Football briefs: Bears’ Brown continues to have immeasurable value

Pro Football Weekly staff

The Way We Hear It

The slam-dunk pick among our Bears sources as the Bears’ Offensive MVP at the 2008 quarter pole was rookie RB Matt Forté, who clearly stuck out in the team’s first four games. As for the Defensive MVP? “Wow. That’s an interesting question,” one veteran source said. “Nobody really stood out. (DE Adewale) Ogunleye was a beast in the first game against the Colts, and (MLB Brian) Urlacher was pretty good but not great. But I think I’d have to go with Mike Brown. A case could be made for the other safety (Kevin Payne), but he wouldn’t be doing nearly as good if Brown wasn’t setting everything up. He’s the quarterback, and his leadership and intangibles remain a real key to this defense.” Is Payne, who has a team-leading two interceptions, capable of following in Brown’s footsteps? “He’s not very good in coverage yet,” the source said, “but he always seems to be around the ball.”

NFL Whispers

BRONCOS: Broncos C Tom Nalen’s career is in doubt now that he has been placed on injured reserve. The 15th-year veteran, who will become a free agent this winter, has been plagued by knee pain and hasn’t played in a game since Week Five of last season, but sources in Denver would not rule out his return to the team next season. Head coach Mike Shanahan is extremely loyal, particularly to a player like Nalen, who has spent his entire career with Denver.

BENGALS: The Bengals’ signing of veteran CB Jamar Fletcher underscored the stress that the injuries to SS Dexter Jackson and CB Johnathan Joseph put on the young DB group, as well as the need for another experienced presence in the defensive backfield.

CARDINALS: Don’t be surprised if Cardinals starting ORG Deuce Lutui starts losing more playing time to backup Elton Brown. Said one insider of Lutui: “He’s not making as many mental errors as he has in the past, but he’s been too intent on plastering people in run situations and is playing too much with his head down. He needs to keep his head up on a swivel, which will allow him to react better to stunts in pass-blocking situations.”

The Fantasy Buzz

If Chargers QB Philip Rivers’ 10 TD passes through four games didn’t persuade you to put him in your lineup, a date with the Dolphins should do the trick. Miami has allowed passers to throw for 227.3 yards and two TDs per game. Also, WR Chris Chambers surely will want to put up big numbers against the team that traded him away last season. Expect big production from the duo.

No team in the AFC has been worse against the run than the Colts, which should lead to a nice day for Texans RB Steve Slaton. Slaton has really come on over the past two weeks, gaining 240 yards from scrimmage and scoring two TDs. Indy, meanwhile, is giving up an absurd 199.3 rushing yards per game. Start the rookie with confidence.

You might be tempted to start returning Seahawks WRs Bobby Engram and Deion Branch this week, but the Giants aren’t likely to give them a warm welcome back. New York has been tough to pass on, allowing just 167.7 yards per game, and has put heavy pressure on opposing quarterbacks, sacking them 4.3 times per contest. That could lead to a long day for Matt Hasselbeck and the entire Seattle aerial attack.

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