AFC Update: Final Preseason Breakdown
by Christian S. Kohl
It has arrived. The preseason has concluded, and this week, the first games of this 2013 NFL season officially begin. With that in mind, here’s the latest from all around the AFC as they prep for week 1:
Baltimore Ravens: Arthur Jones is not active for week 1 because of an illness. Ed Dickson is a full go, as is Ladarius Webb, apparently not affected by any lingering knee issues. Dennis Pitta is the likely candidate for Short-term I.R., and may be back around December. The reigning super Bowl champs square off against Denver Thursday night in the opening contest of the season.
Cincinnati Bengals: Andrew Hawkins looks to be the likely candidate for short-term IR for the Bengals while he deals with an ankle issue. The Bengals did finally ink Geno Atkins to a deal, 5 years, $55 million. Carlos Dunlap has been ruled free of any concussion issues, and is cleared to play week 1 against the Bears on Sunday.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Running back issues continue to remain as the story for the Steelers this week. Isaac Redman appears to b the week 1 starter, while Le’Veon Bell insists he is aiming for a week 2 return. The Steelers also signed Zoltan Mesko to take over their punting duties. Pitt faces Tennessee week 1 this Sunday.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns claimed a great deal of players off waivers this week, including Keavon Milton, MarQueis Gray, Brandon Mage, Patrick Lewis, and Dennis Johnson. Meanwhile, Barkevious Mingo is not expected back until week 2, dealing with a bruised lung. They’ll face the Dolphins without him week 1.
Houston Texans: The Texans thinned their roster this week by placing multiple players on IR: Brennan Williams, Alan Bonner, and Trevardo Williams will all not play this season. Wade Smith does think he’ll go week 1, and Ed Reed was activated off PUP. No word on his availability, but consensus indicate Arian Foster will be given limited reps week 1 against the Chargers on Monday night.
Indianapolis Colts: Ahmad Bradshaw will be available week 1, but it appears Vick Ballard is taking the bulk of first-team reps for now. Dwayne Allen also will be ready week 1, not hampered by his foot injury. Colby Fleener should also be ready for action against the Raiders this Sunday.
Tennessee Titans: Both Delanie Walker and Kendall Wright are back at full speed and ready to go. Kevin Walter is eligible to return Week 7 after back surgery. Kenny Britt did not play this last preseason game as expected, leaving fans little or no indication if he has any productive, healthy football left in him. Their first clue will come this Sunday against Pitt.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Blaine Gabbert is still waiting for medical clearance to play after injuring his thumb. Though the Jags made some last minute waiver acquisitions, all eyes, including the eleven sets of them on the Kansas City defense, will be focused on Maurice Jones-Drew in the opening contest this weekend.
New York Jets: The Jets signed Brady Quinn this week in the latest string of QB moves that is not the answer. Indications may be that Sanchez is hurt badly and will miss significant time, allowing Geno Smith at least a few weeks to man the helm of their attack. Santonio Holmes is expected to go, while Quinton Coples is a scratch this weekend against Tampa Bay.
New England Patriots: Tight ends remain the story in New England. Gronkowski worked out in 11-11 drills this week, hoping to be back as soon as week 2, but more likely 3-4. Zach Sudfeld is also taking reps in the old slot of Aaron Hernandez, which could bode well for his prospects long term whether or not Gronkowski returns quickly. The Patriots get the Buffalo Bills, scrambling to even assemble a starting roster to open their 2013 campaign.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills have yet to name a week 1 starter at QB, which is always a positive sign just days before the season opens. We know it’s not Kolb, and it looks like E.J. Manuel just may be healthy enough to give it a go against New England. Regardless of who is under center, if the Patriots contain Spiller, this game will be over before it even begins.
Miami Dolphins: Lamar Miller was designated this week as the starting tailback over Daniel Thomas. Dion Jordan looks to be likely available for week 1, but the rookie will be used sparingly. Mike Wallace looked strong in his final preseason effort, and they will need him to be in full force against Cleveland this Sunday.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos will enter Thursday’s game already dinged up. Champ Bailey is expected to be a game-time decision, while Joel Dreesen looks very likely to sit week 1. If Bailey scratches, and already absent Von MWiller, Denver will need big efforts from Manning and their elite WR corps to make sure their ability to score puts Baltimore away.
San Diego Chargers: Eddie Royal appears to be fully recovered from his bruised lung and will be available week 1. The injury to Mantei Te’o, however, looks sufficient to sideline him for their initial contest. The Chargers draw Houston as the late Monday night game, a game which could be decide quickly if they are not in sync from the opening snap.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs waived once promising TE Tony Moeaki this week, while Jamaal Charles projected he’ll touch the ball very often this season, surprising absolutely no one. The Chiefs also saw their share of waiver acquisitions this eek, all as last minute prep for their opening contest this Sunday against Jacksonville. Chances are only the waiver acquisitions will be enough to topple the Jags.
Oakland Raiders: In an encouraging move for the prospects of Oakland’s season, head coach Dennis Allen says he may wait until Sunday to name a starting quarterback. Whichever name is called, Matt Flynn or Terrelle Pryor, will likely be equally disappointing for the rest of their squad. Darren McFadden should be a full go this Sunday against Indianapolis, though most likely DMC will only be running for three quarters tops as desperation throwing will consume their entire fourth quarter.
That’s it for this week. In just a few short days, games will be played in anger and the season will be officially under way. Keep it here all season long for the latest developments and player news all around the league.