NFL Nation: University of Georgia
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 11:
Draft status: As much as teams dislike talking about this during the season, there is a good chance the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL draft could be decided Sunday when Cleveland (1-8) travels to play the Detroit Lions (1-8). Of the four one-win teams, the Browns and Lions are probably playing the worst football down the stretch. The winner of this game will double its victory total and thus fall behind in the race for the top pick with just six games remaining. Detroit had the top selection in 2009 and selected quarterback Matthew Stafford out of the University of Georgia.
Going vertical: If the Browns will ever attack defenses vertically with Quinn at quarterback, this is the week to do it. Detroit's defense is ranked No. 31 in the NFL, one spot ahead of Cleveland's. The Lions are also allowing 29.3 points per game. So Quinn should have more time in the pocket to allow his receivers to get downfield. The biggest knock on Quinn since coming to the NFL is that he doesn't have the arm strength or accuracy to stretch defenses downfield. In Monday's loss to Baltimore, Quinn was 0-for-7 on throws of 10 yards or more. Several of his deep throws at the end of the game weren't even close and didn’t stay in the field of play.
Potential trap: On the surface, the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders shouldn’t be a close contest, right? The Raiders are 2-7 and starting quarterback Bruce Gradkowski against the first-place Bengals (7-2). But when you look deeper, consider the fact that Cincinnati has never won in Oakland in eight attempts. The Bengals are coming off a huge emotional win over the Pittsburgh Steelers (letdown factor?), and starting tailback Cedric Benson is not expected to play with a hip injury. This has all the makings of a trap game in the NFL. The Bengals have been a mature team all season. Winning in Oakland for the first time would be another huge step in that maturation process.
Balance is key: The Steelers' offense will try to get back on track after one of the worst performances of the season against Cincinnati. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians received a lot of heat in the media this week for his unbalanced play calling last weekend (40 pass plays/18 run plays). It was a surprising stat considering the game against the Bengals was extremely close throughout and tailback Rashard Mendenhall entered the game with the hot hand. Look for the Steelers to get back to being balanced against the struggling Kansas City Chiefs (2-7). Kansas City has the No. 27-ranked defense in the NFL. So Pittsburgh should have an easier time executing.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday in the AFC North:
- The Baltimore Ravens signed veteran quarterback Todd Bouman to a one-year deal Tuesday night.
Morning take: This keeps the same trio of quarterbacks from last year intact with Bouman, backup Troy Smith and starter Joe Flacco. It's a good move to have at least one veteran in the group.
- The Denver Broncos are ready to trade disgruntled quarterback Jay Cutler. Is it time to call the Cleveland Browns?
Morning take: Absolutely. No trade should take place without Denver getting a decent quarterback in return. I noticed some misread my blog entry as saying the Browns should trade Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson and get Cutler in return. Read closely, because I was careful not to state that. A three-team trade involving draft picks to Cleveland would work just fine.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers held their first pre-draft visit Tuesday with Arizona receiver Mike Thomas.
Morning take: Thomas is undersized (5-foot-8), but his ability to return kicks caught the Steelers' attention.
- Here is a media mock draft I participated in this week, which was wild and unpredictable.
Morning take: Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford fell to the Browns at No. 5, and after racking my brain, I passed. But if the Browns trade Quinn or Anderson to Denver in the coming weeks, Stafford would certainly be the pick in this scenario.
Arguably the most important event of the draft season -- at least between the scouting combine and the draft itself -- will take place Thursday on the University of Georgia campus.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford will headline a Georgia Pro Day that is expected to be attended by every NFL team. Stafford, the top-rated quarterback in the draft and a leading candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick, will throw publicly for the first time since the end of the college season.
Stafford skipped the throwing portion of last month's combine, increasing the importance of Thursday's event. As you might expect, a number of Detroit officials are expected to be in attendance. But the Lions also plan a private workout with Stafford at a later date. He visited their practice facility last week.
We'll keep you updated on the Pro Day as best we can. But in the meantime, here is a link to the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Georgia blog, which reporter Chip Towers will be updating live from the event. Stafford is expected to throw at about 12:15 p.m. ET.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Quarterback Drew Stanton, the Lions' second-round pick in 2007, is in danger of getting lost in the shuffle in Detroit. Daunte Culpepper is the top candidate to open training camp as the starter, and the Lions have said they plan to sign a veteran backup. But Stanton has been told he has a clean slate with the new coaching staff, according to Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
- The Lions hosted a visit Wednesday for Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji and Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew. David Birkett of the Oakland Press has the details.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune shifts focus from the Bears' right tackle spot to the left side, where former first-round pick Chris Williams has been inserted as the starter.
- Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times takes an early look at the work of new Bears defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.
- Dave Redding is a "Hall of Fame strength coach," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel profiles the man running the Packers' offseason workouts.
- Former Minnesota safety Darren Sharper, who signed Wednesday with New Orleans, had a parting shot for the Vikings' coaching staff. Here's what Sharper told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, via Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune: "You love to play for coaches who don't just get caught up in saying, 'This is my system and this is how it's done.' That's how it was in Minnesota."
- The Vikings have agreed to terms with former Cincinnati receiver Glenn Holt, according to ESPN's John Clayton. Holt would have been a restricted free agent this offseason, but the Bengals did not make him a contract tender. He had three receptions in 15 games last season.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Here are the most interesting stories Friday in the AFC North:
- Should the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions swap the No. 1 and No. 5 overall picks for Browns quarterback Derek Anderson?
Morning take: Unless the Browns are considering Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford in the first round -- and they're not -- I don't see how this deal works for Cleveland. Anderson for Detroit's second-round pick sounds more helpful.
- The Baltimore Ravens could have a steal available late in the draft if Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew is available.
Morning take: That may be correct. But tight end is down the list of needs that should begin with cornerback and receiver. The Ravens should be thinking more along those lines in the first round.
- There are plenty of solid offensive tackles available in this year's draft, and the Cincinnati Bengals could use one of them.
Morning take: Indeed, the defense looks young and hungry in Cincinnati. Keep quarterback Carson Palmer upright next year and the Bengals have some sleeper potential.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers put the franchise tag on offensive tackle Max Starks.
Morning take: It appears the Steelers decided on their best free-agent offensive lineman. I would be surprised if they do not work out a long-term contract with Starks to free up some of the $8.451 million in cap room he is currently taking up.
Final Philadelphia 24 Washington 27 Final/OT San Diego 38 San Francisco 35
Final Minnesota 35 Miami 37 Final Baltimore 13 Houston 25 Final Detroit 20 Chicago 14 Final Cleveland 13 Carolina 17 Final Atlanta 30 New Orleans 14 Final Green Bay 20 Tampa Bay 3 Final Kansas City 12 Pittsburgh 20 Final New England 17 New York 16 Final New York 37 St. Louis 27 Final Buffalo 24 Oakland 26 Final Indianapolis 7 Dallas 42 Final Seattle 35 Arizona 6