One the NFL’s most-penalized defenders, New England Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner, could cross paths Saturday with the league’s most prolific receiver in terms of drawing pass interference penalties, Torrey Smith.
Smith led the NFL with 11 defensive pass interference penalties drawn for 229 yards during the regular season, according to Football Outsiders, and added a 12th for 29 yards against the Steelers in the wild-card game. The next closest receiver, Green Bay Packers star Jordy Nelson, drew six flags for 129 yards.
“It’s definitely frustrating, but again, it’s part of the game,” Smith said this week. “I don’t want to be known for a guy that’s just getting held all the time, but it just happens. If I knew why it kept happening … I guess most times it’s because I’m moving pretty good, and it kind of surprises them a little bit, so they grab you.”
Browner, a physical corner signed from the Seattle Seahawks in the offseason, has played just nine games for the Patriots. He was called for five defensive pass interference penalties this season, and 15 penalties overall.
Unfortunately, pass interference penalties don't count in fantasy football.
When New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman takes the field in Saturday’s divisional-round playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, it will mark his first game in almost a month. No one is more excited about that than Edelman, although quarterback Tom Brady probably isn’t far behind.
The two are working overtime to re-establish and fine-tune the connection that helped Edelman produce a team-high 92 receptions before he was shut down during the final games of the season with a concussion.
“We’ve been practicing the last week and a half or something; I know Tom a little bit here now, these last few years. He knows me. There’s a foundation,” Edelman relayed in his first remarks to the press since Dec. 14 following a victory over the Dolphins. "But even if whatever happened didn’t happen, we still have to continue to try to get better. That’s what we’re trying to do -- staying after, throwing a couple extra routes, bouncing ideas off each other. Like any other week, I guess, but the stakes are a little higher.”
Edelman should hit the ground the running against a shaky Baltimore secondary. He was the #13 WR in PPR formats before missing the final two games with a concussion.
Browner is one of the biggest and most physical corners in the NFL at 6-feet-4, 221 pounds. His style is based on roughing up wide receivers.
And Torrey Smith expects to see plenty of Browner during an AFC divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium instead of Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. Revis is expected to line up against Steve L Smith most of the time.
Revis has been significantly better in coverage than Browner this season, so this is good news for those owners hoping to use him this week. He has been the #13 WR since Week 6, and has scored 11 touchdowns in his last 12 games.
The Ravens are one of the tougher run defenses in the NFL, ranking fourth this season in holding opponents to an average of 88.3 yards per game and not allowing a 100-yard rusher in the past 27 games. They are a sturdy front seven and with this in mind, it's hard to imagine the Patriots go with a heavy diet of bigger personnel and a power-running approach. Instead, a more likely scenario is that the Patriots attempt to manipulate matchups in hopes of lightening the box and getting the Ravens into sub packages to test their overall quality and depth in the defensive backfield, which is their primary area of vulnerability. For the Patriots to do this, adding a second tight end with more of a pass-catching profile, third receiver, or second running back makes sense. This is where Wright, a "move" tight end, could be a bigger factor. When blocking-based tight end Michael Hoomanawanui is paired with Rob Gronkowski, it usually results in opponents playing base defense. But when Wright is paired with Gronkowski, it has sometimes been sub because he's more of a pass-catching threat. The Patriots have had success going up-tempo with that grouping as well, so we could envision Wright being a bigger part of the plan Saturday, with receiver Danny Amendola and running back Brandon Bolden (in a two-back set with Shane Vereen) as other options.
Wright's production has been spotty, but when the Patriots have called his number, he has usually delivered.
Saturday, January 3, 2015, 7:04pm
Friday, January 2, 2015, 5:04pm
Harris had just nine carries for 16 yards in five regular-season games, but the 5-11, 210-pounder ripped off a 59-yard run last Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"Josh is ready," said Bell, who did some light running and rode a stationary bike on Wednesday. "I’ve been watching him all year and I know what he’s capable of. You got a little glimpse of him (in) the Bengals game. He’s explosive. He knows all of his assignments. He’s not out there thinking any more. He’s just playing football. He’s only going to get better."
The Ravens are tough to run on, so we have Harris projected for about 74 yards on 18.7 touches.
"It's too early to tell, but it doesn't look good," one source inside the organization told NFL Media's Aditi Kinkhabwala.
A Monday morning MRI on Bell's hyperextended right knee revealed no ligament damage, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, who reported that it will be "difficult" for Pittsburgh's star running back to suit up for this weekend's AFC playoff bout with Baltimore.
Jason La Canfora is also reporting Bell is 'likely out' for this weekend's game. Josh Harris is next up for the Steelers at RB, in what is a very tough matchup against the Ravens who are ranked third in allowing fantasy points to RBs. Dri Archer could also see more work, and the team is very close to signing free agent Ben Tate. Teams have had success throwing against the Ravens so that may be how Pittsburgh attacks this week if Bell is in fact out.
In desperate need of a feature back with Le'Veon Bell's immediate future uncertain, the Steelers are working out former Texans, Vikings and Browns running back Ben Tate, ESPN reported Tuesday morning.
If the visit goes well, they are expected to sign the 26-year-old, once thought to be the best running back on the open market back in March.
Some inside the Steelers organization are doubtful that Bell will make an appearance on Saturday in prime time against the Ravens, which would make the need for an all-purpose back like Tate that much greater, the story said. The piece went on to say that in some respects, this is the ideal opportunity Tate has been waiting for. Just like former Steelers running back LeGarrette Blount knows, strong playoff performances can change perception, and after getting cut by two teams in less than a year, Tate is longing for that opportunity. The Ravens do present a tough matchup however, as they are ranked third in allowing fantasy points to RBs.
LeVeon Bell slowly hobbled to and from the Steelers locker room on Monday, a little more than 12 hours after hyperextending his right knee in the third quarter of the Steelers' 27-17 AFC North-clinching win over Cincinnati.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Bell suffered no structural damage to the knee from the hit from Bengals safety Reggie Nelson, meaning there is a possibility that the Steelers team MVP could be ready to play Saturday night against Baltimore in a wild card playoff game.
“If he suffered no structural damage (ACL, PCL), then yes, he can play,” said Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, S.C. “He would just have to work through discomfort, stiffness and weakness.”
Geier said pain killers toradol and cortisone are popular treatments to allow players to get back on the field quickly after suffering injuries similar to Bell's.
The Steelers won't have an update on Bell's status until Tuesday, and Bell's agent, Adisi Bakari, did not return a message.
It's going to be a short week for Bell, so he has that working against him. But according to the doctor quoted in the story, it's just a matter of playing through any discomfort. The Ravens don't present a great matchup, ranked third in allowing fantasy points to RBs. Bell had a 10-20-0 line in Week 9 when the teams last met and then an 11-59-0 line back in Week 2.
Saturday, December 27, 2014, 7:00pm
According to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, the Browns announced wideout Phil Bates has been ruled out of tomorrow’s game against the Ravens. It’s unclear why Bates won’t play, but the club did say it was not an injury-related decision, per the Beacon Journal. Bates did not accompany the club to Baltimore, according to the report.
With Gordon and Bates out, the Browns have five available receivers: Travis Benjamin, Taylor Gabriel, Andrew Hawkins, Marlon Moore and Rodney Smith. However, Hawkins is questionable with a thumb injury, though he did put in a limited practice on Friday after not practicing Wednesday. (The club had Thursday off.)
The story went on to say that Gordon and rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel were absent from the Browns' walk-through Saturday morning, and the team had trouble locating them, a source close to the team told ESPN's Pat McManamon. It officially ends a very disappointing season for Gordon and his owners. Gordon appeared in only five games this season. He missed the first 10 games while serving a league-issued suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Reports this year out of Browns camp said Gordon appeared lost on the field upon returning from his 10 game suspension. He's got a long way to go in terms of staying out of trouble before the start of the 2015 season and he's going to continue to be a risky own because of that.
Gordon also was late getting onto the practice field Friday and emerged from the team's facility for the outdoor workout wearing teammate Travis Benjamin's jersey.
Friday, December 26, 2014, 6:53pm
Tuesday, December 23, 2014, 1:03pm
The Browns have re-signed veteran quarterback Tyler Thigpen, a league source confirmed Tuesday morning for the Beacon Journal, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team had yet to announce the move.
With rookie Johnny Manziel ruled out of the season finale Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens (9-6) because of an injured left hamstring and Brian Hoyer dealing with an injured throwing shoulder, the Browns (7-8) are thin at quarterback.
If Hoyer can't play, the Browns will start undrafted rookie Connor Shaw, who's been on the practice squad all season. Thigpen would serve as Shaw's backup in the event Hoyer is out. ESPN's Adam Caplan reported Hoyer also "has a badly bruised bicep."
Chargers coach Mike McCoy said that quarterback Philip Rivers is expected to play on Sunday against the Chiefs. Rivers has been dealing with a bulging disk in his back that was injured against the Baltimore Ravens. McCoy said whether Rivers will continue playing with the injury is a group decision, and that it’s not career threatening.
“If that was the case and we didn’t think he could play this Sunday, we wouldn’t put him in there,” McCoy said. “We have plenty of medical advice, not just with Philip, but with everyone in this organization and in the NFL. Everyone has had some form of injury that they deal with at some point of the year. Philip will play on Sunday.”
Rivers did not practice on Monday and Tuesday last week to rest his ailing back. The Chargers could take a similar tact with Rivers this week.