These are the biggest early storylines as we look ahead to Week 4, ranked in order of significance: 1. Ok, so everyone had the New Orleans Saints-Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football as the biggest game of Week 4, right? Of course. Sure, the networks will play up the Ryan Tannehill - Drew Brees battle because quarterbacks are sexy. And nothing against those guys. But a moment for the defenses, shall we? The Saints (38) and Dolphins (53) have allowed a combined 91 points, which is fewer than four teams have given up all by themselves. You know Rob Ryan , the Saints’ defensive coordinator. But — and don’t cheat — can you name the Dolphins’ DC? It’s Kevin Coyle , who has these boys flying around. One worry, though: Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake ’s knee is a balky, and he could well miss this game. 2. Naturally, the second-most important game of the weekend is Chicago Bears-Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Both teams passed big tests in Week 3 — Bears winning on the road in a tough place in Pittsburgh, and Lions winning where they never have before (in Washington/Maryland), and without Reggie Bush . His status will be closely watched all week. But we must mention that one reason these teams are atop the NFC North is because of the offensive lines. The Bears and Lions have given up the fewest sacks in the NFL to date. Go figure. [Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football: Don't wait, sign up today! ] 3. The Seattle Seahawks are making a case for being the most impressive team in football, and the Houston Texans are a confounding 2-1, hitting a crossroads following a throttling at the hands of the Ravens. The biggest question for the Texans is likely with Matt Schaub . Can he step up? Against this defense? At least the game is in Houston. They can make a big statement by beating the Seahawks. Or they'll be subject to more questioning if they lose. These are the two stingiest defenses in terms of yards allowed. We might be looking at 17-13, or the like, here.
(Reuters) - It may have only been the first week of the National Football League season but that is all that was needed for Super Bowl contenders to reveal themselves while other hopefuls got off to a rocky start. The Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints confirmed their championship ambitions with impressive wins while the New England Patriots and Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens had worrying flaws exposed. ...
Sept 9 (Reuters) - It may have only been the first week of the National Football League season but that is all that was needed for Super Bowl contenders to reveal themselves while other hopefuls got off to a rocky start. The Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints confirmed their championship ambitions with impressive wins while the New England Patriots and Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens had worrying flaws exposed. ...
By Steve Keating (Reuters) - With no lockouts, no replacement referees no 'Bountygate' and no concussion lawsuit to worry about the spotlight will be back on the field when the National Football League (NFL) season kicks off on Thursday. After a pay-for-pain scandal involving the New Orleans Saints and two labor disputes - one between owners and players and another between the league and referees - blotted the start of the last two seasons, the 2013 campaign is set for a smooth launch with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens visiting the Denver Broncos. ...
By Steve Keating Sept 2 (Reuters) - With no lockouts, no replacement referees no 'Bountygate' and no concussion lawsuit to worry about the spotlight will be back on the field when the National Football League (NFL) season kicks off on Thursday. After a pay-for-pain scandal involving the New Orleans Saints and two labor disputes - one between owners and players and another between the league and referees - blotted the start of the last two seasons, the 2013 campaign is set for a smooth launch with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens visiting the Denver Broncos. ...
The New York Giants and restricted free agent wide receiver Victor Cruz have agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension worth $43 million, reports Jay Glazer of FOXSports.com. According to Glazer, the extension is "on top" of the one-year, $2.879 million restricted free agent tender that Cruz officially signed with the Giants in mid-June. If that is the case, the six-year total for Cruz would be worth $45.879 million, a $7.647 million per year average that places him just above recent wide receiver extensions signed by Marques Colston of the New Orleans Saints ($7.26 million) and Stevie Johnson of the Buffalo Bills ($7.25 million), but is well below the $11 million per season that Cruz was reportedly seeking earlier this offseason. Glazer adds that Cruz will receive $15.6 million in guaranteed money early in the deal. Cruz signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Massachusetts in 2010 and played well in his first preseason, leading the Giants with 15 receptions for 297 yards and four touchdowns. A hamstring injury would force Cruz to the injured reserve list for most of his rookie season. Over the course of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, however, Cruz has 168 receptions for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns, earning second-team All-Pro honors in 2011 and Pro Bowl honors following the 2012 season. The Giants placed a "First Round" restricted free agent tender on Cruz, who skipped the team's offseason program, including a mandatory minicamp, before signing his tender on June 14. Had Cruz not signed that tender by June 17, the Giants would have had the option to replace the $2.879 million tender with a "reduced" tender worth $630,000, the minimum base salary for a player with three accrued seasons.
May 10 (The Sports Xchange) - New York Jets' head coach Rex Ryan liked what he saw from rookie quarterback and second-round pick Geno Smith, which was more than he could say for his 2012 first-round pick, Quentin Coples. Ryan's assessment of Smith's first practice: "He can really spin it," Ryan said of Smith's tight spirals to open the Jets' minicamp Friday. Smith was projected as a first-round pick but was bypassed by every team but the New Orleans Saints before the Jets used their third pick in the 2013 draft to add Smith to a depth chart that includes five quarterbacks. ...
Monday is April 15, which is Tax Day in the United States, Patriot's Day in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the day that 21 of the 32 teams in the National Football League begin their offseason workout programs. Along with the eight teams that hired a new head coach this offseason, who began their programs on April 1 or April 2, offseason programs are officially underway in 29 NFL training facilities. The three teams who have to begin their offseason program — the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans — are scheduled to do so on April 22. Teams gathering on Monday for the first time this offseason are the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Washington Redskins. These 21 teams are entering "Phase One" of the program, a two-week period that is limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only. The only coaches allowed on-field contact with the players are full- and part-time strength and conditioning coaches, and head coaches and position coaches are not even allowed to observe the workouts, which are limited to "dead ball" activities. Quarterbacks can throw to uncovered receivers and no helmets are allowed to be worn. Participation is voluntary, but attendance is usually very high as there are workout bonuses at stake. Denver Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady is not expected to report to the team's Dove Valley headquarters, reports Mike Klis of the Denver Post. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Newtork, Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd is also not expected to show . Neither absence is considered a surprise as Clady and Byrd are the two remaining unsigned franchise players. According to salary data obtained by Shutdown Corner, active NFL contracts contain over $46 million in workout bonuses, including 192 players scheduled to earn at least $100,000 by satisfactorily participating in a high percentage of his team's offseason program.
New York Giants defensive tackle Shaun Rogers had nearly half a million dollars in jewelry stolen from him during an apparent burglary in his room at the Fountainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida this weekend, CBSMiami reports. According to the report, Rogers and some friends left the hotel room to hit the clubs and before returning to the hotel with a woman at 7 a.m. Rogers placed the jewelry in the hotel safe but, when he awoke at 12:30 p.m., both the jewelry and the woman were gone. Among the missing items were diamond earrings worth $100,000; two wristwatches worth a combined $160,000; a gold necklace with gold pendant worth $50,000; gold bracelets worth $60,000; and a diamond Cuban necklace with a gold pendant worth $70,000. Rogers entered the NFL with the Detroit Lions, who selected the former Texas standout with the 61st overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft. Rogers went to three Pro Bowls earlier in his career and was among the league's highest-paid defensive tackles, earning over $27 million from the Cleveland Browns (2008-10) and New Orleans Saints (2011) before signing for the league minimum with the Giants in 2012. [Also: NFL draft prospect dabbles in basketball before finding 'natural' fit ]
Cincinnati Bengals rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict earned an NFL-high $299,465 in the NFL's performance-based pay program, a source with knowledge of the payout distribution confirmed to "Shutdown Corner" on Wednesday. Off-field issues at Arizona State dropped Burfict out of the 2012 NFL Draft and the Bengals were able to sign him to a three-year undrafted rookie contract that included a signing bonus of $1,000 for a first-year cap number of $390,333. Burfict had a team-high 127 tackles while playing in 82.96 percent of the team's defensive snaps, which set him to do very well in a poorly-named program that rewards players with high playing-time percentages and low cap numbers. Here's a look at the Top 10 payouts from 2012: 1. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Cincinnati Bengals - $299,465 2. Dallas Reynolds, OL, Philadelphia Eagles -$294,844 3. Brian De La Puente, OC, New Orleans Saints - $289,373 4. Bobby Massie, OT, Arizona Cardinals - $283,776 5. J'Marcus Webb, OT, Chicago Bears - $275,360 6. Sam Acho, LB, Arizona Cardinals - $273,785 7. Bruce Miller, FB, San Francisco 49ers - $273,476 8. Max Starks, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers - $272,590 9. Robert McClain, CB, Atlanta Falcons - $269,505 10. Austin Howard, OT, New York Jets - $259,645 Each team had $3.46 million to divide among their players, though four teams (Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints and New York Jets) had reduced amounts due to excess payouts in 2009, the previous year this program was in place.

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