Around the League  

 

NFL Network reporters preview Sunday's top matchups

Every Sunday, NFL Network reporters are dispatched across the country to cover the biggest games on the schedule. Here at Around the League, we'll share some of their reporting on the eve of gameday coverage.

New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers

Coverage: Albert Breer

» How will the Packers bounce back from the fiasco in Seattle on Monday night? Donald Driver said the team has no choice but to move on. "You can't keep pointing the finger. ... If we were just playing ball, playing the way we were supposed to play, it would've never gotten to that point, and everyone would've said, 'Well, who cares about the Hail Mary?' We can't point the finger anymore."

» Greg Jennings played 54 snaps last week, tied with Jordy Nelson for most among Packers wide receivers. Jennings has been slowed by a strained groin, but he's getting closer to 100 percent. "He's coming back," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "You gotta communicate. We didn't restrain him last week; this is a quick week, we'll see how he is."

» The New Orleans Saints are attempting to avoid an 0-4 start that could all but crush their postseason hopes. If they have any chance against the Packers, they'll need to keep Aaron Rodgers grounded. Defensive end Will Smith says film study shows defenses have been successful in pressuring the MVP. "Everything revolves around him. You can affect him if you get after him," Smith said. "And teams have been stopping the run against them to create long-yardage situations. ... They're getting a lot of pressure on Aaron, and you see him throwing the ball before he's ready. That's what we need to do."

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

Coverage: Ian Rapoport

» The Titans don't know what to make of Chris Johnson's dreadful start, but running backs coach Jim Skipper had an interesting take on the situation. "Well, it's like a baseball batter trying to hit a home run," he said. "All of the sudden, the batter hasn't hit a home run in 25 at-bats and now everybody's counting how many at-bats he's gone since he hit a homer; that type of thing. What you gotta do is just relax and eventually, things will start happening. All you gotta do is be yourself and good things will happen and just stay positive."

»  Andre Johnson has been with the Houston Texans since 2003. He remembers when the franchise was an afterthought. He appreciates the fans who stuck with them. "I think the biggest thing is, especially for me and the fans that have been here since Day 1, just knowing where this organization has come from," he said. "All the things we've been through to get to where we're at. That's the most exciting part. Now, we can go out and compete with all the teams. I couldn't say that in my first few years when I first got here."

» The Titans are still holding out hope they'll have wide receiver Kenny Britt and tight end Jared Cook. Britt didn't practice this week after suffering an ankle injury in Week 3, but he was pleased with the work he was able to do in the Titans' practice bubble on Friday. The key will be how the ankle responds. As for Cook (shoulder), coach Mike Munchak said he was happy how the tight end progressed during the week. Both players are listed as questionable.

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

Coverage: Stacey Dales

» The Bills could have both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in the lineup. Both players were limited in practice on Thursday and Friday, and are listed as questionable. Of the two, it's more likely we'll see Jackson. Spiller -- who strained his shoulder last Sunday -- is expected to be a true game-day decision. Jackson hasn't played since injuring his knee against the New York Jets in Week 1.

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» Bills center Eric Wood is quick to point out the Bills' offensive line hasn't given up a "true" sack this season (there is technically one, but it came on a fumble). The line has become a team strength, and Wood says Ryan Fitzpatrick is a good fit with his ability to get the ball out quickly. Said Wood: "When he's on, we're on."

» Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch on Sunday's disappointing 31-30 loss to the Baltimore Ravens: "We let one slip out of our hands last week," he said. "We're trying to finish better. We've played 60-minute games for only 45 minutes, or 52 minutes."

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

Coverage: Jeff Darlington

» Eagles coach Andy Reid created an unintentional stir this week with his comments about Michael Vick's job security, but sources within the organization sounded pretty genuine that Reid did not intend to imply Vick is close to getting pulled. Reid and Vick talked this week and sources close to the quarterback said he wasn't turned off by Reid's original comments.

» LeSean McCoy was limited to four carries in the first half of last week's loss to the Arizona Cardinals, not nearly enough for one of the game's great running backs. McCoy didn't discuss any unhappiness with his role this week, though multiple sources -- both publicly and privately -- have made it clear the Eagles need to be more balanced on offense.

» Vick has been sacked nine times in three games and was hit more than 20 times against the Cardinals alone. Reid has obvious concerns that his quarterback won't make it through the season at this rate. "I'll tell you, he's getting hit way too much. That's what I can tell you," Reid said. "At this point, it's way too much, so that part's got to end. We've got to limit that."

San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets

Coverage: Kimberly Jones

» Niners defensive tackle Ray McDonald said he was impressed how quarterback Mark Sanchez finished in the Jets' overtime win against the Miami Dolphins. "We expect that to carry over in his play Sunday," he said.

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» At the NFL Honors during Super Bowl week, Jets coach Rex Ryan had a conversation with Alex Smith, calling him Aaron and believing he was speaking with Aaron Rodgers. Alex politely never corrected him. Rex later realized his error and apologized with he saw Smith again. That didn't surprise 49ers left tackle Joe Staley, who said: "He's pretty polite. And they do look alike, actually, especially with their helmets on. Alex hears that a lot."

» Jets running back-turned-cornerback Joe McKnight didn't hide his disappointment over his surprising position switch, but he said a talk with Ryan helped him mentally accept his new role. He's hoping to have a role on offense, defense and special teams against the Niners. "This is a real challenge," he said. "Definitely a challenge."

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

Coverage: Aditi Kinkhabwala

» It remains to be seen if this Falcons team is different than the ones that flopped in the playoffs the last two seasons, but wide receiver Roddy White says the locker room has changed. "This is the most camaraderie I've seen since I've been here," he said. "For the first time in this locker room, we're really together."

» Cornerback Asante Samuel has fit in nicely with the Falcons, and teammates say he's carrying himself with a certain swagger. Samuel hasn't been directly responsible for any of the Falcons' league-leading 11 takeaways this season, but that's because teams are avoiding him. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon promised Samuel would get his first on Sunday. Samuel's response? "The pressure's on then."

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus.

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