NFL notes: Stafford looks ready

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford throws against the Bears at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich., Oct....

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford throws against the Bears at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich., Oct. 10, 2011. (REBECCA COOK/Reuters)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:59 PM ET

TORONTO - The past two weeks have not brought much in the way of good news to the Detroit Lions.

Through the opening five weeks the Lions went unbeaten but the past two weeks they have fallen back to earth with losses to San Francisco and Atlanta.

But sunshine broke through and dispatched the growing gloom on Wednesday when quarterback Matthew Stafford was able to participate in the team’s practice and it now seems as if he will be able to make the start on Sunday against Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.

The previous Sunday the oft-injured Stafford suffered an ankle injury and given how many games he has missed the previous two campaigns, it appeared that the injury bug would once more take a large bite.

Although he was limited in practice, Stafford was upright and taking snaps with the No. 1 offence.

“Hopefully, we can keep him on that track, and if he’s able to go Sunday, then he will,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “He’s our starting quarterback, but we’ve got to be prepared in any case.”

Receiver Nate Burleson was more encouraged that Stafford will be as right as rain come Sunday.

“He looked good. Whipping the ball around,” Burleson said. “I don’t really know the diagnosis; I don’t even know how bad it is. All I know is he was out there today, throwing the ball around.”

The Lions need a healthy Stafford at the helm to take advantage of one of the few ‘soft’ games remaining on their schedule.

Following their bye week Nov. 6, the Lions in the second half will get two games with the Packers plus games against the improving Bears, New Orleans, Oakland and San Diego.

PATS HAVE HAD THEIR WAY WITH STEELERS

One of the top games this weekend takes place in Pittsburgh when the Steelers play host to the New England Patriots.

After a shaky start to the season, the Steelers have been coming on and at 5-2 now sit atop the AFC North.

The Steelers and the Patriots have been two of the AFC’s powerhouses for most of the past 10 years but in head-to-head matchups, it really hasn’t been close.

With Tom Brady running the offence in New England, the Patriots have gone 6-1 against the Steelers and their vaunted defence with Brady’s lone loss occurring in a regular-season game in 2004. That’s not a rivalry, it’s a rout.

In the six victories, Brady has thrown 14 touchdowns against just one interception. Sure, Brady may be the best in the business but the overall New England record and Brady’s dominance have to be viewed as something of a surprise.

A story in the Boston Globe puts forth the theory that the Steelers defence just doesn’t function as well against the Patriots’ spread offence, that the matchups in the secondary favour the Patriots and the formations cause the Steelers defence to blitz less which negates one of their more feared defensive weapons.

For example, in last year’s 39-26 victory, the Globe points out that the Steelers blitzed just seven times which is not the game plan that Pittsburgh favours.

On Sunday, look for the Patriots to stress their passing game with four and five receiver packages and Brady throwing out of the shotgun.

It’s worked for them in the past and there’s no need to change things now.

EAGLES’ SAMUEL FEELING UNLOVED

Philadelphia cornerback Asante Samuel hasn’t emerged from last week’s snit when he moaned and complained that he can’t feel the love and believes the Eagles want to get rid of him.

He upped his list of complaints on Wednesday by ripping into team president Joe Banner and general manager Howie Roseman for playing with owner Jeff Lurie’s money.

“Couple people upstairs might not want me, but who cares? They’ve probably never played football,” Samuel told CSNPhilly.com. “It’s a business and they run it like a business and they’re going to do what they need to do. They’re playing with a lot of money, playing fantasy football, doing their thing.”

He was asked if he was referring to Banner and Roseman?

“Howie and Joe? I don’t know, do they fit the comment I made?” Samuel replied. “There ya go. You think they’re upstairs playing fantasy football with the owner’s money?”

As for not feeling wanted, Samuel said he doesn’t have a problem with head coach Andy Reid but questions who is really running the show.

“I think there’s a little power struggle around here,” Samuel said. “But it’s all good. Like I said, me and Andy are cool. I’m here to play for Andy. He’s my head coach and that’s all that matters.

“Everything has been good with me and Andy. That’s my guy. That’s who I play for, that’s who I continue to play for. I go to war for Andy.”

And he’s talking like a player that expects to be shown the door.

SUGGS RIPS COACHES, THEY AGREE WITH HIM

The other day Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs ripped the Ravens coaching staff for their less-than-inspirational play calling during Monday night’s shocking 12-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Instead of being pissed off with Suggs’ comments, head coach John Harbaugh more or less agreed.

“You know, Terrell Suggs’ heart is always in the right place, and he’s a leader on our football team,” Harbaugh told reporters. “I listen to all of our guys and definitely I listen to Terrell Suggs, especially with the way he’s playing. And then, the things he says are right. But, that’s what we’re trying to do. It’s not like we’re not trying to do the things he’s talking about doing. So, I think we’re all on the same page with that.”

What really got to Suggs was the Ravens’ game plan that had them concentrating on the passing game. They all but ignored running back Ray Rice who gained just 28 yards on eight carries.

Again, Harbaugh agreed.

“Eight carries is never going to be a winning formula for Ray Rice,” Harbaugh said. “There is no doubt about it.” Maybe Harbaugh should assign Sunday’s game plan against Arizona on Sunday to Suggs.


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