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Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Around the NFC: Packers not committed to run

By Brendan Roberts
ESPN.com

What have the coaches been saying in their weekly news conferences? Brendan Roberts takes a quick-hitting look at the goings-on for each of the 16 NFC teams:

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: In jest, Wade Phillips said in his Monday news conference that local reporters should always pick the home team to win the game. Then, if they win, reporters can say they called it. If they lose, reporters can get on the local team for not winning. Phillips has a refreshingly dry sense of humor. According to the team Web site, he said the team's strong fourth quarter in Chicago was due in part to the team's constant rotation of players throughout the game. He was pleased with the energy from his team as the game got to its tired stages. What does this mean? That Tony Romo and Terrell Owens (and, arguably, Jason Witten) are about the only players you can expect to be on the field all of the time, and that includes your Cowboys IDP (individual defensive player) options. Phillips follows the new philosophy that a platoon is what's best for the team, and that's not altogether bad for fantasy owners.

New York Giants: Coach Tom Coughlin indicated in his Monday news conference that Brandon Jacobs (knee) likely will miss this week, although Jacobs is doing more on the side and getting close to a return. He added that replacement starter Derrick Ward tweaked his ankle Sunday but was able to play through it. Coughlin said he is impressed by how quick Ward looked on the field. "That in itself could be a dimension to take advantage of," Coughlin told the team Web site. Like it or not, Jacobs (and Reuben Droughns) owners, but Ward is here to stay. He'll likely remain in the mix when Jacobs returns.

Philadelphia Eagles: According to the team Web Site, Andy Reid said Monday that he wasn't concerned about his pass defense after Jon Kitna threw for 446 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. Reid instead praised the Lions' offense and noted that the Eagles did put pressure on Kitna, sacking the quarterback nine times. "I thought our D-line did a nice job putting pressure on the quarterback, with Trent [Cole], J.T. [Thomas] and [Brodrick] Bunkley being the three that really supplied quite a bit of the pressures," Reid said. He's right; there's nothing to worry about here. The Lions were forced to throw from the get-go and ended up passing 46 times, and the Eagles likely played soft in the secondary thanks to the big lead. The Lions are loaded with receiving options and fueled by offensive coordinator Mike Martz's innovative mind. I'm not convinced this is a pass defense fantasy owners can pick on yet.

Washington Redskins: Coach Joe Gibbs assured reporters at his news conference Monday that there was no particular reason Clinton Portis wasn't in the game at crunch time. Portis didn't play during the final five minutes of the game. "We feel real comfortable with both of our guys. We feel like either one of our backs are capable of being in there," Gibbs said, according to the team Web site. "In that particular drive, it was Ladell, and he was a part of getting the ball down there." This can't be good news for those owners expecting Portis to be a bona fide No. 1 back again. Portis rushed for a respectable 60 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, and yet it was Betts (seven carries for 9 yards, one catch for 13 yards) who was in there at the end. Was Portis tired? Was he banged up? The Skins gave no indication of either of those possibilities, but Portis owners have to hope this was just a coincidence and not an indication of the norm week to week.

NFC North

Chicago Bears: Will Rex Grossman start against the Lions a week after being booed off the field by his home fans in a loss to the Cowboys? According to the Bears' Web site, coach Lovie Smith said his "evaluation process is going on right now," and he indicated to reporters that he already had a pretty good idea what he was going to do. "I'm always thinking ahead," Smith said. "I think you know when … if that time comes where you need to make a decision." Smith added that the team didn't help Grossman with such things as fumbles and dropped passes. "It had a little to do with the quarterback position, but it had a lot to do with all of us." (Editor's Note: ESPN's John Clayton announced Tuesday that the Bears have pulled Grossman from the starting job, replacing him with Brian Griese.)

Detroit Lions: According to the team Web site, the Lions suffered a number of injuries in Philadelphia on Sunday, including two offensive starters, left tackle Jeff Backus and right guard Damien Woody. Both players suffered bruised ribs and might not be available against the Bears in Week 4. Backus, who hasn't missed a game in his seven-year NFL career, also missed practice last week because of a sore knee and said he didn't feel right against Philadelphia. "I have to practice if I want to play," Backus said. "I felt really out of whack as far as my technique. I want to make sure I can do what I need to do." Coach Rod Marinelli said the two players would have to show in practice this week that they can still play well. "The thing I always talk about is when you have an injury and you play, you've got to play well. That's the deal," Marinelli said. It's sounding as though the Lions might be lacking at least one of their two top offensive linemen this week, and they're facing the Bears. That doesn't sound too good for your Lions offensive options.

Green Bay Packers: In his Monday news conference, coach Mike McCarthy was asked if having his full wide receiver corps changed his game plan Sunday against San Diego. He said it didn't but that he was pleased with what Greg Jennings brought to the table. "You could see what he did on the last catch and the ability that he has," McCarthy said, according to the team's official Web site. And, by the sound of it, the receivers will have to continue to play well to make up for the Packers' lack of a running game. With Vernand Morency already out because of a knee injury, Brandon Jackson suffered a bruised shin and DeShawn Wynn injured his ankle. The team gave no indication as to their status for Week 4, but McCarthy acknowledges that the team hasn't committed to the run, anyway. "That's our approach to win the football game," McCarthy said. "I'd prefer to be a heavy run team, but that's just not the way we're built right now, and that's not the best way for us to win. It's a week-to-week decision, and there will be a time that we'll have to pound the football." McCarthy hopes for change, though. "Really, it's the play calling. We haven't committed to it. We're still getting more comfortable with our runners, and there have been some growing pains there." Don't look for the Packers to pound their banged-up backfield against the Vikings' stiff run defense in Week 4.

Minnesota Vikings: According to the Vikings' Web site, it's not looking as though Tarvaris Jackson will be able to play this week. "[He's] still up in the air this week," coach Brad Childress said in his Monday news conference. "He didn't do anything today and is going to get in the pool tomorrow and move around … being in the water is a lot different than being on hard land." If Jackson is unable to go, Kelly Holcomb (and not Brooks Bollinger) will continue to start. The news is better on Chester Taylor: "I would like to think Chester can get back this week. He did some things pregame, I just didn't feel like he was quite there and that he could be viable," Childress said. So new fantasy stud Adrian Peterson could see the incumbent starter added to the mix. It was noteworthy that, even though Peterson has become a bigger part of the passing game in the past two weeks, Mewelde Moore saw a lot of time in passing situations Sunday in Kansas City. The theory was that Peterson was having issues pass blocking. Childress discounted that but did indicate Moore's experience helped late in the game, when he was concerned that the Chiefs might throw some "exotic" blitzes at his quarterback. So, Peterson is, well, still a rookie, and has plenty to learn. Now that Taylor will return soon, don't anoint him the rookie of the year just yet.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: Coach Bobby Petrino said in his Monday news conference that he was unhappy about DeAngelo Hall's meltdown Sunday, to the point the team might do something about. "We don't like his actions on the field or on the sideline, and that's something we'll deal with," said Petrino on the team Web site. "There will be substantial discipline, and it will be handled in-house. We haven't come to any conclusions yet [regarding his availability versus the Texans] and we are keeping all of our options open. We certainly will do something." A suspension, maybe? Hall's IDP owners might want to be looking for other options. Besides, the Texans aren't the cream puff matchup Hall owners figured they'd be anyway.

Carolina Panthers:

According to the Panthers' Web site, coach John Fox said Jake Delhomme is day-to-day with a strained elbow and that he could play against Tampa Bay in Week 4. "He had his evaluation and had an MRI. It's a strain and won't require surgery, just rehab," Fox said. "He hasn't been ruled out versus Tampa Bay." Fox indicated David Carr would start if Delhomme can't. Delhomme said he's not sure of his availability but that the elbow still hurt. "It's OK right now, but if I grab something and try to generate some power, it will hurt," Delhomme said. "That's what happened yesterday. That last little pass to [Brad] Hoover really hurt." Could it be Carr time in Carolina?

New Orleans Saints: Two Saints sources told ESPN's Ed Werder that Deuce McAllister tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season. The Saints have yet to confirm it on their Web site, saying only that they are awaiting results of an MRI on Tuesday. But the loss of McAllister definitely would change the complexion of the Saints' offense. Reggie Bush likely will get more touches and should also get a big boost in terms of touchdowns. He scored twice with McAllister out and likely won't be taken out in the red zone if the news about McAllister is true.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Against the Rams on Sunday, starter Carnell Williams had 12 carries for 46 yards, while backups Earnest Graham (8-75-2) and Michael Pittman (7-56-0) both had big days while sharing time in the backfield. But coach Jon Gruden assured reporters in his Monday news conference that Williams is still the featured back. "Cadillac will start, and we'll find ways to mix the other guys in," Gruden said, according to the team's official Web site. "We've seen that Cadillac is capable of the home run play, but we need to get more out of him. He's put the ball on the ground a few times and had banged-up ribs, but we'll keep giving him the ball, and hopefully the home runs will come." So it's still Cadillac's job to lose despite Graham's solid play Sunday. Asked why Graham hasn't been given the chance that he got Sunday, Gruden said, "Well, we had the rookie of the year in the backfield," referring to Williams. Graham likely will get more chances, but they'll be spotty.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: According to the team's Web site, coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday that the Cardinals are committed to Matt Leinart at quarterback, even though backup Kurt Warner was brilliant in relief of him Sunday. The head coach explained why on Monday, saying Leinart "has not done anything to lose the job" and that the young quarterback suffered from four drops by his receivers. The coach added that his team seemed to pass protect better for Warner. The package of plays (the team switched to the no-huddle offense during the game) and matchup also had a lot to do with it. So Leinart is still the starter, but it had to be a little disconcerting to his owners to see the 36-year-old Warner come in and torch the same defense with the same offensive weapons Leinart had at his disposal.

St. Louis Rams: According to the team Web Site, Rams coach Scott Linehan joked that he had to have the Russell Training Center blessed by a priest last week because of all of the injuries that have hit the team this season. The biggest one of those, at least in fantasy terms, was announced Monday: Steven Jackson will miss at least a week because of a partial tear in his left groin. The injury occurred on a run late in the fourth quarter, and the doctors told Linehan that Jackson's injury is near the end of the groin as opposed to the middle of it, which should speed up his recovery time. There is no surgery required, only rest and treatment. With Jackson out, the Rams reportedly will start rookie Brian Leonard at tailback. Leonard had been working at fullback in recent weeks. Filling the backup role will be veteran Travis Minor, and rookie Antonio Pittman could also get some carries.

San Francisco 49ers: Coach Mike Nolan is still not comfortable with his offense, specifically his running game, according his notebook on the 49ers' Web site. Do the 49ers have a good offense? "I wouldn't say our statistics reflect that … but we do have more wins than losses," said Nolan, who would like to see his running game improve. He said later: "I don't think we helped ourselves. We don't need to lose confidence in the things we do well because we do run the football well." Frank Gore obviously isn't looking like the back he was last year, and Nolan acknowledges that. Acknowledging the problem is the first step to fixing it.

Seattle Seahawks: Mike Holmgren announced in his news conference Monday that X-rays on Shaun Alexander's sprained left wrist revealed a small crack, but the injury will not prevent the former MVP from playing, and it isn't the concern that some suspect it would be. Alexander was clearly in pain as he headed for the locker room Sunday, and the Seahawks put a larger cast on his wrist. He responded with a big second half. Alexander will wear a cast on his wrist except when he's rehabbing it, and the team believes it'll heal in a few weeks. According to the Seahawks' Web site, Holmgren, for one, isn't concerned: "It's small. He'll wear the cast and take a few weeks for this thing to [heal]." Fortunately for the Seahawks (and owners looking for a sleeper), Maurice Morris is back to full health after missing time with an injured hip.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN.com Fantasy.