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Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Around the NFC: Banged-up wide receivers in Detroit, Arizona

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: Whether it's playing football, working in construction, crunching numbers or writing articles (curses!), a day off can go a long way. And in a long football season, you can't undervalue a day off at this time of year. Coach Wade Phillips gave his team three days off following last Thursday's game, and he said in his news conference Monday he feels that will help his team. "They always say, when a guy has been out awhile, 'He's running around faster than anybody else.' Well, I think they are because they're more rested," said Phillips. "You can get worn down … it's a grind. And it rests you mentally, too." So the Cowboys are 11-1, face the struggling Lions and are well-rested. Sounds like a nice recipe to us. … In other news, owner Jerry Jones says Terry Glenn still has a shot to return this season. "I'm not going to say he's out here running routes, but he's certainly doing things that you give you an indication he's got a real shot here," Jones said, according the Cowboys' Web site. Glenn reportedly decided against season-ending microfracture surgery to repair damaged knee cartilage and opted to have the torn pieces removed. He could return in the next few weeks. But I say it's too late. Glenn is a special talent, for sure, but he's bound to be rusty and tentative out there. He might return by Week 15, but it'd be at least Week 16 till he'd be an option. Unless you're in a deep league, disregard.

New York Giants: In his Monday news conference, coach Tom Coughlin admitted Derrick Ward has a fractured fibula and likely is done for the season. The running back won't need surgery, but he'll need several weeks to heal. So Ward shatters a career high with 154 rushing yards versus the Bears, and now he's gone. On the plus side, Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) will return in Week 14, and Coughlin said he was scheduled to return anyway. … Eli Manning throws the ball 49 times and the Giants lose at home; he throws 27 times, and the team wins in Chicago. Coincidence? Probably not. Sure, he threw more because the team was trailing the Vikings and tried to play catch-up, and they weren't running the ball well. But the G-men trailed the Bears 16-7 entering the fourth quarter but didn't rely on the passing game to catch up and win. That didn't slide by Coughlin. "Yesterday, we kind of got back to the magic number, which is usually 35 rushes in a game. We were able to rush it 37 times," said Coughlin in his news conference. "When you check the percentages, you will find that teams win when they rush the ball that many times." Eli won't win games with his arm like many of the elite quarterbacks can. That's the reality of the situation. And at this point in his career, that's not likely to change.

Philadelphia Eagles: In his news conference Monday, coach Andy Reid said quarterback Donovan McNabb is expected to return to the practice field Wednesday for the first time in more than two weeks and should be ready to play against the Giants in Week 14. "He worked as hard as you could possibly work [last week] having an injury to make sure he kept his timing up. I thought he moved around well last week," said Reid, according to the Eagles' Web site. "I think the couple days of rest here have helped him." So does Reid have lessened expectations after McNabb missing a couple games? "I've seen him come off of injuries before and play pretty well," he said. "I expect him to do that." Reid said McNabb might have to wear a wrap to protect his thumb, but he expects McNabb not to be limited by his ankle injury. We're glad to see McNabb back, of course, but remember what happened last time he faced the Giants? Yup, New York tied a league record with 12 sacks. Now Donovan is rusty and wearing a wrap on the thumb of his throwing hand. You have every reason to leave him benched. … In other news, Lito Sheppard re-injured the knee that has bothered him much of the season Sunday and is day-to-day. Meanwhile, defensive lineman Brodrick Bunkley still is out because of a knee injury, and Jason Avant has a groin injury that is "pretty sore," according to Reid.

Washington Redskins: Sean Taylor was laid to rest Monday in a stirring, nationally televised funeral, and the entire Redskins organization was flown to Miami for it. No practice; it was a day to remember Sean. Well done, Skins. I applaud that decision. Now it's Tuesday, and Washington must turn its collective minds to football, which can't be easy. And the NFL schedule offers no solace  the Redskins play Thursday versus the Bears. Coach Joe Gibbs admitted on the Redskins' Web site Monday that the turnaround was "a real challenge," and the team basically has just one practice to prepare since Wednesday is a typical day-before walk-through practice. Jason Campbell said the team will do its best to focus. "When we come back, we have to find a way to push each other," Campbell said, according the team site. "We need to find some kind of way to focus all our energy when we get back." That's a tall order, I'm sure, and the understandable lack of preparation should factor into fantasy owners' decisions about whether to start such players as Campbell and Santana Moss, among other options.

NFC North

Chicago Bears: Adrian Peterson had a game-high 82 receiving yards Sunday, but he hardly tore up the Giants in the running game (22 carries, 67 yards). In his Monday news conference, Coach Lovie Smith sounded tired of talking about his team's struggling running game, which now ranks second-to-last in the NFL in rushing yards per game. "Running-game wise, [we were] OK. About like it's been all year. Not really good enough," said Smith. Up next: The Redskins' 10th-ranked run defense. Don't expect much … The Bears have a quick turnaround this week, but Smith doesn't see that as a bad thing. "That's a good thing," said Smith, according to the Bears' Web site. "When you have a disappointing loss like that, you want to get back on the field as soon as [possible]. That's what we'll be able to do."

Detroit Lions: Coach Rod Marinelli said Monday that Roy Williams could be out the rest of the season, according to the Detroit Free Press. Williams sprained his right posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and will be out "several weeks," according to Marinelli, who added that the injury was similar to the one suffered by cornerback Stanley Wilson on Thanksgiving Day. Wilson was put on injured reserve (IR), ending his season. Williams, who told the Free Press he never has had a knee injury before, said his knee is swollen. He also said he thinks he'll be able to play in a "couple weeks," but that doesn't sound likely. The Lions are already talking about who they'll call up from the practice squad to replace him, and it might just be easier to place him on IR. Williams owners will have to look for other options.

Green Bay Packers: To quote coach Mike McCarthy from his Friday news conference (the team played Thursday), Brett Favre's games-started streak "is not in jeopardy." According to the Packers' Web site, Favre has been diagnosed with an elbow bruise, and it's different than the injury he suffered last season against New England. "It has more to do with the muscle, the belly of the muscle around the elbow. It's not as severe as last year, and he aggravated an old shoulder injury to his left shoulder," McCarthy said. "He was in for treatment today, and we see him playing next week against Oakland." No injuries to the nerve, which he had last year. He said the separated shoulder Favre referred to was really an "aggravation of an old separation to his shoulder." Meanwhile, McCarthy heaped (deserved) praise on backup Aaron Rodgers: "I just can't say enough about his preparation because I didn't even blink. I didn't throw anything out," McCarthy said. "I've been in that position before when you have to go to your backup or go to your third guy or even your fourth guy. I went through it in San Francisco, and you just start crossing plays off the chart, and that wasn't the case [Thursday] night." It was just one game, but considering the weapons the Packers have, Rodgers certainly appears to be an option in deep leagues should Favre ever sit.

Minnesota Vikings: First things first: How does Adrian Petersonfeel? According to what coach Brad Childress said in his Monday news conference: "He said he feels as good as he has felt all year long. That is what Sug [Eric Sugarman Minnesota's head trainer] said to me. He came in and [was] treated and was off to the races on an off day." (Smile.) … Let's talk more about the Vikings running game, which is first in the league in rushing, some 35 yards more than second-place Jacksonville. Like we've said all year, the Vikings' offensive line, anchored by Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson, can be dominant at times. Childress praised that unit Monday, but he didn't stop there. "I believe that the wide receivers blocked probably as well as I have seen," Childress said. "I had an official at the end of the game tell me, 'Coach, I don't think I have ever seen wide receivers block like this since I have been officiating in the National Football League,' which is quite a statement." That has to mean something. When a team is running three- and four-receiver sets, it's good to have guys like this who can control would-be tacklers downfield … especially when it's Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor they're blocking for.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: Could Chris Redman be the starting quarterback for the Falcons in Week 14? Coach Bobby Petrino wouldn't dismiss that possibility in his Monday news conference. "The players aren't here today and I'd like to talk to them before we do anything," Petrino said. "[He] was impressive [versus the Rams]. He was very accurate and made good decisions." Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich haven't exactly done much this season, and with the team sitting at 3-9, it might be time to give Redman a shot. And from what Petrino says, the backup has earned it. "He's been working with the [second string] a lot in practice. He's taken a bunch of reps and we've seen him throw the ball accurately in practice," said Petrino. "There have been a number of times when we've come off the practice field and said, 'Chris was hot today.' Chris is very sound technically, and he was very good against the Rams." Early signs indicate the Falcons could go with Redman against the Saints on Monday night. If that's the case, considering the favorable matchup and the team's belief in him, he might be someone to watch in deep leagues. … That's not the only potential change on offense. Petrino admitted Monday the team needs to get Jerious Norwood more work. "We have to get Jerious touches, and there is no question about it. When you watch the video, you see that he is the most explosive player out there for us. His speed shows up and he makes big plays whether it's catching the ball or running the ball," Petrino said. "It's a situation where we have to get him more touches one way or another." That's about as definitive as it gets for a coach in a Monday news conference, but he has made similar statements before. At this point, we'd still have to see it to believe it.

Carolina Panthers: Steve Smith didn't have a big game (85 total yards) Sunday, but we have to applaud the Panthers' creativity in finding ways to get the ball in his hands. Smith lined up out wide, in the slot, at running back and even at quarterback for a few plays. Coach John Fox talked about that in his Monday news conference. "You're always adding wrinkles," Fox said. "We've used Smith in the backfield. We've used Smith at virtually every position on the field. You're always changing formations to add a different visual element to it. We've [lined up players at quarterback] before with different players. We've practiced it. Whether we've actually run it or not, I can't recall." Well, we Smith owners (of which I am one) sure appreciate it. Fox agreed that the uncertainty at quarterback has limited the team's ability to try new things, but with Vinny Testaverde coming out of Sunday's game OK, perhaps Fox and Co. could open up things a little this week versus the Jaguars." Speaking of the 44-year-old Testaverde, it means something when the first question at the Monday news conference is about whether Vinny is OK, even though the quarterback suffered no noticeable injuries.

New Orleans Saints: Reggie Bush didn't have a bad game, per se', but he made enough mistakes (dropped passes, fumbles) that reporters at coach Sean Payton's Monday news conference were asking about his progress and whether Deuce McAllister's absence hurts Bush. "These guys are all professionals, and they understand the importance of getting ready each week," said Payton. "We're not operating as efficiently as we were a year ago. I'd be hard-pressed just to point to one player." Payton also indicated that Bush is still learning blocking schemes and said the team likes to have him out on patterns rather than in pass protection. This is Reggie Bush. He's not the best thing since sliced bread because he does have faults. That's why, at least right now, it's ideal if he shares time with a McAllister who can mask those faults. He's not the type of back who can do it alone. But hey, let's look at the bright side: There was no talk about his previous shin injury. … The Bucs were able to keep Marques Colston (two catches, 39 yards) under wraps Sunday, but Payton said it only seemed that way because the team had only 51 snaps. The more plays the team would have had, the more of them would have gone to Colston. No worries there.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Coach Jon Gruden said in his Monday news conference that Jeff Garcia would start when healthy despite Luke McCown's strong showing in Garcia's stead in Week 13. And there's a good chance Garcia will be ready to play against Houston. "We'll see how he is Wednesday," said Gruden, according to the Tampa Tribune. "He's a needed guy on our football team. We need to win another game … If Garcia's cleared to play, he'll play." There you have it. Gruden added that, to his knowledge, there's nothing structurally wrong with Garcia -- as had been previously reported -- only that he has a "sore body." McCown drew praises from Gruden. "He had some explosive runs," Gruden said. "The ball he throws to Galloway, the 60-yard gain, is a big-time play. It's a rifle, it's on the money. He showed rare athleticism and playmaking." However, the coach is quick to put McCown's performance in perspective. "He is still an inexperienced player; he has had five career starts. We will do the best we can to prepare him to play. It won't be easy." Garcia has a shot at coming back for what, on paper, is a favorable matchup. But at least we know McCown can get the job done if he's called upon.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: In his news conference Monday, coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked about not running the no-huddle offense for the first time in several games. The coach gave a wry smile and said, "We were lucky we actually had a huddle." The team is battling a number of injuries on offense, and the biggest one is Anquan Boldin's dislocated toe, which could end the receiver's season. The Cardinals' Web site notes if tests reveal that Boldin's toe has major damage or is likely to come out of its socket again, the team might shut him down. Otherwise he'll have to play in pain like he did previously with his sore hip. Boldin said it all comes down to whether he needs surgery. His owners must prepare like they're not going to have him, since it appears he'll either be out or severely limited. Meanwhile, don't assume Larry Fitzgerald will play in Week 14 despite the groin injury that sidelined him Sunday. As Whisenhunt told the East Valley Tribune, "I was optimistic that he would play [Sunday], and he didn't … hopefully he'll be able to go [for Week 14]." Meanwhile, the Cards will lean on the running game a bit more, which is a good thing for Edgerrin James and his owners. James got 24 carries Sunday and turned them into a respectable 114 yards. The Seahawks, this week's opponent, have a better rushing defense than Cleveland has, but Edge should get enough carries to make him a viable No. 1 fantasy back.

St. Louis Rams: Now starting for the Rams at quarterback: Brooooooock Berliiiiiiiin. Perhaps that's a bit premature, but coach Scott Linehan announced Monday, according to the Rams' Web site that backup Gus Frerotte injured his throwing shoulder Sunday against the Falcons. Frerotte was able to finish the game, but the joint has bothered him since. "It was more sore than anything after the game, but it's something we are having checked out," Linehan said. "We are having it checked out today. It was much more sore today than right after the game." It's not looking good for Mr. Frerotte. Meanwhile, starter Marc Bulger (concussion) will have more neuropsych tests done Tuesday to determine his status for this week's game against Cincinnati. Bulger did not complete those tests in a satisfactory manner last week and was forced to stay on the sideline for the game against the Falcons. Linehan is confident Bulger will fare better this week on the tests and will have a better chance to be back on the field. "I think he's a lot better," Linehan said, according to the team Web site. "I thought he was way better by the end of the week. He seemed very much himself this weekend and again I am hopeful. I am cautious until we get the results of the test tomorrow and hopefully he will be OK." If neither Frerotte nor Bulger can play, Brock Berlin will make his NFL debut versus the Bengals. Owners of Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Co. wouldn't want that scenario, especially given the favorable matchup. Also injured for the Rams: Dante' Hall (ankle sprain), fellow return man Brandon Williams (ankle) and running back Brian Leonard (sprained knee).

San Francisco 49ers: Frank Gore was basically taken out of the game Sunday by the Panthers, not because of their scheme, but because of their early lead. "Last week we had 40-something plays of base calling, which allows you to stay with the game plan," aid Mike Nolan in his Monday news conference. "Yesterday we had 24, I believe, so almost half as many, which takes away from Frank's touches. That's disappointing because some of that is our own doing, whether it be turning the ball over or the point spread. Frank will remain our workhorse. I'll say this: we do try to get Frank the ball in the passing game as well. He had 12 touches in the run and 5 in the pass. I'd like to get [Gore] the ball in both cases." Gore owners can trash him for his disappointing season all they want, but I believe he has been pulled down by his offense. Bad quarterback play has meant more defenders in the box. Bad defense and offensive mistakes have meant early deficits. Bad offensive-line play has meant fewer holes to run through. Then you have bad play-calling. But he's definitely someone I'll be targeting as a bounce-back guy next year if he gets another option or two to help him on offense. … Not that Alex Smith is one of those options, but there's a chance he could return this week versus Minnesota. He's doing some light throwing and will continue to be evaluated. Also, Arnaz Battle will be listed as questionable for Week 14 because of an ankle injury.

Seattle Seahawks: In his Monday news conference, coach Mike Holmgren talked about the luxury of having two quality backs and expects Sunday's split between Shaun Alexander and Maurice Morris to continue for the rest of the season. "They all want to do well; they all want to get their yards," Holmgren said. "To have this type of attitude from the two of them, to put the team first … it's refreshing to me. They're handling it well." Alexander had 20 touches to just five for Morris, but Morris looked much better in his limited work. It sounds like the split could get a little closer next week (although Holmgren told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer he reserves the right to change his mind). Alexander's value doesn't change much with this news; maybe a few less carries could help him. But Morris maintains some value in deep leagues as a flex option if he can manage 8-10 touches per game.

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