AFC South: Keiwan Ratliff
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
- Rick Gosselin's final mock draft.
- Jay Glazer's final mock draft.
- A 32 questions draft edition from Mike Silver.
- Mike Freeman lists 100 things he'd rather do than watch the draft.
- Jerome Solomon says Bob McNair and the Texans have gotten better at this.
- Players out of Texas taken high in the first round are hardly a sure thing, writes John McClain.
- Past picks at No. 15 have been more fizzle than sizzle, says McClain.
- McClain's final mock still has the Texans taking Clay Matthews.
- Lance Zierlein makes a couple trades in his mock.
- Bob Kravitz says this is when Bill Polian earns his money.
- Free-agent corner Keiwan Ratliff signed with the Steelers, says Mike Chappell.
- The Colts will watch a lot of things sort out before they get a sense of their possibilities at No. 27, writes Chappell.
- No. 2 and No. 1 on John Oehser's list of the top 25 picks of the Polian era. This was a great idea that gave us a lot to ponder over the last several weeks.
- Oehser reviews mock prognostications for the Colts.
- Curse insurance. Peyton Manning's not the Madden cover boy.
- June 6 is the day the Colts will hold an open practice at Franklin College. Tickets will be $10, says Oehser.
- Polian can pronounce Peria Jerry's name, points out Oehser.
- Oehser selects the best pick at each first-round spot for the Colts in their history.
- The moment of truth has arrived for Gene Smith, writes Vito Stellino.
- Peter King says the Jaguars turned down No. 23 and No. 47 from New England for No. 8.
- Michael C. Wright is sticking with B.J. Raji for the Jaguars in his final mock draft.
- A judge has been asked to revoke Jimmy Smith's bail, reports Jim Schoettler.
- Gene Frenette says Smith has slowed down the timetable to become part of the Pride of the Jaguars that honors their all-time greats.
- A look at the guy on the other end of the phone in New York, from Ryan Robinson of Jaguars.com.
- Smith won't be unprepared, says Vic Ketchman of Jaguars.com.
- Cole Pepper says it'll be Michael Crabtree at No. 8, and Malcolm Jenkins if the Jaguars trade back.
- The last four first-rounders were immediate contributors. Jim Wyatt asks whether the Titans continue the trend.
- The guys at the Tennessean make their picks and sample the national choices.
- Chuck Cecil isn't worried about the Titans replacing Albert Haynesworth, writes Jonathan Hutton.
- Joe Biddle would like to see the Titans with Anquan Boldin or Braylon Edwards.
- Wyatt runs through a mock draft done by a group of beat writers from around the country.
Our NFC West ace Mike Sando has been keeping track of free-agent movement by division and put together this excellent chart, which doesn't factor in any deals that may have been completed Friday morning.
The most significant names by team, with asterisks denoting players still believed to be of interest by their current clubs:
A look at the members of the Colts who are heading toward unrestricted free agency, in rough order of importance and standing.
Running back Dominic Rhodes: Reunion was good, he's not going to be real expensive and Bill Polian has expressed confidence the team can re-sign him.
Punter Hunter Smith: Solid guy. They'd like back, but his future could depend on the market.
Linebacker Tyjuan Hagler: Didn't really break back into lineup after missing first six games on PUP. Would be nice to have, but he's the kind of guy they are good at replacing.
Defensive tackle Darrell Reid: Time on defense only came when they were thinned, but he was top special teams tackler.
Cornerback Keiwan Ratliff: Did some good work when called on, but he's only depth.
Safety Matt Giordano: Also quality secondary depth, but the fourth guy at his position at best.
Defensive end Josh Thomas: They'd like to upgrade, but he could be back late for a minimum deal if he's still out there.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Their pulse rate never up, the Colts calmly fought back from another significant deficit Thursday night, topping the Jaguars and securing an AFC wild card berth.
Peyton Manning was surgically precise, connecting on his first 17 passes -- dropping them over defenders, slinging them through tight windows and lofting them to open receivers after double moves. He also caught Jacksonville with too many men on the field, drawing a penalty with a quick snap to convert a third down.
Jacksonville started big, building a 14-0 lead and for a time it looked like the Jaguars would be able to play keep-away like they had in a Week 3 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium. But while the Jaguars had a lot of success moving the ball early on, broke a ton of tackles and kept the Colts' run game quiet, ultimately Manning was more than they could deal with.
Manning got the Colts back to even, then David Garrard handed the game away -- throwing a horrible interception that Keiwan Ratliff returned 35 yards for a touchdown with 4:48 remaining in the game. The Jaguars had a chance at a tying touchdown at the end, but Dwight Freeney sacked Garrard on the final play.
The Colts are now set to rest up in their season finale on Dec. 28 against the Titans -- a game that can't impact Indianapolis' positioning for the following week.
If Tennessee beats Pittsburgh on Sunday, that game won't have meaning for either team. If the Steelers win, the Titans will need to win and hope for a Steelers loss to the Browns in order to get the No. 1 seed.
Either way, with the Titans lining up for a bye, Jeff Fisher will play more top people longer than Tony Dungy will.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Have made it back to Nashville from Houston and will be at Jeff Fisher's news conference to see what the Titans are willing to say about Albert Haynesworth at this point. In the meantime I've been catching up on a lot of reading, and hope it may be of some service to you...
- Houston's win over the Titans ranked as the biggest in the franchise's brief history, writes John McClain.
- Richard Justice says Andre Johnson and the Texans are showing that character counts in team-building.
- Jeff Fisher regretted not taking the wind in the fourth quarter, says McClain.
- A look at the Titans' failed fourth-down attempt at the end, from Meghan Manfull.
- Dale Robertson ponders the irony of Matt Schaub finishing the game and Albert Haynesworth getting hurt.
- Kris Brown got off the hook for a missed 26-yard field goal, from the Chronicle's notebook.
- The Colts became the only team in NFL history to put together seven-game winning streaks in five consecutive seasons, writes Phil Richards.
- Bob Kravitz says Dominic Rhodes is "an exposed nerve ending with legs," an important element in the Colts' blend.
- Detroit's Cover-2 created the possibility of Dallas Clark's prolific day, says Mike Chappell.
- A look at Indy's efforts to contain Calvin Johnson, from Phillip B. Wilson.
- Kravitz's report card.
- Keiwan Ratliff's survived a miserable day fielding punts, writes Chappell.
- A Saturday off helped the Jaguars break a four-game losing streak Sunday, writes Michael C. Wright.
- The Jaguars put together a flawed performance that was just good enough, says Tania Ganguli.
- Gene Frenette says at least the Jaguars could take solace in retrieving a kindred spirit that defined this team in 2007.
- A defensive stop was a big development against Green Bay, says Garry Smits.
- Dennis Northcutt recovered from a big drop to make a big contribution, writes Smits.
- Jack Del Rio says it's not a sure thing Gregg Williams won't be back as defensive coordinator, reports Vito Stellino. (Chris Mortensen has reported otherwise).
- The Titans' loss in Houston means they need to win Sunday to be sure they are the No. 1 seed in the AFC, writes Jim Wyatt.
- Haynesworth could be out until the playoffs with a knee injury, reports Wyatt.
- Joe Biddle thinks the Titans' chances at a long field goal try by Rob Bironas were better than the fourth-down pass play that failed.
- Andre Johnson did a lot of damage to the Titans, says Gary Estwick.
- Matt Schaub proved tough this time, from the Tennessean's notebook.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Three wins for the division, a clinched playoff spot and bye for the Titans, and a lot to sort through on the Monday after Week 14 games.
Did I miss something? I welcome your comments, suggestions, criticism and opinions in the mailbag.
- The Texans overcame a lot and proved mentally tough during their win in Green Bay, writes John McClain.
- A record day was tarnished by turnovers, says Dale Robertson.
- Richard Justice thinks the Texans may very well be changing in fundamental ways.
- Kris Brown nailed the 40-yard field goal as time expired, writes McClain.
- Gary Kubiak's two-point gamble paid off, says McClain.
- Matt Schaub gets quarterbacks an "A" in the Chronicle's report card.
- Skill players and offensive linemen were sleeveless even though the temperature was in single digits at Lambeau Field, says Dale Robertson.
- The Colts needed a laugher and got one with a route of Cincinnati, writes Phil Richards.
- Bob Kravitz's report card runs from "A" to "D-minus."
- Peyton Manning and Dominic Rhodes decline to admit this one was easy, writes Mike Chappell.
- The Colts stuck with two tight ends a lot, which meant only six plays for Anthony Gonzalez, who made the most of them, according to Chappell.
- All was well with a defense that got Bob Sanders back but was missing Gary Brackett, says Phillip B. Wilson.
- Wilson's running blog entry on the game.
- Tom James' game story.
- Keiwan Ratliff can't believe how far the Bengals have fallen, writes James.
- Clark Judge puts Manning's MVP campaign on the list of things he likes.
- The Jaguars lost their fourth straight and look like they've forgotten how to win, says Vito Stellino.
- Maurice Jones-Drew was responsible for a big share of the Jaguars' offense, write Michael C. Wright.
- David Garrard had a passer rating of 7.6 at the half, according to Wright.
- Fred Taylor moved into 16th all-time on the rushing list, passing O.J. Simpson and Corey Dillon, says Wright.
- Gene Frenette says the Jaguars were painful to watch.
- Frenette's report card includes a "D" for coaching.
- This can't end soon enough, says Cole Pepper.
- The Titans accomplished the first of their goals, winning the division, says Jim Wyatt.
- Tennessee undid three turnovers with some big plays, writes Gary Estwick.
- Chris Johnson joined Earl Campbell and Eddie George as the franchise's 1,000-yard rookies backs, according to Estwick.
- David Climer's quick hits on the game.
- Wyatt's report card features three "As."
- Penalties bogged down the Titans. Details in The Tennessean's notebook.
- The Titans clinched the AFC South, writes Terry McCormick.
- LenDale White missed 100 yards because his final carry was a 2-yard loss, says McCormick.
Rookie Xavier Adibi will plug in for Greenwood.
Tony Dungy has indicated Hayden likely needs one more week, and Keiwan Ratliff has been working as the second starting corner opposite Tim Jennings. Sanders rested Wednesday, practiced Thursday and then did not work Friday, when a knee injury was added to the report.
Defensive tackle Jason Jones (foot) is out.
Linebacker Keith Bulluck (chest) did not practice all week. He's listed as questionable but will play.
Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) and receiver Justin McCareins (concussion) are questionable and probably do not play. Dave Ball would start for Vanden Bosch with Jacob Ford also seeing time. Brandon Jones would start for McCareins with Lavelle Hawkins seeing some action.
Wide receiver Matt Jones (thigh) is questionable after he was limited Thursday and out Friday. Jerry Porter would likely start in his place with Dennis Northcutt and maybe Mike Walker getting additional work.
Fullback Greg Jones (ankle) is questionable after missing Wednesday and Thursday and being limited on Friday. The expectation is he will play. If he doesn't, the Jaguars will play less two-back with excellent special-teamer Montell Owens at fullback.
The Colts practiced Wednesday without 13 of the 53 players on their roster.
Four of them were classified as "not injury related," and so it's reasonable to expect linebacker Gary Brackett, defensive end Dwight Freeney, cornerback Tim Jennings and safety Bob Sanders to be back to work on Thursday.
Five guys were on the list with new injuries:
Four others are on the injury report with injuries they were dealing with prior to the win in Pittsburgh:
Mike Chappell reports that Tony Dungy said Hayden is probably still a week away and that Wayne will likely be at least limited through Thursday.
Good morning AFC Southies.
Before we hopscotch around the division, two reminders.
And put it in your calendar: We chat tomorrow at 3 p.m. and good seats are still available.
- A look at how Gary Kubiak compares to the rest of the coaches hired in 2006, from Megan Manfull. With a coach-by-coach rundown.
- A transcript of John McClain's chat with some unhappy Texans fans.
- McClain wonders if the Texans, starved for defensive help, will have to consider a quarterback at the top of the draft.
- Keiwan Ratliff has handled a yo-yo season with aplomb, says Phillip B. Wilson.
- Wilson's very thorough Texans-Colts preview page.
- Tony Dungy's weekly conversation with the team's Web site.
- The Colts Insider from the Star answers questions.
- The Times-Union's Q&A with tight end Richard Angulo.
- Gene Frenette reviews some Titans-Jaguars history.
Tony Dungy's day-after press conference Monday was particularly wide-ranging, so I thought I would share some highlights from the transcript provided by the team and offer a bit of context and interpretation.
On if the team has to go on a streak to make the playoffs:
Tony Dungy: "You really do. It's hard to win two, lose one, win one, lose one and win enough games to get there. That's how we've been in the first half of the year, and we talked about starting off the second half of the year. We got our first win, but now we have to put one together. We have a chance, coming back home, to get win number two of the second half and build on it. It'll be critical to have a good performance (vs. Houston) and play better than we did against Pittsburgh."
Paul Kuharsky: Thanks coach, for a willingness to state the obvious rather than insisting that all you can do it look at one game at a time and trying to convince us that there is absolutely no consideration of the bigger picture necessary, possible, or going on.
If making the playoffs is in the team's control:
TD: "It is, in a way, because we're playing a lot of the teams that are contending with us and we'll have a chance to have a good AFC record, which is the number-one tiebreaker, if we continue to win. If we win 11 or 12 games, I think we'll be in there. If you win nine, you probably won't. If you win 10, it's going to be dicey, so we just have to keep winning and not put it in other people's hands, not worry about tiebreakers. We just have to keep winning."
PK: The other important thing to note here is, of your remaining seven games, only one is out of conference. And it's hardly unreasonable to expect the Colts will beat Detroit, currently winless, on Dec. 14 in Indianapolis.
On if injured defensive back Kelvin Hayden will return this week:
TD: "We'll look at it and see. Hopefully, he'll be able to practice on Wednesday. I'd say it's still iffy right now, but it would be nice to get him back."
PK: Without their two starting corners, the Colts turned to a guy who committed four penalties in Green Bay (Tim Jennings) and another who they cut twice since the season started (Keiwan Ratliff) and have beaten one team with Randy Moss and Wes Welker and another with Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. Marlin Jackson is gone for the season. Getting Hayden back will be big.
On how the run defense played at Pittsburgh:
TD: "Believe it or not, kind of average. (Pittsburgh) had some runs that we didn't play well enough and runs that we can play better. Overall, you look at the numbers, it was OK, but probably not a whole lot different. I think we can still do some things better."
PK: Feel free to shoot for the stars. But 26 carries and 55 yards both rated as the second-lowest number against you this season and the 2.1 yard-average was your season best. I say bravo and if your guys can match that with any consistency you'll be better than fine.
On the last time the team had a goal-line stand:
TD: "We had one in Cleveland, opening day of '03, the 9-6 game. That was the last one I remember."
PK: I don't know what's more significant, that it's been that long or that you remember exactly when it was when it's been that long...
On if the team's demeanor has changed the last two weeks:
TD: "No, not really. I think we're just playing a little bit better. Getting some guys back helps you, and we're a little bit healthier. But, I think guys still feel like we've dug ourselves a hole. We aren't digging down anymore, but we're still in the hole."
PK: Something about that upcoming schedule tells me you're about to climb out of the hole.
On defensive end Dwight Freeney:
TD: "Dwight played well. He was a little frustrated. He wasn't having a lot of production the last couple of weeks. We felt like if we could take away their running game and get them in situations where they had to throw, we'd have a chance to rush them. He rushed well. He had two sacks, missed a couple of sacks, but was much more like the Dwight we're used to seeing."
PK: I am sure Sage Rosenfels is excited to hear that.
On if he was surprised new defensive tackle Antonio Johnson played so much at Pittsburgh:
TD: "Not really. We had seen him in practice and he was doing a good job for us, and it was going to be the type of game that was going to be his type of game with a lot of inside running, so we thought we'd get him in there."
PK: I was surprised. If it proves to be more than a good fit against Pittsburgh, we'll have to wonder why the Colts let Johnson sit on the Titans' practice squad for nine weeks before signing him away.
On if beating the No. 1 defense gives the team confidence:
TD: "Baltimore and Pittsburgh are tough, and we scored points against them. They hadn't given up many points before we played them, either one, and we got points. We got points against Tennessee, so I think we are showing signs of moving the ball. Our whole team just has to build a little bit more consistency doing things right more often than not, and we're going to be in good shape."
PK: Just more evidence of how unpredictable the league is: The Colts scored 13 points in a loss to Chicago (currently the league's 17-ranked defense) and 14 in a loss at Green Bay (22nd), but put up 31 to beat Baltimore (second) and 24 to win in Pittsburgh (first).
|Joe Robbins/Getty Images|
|Indianapolis quarterback Peyton has a strong, efficient game Sunday, leading the Colts to a much-needed win Sunday.|
INDIANAPOLIS -- This is unfamiliar stuff, a .500 record halfway through the season. Of course the alternative was even more unfamiliar for the Indianapolis Colts.
Sunday night's Patriots-Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium was hardly the high-octane battle we've come to expect from a matchup that's often for AFC supremacy. While it was a tense contest, it felt as if it was played between two careful teams working very hard to build drives and not make a blunder.
Indianapolis was resourceful in finding its way to an 18-15 win. While the Colts got Bob Sanders back from a long injury layoff, the defense featured two reserves starting at cornerback and three safeties in the nickel package. But it all worked against the dangerous Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
The hosts also benefitted from mistakes, some forced, some served up -- highly uncharacteristic clock management trouble for Bill Belichick, who also undid a made fourth-and-1 conversion with a last-second timeout, as well as a bad unnecessary roughness foul by Patriots tight end David Thomas in a game with only three penalties.
"Here lately, that's been us," said Colts left guard Charlie Johnson. "That's been us, having to call the timeouts, getting penalties that stop drives, all that. It does feel good for us to play mistake-free football and have somebody else make the mistakes."
Buffalo, New England and the Jets are all 5-3 now, so the two who don't win the AFC East are right there at the head of the wild-card fight along with Baltimore. Indy is with Miami just a game off the pace.
"We feel like every game right now is almost like a playoff game," receiver Reggie Wayne said. "It's kind of like everybody that's not leading their division are kind of like in a big ball. So each game is going to be crucial. We also know that everybody that's in that big ball, most of them have got to come through us. We pretty much control our own destiny."
Whatever degree of control they reacquired, the Colts did so with a crisper game than they've been playing lately. They had one penalty, no sacks allowed, nice distribution in the passing game, pretty good tackling by the defense, good red-zone defense and Adam Vinatieri's first regular-season field goal of longer than 50 yards since 2002.
And, of course, efficient play by Peyton Manning, who posted 121.9 passer rating while hitting Anthony Gonzalez with two precise touchdown throws near the same front-right corner of the end zone below the picture window.
"He was really in control of things and understood what we were trying to do and made some really big throws especially in the red zone," coach Tony Dungy said. "The two balls to Anthony [were] very, very tight and balls that we needed. It was a very, very good performance against a defense that doesn't give you a lot."
The Colts don't exactly have a heart-on-their-sleeve locker room, but I sensed some palpable relief keyed around the ability to survive the limited personnel in the secondary and the revived sharpness in the passing game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul KuharskyGreen Bay Packers (4-3) at Tennessee Titans (7-0), 1 p.m. ET
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has rested up that sore shoulder and defensive backs Atari Bigby and Al Harris are set to rejoin a secondary that shut down the Colts in the last game it played. Bigby will help in run defense, where I suspect the Packers can load up, leaving their corners on islands to deal with unintimidating receivers.
That would mean Green Bay selling out to stop the run and taking their chances against Kerry Collins & Co. It's what Indy tried, but it didn't work for the Colts, in part because they threw two picks and turned the ball over on downs twice.
If the Packers protect the ball better, they could have a breakthrough.
The Titans are the NFL's lone remaining unbeaten team.
The Jaguars have struggled with consistency all year, and their chance to pull things together and be a factor in the AFC playoff field is reliant on victories this week at winless Cincinnati and next week at, as of now, winless Detroit.
Jacksonville plays tight games -- all seven have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Cornerback Rashean Mathis has played well at times -- he helped shut down Denver's Brandon Marshall, for example. He's likely to draw T.J. Houshmandzadeh often. That's a guy you don't want to get going for a team desperate for any crumbs of momentum.
The Bengals are 0-8 for the fifth time in franchise history. Three of the four previous times the Bengals started 0-8, they won their ninth game.
The Texans are a bad road team and the Metrodome is a tough venue. Houston can prove a lot if it can win there, pulling to 4-4 after an 0-4 start.
Minnesota is ranked No. 2 against the run, forcing opponents to throw. The Texans have gotten pretty comfortable throwing it, ranking fifth in pass offense.
It could come down to which offensive star manages to have a better day, Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson
or Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson. Surely the Vikings will want to slow Johnson with Antoine Winfield as often as possible. Of course, the Texans will work to get Johnson into some situations where Cedric Griffin is trying to cover him.
The Vikings are coming off a bye and are 15-4 all-time in their first game following a week off.
The prevailing thinking on this game is that the Colts will find more plays and that Peyton Manning should outduel Matt Cassel. But I am getting the feeling the Patriots are figuring out who they are and what they can do while Indianapolis is learning what it isn't and what it can't do.
Look for New England to try to get the ball to Wes Welker working out of the slot. He's got at least six catches in the first seven games of the year, a feat accomplished by only three players in league history before.
Colts cornerback Tim Jennings will work outside as a starter in place of Marlin Jackson, but it's unclear what Indianapolis will do in the nickel. The guy next in line at cornerback is Dante Hughes, who missed practice all week with an ankle injury. Behind him is Keiwan Ratliff, who was just re-signed. But the Colts could go with three safeties, finding a way to keep Melvin Bullitt involved even with Bob Sanders due back.
Indianapolis slowed the Titans strong run game last week. Sanders should give them a boost as the Colts try to do the same to New England. Then the question is about slowing Welker and Randy Moss and making Cassel uncomfortable. Those Patriots receivers have a lesser quarterback, but could be better suited to produce than their Colts counterparts, Marvin Harrison (not himself these days) and Reggie Wayne (missed two practices and was limited Friday with a knee injury).