Tag Archives: NFL

Best Fits For Colin Kaepernick

That is if he isn’t REALLY being blackballed by NFL owners and executives.

Colin Kaepernick still has something left in the tank, but where will he get to display it next is the question. Photo Credit: NFL

Colin Kaepernick deserves a chance to play in the NFL. I won’t go over the list of quarterbacks who can’t compare to him that have already been signed this offseason. That angle has been beaten to death. Rather I’d like to look at the team’s that should be in demand of his skill set.

Let me also set this up by acknowledging that Kaepernick is in starting QB purgatory. He’s like an award winning lead actor who’s had several Box Office flops and now studios only inquire about his interest in a supporting role until he can get that “it” back that sold out theaters. It’s like that episode of “Entourage” when Vincent Chase had to settle for the supporting role in the “Smokejumpers” film after his fallout with Alan the head of Warner Brothers over the “Aquaman” sequel and “Medellin.” Like Vince’s agent Ari Gold told him “you’re in movie star jail.” That’s Kaepernick’s situation now.

Even though the last few seasons with the San Francisco 49ers wasn’t Colin’s fault, you can blame Owner Jed York and General manager Trent Baalke for that, Colin has to accept the fact that he’s not a starting QB right now. I put emphasis on right now. That’s not to say he still can’t be, it’s just that no team is going to invest in him being their starter at this point.

As far as his play, Colin is the definition of a dual threat quarterback. He’s not the historic prototype like Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck. So he can’t fit into any system and thrive. Think of the trouble Michael Vick had finding a team in his latter years. Kaepernick needs to be in a system where the incumbent starter does many of the same things he does best and the offense resembles the read option that helped him when he led the Niners to the Super Bowl and the NFC title game the season after.

The goal for him should be to get on a team that will help him best show that his skills haven’t eroded, just the situation around him in “The Bay” did, and possibly gain a starting offer for 2018.

With that being said, these are the teams I think he’ll be a great fit for as a backup. All of these teams have entrenched starters who play similar to the way Colin played in his best days. None of these teams would have to change their offensive schemes to fit Colin if he were called upon. That’s the “football reason” many are using to avoid signing him.

Seattle Seahawks. Can you name the Seahawks backup QB? Didn’t think so. It’s Trevone Boykin who has some off-the-field issues he has to deal with this offseason. You wouldn’t know that because Russell Wilson hasn’t missed much time since he took over in the great northwest. However, their offense suits the superior athleticism and improvisation both Wilson and Kaepernick thrive on. Wilson also struggled with some lower leg injuries last season that he played through when he probably shouldn’t have if they had a capable backup on the roster.

Plus, that locker room and head coach Pete Carroll is tailor made to handle the “distractions” that will come with signing Kaep. Plus many of the guys in that locker room agree with his anthem protest, which he says he won’t continue this season.

Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton takes a beating, which is why he just had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. Derek Anderson is currently his backup. He’s a totally different QB than Cam, thus the Panthers would have to drastically alter their gameplan  if he’s needed to take snaps. Anderson is more suited to be Andrew Luck or Ben Roethlisberger’s backup. Kaep would allow Carolina to keep their same physical run first style in any absence of Newton.

Tennessee Titans. Marcus Mariotta is coming off a late season broken leg that could slow him down to start the 2017 season. His understudy is Matt Cassell. Those two couldn’t be any different. The Titans are also a run first offense with read option concepts. They rely heavily on their running backs DeMarco Murray and 2-year back Derrick Henry.

Buffalo Bills. If Tyrod Taylor really is their franchise QB, it makes more sense to have Kaepernick behind him than Cardale Jones, who I love, but is more like Roethlisberger or Carson Palmer. The Bills also have a strong running game led by LeSean Mccoy. Notice a theme here?

Miami Dolphins. Despite his size (6’4″ 216) Ryan Tannehill, a former wide receiver at Texas A&M, plays a more mobile game than pocket passer. Miami’s a more heavy rushing offense with Jay Ajayi in their backfield, with many read option concepts. Their backup is Matt Moore, who is more of a pocket passer. Moore is a career backup, which is why he’s in Miami, but as he showed when Tannehill was injured late last season, he can’t duplicate the success of the starter that helped get the Dolphins into the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

Dallas Cowboys. With Tony Romo retired that leaves a significant void behind Dak Prescott. Right now the backup is Kellen Moore. You sure you want him to be the 2nd option? Remember how he fared in 2015 when Romo was injured for most of the season? You may say “the Cowboys wanted to move on from Romo because they don’t need Dak looking over his shoulder.” Like I said previously, at this point Kaepernick is a backup. Romo had shown when he is healthy that he’s a starter. That’s why there was a distraction, because everyone assumed Dallas would be better than they were with Dak if Romo was in the lineup. No one would be making those assumptions with Kaepernick. But Cowboy fans would feel much safer with him on the roster in case Dak were injured or suffered from a “Sophomore Slump.” Plus they have 2016 NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott, keeping with my run first theme.

All these teams I’ve looked at are heavy rushing offenses. That’s what the 49ers were in their best days with Kaepernick under center with the franchise’s all-time leading rushing Frank Gore in the backfield. Also with their style of play, they put the starter in harms way often. Signing Kaepernick would be the best insurance policy out there. After a season excelling as a backup it’s likely he’d get one of those deals Mike Glennon jut got.

Now that there is one less quarterback option on the market for teams in need, Kaepernick’s name should be coming up more. Hopefully his unemployment will end very soon, if not then we know what it is.

Le’Veon Bell’s Case for NFL MVP

Bell is 2nd in the NFL in total rushing yards and 3rd in total yards from scrimmage, despite missing 3 games to suspension. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

(Update – 12/28/16): Le’Veon Bell will not play Sunday in the Pittsburgh Steelers final game of the 2016 season vs. the Cleveland Browns. Neither will Ben Roethlisberger or Antonio Brown.)

I’ve been saying for weeks now that Le’Veon Bell is the best offensive player in the NFL. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to my readers that I think #26 should be the 2016 NFL MVP. On a team with arguably the best wide receiver in the League in Antonio Brown, who leads the NFL in receptions, a perennial pro-bowl quarterback with two Super Bowl victories in Ben Roethlisberger, Bell is the most lethal of the “Killer B’s”. He’s even already been named team MVP for 2016.

My case starts here:

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the midst of a 6-game winning streak that helped them clinch the AFC North title and the 3rd seed in the AFC Playoffs. This after being 4-5 after the first 10 weeks of the season. In this run, Bell is averaging 139.2 rushing yards (5.2 yards per carry) and 42.7 receiving yards game (8.5 yards per catch), for an average of 181.9 yards from scrimmage. His 12-game average of 157 yards from scrimmage per game is the most in the NFL since Priest Holmes in 2002. He’s converted 62 first downs running and receiving in the streak, His total for the season is 94). Most importantly, he’s scored 7 touchdowns (6 rushing, 1 receiving).

Don’t forget about the 2016 NFL league high and Steelers franchise single-game rushing record of 236 yards he set against the Buffalo Bills in week fourteen. Also, he has more receptions than a handful of NFL teams’ number one receiver.

In the Steelers only loss in the second half of the season to the Dallas Cowboys, Bell rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown, caught 9 passes for 77 receiving yards and a touchdown, as well as converted 10 first downs.

Bell doesn’t just make the offense better, but the defense as well. The formula for the Steelers to win is simple, when he touches the ball 25+ times via the run and the pass, it helps win the time of possession battle, keeping that much maligned defense of theirs off the field. Since week 11 they’ve been a top 5 defense, mostly because they’re on the field less and not as vulnerable to be exploited.

In the win streak, Bell averages 32 touches a game. In the 4 losses he played in, he touched the ball an average 23 times. Much like Pittsburgh’s magic number on defense is 20—they’re undefeated when allowing 20 points or less, 1-5 when allowing 21+ points—25 touches for #26 is the magic number for their offense.

Bell averages 181.9 yards per game from scrimmage in the Steelers 6-game win streak. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Even after missing 3-games due to suspension, he’s second in the NFL in total rushing yards, and third in total yards from scrimmage. In his first game of 2016, Bell rushed for 144 yards on 18 carries and had 5 catches for 34 yards as the Steelers blew out the Kansas City Chiefs 43-14. Proving just how much extra “juice” he brings to an already lethal unit.

Since I mentioned his suspension, most would think that would disqualify him from winning this award. But, Tom Brady is gaining momentum for votes. He was suspended four games to start this season. Therefore it shouldn’t be a knock on Le’Veon either.

#26 has scored 7 touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s 6-game win streak. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

My final point is this, most valuable player should go to the player who if they weren’t on the field for any reason, the team wouldn’t be as successful as they are with him. It shouldn’t just be given to the best player on the team with the best record, as is the case most of the time. Or to the glory position of quarterback which has happened eight of the last ten seasons. LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006, and Adrian Peterson in 2012 were the only non-QBs to breakthrough.

Bell’s performance and incredible versatility is why Steelers Nation gets so upset and disappointed in him that he’s been suspended for off-the-field issues twice in his career. Who knows what this guy could do had he been available for a full 16-game schedule? Who knows where the Steelers would be if he hadn’t stepped up the second half of the season the way he has. That’s why he’s the most valuable.

He probably won’t win the award, he maybe won’t even finish in the top three. But, as I’ve showed you, he should. Who’s been hotter when it mattered the most?

Steelers Sneak Away With 5th Consecutive “W”

Bell’s 131 total yards from scrimmage help the Steelers escape with a 24-20 win over Cincinnati. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Two teams from Pittsburgh got off the bus at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on Sunday. The first half was the team that lost 4 consecutive games in weeks 6 thru 10. The second half was the team that has now won their last 5 games, especially on the defensive side.

The first half version of the Steelers beat themselves offensively and defensively with key penalties that set the Bengals up for points and kept themselves from scoring touchdowns. Pittsburgh was flagged 4 times for 74 yards in the first half alone. They finished the game with 7 for 104 yards.

Three major penalties told the story of the first half. A face mask by Stephon Tuitt on a 3rd down sack on the first Bengals offensive drive, and a pass interference in the end zone against Artie Burns on the second drive that put the ball on the Steelers one-yard line, set Cincinnati up to score 10 quick and easy points.

The third against Le’Veon Bell for a chop block that erased what would’ve been Antonio Brown’s 50th career touchdown reception and a what would’ve have been a 17-10 deficit. Instead the Steelers had to settle for a Chris Boswell 49-yard field goal.

Speaking of Boswell, he gets the game ball. If it weren’t for his Steelers franchise record tying 6 made field goals, 5 of 40+ yards, and a touchdown saving tackle on a kickoff return, Pittsburgh would have been out of this game at halftime.

Defensively, Keith Butler’s group couldn’t stop the Bengals running or passing game.

Cincinnati gained 184 total yards (116 passing, 68 rushing), they never punted and didn’t allow a sack or have a turnover. Andy Dalton was 10 of 16 passing for 116 yards. Jeremy Hill ran for 44 yards on 14 carries and had a touchdown that put them up 17-3 with 9:02 remaining in the 2nd quarter.

The Bengals did what the Steelers had done masterfully over the last month, win the time of possession battle and keep opposing offenses as spectators, while not allowing the suspect defense to be exposed. The Bengals held the ball for 17:59 of the first 30 minutes.

Offensively, Pittsburgh could only muster 3 field goals in the time they crossed into enemy territory. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley got cute, and clearly over-thought his game plan. There’s no reason Le’Veon Bell should’ve had 7 carries and 3 receptions in an entire half, as he did on Sunday. It lead to 29 rushing yards for the League’s best back and a 20-9 halftime deficit.

Coach Mike Tomlin implied to CBS sideline reporter Evan Washburn that the Steelers were beating themselves and needed to be “cleaner” in the second half. Obviously the team got the message.

Harrison and the Steelers D held the Bengals scoreless and to 38 total yards in the second half. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Defensively, they cleaned up the penalties and held the Bengals scoreless, while only allowing 38 total yards. Hill rushed 6 times for -1 yard. Dalton went 6 of 11 for 41 yards, was sacked for an 11-yard loss, and threw an interception to Lawrence Timmons.

Meanwhile, the offense patiently and methodically took the lead. Ben Roethlisberger led them to 228 total yards in the second half. Le’Veon Bell rushed for 64 yards to finish with 93 on the day to go along with 5 catches for 38 yards. In total he touched the ball 28 times, and they them won the time of possession battle 32:32 to 27:28. LaDarius Green and Eli Rodgers stepped up and took the defensive attention off Antonio Brown that Roethlisberger has been begging for all season. Rodgers finished with 5 catches for 75 and the go ahead 24-yard touchdown pass. Green also had 5 catches 72 yards, 3 of which were converted for first downs.

The second half performance followed the formula this team has used to win 5 games in a row and take the AFC North lead going into next Sunday’s major matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. If they play like the second half team next week and not the first half version, they’ll be one step closer to the AFC North title and a spot in the tournament.

Kickoff is set for 4:30 pm at Heinz Field.

EXTRA POINTS 

  • Pittsburgh is now undefeated on the season when they allow 20 or fewer points (9-0).
  • The Steelers have now won 7 of their last 8 games at Cincinnati.
  • With his second catch of the day, Antonio Brown recorded the 470th of his career, setting an NFL record for most receptions in a 4-year span passing 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrine Marvin Harrison.

Throwback Steelers Football…

And at the right time too. 

Le’Veon Bell rushed for a Steelers single game record 236 yards in the 27-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

 

I said it last week and I’ll say it again now, Le’Veon Bell is the most lethal offensive weapon in the NFL. That includes all offensive positions, not just running back. 

Bell ran for a Steelers single game franchise record 236 yards with 3 touchdowns versus the Buffalo Bills Sunday in the 27-20 victory. He also had 62 yards receiving on 4 catches.

As the Steelers need every win to keep pace for the AFC North title, to possibly be the division’s only playoff participant, the formula for winning is simple. Get the ball to number 26. 
During Pittsburgh’s four game win streak, Bell has rushed for 236, 118, 120 and 146 yards. In a league where everyone is throwing the pig all over the field, Pittsburgh has decided to go throwback.

These type of performances are why fans have been disappointed he hasn’t played a full season in his career due to two suspensions and two major injuries.

Who knows what kind of offensive explosion would’ve happened if Ben Roethlisberger hadn’t thrown three interceptions on the day, one in the red zone on their first drive, and another on the fourth drive that set Buffalo up inside the red zone for their first touchdown of the game down 14-0.

The only unit that stopped the Steelers offense, was themselves. Or Roethlisberger if we want to point fingers.

But back to Bell, his 298 total yards from scrimmage were more than the 275 yards Keith Butler’s unit allowed to the Bills offense.

Speaking of defense, I’m loving what I’m watching lately. At the beginning of this season I never thought I’d say that. Hell, a month ago I wouldn’t have said it. 

Stephon Tuitt sacks Tyrod Taylor, one of the five the Steelers D registered on the day. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

 
They’re blitzing more, which is resulting in more sacks. Sunday they got to Tyrod Taylor 5 times, 3 in the first quarter. They’re creating turnovers, even though William Gay’s pick 6 in the first quarter was called back due to a holding penalty,  Artie Burns picked off Taylor later in the game to kill a Bills drive. And, they’re stopping the run better. The Bills had 67 yards for an average of 3.7 yards per carry in the game. A quarter of the way into the second stanza, Pittsburgh held them to -1 total yard. 

Most importantly, the rookies in the secondary, Artie Burns and Sean Davis, along with Ross Cockrell aren’t allowing teams top receivers to light them up like in years past.

This is the type of Steelers football I grew up with, and expect. This is what won Super Bowls XL and XLIII, even though the offense gets the highlights on NFL Films, aside from the James Harrison pick 6. This type of defensive effort is what’s going to be needed if they’re going to make the playoffs and win a NFL record seventh Lombardi in February.

This team is clicking on all the right cylinders at the right time.

Next up, the Cincinnati Bengals in the Queen City. Kickoff is set for 1 pm.

OTHER NOTES

  • Mike Tomlin won his 100th game as coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Bell went over the 1,000 rushing mark for the 2nd time in his career.
  • Even though Ben Roethlisberger had a terrible day, he moved past Vinny Testaverde into 10th place on the NFL’s Career Passing yards leaders list (46,249).

Buckeyes in the NFL (Week 12, 2016)

Ohio State Buckeye football fans have a lot to be thankful for this season. The Scarlet and Gray held on to beat TTUN in overtime and are primed for a return to the College Football Playoff, plus several former Bucks, especially the wide receivers, shined on Thanksgiving day in the NFL, and on Sunday.

Ezekiel Elliott continues his run towards the NFL rookie rushing record, and his first League rushing title. He just missed the century mark against the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day. “Zeke” scored 2 touchdowns and rushed for 97 yards on 20 carries. He also caught 2 passes for 23 yards in the 31-26 win over their division rivals. The Cowboys are now 10-1, and have won the last 10 games in a row. Safety Donte Whitner had 4 tackles for Washington.

Also on Thursday, Ryan Shazier had 6 tackles for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their 28-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

New Orleans rookie wide receiver Mike Thomas caught 9 passes for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Saints 49-21 win over the Los Angeles Rams. It was Thomas’ second career game of 100+ receiving yards and 2+ touchdowns. Safety Vonn Bell had 3 tackles for the victors.

Ted Ginn Junior had 4 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown for the Carolina Panthers in their 35-32 loss to the Oakland Raiders. Safety Kurt Coleman had 11 tackles (8 solo) for the Panthers in the loss.

On Sunday night football in an overtime thriller, Denver Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby had 2 tackles in their 30-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Chargers rookie Joey Bosa had 7 tackles (4 solo) and a half sack in San Diego’s 21-13 win over the Houston Texans in the Lone Star State. His teammate rookie linebacker Josh Perry had 1 tackle in the win. On the Texans side, Braxton Miller had 1 catch for 12 yards in the loss. Texans linebacker John Simon missed the game with a chest injury.

New York Giants rookie defensive back Eli Apple returned to the Buckeye State against the Cleveland Browns, and lined up a couple of times against fellow OSU Alumn Terrelle Pryor. Apple had 2 tackles to help the Giants win 27-13. He left with a cramp in the 3rd quarter and did not return to the game. Defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins had 3 tackles (1 solo), 1.5 sacks and a key QB hit that forced a fumble which was returned for a touchdown. Pryor had 6 catches for 131 yards for the Browns, but no touchdowns in the loss.

In New York, Darron Lee and Jalin Marshall of the Jets went up against the New England Patriots. Lee had 11 tackles (5 solo), and Marshall had 2 catches for 6 yards in the 22-17 loss. Jets 11-year Center Nick Mangold sat out the game with an injured ankle.

Defensive tackle Adolphus Washington had 2 tackles for the Buffalo Bills in their 28-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In Baltimore, Cincinnati kicker Mike Nugent scored 6 points on two field goals, but missed an extra point in the Bengals 19-14 loss to the Ravens.

San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde had 65 rushing yards on 13 carries, and caught 5 passes for 30 yards and an 11-yard touchdown pass in the Niners 31-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins in South Florida.

Safety Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles plays on Monday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers. Center Corey Linsley starts on the offensive line for the Pack.

Cleveland is the Remedy

Bell gained 201 yards from scrimmage vs. the Browns (146 rushing, 55 receiving). Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Saying the Pittsburgh Steelers were in a must win situation against the Cleveland Browns isn’t an exaggeration. It doesn’t matter that Cleveland is the only winless team in the NFL at now 0-11. It doesn’t matter that the Dallas Cowboys beat the Baltimore Ravens, who have the tie-breaker for the lead in the AFC North over the Steelers.

With a 4-game losing streak, and most likely needing to win the division to get into the playoffs, a loss would’ve sent this team into a greater tailspin that would have led to greater unwelcome ramifications for the coaching staff and players. I don’t care that it was the Browns, they needed something to feel better about themselves.

The smartest decision of the day was the Steelers electing to kickoff after winning the pre-game coin toss. This defense was under fire after giving up the win to the Dallas Cowboys with under a minute remaining after the offense appeared to have won it. It was imperative that defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s unit got off to a good start against the 28th ranked total offense and 30th ranked scoring offense, to gain some confidence without their best defender Cam Heyward, who is lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

Even after allowing a 38-yard catch to Terrelle Pryor to convert a 3rd down, Artie Burns’ second career pick on 3rd and 17 to end the drive 3-plays later was the right dose of medicine needed to get this much maligned unit moving in the right direction.

The second drive began with a sack by Stephon Tuitt, his 2nd of the season and ended with another sack by Javon Hargrave six plays later. On the day, they finished with a season high 8 sacks, one of which led to a fumble recovered for a touchdown by Hargrave. The 8 sacks is the tied for the most in the NFL this season. They came into the game with only 13 sacks in 9 games, which was tied for dead last with the Oakland Raiders in that category. For only the third time this season they held a team under 300 total yards.

This week’s game ball goes to Stephon Tuitt and Lawrence Timmons. Tuitt had 6 tackles to go along with 2.5 sacks, and will need to come close to replicating this performance weekly in the absence of Heyward. Timmons also showed his veteran leadership with 8 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, and 3 hits on the QB.

Offensively, it appears Todd Haley has finally realized the best weapon he has, and in my opinion the most lethal in the entire NFL, is running back Le’Veon Bell. Bell had 11 touches (8 rushes, 45 yards; 3 receptions, 34 yards) for 79 of the 87 yards and converted 6 first downs on the first drive that started at their own 4-yard line and ended with a Chris Boswell 32-yard field goal. For the day, Bell finished with 28 carries for 146 yards and a TD, 8 receptions for 55 yards. Using Bell they way they did allowed them to play ball control, and win the time of possession battle 33:58 to 26:02 with 4 drives of over 11 plays. Most importantly, they kept the struggling Pittsburgh defense on the sideline.

But, settling for 3 field goals after two 16-play drives (9:18, 9:28), a 15-play drive (8:02), and struggling to get into the end zone from inside the 5-yard line at the end of the 1st half versus the second worse total defense in the NFL, is still highly concerning. I don’t care what the weather elements, Pittsburgh can’t go 1 of 4 inside the red zone. I don’t need to tell you that’s not going to get it done if they hope to make a playoff run, which is what this teams only focus should be.

However, a win is a win. And right now this team will take them.

Next up, at the Indianapolis Colts (5-5) on Thanksgiving Night. Last season the Steelers beat the Colts 45-10 at Heinz Field on the strength of Roethlisberger’s 24 of 39 for 364 yards and 4 touchdowns performance.

OTHER NOTES

  • Pittsburgh’s 4th sack of the day registered by James Harrison made him the Steelers all-time career sack leader with 77.5, passing fellow #92 Jason Gildon, when he sacked Cody Kessler on 2nd and goal early in the 3rd quarter.
  • Le’Veon Bell passed Jerome Bettis for the fewest games to 5,000 scrimmage yards in Steelers history. It took Bell 42 games, “The Bus” Jerome Bettis did it in 52.
  • Ben Roethlisberger passed Fran Tarkenton and Philip Rivers for 12th and 11th on the all-time completions list in NFL history. He now has 3,704.

Brown continue to set NFL records, he’s the fastest to 600 career receptions. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

  • Antonio Brown set an NFL record for the fewest games (96) to reach 600 career receptions on his 5th reception of the day. Brown had 8 catches for 76 yards against the Browns.

 

Buckeyes in the NFL (Week 11, 2016)

Fellow OSU Alumni Mike Thomas and Corey “Philly” Brown share the Buckeye love in the NFL, exchanging jersey’s after their two teams faced off. Photo Credit: NFL.com 

Well, we’re down to the wire for the current Buckeyes. it’s THE Game week, with both OSU and TTUN ranked in the top 3 of the College Football Playoffs. So I can understand if Buckeye Nation has paid little attention to the Buckeyes on Sunday. But, that’s why I’m here, to keep you up to speed.

There are two fewer Buckeyes on the NFL gridiron this week. Linebacker James Lauriniatis was waived by the New Orleans Saints from the Injured reserve list. Lauriniatis struggled with several injuries in his first season in the “Big Easy.” He’s eligible to be signed by another NFL team.

The week started of with some discouraging news for Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward. He will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Heyward has struggled with injuries throughout the season, as he only played 7 games. He was the Steelers most consistently productive player on defense this season.

Speaking of the Steelers, linebacker Ryan Shazier had a day back in the “Buckeye State” against the Cleveland Browns. Shazier had 7 tackles (6 solo), a sack, 2 tackles for loss, and 2 hits on the QB in Pittsburgh’s 24 to 9 win over the Browns.

Cleveland’s leading receiver Terrelle Pryor started well with a 38-yard catch to convert a 3rd and long on the Browns first drive. He finished with 5 catches for 97 yards in the loss.

Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys continue to surprise the NFL by extending their win streak to 9 games, which is a franchise season record. Elliott had 25 carries for 97 yards and 4 catches for 30 yards in the ‘Boys 27-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Elliott also made history passing Tony Dorsett for the Cowboys all-time rookie rushing record.

Fellow running back Carlos Hyde of the San Francisco 49ers had 86 rushing yards on 19 carries and 24 yards on 3 receptions 30-17 loss to the New England Patriots. Special teams ace Nate Ebner had one tackle for the Pats.

Ted Ginn Junior caught his first touchdown pass of the 2016 season on a 40-yard pass from Cam Newton at the end of the first half against the New Orleans Saints Thursday night. Ginn finished with 3 catches for 46 yards and 1 punt return for 13 yards. Safety Kurt Coleman had 9 tackles (7 solo), 1 forced fumble and 1 interception for the Panthers in the win.

Rookies Mike Thomas and safety Vonn Bell lined up on the other side for the Saints. Bell had 7 tackles, while Thomas had 5 catches for 68 yards in defeat.

Rookie cornerback Eli Apple had 9 tackles (5 solo) for the New York Giants in their 22-16 win over the Chicago Bears. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins 6 tackles (5 solo), a tackle for loss, a QB hit, and a half sack for the Giants in the win.

Malcolm Jenkins had 7 tackles (4 solo) for the Philadelphia Eagles in their 26-15 loss at the Seattle Seahawks. Safety Donte’ Whitner had 10 tackles (8 solo) for the Washington Redskins in their 42-24 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night football. Washington is

Braxton Miller and John Simon of the Houston Texans will play against the AFC West leading Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football in Mexico City.

Darron Lee, Jalin Marshall, Nick Mangold and Devin Smith of the New York Jets were on a bye and will lineup next Sunday against the New England Patriots. Rookies Joey Bosa and Joshua Perry of the San Diego Chargers were also on a bye, they’ll play at the 6-3 Houston Texans next Sunday. Bradley Roby and his Denver Broncos were on a bye and will play the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday night on NBC in primetime. Both teams are 7-3 and currently tied for 2nd place in the AFC West.