The Hurricanes’ regular season has come to an end. With Miami waiting to officially find out what bowl game they’ll travel to next month, there’s no time to exercise patience in the NFL. The contenders continue to try and separate themselves, while the pretenders figure out what pieces to jettison in the off-season.
A large swath of the ProCane contingent find themselves entrenched in both scenarios. So while you prepare for Cyber Monday and poke at some Thanksgiving leftovers, State of the U highlights the games with Canes that you’ve come to love recently — and others you’re maybe on a break with — in this week’s game previews.
Cleveland Browns (3-6-1) vs Cincinnati Bengals (5-5) 1PM EDT
The Battle for Ohio features a pair of teams fighting for relevance in the AFC North. The Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson some weeks ago, gaining a head start on the rest of the league in finding their next sideline guru. Ironically enough, Jackson is now a paid staff member of the Bengals, and will impart some insider knowledge to Cincy head coach Marvin Lewis before today’s contest.
As for the ProCane portion of this game, the Browns’ offense has improved by all appearances after the firings of Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. RB Duke Johnson has become more of a feature on offense, having scored three touchdowns in the last two games.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7) vs Buffalo Bills (3-7) 1PM EDT
The Cardiac Cats showed some life last week, but ultimately came up short against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jacksonville remains four games under .500, needing to win out to even have a chance at gaining a wildcard spot or contending for the AFC South title. DE Calais Campbell is the lone active ProCane for the Jaguars after C Brandon Linder was lost for the season with a knee injury. Against a Bills’ offense that has been streakier than Will Ferrell in Old School, the Jags should be in tough against a 17th ranked rushing attack. In his last game against Jacksonville, Bills’ RB LeSean McCoy rushed for 103 yards and two TDs. As much as it would be nice to see Calais add to his six sack total, the priority will feature a Hurricane alum attempting to shutdown a Pitt grad. If it worked on Saturday, perhaps it will continue this afternoon.
New England Patriots (7-3) vs New York Jets (3-7) 1PM EDT
No one needs to tell Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick that the grind towards the postseason is underway. The pursuit of securing home field advantage begins with the Big Apple. Whether or not ProCane WR Phillip Dorsett is able to take a bite out of the Jets’ defense is up in the air. As expected with the additions of receivers Josh Gordon (gained from trade) and Julian Edelman (returned from suspension), and with the emergence of RB Sony Michel, Dorsett’s targets were going to suffer. Averaging two target per game, Dorsett continues to be a nice complement to the Patriots’ arsenal in the passing game. Entering today, Dorsett has two TD receptions, 246 receiving yards and 26 receptions so far this season.
While Dorsett is an ideal option for New England, Jets’ TE Chris Herndon has quickly become a focal point for a young Gang Green offense. According to Pro Football Focus, the rookie tight end is the number receiving option on the Jets offense. Herndon has hauled in 76% of his targets through 10 games this season. Unfortunately, since the TE is the best option the Jets have going for them right now, you can expect Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to neutralize Herndon as often as possible. At the time of this posting, it’s unclear if NYJ QB Sam Darnold would get the start, considering that he’s dealing with a foot injury. The rookie QB has struggled in the month of November, throwing seven interceptions in his last three games. Against a Patriots team that went into their bye in week 11 on the losing end, the Jets will have to contend with a highly motivated group.
Miami Dolphins (5-5) vs Indianapolis Colts (5-5) 4:25PM EDT
The ‘Gore’ Bowl does have a nice ring to it, no? A week after enshrining ProCane and future Hall of Fame WR Reggie Wayne into the Colts’ Hall of Fame, the Colts welcome back fellow ProCane RB Frank Gore to Lucas Oil Stadium. Gore rushed for 2,953 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in his three season in Naptown, USA. As sentimental as the now Dolphins’ RB may feel entering the visitor’s locker room, Miami is trying to stay afloat in the wildcard race. At his ripe old age of 35, Gore continues to be the face of the Phins’ run game, sporting a 4.5 yards-per-carry run average that is actually better than any of his seasons as a Colt. Gore has managed to chug along in spite of the numerous injuries on the Phins’ offensive line.
The Colts have improved their play against the run. Entering this matchup, they’re ranked 14th in the NFL and have allowed an average of 105.7 yards-per-game. A member of this defense who has helped changed Indy’s fortunes is lone ProCane DE Al-Quadin Muhammad. The second year pro has seen snaps here and there as part of the defensive line rotation. After being waived by New Orleans and the Colts, it’s nice to see the former Hurricane DE make an impact in the league.
Tennessee Titans (5-5) vs Houston Texans (7-3) Monday 8:15PM EDT
For all our talk about RB Lamar Miller enjoying a resurgence, it doesn’t sound like the Houston front office is buying much stock in the trend. With RB Le’Veon Bell set to become a free agent, early conversations are that the Texans will be a serious bidder in the services of the former All-Pro RB.
As good as you were last game, the NFL is the ultimate ‘what have done for me lately’ institution. While Miller has rushed for 611 yards so far in ‘18, the Texans’ leading running back needs to continue this production as Houston attempts to maintain their lead in the AFC South division race. The Titans defense is ranked 11th in the NFL with 100 rushing yards allowed per game. Houston has been red hot, winning seven straight entering this Monday showdown.
ProCanes Fantasy Player of the Week
Duke Johnson Jr.
As mentioned in the Browns vs Bengals preview, Duke has been on the loose as of late. Don’t expect many carries for the RB; rather, Johnson prefers to make noise catching the ball in space. Johnson averages two targets in the passing game, but he also scored a TD in two straight games. Think of Duke as a decent flex option this week.
News and Notes
Draft Projections for Hurricanes in the 2019 NFL Draft
There’s plenty that will change in the coming weeks, but the likelihood of any Cane going in the first round in the 2019 NFL Draft is ambitious at best. Miami has a big outgoing senior class of prospects, many with ambitions of making it in the pros. While those dreams are still possible, it will come with less guaranteed money to start their career.
Scouts are high on Miami LB Shaq Quarterman, CB Michael Jackson and S Jaquan Johnson. Those are just three of a possible boatload of Canes who will be eligible for the 2019 Draft.
Frank Gore Approaches Another Record
With each carry this season, the ageless wonder that is Dolphins RB Frank Gore, further cements his place in the record books. Entering today, Gore sits just 446 rushing yards from crossing the 15,000 career rushing yard mark. Three players, Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders have ever crossed that threshold.
After initial reports suggested that a thumb injury would end his season, Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham was back at practice this week. Dealing with the thumb and a lingering knee injury, early indications are that eight-year pro will play through those the ailments.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!