NFL Insiders Predict: Week 4’s upsets, fantasy sleepers, more

Our NFL Insiders make their predictions for Week 4: The biggest upsets, fantasy sleepers and busts, the best 3-0 team, bounce-back players, and the 1-2 team that worries them the most.

What’s your biggest upset for Week 4?

Newton already has five interceptions, three more than a year ago. He threw three interceptions and was sacked eight times in Sunday’s loss to Minnesota.

“It’s really going to come down to us,’’ Newton said of turning things around. “Just like this past game, it wasn’t anything that they did outside of us executing. We have to understand our role. We have to take the personal challenge to ourselves knowing we’ve got to be better.

“If we do that, nine times out of 10 we put ourselves in the best situation. Then it comes down to how good the individual is.’’

Brown apparently switched his shoes for the second half in Philadelphia, where Brown finished with 12 catches for 140 yards.

Luke Willson was used in an H-back-type role and was heavily involved in the run game.

“He did well,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He was comfortable with it. He’s really pumped up about anything that he gets to do to add to the team, so he was excited about the chance and he looked pretty comfortable. He’ll definitely improve in the next couple weeks. It’s a really good role for him, and it makes us a little versatile in that substitution. That’s a good positive thing for us.”

We’ll see in future weeks whether this was a game plan deal or something the Seahawks intend to use regularly. My hunch is they’ll still be mostly an 11 personnel (one RB, one TE) team.

Kirk Cousins: Teammates’ frustration ‘understandable’

With a lifetime’s worth of financial security hanging in the balance, Kirk Cousins is under as much pressure as any quarterback this season.

After tossing three interceptions and missing a host of open receivers through two games, he’s facing increased scrutiny.

Washington Redskins wide receivers have already grown frustrated with their quarterback, particularly for locking onto primary reads, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported on Monday’s edition of Up To The Minute.

The only consolation for San Diego is the fact that 2015 first-round pick Melvin Gordon seems to be finally running with purpose. Gordon posted 159 yards and three touchdowns over his first two games this season, while Woodhead added 116 yards on the ground and 35 yards through the air.

Receiving backs like Woodhead are not easy to come by, especially ones who can navigate complex protection schemes and operate out of the backfield as a safety net pass catcher. Last year, Woodhead caught 80 passes for 755 yards and six touchdowns.

Undrafted free agent Kenneth Farrow and former Giants draft pick Andre Williams round out the team’s depth chart. Neither have much experience as a receiving back. San Diego signed wide recevier Griff Whalen on Monday after moving Woodhead to IR.

Woodhead has never really gotten the credit he deserves. If an NFL team lost a receiver who produced 80 catches on 106 targets and averaged nearly 10 yards per reception, their fanbase would be in a whirlwind wondering how exactly to replace him.

Woodhead, though, might prove even harder to replace.

Broncos must decide where Paxton Lynch fits on QB depth chart

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Denver Broncos went into Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Arizona Cardinals with a list of roster questions they hope to answer correctly in the coming days. And one of the biggest questions is whether or not they believe prized rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch has advanced far enough on the learning curve to be the team’s No. 2 quarterback behind Trevor Siemian.

And as a highlight, he picked his opening touchdown pass of the preseason — an 8-yarder to tight end John Phillips in the loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

“Scored a touchdown, my first NFL touchdown, that was a pretty special moment,” Lynch said.

Lynch consistently said throughout the offseason program, into training camp and almost right until the time Kubiak named Siemian the starter, that he believed he had kept himself in the mix to be the starter. And Thursday night he said he’s “excited” for the regular season and believes he will be ready for whatever the Broncos have in store for him in the weeks and months to come.

“A dude that wants to just bond,” Haden said Wednesday. “He wants to have a friendship, he wants to have a bond between all of his teammates. Like me, wants to be liked.

“Doesn’t feel like there’s [any] reason to have anybody walking around and not talking to everybody. That’s really special. I think that’s why the team picked him as a captain.”

Griffin said he was “extremely happy” to be chosen.

“Not satisfied, but happy with where I’m at, the opportunity that’s been blessed upon me and being here with these guys, it’s really a blessing,” Griffin said. “I can’t speak enough about how this [locker room] has been awesome.

“I’ve been able to grow as a player and as a leader in this locker room.”

Browns coach Hue Jackson said that he didn’t expect the results of the vote.

“I’ll be very honest with you: I was surprised,” the first-year coach said. “Because obviously Robert hasn’t been here very long, and we haven’t played a real football game yet. For him to be voted captain, he should feel good about that. His teammates feel good about him.

“The testament of Robert being named captain is that it came from his teammates. They voted on it. Coaches had nothing to do with this; this was all his teammates. So obviously he’s embedded within the organization and his team, his teammates. I think he’s shown them he’s somebody they can depend on and look to.”

Seahawks’ Cliff Avril checks on Tony Romo after hit injured Cowboys QB

Cliff Avril followed through with plans to reach out to Tony Romo and received an optimistic response from the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, who suffered a fractured bone in his back after a hit by the Seattle Seahawks defensive end.

“You take care of the NFC West, we will see yall in the playoffs,” Romo texted to Avril, the defensive end told the Star-Telegram on Friday.

How does Harrison celebrate? By needling himself instead of the league.

At 3:29 a.m. Friday — five hours after the Pittsburgh Steelers concluded their preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers — Harrison posted an Instagram picture of himself undergoing an intense form of acupuncture called dry-needle therapy.

Harrison must have gone straight from the team plane to the therapy.

“Grind never stops,” said Harrison in the post.

Harrison got into dry-needle therapy around 2010 to alleviate muscle tension from back surgery that repaired a herniated disc. The routine is painful enough that some teammates won’t do it with him.

Harrison, 38, believes the healing powers of the therapy have prolonged his career.

“It’s painful as hell … but very powerful,” Harrison said. “It makes you sore the next day, but the day after you feel fine. I’m not the only person that does it. Three to five people [in the locker room] do it.”

Gabbert started each of the first three preseason games, leading the 49ers offense to touchdowns on three of the eight possessions he played. He finished 12-of-22 for 146 yards with a touchdown for a passer rating of 90.3. He also rushed for 33 yards on five carries.

Kaepernick started the preseason finale against the Chargers and fared better than he did in his exhibition debut against the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick finished 13-of-24 for 117 yards for a passer rating of 67.5 and led one touchdown drive. He also rushed for 56 yards on eight carries.

Broncos name Trevor Siemian starting quarterback

Two main questions now remain:

1) What becomes of Mark Sanchez?

It appears his rollercoaster play and knack for turnovers cost the former first-round pick another starting gig. While he was the only quarterback on the roster to make an NFL start, Kubiak went with the younger player he trusted more to take care of the ball.

If Sanchez can’t beat out a seventh round pick, second-year player with no experience, he’ll likely never get another full-time gig. The Broncos could ask Sanchez to take a pay cut to remain on the roster. Or John Elway could cut him outright to save the money and the conditional draft pick he shipped to Philadelphia for Sanchez.

2) How long will Siemian fend off Paxton Lynch?

“I respect everybody’s opinion,” Boldin said, via the Detroit Free Press. “Everybody has one. I’m sure he’s going to get flack for it, what he did, but that’s the great thing about being in America, you have that option.”

According to, the Chargers got their wish with offset language, which was included in Bosa’s deal. For Bosa, he received the largest upfront signing bonus in Chargers history.

Things got so ugly during Bosa’s holdout that even his mom was blasting the Chargers. Back in early August, Cheryl Bosa said that she wished her son had pulled an “Eli Manning” on draft day. For those unfamiliar with that story, Manning said he would refuse to play for the Chargers if they selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2004.

Anyway, Sanchez might be leaving Denver without a huge highlight reel, but he won’t be leaving empty handed: The quarterback’s one-year, $4.5 million contract guaranteed him $1 million whether he made the roster or not, so he’ll get a nice seven-figure parting gift from the Broncos.
Also, maybe he’ll decide to start dating, because being single didn’t seem to help him too much. After he was traded from Philly to Denver in March, Sanchez said that he would probably win the Broncos’ quarterback job because he’s single and has nothing better to go.

The only reason Boone wasn’t more upset with Kaepernick is because the Vikings lineman had heard about the comments that Anquan Boldin made about the situation.

Getting tackled good for recovery, but Le’Veon Bell wants to score

NEW ORLEANS — Knee recovery is often about clearing hurdles — first physical, then mental.

Getting tackled to the ground for the first time is considered a milestone of sorts.

Le’Veon Bell understands this. But tearing two ligaments in his right knee in Week 8 of last season against the Cincinnati Bengals hasn’t changed his overall mentality when it comes to running the football: He never wants to be tackled.

He wants to score at any opportunity.

“I’m going to avoid trying to get hit,” Bell said. “If I do happen to get tackled, then I get tackled.”

Bell is expected to play along with the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starters at 8 p.m. ET tonight against the New Orleans Saints. This group could play well into the first half, depending on pace and production. If the offense scores on the first two drives, for example, Ben Roethlisberger and Co. will likely take a seat.

Then, it’s showtime. And the Chiefs’ defense could use the lift that the return of a four-time Pro Bowl safety could provide.

Their starters have allowed two touchdowns in three preseason possessions by the opposing starters. The third was a drive that ended only with an end zone interception by Marcus Peters.

“It’s football,” Gurley said. “I can get hurt in practice. It’s whatever; doesn’t matter to me. I’m here to play football, whether it’s preseason or regular season.”

Gurley, listed at 6-foot-1, 227 pounds, finished third in rushing yards last season despite having to wait until Week 4 to receive a sizable workload. He rushed for 1,106 yards and gained 488 of them after first contact, fifth-most in the NFL. Gurley says he’s “always down to get tackled,” even though his teammates aren’t necessarily allowed to bring him to the ground.

“I’ve been telling the boys, ‘Don’t touch me,'” Gurley said, laughing. “If they touch me, they know what to expect.”

Sore Trevor Siemian expected to be ready to start Saturday

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Trevor Siemian, who has the inside track on the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback job, did not throw in Tuesday’s practice due to what coach Gary Kubiak described as a bruised right (throwing) shoulder.

“He played well; he made a mistake,” offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said.

It’s why Kubiak named Siemian the starter for this weekend’s game and why Siemian now has a chance, with a quality effort against the Rams, to keep the job for the regular-season opener against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 8.

Kubiak is evaluating Siemian’s progress throughout the week, as well as the performances of Mark Sanchez and rookie Paxton Lynch, before deciding who will be the second quarterback into the game if Siemian starts as scheduled.

Asked Tuesday when he might decide that, Kubiak offered: “Probably the end of the week. I expect Trevor to be ready to go. We’ll see.”

“They would do me like that? Oh my God,” a smiling Bryant told The Dallas Morning News after Friday’s preseason game. “That is an insult, like why would you do that to me? How much I love y’all. Like, what? Not John Madden, because I love him. It’s the developers.”

Bryant takes his video games seriously. He’s also considered among the game’s best receivers, but he was rated as the No. 8 receiver in the game. Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Alshon Jeffery are each rated higher than Bryant.

The folks who runs the game’s Twitter account decided to have some fun with Bryant after his comments, poking fun at the reason he was only rated as a 90.

We’re just going to see what happens,” Bryant said on Friday. “Like I told Madden, they put me at 90, I’m not worried about that. That rating going to shoot up real quick, you best believe that.”

When asked if Siemian is still expected to start Saturday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams, Kubiak said: “Oh yeah. I expect him to be there.”

Siemian was injured in the second quarter of last weekend’s game against the San Francisco 49ers when he attempted a diving tackle during safety Eric Reid’s 42-yard interception return for a touchdown. Kubiak said Siemian was just being competitive on the play, but joked Tuesday that the QB is just “not used to tackling.”

Lions LB DeAndre Levy feels return is ‘close’, eyes season opener

It hasn’t been easy for him to sit out — especially after he missed last season. He was the NFL’s leader in solo tackles in 2014 with 117 and was tied for second in the league in interceptions in 2013 with six.

But sitting out last season gave him perspective on how he has to approach injuries and his body.

“Just being patient, man,” Levy said. “That’s the biggest thing I kind of took away from it, is just being patient. I’m not beating myself up over missing games that don’t count. My body, have to be more conscious of taking care of my body and letting it rest when it needs to rest and taking my time.

“That’s kind of what happened last year. I felt my foot was on the gas every time. You know, I’d come back from something and my foot’s back on the gas. So I gotta just, going into Year 8, you’ve got to be a little more conscious of that, I think.”

That said, Levy admits it has been hard to watch, especially since he hasn’t played with pads on in so long. “Oh my God, it’s killing me. It kills me, man, it kills me,” Levy said. “But it’s necessary. I try to have a long-term perspective on it all.”

The perspective is rest now so he is healthy later.

For the Lions, Levy’s absence has left them thin at linebacker. Josh Bynes, who started the preseason opener in Levy’s place, also sat out practice Monday.

Detroit is also without Jon Bostic, who had foot surgery Monday. ESPN Insider’s Josina Anderson reported that he injured a fifth metatarsal before he was carted off during practices with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, last week.

Caldwell was was unclear on when Bostic might return.

“We’ll see how long it takes [Bostic] to heal,” Caldwell said. “He told me he’s a quick healer. We’ll see.”

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers agrees with the idea that NFL players should speak out on social issues more often. But the Green Bay Packers quarterback believes the NFL’s culture discourages its players from being more vocal.

Speaking in an interview on ESPN Wisconsin’s “Wilde & Tausch” last week, Rodgers said he read a story in which Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said NFL players need to speak out more often. Bennett also mentioned Rodgers by name in similar comments when he arrived at training camp.

Rodgers was in the crowd at the ESPYS last month and praised NBA stars LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade for opening the evening by calling on athletes to promote social change.

“It’s got to be natural, it’s got to be authentic, and I think those guys did a really good job. It was a great message,” Rodgers said. “The thing I’ll say in reference to speaking your mind, [I read] a piece on the Bennetts recently — Michael and Martellus. And I turned to a friend and I said, ‘Why do we have to say that it’s refreshing when someone speaks their mind? Or is honest now?’ I think that’s kind of a societal issue that we have.

“We need more guys like that who feel comfortable speaking their mind.”

The interview with Rodgers was conducted before riots broke out in Milwaukee on Saturday night in the aftermath of a police-involved shooting. Six businesses on the city’s north side were set on fire, four officers were injured and 17 people were arrested, according to the Milwaukee Police Department. More unrest followed Sunday night.

Panthers tackle Michael Oher gets the last laugh on ‘The Blind Side’

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Carolina Panthers left tackle Michael Oher laughed when he recalled a play from last season.

The play itself wasn’t necessarily funny. It was that right tackle Mike Remmers, while the team was watching a replay on film, shouted “47 Gap!” before the snap to quarterback Cam Newton.

“We were running the exact same play from the movie, where the [back] pulled around and went 50 yards down the field,” said Oher, still laughing.

The movie was “The Blind Side,” a 2009 film starring Sandra Bullock playing the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy, who adopted a homeless teenager that went on to become a first-round draft pick in the NFL.

The teenager was Oher, who in the movie blocked the defensive end out the back of the end zone after telling the quarterback to call “47 Gap,” and then drew a penalty for what the official called “excessive blocking.”

There was a time before Oher arrived at Carolina last season that he didn’t like to talk about the movie because he didn’t believe it accurately depicted his personality. He didn’t care for the impressions people formed of him from it.

He went so far as to tell in June 2014, “I don’t like the movie.”

Now Oher embraces it when teammates, mostly his offensive linemen, joke about the movie. He laughs when center Ryan Kalil sends a message alert to the linemen every time the movie comes on television.

Oher’s career has been resurrected in Carolina. He’s back protecting the quarterback’s blind side after spending several years at right tackle.

He did well enough last season that Newton threw a career-best 35 touchdown passes and won the NFL MVP award.

“He may not look pretty half the time, but most offensive linemen don’t look pretty,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said with a laugh. “But he’s going to get the job done.”

Oher’s greatest asset is that he’s never satisfied. He’s always trying to prove himself, and nobody on the line works harder.

That he’s surrounded by players and coaches that think like him makes Carolina a good fit.

“I’ve been around guys that were not good people,” Oher said. “You’ve got to know who you’re bringing in and do your homework on it, and they do a good job on it.”

Oher admittedly will go into Thursday’s game with somewhat of a chip on his shoulder. While he looks forward to seeing a few old friends, he wants to send a message to the organization that didn’t re-sign him after the 2013 season.

“Definitely you want to show them, ‘Hey, look at what you guys missed out on,'” Oher said.

Carolina players don’t miss a chance at ragging Oher about “The Blind Side.” None do that more than Remmers, who likes the movie so much that he wouldn’t give Oher No. 74 — the number that the actor playing Oher wore in the movie — when the Panthers first signed Oher.

Oher settled on 73.

Oher has become as comfortable with the new number as he has with jokes about the movie. That’s why he laughs when recalling “47 Gap” and the funny messages he gets when the movie is on television.

As far as he knows, it hasn’t been on during training camp.

“I don’t even have a TV,” said Oher, who didn’t bring a TV to camp. “But before we got here it was on all the time.”

Fantasy football may favor the running backs, quarterback and wide receivers, but that doesn’t mean tight end is something you can sleep on. While you can survive with an average fantasy tight end, having a good or even great one may end up being the difference in winning your league.

The word “sleeper” can be used in just about every facet of fantasy football, but tight end is an area where it can be more beneficial than other positions. That’s because this is usually where only a handful of reliable prospects can be drafted, followed by a bunch of risky guys with high upside, then your guys who may score 7-10 points each week, but will never have a game-changing performance.

If you can’t land someone like Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen or Jordan Reed early in your draft, it may be best to wait until the later rounds to find a sleeper who could emerge into a TE1.

Here are three players who qualify as sleepers this season.

Zach Miller, Chicago Bears

For whatever reason, people are sleeping big time on Zach Miller entering this season. Despite reviving his career in 2015 after injuries appeared to have derailed it, Miller is still being taken towards the end of fantasy drafts.

This, despite Miller catching 31 passes for 404 yards and five scores over his final eight games in 2015. That includes an average of six grabs for 70.3 yards over his final three games, making him a valuable PPR option.

Miller’s history of injuries and being 31 years old do make him a risky commodity, not to mention someone you probably should target as your second tight end. However, if he can stay healthy, Miller should become a tight end worthy of starting most weeks, depending on who your TE1 is.

Slow, steady wins day for QB Sam Bradford

Carson Wentz: Up

Wow moment: Wentz had a Bradford-like day, throwing mostly short passes that were accurate and well-timed. There weren’t as many standout plays. On one, Wentz threw a deep pass for rookie wide receiver Cayleb Jones, who was running down the right seam with cornerback Jalen Mills in coverage. Jones made an excellent, off-balance catch, landing on the goal line. Wentz’s throw had to be perfect to make it possible.

Whoa moment: Pretty much everything went wrong for Wentz on one play. The defense was blitzing, and a defender got to Wentz for a “sack” (quarterbacks aren’t hit, so the defender pulled up). Wentz unleashed a throw down the right sideline that went over Turner’s head and was intercepted by cornerback Aaron Grymes.

Who won the day? Bradford’s steady, reliable professionalism won this day. Example: During an intense live drill, with the defense coming at full speed on every play, Bradford stepped back from center and changed the play call. With pressure coming, he completed a quick throw to Matthews.

NEW ORLEANS — Emotions were so high after a special New Orleans premiere of the “Gleason” documentary film on Tuesday night that New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton got choked up while speaking on the stage.

Then, as Payton paused to collect his thoughts, Steve Gleason brought the house down by using his automated voice technology to basically call his former coach a wimp — in less flattering terms.

That’s the kind of night it was — they laughed and they cried — as Steve and his wife Michel shared the raw, intimate look at Steve’s battle against ALS with family, friends and other prominent members of the New Orleans community.

Dozens of Saints players and coaches were in attendance at New Orleans’ Orpheum Theater, including Drew Brees, who is a co-executive producer of the film. The film will be released to a wider audience on July 29.

“It’s hard not to be moved by the film, regardless if you’ve ever known Steve or call him a friend. It’s raw and it’s real,” Brees said. “You’re gonna get emotional on many, many occasions. You’re gonna think deeply about things that you’ve probably never gone that deep about before … because they really hold nothing back.

“And it’s meant to be that way. Listen, that’s the way Steve lives his life.”

The documentary, which has earned rave reviews from several film festivals after debuting earlier this year at Sundance, could become an Oscar contender. But it began as a series of home video journals from Gleason to his unborn son, Rivers.

Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011 and didn’t know if he would live long enough to build a traditional relationship with his son, who is now 4 years old. The project grew, and by the time director Clay Tweel put it all together, he had more than 1,300 hours of footage to work with.