AFC West: Ray Lewis

Earlier Wednesday, we reacted to the Oakland Raiders' announcement that standout left tackle Jared Veldheer would be out for at least half the season with a torn triceps. The team said he could miss the entire season.

Our reaction was that this wasn’t pretty. Veldheer is a potential star, and his current replacement, Alex Barron, didn’t play in the NFL last year. It would be devastating blow.

However, ESPN’s Adam Schefter provides hope. He reported Wednesday evening that Veldheer has only a partially torn triceps and that physicians believe he will be available for most of the season.

While recovery times vary, this could be a one-to-three-month injury. Former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis and San Francisco defensive end Justin Smith both came back from similar injuries last season.

If Veldheer, a free agent after this season, misses only a few games it would be a huge relief for Oakland. I talked to ESPN analyst Matt Williamson after the initial news broke, and he painted an ugly picture.

“It is a total mess,” Williamson said at the time. “I really liked Veldheer and felt like he was on the cusp of becoming one of the better left tackles in football and clearly one of the Raiders’ few building blocks for the future.”

Suddenly, though, the immediate future looks brighter for Veldheer and the Raiders.
SAN DIEGO -- I understand why the San Diego Chargers are trying to protect Manti Te’o from the media onslaught as the polarizing rookie begins his NFL career.

However, after watching the kid handle the spotlight on Tuesday, I don’t believe the organization has anything to worry about. The kid is a polished pro at dealing with the media.

[+] EnlargeManti Te'o
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsIt's safe to say that observers at the Chargers' Tuesday workout came away impressed with rookie linebacker Manti Te'o.
It’s stunning that any 22-year-old can handle himself publicly this well, let alone one who had to deal with the pressure Te’o has had.

We all know the back story by now. The middle linebacker from Notre Dame was involved in an Internet hoax involving a fake dead girlfriend. It was the first negative publicity Te’o has ever had to deal with. It likely had a part in his tumble from a top-five prospect to being the No. 38 overall NFL draft pick.

Part of the Chargers’ plan for Te’o was to shield him from overexposure with the media. In the past several team workouts, Te’o has been off-limits to the media. He was basically the only player in the NFL who was off-limits to the media this spring, and the team caught a lot of national heat for it.

The Te’o sequester ended Tuesday as the Chargers made him available in a news conference setting only. There were about 60-70 reporters there for the end of the media boycott, as it were.

Te'o handled it seamlessly -- just like he has with nearly every media session since the hoax story broke.

Te’o patiently answered every question he was asked in a session that lasted about 20 minutes. He gave well-thought-out answers. Nothing was off-limits. However, there was no new ground broken, nor did Te’o supply any headlines.

He did say that he was appreciative that the team made its media plan because it allowed him to focus on football. It is clear he is completely focused on the playbook, and by all accounts Te’o is doing everything the team wants him to do on the field. He is pegged as a three-down player in San Diego’s 3-4 system.

Here are some of the more interesting tidbits from the Te’o session:

  • He said he did allow himself to watch the tape of Notre Dame’s blowout loss to Alabama in the national title game once. Te’o had perhaps his worst college performance in that game.
  • Asked why he went to a recent Maxim Magazine function that poked fun at his hoax Te’o said like, most 22-year-olds, he wanted to “check out” the party. Good answer.
  • He said several NFL luminaries have offered their support including Troy Polamalu, Ray Lewis and Steve Young.
  • We will further delve into Te’o’s transition to the NFL on Wednesday. But rest assured, San Diego, there is little to worry about at this point -- on and off the field. The kid is impressive.
Nico Johnson was considered a leader on Alabama’s national championship team.

That was one of qualities that the Kansas City Chiefs were most interested when they made Johnson a fourth-round pick Saturday. Johnson is expected to immediately compete for a starting job as an inside linebacker in the Chiefs’ 3-4 defense.

It will be interesting to see if Johnson continues his collegiate tradition in the NFL. To fire himself up, Johnson used to watch film of pre-game speeches given by former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, he of famous pre-game speeches.

“I've watched Ray Lewis since he was at Miami,” Johnson said at the NFL combine in February. “That's one guy I look up to a lot. Before every game on Saturday, that Friday night I watch a lot of his speeches that he gives to his team or whoever he's giving a speech to to remind myself how important it is to take advantage of opportunities. I just (model) myself after him, his game, the way he brings his passion and energy and the way he's able to affect his other teammates and get them to rise to the occasion when their best is needed.”

The Chiefs can only hope Johnson has a Lewis-like impact on their organization.

Caption this: Postgame chat

January, 13, 2013
Manning/LewisChad Steele/Baltimore Ravens
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning and Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis were seen talking following Saturday's playoff game. What do you think a conversation between two future Hall of Famers included?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Have fun and keep it clean.
The following is three Denver players to watch in Saturday’s divisional playoff game against Baltimore:

Chris Harris, cornerback: Harris played a major role in Denver’s 34-17 win at Baltimore last month. He will be a focal point of the game plan this week. Harris jumped in front of a pass from Joe Flacco near the goal line and took it 98 yards for a touchdown, giving Denver a 17-0 lead right before the half. It was a signature play by a player who is establishing himself as a solid NFL starter. It will be interesting to see if the Ravens challenge Harris this time around.

Dan Koppen, center: Koppen has done an outstanding job this season as an injury replacement. He will have a big role in trying to contain Baltimore middle linebacker Ray Lewis as the Broncos try to send Lewis into retirement. Lewis didn’t face Denver in December. He returned from an injury last week against the Colts and was outstanding. Stopping Lewis starts with Koppen.

Knowshon Moreno, running back: Moreno set the tone against the Ravens last month with 118 yards on the ground. If he can establish a ground attack again, it will give quarterback Peyton Manning a lot of options, and Denver will be difficult to stop.

Quick Take: Ravens at Broncos

January, 6, 2013
Five things to know about Saturday's Denver Broncos-Baltimore Ravens playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High:

1. Manning owns Ravens: Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has won nine straight games against the Ravens and is 9-2 overall versus Baltimore. The Broncos dominated the Ravens in Baltimore on Dec. 16 in a 34-17 win -- the franchise's first victory at M&T Bank Stadium. It was a shining example of Manning’s influence on the Broncos. In addition to Manning's ownage of the Ravens, Denver has an overall hot streak going, winning 11 straight.

2. The Ray Lewis factor: Lewis won’t exactly be the same X factor emotionally in this game as he was for Baltimore Sunday in its win over Indianapolis at home. The stadium was roaring for Lewis. It will still be an emotional game for his teammates as Lewis’ Hall of Fame career will end when the Ravens lose. Lewis played great against the Colts with 13 tackles. Lewis didn’t play against Denver last month, and Baltimore’s defense overall is much healthier now than it was then.

3. Control the game on the ground: The Broncos paced their win against the Ravens on the ground. Knowshon Moreno had 118 yards on 22 carries and the Broncos finished with 163 rushing yards. Manning relied on the ground game all day as he threw for just 204 yards. The Broncos want the same type of balance this time around.

4. Watch Flacco near the goal line: It will be interesting to see if Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco throws the ball when they get deep in the red zone. Last month, the game was all but sealed just before halftime when Denver cornerback Chris Harris read an out pass by Flacco and took it 98 yards for an interception return for a score. The touchdown gave Denver a 17-0 lead. After the game, Harris said he was shocked Flacco threw an out route. Harris said he and his teammates were thinking a fade route all the way. What will Flacco do this time around?

5. Will weather be a factor? The forecast calls for a cold day, with temperatures in the 20s and a 40 percent chance of snow. The game starts at 2:30 p.m. locally. The Ravens, like the Broncos, are used to playing in late-season games affected by the elements. Historically, Manning has not been great in cold-weather games. But the Broncos' final two games of the season, both at home, were played in cold conditions and Manning was terrific.

A quiet return to Baltimore for Elway

December, 16, 2012
BALTIMORE -- His duties and the tone of the home crowd will be different for John Elway in just his second trip to Baltimore in an NFL capacity on Sunday.

Elway is the executive vice president of football operations for the 10-3 Denver Broncos as they head into a pivotal AFC game against the Ravens on Sunday. I’m sure the home crowd isn’t too overly concerned about Elway’s presence Sunday.

That wasn’t the case the last time Elway was in Baltimore early in his rookie season in 1983 as the quarterback of the Broncos. The opponent was then the Baltimore Colts and Elway was Public Enemy No. 1 in Charm City.

Elway famously spurned the Colts when he was drafted with the No. 1 pick and essentially forced their hand into trading him. The Broncos won the race to trade for Elway (Al Davis and the Raiders were in hot pursuit as well). As expected, it wasn’t a pleasant day for day Elway as Baltimore fans heartily booed him.

Nearly 30 years have passed. The Colts are gone, as is much of the anti-Elway sentiment in Baltimore. Of course, few Baltimore faithful will be rooting for Elway to be successful in his role as an executive.

-- Meanwhile, the Ravens will have linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has been battling a biceps injury, playing against Denver. Suggs’ presence will be especially important since the team will still be without linebacker and inspirational leader Ray Lewis. The team had hoped to activate Lewis this week, but he'll have to wait another week.

It is overcast in Baltimore. However, the forecast for rain doesn’t call for it to start until after the game.

Dwayne Bowe's time In K.C. may be up

December, 15, 2012
It’s official: Dwayne Bowe's season is over.

It may be time to talk about the standout receiver being a former Kansas City Chief.

The move was expected after Bowe suffered a rib injury last week at Cleveland. The Chiefs promoted offensive linemen Rich Ranglin from the practice squad to take Bowe’s spot.

Bowe is set to be a free agent. Kansas City used the franchise tag on Bowe this year and he held out during the preseason. Kansas City could put the franchise tag on him again, sign him to an extension or let him walk. We won’t know what strategy the team will employ until we know if ownership will keep the current brass. Bowe has been a productive player for Kansas City since being drafted in the first round in 2007. He has 415 career catches and has 59 catches this season.

2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin must take advantage of the opportunity and show the franchise he can be the top receiver. That starts Sunday at Oakland.

In other AFC West news:

The Baltimore Ravens will wait another week on linebacker Ray Lewis. The plan was to get him ready to face the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Kansas City safety Abram Elam and guard Russ Hochstein have been downgraded to out from doubtful for Sunday’s game at Oakland.
Miller-ReedGetty ImagesSunday's Broncos-Ravens game will be a defensive showcase with LB Von Miller and S Ed Reed.
Sunday’s game between the Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens features two division leaders in contention for the AFC's No. 2 seed. It's also a potential showdown between two of the best players at their position who are both on the comeback trail. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is an MVP candidate after missing all of last season with a neck injury. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is looking to return just eight weeks removed from surgery on a torn triceps and get Baltimore back on track in the playoff race.

ESPN bloggers Bill Williamson and Jamison Hensley discuss this matchup:

HENSLEY: The banged-up Ravens defense is not coming into this pivotal matchup on top of its game. The Ravens have lost their past two games by allowing two backup quarterbacks, Charlie Batch and Kirk Cousins, to come back against them in the fourth quarter. There is some hope with the potential return of Lewis and Terrell Suggs, two former NFL Defensive Players of the Year. But this isn't exactly the way Baltimore wants to head into a matchup with Manning, who has owned this team. Manning has won his past eight meetings against the Ravens, including five in Baltimore. The last time the Ravens beat Manning was 2001, when they were defending Super Bowl champions. Bill, is there anything the Ravens can do to slow him down?

WILLIAMSON: What the Broncos have going for them heading into this crucial game is that they are red hot. What else would you want going for you in mid-December? They have won eight straight games and own the longest current winning streak in the NFL. Denver is a season-high No. 2 in this week’s Power Rankings. Of course, it all starts with Manning. As Jamison points out, Manning has owned the Ravens. Something is going to give Sunday. While Manning has some power over the Ravens, his new team doesn’t. The Broncos are 0-5 all-time on the road against the Ravens, including in the playoffs. The question is, what is more important, Manning’s history or the Broncos’ recent history? I’d think the Broncos’ instant success since signing Manning may answer that question.

HENSLEY: I've witnessed every one of those Manning victories. The fun part about watching them is the verbal chess match between Manning and Lewis. Manning does his famous audibles at the line, and Lewis counters by yelling at his teammates on where to move. Lewis is expected to return this week after tearing his triceps two months ago. It's a season-ending injury for many players. Most thought Lewis wouldn't return this season. But he proves time and time again that you shouldn't count him out. I never expected Lewis to be playing middle linebacker at 37 years old. While Lewis can't run sideline to sideline like he did years ago and he can't get off blocks as easily, his leadership to the Ravens is invaluable. It's why Suggs always refers to Lewis as "The General." Even if Lewis and Suggs are able to play, the best linebacker on the field Sunday won't be wearing purple.

WILLIAMSON: I’m sure the Broncos would prefer Lewis to stay out for another week because of his leadership and his ability to inspire his team. Who else besides Lewis can get the Ravens out of their mini-funk? But physically, I give the Broncos and Manning the edge here. Lewis just isn’t the player he was and as Jamison hinted up top, there will be a dominant, young linebacker on the field. While Manning is a leading MVP candidate, second-year Denver outside linebacker Von Miller is a leading candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. His top competition is Houston’s J.J. Watt. While Watt’s team floundered Monday night at New England, Miller and his defense have a chance to shine in their big game Sunday. Miller has been brilliant. He has 16 sacks, six forced fumbles and an interception return for a touchdown. Most important, the No. 2 overall pick in 2011 has become a complete player. He does so much more than just put heat on the quarterback. His overall game savvy will be on display.

HENSLEY: Bill, those six forced fumbles have to concern the Ravens because quarterback Joe Flacco's pocket awareness has been terrible recently. Flacco was among the league leaders in fumbles last season with six, and he has fumbled the past two games. It’s also bad timing for the Ravens to take on the team ranking second in the NFL in sacks. There’s a chance that the Ravens will be without their best lineman, right guard Marshal Yanda, who has a significant ankle sprain. The Ravens could reshuffle the line and put Michael Oher at right tackle (he has allowed two sacks that have led to fumbles the past two games) or stick with rookie second-round pick Kelechi Osemele (who has allowed eight sacks). Miller has dominated right tackles this year, so Baltimore needs someone to step up at that spot. In an effort to slow down the pass rush, look for new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to use more no-huddle (to wear down the Denver linemen), go with more maximum protection schemes and get the ball to Ray Rice on screens.

WILLIAMSON: You are right, Jamison, I think the Broncos will be squarely focused on stopping Rice. The AFC West has seen this season how Rice can ruin an afternoon. Fourth-and-29 anyone? The Broncos are well coached on defense and they adjust well. What impresses me most about this defense is that it improves as the game goes on. Like Manning and the offense, this defense gets better in the second half. So, yes, Baltimore may have some success with Rice both running the ball and on screen plays, but I’m not sure it will be able to sustain it all game long. Baltimore will have to get more varied in its offensive attack throughout the course of the game to put pressure on Denver. That will be a lot to ask from Caldwell in the first game he has called strictly on offense since 2000, when he was at Wake Forest.

HENSLEY: I think Rice is the Ravens' X factor on offense. But, Bill, I have to admit I think Rice is always the X factor when it comes to the Ravens. When they get him 20 touches, it usually results in a win. On defense, it's safety Ed Reed. He has been quiet lately with one interception in his past five games. But Reed is going to be a free agent at the end of this season, and going against the top quarterbacks brings the best out of him. Reed picked off Manning three times in a playoff game three years ago, but two of them were taken away because of penalties on other Ravens players. I remember talking to Reed a few years ago when he talked about why he deserved a new contract. "Peyton Manning doesn't sleep when he sees No. 20 going to Indy," Reed said. Let's see if he'll be Manning's nightmare Sunday.

WILLIAMSON: Look, I’m a big Reed fan. I always enjoy watching him. I love how players like him have helped change the importance of the safety position in today’s NFL. If the Ravens are going to pull out of their collective doldrums, they will need a player like Reed to make a big play or two Sunday. He is fully capable. Denver will have to account for him. But it all goes back to my original take: Denver is the hotter team and has the hotter players. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Ravens rise up. They are great at home and good teams like this rarely lose three straight games. But I do know that Denver, which has been playing at a high level in all phases, will not go into this game with a lack of confidence. The Broncos believe in themselves and they know eight-game win streaks don’t happen in the NFL by accident. Denver will be a team with a purpose Sunday.
I don’t think signing running back Jacob Hester will change the Denver Broncos' backfield, but it will provide options and depth.

Hester, 27, can help in short yardage situations, can get some inside yards and is a strong back-field blocker. At 5-foot-11 and 235 pounds Hester was a fullback for the San Diego Chargers, where he also excelled on special teams.

The Chargers drafted him in the third round in 2008 and he was a favorite of coaches and teammates for his work ethic. Hester was cut this summer.

Denver needed to add depth at running back because Willis McGahee McGahee tore the medical collateral ligament in his right knee. The injury will keep him out until the AFC title game if Denver makes it.

In other AFC West news:

Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Monday he hoping running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson (high ankle sprains) and defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee/hamstring) could be back at practice this week as the team prepares to host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. All three players have missed three games.

U-T San Diego reports recent high draft picks, linebacker Jonas Mouton and safety Brandon Taylor, are expected to make their NFL debuts Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Chargers were banged up at the two positions after San Diego’s 16-13 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The paper reports the team is preparing to be without standout inside linebacker Donald Butler after he injured his groin Sunday.

Peyton Manning will not have to face Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Eric Wright Sunday since the Wright will be serving a four-game suspension for using a banned substance. But the Ravens are targeting the Week 15 game against Denver for a return for Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis from a torn triceps injury that was initially expected to end his season.

Denver defensive end Robert Ayers left the team temporarily to be with his family after the unexpected death of his father. He learned the news Saturday night at the team hotel in Kansas City. He played Sunday in the Broncos' win over the Chiefs.

What is Von Miller's ceiling?

September, 1, 2012
Von Miller's second NFL season is about taking the next step.

As he showed in 2011, Miller is already a high-level NFL pass-rusher. He had 11.5 sacks and won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Now it is time for Miller to become a complete NFL linebacker.

Miller, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2011, showed terrific promise as a run-stopper last season even though he was taken out of the game on some rushing downs. The Broncos have been happy with Miller's progress this summer.

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
AP Photo/Jack DempseyNot content to be a one-dimensional pass-rusher, Von Miller works at improving all aspects of his game.
“Absolutely, he is coming on as a complete player,” Denver head coach John Fox said of his prized defender early in camp. “He showed signs last season. He’s already very good in everything he does.”

Fox credits Miller’s development to a full offseason program. The lockout robbed Miller of that time as a rookie.

A 3-4 edge rusher at Texas A&M, Miller came to Denver with little experience in Denver’s traditional 4-3 defense when it came to pass coverage. Yet, the Broncos, who considered about five defensive players with the first pick of the Fox-John Elway era, fell in love with Miller’s play on film, his combine and workout sessions, and his personality. That combination outweighed Miller’s lack of experience in coverage and against the run.

Denver really likes Miller's work ethic, his self-analysis and his desire.

“He really wants it bad,” Denver cornerback Champ Bailey said. “He wants to be one of the greats. That’s special about him. He is the most athletic linebacker I’ve seen since LaVar Arrington. (Bailey and Arrington played in Washington together from 2000 to 2003.) For some reason, LaVar couldn’t take it to the next level. But you can tell how bad Von wants it. He works hard on every aspect of being a linebacker. Some guys with his ability, you would just be happy to be a great pass-rusher because of the premium that is put on that aspect of his game. He just doesn’t want to set sack records. He wants to be a complete linebacker, and I think he will get there.”

Miller said Bailey is right. He doesn’t want to be known just as a sack master. He studies Ray Lewis and DeMarcus Ware and is impressed that they simply don’t want to do one thing well. They want to dominate in every facet. Miller thinks he can join that elite group at some point if he is never satisfied with himself.

When talking about his rookie season, Miller doesn’t sound impressed. Instead of his success, Miller (who was a major reason the Broncos' defense improved dramatically last season) is focused on cleaning up his mistakes.

“I had way too many mental mistakes,” Miller said. “I need to follow through more and finish plays. Make those sacks into forced fumbles. There is always more to do.”

Asked what he needs to work on the most, Miller simply says: “Stop making errors in all areas.”

Fair enough.

The Broncos’ coaches love that Miller feels the urgent need to become a complete player. They know they have a star on their hands. They love that Miller doesn’t act like one.

“Von Miller is a young player with a lot of talent that is only scratching the surface right now,” new Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “He could be phenomenal; he just needs to continue to work.”

What is Miller’s ceiling? How good can he become? I asked Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. whether he thinks Miller can become the game’s next well-rounded star at linebacker. His response was eye-popping. Williamson has been in NFL buildings. He knows scouting. He does not major in hyperbole. I’ve always found his analysis of players to be level-headed and without nonsense.

So when Williamson said “Miller’s ceiling is being the very best defensive player in the NFL and a Hall of Famer,” I didn’t take it lightly.

Added Fox: “The sky really is the limit. He can be as good as he wants to be, and Von wants to be really good.”
According to ESPN’s playoff predictor, which is an Insider piece, the Denver Broncos are in line to make the playoffs, while the Oakland Raiders are not.

The two teams are tied for first place in the AFC West at 7-5. Denver has a 61 percent chance to make the playoffs are projected to be the No. 4 seed. Oakland has a 38 percent chance to make the playoffs and is projected to be on the outside looking in. It is exactly how the current standings look. If the playoffs started today, because of tiebreakers, Denver would win the division and the Raiders would not qualify for a wild-card spot.

Oakland entered Week 13 in great shape with a 67 percent chance of making the playoffs, but after getting steamrolled in Miami, the Raiders could be in trouble. Still, Oakland can get right back on track with a big win at 12-0 Green Bay on Sunday.

There is still a quarter of the season remaining. Anything is possible.

In other AFC West nuggets:

Denver quarterback Tim Tebow is earning a nice bonus.

Baltimore expects legendary linebacker Ray Lewis to return from a toe injury that has kept him out for three weeks in Week 15 at San Diego.

The Raiders looked at a couple of linebackers.
Baltimore star linebacker Ray Lewis has taken issue with the way Florida quarterback Tim Tebow -- whom Denver traded three picks to select at No. 25 -- was given special help to prepare for the draft.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
AP Photo/Phil SandlinTim Tebow's reworked throwing mechanics were a big story before the draft.
Lewis, while appearing on Colin Cowherd’s show on ESPN radio, said Tebow received pre-draft help few other prospects have enjoyed.

“The thing I was more shocked by, is you see all the people who were willing to help him,” Lewis responded. “I don’t know many people who were willing to help other athletes like that. Jon Gruden loved him to death. You see all these people who took out their personal time to really work with him and make this big issue, big issue, big issue. I don’t know why he was any different than anyone else. Every young child has that dream, that same dream that Tebow had. So I don’t know why he was bigger ... than any of the other guys.

“He went to a big program, and, yes, he might be a favorable person, but nobody else in the league, definitely not veteran players, see themselves differently than any other player.

The Broncos visit Baltimore on Oct.10. Lewis indicated he plans to treat Tebow like any other quarterback.

“The target is always simple,” Lewis said. “You play this game for one reason. You play this game to find people’s weaknesses. If he is going to be a target … basically he plays the quarterback position, so, from my position, the target is just hit him in the mouth and keep rolling.”

Meanwhile, Denver coach Josh McDaniels continued to show his enthusiasm over the chance to coach Tebow. He told the Denver Post, Tebow has “it.”

"I think the thing about Tim is what everybody calls the 'it'. There are those kind of people that have that 'it,'" McDaniels said. "When Tom (Brady) came to us in 2001, I wasn't on the offensive side of the ball, but I can remember the feeling in the building was that he had something that nobody else had ... and how strongly he felt that ultimately he would be a great player. It was obviously apparent in subsequent seasons.”

What do I think about all of this?

I think Tebow is even a more polarizing figure that I had thought he was on the night he was drafted two weeks ago. It is going to be fascinating to see how his NFL career develops. It is clear the NFL world is watching.

Dawkins appointed to advisory forum

November, 19, 2009
Denver safety Brian Dawkins has been named to a prominent players group by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Dawkins joins a player advisory forum along with Baltimore’s Ray Lewis and Arizona’s Kurt Warner. Former NFL coach Tony Dungy will lead it.

The forum will provide input to Goodell on polices, programs and issues that affect players in all aspects of life, the league said in a release.

Dawkins, in his first season with Denver, has long been known for his leadership on and off the field. He is one of the most respected players in the league, so this appointment appears fitting.

AFC West: Final Word

October, 30, 2009

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by’s Bill Williamson

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 8:

  Kirby Lee/US Presswire
 The Chargers will be looking to attack Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on Sunday.
Will the Chargers challenge Nnamdi again? Last season, few teams challenged Nnamdi Asomugha. But the Chargers went after the star Oakland cornerback in a game at San Diego. Early in the game, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers went to receiver Vincent Jackson deep, who burnt the Pro Bowl player. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Rivers and Jackson take on Asomugha again Sunday. Rivers and Jackson have been connecting on the deep ball all season and they are one of the better tandems in the league. Jackson has already proven he can beat Asomugha, and I’m sure he is anxious to try to do it again.

Broncos know they are in for a fight: The Broncos are about to face one of their most physical opponents of the season at Baltimore on Sunday. It will be a huge challenge for Josh McDaniels’ 6-0 team. McDaniels has gained a reputation early in his head-coaching career for preparing well for opponents. All week, he has been readying his troops for a smash-mouth affair Sunday. Let’s see how Denver, who has answered every challenge this season, handles the physical Ravens.

Will the Chargers bring out the best in the Raiders again? The Raiders played arguably their best game of the season in Week 1 when they hosted San Diego on "Monday Night Football." The Raiders beat up San Diego. It seemed every other play a Charger was on the grass in pain. Oakland looked like it was going to be a potential playoff contender in the game despite losing in the final seconds. Since then, the Raiders have been blown out four times. Perhaps the Chargers will inspire Oakland again. But, last season, the Raiders played San Diego tough early in the season at home before being blown out by the Chargers in San Diego later in the season.

Will the Chargers bring the house against J-Russ? The Chargers ignited their anemic pass rush by using the safety blitz extensively against the Chiefs last Sunday. It will be interesting to see if San Diego continues to use the same plan to mess with Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who will be fighting to keep his starting job. Russell hasn’t reacted well to surprise attacks, so the Chargers may want to unleash the safeties again.

Ray Lewis could have been a Bronco: When free agency started, the Broncos were connected to both Philadelphia safety Brian Dawkins and Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis. The Broncos immediately went after Dawkins and signed him. The Lewis talks never really took off and he ended up back in Baltimore. Dawkins has been a major part of Denver’s resurgent defense and Lewis is playing well for the Ravens. It would have been interesting to see Dawkins and Lewis together on the same team. But we’ll just have to settle for seeing them on the same field Sunday.