Late in the 2nd quarter in the Pelicans win over Utah Saturday night, guard Eric Gordon left the game with what was then called a separated shoulder. Now the team has informed us that he will be out indefinitely after an MRI revealed Gordon suffered a torn labrum as a result of the left shoulder subluxation injury. No timetable has been given for a return, but anytime you hear that something is torn, it cannot be good.
So what's that mean for the team moving forward? Well, Austin Rivers will likely take over as the team's starting shooting guard. He has been averaging around 22 minutes per game this season with 7 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds.
The 7-5 Pelicans have very little depth at shooting guard, so Jimmer Fredette should also see some time on the hardwood as well.
It's a tough week ahead for New Orleans as they must take on 3 teams this week with winning records. The 8-5 Sacramento Kings come into the Smoothie King Center tomorrow, then the Pels take on 6-5 Hawks in Atlanta on Friday, and finally on Saturday they travel to Washington to face the 9-3 Wizards.
Redskins QB Robert Griffin III
RG3 is coming off a terrible performance against a bad Buccaneers secondary. Now he will go on the road to face the 49ers, who have been solid against the pass this season. With Griffin struggling, a road trip out west to face one of the NFL's best defenses doesn't exactly exude much confidence.
Vikings WR Jerrick McKinnon
Yeah, Minnesota faces a Packers team that struggles to stop running backs, but McKinnon's chances might be limited. Green Bay's offense is on fire as they have averaged 49.5 points per game this month. The Vikings might need to ditch the run game early and throw the football often to try and keep up with the Pack.
Patriots RB Jonas Gray
Gray is coming off a monster Week 11 performance where he rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns, but this 'aint last week. He faces the Detroit defense Sunday which ranks first overall against the run. The Lions are allowing only 68 yards per game on the ground and have given up only four rushing touchdowns on the season.
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick is a physical specimen with a cannon for an arm and might be the fastest QB in the league. But he and the San Fran offense have been a letdown this season. This week the Niners host a reeling Redskins team that has one of the worst secondaries in football. Washington has allowed the fourth most passing touchdowns and are tied for a league low three interceptions. They have also given up the fifth most rushing yards to opposing QBs.
Ravens WR Steve Smith
Saints fans cringe when they hear this guy's name as he terrorized the black and Gold for 13 years with the Panthers. Carolina wrote him off at age 35 and Smith signed with the Ravens to prove he isn't over the hill. He's got 49 catches for 728 yards and 4 TDs on the year and he should add a nice chunk to that Monday night against a bad Saints secondary that is allowing 14.2 yards per catch to receivers.
Giants TE Larry Donnell
Donnell has a good opportunity to prove his worth for scavenging fantasy owners this week against the Dallas Cowboys who allow good numbers to opposing tight ends. The last time the Giants played the 'Boys he had seven catches for 90 yards. Donnell has proven in recent weeks he can put up decent fantasy points without seeing many looks.
Saunders is already on his 4th ballclub after getting drafted by the NY Jets in the 4th round this year. He played 3 games in New York and was then released, had a stint in Arizona, then made his way onto the Seattle Seahawks practice squad before getting snatched up by New Orleans.
He adds depth to the Saints receiving corp and also gives them an option as a return man on special teams. He is 5-ft-9 and ran a 4.44 40 yard dash at the NFL combine.
All is not grand in Who Dat-ville, as the city's beloved Saints have been failing to live up to expectations this season. The latest debacle is two straight losses on the hallowed Superdome turf. INCONCEIVABLE!
Now with a sub .500 record of 4-6, the Black & Gold are home for their 3rd straight contest and on prime time to take on the Ravens on Monday Night Football. Baltimore comes into this match-up just as hungry for victory as the Saints, since they don't want to fall behind in the competitive AFC North. The Bengals lead the division with a record of 6-4-1, followed by the Steelers at 7-4, while both the Ravens and Browns own a mark of 6-4.
Baltimore is pretty balanced on offense. They are the 12th ranked unit in the NFL (10th rushing / 16th passing) and average 26 points per game. Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco leads the way and has thrown for 2,521 yards this season while completing a little more than 62% of his passes. He's thrown 17 TDs vs. 8 INTs and has been sacked 14 times.
His top target is a familiar foe to the Black & Gold; the pesky Steve Smith. He was released by the Panthers after 13 years and it might have caused his already intense, internal fire to manifest into an inferno as the 35 year old looks like he's out to prove that he's still got it. Smith has 49 catches for 728 yards and 4 scores.
The Ravens other threat at WR is Torrey Smith. He may have only 27 receptions for 446 yards but has found the endzone 6 times.
Tight end Owen Daniels has caught 35 balls for 348 yards and 3 scores, while running back Justin Forsett has hauled in 31 catches.
Forsett has been the Ravens main man in the backfield this season after the team opted to release Ray Rice after TMZ made the video of him hitting his fiancée in an elevator. Forsett has filled in nicely as he's averaged 5.4 yards per carry and has gained 923 total yards with 5 touchdowns. He is very Darren Sproles-esque as he stands just 5-ft-8, but is quick, shifty, and not afraid of contact.
Over on the other side of the football the Ravens defense comes into Monday night with the 11th best defense in the league (5th vs. the run / 21st vs. the pass) and allow a mere 18 points per game, which is good for 5th best in the NFL. They've hauled in just 6 interceptions but do have 9 fumbles recovered on the year and have sacked the quarterback 25 times.
Rookie C.J. Mosely out of Alabama is flexing his muscles often in his 1st year as he's got the most tackles on the ballclub with 90. The linebacker has also managed 4 tackles for loss, 7 passes defended, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovered. Fellow LB Daryl Smith is second on the team in tackles with 84 along with getting 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovered. Pass rusher extraordinaire Elvis Dumervill leads the team with 10.5 sacks while Terell Suggs has 5 along with 4 tackles for a loss. These are some hard hitting guys that love to strip the football.
Baltimore's secondary lost their star corner Jimmy Smith and the unit as a whole has stuggled all year long. Nichols State product Ladarius Webb's skills have been on decline as he enters his 6th season in the league, and has not picked off a pass yet this year. Meanwhile safeties Darian Stewart and Matt Elam have combined for 72 tackles.
This looks like a game where Drew Brees should be able to pick apart the Ravens, but you just don't know what kind of team you're getting game to game with the Saints anymore. Who won't be helping the Black & Gold is rookie WR Brandin Cooks. He has a broken thumb and is out for the rest of the season, which I feel really hurts this inconsistent offense. Maybe, Joe Morgan's return to the lineup will help because Marques Colston and Kenny Stills have been duds.
The defensive side of the ball is even worse off for the Saints as injuries mount to a unit that's had troubles making tackles and stopping teams on 3rd down.
But, Drew & Krewe couldn't drop 3 straight in the Dome… could they? I'm so torn picking this game because I really don't like the match-up for the Saints but cannot fathom a Sean Payton ballclub dropping 3 in a row at home. Bottom line though is New Orleans just isn't a good football team and as much as I don't like my pick…I'm going Baltimore. Maybe it will be good for the old reverse jinx.
Cooks' first season in the pros ends with 53 receptions for 550 yards along with 73 yards rushing and a total of 4 touchdowns. He was the 20th overall pick in this past year's draft. Bush was playing safety in his 3rd season in New Orleans and had 55 total tackles with three passes defended and two stuffs this season.
Two of the new additions to the Saints roster were in training camp this year. Terrance Fredrick and Pierre Warren (below) both are familiar with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's scheme spending all of this offseason with the team. Fresrick was promoted from the Saints practice sqaud, while Warren was signed off the Vikings practice squad.
Linebacker Moise Foku is 29 years old and was a 7th round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles back in 2009. He was most recently with the Tennessee Titans last season, playing in 12 games tallying 78 combined tackles with one sack.
It seems like the entire SEC West is vying for game of the week status, but it's obvious that the Crimson Tide hosting the top ranked Bulldogs takes that honor. Idle this week are Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Time to go inside the SEC!
South Carolina at Florida – 11am kickoff
This might be the game that determines Will Muschamp's fate in Florida. The Gators have rebounded nicely behind a two quarterback offensive strategy, and South Carolina is playing horrible. If Florida does happen to win this game, they still have a shot to make it to Atlanta representing the wacky SEC East. Fortunately for the Gators, the Gamecocks are awful on defense and appear to have mailed it in.
#1 Mississippi State at #5 Alabama – 2:30pm kickoff
The Crimson Tide is a juggernaut at home, but the Bulldogs will be the best team to visit Tuscaloosa this year. The key issue is for Alabama to figure out how to stop what is essentially a dual running back offensive attack. MSU QB Dak Prescott is so dangerous as a runner, the Tide have to treat him like a tailback. Emptying the middle of the field, like Alabama did on multiple occasions against LSU, will not work here. Prescott is more than capable of making Bama pay for it. State's running backs are also good enough to make Alabama pay if Prescott hands off. This game figures to be close throughout, but I just think Bama finds a way, once again, to pull away at the very end.
Kentucky at Tennessee – 3pm kickoff
The Wildcats have to win this game to get bowl eligible because it's highly unlikely they can take down Louisville, and the Cardinals are their only other opponent remaining. On the other side, the Vols need to win twice to reach the postseason and has woeful Vanderbilt on the final week of the year and Missouri next week. That means this one is pretty much an elimination game for someone. Kentucky's defense has fizzled out lately and Tennessee has ignited behind QB Joshua Dobbs; plus with the game in Knoxville, the Volunteers have the edge.
#9 Auburn at #15 Georgia – 6:15pm kickoff
The Aggies ran at will on Auburn last week, something A&M had done to nobody leading up to that game. The Tigers also allowed a freshman quarterback to throw for 4 TD passes. The question now becomes, can Georgia have similar success? The Bulldogs want to atone for last year's fourth quarter debacle on fourth down that led to an inexplicable loss, but UGA has lost to two bad football teams this year. Neither ballclub is predictable, which is what makes this one of the most interesting rivalries in the conference year in and year out.
Missouri at #24 Texas A&M – 6:30pm kickoff
If the Tigers win out, they will go back to Atlanta. But as erratic as Missouri has looked game to game, betting on a three win finish to the season is tough to imagine. Meanwhile, Texas A&M's season was saved last week at Auburn, and with this game in Kyle Field, the Aggies would appear to have the advantage. It also doesn't hurt that Mizzou QB Maty Mauk is starting to backslide a bit as the season winds down.
#17 LSU at Arkansas - 7pm kickoff
Due to Arkansas' recent offensive resurgence and the game being played in Fayetteville, some are giving the Razorbacks the edge here. It's hard to imagine the Razorbacks having more success against the Tigers than Alabama did though, and Arkansas doesn't have nearly the assets on the defensive side of the ball that the Crimson Tide possess. Still, LSU will be facing the same issue Bama will face against Mississippi State. The Tigers are coming off a physical, back and forth boxing match and it might take them awhile to actually wake up in this game. I see the Bayou Bengals escaping with victory in a close one.
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
The Seahawks rode Marshawn Lynch in a 38-17 win over the New York Giants with very little help from Wilson, who threw two interceptions and no touchdowns. In fact he has only thrown one touchdown in the past three weeks, and the Chiefs are a very underrated defense who are only allowing an average of 205 yards per game.
Cardinals WR Michael Floyd
Over the past 3 weeks, Floyd has struggled putting up a measly line of 5 catches for 47 yards and ZERO TDs! Sure, he does have two 100+ games under his belt this season, but his upside a gone pecan with QB Carson Palmer done wfor the year and Drew Stanton now under enter.
After getting dominated last week in their own house by the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati's defense is in the Superdome this week against the Saints' high-powered offense. Expect a lot of big play from the Black and gold who are desperately looking to bounce back from last week's debacle.
Saints RB Mark Ingram
Ingram is going for his 4th straight 100+ yard rushing game and it would appear to be a foregone conclusion as the Bengals are ranked 31st in the NFL against the run. With Brees having issues throwing too many interceptions, the Saints commitment to the run should be even greater. Ride the hot hand and the former Heisman Trophy winner to another big game.
Patriots WR Julian Edelman
Tom Brady should have a great game against a Colts defense that is allowing the sixth-most passing yards per game. Tom Terrific is looking like Tom Terrific again, spreading the ball around with great consistency. His main target is Rob Gronkowski, who Indy will likely double team which in turn will give Edelman more opportunities.
Buccaneers TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
The rookie caught a touchdown last Sunday against the Falcons, and he should be able to make it back-to-back weeks with a score against a Washington defense that has been among the worst in the league at defending the tight end. McCown has been taking advantage of the Bucs' big targets in the passing game, so this 6-foot-6 stud could be a valuable commodity down the stretch.
After it looked to me like the Saints had rediscovered their mojo, they go out and lose at home for the first time since 2012. Sure the 49ers are a good football team, but it was yet another game New Orleans let get away from them late. Now, a Bengals ballclub comes to town with a record of 5-3-1 after starting out the year 3-0, and are looking to rebound after a humiliating loss at home to the Browns this past Thursday night.
Cincinnati's defense has been putrid this year as they rank 30th overall in the NFL (31st vs. the run / 20th vs. the pass). They've suffered a ton of injuries, especially to their linebacking corp but have at least managed 14 takeaways (10 INTs, 4 fumbles recovered) and are allowing a respectable 23.4 points per contest.
Safety Reggie Nelson and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur lead the team with 61 tackles. Nelson also has 2 interceptions with 1.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss and 6 passes defended. Pressuring the quarterback has been a huge issue. Cincy has a total of just 13 sacks and defensive end Carlos Dunlap accounts for 4.5 of them.
The offense has been a tad better then the defense at times. They rank 20th overall in the league (12th rushing / 21st passing) and put up on average just under 22 points a game. The offensive side of the ball has been bitten by the dreaded injury bug as well. Star receiver AJ Green has missed a total of 4 games due to a toe injury but has played in the last 2 contests while running back Giovanni Bernard suffered a hip injury in the 4th quarter back in week 8. Bernard still remains a question mark for this week's game in the Superdome.
That could mean that Saints fans will be seeing former LSU Tiger Jeremy Hill getting the bulk of the carries Sunday. The 2nd round draft pick has been putting up solid number in his rookie campaign. Hill has 404 yards rushing with 4 TDs and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has hauled in 15 passes for another 146 yards. Check out these highlights!
Mohamed Sanu is the Bengals leading receiver this season since Green has missed some time. Sanu has 41 catches for 648 yards and has found the endzone 4 times.
Watch out as he's also 2-2 throwing the ball on the year and has 1 TD pass. Since coming back from a toe ailment AJ Green has caught just 6 passes for 67 yards and 1 score in the last 2 games. If fully healthy, watch out, as he is one of the elite WRs in the league.
Tight end Jermaine Gresham is not really a factor in the passing attack as he only accounts for 276 yards receiving and has zero TDs.
That leads us to the man throwing the football, who is known as the "Red Rifle". The red headed QB Andy Dalton can wow you one week, and then put up a stinker the next. The biggest knock on him is that he is 0-3 in the playoffs, throwing just 1 TD and 6 INTs. So far this year hasn't been pretty as the "Red Rifle" has misfired then been on target. He has 8 touchdown passes and 9 interceptions while completing just fewer than 61% of his passes. He has a decent offensive line and has been sacked only 11 times, but for some reason hasn't been able to settle in and deliver.
We're not at the point where I'd call this a must win game for the Saints, but it's pretty darn close. Only 7 games left in the regular season and the Black & Gold are fortunate to be atop the NFC South right now because the rest of the division is hot stinky garbage. I would expect a heavy dose of Mark Ingram as Cincinnati can't stop the run and would limit the amount of picks Drew Brees could throw. Things haven't been going his way this year as he has 10 INTs and is making a lot more poor decisions than I have ever seen. I hear the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert say it all the time; "less of Drew is more." Pound the rock and the outcome should be a Saints victory.
Once again, Saturday's biggest match-up in college football resides in Baton Rouge, as the Tigers play of late makes them a legitimate threat to the Crimson Tide's hopes at shot at another National Title.
Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas have the week off. Time to go Inside the SEC…
#20 Georgia at Kentucky – 11am kickoff
Georgia not only lost its rivalry game against Florida on Saturday, it also lost a shot at playing for a crystal football. Missouri now sits in the East's catbird seat, and the Bulldogs find themselves having to bounce back from the Florida loss against a Kentucky team that is improving. The Wildcats lost to Mizzou last week, and still need another win to get bowl-eligible. Kentucky can pressure Georgia's defense, which is struggling at the moment, but the question is can the Wildcats stop the Bulldogs' running game?
Presbyterian at #11 Ole Miss - 11am kickoff
Ole Miss is hurting in more ways than one. In addition to the emotional pain of losing a title shot, the Rebels lost several players against Auburn, who joined an already substantial list of layers that are hurting. No one is going to want to even be at this game against Presbyterian, much less play it. Expect a romp.
Texas A&M at #3 Auburn – 2:30pm kickoff
It's not easy to trap Auburn at home, but Texas A&M has a chance to do exactly that. The Aggies' offense took a step back with Kyle Allen replacing Kenny Hill at quarterback last week, but the defense looked better than it had all season. Auburn is coming off a big win over Ole Miss and might be looking past A&M to Georgia, but the Aggies have yet to prove it can stop a top-level rushing attack.
UT Martin at #1 Mississippi State - 3pm kickoff
Mississippi State steps out of the SEC for a week before its big trip to Alabama. Meanwhile UT Martin has had a strange season. They opened the year with a 1–5 record but have since won four straight. That's nice and all but this one will not be close as the Bulldogs get a nice tune-up game before going to Tuscaloosa.
Florida at Vanderbilt - 6:30pm kickoff
The Commodores took care of business against Old Dominion last week, but as expected, showed defensive lapses that are going to be difficult to overcome against a stretch run of SEC teams. The real question is what Florida will do this week. The Gators are coming off an emotional high that seems impossible to replicate against Vandy, and the reality is Florida can't throw the ball and is still limited in terms of offensive variety. Look for this game to be closer than it should be, but the Gators should chomp the 'Dores.
#4Alabama at #14 LSU - 7pm kickoff
The Tigers have won three straight after a 0–2 start in the SEC and have relied on its running attack which is averaging 254 over the last 3 contests. A big problem is that during that stretch, LSU has completed a total of 25 passes for 372 yards. The Bayou Bengals will have to be a bit more balanced against an Alabama team that has been dominant against the run. Nick Saban's club is allowing only 78 yards rushing per game and 2.7 yards per rushing attempt. If the Purple and Gold want to rain on Bama's parade, they'll need some big plays in the passing game.
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill
While Tannehill has been very good of late, he hasn't exactly faced viable secondaries. He goes up against the Lions Sunday who boast the league's fifth ranked passing defense and are giving up a league low 15.8 points per game. Detroit has also allowed the second fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks so your best bet is to bench Miami's signal caller.
Saints WR Marques Colston
Sorry Saints fans, but with rookie Brandin Cooks gaining steam, Kenny Stills healed from an early-season quad injury, and tight end Jimmy Graham getting closer to 100%; Colston is an afterthought. He is averaging 55.5 yards per game with only one touchdown and ranks third on the team with 47 targets. Yeah, he'll still have a decent day here and there, but not this week.
I wouldn't even think about starting San Fran's D in the Superdome this week despite them being the 2nd best unit in the NFL. The Saints look to have found their mojo which had been missing in action the 1st quarter of the season. Sure, the 49ers are a tough, physical group but don't stand a chance against Drew & Krewe Sunday. I foresee the Black and Gold putting up over 30 points.
Eagles QB Mark Sanchez
This pains me to write but with Sanchez getting the keys now to Chip Kelly's Ferrari offense he is a viable start versus the Panthers this week. The Eagles have attempted the third most passes of any team in the NFL and means Sanchez has upside. We saw Brees carve up Carolina last week; expect "the Sanchize" to put up solid numbers.
Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman
I feel bad for the Raiders this week. Denver is likely going to take out a lot of frustration regarding last week's beat down at Foxboro on the poor winless Raiders. Chances are this is going to be a blowout which would mean increased rushing attempts for Hillman against a bottom five run defense. Sure seems like fantasy gold to me.
Well, since I brought up angry teams, Baltimore's defense could top the list. Coming off an unusual thrashing in a rivalry game with Pittsburgh, the Ravens host "Mr. Selfie" Zach Mettenberger and the Titans anemic offense. Tennessee is scoring the third fewest point per game in the NFL, and Baltimore has forced five turnovers while producing an amazing 15 sacks over their last 4 games. Mettenberger is in store for a loooooong day.
You mention the 49ers to most long time Saints fans and the thought of playing San Fran fires them up more than a game against Atlanta. The hatred for those red and gold uniforms is embedded deep as the two were once division rivals in the old NFC West from 1970-2001. Just ask the "Cajun Cannon" Bobby Hebert about 'em. He'll let you know about all the times the Niners spoiled solid seasons by the Black & Gold.
This year's San Fran squad comes into Sunday's match-up in the Superdome with a 4-4 record and has dropped their last two games. Defense has not been the issue as the team is ranked 2nd overall in the NFL (5th vs. the run / 3rd vs. the pass) and is allowing 22 points per contest. They are 3rd in the league in sacks with 27 and have crated 13 turnovers on the year (9 interceptions / 4 fumbles recovered).
Pretty impressive numbers for a unit missing stud linebacker Aldon Smith. He is serving a 9 game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse and personnel conduct policies. How much does Smith mean to the D? Well, he has 42 sacks in 43 regular season games played. Can you say BEAST?!
In his absence, fellow LB Ahmad Brooks shares the teams' lead for sacks with 3 along with defensive end Justin Smith. Safety Antoine Bethea is the 49ers top tackler with 43 and has 2 interceptions. Meanwhile, cornerback Perrish Cox is the team's pick magnet with 4 INTs on the year.
Over to the offensive side of the ball where the 49ers has been a big disappointment, ranked 19th overall in the league (11th rushing / 22nd passing) and average 21 points per game.
Remember when some were refereeing to Colin Kaepernick as the second coming of Steve Young? Well, they may want to pump the breaks a bit. Kaep's season has been average as he's completed 64% of his passes for 1956 yards with 12 TDs and 5 INTs. He's also added 274 yards rushing but has been sacked 27 times which is the most in the NFL. I think I hear Junior Galette and Cam Jordan sharpening their knife and fork, because those boys are about to feast.
Anquan Boldin is Kaepernick's top target with 45 receptions for 540 yards and 2 scores. Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson each have over 350 yards with 3 TDs and tight end Vernon Davis has almost been invisible with just 16 catches for 161 yards. Davis at least has found the endzone twice.
The run game is where Niners offense is most dangerous as Frank Gore is still among the top backs in the game at age 31. He's averaging 4.1 yards per carry and has just 1 rushing TD this year though. Gore's other score this year came in the passing game where he has 5 catches for77 yards.
(Frank Gore's so scary that defenders are afraid to tackle him…c'mon #55!)
Second round draft pick Carlos Hyde has been used sparingly. He has racked up 170 yards on 50 carries, but does at least have 2 TDs.
With the offense struggling I don't foresee San Fran being able to bust out of its two game losing skid in the Superdome Sunday against a Saints team that is starting to hit its stride. The emergence of the Black & Gold's rushing attack has me confident New Orleans will be victorious and start the 2nd half of the season of with a "W".