Thursday's NFL Blog: P.M. Update

December 28th P.M. Update ... This week's game predictions ... an offseason impasse for the Redskins is looming ... more college prospects for your favorite team ... Fantasy Football awards ... media transcripts and much more!

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Pick 'em:
  Jim Poore at our Patriots site has his weekly game picks up. Personally, I'm not very good at predicting winners, but after looking at Jim's selections, I can predict one thing with certainty -- fans of half the teams mentioned in his report will be happy with his picks, the other half won't. Check them out and then be sure to talk about them in your respective NFL team fan forums across the network.

Offseason impasse:
Are the Redskins heading for some trouble with some key veterans during the offseason? Rich Tandler at our Redskins site thinks so. In this article, he points out that Washington has about a dozen veterans who carry salary cap numbers of $3.5 million or more, and believes many will be asked to restructure their deals to provide some cap relief.  "Unlike in the past when many veterans were willing to redo their deals 'for the good of the team', there is a growing feeling around Redskins Park that many of them may balk at restructuring for what they perceive is also the good of the team," Tandler says. Check out who could unexpectedly end up being free agents and land on your favorite team next year through that link above.

Broncos safety John Lynch tackles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Feeling like a kid again: Broncos safety John Lynch earned a spot on the AFC's Pro Bowl roster. And last weekend against the Bengals he showed why, delivering jarring hits to his opponents like the player who was feared for so many years while wearing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform. "He had this big grin like I've never seen," Denver cornerback Darrent Williams said. "I've seen him laugh like that in practice, but not in games. He was real excited. He told me he felt like he was 25 again, how he was going out there flying around, laying people out." subscribers can read the entire article about Lynch at our Broncos site.

Did you know?
Whether they win or lose this weekend against the Texans, the Cleveland Browns will finish the year having played 58 straight games without winning two games in a row during the same season.

Promises, promises:
  Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo knows his opponents this week, the Detroit Lions, have had a rough time of it this year. But despite their 2-13 record, Romo says, ""I'm not sure how many total losses they have but I do know they've lost about ten games under seven points or less. That's a team in my opinion (that) goes from one year going 4-12 to the next year being 10-6. So, I promise a team like that is a dangerous team that you can not take for granted and we are not going to that's for sure." Mike Mady at our Lions site takes a look at some positives for this team from unexpected sources that could lead to improvement in 2007.

Need a top RB or CB?  Then be sure to check out tonight's Holiday Bowl on ESPN at 8:00. Yes, I know I told you to watch the Texas Bowl in the early edition of the NFL Blog and it airs at the same time on the NFL Network. Well this is why TiVo and VCRs and DVD recorders were made. Make technology your friend tonight so you can watch both! Tony Pauline at TFY Draft Report gets you ready for the game by pointing out the eight Texas A&M players and twelve California players to evaluate tonight. Tony's top picks for this game are both from Cal -- projected first-round running back Marshawn Lynch, and projected first- to second- round cornerback Tim Mixon. subscribers can check out what he has to say about all 20 players here

And the winner is ... Who was this year's Fantasy Football BEAST? And who was a bust? Find out in this fun and informative feature at our Patriots site and see if you agree. Then be sure to put up a link to it in your respective NFL team forums and have some fun debating the various award winners with your gang.

That sounds about right: Colts head coach Tony Dungy was very honest in his assessment of his team's chances in the playoffs when he talked to the Miami media during an NFL conference call this week. "I'm concerned with our whole team. If we play the way we can play, we're going to be in good shape and we're going to be a threat to go a long way," he said. "If we don't play the way we can play all the way around, then it's going to be tough." subscribers can read the entire transcript at our Miami site.

Did you know?
  The Titans only have a remote chance of qualifying for the AFC's last wildcard spot, but they currently have the second-longest winning streak in the NFL. Their six consecutive victories is second only to the Chargers' nine-game streak.

Broncos QB Jay Cutler (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Quotable: "I don't know. That wasn't the game plan going into it. I just got lucky a few times and had some opportunities to throw some touchdown passes, and guys made some great catches for me. So that's great." -- Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler on becoming the first rookie to throw multiple TD passes in his first four games. You can read the entire transcript of his Wednesday media conference at our Broncos site.

Dale Lolley at our Pittsburgh site is reporting that the Steelers players are coming to the realization that this Sunday could be their last game under head coach Bill Cowher, who's expected to formally announce next week whether he's returning for the final year of his contract. So he got the reaction of a few of the players about the prospects of working under a new head coach, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, punter Chris Gardocki and linebacker James Farrior. "It's like starting all over again," Farrior said. "You really don't know his personality, so you have to adjust to how he's going to be. It's just like going to your next grade in school." subscribers can read the entire article here.

Don't miss it:  When you look at the Jaguars-Chiefs matchup, the first thing that comes to mind is the talented running backs that will be showcased in this game -- Larry Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Fred Taylor if he's fully recovered from his hamstring injury. But don't overlook the fact that these teams also have the top two defenses when you rate them on average yards allowed per game. It's going to be a great battle in Kansas City on Sunday with playoff hopes still alive for both of these teams.

Making adjustments:
Seattle's pass offense has been sputtering a bit, and our Seahawks site takes a closer look at the state of the team as they gear up for their Sunday matchup with Tampa Bay before heading into the playoffs. "There is a big difference between playing poorly and playing well, but there are not that many things that need to change," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck says in this subscribers feature. "Really, if I just look at myself, just me alone, not even talking about anyone else on the team, if I take my two interceptions from last game and get rid of those, it is a far different game."


Colts vets call out the kids:  The Colts have lost four of their last six games, and both Peyton Manning and now Dwight Freeney have referenced this week that some of their younger players don't appear to realize the urgency and elevated play level that is needed to succeed in the playoffs. Manning was quoted earlier this week as saying, "I thought the veterans certainly knew what was at stake. I'm not sure about the young players, that they totally understand."  And now in this NFL conference call transcript at our Colts site, Freeney says, "Well, we understand we might have some younger guys that still have some things to learn and at the end of the day, it's all about everybody being accountable, everybody doing what they need to do to win the game and playing at that game speed like it's a playoff game."

Hot topic:  Nick Athan, at our Chiefs site, talks about Chargers defensive end Shawne Merrimann and suggests that he should reconsider playing in the Pro Bowl this year despite his selection to the AFC squad. Merrimann was suspended for four games this year for taking a steroid-based substance. Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor talked about the issue this week as well, saying, "To make the Pro Bowl and all the other awards, I think you're walking a fine line of sending the wrong message. Nathan agrees. "By accepting his invitation to the Pro Bowl, Merriman is telling the fans it's OK to cheat," he says. "You can candy wrap it all you want, but the evidence is overwhelming. Merriman might not think so, but he's embarrassing the league." Read his full commentary on this hot topic here.

Listen up: At our Vikings site, subscribers can listen to some audio from Brad Childress' press conference. He addresses Fred Smoot's car accident and other player injuries, as well as his decision to release WR Marcus Robinson. You can also listen to highlights from rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson's press conference in which he discusses the improvements he wants to make in his second NFL start and getting ready for the St. Louis Rams.

Rutgers fullback Brian Leonard (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Triple-threat fullback: Our draft expert, Tony Pauline at TFY Draft Preview put together his analysis of the nine Rutgers players and ten Kansas State players that you should keep your eye on during tonight's Texas Bowl matchup at 8:00 p.m.(ET) on the NFL Network. If you haven't seen him in action yet, Rutgers fullback Brian Leonard is a player you'll want your team to pick up next April. Pauline calls him "A triple-threat fullback who can beat opponents a variety of ways."

Key to the game:  Brad Keller at our Cardinals site, believes the key to Arizona having a chance to upset the Chargers will boil down to QB Kurt Warner having enough time to throw to Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald against a suspect San Diego secondary. "Over the top, safeties Terrence Kiel and Marlon McCree are serviceable at best. Arizona will have the opportunity to make some big plays in the deep passing game off of play fakes, double moves, and pump fakes," Keller says. "However, in order to take advantage of those opportunities, Kurt Warner needs to be upright." Check out his complete analysis here.

Did you know?  The Bears' 23-4 record over the past 27 games is the best record in the NFL. The Colts are second at 21-6.

History in the making?  Aaron Wilson at our Ravens site points out that, "The Ravens have a legitimate shot at becoming the first team in NFL history to have four players finish with 10 sacks or higher as they're led by defensive end Trevor Pryce (12), outside linebacker Adalius Thomas (11), linebacker Bart Scott (9 ½) and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (8 ½)." Baltimore takes on the Bills this weekend and Wilson takes a look at the matchup, including some terrific insight on Bills quarterback J.P. Losman in this article for subscribers.

Give 'em hell, Harry:
Former Giants great, Harry Carson, was quoted as questioning the heart of some of the current-day New York players. "There's no fire, I don't see it in these players," Carson told our Giants site this week. "If you don't have a fire to play, a fire to win, then you really shouldn't even be playing." Don't miss this feature where you'll learn what Carson has done in the past to "motivate" some players who have come to the sidelines with injuries during important games.

Dallas head coach Bill Parcells and QB Tony Romo (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Mr. Positive: Dallas head coach Bill Parcells is trying to keep a positive attitude about his team's slide from being tied for the No. 2 seed to the fifth spot as a wildcard team. "If I don't have hope, who does," Parcells asked. But in this report at our Dallas site, tight end Jason Witten says that wide receiver Terrell Owens has been one of the targets of cornerback Terence Newman's wrath this week. For the second time since the Cowboys' loss to the Eagles, Newman lashed out at some of his teammates through the media. Check it out here.

Sorting them out: "The race for the final NFC playoff spot has never been better… er… worse than it is headed into the final week of the regular season," Matt Tvesh says at our Green Bay site. "One of the five 7-8 teams will advance to the post-season, though none of them belong." Is your favorite team one of the five battling for that last wildcard spot in the NFC this weekend? Well, Tvesh provides his team-by-team analysis of the five wildcard wanna-bes in this subscriber feature. Check it out and see if you agree.

Today's Birthday Bunch: Celebrating birthdays today are Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri (34), Giants WR Sinorice Moss (23), Bear RB Cedric Benson (24), Rams WR Dominique Thompson (24), and Texans QB Quinton Porter (24).

I wanna go home: In previous seasons, the Colts have had great success on the road. But not this year. In fact, they've lost four straight road games in the second half of the season. This weekend's home game against the Dolphins, paired with a Ravens loss to the Bills, would put the Colts back into the No. 2 seed position in the AFC. Our Colts site has more on this story here.

Did you know? Neither one of San Diego's starting receivers -- Keenan McCardell or Eric Parker -- has caught a touchdown pass yet this season. At our San Diego site, Michael Lombardo points out that teams have to be just as worried about WR Vincent Jackson, who has started six games this season and now has five touchdown catches after a great performance against the Seahawks last week. Learn more about him and the key role he plays for the playoff-bound Chargers in this subscribers feature.

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