Mack making impact for Raiders even without sacks

Khalil Mack has done just about everything the Oakland Raiders have asked of him his rookie season
He has solidified the run defense with his ability to fight off blocks and get into the backfield, pressured quarterbacks consistently as a pass rusher and forced offenses to alter their game plans.

The only thing lacking so far from Mack is something he was supposed to get frequently: a quarterback sack. Through seven games, Mack is still seeking his first sack despite being compared to pass rushing specialist Von Miller when he was drafted fifth overall in May.

”It’s something that’s kind of sitting on my mind,” Mack said. ”All my teammates talk about it. It will come soon enough but even then I’m working hard to get there.”

Mack has come awfully close, especially in recent weeks. He has been credited with 15 quarterback hurries and hits the past three games, according to Pro Football Focus, and his 22 pressures for the season are the most for any player without a sack.

The consistent pressure is bound to lead to sacks soon enough.

”They will come,” defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. ”Keep pressuring the heck out of them, making sure everybody knows who you are and where is 52 and that stuff Sen’Derrick Marks Black Jersey will happen. As long as he’s around the ball, we’re happy.”

While Mack has lacked sacks, he has not lacked praise. Opposing quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Brian Hoyer singled him out after the past two games for his stellar play.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson called him a spectacular player who was playing like the defensive rookie of the year heading into Sunday’s game against the Seahawks.

”He jumps off the film,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ”Every one of our coaches, when they break up and start looking at the Raiders and taking seriously what they’re doing well, everybody comes back talking about him. He’s almost unblockable and he’s got a great motor. He’s fast, he’s tough, he’s instinctive. We think he’s an obvious factor.”

Mack played down the wide-spread praise he has received in recent weeks, saying it means nothing until the Raiders (0-7) have more success on the field.

”It’s gratifying in a personal aspect but you want to go out and win the game,” he said. ”It can mean something once you stamp a win. But we’re still working on that win. All you see out there is hunger for a win.”

Mack has been dominant against the run, where he is the biggest reason for a dramatic turnaround in recent weeks by the Raiders. Oakland has allowed just 2.9 yards per carry in October, second to Denver for the NFL lead.

Mack is tied with Tampa Bay’s Lavonte David for the NFL lead with 8 1/2 tackles behind the line of scrimmage against the run, including 5 1/2 the past two weeks.

”He’s going to be measured in whether or not he sacks the quarterback, but I would just say that it’s been a long time since I’ve seen somebody do that in the run game,” interim coach Tony Sparano said. ”What he did in the run game to an opponent, this guy Khalil has just really dominated.”

NOTES: CB Carlos Rogers (knee) did not practice for a second straight day with a knee injury and his status is unknown for Sunday. … TE David Ausberry (foot), CB Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring), CB Keith McGill (groin), WR Vincent Brown (hamstring) and WR Kenbrell Thompkins (personal issues) also did not practice.

Ravens wary of Roethlisberger vs Steelers

The Baltimore Ravens won’t drastically alter their game plan Lavelle Hawkins Jersey Sunday night just because Ben Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and six touchdowns last week.
Harassing and containing Roethlisberger would have been a priority regardless of how the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback fared in a 51-34 rout of Indianapolis.

”We knew before they even played that game that we were going to have to be on point in the secondary,” Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb said Wednesday.

Then, referring to Roethlisberger by his jersey number, Webb added, ”It’s always been: Stop 7. If we can stop 7, we can win the game.”

That’s what the Ravens did in a 26-6 victory over Pittsburgh last month. Roethlisberger was sacked twice, threw an interception and had only 217 yards passing in the lopsided defeat.

”It’s how you execute,” Baltimore safety Matt Elam said. ”We executed well in that first game, and that’s how we held them to no touchdowns.”
In the rematch, the Ravens (5-3) will be without cornerback Jimmy Smith, who sprained his left foot Sunday in a 27-24 loss to Cincinnati.

”Somebody’s got to step up. That’s how we do it around here,” Webb said. ”If one man goes down, the next man has be up and ready to play. We have the talent in the room.”

Dominque Franks and Chykie Brown will see extended time in place of Smith, whose run of 24 straight starts will end.

”We’ve got some great corners that can come in and do things while Jimmy’s out,” Elam said. ”He might not be Jimmy Smith, the great player that he is, but we’ve got guys who can come in and compete.”

The key to stopping Roethlisberger transcends merely blanketing his receivers. Some quarterbacks use their agility and quickness to elude oncoming linemen; Big Ben uses his 6-foot-5, 241-pound frame to keep his footing after being hit.
”Every quarterback is unique, and Ben is very unique,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ”He’s big, very strong, hard to bring down. Nobody does the extended play thing better than Ben. They built their offense around that for years.”

That makes linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, as well as everyone on the line, just as important to the pass defense as Elam and Webb.

”It’s going to be all 11 guys, especially with Ben because he’s great at making plays when the pocket breaks down,” Ravens rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley said.

Webb said, ”You’ve got to put pressure on him, and you’ve got to tackle him when you get the chance. He can break any tackle.”

Roethlisberger, meanwhile, hopes his performance last week might be the start of something big for Pittsburgh’s passing game.
”Well, I hope so,” he said. ”There are things that we can take and learn from. We know there’s going to be challenges this week with a great defense coming in here in Baltimore and the rivalry and prime time. It’s not going to be easy. I’ve said I don’t care what our stats are as long as at the end of the game we have more points than them.”

Against the Colts, Roethlisberger completed 40 of 49 passes and connected with nine different receivers. His philosophy appears to be, if you can get open, I’ll get you the ball.

”I’m working with all the guys and making sure that we all know what page to be on and where each guy needs to be,” Roethlisberger said. ”You have to be comfortable with each guy because you never know when you’re going to have to use them.”

His main target last week, Antonio Brown, believes Roethlisberger is poised for an encore Jared Cook Nike Jerseys to his stellar outing against the Colts.

”He’s working at it,” Brown said. ”He’s preparing like a champion.”

Sexton has been in the jersey

Because little Curry Sexton always Rod Streater Womens Jersey knew all the Kansas State players. Knew their jersey numbers. Knew their stats.

“He knew everything about the game,” said his father, Ted Sexton, who began taking his son to K-State games as a child. “Always soaked it all in.” Once the smartest kid in Section 14, Curry Sexton is now the smartest player on the Bill Snyder Family Stadium field. At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, the senior isn’t the biggest. And with a time of 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash, he certainly isn’t the fastest. But driven by his intelligence and knack for getting open at opportune moments, Sexton has filled a major role at slot receiver for the Wildcats, who remain in the thick of the Big 12 title and College Football Playoff races.

“His best asset is his knowledge,” said Tyler Lockett, Sexton’s cohort at receiver. “He knows how to get open, and every time we call on him to make a big play, he makes it.”
With 40 receptions and 450 receiving yards, Sexton has surfaced as a much-needed secondary receiving target alongside Lockett for quarterback Jake Waters, who is Sexton’s roommate. Thanks in part to Sexton’s emergence, K-State ranks 23rd nationally in scoring, despite playing at a slower pace than most Big 12 offenses.

“I’m not flashy. I’m not big. Nothing about me really sticks out,” Sexton said. “But I pride myself on being reliable and being in the right place.”

Sexton has been in the right place all season. But before that, he had to decide if K-State was the right place for him.

Sexton grew up on a wheat, soybean and alfalfa farm in Abilene, Kansas, a 45-minute drive from Manhattan. His capacity for football knowledge at an Jeff King Womens Jersey early age wowed everyone, including John Dorsey, his uncle who is the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. When Sexton was 10, Dorsey was at the Sexton farm helping with the annual harvest and casually mentioned a Florida State player he was considering drafting.

“Curry immediately rattled off all his statistics, and John was like, ‘My gosh, Curry knows more about this kid than I do, and this is my job,’” Ted Sexton recalled.

That acumen didn’t stop with football. Curry excelled in the classroom as well. His grades, combined with his savvy on the field, drew the interest of the Ivy League.

The boy from Abilene was accepted into Harvard, Columbia and Princeton, which all offered the chance to play football, too.
“We were kind of sold on Harvard,” Ted said. “They were telling him, ‘Curry, come here, get your degree from here and you can go anywhere in the world — and you won’t have to ask how much they’re paying, you’ll tell them what you’re going to make.’”

But a Harvard education wasn’t really what Sexton coveted. He wanted to be a coach, or possibly even follow in his uncle’s footsteps with scouting or football personnel.

On New Year’s Eve of his senior year, his dream school finally called. Bill Snyder offered Sexton a scholarship, with the caveat he’d have to grayshirt, meaning he’d have to wait a year before he could enroll and join the K-State football team.
“I felt like coming to K-State would be a better learning experience if I wanted to go into coaching,” Sexton said. “I didn’t feel like Harvard would have benefited me as much as learning from this staff.”

Rams make multiple moves to fill holes

The often-invoked cliche ”next man up” is really getting put to the test for the sliding, injury-plagued St. Louis Rams.
They have so many holes to fill that safety Mark Barron, acquired from Tampa Bay on Tuesday, could play this week at San Francisco.

”I wouldn’t rule it out whatsoever,” coach Jeff Fisher said Wednesday after a walkthrough to allow bodies to heal instead of the standard practice. ”We’ll see how quickly things go this week.”

The Rams (2-5) are coming off a dispiriting 34-7 loss to the Chiefs, with six players sidelined during the game. Moving forward, Fisher said he wouldn’t be using injuries as an excuse.

”We’re going to bounce back this week,” the coach said. We’ll have some people come back as the week goes on.”

So far, Barron said it’s ”been a whirlwind, most definitely,” and was unaware he’d been on the trading block at Tampa Bay.

”I had no idea that any of it was going on,” Barron said. ”But I am excited about the situation.”
Barron entered the field midway through the one-hour walkthrough, which was followed by a private session on the indoor field. Fisher said there are 13 players on the injury report, an estimated list given everything was slowed down, and he’s trying to conserve bodies.

”I felt like we needed to back down,” Fisher said. ”Our focus is having them ready on Sunday.”

Fisher said it was a bit of a surprise Ziggy Hood Medium Jersey that Barron, a first-round pick in 2012, was available. He didn’t say how Barron would be used right away.

”Whatever the reasons are down there, we had an opportunity to take advantage of getting a good player,” Fisher said. ”I spoke with him last night after we put the deal together and obviously he was surprised and shocked, but excited about a new start.”

The Rams are more aggressive defensively than Tampa Bay, and said sitting back in Cover 2 ”honestly didn’t play to my strengths.”

”Yeah, it is passive,” Barron said. ”A lot of times I had to sit back and not be as aggressive as I wanted to in that system. I feel like I’m an athletic guy, I can do whatever I’m asked to do.”
Both Rams safeties, T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod, are healthy.

”Whenever and wherever he plays, I can’t answer that right now,” Fisher said. ”But we got a good player.”

The Rams have plenty of questions on offense, too.

”We’ll see who recovers and who doesn’t,” quarterback Austin Davis said. ”We’ll be ready to go by Sunday. We don’t have to be ready today.”

Quarterback Case Keenum, released a day earlier, was re-signed to the practice squad.

”Just took the day off,” Keenum said, joking.

They added depth at wide receiver by signing Damian Williams and elevated linebacker Korey Toomer and offensive lineman Brandon Washington to the active roster. Wide receiver Emory Blake, tight end Justice Cunningham and offensive linemen Travis Bond and Steven Baker were signed to the practice squad.

”That’s the business, and you’ve got to learn to adapt to it,” Toomer said.

Offensive tackle Jake Long (knee) and wide receiver Brian Quick (shoulder) were placed on injured reserve.

Rookie quarterback Garrett Gilbert was released from the practice squad and the Panthers signed tackle Mike Remmers off St. Louis’ practice squad. Cornerback Jemea Thomas was released.

Two other offensive linemen, center Scott Wells and guard Rodger Saffold, were injured in the Chiefs loss. Washington has been with the team much of the last two seasons and appeared in one game last year.

Meet us back here every jersey

The San Antonio Spurs, in the words Zach Miller Youth Jersey of coach Gregg Popovich, didn’t “look very interested” during their month-long preparations for Tuesday night’s launch of the 2014-15 NBA season.

Yet I suspect you know the drill by now. The defending champions always grace the top spot in the first two editions of’s NBA Power Rankings, barring some sort of injury catastrophe during training camp.

The Spurs haven’t seen much of Kawhi Leonard this month thanks to a nasty eye infection, but that’s not enough to cost them their No. 1 status before a real game is played. Remember that Oklahoma City, San Antonio’s nearest rival in the West, has weathered its own slew of early injuries on top of the loss of Kevin Durant for at least a month because of a foot fracture.
Cleveland, Chicago and the Los Angeles Clippers are undoubtedly threats to take their turns at the top in the next 24 weeks, but not yet — not when the Spurs’ status as the preseason favorite in the West has been only strengthened.

Meet us back here every Monday during the regular season as we take the pulse of the teams 1 to 30, courtesy of your trusty committee (of one) by weighing what we’re seeing in the present in equal measure with each team’s big-picture outlook, along with the standard dash of subjective whim.

You can comment below on the rankings, which are compiled with the usual helpful dishing from ESPN Stats & Info and the Elias Sports Bureau. More insight into this week’s order can be found on Stein Line Live.After ending a four-game winless streak, the Devils will try to keep their away success going Tuesday night in a visit with the Penguins.
The Devils (4-2-2) are winless in three home games but improved to 4-1-0 on the road with Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win in Ottawa. Jaromir Jagr scored the winner on the power play, giving the 42-year-old former Penguins star four points in four games after going pointless in his previous three. He had two goals and an assist in four games against the Penguins a season ago.

“The scoring doesn’t show, but I feel the best I’ve felt in probably the last 10 years,” Jagr told the team’s official website. “I don’t worry about it. I try to play hard every shift. I think I have more confidence. Hopefully my luck is going to turn the right way and it did today. Even if the scoring is not there, that’s OK.”
Rookie defenseman Damon Severson had a goal and an assist, giving the 20-year-old four goals and three assists through his first eight games. All of his goals have come in road environments.Just outstanding. He’s got poise, composure. He’s a special player,” coach Peter DeBoer said.

Winning in Pittsburgh has been considerably more difficult as the Penguins have won eight of 10 at home in the series while limiting the Devils to 1.50 goals per game. They split last season’s four-game series, with the home team winning every game.
The Penguins (4-2-1) got back in the win column with Saturday’s 3-0 victory in Nashville after dropping their previous two with nine goals allowed.

Jets backup Geno Smith limited by shoulder injury

Geno Smith could go from being benched Ziggy Hood Black Jersey to being inactive for the New York Jets.
The backup quarterback, sent to the sideline in favor of Michael Vick, has a shoulder injury that makes his availability uncertain for the team’s game at Kansas City on Sunday.

Smith was limited at practice Wednesday and did not throw any passes during the session.

”Very precautionary,” said Smith, adding that his right shoulder is sore. ”I just have to take it slow.”

Smith was hurt a few plays before throwing his third interception in the first quarter against Buffalo last Sunday, but said it didn’t affect his play. He tossed interceptions on three straight possessions, making a shoulder tackle of Aaron Williams to save a touchdown on the last of them.

”I took a hit early on and kind of had a stinger,” Smith said. ”And then, that last play really hurt me.”
Smith gave way to Vick after that last interception, but it was uncertain if he could have even continued on in the game because of the injury if he hadn’t been benched.

”I would have tried,” he said. ”I always try to push through those things. I’m not sure if I would have or not.”

Both Smith and coach Rex Ryan think the quarterback should be ready to play if needed against the Chiefs, but Matt Simms – currently on the practice squad – could be elevated to the active roster if Smith can’t go.

Smith will not be the starter for the first time in his NFL career, a span of 24 regular-season games in which he has thrown 31 interceptions against 19 touchdowns and lost six fumbles. The last time he didn’t start a game was in his freshman year at West Virginia, so the backup role is not a familiar one for Smith.

”It is difficult, but at the same time I’m a professional athlete and I’ve been playing football my entire life,” Smith said. ”I’ve seen these things happen and it’s all about how you respond. I fully expect to respond well and come back from this and be stronger.”

Smith believes the organization still has faith in him to be the quarterback to lead the franchise. But he acknowledged that if Vick plays well, he could be stuck on the sideline the rest of the season.

”If he’s giving us the best chance to win games, then he should be the starter,” Smith said. ”And I’m going to fully support Mike, just the same way he did for me.”

NOTES: WR Jeremy Kerley (illness) and CB Darrin Walls (calf, knee) did not practice. RG Willie Colon (knee), LG Oday Aboushi (shoulder), LB David Harris (shoulder) and LB Trevor Reilly (knee) were all limited. … Ryan on the Jets being on pace to set an NFL record for fewest turnovers – they have three so far – in a season: ”I have been a part of a lot of record-setting defenses, but I never thought I would set one in futility. Thank goodness the year isn’t over. I bet we won’t be there. I bet we won’t break that record before the year is over, but we can’t buy one.”

Texans look to build on win over Titans

The Houston Texans picked up their first win since Sept. 28 and got back to .500 by routing the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Now they’re focused on building on the win by correcting their mistakes as they prepare for the Eagles.

”There’s a lot of things we can improve on,” Ryan Fitzpatrick said.

The quarterback had a solid game in the 30-16 win, throwing for 227 yards and a touchdown and not turning the ball over for the first time since Week 2.

He still thinks the offense needs to be more consistent and is working on accuracy and getting the ball to the right players.

Fitzpatrick was sacked five times against the Titans, which tied a season high. The offensive line believes better communication is the key to getting that number down this week, but Fitzpatrick shouldered the blame for those hits, saying he needs to be smarter and get rid of the ball quicker.
”Everybody just has to continue to look at themselves and figure out what they can do,” he said. ”I’ve got a long list of things every week that I know I can get better at.”

The Texans are 4-4 at the halfway point and are looking for a victory against Philadelphia on Sunday to enter their bye week with a winning record.

A positive through the first half of the season has been the resurgence of Arian Foster. The running back finished with just 542 yards rushing in last year’s injury-abbreviated season.

He had back surgery after playing eight games, but looks to have returned to form in 2014 and is second in the NFL with 766 yards rushing, despite missing one game with a hamstring injury.
With 151 yards on Sunday he reached more than 100 yards rushing for a career-best Brian Quick Navy Blue Jersey fourth straight game to help the Texans finish with a season-high 212 yards rushing.

He had two rushing and one receiving touchdown on Sunday, highlighted by a 34-yard scamper where he ran inside before cutting back and outrunning three defenders on his way to the end zone.

”I told him when I saw him: ‘That’s the 23 I’m used to seeing’ – making plays like that, cutting it back side,” left tackle Duane Brown said of that run.

”I had no idea where he was and next thing you know – touchdown. That’s the type of stuff we’re used to seeing from him and it’s great to see it again.”

Foster, who had three straight 1,200-yard plus rushing seasons before last year, deflected attention from himself and instead focused on the team’s performance.

”We just have to strive to be more consistent as an offense,” Foster said. ”Our defense holds it down week in and week out, so as an offense we take that to heart … we have a lot of work to do.”

It’s a defense that got another big game from defensive end J.J. Watt, who had two sacks, swatted down a pass and forced a fumble on Sunday. The unit also got a boost from the return of top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney.

The outside linebacker finished with one tackle in limited action in his first game since having arthroscopic surgery after injuring his knee in the season opener.

Coach Bill O’Brien said Clowney did a good job, but that his conditioning will need to improve as his workload increases.

”I don’t think he’s ready to play 80 plays in a game, but we’ll continue to work him in there more,” O’Brien said.

The defense was without middle linebacker Brian Cushing, who is dealing with a problem with his left knee. Cushing tore a ligament in that knee in Week 7 last year and had season-ending surgery. He hopes to return this week, but doesn’t know if he’ll be able to.

”The first four games I felt like I was progressing,” he said. ”Then there has obviously been a little bit of an issue.”

O’Brien said Cushing will be listed day to day this week and that they’ll know more about his status when they return to practice on Wednesday.

”He’s going to do everything he can to try to play on Sunday,” O’Brien said.

Patriots praise Manning’s neck surgery recovery

New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia didn’t hesitate Tuesday when asked about Peyton Manning’s Brian Quick Authentic Jersey arm strength three years after major neck surgery.
”I think Peyton Manning’s arm strength is just fine,” Patricia said on a conference call, as the Patriots began to prepare for a visit by Manning and the Denver Broncos Sunday. ”I think it’s pretty evident in his play that he makes all the throws necessary in order to score them a lot of points.”

Manning clearly had trouble throwing when he began his comeback and people have offered all kinds of opinions on him since.

”You can definitely see him push the ball downfield,” Patricia said. ”He has some extremely fast receivers and big receivers that can push the ball, push the routes vertically. Obviously (Emmanuel) Sanders – you can really see him take off downfield and the ball get down to those guys.”

Overall, the Patriots have had success against Manning in his days with both the Indianapolis Colts and Broncos.

Manning has gone 8-14 against New England – 6-12 in the regular season and 2-2 in the playoffs.

In 18 games, he has thrown 41 of his record 510 career regular season TD passes against New England, but has also had 24 of his 222 interceptions. In the postseason, he has three TDs and eight interceptions against the Patriots.

He lost his first two postseason games against New England, but has gone 59 of 90 for 629 yards in winning the last two – 32 of 43 in last season’s AFC title game. But even in those wins, Manning has thrown just two touchdown passes and three interceptions against the Belichick teams.

Manning is having another great year as the Broncos come to New England 6-1 to face the 6-2 and streak Patriots.

”He’s good because he does everything good,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. ”Really, I don’t think there are any weak points in his game. He’s very smart. He has a great understanding of concepts and timing, game management, clock management, situational football – third down, red area – great utilization of the field from sideline-to-sideline and attacking the deep part of the field, very accurate, great decision-maker, quick release.”

NOTES: The Patriots, who lost Jerod Mayo for the season to a knee injury, traded for their second linebacker in as many weeks when they picked up veteran Jonathan Casillas from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Terms were not disclosed. Last week, New England acquired Akeem Ayers from the Tennessee Titans and he debuted Sunday against the Chicago Bears, picking up a sack. New England also released offensive lineman Chris Barker.. The Patriots are bringing back 17 of the 22 players Sunday who played on all three title teams back for a 10th anniversary celebration of the last one. Two – Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri – are still active while three – Mike Vrabel (Houston Texans), Larry Izzo (New York Giants) and Adrian Klemm (UCLA) are on coaching staffs and can’t make it.

Kelvin Benjamin needs to be accountable as well as spectacular

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Luke Kuechly Authentic Jersey Kelvin Benjamin had one of those catches in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 13-9 loss to Seattle that was jaw-dropping.
There he was, all 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, going up against the best cornerback in the league in Richard Sherman and arguably the game’s best safety in Earl Thomas.
They had him sandwiched.
Sherman’s arms were draped over Benjamin’s helmet to the point visibility was limited. Thomas was grabbing at the rookie’s arms.
And Benjamin still came down with the 51-yard catch that ultimately led to a field goal.
“He’s a really good receiver,” Sherman said. “He’s huge and he has a huge catching radius. … We were in coverage and we were right on top of him. He’s going to grow and continue to evolve and do well in this league.”
Benjamin also is inconsistent. He dropped what appeared a routine touchdown catch in the back of the end zone in the first half that led to Carolina scoring only six points in three trips inside the red zone.
For every spectacular catch the former Florida State receiver makes, he occasionally lets one get away.
“He is a young guy who is learning,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. “He is not going to catch every one, though you wish he would. When he gets opportunities he is going to do the best he can to catch them.”
But inconsistency isn’t why Rivera didn’t start his rookie of the year candidate for the first time this season. He never gave a full explanation for the benching — which amounted to three plays — other than Benjamin has to show more accountability.
According to Benjamin, that is everything — from knowing the game plan, not taking off plays or simply making the routine catches.
It is clear that for Benjamin to become the special player Sherman and others believe he will be, he has to start taking care of the little things.
Rivera said the benching was done to send a message. Benjamin said the message was received.
“When I got my chance and got in, I just wanted to make my mark and get the offense going and help the team,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin led Carolina with 94 yards receiving on four catches. He was one of the few bright spots offensively on a day when the Seahawks held tight end Greg Olsen to one catch for 16 yards.
But afterwards, it was his not starting and not his spectacular play teammates were being asked about.
“Everybody is accountable on this team,” veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. “No one guy is bigger than the team. This is a grown-man business. We have to be on everything. He’s a guy that is going to make a lot of plays for us. You can’t minimize your role. You have to understand the responsibility you have to this team.
“He’s going to be OK.’”

Trustworthy folks for rest of 2014 season

At this point in their careers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have earned the trust of everyone in the NFL: coaches, players, officials, fans and executives.
As they prepare for, what, their 1,000th head-to-head meeting next Sunday, it brings up the question of who else should people trust heading into the second half of this NFL season?

And not trust.

There are several places where the comfort level should be, well, comfortable. Certainly in Denver and New England – gee, why would that be?

Once again led by their record-setting quarterbacks, both of whom are looking every bit the Hall of Famers they surely will be, the Broncos and Patriots have the inside track for a Super Bowl run. Not that Broncos coach John Fox wants to hear it.

”I would remind you that a month ago, with how much stock we put into this, it was a completely different team. A month before that, guess what? It was a completely different team,” Fox says.
”People on the outside can’t figure out even when you narrow it down to 12 who the best one is. Right now, when they are trying to pick from 32, we don’t put much thought into it.”

Barring a slew of injuries, have faith, have trust, and start putting thought into another Manning-Brady showdown for the AFC championship.

Also worth believing in around the AFC: Colts QB Andrew Luck; Texans RB Arian Foster; Baltimore’s offensive line; Buffalo’s pass rush; Kansas City LB Justin Houston; Patriots CB Darrelle Revis; and pretty much any placekicker, missed field goals being so rare these days.

It’s difficult to look at the Bills and have confidence considering their 14-season playoff drought is the league’s longest. But that defense is formidable. The team says its 28 sacks through eight games are ahead of last year’s franchise-record Mike Glennon Kids Jersey pace and second most in team history; they had 30 through eight in 1997.

”The numbers don’t lie,” safety Aaron Williams says, adding ominously, ”We can be a lot better. There’s a lot of stuff we have to work on. And we push each and every week. We hold each other to a high standard. We’re never going to be complacent about the stats. We always want to improve.”
One team that is vastly improved and gathering well-earned support is Arizona. Sure, the Cardinals went 10-6 in 2013 and only missed the playoffs because they live in the brutal NFC West.

But those Cardinals never really were considered contenders, and these Cardinals, with possibly the best coaching staff in football, actually have a chance to not only host a Super Bowl, but represent in it.

The work Bruce Arians has done in 1 1-2 seasons in the Valley of the Sun makes you wonder why it took so long for him to get a head coaching gig. The 2012 NFL Coach of the Year as an interim for the then-ill Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis has been forced to go deep into his roster because of injuries. Yet Arizona is 6-1, balanced and confident.

”I can’t say enough about the resiliency of our football players,” Arians said Sunday after their late rally to beat another team worth watching, the Eagles. ”It’s a family, it’s a band of brothers that just will not quit.”

Yes, have faith in the Cardinals.
And while they have looked nothing like a defending Super Bowl champion since their demolition of the Packers in the opener, don’t stop believing in the Seahawks.

They still must face the Cardinals and the 49ers twice and while their air of invincibility at home is gone – and the ”Legion of Boom” has been bust far more often than anyone could expect – dismissing them would be a huge mistake.

Also worth your attention and optimism are Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, on pace for a 2,000-yard season; Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin and Packers WR Jordy Nelson; Philly’s special teams; and San Francisco’s defense once the wounded return and Aldon Smith comes off suspension.

Not so trustworthy – forgetting those who have proven they belong among the dregs of the league – but in position to do something special are the Bills, Dolphins, Texans, Browns, and everyone in the NFC South.

History tells us to totally dismiss the Bills and Browns, and possibly the Dolphins. Houston can’t handle the better teams and still must face Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Baltimore.
As for the NFC South, it would be nice if someone showed some consistency and something to place your faith in.

Don’t count on it.