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Falcons linebackers Worrilow, Bartu embrace roles (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:50:05 PDT)
Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith has put a strong emphasis since the start of training camp on improving the team's run defense. Smith sees incremental improvement, but stops well short of saying the Falcons have cured the ills that made them the NFL's second-worst unit against the run last season. For Atlanta to succeed, Smith and his staff are putting major responsibility on second-year inside linebackers Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu, a pair of undrafted college free agents last year who emerged as starters and finished as the leading and third-leading tacklers. ''This is a huge opportunity for me,'' Worrilow said Wednesday.

Cowboys, Patriots top Forbes NFL franchise value list; Bills, Rams on bottom (Shutdown Corner)
(Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:08:58 PDT)
Want to buy an NFL franchise? Better liquidate grandma's AT&T stock. Forbes has come out with its annual list of the NFL's most valuable franchises , and there are some familiar names at the top. The Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots top the list, coming in well above the exorbitant $2 billion that the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers were recently sold for. [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football! ] The Cowboys, which Forbes estimates will generate a combined $8.6 million in revenue for the team over the next five years with its massive JerryWorld stadium and fans the world over, are tops at a whopping $3.2 billion. The Patriots check in at a still-impressive $2.6 billion — not bad for a franchise Robert Kraft bought back in 1994 for a measley $172 million. The average franchise now is valued at $1.43 billion, the highest figure in the past 17 years that Forbes started tracking NFL team finances. That average took a massive boost of 23 percent from one year ago, which was the biggest one-year increase percentage since 1999. With reports out that the for-sale Buffalo Bills are garnering offers well north of $1 billion, it might surprise you to find out that they came in 31st of the 32 teams at a value of $935 million. But if that same trend of value increase continues, the Bills' new owner likely can feel better about their purchase in the golden-egg-laying NFL. Bringing up the rear on the list: the St. Louis Rams, whose stadium issues loom as a concern, at $930 million. Oft mentioned as a possible Los Angeles candidate should Rams owner Stan Kroenke seek to move the team folliowing the expiration of the Edward Jones Dome, that value could skyrocket with the right stadium situation and league support — i.e. hosting a Super Bowl down the road. Here's the list in its entirety: Forbes rank NFL franchise Estimated value 1 Dallas Cowboys $3.2 billion 2 New England Patriots $2.6 billion 3 Washington Redskins $2.4 billion 4 New York Giants $2.1 billion 5 Houston Texans $1.85 billion 6 New York Jets $1.8 billion 7 Philadelphia Eagles $1.75 billion 8 Chicago Bears $1.7 billion 9 San Francisco 49ers $1.6 billion 10 Baltimore Ravens $1.5 billion 11 Denver Broncos $1.45 billion 12 Indianapolis Colts $1.4 billion 13 Green Bay Packers $1.38 billion 14 Pittsburgh Steelers $1.35 billion 15 Seattle Seahawks $1.33 billion 16 Miami Dolphins $1.3 billion 17 Carolina Panthers $1.25 billion 18 Tampa Bay Buccaneers $1.23 billion 19 Tennessee Titans $1.16 billion 20 Minnesota Vikings $1.15 billion 21 Atlanta Falcons $1.13 billion 22 Cleveland Browns $1.12 billion 23 New Orleans Saints $1.11 billion 24 Kansas City Chiefs $1.1 billion 25 Arizona Cardinals $1 billion 26 San Diego Chargers $995 million 27 Cincinnati Bengals $990 million 28 Oakland Raiders $970 million 29 Jacksonville Jaguars $965 million 30 Detroit Lions $960 million 31 Buffalo Bills $935 million 32 St. Louis Rams $930 million     - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Broncos again class of AFC West (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:25:32 PDT)
As good as any division a year ago, the AFC West is about to get tested.

Panthers look to make history, repeat in NFC South (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 20 Aug 2014 09:39:13 PDT)
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers will need to rewrite history if they hope to repeat as NFC South champions this season. No team has won back-to-back NFC South division titles since the league realigned in 2002. The Panthers are in a division stacked with formidable foes - not to mention tremendously talented quarterbacks - in Atlanta and New Orleans. The Saints and Falcons have grabbed headlines with their offseason upgrades, while the salary cap-strapped Panthers have released star wide receiver Steve Smith, saw veteran left tackle Jordan Gross retire, and lost a handful of key free agents.

Age no opponent for some of NFL's veteran stars (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 20 Aug 2014 06:03:03 PDT)
NEW YORK (AP) -- There's something stunning happening on Michael Vick's head.

Team Report - HOUSTON TEXANS (The SportsXchange)
(Tue, 19 Aug 2014 18:55:24 PDT)
Fitzpatrick shows improvement from first preseason week

Peyton Manning: 'Our offense stunk today' (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:54:30 PDT)
Peyton Manning was disgusted with the Denver Broncos offense after the first of three practices with the Houston Texans. ''I thought our offense stunk today,'' Manning said after Tuesday's two-hour practice in shells and shorts. ''I don't feel like we had our best day as a group, especially on the offensive side of the ball,'' Demaryius Thomas said.

Falcons' Peters relieved to be back in practice (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 19 Aug 2014 15:10:04 PDT)
Corey Peters battled doubts about his future in the NFL after he tore his Achilles tendon late last season. Eight months later, the Falcons' defensive tackle is back on the practice fields and the doubts are gone. Peters said Tuesday he's expecting to play when Atlanta opens its regular season on Sept. 7 against New Orleans. ''I think that always creeps in,'' Peters said of the doubts.

National Football League roundup
(Mon, 18 Aug 2014 20:42:41 PDT)
(The Sports Xchange) - Atlanta Falcons rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews officially moved from the right side to the left on Monday. The switch was expected after veteran Sam Baker went down with a season-ending knee injury in Saturday's preseason game against the Houston Texans. Matthews, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, played left tackle for one year at Texas A&M after being on the right side. Lamar Holmes took over for Matthews at right tackle during Monday's practice in Flowery Branch, Ga. - - - Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer confirmed, as expected, that quarterback Matt Cassel will make his third straight preseason start Saturday at Kansas City.

Bears sign KR/PR Reynaud (The SportsXchange)
(Mon, 18 Aug 2014 19:10:57 PDT)
One day after terminating the contract of wide receiver/return man Eric Weems, the Chicago Bears signed kick returner/punt returner Darius Reynaud on Monday, the team announced.

Team Report - CHICAGO BEARS (The SportsXchange)
(Mon, 18 Aug 2014 18:14:17 PDT)
Inside Slant

Team Report - ATLANTA FALCONS (The SportsXchange)
(Mon, 18 Aug 2014 18:14:17 PDT)
Jake Matthews era at LT to start now

NFL roundup: Falcons slide Matthews to LT (The SportsXchange)
(Mon, 18 Aug 2014 16:24:40 PDT)
Atlanta Falcons rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews officially moved from the right side to the left on Monday. The switch was expected after veteran Sam Baker went down with a season-ending knee injury in Saturday's preseason game against the Houston Texans. The loss of Baker thrust Matthews, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, into a key position on the line before his first snap in an NFL regular-season game. Matthews played left tackle for one year at Texas A&M after being on the right side.

Falcons shift Matthews to left tackle for Baker (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 18 Aug 2014 15:35:00 PDT)
When the Atlanta Falcons drafted Jake Matthews, they figured he would take over at left tackle someday. Midway through his first NFL preseason, the Falcons shifted Matthews across the line on Monday to replace Sam Baker, who went down with a season-ending knee injury. Matthews, the No. 6 overall pick, was expected to break into the league at right tackle, a less-demanding position than protecting quarterback Matt Ryan's blind side. ''I think the coaches are going to put me in good situations,'' Matthews said.

Falcons slide Matthews to left tackle (The SportsXchange)
(Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:02:37 PDT)
Atlanta Falcons rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews officially moved from the right side to the left on Monday. The switch was expected after veteran Sam Baker went down with a season-ending knee injury in Saturday's preseason game against the Houston Texans. The loss of Baker thrust Matthews, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, into a key position on the line before his first snap in an NFL regular-season game. "(He) has left tackle written all over him," Falcons coach Mike Smith said.

Cassel slated to start Vikings' third preseason game ahead of Bridgewater (Shutdown Corner)
(Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:48:26 PDT)
Teddy Bridgewater might be the people's quarterback up in Minnesota, but Matt Cassel appears to be the coaches' choice. Cassel will start the all-important third preseason game, the one most commonly used as a tune-up for the regular-season starters. The Vikings face Cassel's former team, the Kansas City Chiefs, on Saturday. Bridgewater has played well so far in the preseason — more so in the second game than in the first — but Cassel overall has been better, completing 17 of 22 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown though two exhibition contests. [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football! ] Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, who announced the quarterback pecking order on Monday, said that Bridgewater could get reps with the starting offense. But it appears that the first-year head coach and offensive coordinator Norv Turner are more comfortable going forward to start the regular season with Cassel at the helm. It's a good situation the Vikings find themselves in, with both quarterbacks doing good work, which means they haven't felt backed into a decision. The Vikings have a tough opening five-game slate — at the St. Louis Rams, vs. New England Patriots, at New Orleans Saints, vs. Atlanta Falcons and at Green Bay Packers — before things calm down. If Cassel struggles through that stretch (assuming he's named the starter) or the Vikings need a spark, they could turn to Bridgewater then. Coming on late in the third quarter of the second preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, Bridgewater actually put up bigger numbers than Cassel, completing 16 of 20 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns, but against lesser defenders. With the home crowd chanting his name, Bridgewater led scoring drives in three of his four possessions and hit on a game-winning touchdown pass to Rodney Smith with 22 seconds left.  In two games, none of the Vikings' quarterbacks — including forgotten No. 3 QB Christian Ponder — have turned the ball over. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

With Sam Baker out, Atlanta Falcons turn to Jake Matthews at left tackle (Shutdown Corner)
(Mon, 18 Aug 2014 04:57:33 PDT)
The Atlanta Falcons had a plan to play first-round pick Jake Matthews at right tackle for a year or two before moving him to left tackle in the future.  Best-laid plans, and all that. With the sobering news that the Falcons have lost left tackle Sam Baker for the season to a torn patellar tendon in his right knee on Saturday night against the Houston Texans, it means that Matthews will move to the left side a lot earlier than expected. "I'll do it," Matthews told ESPN.com of the move , prior to learning about Baker's status. "That's what they drafted me for: to come here and play wherever. And something I take a lot of pride in is my versatility and being able to play on either side. If they ask me to move over, I'll be happy to do it." [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football! ] How crushing is this? Well, the Falcons shouldn't be too concerned with Matthews — he played left tackle at Texas A&M and was one of the cleanest prospects coming out in the draft — but rather with who will man the right side. The most likely candidate is former third-round pick Lamar Holmes, who started 15 games a year ago, although those were mainly out of necessity. Holmes largely struggled, especially as a pass blocker. Although he possesses the mass and physical skills to man the position, Holmes hasn't put it all together yet. Other names to watch include former first-round pick Gabe Carimi and Ryan Schraeder. Carimi was considered a reclamation project for new offensive line coach Mike Tice. He came in and impressed the coaching staff immediately before spraining an ankle. Carimi, who never panned out with the Chicago Bears, remains sidelined with the injury, and his status is unknown. Schraeder is another option in case Holmes struggles. Matthews will have a tough Week 1 assignment: New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who had 16.5 sacks in a breakout season in 2013. Baker missed most of last season with a torn ACL and could be a cap-casualty candidate after this season. He signed a six-year, $41.1 million deal last year, and his cap hits for the next five seasons are for more than $6 million. The Falcons had a mandate to get tougher and more talented in the trenches this offseason. Now that is being tested right away. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Texans' Fitzpatrick rebounds from poor first game (The SportsXchange)
(Sun, 17 Aug 2014 17:31:56 PDT)
Houston Texans fans were able to ease back from the ledge after a 32-7 victory over Atlanta -- a metamorphosis from the 32-0 debacle the week before at Arizona. Everyone got to witness what they needed the most -- a vastly improved performance by the quarterbacks, particularly starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. As far as coach Bill O'Brien and quarterbacks coach George Godsey are concerned, one of Fitzpatrick's strengths is his capacity to not get high or low, no matter how bad or good he performs. When fans and media panicked after he posted a 14.6 rating at Arizona, where he threw two interceptions in the first half, Fitzpatrick said all the right things about needing to get better, pulling out all the cliches he has learned as a 10-year veteran.

NFL roundup: Falcons LT Baker out for season (The SportsXchange)
(Sun, 17 Aug 2014 17:00:19 PDT)
Atlanta Falcons left tackle Sam Baker will miss the 2014 season after leaving Saturday night's preseason game against the Houston Texans with a torn patella tendon in his right knee. "Following his injury in the game, Sam underwent a number of tests and it was determined that he had suffered a torn patellar tendon and will miss the rest of the season," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said in a statement Sunday. Baker's injury is a big setback for the Falcons' offensive line. It could also hasten the move of No. 6 overall pick Jake Matthews to left tackle.

Jake Matthews era as Falcons LT starts now (The SportsXchange)
(Sun, 17 Aug 2014 16:50:12 PDT)
Since the day they drafted Jake Matthews, the Atlanta Falcons started planning the details of his future. After a couple of days of OTAs, Matthews was working with the first-team offense. Now, with a season-ending injury to Sam Baker, the Falcons appear set to move the rookie over to left tackle. "We'd have a number of options," Falcons coach Mike Smith said.

Falcons LT Sam Baker out for the year with injury (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 17 Aug 2014 15:46:43 PDT)
The Atlanta Falcons' revamped offensive line took a major setback Sunday when left tackle Sam Baker was ruled out for the year after injuring his right knee in a preseason game. The Falcons said the injury plagued Baker sustained a torn patellar tendon in a 32-7 loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday night. First-round pick Jake Matthews could move from right to left tackle to replace Baker, but the injury is a huge blow to Atlanta's efforts to bolster a line that was one of the league's worst a year ago. The Falcons ranked last in the league in yards rushing and quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked a career-high 44 times, in addition to being pressured 203 times, most in the NFL.

O'Brien impressed by Texans rookies (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 17 Aug 2014 14:19:21 PDT)
Texans coach Bill O'Brien is in no hurry to rush his starters back for preseason games. J.J. Watt, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and Brian Cushing were among the Houston starters who did not play. O'Brien will decide later in the week how much time, if any, each regular will see Saturday night in Denver. The Texans will practice with the Broncos starting Tuesday, and O'Brien said those workouts could provide all the snaps the starters need.

Falcons LT Baker out for season (The SportsXchange)
(Sun, 17 Aug 2014 11:09:39 PDT)
Atlanta Falcons left tackle Sam Baker will miss the 2014 season after leaving Saturday night's preseason game against the Houston Texans with a torn patella tendon in his right knee. "Following his injury in the game, Sam underwent a number of tests and it was determined that he had suffered a torn patellar tendon and will miss the rest of the season," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said in a statement Sunday. Baker's injury is a big setback for the Falcons' offensive line. It could also hasten the move of No. 6 overall pick Jake Matthews to left tackle.

Clowney makes impact in Texans' 32-7 win (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 16 Aug 2014 21:59:57 PDT)
Jadeveon Clowney is already showing how dominant he can be in the NFL. The top overall pick in the draft made big hits behind the line on consecutive plays and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a touchdown pass to DeVier Posey in the Texans' 32-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday night. Houston selected Clowney out of South Carolina to form a powerful 1-2 pass-rushing attack with J.J. Watt. Watt sat out Saturday's game and Clowney seized the defensive spotlight on Atlanta's second series.

Game roundup: Steelers edge Bills (The SportsXchange)
(Sat, 16 Aug 2014 21:11:31 PDT)
PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger threw two first-quarter touchdown passes and Shaun Suisham kicked a 20-yard field goal as time expired Saturday night, lifting the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 19-16 preseason victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Atlanta's Sam Baker leaves with right knee injury (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 16 Aug 2014 18:13:44 PDT)
Atlanta left tackle Sam Baker has left Saturday night's game against the Houston Texans with a right knee injury. Houston offensive linemen Chris Myers and Duane Brown walked over and shook his hand as he was being carted off the field.

Jadeveon Clowney dominates the Atlanta Falcons on two straight plays (Shutdown Corner)
(Sat, 16 Aug 2014 18:10:35 PDT)
Just imagine what Jadeveon Clowney could do if he gave full effort. The oft-nitpicked No. 1 overall draft pick is off to a pretty strong start for the Houston Texans, and he had a pretty brilliant two straight plays against the Atlanta Falcons. [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports:  Sign up and play free Fantasy Football! ] In the Texans' second defensive series, Clowney absolutely blew up running back Antone Smith on a 2nd and 4 run and made a pop of a hit that was remeniscent of Clowney's bowl game hit against Michigan two years ago.  Then on the next play, Clowney sacked Matt Ryan for a seven-yard loss. Clowney had a short performance, coming out of the game fairly early, but it was memorable. Let's just say that his effort was not a problem on the first few series of the game. They were the only two tackles Clowney made in the 32-7 Texans victory, but they were impact plays and tone-setters. And it was just a brief glimpse, in a two-play span, of just how dominant he can be. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Finding Holliday's replacement proves difficult (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 16 Aug 2014 13:04:44 PDT)
For the past two years, one of the biggest questions facing the Denver Broncos was whether Trindon Holliday was going to return a kick to the end zone or turn it over. The Broncos got tired of watching him fumble and so in the offseason they parted ways with the fleet-footed return man who was equal parts electric and enigmatic with six TD returns and nine fumbles during his time in Denver. While a hamstring injury has sidelined Holliday with his new team, the New York Giants, the Broncos wrapped up training camp still looking for his replacement on kick and punt returns. Their fallback plan is Wes Welker on punts and Emmanuel Sanders on kickoffs, although neither option is preferable given Welker's concussion history and Sanders' role as a starter with big plans in Peyton Manning's offense.

Bears sign WR Holmes (The SportsXchange)
(Sat, 16 Aug 2014 10:30:17 PDT)
The Chicago Bears, in need of a No. 3 wide receiver with Marquess Wilson out due to a fractured clavicle, signed veteran Santonio Holmes on Saturday, the team announced. Chicago terminated the contract of vested veteran wide receiver Eric Weems. The Bears have a starring duo with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but they were unable to find a replacement for the injured Wilson within their roster. The Bears also have Josh Morgan, and they signed Greg Herd after Holmes worked out for the team earlier this month.

Falcons' Umenyiora will be a DPR this season (The SportsXchange)
(Fri, 15 Aug 2014 19:21:25 PDT)
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora is embracing change. For the first time in his illustrious career, Umenyiora is getting ready for a specialty role -- a position called "DPR," which is short for designated pass rusher.

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