The Oakland Raiders will be without several key players on offense today against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs.
DT John Henderson (foot), WRs Louis Murphy (chest) and Chaz Schilens (knee), CB Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle) , TE Zach Miller (foot) and QB Bruce Gradkowski are listed as part of Oakland’s eight inactives.
Backup TE Brandon Myers starts for Miller, QB Jason Campbell starts for Gradkowski, rookie WR Jacoby Ford starts for Schilens, backup CB Chris Johnson starts for Asomugha.
The Chiefs are without RB/WR Dexter McCluster (ankle).
Here's an overview of what I'll be looking for in today's games:
1.) Can the San Diego Chargers build some momentum by beating the Houston Texans for their second-straight win and begin their usual second-half turnaround?
Say what you want about San Diego head coach Norv Turner, but he usually gets his players to play hard and well down the stretch.
It doesn't seem to matter which passing options are available for Philip Rivers each week—he seems to make everyone around him better and no quarterback in NFL is playing better right now.
Rivers and the offense will go up against the 32nd-ranked defense in the NFL. The Texans simply don't cover well due in part to their weak pass rush.
Rivers, who is averaging over 331 yards per game, might not have TE Antonio Gates (foot, toe -questionable) for this game, and even if he plays, he could be limited. And he'll likely be without WRs Legedu Naanee (hamstring-doubtful) and Malcom Floyd (hamstring-doubtful) again.
If the Chargers can throw for over 300 yards against the much-maligned Texan secondary, they'll probably win because their No. 1 ranked defense should be able to keep them in the game.
2.) Can the Indianapolis Colts win on the road this week without so many key players?
The Colts will be without at least six significant contributors from both sides of the ball at the Philadelphia Eagles today. And a few others will be playing injured.
But when you have Peyton Manning behind center, you always have a chance to win no matter who is missing around him.
The Eagles' red-zone defense has struggled mightily this season, so it will be a challenge for them to keep Manning's remaining passing options out of the end zone.
There are two key matchups to keep an eye on this game.
LT Jason Peters (knee surgery-probable) returns from a two-game absence and will go up against DE Dwight Freeney. The Eagles don't believe in double-teams for their offensive linemen, so Peters will have to be at his best in this one-on-one matchup.
CB Ellis Hobbs (hip-out) will be replaced by backup Dimitri Patterson. He'll go up against veteran WR Reggie Wayne, who usually lines up on the left side.
Whoever consistently wins these battles will probably contribute largely to their team winning the game.
3.) How will the Minnesota Vikings approach going up against the Arizona Cardinals without Randy Moss?
If RB Adrian Peterson has less than 25 carries in this game it would be shocking. The foundation of their offense must start and stop with the fourth-year pro. And if WR Percy Harvin (ankle-questionable) can't play or is limited in the game, we could see Peterson carry the ball 30 times or more.
Without Moss and with a possibly limited Harvin, look for TE Visanthe Shiancoe to become more of a factor in the passing game. Why he hasn't been a big part of their passing game this season is a mystery.
4.) Can the Detroit Lions pull off the upset against the visiting New York Jets?
The Detroit defense is really coming on of late. Since their meltdown against the visiting Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, Detroit's defense has shown steady improvement, culminating in last week's six-sack performance from their defensive line against the visiting Washington Redskins. And their much-maligned secondary is improving each week.
But don't look away from their offense, which has as about as much talent at the skill positions as any NFC team.
To win against the Jets, who got shut out at home last week against the visiting Green Bay Packers, they will have to pressure QB Mark Sanchez and slow down their running game. New York's foundation on offense is the run. Last week, the Packers really controlled the run and made Sanchez throw the ball, something he hasn't done well of late.
If the Lions can keep the game close into the fourth quarter, it could come down to the battle of the second-year quarterbacks, Sanchez and Matthew Stafford.
5.) Are the Oakland Raiders for real?
It's a question that many have been wondering about of late.
But it's very simple with the Raiders. For them to be successful, they must run the ball a ton and run it well.
Oakland is leading the NFL in rushing with 1,348 yards over eight games. They're No. 2 in attempts per game with 34.4. If the Raiders have to come from behind in the second half of games, that means they're out of their comfort zone.
The game plan will be the same as it has been all season—get it in the hands of third-year RB Darren McFadden, who is averaging 5.5 yards on his 122 carries.
But the Raiders will likely have to play the division rival Kansas City Chiefs without two key starters—TE Zach Miller (foot-doubtful) and CB Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle-doubtful).
Oh, and by the way, the Chiefs are leading the NFL in rushing attempts per game at 36.6.
-- Adam Caplan
When the Kansas City Chiefs signed veteran C Casey Wiegmann back in March, they were hoping that he would beat out Rudy Niswanger for the starting job.
Not only did he do that, but the 37-year old interior offensive lineman has brought some badly needed stability to their offensive line. Wiegmann has started 150 straight games over the last nine seasons with three teams.
NFL Films’ Greg Cosell said recently that Wiegmann has been a big reason why the Chiefs are one of the best rushing teams in the NFL. The Chiefs are ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards (1333) and first in rushing attempts (36.6/game) this season.
Wiegmann, who signed a one-year deal, is on target to earn $1.095 million in playing time bonuses, which would increase his total take to about $2 million this season.
-- Adam Caplan
Oakland Raiders veteran QB Jason Campbell will make his fourth straight start Sunday when the team hosts the division rival Kansas City Chiefs.
While coach Tom Cable said QB Bruce Gradkowski (right shoulder) will start once he's healthy, Campbell has won his past two starts. Gradkowski continues to be limited in practice.
Starting TE Zach Miller (arch) missed practice for the second straight day on Thursday. Second-year TE Brandon Myers has been filling in for him.
-- Adam Caplan
The San Diego Chargers have signed veteran WR Kelley Washington to a one-year contract, a source confirmed. To make room for him on the 53-man roster, the Chargers waived OT Adam Terry.
Washington is in his eighth NFL season. He has 107 career receptions for 1,327 yards and 11 touchdowns, including 34 catches for 431 yards and two touchdowns last season for the Baltimore Ravens. Washington also has made 28 tackles on special teams.
He has played in 83 career games, starting as a third-round draft selection of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003. He played for the Bengals (2003-06), New England Patriots (2007-08) and Ravens (2009).
Washington (6-3, 217), who worked out recently for the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, is expected to play at the Houston Texans on Sunday because San Diego has major injury issues at receiver.
Starters Legedu Naanee (hamstring) and Malcom Floyd (hamstring) are considered very questionable to play this week. WR Buster Davis was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.
Washington, who is known as an excellent special-teams player, spent the preseason with Philadelphia.
-- Adam Caplan
The revitalized 4-4 Oakland Raiders hoped their two-game winning streak and 2-0 mark in the AFC West would entice fans to turn out to the Oakland Coliseum for Sunday's 1:15 p.m. PT game against the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs (5-2).
As of Thursday, however, even a two-for-one ticket promotion hadn't helped end the franchise's 11-game home-blackout streak. But the team received a 24-hour extension from the NFL on on Thursday, and it's expected the Raiders will sell the required number of tickets to have the blackout cloud officially lifted.
"It's just exciting to know come Sunday we're going to have our partner in this thing, and that's the community and the fans there with us," coach Tom Cable said this week in anticipation of a Black Hole sellout.
The Raiders' 4-4 record marks the first time since the team's 2002 Super Bowl season that it enters November without a losing record.
As expected, the San Diego Chargers have waived OLB Shawne Merriman (calf) off injured reserve.
Merriman’s career with the Chargers officially ended Tuesday when the team released him from the Reserve-Injured list. He was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 13 with a “minor injury” designation, meaning San Diego would waive the six-year veteran once he became healthy.
Merriman saw limited action in the season’s first five weeks, suffering from Achilles and calf injuries that kept him out of two games and reduced his role in three others. A knee injury forced him to miss all but one game of 2008. Foot and groin problems plagued his ’09 season, though he played in 14 games and recorded four sacks.
Merriman, who played his entire career in San Diego’s 3-4 defensive scheme, could attract interest from teams that use the same defense.
Teams such as the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs could have an interest in the sixth-year player. There was a strong rumor in the preseason that San Francisco was interested in trading for Merriman before he wound up signing his one-year restricted free-agent tender.
Any team that decides to claim would be responsible for the prorated portion of his $3.269 million base salary which comes to roughly $1.73 million.
All vested veterans had to go through waivers beginning on Oct. 20.
In other moves, the team placed backup WR Craig “Buster” Davis on injured reserve.
Davis caught 21 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown through seven games, playing with injuries that forced him to miss practice at times. He missed Sunday’s game against Tennessee.
To take his place on the 53-man roster, the team re-signed OT Adam Terry.
Terry, waived Oct. 30, spent the first seven weeks on the roster and was inactive for all but two games.
The team didn't announce it, but a source said the team re-signed undrafted free-agent OT Ryan Otterson to the practice squad.
San Diego also received a one-week roster exemption for starting SS Steve Gregory, who returned from his four-game suspension on Monday.
-- Adam Caplan
Buffalo Bills starting WR Steve Johnson has now scored in five straight games. His latest couldn't have come at a more important time.
Johnson showed tremendous balance on his four-yard reception. His score and K Rian Lindell's extra point tied up the game with just over two minutes left.
Johnson has six touchdown receptions in his last five games.
-- Adam Caplan
- Buffalo Bills: Starting CB Terrence McGee (back) is inactive for the fourth straight game. They will have starting FS Jairus Byrd (thigh) at the Kansas City Chiefs today.
- Carolina Panthers: Third-year RB Jonathan Stewart starts for RB DeAngelo Williams at the St. Louis Rams. Stewart is averaging 150 yards on the ground over the three starts in his career.
- St. Louis Rams: The Rams will start veteran CB Kevin Dockery for CB Ronald Bartell (neck), who is active. Bartell was limited all week in practice. Look for the Panthers to target Dockery in the passing game.
Starting RB Steven Jackson (finger surgery) will be in the lineup.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Starting CB Johnathan Joseph (ankle) is inactive for the second straight game and starting SS Roy Williams (knee) will be inactive for the third straight game. Second-year CB Morgan Trent (knee-probable) will make his first NFL start in place of Joseph. Former Jacksonville Jaguars S Reggie Nelson starts for Williams.
- Dallas Cowboys: Starting CB Terence Newman (ribs) is active, but he barely practiced this week, so it remains to be seen if he can play his usual amount of snaps against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars today.
- Green Bay Packers: The Packers will be without starting DE Ryan Pickett (calf) for today’s game at the New York Jets. Seventh-round pick DE C.J. Wilson will make his second straight start.
They’ll also be without starting RT Mark Tauscher (shoulder) for the fourth straight game. First-round pick Bryan Bulaga will start again for him.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Veteran WR Chris Chambers is active for the first time in the last three games. Chambers was a healthy inactive last week. The Chiefs will be without starting G Ryan Lilja (hand) against the visiting Buffalo Bills today.
- San Francisco 49ers: QB Troy Smith will make his first start since Dec. 30, 2007 today against the Denver Broncos. The 49ers will have TE Vernon Davis (ankle-questionable) in the lineup.
Here's an overview of what I'll be looking for in today's games:
1. With Tony Romo out, can veteran QB Jon Kitna keep the passing game going for the Dallas Cowboys?
Well, against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars defense, that shouldn't be much of a problem.
Dallas needs to get back to more power running, something they easily can do with two quality backs in Felix Jones and Marion Barber.
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett needs to take the approach of getting those two backs the ball as much as possible. That will help take the pressure off of Kitna, who hasn't started a game in over two years.
But Kitna will have plenty of solid passing options to work with. While the passing attempts should be down with him under center, the opportunities to complete passes will be there, especially if the Cowboys make a greater commitment to running the ball. The unpredictability element from an offense can confuse a defense.
For the first time in a while, Garrett should be thinking about balance on offense, and that's something that would also help their struggling defense stay of f the field a bit more.
2. Can the New Orleans Saints get their offense back on track?
Last week's stunning loss to the visiting Cleveland Browns really was a microcosm of their entire season. The Saints simply were off their game on offense again, but it won't get any easier against the Pittsburgh Steelers defense this week.
It could be the timing he has with his receivers, but Drew Brees already has one less interception this season than he had all of last season. Sure, not having RB Reggie Bush certainly has been an ongoing problem, but could the absence of just one player be responsible for the struggles on offense?
There simply has been no sign of late that the New Orleans offense will get back to anywhere close to what they were last year.
3. How will the Minnesota Vikings approach going up against the New England Patriots defense?
No matter which quarterback starts, the foundation of Minnesota's offense must start with RB Adrian Peterson. To have a realistic shot at winning, they must start sustaining drives on offense. And to do that, the fourth-year pro must get the ball in his hands as much as possible.
Sure, having veteran WR Randy Moss in the lineup gives them a legitimate deep threat, but he's not a player who commands the ball like he has in the past.
Minnesota should come in with the game plan that Peterson will touch the ball at least 30 times against the Patriots. If he does, they should be in the game late in the fourth quarter with a good chance to win.
4. Can the Houston Texans finally win a big road game?
The good thing for the Texans is that they're already 2-0 on the road this season. And they'll go up against an Indianapolis Colts team who is dealing with injuries from both sides of the ball.
But for the Texans to be taken seriously on a national level, they must beat good teams on the road. It starts with this game.
The Texans will get starting LT Duane Brown back from his four-game suspension, and the timing couldn't be any better. He'll draw DE Dwight Freeney, a player who has 5 1/2 sacks in his last five games against the Texans, including at least one in each of those games.
The bottom line is this game sets up well for the Texans to win, but their 31st ranked defense can't be a liability that it has been all season or it will be a long evening in Indy on Monday night.
5. Are the Kansas City Chiefs for real?
It's a question that many have been asking all season.
Kansas City's improvement this season on both sides of the ball can probably be attributed to a few things. On offense, they're running the ball a league high 35.3 times/game. That number translates to winning because they can control the clock and take the ball out of QB Matt Cassel's hands.
Defensively, they're much more disciplined, especially against the run. The addition of Romeo Crennel as the defensive coordinator has brought some much needed stability to that side of the ball.
When you look at the AFC West, that division may be one of the worst in the NFL, but Kansas City is the clear leader at this point because they are playing good football.
-- Adam Caplan
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed G John Malecki and TE Nathan Oberbay to their practice squad.
Malecki (6-2, 304) played in 40 games with 27 starts during his collegiate career at the University of Pittsburgh, starting out at defensive tackle before switching to offense for his last two campaigns. In 2008 and 2009, he started 26 consecutive games at right guard, earning first-team All-Big East honors as a senior.
Malecki was signed as an undrafted free-agent by the Tennessee Titans on Apr. 26, who waived him on Aug. 10. He signed with the Cleveland Browns Aug. 13, who wound up waiving him on Aug. 31.
The Buccaneers have had major injury issues at guard, so Malecki has a chance of signing off being signed off the practice squad in the coming weeks. He worked out for the Buccaneers on Sept. 14.
Overbay (6-5, 270) played his college ball at Eastern Washington University, where he set a career record for tight ends with 19 touchdown receptions. He appeared in 43 games for the Eagles, amassing 93 receptions for 1,189 yards and those 19 scores.
As a senior, Overbay earned All-Big Sky first-team honors by notching 51 receptions (a single-season school record for tight ends) for 588 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s a nephew of Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay.
Overbay was signed by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free-agent on Apr. 26. Denver waived him on Sept. 3. He spent time on the Miami Dolphins practice squad later in September.
A source confirmed Overbay had recent workouts for the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants.
-- Adam Caplan
Walden (6-2, 250) out of Middle Tennessee State University, has played in 28 career games. Drafted in the sixth round (167th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, he was claimed by the Kansas City Chiefs after being released by Dallas in the final roster cutdown in August 2008. Walden played in nine games for the Chiefs in ’08 before being released in November, and was then claimed by Miami, where he appeared in six games that season.
He also played in 11 games for the Dolphins in 2009 and two contests for Miami this season.
Walden, ILB Matt Wilhelm, and DE Nick Reed worked out for the Packers on Tuesday, a source confirmed. Wilhelm also signed with the team.
-- Adam Caplan
Simoneau (6-0, 245) has played in 123 games (68 starts) with the New Orleans Saints (2006-07), Philadelphia Eagles (2003-05) and Atlanta Falcons (2000-02).
He has produced 525 tackles (326 solo), 7.0 sacks, one interception, 12 passes defensed, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 51 special teams tackles.
The Phillipsburg, Kansas native has seen action in seven postseason contests (four starts), registering 30 tackles (20 solo) and one pass defensed. Simoneau originally entered the NFL as a third-round selection (67th overall) of Atlanta in 2000.
The Chiefs now have seven inside linebackers on their 53-man roster.
-- Adam Caplan