AFC Update: Final Game Before Kickoff Weekend
By Christian S. Kohl
With this week’s batch of preseason contests complete, all that is left is the formality final game next week and then the all important Kickoff Weekend. Here’s a look at some of the important developments this week around the AFC:
Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore fell to Carolina this week by a score of 34-27. Ray Rice delivered a solid effort with 62 yards and a touchdown, but their offense stalled and struggled to deliver consistently. This will be the primary challenge for Baltimore in their quest to repeat their title run. OLB Adrian Hamilton is now out for the season after a wrist injury.
Cincinnati Bengals: Cincy lost to Dallas 24-18 this week despite an impressive showing by AJ Green. Giovani Bernard continues to demonstrate his value, while Benjarvus Green-Ellis appears sluggish and unable to do much. Look for Bernard to win the battle decisively midway through the season. Tyler Eiffert and Andre Smith both experienced minor injuries, but nothing that is expected to keep them out of the week 1 lineup.
Cleveland Browns: Cleveland lost decisively to the Colts by a score of 27-6. Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon turned in solid efforts, but the inconsistency of Weeden failed to inspire confidence. The take home for Browns fans is they escaped their dress rehearsal injury free, aside from perhaps a mild team-wide ego contusion.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers lost a tight battle to Kansas City by a margin of 26-20. Le’Veon Bell tore a ligament in his foot, and may miss as many as 6 weeks. In desperation, the Steelers turned to Felix Jones to help provide them with some depth. Pitt is also expected to not see any action from DL Nick Williams or LB Sean Spence due to major injuries to both. Tests did come back negative on the chest of first round pick Jarvis Jones, however.
Houston Texans: Houston found themselves on the wrong side of their contest against New Orleans, falling to the Saints 31-23 on Sunday. Andre Johnson featured an explosive effort, registering over 100 receiving yards in just two quarters of play. Arian Foster, however, may see a very reduced role early on in the season, still nursing injuries to both his back and his calf.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Jacksonville also lost this weekend to Philadelphia, their 24 points not enough against the 31 of the Eagles. Justin Blackmon impressed with 5 yards and a touchdown, reminding fans how costly his early season suspension will be. G Will Rackley left the game with a leg injury, and DB Jeremy Harris will spend this season on IR due to back issues.
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts won handily over Cleveland this week thanks to Solid efforts by Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton. Luck continues to impress early, while the Colts lost WR Nathan Palmer for an extended stretch due to an MCL injury as well as Lawrence Sidbury for the entire season on IR.
Tennessee Titans: Tennessee defeated Atlanta this Saturday to the tune of 27-16. Jake Locker looked impressive, as did Nate Washington, registering 70 yards and a TD. Both he and Shonne Greene left the game after tweaking their ankles. Kenny Britt also featured his skills this week, reminding fans of his value during the rare stretches he is uninjured.
Buffalo Bills: Buffalo got stomped by the Redskins 30-7 on Saturday. This was a devastating week for the Bills, as EJ Manuel injured his knee and is hoping to be ready for week 1 after having it scoped. Even worse, Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion which threatens his very career. In a panic, the Bills signed Matt Leinart this week as an emergency option.
Miami Dolphins: Miami lost a squeaker to the Bucs, 17-16. The first team offense saw solid contributions from multiple options beyond Mike Wallace, and they got out of there without any key injuries. Forget the scoreboard; every NFL team would take that in a heartbeat.
New England Patriots: New England was utterly whipped by Detroit by a margin of 40-9. Danny Amendola suffered an undisclosed injury, possibly to his ankle or foot. Report are fuzzy as always due to Belichick’s customary gleeful transparency. No timetable is clear for Gronkowski’s return either, though it appears now anything before week 4 would be all but out of the question.
New York Jets: The Jets defeated the Giants 24-21, but the satisfaction was short lived due to an injury to the throwing shoulder of Mark Sanchez. It is diagnosed as a bruised right shoulder joint, and considered day to day. Geno Smith did not impress, completing barely over half his pass attempts and throwing three picks. The Jets are scrambling to get ready for week 1.
Denver Broncos: Denver managed a tight win over the Rams, registering a 27-26 victory. The receiver corps on Denver was once again extremely impressive. Von Miller, however, may see additional games tacked on to his existing four game suspension.
San Diego Chargers: San Diego won decisively over Arizona 24-7 on Saturday. While the scoreboard is satisfying, the performance of their main first team weapons continued to underwhelm. Ryan Mathews was the lone standout, demonstrating some burst with 57 yards and a touchdown. WR Seyi Ajirotutu was injured and left with a hip pointer.
Kansas City Chiefs: Kansas City won close against Pittsburgh this weekend, thanks to heavy action from Dwayne Bowe. This is good news to for Bowe owners to see him register 73 yards, as these were his first receptions of the entire preseason. An illness to Dexter McCluster was the lone blip on the injury radar, so Kansas City can breathe a bit easier and focus their primary worries on whether or not Alex Smith can demonstrate any downfield playmaking ability come week 1.
Oakland Raiders: Oakland lost a shootout to Chicago on Friday by a score of 34-26. Darren McFadden experienced a minor shoulder injury this week, while shoulder soreness to Matt Flynn caused Terrelle Pryor to take his first reps with the first team offense this season. That starting job is now officially open after abysmal performances by Flynn.
With the dress rehearsal weekend completed, fantasy owners can breathe a sigh of relief that none of their AFC studs went down. In real life, injuries to Amendola, Kolb, Bell, and the psyche of Matt Flynn have potentially left their teams in utter disarray. Keep it here for all the latest developments with one final round of preseason action to go.