiver and a linebacker goes out there with him, it’s some type of man coverage. If a safety goes out there with him, it’s some type of man coverage and it’s probably blitz so that they leave the linebackers in the box because they’re going to blitz him." In other words, a "capping safety" is essentially a safety that is subtly aligned in off-man coverage on a receiver in the place of a disguised blitzer. Whether it is a slot cornerback or a linebacker, if a safety is capping a receiving threat anywhere along the line of scrimmage, that is a telltale sign that something is coming. Here are two more examples of a capping safety giving away a blitz pre-snap. Whether or not Glennon actually saw the cap and whether or not the Bucs offense took advantage of the blitzes is another matter entirely, but the warning signals were there nonetheless. Example One Example Two So what does this all have to do with the Texans? For starters, Bill O’Brien is very, very good at running a spread offense out of a variety of personnel groupings. Hell, one could argue that the O’Brien offense, a variation on the Erhardt-Perkins system, is specifically catered to counter aggressive defenses like the one found in Pittsburgh in the first place. Between identifying safety alignments, building hot reads into every single passing play, and sliding protections pre-snap to account for defenders that jump into their shells too early, O’Brien’s offense is perfectly set up to neutralize and exploit blitzes out of spread formations. The true question here is not whether O’Brien’s system is a good fit for this game, but rather if Ryan Fitzpatrick can execute the game plan at an acceptable level. Step 3: Attack their weaknesses We have established what the Steelers’ strengths are, and we have established how to at least limit those strengths, but for the purpose of putting up a lot of points the Texans still have to find a way to exploit some weaknesses. In the case of this 2014 Steelers team that is temporarily without Ike Taylor and no longer has Keenan Lewis on the roster, that weakness is far and away the cornerbacks. William Gay is Pittsburgh’s best cover corner, but even for most NFL teams, he would be considered a number two guy at best. Gay has excelled in the slot for the past couple seasons, but injuries have forced him to take over a starting role on the outside where he is a bit less comfortable as a 5’10" corner. On the other side of Gay is Brice McCain, who will be taking over for the benched Cortez Allen. Yes, you heard that right – there is a corner in the NFL that is so bad that BRICE MCCAIN took his job. So what is the McCain train up to these days? Oh, you know…just normal Brice McCain things. Even when he is rescued by poorly thrown footballs, I still like to take every opportunity I can to show #25 getting roasted anyway. For Brice Freakin’ McCain to actually take a starting job from someone, how bad could that someone possibly be? In Cortez Allen’s case, the answer is amazingly, appallingly, almost fascinatingly bad. I will let the GIFs speak for themselves. Example One Example Two Example Three In short, this Steelers secondary is in trouble. If given ample time to operate, the duo of Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins are an absolute nightmare matchup for these cornerbacks. I expect some sort of attempt from the Texans to recreate the Browns' run-heavy and play-action attack from last weekend.  If that fails, there are plenty of other methods available to move the ball. Considering that Arian Foster is as stout a pass protector as they come, Bill O’Brian may be content to simply call six man protections all game and buy Fitzpatrick enough time for these receivers to inevitably get wide open. Even if Dick LeBeau attempts to overwhelm both the ground game and the six man protections with heavy run blitzes like he did against Tampa Bay, all it takes is a few easy first downs off of hot routes to discourage overzealous blitzing for the remainder of the game. Pittsburgh is still a good team that can easily beat the Texans any day of the week, but schematically speaking this is about as good a matchup as it gets for this Houston offense. Do not rule out this game turning into an epic Monday night shootout. Predictions 1 – DeAndre Hopkins reels in 6+ catches for 100+ yards and at least one touchdown. 2 – Troy Polamalu does something awesome because he is still Troy Polamalu. 3 – Ryan Fitzpatrick has his first three touchdown game of the season. 4 – Garrett Graham continues to do nothing. 5 – Derek Newton continues his current streak of not giving up a single sack all season. I still have no idea how this is happening. Texans vs Steelers coverage Battle Red Blog
    2014-10-20 The Film Room: A Step-By-Step Guide To Attacking The Steelers - The Film Room: A Step-By-Step Guide To Attacking The Steelers The Palm Beach Post
    2014-10-20 2014 Fantasy Football: Week 7 Monday Night Football Preview - Arian Foster Monday October 20, 2014 Houston Texans @ Pittsburgh Steelers This is a game we are excited to watch. There are a lot of huge names and major fantasy implications in this one. J.J. Watt will try to wreak havoc on Big Ben and the Steelers offense on one side of the ball. On the other side of the ball the Steelers will attempt to slow down the Texans’ trio of stars. If Ryan Fitzpatrick can manage to have a decent game, Houston could pull off the road win against a battered Pittsburgh defense. This game is sure to determine a ton of fantasy matchups on Monday night. Houston Texans: Key Players QB Ryan Fitzpatrick Fitzpatrick is the one thing really holding this Texans offense back. They have an elite RB and tremendous WRs. Bill O’Brien continues to answer questions about Fitzpatrick remaining their starting QB. Unfortunately, he is their best option. Verdict: Sit Fitzpatrick. He would be borderline in a three QB league. RB Arian Foster Foster has been absolutely dominant t... YardBarker
    2014-10-20 2014 Fantasy Football: Week 7 Monday Night Football Preview - Arian Foster Monday October 20, 2014 Houston Texans @ Pittsburgh Steelers This is a game we are excited to watch. There are a lot of huge names and major fantasy implications in this one. J.J. Watt will try to wreak havoc on Big Ben and the Steelers offense on one side of the ball. On the other side of the ball the Steelers will attempt to slow down the Texans’ trio of stars. If Ryan Fitzpatrick can manage to have a decent game, Houston could pull off the road win against a battered Pittsburgh defense. This game is sure to determine a ton of fantasy matchups on Monday night. Houston Texans: Key Players QB Ryan Fitzpatrick Fitzpatrick is the one thing really holding this Texans offense back. They have an elite RB and tremendous WRs. Bill O’Brien continues to answer questions about Fitzpatrick remaining their starting QB. Unfortunately, he is their best option. Verdict: Sit Fitzpatrick. He would be borderline in a three QB league. RB Arian Foster Foster has been absolutely dominant t... YardBarker
    2014-10-20 Fantasy Football Week 7: Complete Monday Night Preview - Houston Texans: Andre Johnson Last week in the loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Johnson caught his first touchdown pass of the season. He leads the team with 34 catches for 419 yards this season. All told, Johnson ranks 11th in NFL history with 961 receptions, and his 13,080 receiving yards is the 15th-best total in league annals. Against the Colts, the 12-year veteran totaled season highs for catches (seven) and receiving yards (99). Fantasy Prediction: 6 receptions, 84 yards, 1 TD Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins Looking for Johnson’s touchdowns? They seem to winding up in the hands of Hopkins, who ranks second on the club with 25 catches and 366 receiving yards. He has also caught exactly half of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s six scoring passes. The 2013 first-round pick finished second on the team with 52 receptions for 802 yards and two scores. But Hopkins was targeted a season-low two times and caught just one pass for 12 yards in the loss to Indianapolis. Fantasy Prediction: 5 receptions, 85 yards, 0 TD Houston Texans: Damaris Johnson A waiver pickup from the Philadelphia Eagles, Johnson has totaled eight catches for 133 yards and a touchdown this season. His bigger role comes on special teams, leading the team in both punt- and kickoff- return yardage, but Johnson did catch three passes for 62 yards last week vs. the Colts. Fantasy Prediction: 2 receptions, 15 yards, 0 TD Houston Texans: Keshawn Martin A fourth-round draft choice back in 2012, Martin has totaled two catches for 23 yards this season. He’s not missed a game in three NFL seasons and has totaled 34 grabs for 361 yards and three scores in his brief career. His main contribution these days is as a punt returner. Fantasy Prediction: 0 receptions Pittsburgh Steelers: Antonio Brown Brown continues to impress every time he’s on the field and is arguably the league’s best wide receiver after the catch these days. He also owns an NFL-record streak of 22 straight games with at least five receptions. This season, Brown has totaled 41 catches for 629 yards and five touchdowns. He’s one of the league’s most dangerous players after the reception. He figures to have another productive performance against the NFL’s 28th-ranked pass defense. Fantasy Prediction: 7 receptions, 101 yards, 0 TD Pittsburgh Steelers: Markus Wheaton Injuries limited Wheaton to 12 games and one start as a rookie in 2013, and the third-round pick totaled only six catches for 64 yards. As a starter this season, the second-year pro has begun to show positive signs. He ranks fourth on the team with 24 receptions and second on the club with 277 receiving yards. But Wheaton has yet to reach the end zone in 2014. Fantasy Prediction: 3 receptions, 42 yards, 0 TD Pittsburgh Steelers: Lance Moore The former New Orleans Saints wideout missed the first two games of the season and has now caught exactly one pass in each of his last three contests. Moore scored in the late stages of last week’s 31-10 loss at Cleveland but has been a bit of a disappointment to date. Fantasy Prediction: 2 receptions, 23 yards, 0 TD Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Brown After not catching a pass as a rookie last season, Brown has totaled 12 receptions for 94 yards in 2014. He remains a work in progress, and we are all still waiting to see rookie Martavis Bryant, a fourth-round pick in May, to make his first appearance in the regular season. Fantasy Prediction: 1 reception, 8 yards, 0 TD Bleacher Report
    2014-10-20 Fantasy Football Week 7: Complete Monday Night Preview - We know who the stars are when it comes to this contest. But is there a pivotal player or two that may be on your roster that you can’t decide whether to start or not? Here’s a little help. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Texans): The veteran quarterback has his ups and downs but these days, the Pittsburgh defense just doesn’t make a lot of plays. He may not throw for a bunch of scores on Monday night but could flirt with a 300-yard performance. Verdict: Start TE Garrett Graham (Texans): You’re just not seeing a lot of passes headed the tight end’s way as of late. And if the Houston running game is rolling tonight, Graham will once again not be a big pass-catching factor. Verdict: Sit WR Markus Wheaton (Steelers): Pittsburgh’s passing attack seems to have a 1-2 punch of wideout Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell. Wheaton has caught 24 passes this season but hasn’t found the end zone. Verdict: Sit Some statistical support provided by Pro-Football-Reference, NFL.com and ESPN.com. Depth chart info provided by Ourlads. Bleacher Report
    2014-10-20 RT @msantellana: @battleredblog 28-17 Fitzpatrick FINALLY plays a complete game - None twitter
    2014-10-19 Texans-Steelers to decide Week 7 fantasy matchups - From Arian Foster to Le'Veon Bell, Monday night's game should be a high-scoring end to Week 7 for fantasy owners. Here's what you can expect when the Texans take on the Steelers. NFL
    2014-10-19 Are You Smarter Than Ryan Fitzpatrick? - In this edition, Shane Lechler, Garrett Graham, and J.J. Watt all play along to find out if they're smarter than Texans QB (and Harvard alum) Ryan Fitzpatrick. Houston Texans
    2014-10-19 Are You Smarter Than Ryan Fitzpatrick? - In this edition, Shane Lechler, Garrett Graham, and J.J. Watt all play along to find out if they're smarter than Texans QB (and Harvard alum) Ryan Fitzpatrick. Houston Texans
    2014-10-19 Can Ryan Fitzpatrick keep @HoustonTexans hot streak alive? #NFL #sports #debate @NFL @thedansalem http://t.co/rIuKLWFLeV - None twitter
    2014-10-19 Texans Late Night Ep07- 1/4 - Hosts Marc Vandermeer and Deepi Sidhu revisit the week that was and talk D.J. Swearinger, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Randy Bullock, and the wind at Heinz Field. Plus, find out what's in Shane Lechler's locker. Houston Texans
    2014-10-19 Texans Late Night Ep07- 1/4 - Hosts Marc Vandermeer and Deepi Sidhu revisit the week that was and talk D.J. Swearinger, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Randy Bullock, and the wind at Heinz Field. Plus, find out what's in Shane Lechler's locker. Houston Texans
    2014-10-19 Texans Late Night Ep07- 4/4 - Marc and Deepi close out the show with Fitz Tips from head strength and conditioning coach, Craig Fitzgerald. Plus, another edition of "Are You Smarter Than Ryan Fitzpatrick?". Houston Texans
    2014-10-19 Texans Late Night Ep07- 4/4 - Marc and Deepi close out the show with Fitz Tips from head strength and conditioning coach, Craig Fitzgerald. Plus, another edition of "Are You Smarter Than Ryan Fitzpatrick?". Houston Texans

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