NFL Rankings: Falcons perched at the top

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NFL Rankings: Falcons perched at the top

There is only one unbeaten team remaining the 1972 Dolphins are that much closer to popping the bubbly and no more winless teams the 2008 Lions are lonely at 0-16 as we have finished six weeks of the 2012 NFL season. We have a new team atop the rankings in the undefeated Atlanta Falcons, who survived a home scare against the Raiders, and some shuffling at the top, including a massive leap by the defending champs after the Giants thumped the 49ers.

1 (2) Atlanta Falcons (6-0) Matt Ryan's 19 career game-winning drives most by QB in first five seasons since 1960. 2 (5) Baltimore Ravens (5-1) Defense teetering, though, with Ray Lewis lost for season with torn triceps. 3 (12) New York Giants (4-2) Defending champs serve notice to league with dominant performance at the 'Stick. 4 (1) Houston Texans (5-1) Still only defense in NFL yet to give up a rushing TD this season. 5 (6) Chicago Bears (4-1) Bye week enables Bears to move into stingiest points-allowed status at 14.2 per game. 6 (3) Minnesota Vikings (4-2) Vikings humbled a bit by RG III, but Percy Harvin has league-leading 49 catches. 7 (4) 49ers (4-2) Who's got it better than them? At the moment, six other teams. 8 (7) Arizona Cardinals (4-2) Cue the Kevin Kolb-John Skelton dilemmaagain. 9 (14) Seattle Seahawks (4-2) CB Richard Sherman taunting Tom Brady early candidate for Tweet of the Year. 10 (18) Green Bay Packers (3-3) Yeah, Aaron Rodgers and his franchise-tying six TD passes sent a message. 11 (8) New England Patriots (3-3) Benefactor of Tuck Rule and SpyGate Tom Brady complains of piped-in noise at Seattle? 12 (19) Denver Broncos (3-3) Peyton Manning's 37 fourth-quarter comebacks most by NFL QB since 1950. 13 (20) New York Jets (3-3) Mark Sanchez shines, so call off the call for Tim Tebowfor now. 14 (22) Washington (3-3) Robert Griffin III. That is all. 15 (23) Miami Dolphins (3-3) Raise a flipper if you saw Hard Knocks and thought they'd be .500 after six games. 16 (13) St. Louis Rams (3-3) Can they just get it over with and move back to L.A. already? 17 (21) Buffalo Bills (3-3) C.J. Spiller's 7.6-yards-per-carry average leads the NFL. 18 (10) Cincinnati Bengals (3-3) Being the victims of their cross-state rivals' first win is not a good look. 19 (24) Detroit Lions (2-3) Jason Hanson's ninth OT field goal tied for most in NFL history. 20 (11) Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) Yeah, it's all Juan Castillo's fault. Right? 21 (9) San Diego Chargers (3-3) Oh, Norv. 22 (15) Dallas Cowboys (2-3) Looking for a positive from America's Team? Cowboys have top pass defense in the league. 23 (31) Tennessee Titans (2-4) Chris Johnson's personal record without a TD has now reached 10 games. 24 (16) Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3) Ben Roethlsberger surpasses Terry Bradshaw as Steelers' all-time leading passer. But TB's appearance on 'Hooper' is way cooler. 25 (26) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) Buc's already have four 100-yard receiving games, after three combined in'10 and '11. 26 (17) Indianapolis Colts (2-3) Defense needs to give Andrew Luck help; its three takeaways an NFL worst. 27 (27) Carolina Panthers (1-4) What does an "entertainer" and an "icon" do over a bye week? 28 (29) New Orleans Saints (1-4) Something says Saints about to embark on a potentially season-saving run after bye. 29 (25) Raiders (1-4) No truth to rumor team changing motto to "Just keep it close, baby." 30 (30) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) MJD about to get his first taste of the Black Hole. 31 (32) Cleveland Browns (1-5) They've turned the ball over in 24 straight games, the NFL's current longest streak. 32 (28) Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) Introducing, the lone team yet to hold a lead in regulation this season.

McKenzie, Del Rio ‘unified since Day 1,’ ushering Raiders into next phase

McKenzie, Del Rio ‘unified since Day 1,’ ushering Raiders into next phase

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio have done three pre-draft press conferences now. They’ve got the routine down, knowing when to deflect questions, when to put people off the scent and, more importantly, how to seem unpredictable.

They were in lockstep again Friday, less than a week before the 2017 NFL Draft.

During their first, McKenzie offered one criticism of his head coach.

“Can you guys get Jack out of my office?” McKenzie said in 2015, with tongue firmly in cheek.

The rhetorical question was answered with a laugh. McKenzie was acknowledging how much Del Rio and staff wanted to support the scouting process. McKenzie ultimately pulls the trigger on draft day, but Del Rio has a loud voice in the room as he looks for players who fit his locker room and his schemes.

McKenzie has open ears, taking advice from the entire coaching staff while arranging his draft board. This time of year especially, coaches and scouts are working together.

“It’s been unified since Day 1,” Del Rio said. “Reggie and I are very unified and much on the same mission and that is to bring a world championship home to this organization. Everything we’re doing is attacking that, adding these impact players where we can.”

The pair was focused on improving a lackluster roster that featured Derek Carr and Khalil Mack but finished 3-13 the year before. Now their partnership is entering Phase II.

They must decide which players to add, and decide which previously drafted players to keep. There are some obvious extensions in the works, with Carr, Mack and Gabe Jackson. They had to let some homegrown talent go in free agency as they attempt to upgrade depth and build a championship roster that can build on last year’s success.

“There’s a whole different phase that we’re about to go through as an organization as you begin to mature, some of those players have to be re-signed or not. Those are decisions you have to make in all of this. This is year three for us working together and I feel like the relationship with the scouts and the coaches and the sharing of information is excellent. We want to continue to work that way.”

Locals among cornerbacks who can help Raiders early in NFL Draft

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AP

Locals among cornerbacks who can help Raiders early in NFL Draft

The Raiders have an opening in their secondary.

Finding a slot cornerback is a top priority with DJ Hayden now in Detroit. TJ Carrie is an option there, but the Raiders could add a young, versatile talent capable of taking a more prominent role down the line.

That’s true despite the fact Sean Smith signed a free-agent deal through 2019 last year and David Amerson received a contract extension through the 2020 season. Those contracts, however, become pay-as-you-go deals after this season.

The dead money goes away, freeing the Raiders to look for long-term upgrades if they see fit.

Head coach Jack Del Rio loves creating competition and depth, especially at such an important position in today’s NFL. The Raiders like larger, physical cornerbacks with ball skills, and there are plenty in this year’s draft.

Many analysts have the Raiders taking a cornerback at No. 24 overall, and that’s a realistic possibility. They could certainly look to help last year’s No. 24-ranked secondary in the early rounds.

Let’s take a look at some top options available in this week’s draft:

Good fits:There are quite a few quality cornerbacks who could be available at No. 24 overall, even if there’s an early run on the position.

Oakland native and Washington alum Kevin King visited the Raiders during the pre-draft process, and certainly fits what the Raiders like in a cornerback. He’s confident and aggressive, unafraid to use great physical traits to make plays on the ball. He’s tall and long and isn’t afraid to tackle.

USC’s Adoree Jackson has the quality ball skills the Raiders like, and is adept high-pointing the ball. Analysts say he can play several coverage techniques and has the agility to make up for mistakes. He can work in the slot, but at 5-foot-10 isn’t as tall as the Raiders like. They’d have to take him in the first round. He may not last beyond that.

San Jose native and Colorado product Chidobe Awuzie is another interesting local defensive back ready to turn pro. He can play outside or in the slot, and analysts say he has excellent one-on-one coverage skills but needs tackling work. He was a solid slot blitzer at Colorado, and could fill an immediate need crucial against so many three and four receiver sets.

Louisiana State’s Tre’Davious White has experience playing the slot, and could help right away there before transferring outside if asked. He can cover extremely well, though analysts say he isn’t much of a tackler. He might be a tweener as far as the Raiders are concerned, not worthy of the No. 24 pick but long gone before the Raiders pick in the second round.

Central Florida’s Shaquill Griffin visited the Raiders this spring, and rightfully so. A willing run defender with good ball skills and tackling ability who could be available in the third round should intrigue them.