Tuesday's NFL Blog: P.M. Update

January 16, 2007 P.M. Update ... Harry's back and he's handing out grades again ... Steelers bring back a candidate ... following in the footsteps of the Saints ... playoff power rankings and more!

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Rank 'em: At our Seattle site, Dylan Johnson provides weekly NFL Power Rankings through the regular season and postseason. Take a look at his rankings as the teams head into the Championship weekend!

Nickel package: 
John Keim at our Redksins site weighs in on five important issues for Washington, including the need for a team to be able to be effective at passing, not just running the ball. "Lest anyone wonder what is more important in the NFL these days, just look at the playoffs. Three of the final four teams have top-notch quarterbacks and the fourth has one who is capable of big games," he says. "Yes, it's important to stop the run and run the ball. But in this day and age, you have to be able to pass the ball and stop the pass." Scout.com subscribers can read his analysis here.

Did you know?  After earning a No. 32 ranking against the run in the regular season, the Colts are allowing just 63.5 rushing yards per game in the playoffs and are only allowing their opponents to convert 13.6 percent of their third-downs. They've also only surrendered 14 points during those two games.

A model example:  "Our Vikings site takes a look at how the Saints took chances in free agency and the draft and overhauled their offense in a matter of months.  A number of teams, including Minnesota, could possibly benefit from New Orleans' approach. Find out more about it in this feature at our Vikings site.

Packers LB A.J. Hawk sacks Lions QB Jon Kitna (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Back at it: 
Former Packers fullback and assistant coach Harry Sydney graded out Green Bay's offense last week with his unique grading system. And he calls 'em as he sees 'em with no holds barred. But here's one of his real upbeat critiques from the article on rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk. "The real deal. An old school player playing in modern times," he says. "Yes, he is an impact player because he makes everyone around him better, and he is only going to improve. He's a great pick for this team." Scout.com subscribers can read his full analysis here.

Give me that oxygen mask... Did you know that two players broke runs from the line of scrimmage for 90 yards or more this season? Minnesota's Chester Taylor had a 95-yard jaunt -- the longest rushing play in the league for this season -- while Atlanta's Warrick Dunn came in second with a 90-yard breakaway play.

Quotable:  "I'm a fundamentalist as opposed to scheme. I think that football is a tough man's game. It's an attrition game. You win by stopping the run and being able to run the ball effectively, and doing the thing that winners do: Being a detail-oriented football team, playing with great passion, and executing." -- Minnesota defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin during a session with the media this week as he visited with the Steelers for the second time. Scout.com subscribers can read his media conference highlights here to learn more about what he would bring to Pittsburgh


Future in doubt?  Aaron Wilson at our Ravens site reports that RB Jamal Lewis' tenure in Baltimore could be coming to an end. "Lewis rushed for 1,132 yards and nine touchdowns, but only gained 100 yards twice and showed no ability to break away from the defense," he says. "The former NFL Offensive Player of the Year's future with the team is in doubt because of his declining numbers and his contract as he's due a $5 million option bonus before free agency begins along with a $5 million base salary next season. Billick, though, praised Lewis' performance and attitude."  Get the latest update on the Ravens here

  "When we had to run it against the No. 1 defense, we were able to do that. Just whatever it takes, and that was a great drive. And I was, I was proud of the way we won the game, not necessarily that we won, but how we went in there and you had to win a dogfight. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't the type of game that we normally play, but we were able to get it done even pretty much playing their game." -- Colts head coach Tony Dungy on the team's ability to grind down the clock to set up the field goal that clinched a 15-6 playoff win over the Ravens. Read highlights from his press conference after the team arrived back in Indy in this feature at our Colts site.

Today's Birthday Bunch:
Saints WR Joe Horn (35), 49ers LB Brandon Moore (28), Saints LB Mark Simoneau (30).

Chiefs QB Damon Huard at the line of scrimmage (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Which QB is the VIP in  KC?  One of the hot offseason topics in Kansas City is who should be the team's quarterback for 2007?  Is Trent Green finished there? Should the team look to Damon Huard instead? Or will Brodie Croyle step in for some on-the-job training? Nick Athan at our Chiefs site believes the team needs to get Damon Huard signed rather than let him enter the free agent market. "The Chiefs offense was never better when he was at the helm," he says. "He had picture perfect touch, a command of the offense and he found a way to get the ball into the hands of KC's most prolific pass catcher – Tony Gonzalez."  Scout.com subscribers can read his full analysis of the Chiefs' QB situation here.

Staying in-house: Our Packers site is reporting that the team has made some coaching moves, including the promotion of one of their own to the position of offensive coordinator. Find out who will be making the calls for Green Bay's offense in 2007 by clicking here.

Then there were three:
Our Steelers site is reporting that Pittsburgh has narrowed their coaching candidates to three. Find out who's made the final cut for Bill Cowher's old job here.

Nowhere to run:
Denis Savage at our Oakland site points out a startling fact about the Raiders' rushing attack -- or lack thereof --  in this Scout.com subscriber feature. "In fact, the Oakland rushing offense, totaling 1,519 yards, was outdistanced by five individual running backs – Steven Jackson (1,528), Tiki Barber (1,662), Frank Gore (1,695), Larry Johnson (1,789) and LaDainian Tomlinson (1,815)," he says. But should the Raiders spend a top pick on a running back in this year's draft in reaction to that point? Find out what Savage thinks by clicking the link above.

Thanks for the memories:  With the Panthers falling well short of preseason expectations, you knew there would be some significant changes before the 2007 season. That process started on Monday with the announcement that the team was parting ways with offensive coordinator Dan Henning, offensive line coach Mike Maser and secondary coach Rod Perry. "This is a very difficult decision, because these coaches have played an integral role in the success we have experienced since coming to the Panthers," Panthers Head Coach John Fox told the media on Monday. "They were part of a Super Bowl and two NFC Championship games, and those accomplishments would not have been possible without their contributions." Get the full story at our Carolina site.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Jon Scott at our Patriots site enters the debate over whether or not running back LaDainian Tomlinson and the rest of the Chargers had much room to complain about New England's postgame celebration on Sunday. "L.T. might want to ask himself if it was disrespectful for [LB Shawne] Merriman to do his dance after every play he made during the season. Maybe the disrespect card should be put back in his pocket until next year. There's no doubt it will come out when the teams meet in 2007," he says. Scout.com subscribers can take a look at his full commentary on this hot topic at our Patriots site.

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