Commentary

Around the NFC: McNabb, Manning get votes of confidence

Updated: December 1, 2007, 9:39 AM ET
By Brendan Roberts | ESPN.com

What have the coaches been saying in their weekly news conferences? Brendan Roberts takes a quick-hitting look at the goings-on for each of the 16 NFC teams:

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: Cowboys receiver Patrick Crayton returned to practice Monday and is ready to play Thursday against the Packers after missing the team's most-recent game against the Jets. As coach Wade Phillips said in his news conference Monday, "It looks real positive for him as far as playing. [He] started out a little slow but looked good as the practice went on." Crayton said he might have been able to play had it not been for the team's short week. So he's essentially back, leaving Terry Glenn, who still is out after a Sept. 13 knee surgery, as the only fantasy option missing for the Cowboys. Phillips basically ruled out Glenn for Thursday's game, although the team hopes he'll return in the next few weeks, according to the Cowboys' Web site. Would you really want to start Crayton right now? Probably not, but Glenn might provide a boost if he can rejoin the starting lineup. Deep-league owners should track his progress.

New York Giants: "My whole-hearted support goes to Eli. I think we all served as a part of the problem [Sunday]" said coach Tom Coughlin in his news conference Monday. The media eagerly anticipated what Coughlin would say about Eli Manning. Well, he said that before he was even asked any questions. In case you missed it, Manning, no stranger to interceptions in his career, threw four of them at home against the Vikings on Sunday, and three of them were returned for touchdowns. But Coughlin isn't concerned, or at least he didn't say so Monday: "I think he will respond well. I talked to him and he was very forceful in telling me that he was OK." Coughlin went on to cite a Johnny Unitas five-interception game and to answer a question favorably about Manning's stoic emotions; the bottom line is that there's nothing to see here, folks. Like Coughlin said, it's only one game. And he's right. Eli is still 10th in the league in touchdown passes and 12th in passing yards, even if he is now tied for the league lead in interceptions. ... Coughlin provided an update on Derrick Ward and Brandon Jacobs, saying he hopes to have Ward (ankle) back at practice Wednesday, but Jacobs isn't ready yet. Carrying that forward, Ward would appear to be set to return in Week 13 if he's able to practice, while Jacobs would be questionable, at best.

Philadelphia Eagles: Yes. When asked if Donovan McNabb, who sat Sunday because of an ankle injury, was still the starting quarterback after A.J. Feeley's good showing against the mighty Patriots, coach Andy Reid's answer was quick and unequivocal Sunday night. "I don't want to take anything away from what A.J. has done," Reid said, according to the Eagles' Web site. "But I don't want to slight Donovan's accomplishments either. He's a heck of a quarterback." Like Eric Karabell, our resident Eagles fan, said in his Sunday night Insider blog, I have to wonder whether McNabb would have done as well against New England as Feeley did, and that's saying something. So here's a twist: Did Feeley's play buy the Eagles some time in case McNabb is not 100 percent? Clearly they don't have to rush him back, and according to Reid, he's not ready. "He is making progress. We'll just see how he does here the next few days," Reid said Monday, according to the Eagles' Web site. "I try to get him back to 100 percent before we stick him in the game." We don't want to speculate, but McNabb owners might not have their starting quarterback versus the Seahawks at home in Week 13. Stay tuned.

Washington Redskins: It's not about the game here. Sean Taylor has died after getting shot in his Miami-area home early Monday morning. Gibbs was beside himself in Monday's news conference, hours before Taylor's death was announced. "We're obviously in shock. I can't put it into words," Gibbs said. "I've never been through this." My thoughts and prayers are with the Redskins and Sean Taylor's family and friends.

NFC North

Chicago Bears: Cedric Benson is out for the season because of an ankle injury that will require surgery. So what are the Bears going to do? "We'll miss [Cedric], but Adrian Peterson will step up. I'm very comfortable moving [him] into the No. 1 slot," Lovie Smith said Monday in his news conference. "You could say that he's a guy that deserves an opportunity to get more playing time. He's done everything we've always asked him to do." Peterson should be picked up off waivers this week, if he's available, and could be an asset down the stretch. In fact, he'll probably be better than Benson as a fantasy option because: (a) He can do more on the field, in terms of breaking big plays and catching the ball; and (b) He has fewer options behind him to steal carries than Benson had. In fact, he has only rookie Garrett Wolfe, which likely won't change. "We're always looking to improve our ballclub, but we feel comfortable with the group we have right now," Smith said. "We have two guys that have played. We also have [fullback] Jason McKie that has played a little bit in that [tailback] role." Owners should see how Wolfe is used this week and maybe even pick him up in deep leagues. He's a dynamic little back and might be able to carve out a role in the depleted backfield. ... Smith praised Rex Grossman for his play Sunday: "In the fourth quarter, Rex Grossman's numbers were what you'd like them to be. He had a 117 quarterback rating and was 10-of-14." I watched this game. Rex was sharp all game long; his receivers just decided to stop dropping passes in the fourth quarter. This performance further distances Grossman from his backup, Brian Griese.

Detroit Lions: The Lions have had trouble with their right tackle position this season, and in recent weeks, it has killed the team. George Foster has been benched, Jonathan Scott has been banged up and will miss time because of a hamstring injury, and replacement Blaine Saipaia, a reserve guard, was dominated by Michael Strahan and Aaron Kampman, respectively, the past two weeks. So the Lions have re-signed Barry Stokes and will move veteran Damien Woody to right tackle. "With everything that started happening, in my mind, I'm like, 'I can go out there and try it,'" Woody said, according to the Detroit Free Press. "Everybody else has been out there. Why can't I give it a try?" This should help the Lions' struggling offense, but it hardly solves the problem. Woody said he hasn't played tackle since high school, and he noted he'll have trouble hearing the snap count in Minnesota.

Green Bay Packers: Many of the questions sent coach Mike McCarthy's way in his Sunday news conference were focused on the Cowboys' top options, but McCarthy did talk a bit about the Packers' identity on offense. "I'd like to run it 50, 60 times a game if I had my preference. That's not the way pro football works anymore. People want to talk about 60-40 and I used to operate in that mind-set more so than I do now. We're going to line up and play," McCarthy said. "As far as, did we run it too much or throw it too much this week? I really don't get caught up in all of that anymore. Our job is to put points on the board and control the time of possession. Those are the two things that we stay in tune with week-in and week-out." This is basic coach-speak for saying the Packers won't be afraid to throw it 50, 60 times a game if they had to, and that includes this Thursday against the Cowboys, who have allowed plenty of big plays through the air.

Minnesota Vikings: If he can make it through practice this week, Adrian Peterson will return to the Vikings this Sunday against the Lions. Coach Brad Childress said in his news conference Monday that Peterson had an MRI, which showed "excellent healing." The next step would be getting into practice and getting "knocked around," according to Childress. So Peterson owners get their guy back, but probably not the preinjury guy. The Vikes will ease him back, starting Chester Taylor and having the two players platoon. "You're not going to go back there and turn over the whole load to him. There are conditioning factors involved, there are fatiguing factors involved when you get involved in playing a 65 or 70-play game," Childress said. "We'll have a pulse on how he practices and who gets what." Which brings us to the obvious follow-up question: Is there a risk factor returning from this injury? "I think that would be hypothetical. It would be kind of like me worrying about jeez, the guy broke his collarbone, do I run him in here on this inside drill here ... I am afraid he is going to break his collarbone. Then you would never do anything," Childress said. "We don't put them out there unless they can defend themselves ... and he is symptom-free here for the last 7- 10 days." Sounds OK to us, but he might have some rust/nervousness about the knee in his first game back. ... Childress said Troy Williamson took a "blow to the head" Sunday, but he tested out OK Monday and should be fine.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have had a rash of injuries along the offensive line in recent weeks, and coach Bobby Petrino seemed frustrated by that in Monday's news conference. "It's hard. You'd like to have five guys healthy all year and let them know each other," Petrino said. "I think that's what has been tough on [Justin] Blalock. He's had a new tackle next to him three times now, and we haven't gelled completely." Petrino indicated it has effected the play-calling. "The game plan shrinks a lot. There are only so many practice reps, and it's not like we have all experienced players in there. We have inexperienced backups going in the game," Petrino said. This situation doesn't sound good for owners of Falcons offensive options, and no immediate help on the offensive line is in sight. ... Byron Leftwich is healthy, but Petrino announced Monday he will stick with Joey Harrington as the starting quarterback.

Carolina Panthers: Coach John Fox said in his Monday news conference that Vinny Testaverde would likely be the starter this week versus the 49ers, if the 44-year-old quarterback is healthy enough to play. But the media and fans must be clamoring for rookie Matt Moore to get a chance because there were a number of questions focused on that. "It's a fine line you walk. There is a certain NFL team [the Raiders] sitting there with the No. 1 player [JaMarcus Russell] in the draft that hasn't had a lot of playing time. Sometimes [playing a rookie quarterback] might be the worst thing you could do," Fox said. "We think he has promise, and he's shown some of those abilities, but we've seen some of the other, too." Fox said the Panthers prepared for their Week 10 game versus the Falcons as if Moore was starting, but Testaverde became available. I wouldn't be shocked if the Panthers turn to Moore here soon unless they get improved play from the position. They're pretty much out of the playoff picture and might as well give him a shot.

New Orleans Saints: Coach Sean Payton said in his Monday news conference that Reggie Bush (bruised shin) experienced no setbacks Sunday and should be good to go in Week 13. It helped that the Saints blew out the Panthers, allowing the team to ease Bush's workload. Bush didn't start the game and got just nine of the team's 35 carries that went to running backs. That Week 13 matchup versus Tampa Bay poses a challenge, but, now healthy, Bush should be started in all league setups.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Coach Jon Gruden said in his Monday press conference that Jeff Garcia has a "deep back bruise" and called the quarterback day-to-day. "I know he's in a lot of pain," Gruden said. "We'll see where he is [Tuesday]. He can play, no question, with reduced practice snaps. He might be ready to go Wednesday, he may not be." Gruden would not say Monday whether Luke McCown or Bruce Gradkowski would start against the Saints if Garcia is unavailable, but all signs point to Garcia gritting this one out. ... Gruden also indicated Michael Pittman, who just a few weeks ago was thought to be done for the season because of an ankle injury, has a chance to play this week. The head coach said Pittman could be a game-time decision. No reason to mess with him this week, but Earnest Graham owners should track him for handcuff purposes.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: Coach Ken Whisenhunt announced in his news conference Monday that Kurt Warner "took a shot in the ribs" Sunday and was pretty sore Monday. The veteran quarterback will be re-evaluated this week, but should be able to play versus the Browns. If not, Tim Rattay would start. ... Even though he missed a 32-yard field-goal attempt that would've won Sunday's game against the Niners and has missed seven of 20 overall attempts this season, Neil Rackers was given a vote of confidence from Whisenhunt on Monday. "I don't have an issue with [him]. We're not going to play musical kickers," Whisenhunt said. "We're going to work in practice just like he made that kick."

St. Louis Rams: Marc Bulger suffered a concussion Sunday when he was blindsided by Seattle linebacker LeRoy Hill, who came free on a blitz. A CAT scan came back in his favor, but coach Scott Linehan said in his news conference Monday that Bulger's status for this week's game against Atlanta remains up in the air. "He feels better than he did yesterday," Linehan said. "Right now we're just going to wait and see [Tuesday] or possibly until Wednesday for his status for the game. If everything checks out, there's no reason he shouldn't be available this week." ... Bulger's concussion wasn't the only injury the Rams suffered Sunday. Starting linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa could miss the rest of the season because of a Grade III medial collateral ligament sprain, further weakening an already-weak defense. Receiver Isaac Bruce sprained his left hand and Drew Bennett tweaked his hamstring (again), but both are expected to be OK this week. Finally, center Brett Romberg reaggravated his ankle injury and might not be available Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers: Consider this progression: The 49ers' offense struggles for weeks, and first-year NFL coordinator Jim Hostler immediately begins taking heat. Then the team finally goes out and hires Former USC coach Ted Tollner, who also spent time as an NFL offensive coordinator with the 49ers, Chargers and Lions, as an offensive assistant, and the team puts up 37 points on the road. Coincidence? Maybe, since the opponent was Arizona. But it does harbor optimism for owners of the Niners' fantasy options. Coach Mike Nolan addressed Tollner's influence in his Monday news conference. "I'll just reflect on my own experience. I've said this before, it gave me an added confidence when I was coordinator, Bill Arnsparger came in for me. It was somebody who had done it, somebody that's there as a little bit of a security," Nolan said. "I would like to think that [Tollner] being here makes a difference. It's difficult on certain people when someone comes in [from the] outside in a normal situation, especially if they don't know them, because there's an uneasiness. But in this case, Jim's been very receptive, as has been all the offensive coaches." As long as the Jim/Ted combo realize that Frank Gore, who had a whopping 32 touches for 214 total yards Sunday, should be the focus of the offense, we'll be happy.

Seattle Seahawks: Coach Mike Holmgren said in his news conference Monday that D.J. Hackett reinjured the same ankle that cost him six games earlier this season. The team's best estimation of his current injury is that the receiver will miss at least two games. Also, Lofa Tatupu suffered what appears to be a strained oblique muscle. His status for Week 13 is not yet known, but the Seahawks will need the speedy linebacker to chase down the elusive Brian Westbrook. Finally, the Tacoma News-Tribune is reporting that Matt Hasselbeck was so spent after playing Sunday's game versus the Rams with sore ribs that he was heaving. Holmgren said he expects Hasselbeck to be able to practice Wednesday and play versus the Eagles.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN.com Fantasy.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy. He has been covering fantasy sports as an editor and writer for more than eight years and was awarded the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2006 from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Roberts can be read in both the fantasy baseball and football areas at ESPN.com.

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