AFC West: Cam Newton

Surprised that Terrelle Pryor has been let go by the Oakland Raiders? You shouldn’t be. Not if you were reading the Silver and Black tea leaves.

At least the Raiders were able to get something in return by working out a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. Otherwise, Oakland faced the prospect of merely cutting Pryor loose with no return on Al Davis’ final draft pick.

Or, as one league source wondered Monday afternoon, “Would you want him?”

[+] EnlargeOakland's Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Tony AvelarThe Raiders replaced quarterback Terrelle Pryor with Matt McGloin once teams began to figure out Pryor.
The Raiders will receive a seventh-round pick from Seattle and now have seven picks again -- Nos. 5, 36, 67, 107, 219, 235 and 247 -- in the upcoming NFL draft.

Now, this is not meant as a slam on Pryor. Not at all. You cannot question his work ethic. His decision-making on the field? Sure. His blonde locks of late that tweaked the Raiders, even if he was merely following through on a lost bet? Absolutely.

But it has been painfully obvious since last summer that the Raiders, for lack of a better term, have not liked Pryor as a quarterback. At least, not as their quarterback.

Not even after he started nine of 11 games and finished with 1,798 passing yards in completing 57.4 percent of his passes. He had seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions while setting a franchise rushing record for a quarterback with 576 yards. His total QB rating of 30.5 was third-lowest in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks last season.

Sure, Pryor won the starting gig last preseason over Matt Flynn, but with Flynn’s arm hurting and Oakland’s offensive line leaking like a sieve at the time, the more mobile Pryor simply gave the Raiders their best chance at success.

And he was more than exciting, his NFL record-for-a-quarterback 93-yard touchdown run in Week 8 against the Pittsburgh Steelers serving as his apex for the Raiders.

But when opponents began figuring him out -- he likes to roll out to his right -- his success quickly diminished. A sprained knee and what many in the organization saw as a pouting act following a loss at the New York Giants sent Pryor to the bench in favor of an undrafted rookie whose skillset -- a more polished, pure dropback passer -- better fit the type of offense the Raiders wanted to run.

Matt McGloin is not the answer, either. That’s why the Raiders traded for a veteran, Matt Schaub, to run their offense.

It was just another sign that Pryor was on the Raiders’ backburner -- if they were keeping him warm at all. He is liked in the organization well enough, but he would frustrate many with his improvisational ways and how he would often take to social media and the traditional media to get his message across as a pseudo QB of the People.

He works hard. He’s giving away a coffee machine and, well, he works hard.

From Day 1, I compared Pryor to Tim Tebow, rather than the likes of Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson.

You have to wonder, though, if Pryor will have a similar NFL fate to Tebow's.

Now, though, he’ll ostensibly learn at the knee of Wilson. And, oh yes, the Raiders play at Seattle this coming season.

AFC West injury report

December, 28, 2012
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Denver guard Chris Kuper is listed as questionable to play against Kansas City on Sunday. He has missed the past three games with an ankle injury. Denver coach John Fox said, even if Kuper doesn’t play Sunday, he is hopeful for Kuper's return in the playoffs.

Punt returner Trindon Holliday (ankle) is doubtful and cornerback Tracy Porter (concussion) is out.

For Kansas City, defensive end Tyson Jackson (toe) is doubtful. Kansas City has several players listed as questionable, including linebacker Tamba Hali (illness), tight end Tony Moeaki (head) and tackle Branden Albert (back).

For Oakland, guard Mike Brisiel (ankle) and safety Tyvon Branch (ankle, neck) are questionable. For San Diego , linebacker Donald Butler (groin) is doubtful and running back Ronnie Brown (hamstring) is questionable.

In other AFC West news:

Denver quarterback Peyton Manning and linebacker Von Miller and San Diego safety Eric Weddle all made John Clayton’s All-Pro team. It’s another indication that the fact that Weddle was a fifth alternate to the Pro Bowl is an utter shame.

There is some solace for Weddle. His teammates named him the team MVP. I think that’s a good call.

For what it’s worth, New England fans seem quite pleased with how the 2009 Richard Seymour trade to Oakland has gone for the Patriots.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was fined $10,000 by the NFL for kicking Oakland’s Tommy Kelly in the Panthers’ win Sunday. Newton was fined an additional $21,000 for contact with an official during the game. Also, defensive end Greg Hardy was fined $25,000 for his hit on Raiders QB Carson Palmer. It knocked Palmer out for the season with rib and lung injuries.

The Raiders promoted defensive lineman Brandon Bair and defensive back Cory Nelms from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. Cornerback Phillip Adams was put on injured reserve. Seymour went on the injured reserve Thursday.

Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel, who had his knee drained on Thursday, said he expects to coach Sunday in Denver from the sideline as opposed to the press box. Crennel said he felt much improved Friday.

Oakland Raiders: Moving On

December, 24, 2012
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Here are some areas the Oakland Raiders need to focus on after a 17-6 road loss at Carolina on Sunday:

Recap: The Raiders fell to 4-11 and lost their seventh game of their last eight. Oakland was lackluster once again. It didn’t help that quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a rib injury in the first quarter and did not return. Backup Matt Leinart was ineffective as Palmer’s replacement.

Biggest area to fix: Touchdowns. The Raiders haven’t scored a touchdown since Week 14. Oakland has scored seven field goals in the past two games.

Biggest area to build on: Points allowed. Oakland is still not playing great defense, but the points barrage has slowed way down. Giving up 17 points on the road to a solid quarterback like Cam Newton is solid football.

What to watch for: The Raiders close out the season at San Diego. The Chargers won in Oakland in Week 1.

Wrap-up: Panthers 17, Raiders 6

December, 23, 2012
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A look at another lackluster Oakland showing:

What it means: It’s another loss in a lost season. The Raiders, who ended a six-game losing streak last week with a 15-0 shutout win over the Chiefs, are now 4-11. They are on pace for the No. 3 pick in the draft. Oakland is 1-6 on the road and it went 0-4 against the NFC South.

Palmer hurt, Pryor still sits: Carson Palmer was lost for the game in the first quarter with a rib injury and we found out the answer to the Terrelle Pryor question: The Raiders will only use him in spot duty. Matt Leinart took over for Palmer and Pryor played three plays in a wrinkle offense. After the game, Oakland coach Dennis Allen said the obvious: The team doesn’t think he is ready. So, it seems if Palmer can’t play in the season finale, Leinart will play at San Diego. I think Pryor should play. So he’s not ready. Who cares? The season is lost and we know Leinart is not the answer. Give Pryor some experience. Does it matter if it costs the Raiders a game at this point?

Allen safe? Prior to the game, CBS Sports reported that owner Mark Davis will keep Allen. Several weeks ago, Davis said he wants to see progress. A touchdown-less win over the Chiefs and six losses really isn’t progress. Still, I’d be surprised if Allen is shown the door. His coordinators, especially offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, may suffer a different fate, though.

Touchdown drought: The Raiders haven’t scored a touchdown since Week 14 against Denver. The Raiders have seven field goals in the past two games. It is tied for the longest touchdown drought in the NFL.

East Coast blues continue: The Raiders lost their 10th straight game in the Eastern Time Zone.

Chippy game: There was a lot of pushing and shoving between these non-rivals. In all, there were 16 penalties for 167 yards. Several players, including Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who got away with a kick at Oakland defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, could be fined.

McFadden a non-factor: Darren McFadden’s lousy season continues. He had 33 yards on 17 carries. He had nothing going Sunday.

What’s next: Oakland wraps up its season at San Diego. The Chargers beat Oakland in Week 1.

Another fine for Von Miller

December, 7, 2012
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Denver linebacker Von Miller is one of the very best defensive players in the NFL.

But he is also becoming one of the most fined.

Miller -- a leading candidate for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award -- was fined $25,000 by the NFL for a hit below the knee on Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman last Sunday. Miller was fined $21,000 for a hit on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton last month.

Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft, has been fined several times since joining the NFL. He has been fined at least $109,250 as an NFL player.

Still, Miller does not have a reputation for being a dirty player. I have seen him play a lot and his penalties and fines seem to be a byproduct of aggressive play and the NFL's strict rules on hitting the quarterback. Miller is a premier pass-rusher. He hits the quarterback often. Sometimes, he is going to have to pay the price as part of today’s NFL climate.

Now the question is, just how stiff a price might that be? Players who rack up big fines are often subject to an eventual NFL suspension.

Evening AFC West notes

November, 29, 2012
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Denver star cornerback Champ Bailey said he is "prepping" to call his Georgia Bulldogs to support them in their SEC title game against Alabama on Saturday. The winner will likely go to the BCS championship game. Bailey entered the NFL out of Georgia in 1999.

Moving on: Denver Broncos

November, 12, 2012
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Here are some areas the Denver Broncos need to focus on after a 36-14 road win at Carolina on Sunday:

Recap: Denver won its fourth straight game. Three of the four wins were on the road. Denver s now 6-3 and command in the AFC West with a two-game lead over the San Diego Chargers.

Biggest area to fix: Running back Willis McGahee’s fumbling. He has lost fumbles in two of the past three games and he has lost four fumbles on the season.

Biggest area to build on: Pass-rush pressure. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was put under duress, hit and sacked on 19 of 45 of his drop backs Sunday. It’s the highest single-game total for Newton this season. Newton was sacked seven times.

What to watch for: The Broncos can put some major distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC West with a home victory over San Diego on Sunday. If Denver wins, they will be up three games with six games to go with the tiebreaker over San Diego, essentially giving itself a four-game lead in the division.

Wrap-up: Broncos 36, Panthers 14

November, 11, 2012
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A look at another impressive outing by the Denver Broncos:

What it means: Denver is rolling. It is now 6-3 and has won four straight games. Denver has a two-game lead in the AFC West over the San Diego Chargers, who have a 4-5 record.

Road warriors: The Broncos won in Cincinnati last week and have back-to-back road wins. Neither team is a killer, but going East and winning is something good teams do. With seven games remaining, there is little doubt Denver is a good team. The Broncos have been a dominant team since scoring 35 points in the second half against San Diego to win 35-24 on Oct. 14.

Good win for Fox: Denver coach John Fox marked his Carolina return with a big win. He was the Panthers’ coach for nine years and was fired after the 2010 season. Denver is pleased he was given the boot in Carolina. He has done a terrific job with the Broncos.

Miller shines: Denver linebacker Von Miller won the battle of the top picks in the 2011 draft. Miller had his 10th sack of the season and had four tackles for loss as he harassed Carolina quarterback Cam Newton all game. Newton was the first pick in the 2011 draft, and Miller was the second.

Oh yeah, him: Peyton Manning is playing so well it’s almost not news anymore. He just rolls along. Manning continued to make his case for being the NFL MVP in his huge comeback season with 301 yards and a touchdown pass. It was his 420th NFL touchdown pass, tying him with Dan Marino for second on the all-time NFL list. Manning hooked up with Demaryius Thomas nine times for 135 yards as Thomas continues to make a huge push for the Pro Bowl.

Trindon Holliday is a weapon: Everything is working for Denver, including the return game. Holliday was claimed off waivers last month to give life to one of Denver’s few weak spots. It is no longer a problem. He returned a punt 76 yards for a score Sunday. Last week, he had a kickoff return for a touchdown.

So is Tony Carter: The young cornerback returned an interception for a score. It was his second touchdown in four games. Carter and starter Chris Harris are both playing very well as Tracy Porter deals with the effects of a seizure.

Controlling line of scrimmage: Denver had seven sacks on defense and allowed just one sack Sunday against a team that had 10 sacks in the past two games. It dominated the line of scrimmage, another sign of a team that is clicking.

What’s next: The Broncos host the Chargers. If Denver wins, it will have a three-game lead with six games to go. It also holds the tiebreaker over San Diego because of the two wins over the Chargers. If Denver wins next week, this division race could be very close to being done.

AFC West injury update

November, 9, 2012
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It appears San Diego might be without left tackle Jared Gaither (groin), defensive end Corey Liuget (hamstring) and linebacker Antwan Barnes (leg). They were not practicing Friday once again.

UPDATE: Gaither and Liguet are questionable on the injury report. Barnes is listed as doubtful.

As expected, Denver guard Chris Kuper (ankle) and cornerback Tracy Porter (illness) are out for Sunday’s game at Carolina. They didn’t practice all week. Kuper was hurt Sunday at Cincinnati, and this will be Porter’s fourth straight game he has missed because of complications after having a seizure in August.

Kansas City defensive end Glenn Dorsey remained out Friday with a calf. He is not expected to play Monday night at Pittsburgh. Left tackle Branden Albert remained limited with a back injury.

We’ll have an update on Oakland later Friday. But running back Darren McFadden is expected to be out with a high ankle sprain. He missed practice all week.

In other AFC West news:

Denver linebacker Von Miller has a plan if he sacks Carolina quarterback Cam Newton on Sunday in a matchup of the No. 1 and No. 2 overall draft picks of the 2011 draft.

Former Kansas City cornerback Stanford Routt is reportedly visiting the Lions on Friday. He was cut by the Chiefs on Monday.

There are some familiar AFC West names on this Sporting News list of overrated players.

AFC West stats to know

November, 8, 2012
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Let’s look at key Week 10 statistics for each AFC West team courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:

Denver

Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has won 146 games as a starting quarterback. Dan Marino is third on the all-time list at 147. Manning’s boss, John Elway, is second at 148. Brett Favre is way down the line at 186. Manning plays against Carolina and quarterback Cam Newton on Sunday. Manning was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1998. Newton was the top pick in 2011. Via the Elias Sports Bureau, Manning is 27-9 against fellow top pick quarterbacks. It’s the best record in the NFL.

Kansas City

Running back Jamaal Charles is struggling in recent weeks. He has just 83 yards on 29 carries in the past three games for a 2.9 yard average. In the first five games, Charles -- who missed most of last season with a torn ACL in his knee -- had 551 yards on 104 rushes. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry.

Oakland

The Raiders have allowed 12 rushing touchdowns of at least 40 yards since the start of the 2010 season. They allowed three last week to Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin. The next worst three teams on the list in that category since the start of the 2010 season have surrendered 12 combined. Up next for Oakland: Baltimore tailback Ray Rice.

San Diego

Philip Rivers misses Vincent Jackson. He will see him in Tampa Bay on Sunday, but it won’t do Rivers any good. Jackson became a Buccaneer this season. Check out the difference in Rivers’ downfield throws with and without Jackson:

The AFC West Madden cover dream is over for another year.

In the round of 16, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton whipped San Diego tight end Antonio Gates. Newton moves to the Elite 8 of the Madden cover competition, which is based on an ESPN SportsNation vote. Gates was the final AFC West representative remaining in the competition.

Until next year.

In other AFC West news:

ESPN’s uniform expert reviews all of the team’s uniform changes. There were very little changes for the four AFC West teams. Kansas City owner Clark Hunt talked about the importance of keeping the team’s tradition with the new uniform deal with Nike.

The Chiefs have re-signed defensive back Travis Daniels. He is a backup.

Here’s more talk that the Raiders are working on a long-term deal with franchised safety Tyvon Branch. The Raiders have long indicated that is a goal this offseason. It would give the team some cap relief.

In a procedural deal, the Broncos re-signed exclusive rights free agent punter Britton Colquitt. He wasn’t going anywhere, anyway.

UPDATE: I just talked to someone in the know in the Dave Tollefson talks. He has yet to make his decision and he is expected to visit the Titans on Thursday as planned. But the Raiders are considered strong contenders for the Bay Area native and former Oakland practice squader. He would provide strong defensive-line depth.
The round of 32 in the SportsNation vote to for the next "Madden" cover was not kind to the AFC West.

There are only 16 candidates remaining. San Diego tight end Antonio Gates is the division’s last representative.

Gates, a No. 8 seed, barely beat the Colts’ Dwight Freeney, a No. 9 seed. The AFC West’s last chance, though, will be a heavy underdog in the Sweet 16. Gates faces Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, a No. 1 seed. Voting goes through next Wednesday.

Every other AFC West candidate was sent packing. Even though he was traded to the Jets last week, Tim Tebow still represented the Broncos. The No. 14 seed was barely defeated by Houston running back Arian Foster, a No. 3 seed.

Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe, a No. 11 seed, was trounced by Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, a No. 6 seed. Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew, a No. 3 seed, beat Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski, a No. 14 seed.

AFC West mailbag

December, 31, 2011
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Weekend mail call:

Dan from Virginia Beach, Va. wants to know if Oakland guard Stefen Wisniewski will get any love for offensive rookie of the year.

Bill Williamson: No chance. It will be Carolina quarterback Cam Newton or Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton. That, though, doesn’t mean Wisniewski hasn’t had a good year. He’s been terrific and he had the look of a 10-12 year stalwart on Oakland’s line. He is smart beyond his years and he looks incredibly comfortable on the field. He was a great pick at No. 48.


Patrick from Phoenix wants to know if Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is in danger of losing his job because the Broncos gave up 81 points in the past two games.

BW: No chance at all. It would be a fallacy to pin Denver’s two-game losing streak on the defense. Against New England, the Denver offense fumbled three times in its territory in one quarter. The Denver defense held the Patriots to two field goals and a touchdown after the offensive miscues. At Buffalo, Denver allowed two interception returns for scores and a punt return for a score. The defense gave up one touchdown and four field goals. The defense is not the problem and Allen has a bright future.


James from La. wants to know if the Chargers will go after a high-dollar coach.

BW: The big-money coaches who will be available are Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden. Each coach has been connected to the San Diego job. They would be very pricey and I’m not sure San Diego ownership wants to go that route. But if the Chargers think they are a coach away from getting their Super Bowl and new stadium dreams answered, it could be worth it.

Raiders' offense gets big boost

December, 28, 2011
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The Oakland Raiders received some great injury news Wednesday as they begin the work week of the franchise’s biggest game since the Super Bowl in January, 2003.

The Oakland Tribune reports spark plug receiver/returner Jacoby Ford is practicing Wednesday. It is Ford’s first practice since he was injured at San Diego on Nov. 10. Barring a setback, Ford should be ready to play in a must-win game for the Raiders on Sunday at home against the Chargers. The Raiders are alive in both the AFC West and in the wild-card race.

The newspaper reported Ford, who was out with a foot sprain, was participating in all the drills. His return should spark a passing game, especially since quarterback Carson Palmer will be working with a healthy receiving crew for the first time in several weeks.

As expected, Darren McFadden is not practicing. The running back has been out since Oct. 23 with a foot injury. He has not been ruled out of the San Diego game, but there are indications he is unlikely to play Sunday.

Safety Michael Huff is back at practice. However, defensive tackle John Henderson was not practicing nor was defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

In other AFC West news:

Denver linebacker Von Miller fell to No. 2 in ESPN.com’s rookie watch. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton rose to No. 1. Fittingly, Newton was the No. 1 pick in the draft and Miller was the No. 2 pick in the draft.

As expected, Denver safety Brian Dawkins was held out of the Broncos’ practice Wednesday. He has been dealing with it for several weeks and he had to leave Saturday’s game at Buffalo with the injury.

Broncos' secondary getting healthier

December, 15, 2011
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The Denver Broncos received good injury news Thursday. Starting defensive backs Brian Dawkins (neck) and Andre Goodman (concussion) practiced on a limited basis Thursday after not practicing Wednesday. Both players were hurt Sunday.

Thus, barring a setback, they both might have a chance to play Sunday against pass-happy New England. Also, receiver Eddie Royal -- who missed the Chicago game with a concussion -- practiced fully Thursday.

In other AFC West news:

As expected, Oakland running back Darren McFadden (foot), running back Taiwan Jones (hamstring), receiver Jacoby Ford (foot), defensive tackle John Henderson (knee) and safety Michael Huff (hamstring) all missed their second day of practice this week. Barring a fast recovery, it seems like these players will be out Sunday against Detroit.

Carolina receiver Steve Smith doesn’t think Tim Tebow compares to Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton. Newton has been much more polished than Tebow, but Tebow’s team has been much more successful than Newton’s.

ESPN columnist Rick Reilly asks readers to take their pick, Tom Brady or Tebow.

The Raiders’ have announced Sunday’s game against Detroit is a sellout. It is the seventh time in seven home games this season that there won’t be a local television blackout. The Oakland Tribune reports this is the first time since the Raiders came to Oakland 16 years ago that they sold out more than six home games in a season.

Chargers’ linebackers Donald Butler (foot) and Takeo Spikes (back) and defensive end Jacques Cesaire (ankle) missed their second straight day of practice Thursday.

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