Cincinnati Bengals

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  • Greg Cosell's Look Ahead: Aaron Rodgers' off day (Shutdown Corner)

    Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a bit of an outlier. Nobody throws the ball like him, with that compact delivery and velocity and great ball placement. He also has a random element to his game, although he isn’t really a runner. He plays on the edge of the offense’s structure, often making plays late in the down. Once in a while, he’ll play on the wrong side of that edge. That’s what happened last week against the Buffalo Bills. He just didn’t have it. I’m not taking anything away from Buffalo, because they have a good defense, but tactically they didn’t do anything where you said, "This is amazing, I’ve never seen that before." And while they have a good front four that gets bodies around the quarterback, they weren’t drilling Rodgers to the turf. They did a good job recognizing routes based on formation, but mostly it was a game in which Rodgers’ late-in-the-down tendencies just didn’t work. It was immediately evident that Rodgers was having a bad day throwing the ball; he was glaringly inaccurate beginning in the first quarter. The plays where Rodgers moves and navigates n the pocket and makes a big throw late in the down didn’t happen in this game. Both of Bills safety Bacarri Rambo’s interceptions were mistakes by Rodgers. On the first one, it was actually a busted coverage. The Bills showed “Cover 3” to cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s side, but “Cover 2” to cornerback Corey Graham’s side. Reading it as “Cover 3,” Rodgers looked to Randall Cobb on the “over” route, and his throw had to beat Rambo, the single high safety. It was just an inaccurate throw to the inside of Cobb that allowed Rambo to jump it. An accurate throw might have been a touchdown. On the second interception, the Packers went to four receivers and Rodgers threw a slant to Jarrett Boykin. Rodgers hesitated on the initial throw, threw the slant late, and it was picked off as a result. One thing also caught my eye and I wondered about it as I watched this game: The Bills dictated where Rodgers didn’t throw the ball. It reminded me of Week 1, when the Packers didn’t throw to Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s side, or when the Packers played the New England Patriots and Rodgers rarely threw at top two cornerbacks Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner, picking on other matchups instead. In this game, the Bills played a deep safety over Cobb’s side often, and Rodgers didn’t target Cobb against that defense. Can other defenses dictate where Rodgers goes with the ball? The sample size from these examples is way too small to draw any conclusions, but it’s something worth monitoring. Manning's strength Peyton Manning dealt with a thigh injury and the flu last weekend, but he was still able to do something he does as well as any quarterback: exploit matchups in man-to-man coverage. That was the story of the Denver Broncos’ win over the San Diego Chargers. The best example came on a 28-yard touchdown to Demaryius Thomas late in the third quarter. The Chargers ran “man free blitz” so Manning had Thomas against Brandon Flowers. He threw a back-shoulder throw and it turned into a touchdown. The Broncos have played a much different offense in the last month, with far less shotgun formation and a lot less passing, but if the Cincinnati Bengals give Manning man-to-man matchups to exploit, he will do it. Griffin progress, but still work to do Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III started last week against the Giants, and he showed some improvement overall. He was more comfortable, less frenetic in the pocket and coach Jay Gruden helped him tremendously with an emphasis on play action and bootleg action with defined either/or reads. But there are still things Griffin needs to work on, as we saw. When it was third and long and the play-calling couldn’t control his reads as much, he struggled. The longer he stayed in the pocket, the less effective he was, and he still lacks refined pocket clarity. Let’s take a look at an example. On a fourth and 2 early in the third quarter, the play design was a quick slant to tight end Jordan Reed, the “X iso” against safety Antrel Rolle. Griffin didn’t believe he had the throw initially because linebacker Jameel McClain filled the passing lane. Reed was wide open in the second window after McClain passed, but Griffin came off of Reed despite no pressure. He didn’t have a good sense of the concept against the man coverage.

  • Rookie receivers making their mark in NFL (The Associated Press)

    TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Tampa Bay's Mike Evans resists labels that describe him as a football player, especially those that shortchange what he's accomplished as part of an outstanding class of rookie receivers lighting up the NFL.

  • RT Eric Winston quickly settling in with Bengals (The Associated Press)

    CINCINNATI (AP) -- Right tackle Eric Winston sat out most of the season, waiting for a team to give him another chance. He finally got it with the Bengals, and he's settling right in.

  • Broncos dig into their deep linebacker corps (The Associated Press)

    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- Aside from Von Miller, Denver's once-deep linebacker corps has been reduced to four guys playing their first NFL season and an undrafted third-year pro who's started just five games.

  • Washington's Moss fined $22K for abusive language (The Associated Press)

    NEW YORK (AP) -- Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss was fined $22,050 by the NFL on Friday for language deemed ''abusive and insulting'' directed at game officials.

  • Browns-Panthers Preview (The Associated Press)

    Johnny Manziel's first career start couldn't have gone much worse, but the slumping Cleveland Browns are sticking with him.

  • NFL against the spread picks: The most disrespected 11-3 team (Shutdown Corner)

    Another quarterback injury has changed the perception of the Arizona Cardinals again, at least in the betting line. The Cardinals are the biggest underdogs ever for an 11-3 team, going back to when it was first tracked in 1980, according to OddsShark.com . Arizona is an eight-point underdog to the Seattle Seahawks, according to Yahoo Pro Football Pick 'em lines. They're a huge underdog even though they're at home. There haven't been too many teams that have been exactly 11-3, and even fewer that have been underdogs at all, so the sample size isn't tremendous, but the line is telling. [ Join FanDuel.com's $2M Week 16 fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 17,475 teams paid ] Nobody expects the Cardinals to win with third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley against a Seahawks' pass defense that has been stifling the past few weeks. Never put anything past the Cardinals, who have overcome numerous injuries to already clinch a playoff berth, but this task seems to be a bit much. And with a win, the Seahawks would pull even with the Cardinals and clinch the tiebreaker, so they’d have the inside track for the NFC West title. All these injuries are not really fair for the Cardinals. No team is fully healthy this time of the NFL season, but the Cardinals’ plight has been tougher than most. That won’t matter to the Seahawks, who are trying to repeat as Super Bowl champions. And I can’t pick Lindley and the Cardinals either. If Bruce Arians can muster enough points with a quarterback who has a 46.8 career rating to beat the Seahawks, he’s an even better coach that we realize. It’s unfortunate for the Cardinals that they have to play such a big game so shorthanded, but the NFL isn’t always fair. Here are the rest of the Week 16 picks: Jaguars (-3.5) over Titans ( picked Thursday ): Moving on. Redskins (+7.5) over Eagles: Seems like a letdown spot after such a big game for Philadelphia last week, though the Eagles might be focused coming off a loss. Either way, it’s nice to have Saturday NFL football back. 49ers (-1) over Chargers: The Chargers’ offensive explosion at Baltimore seems to be an outlier. It doesn’t surprise me at all to hear that Philip Rivers is dealing with injuries. He doesn’t look right lately and neither does San Diego.

  • NFL Draft Watch: Top prospects, sleepers from all 38 bowl games (Shutdown Corner)

    Are you planning to watch all 38 college bowl games? So are we. (Eventually ... time permitting.) Well, keep this guide handy: a list of the top NFL prospects and sleepers for the 2015 draft in every game, even the ones with weird names and sponsors. [ Join FanDuel.com's $2M Week 16 fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 17,475 teams paid ] We tried to guess which underclassmen will enter the draft, but some impressive players were off the list. Plus, we couldn't list every gifted player who will take the field in December and January. With that in mind, here are some players you should know about from each of the games (listed chronologically, all kickoff times ET): NEW ORLEANS BOWL Matchup: Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4) Location: New Orleans When: Dec. 20, 11 a.m., ESPN Top prospect: Nevada QB Cody Fajardo — The dual-threat quarterback replaced Colin Kaepernick as the Wolfpack’s starter but has not progressed as a pro prospect and would have to be put into the “project” category. He’s athletic and had a great performance in the close loss to Arizona, but Fajardo remains a piece of clay that must be molded. Sleeper prospect: Louisiana-Lafayette OG Daniel Quave — His brother Mykhael appears to be the better prospect, but he’s a junior. Daniel is a big, burly guard with late-rounds  or priority free-agent potential, per 120 Sports’ Russ Lande , who has started 50 straight games for the Ragin’ Cajuns. NEW MEXICO BOWL Matchup: UTEP (7-5) vs. Utah State (9-4) Location: Albuquerque, N.M. When: Dec. 20, 2:20 p.m., ESPN Top prospect: Utah State ILB Zach Vigil — The Aggies’ aggressive, attacking scheme fits Virgil well, and Lande says the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year is "one of the more versatile players in the country” who could end up a mid-to-later-round prospect who fits the mold of a quality reserve and special teams demon in the NFL. Keep an eye on Vigil, who lives behind the line and will showcase his skills at the East-West Shrine game, even if some scouts feel that DE B.J. Larsen might be just as good an NFL prospect. Sleeper prospect: UTEP TE Eric Tomlinson — His 6-foot-7, 270-pound frame alone could get Tomlinson drafted, as his massive body could make him an ideal No. 2 tight end who can block effectively in the run game. Some NFL scouts think Tomlinson could bulk up and play tackle. His receiving potential is limited, but he did catch six passes the past two games. Tomlinson and Miners QB Jameill Showers will play in the NFLPA Collegiate bowl to showcase their skills to scouts following the bowl game. LAS VEGAS BOWL Location: Las Vegas When: Dec. 20, 3:30 p.m., ABC Matchup: Colorado State (10-2) vs. Utah (8-4) Top prospect: Colorado State OT Ty Sambrailo — With this game and the Senior Bowl, Sambrailo has a chance to make a bigger name for himself following a strong senior season in which his name has been thrown into the late first-round mix. Sambrailo could make himself some money if he holds his own against the Utes’ highly touted pass rush end, Nate Orchard, who could go as high as Round 2. This is one of the best individual battles you’ll see in bowl season. Sleeper prospect: Utah CB Eric Rowe — The lanky cover man has been starting for the Utes since his freshman year and has handled the switch from safety to corner this past season deftly. The Senior Bowl invitee could end up being tried at both positions in the NFL, with enough size (6-1, 205) to handle either spot. FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL Location: Boise, Idaho When: Dec. 20, 5:45 p.m., ESPN Matchup: Air Force (9-3) vs. Western Michigan (8-4) Top prospect: Western Michigan CB Donald Celiscar — The 5-11, 191-pound senior tied for the NCAA lead with 17 passes defended (matching teammate Ronald Zamort) and also picked off four passes this season. His size and lack of blazing speed likely will limit how high he’s considered in the draft, but the first-team all-MAC corner has a nose for the ball that can’t be taught. Sleeper prospect: Air Force P-PK Will Conant — The underclassman-laden Falcons have one of the best double-duty special teamers in the country in Conant, who has made 17 straight field goals on attempts under 60 yards. He also averaged 43.8 yards per punt and landed 18 of them inside the 20. He’s a mature player who hit the game-winner against Colorado State, has a future as an officer, is getting married but also could be invited to an NFL camp. CAMELLIA BOWL Matchup: Bowling Green (7-6) vs. South Alabama (6-6) Location: Montgomery, Ala. When: Dec. 20, 9:15 p.m., ESPN