As the new ’68 VW bus rolls toward the train that will roll me to New York, I justify the write off by banging out the weekly Friday 10-pack.
This week, the write off extends to Tuesday, thanks to the Vikings-Jets Monday night game in the New Meadowlands Stadium.
I’ll be joining Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, and Greg Coleman of the Vikings Radio Network for the third quarter of the game, with the goal of being a little less disastrous than Christian Slater on Monday Night Football in 2006.
And so this week’s edition of the Friday 10-pack puts a little extra focus on the Monday night game.
1. What will Favre do?
When the Vikings’ offense lines up to play the Jets on Monday night, quarterback Brett Favre will face a dilemma.
When Moss takes off down the field, drawing a cornerback from the line and a safety over the top, will Favre choose to try to be on the front end of one of those legendary rainbows that splash down into Randy’s arms, with Moss somehow securing possession even as he’s draped by two or three men — and possibly an official? Or will Favre check down to one of the guys who’ll be facing single coverage, like Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, or Adrian Peterson?
Favre acknowledged the dilemma during his press conference on Thursday.
“I’m like everyone else,” Favre said. “I’m watching the Monday night game, and I’m like, ‘He’s only been thrown to one time?’ So what if he’s covered? That’s the thing about Randy. So what if he’s covered? But does that mean you just throw it to him and you got four other guys that are wide open? There’s this added pressure. Maybe it’s just I’m getting old.”
Favre needs to forget about the pressure and just play. And he needs to defer to the coaches when it comes to distributing the football. In some cases, it will make sense to chuck it deep, even if Moss is triple-covered. In other cases, the smart move will be to take what the defense gives Favre.
And that’s why Favre is feeling pressure. He knows his nature meshes with winging it deep, on pretty much every drive. And in what apparently will be his final season (unless it isn’t), Favre finally has a guy who reliably will be in position to catch one out of every two or three of those bombs.
How can Favre resist?
2. Revis need to zip it.
Earlier this year, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis called Randy Moss a slouch. In Week Two, that slouch blew by Revis and made a one-handed grab for the ages, as Revis was playing the Al Czervik broken arm routine.
Now, with Revis still recovering from a Moss-induced hamstring strain that traces to Revis’ August holdout, Revis again is taking shots at Moss, claiming that Randy shut it down in the second half of Pats-Jets game. Revis even has influenced Antonio Cromartie, who by all appearances held Moss in check on a day Revis couldn’t, to join in the chorus, even though it minimizes Cromartie’s accomplishment from Week Two.
Revis, who seems like a smart guy, isn’t smart enough. He should take a cue from Bill Belichick and smother Randy in verbal bouquets. Few other players find more motivation from external sources than Moss, and Moss will be even more ready to face the Jets, thanks to Revis and Cromartie.
3. Pats set a dangerous precedent.
The circumstances were familiar. A disgruntled receiver who wants more money from his current team or a trade to a new one begins to cause trouble, agitating and distracting until he gets what he wants or the whole thing explodes.
Five years ago, the “original 81″ took that situation to the extreme, pushing the Eagles to the breaking point and beyond after Terrell Owens’ performance against the Patriots in the Super Bowl prompted Owens to push for a new contract. The Eagles refused to relent, concerned in part that other players could thereafter try to talk their own way out of town.
With the “other 81″ (who is now back to being the “original 84″), the Patriots decided not to dig in their heels, giving Moss what he wanted before the situation involved shirtless situps or press conferences featuring guys saying “next question.” (OK, the second thing still happened anyway.)
Some will now say that the Patriots have set a dangerous precedent. And anyone who would say that would be right. Moss has given any future Patriot who wants a new deal or a trade to a team who’ll give him one a blueprint for getting out.
But here’s the thing. Moss’ talent level and his accomplishments made the team more likely to relent. Also, when the Pats acquired him in 2007, the transaction represented at a certain level a deal with the devil. They knew that, eventually, the Moss who metastasized through the Minnesota and Oakland organizations would return, and they accepted the fact that, when it happens, they’ll deal with it.
Moving forward, the precedent that has been set may not be a problem because the Pats seem to be recommitting to the notion of acquiring only those guys who want to be there.
4. Will Cushing be the same?
Though most of the attention in Houston this week centers on receiver Andre Johnson, who’ll be a game-time decision a week after missing a game due to a lingering ankle problem, another player who should be watched carefully going forward is linebacker Brian Cushing, the two-time (literally) 2009 Associated Press defensive rookie of the year.
Cushing returns from a four-game suspension. Unlike the other high-profile players whose quarter-season banishments have ended (Santonio Holmes of the Jets and Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers), Cushing’s punishment arose from a violation of the league’s policy regarding performance-enhancing substances.
Assuming, then, that Cushing actually cheated and that his multiple excuses (as the league concluded) hold less water than a fettucini strainer, the question will be whether he can play at the same level without the benefit of the steroids he took before chasing them with hCG in order to kick-start his natural production of testosterone, which shuts down during a steroids cycle.
If Cushing merely used steroids to speed the recovery of an injured knee in order to ensure that he’d be able to play in Week One of his rookie year, he should be able to play as well without them.
Until, of course, he gets injured, and he’s forced to rehab without the use of impermissible chemicals.
5. Eagles are taking a huge gamble.
When the Eagles travel to San Francisco for a Sunday night game against the desperate and thus dangerous 49ers, they’ll have two quarterbacks: Kevin Kolb and Mike Kafka.
If Kolb should have his helmet planted into the Candlestick turf like the stump of a used Christmas tree, the rookie from Northwestern will be pressed into service.
And so the Eagles are taking a huge gamble by not having on the roster a veteran with knowledge of and experience in the West Coast offense. Last year, when Donovan McNabb went down and Kolb stepped up, the Eagles brought back Jeff Garcia in an effort to beef up a depth chart that otherwise included only Mike Vick. How, then, can the Eagles choose to fly blind with the only alternative to Kolb being an unproven, unaccomplished, and (in comparison to Vick) dramatically less talented first-year player?
6. Door should be open for Kolb.
The Eagles apparently are willing to assume (or at a minimum hope) that they won’t have to resort to Mike Kafka until Mike Vick returns from a rib/chest injury. But what if Kevin Kolb plays as well as he did when Donovan McNabb had a rib/chest injury in 2009?
Coach Andy Reid
already has said that Vick remains the starter, something Reid said about Kolb when Kolb was injured. If Vick was able to alter that status quo, it’s only fair that Kolb should be able to do the same thing.
Though Kolb currently is saying only the right things, Kolb has to be thinking that the door is open. If he plays incredibly well (admittedly a big “if”, but not impossible), he needs to have a chance to take his job back.
And if Kolb doesn’t get the same consideration Vick received, Kolb will have clear cause to be upset.
7. Peppers comes home.
Bears defensive end Julius Peppers returns home on Sunday. The one-time high-profile Carolina rookie has a simple goal — demolish the Panthers’ current high-profile rookie, quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
Though the Panthers may not win the game, they’ll surely be obsessed with preventing Peppers from having an impact. They paid him millions, especially in his final season with the team, and he often complained. At times, he underachieved. At other times, it seemed that he didn’t give his all on every play.
If coach John Fox has any desire to finish out the season, he’ll find a way to use Peppers’ past words and actions (or inactions) to fire up the troops to give their best possible effort. With quarterback Jay Cutler out due to a concussion, the Panthers have a chance to pull this one off.
And if the Panthers were to win only one game this year, like they did in the season that put them in position to pick Peppers, they’d likely want the one win to come against Peppers and his new team.
8. Keep an eye on Kyle Orton.
When the Broncos traded quarterback Jay Cutler to the Bears for a pair of first-round draft picks, quarterback Kyle Orton was tacked onto the deal as an afterthought.
In his second season with the Broncos, Orton is anything but a forgotten man.
Orton currently leads all quarterbacks with 1,419 yards passing, a pace that would shatter Dan Marino’s all-time single-season record. Though on one hand it’s not surprising given the extent to which the Broncos have tilted their offense toward throwing the ball, the players still need to execute, and no one ever dreamed that Orton would be able to do it.
If he can fire missiles throughout M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, Orton will move even closer to being regarded as an elite quarterback.
The truth could be that he’s already there.
9. Colts have no silver lining.
Many league observers assume that the Colts’ slow start (they’re 2-2) represents a major shift from their recent history of 10-0 launches to the season. The reality, however, is that it’s the second time in three years that the Colts have struggled in September and October.
In 2008, the Colts opened at 1-2 and later slid to 3-4 before catching fire, winning nine in a row. That year, however, Peyton Manning was hampered in the early going by late-offseason surgery to clean a staph infection out of his knee.
This year, Manning is fine, notwithstanding rumors of lingering nerves problems in his neck.
So if we accept the fact that Manning is firing on all cylinders (and his numbers suggest that he is), the Colts have no reason to think things will get much better as the season unfolds. It could be, then, that the pack finally is catching up to the Colts, and that the days of 12-or-more-win seasons are done.
At least for 2010.
10. Uprising of the winless teams?
In one of the most parity-driven seasons since former Commissioner Pete Rozelle decided that seeing the Steelers, Cowboys, and Raiders competing for every Lombardi Trophy, four teams have been unable to navigate the first four weeks of the season with a win.
This week, each of the four winless teams could change the “0″ to a “1″ in the win column.
In Buffalo, the Bills welcome the up-and-down Jaguars, who probably are feeling a little too good about themselves after pulling off an unlikely win over the Colts. In Detroit, the close-but-no-cigar Lions could have an exploding stogie in store for the Rams, who probably are feeling a little to good about themselves after winning two games in eight days. In Charlotte, as mentioned earlier, the Panthers welcome Julius Peppers home, without having to face Jay Cutler. And in San Francisco, the better-than-their-record Niners get an Eagles team that won’t have Mike Vick.
Don’t be shocked if each of these four 0-4 teams find a way to further prove the parity premise by pushing the bottom of the pack a step closer to the front.