Wednesday's NFL Blog: P.M. Update

Dec. 27, 2006 ... It's a late night P.M. update worth waiting for! Get inside the head of an NFL rookie ... the Vikings take a big hit ... a few players' futures with their current clubs are in doubt ... general misery in the Big Apple, Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland ... get it all and much more in our NFL Blog!

As noted below , a few of the links take you to articles that are for subscribers only. If you're not a subscriber yet, visit your favorite team's home site today and try it out free for seven days by clicking the link in the right column of that site's home page. You'll get access to all of the subscriber articles on the network and access to your favorite team's subscriber forums.


Rookie Diary:  If you're wondering what it's like to be a rookie defensive tackle in the NFL, check out the diary of former Oklahoma standout Dusty Dvoracek who unfortunately landed on the team's injured reserve list. You'll enjoy this feature from our Bears site, which includes his thoughts about this Sunday's New Year's Eve game against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.

Vikings secondary takes a blow: 
With Marc Bulger and the Rams coming to town, the last thing the Vikings needed was to lose a key member of their secondary, but the team announced that Fred Smoot was in a single-car accident over the weekend that broke his jaw in five places. Our Vikings site has more on this story for you.

Jerome McDougle pressures Jay Fiedler back in 2003 (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
McDougle done?  In this subscribers feature, Chuck Hixson from our Eagles site talks about the the strange case of defensive end Jerome McDougle who appears to be the odd man out on the defensive line in Philly. "Actually, more than his quality of play, McDougle's attitude has been his downfall," Hixson says. "McDougle assumed that he was going to play. He assumed that his spot on the defense was solidified. Under Andy Reid, that's one thing that you don't want to do."

He's back:  With rookie Matt Leinart sidelined with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder, Kurt Warner will be back on the field when the Cardinals finish up their season against the Chargers. And the veteran has a little surprise planned that he's been experimenting with over the past few weeks that's helping his passing. Check it out at our Cardinals site.

Inflexible Scheduling:  Imagine you're an NFL fan who planned to go to the game Sunday afternoon and who paid for tickets to a New Year's Eve event that evening. You figured you'd get home in time to shower, change and head to the event. Then you find out on Tuesday of this week that the game's been moved to a 7:15 kickoff. That's what happened to Bears fans this week, and our Chicago site got the reaction of both players and fans. subscribers can check it out by clicking here.

When it rains, it pours: Our Giants site is reporting that three players, including Michael Strahan, were placed on injured reserve today. Oh, and their offensive coordinator has been relieved of play-calling duties. Other than that, things are just peachy in the Big Apple as the team prepares for their Saturday night matchup with the Redskins. In this article, one of the many topics they talk about is just what the heck is wrong with the G-Men? "You're asking me to identify the single biggest reason why the Giants have struggled this season," Paul Schwartz says. "That's like asking, other than the iceberg, what else was wrong with the Titanic?"

Quotable: "I was a freshman, and he was a fifth-year senior, so I was probably a peon back then to him. I don't think he thinks of me the same way right now, but we'll see." -- Tampa Bay defensive tackle Chris Hovan talking about fellow Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck, who also graduated from Boston College. The Bucs close out their season against the Seahawks this weekend.

Shawn Springs (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Tough decision: Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs broke a bone in his shoulder last weekend and will finish what's left of the season on injured reserve. But will the soon-to-be 32 year old Springs be back in Washington next year? That's one of the five big questions our Redskins site tackles in their Nickel Package feature for subscribers. Check it out.

The Watch:  According to our Lions site, the Matt Millen Watch is underway again as the team finishes its sixth season under Millen's leadership. The Lions President apparently has no plans to step down despite the team's 23-72 record during that span. Click this link to check out the latest scoop from Detroit.

The Birthday Guys:  NFL players celebrating birthdays today include Bengals QB Carson Palmer ( 27), Saints RB Deuce McAllister (28), Chargers fullback Lorenzo Neal (36), Bengals RB Chris Perry (25), Raiders DT Tommy Kelly (26),  Eagles LB Torrance Daniels (25), Raiders LB Ricky Brown (23), Bears WR Bernard Berrian (26) and Cardinals DE Chris Cooper (29).

Romeo, Romeo: The Browns' embarrassing defeat against Tampa Bay last weekend and their dismal record has led writer Rich Passan at our Browns site to call for the firing of head coach Romeo Crennel before the team becomes the "laughingstock of the entire football world." Passan says, " The man coaches not to lose. He coaches as if the Browns were 21-10 in the last two seasons instead of 10-21. A pooch punt instead of a field-goal attempt from 44 yards on fourth down in the first quarter of a meaningless game against a terrible team? Is that what good coaching is all about?" subscribers can read the entire article here.

Old Pals: Denver head coach Mike Shanahan and San Francisco head coach Mike Nolan were assistant coaches together, but will face off this Sunday as the Broncos try to claim a wildcard spot. Our Broncos site has the transcript from Shanahan's Wednesday media conference in which he talked glowingly of rookie running back Mike Bell in addition to many other topics. "He is one of those guys that if we are at the two, three, or four yard line, he can catapult and get in the end zone two or three yards deep so he has some great explosiveness," Shanahan said. "You can see that the first time he took the field and he has a nose for the goal line any time he is inside the five."

Franks no longer fits? If your team needs a veteran tight end, the Packers' Bubba Franks might be available during the offseason. According to this report for subscribers at our Packers site, Franks seems to be struggling in head coach Mike McCarthy's system and could be on the open market when the Packers' season ends.


Keeping it real: In a move that will help ensure that all top three seeds in the AFC will play their starters, the league moved the Ravens-Bills and the Colts-Dolphins from a 1:00 kickoff to a 4:15 kickoff which coincides with the Chargers-Cardinals game. All three teams could potentially move up or down in their seeding based on how those three contests play out. So there'll be plenty of scoreboard watching by the players in those games. The Patriots, who currently have the number four seed, play at 1:00 and need to win to have a shot at the number three spot -- so they'll have their starters in as well. Should they win and Indy stumble at home against Miami, the Colts would drop to the number four seed.

Looking back: In this subscribers article from our Ravens site, they provide a good look at Baltimore's playoff situation and pointed out some significant historical notes that fans of other AFC playoff teams should take note of as well. "Since the NFL adopted a 12-team playoff format in 1990, the top two seeds have gone 51-13 in the divisional-round game. Four of the past five Super Bowl champions have either been seeded first or second," they reported today.

And how big of an edge will home field advantage be for the Ravens if they clinch one of the top two seeds this weekend? Really big. Our Ravens site tells us that since their 2000 Super Bowl season, the Ravens are tied with the Denver Broncos for the NFL's best home record with a 41-14 mark.

Florida State's Andre Fluellen tackles Clemson QB Charlie Whitehurst (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Need Defense? Make sure you check out tonight's Emerald Bowl on ESPN at 8:00 PM ( (ET) when Florida State takes on UCLA if your team is in need of a good solid defensive tackle, inside linebacker or safety. In this feature by TFY Draft Preview, you can learn about the 18 players in this matchup that could land in the NFL next year. Our draft expert, Tony Pauline, rates a pair of Seminoles as the top picks from this game. DT Andre Fluellen is described as an "explosive defensive tackle a tad undersized like many of his predecessors at FSU" and ILB Buster Davis as a "Tenacious linebacker constantly flying around the ball. Limited by size as he touches the tape just over 5-feet-9-inches. Could end up on the weak side." Pauline also sees UCLA safety Dennis Keyes as the Bruin most likely to be selected first out of this year's talent from his school.

Shhhhhhh: Everyone's talking about how awesome the Chargers look with so much talent on both sides of the ball. But there is reason for concern in Bolts Land that no one really seems to want to acknowledge. In addition to quarterback Philip Rivers not having any playoff experience under his belt, he seems to be faltering a bit down the stretch, including last week's performance against the Seahawks. "The good? Rivers didn't let his poor first three quarters hamper the final quarter," our Chargers site points out in this article. "The bad? It's Rivers, who had an ugly game on the heels of a 4-for-12 stinker the previous week … But in the NFL, winning disguises about everything."

"He was good, when he had to be good," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. Of course, the big question is, will that be enough in the playoffs? The Chargers dodged a bullet against the Seahawks, but they may not be as lucky next time.

Listen in: Minnesota head coach Brad Childress will give his rookie quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, his second start of the year after benching veteran Brad Johnson. While Jackson had a rough outing last week, Childress said during his weekly interview with Sirius NFL radio that he liked the look in his young rookie's eyes when he went on and came off the field. And although he expects Jackson to play better in the more friendly confines of the Metrodome this weekend, he knows his team will have his hands full with St. Louis coming to town. "I expect them to come in here fired up," Childress said of the Rams, who will be playing for a wildcard spot if the Giants stumble against Washington on Saturday night. subscribers can listen to the 8-minute audio, compliments of Sirius NFL Radio, at our Vikings site.

Kansas City rookie DE Tamba Hali (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Making his case: While Texans rookie LB DeMeco Ryans is a leading candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, another player who should receive strong consideration is Chiefs defensive end Tamba Hali. In this report at our Chiefs site, which lays out their slim hopes of making the playoffs, they noted that Hali recorded his seventh sack and sixth forced fumble last week against the Raiders, extending his Chiefs rookie record.

No quit: The Broncos can clinch an AFC wildcard spot with a victory at home against the 49ers this weekend. And although San Francisco has already been eliminated from contention, don't expect them to make things easy for Denver. "This last game, I'm actually glad it means something to Denver because, hopefully, it will inspire our team,'' 49ers head coach Mike Nolan says in this article at our 49ers site. "I believe we've got good character on this team and that good character needs to show this week and in the game. We're building something. We need to show that character we've been talking about. This is the start to next year.''

Looking ahead: Dallas will head to Seattle as the fifth seed unless they beat the Lions and Philadelphia loses at home to Atlanta. Should that scenario play out, the Seahawks would host the Eagles instead. In this article for subscribers posted at our Seattle site, they point out that the Cowboys' defensive personnel and 3-4 scheme has given Seattle problems in the past, but since the Seahawks ran the ball well against the Chargers "more physical 3-4" last Sunday, it should give them more confidence against the Cowboys. Click that link above to learn more about what lies ahead for the Seahawks and some interesting player notes.

Big decision looming: Our Steelers site reports that Pittsburgh "must walk a fine line in their coaching search" should Bill Cowher retire as expected next week. "Do they look inward, since this team is only a year removed from a title and want to keep the process flowing smoothly? Or do they concentrate on the 58-7 gap [the combined scoring difference versus the Ravens this year] they must close to challenge for their own division? In that way, the blowouts to the Ravens will work to their advantage. The front office won't be able to take their next move for granted," they said.

Be sure to click this link to read all about it, as well as some of the college prospects they believe the Steelers should be keeping an eye on during the Bowl season.

Did you know? Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman is two sacks shy of the team record, set by Gary Johnson in 1980.

The Great Escape: Does Warren Sapp want out of Oakland? That's the speculation after fans watched him go over to Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards to chat during a couple of timeouts last week. Our Raiders site talks about it in this subscribers article. The Raiders, who haven't scored a touchdown on offense during their last 23 possessions and 132 offensive snaps are going to have one of the more interesting offseasons of any club in the NFL.

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