Favre's Big Apple homecoming, the Colts' urgency, more storylines
The 2-2 Colts are facing a must-win scenario against the Chiefs this week
The NFC West champion could easily finish at .500 or below this season
Cards rookie QB Max Hall could be in for a long day against the Saints
You want to say Vikings-Jets is one of those games in which Brett Favre really wants to send a message. But Favre hasn't had a lot of luck sending messages lately. Voice, text, multimedia or otherwise, reportedly.
Among the NFL's Top 10 storylines: The Colts figure to offer the undefeated Chiefs their toughest test yet. The NFC West flails away in hopes of someday accomplishing mediocrity. Brian Cushing hopes to make YouTube highlights by flipping something other than tractor tires. And the little bully Cortland Finnegan apparently wants to steal everyone's lunch money on the playground.
But no doubt, the most twists and turns to a Week 5 story, to say nothing of creative heckling at Favre from the grandstands, will be at the new Meadowlands Stadium.
Vikings-Jets on Monday night offers:
There's no way to put this delicately. There also is no way to ignore it, considering the NFL has acknowledged it is investigating reports that while an employee of the Jets in 2008, Favre sent inappropriate messages and pictures to then-Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger.
What exactly were included in those messages? And specifically in the pictures, allegedly? Let's just say that Favre's guard may not have been the only thing that he let down.
Randy Moss is back. Usually, Moss is the one who finds himself in the midst of controversy. In fact, Moss's controversial postgame comments about his contract after Week 1 and an alleged shouting match with Patriots coach Bill Belichick could well be the reason he was shipped back to Minnesota.
Nevertheless, Moss has been a beast when he's wanted to play and is the perfect answer to Favre's problems trying to stretch the field and find a go-to receiver.
Will there be mixed emotions on both sides of the field regarding Favre? Probably not. But if it were not for Favre's monumental collapse as a Jet, he probably would not have felt so compelled to try again with the Vikings. And neither would the Jets have cleaned house and brought in the popular Rex Ryan, who's turned around Jets' fortunes. In fact, had Favre returned to the Jets, it's highly likely the club would not have drafted franchise quarterback Mark Sanchez.
The best quarterback on the field will be Sanchez. A few weeks ago, in this space, we wondered aloud if the Jets ever would take the shackles off Sanchez and let him sling the ball around the yard a bit. They have. And he has. Sanchez is proving to be the real deal in every way, completing 58 percent of his passes, throwing at least a pair of touchdowns in each of his last three games and posting a quarterback rating of 105.3.
Santonio Holmes returns, too. No one ever will accuse Holmes and Braylon Edwards of being choir boys. But they can catch the ball, and the return of Holmes, who served a four-game suspension for violating the league's drug policy, offers Sanchez another valuable weapon.
LaDainian Tomlinson has found the fountain of youth ... by avoiding Minnesota. When Tomlinson departed San Diego, his choices were the Vikings and Jets. He chose the Jets, because they offered an expanded role. He's made the most of it, to say the least, averaging 6.1-yards per-carry.
Elsewhere in Week 5, the storylines remain equally as intriguing:
2. Are the Chiefs for real? Oh, wait. Make that ... the Colts? The Kansas City Chiefs are the NFL's last unbeaten team and, considering they are coming off a 4-12 season and appear to be on the short end of this matchup battle against the defending conference champs, this should be a real barometer game for Todd Haley's squad. And it is.
But this very much also is a game that could strip the Colts of their air of supremacy in the conference. The Colts are 2-2, having lost a pair of division road games. They also are hurting in key spots on both sides of the ball, have struggled more than ever rushing the passer and have been gashed by quality running backs all year. The Chiefs have the third-best rushing attack in the league. The Colts are among the league's worst defending the rush and have struggled getting off the field on third-down. Peyton Manning's road to the Super Bowl gets a lot tougher with a 2-3 start.
3. So who's the popular Eagles quarterback this week? And for San Francisco, that's a trick question. Kevin Kolb will get the start for the Eagles in San Francisco. Will he be a prime time player again on the Sunday nighter? Kolb performed well as Donovan McNabb's backup, but once McNabb was shipped off Kolb was less than stellar, then suffered a concussion. Michael Vick took the job and excelled, but he was injured last Sunday. Kolb could go a long way toward regaining the job, or at least offering Andy Reid something to think about. Niners coach Mike Singletary doesn't have much to think about. He knows he doesn't have a quarterback and is in trouble of losing his job.
4. Brian Cushing is done making scary YouTube videos ... will the rage translate to the field? While serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's drug policy, Cushing made an impressive if somewhat scary YouTube video from his Rocky-like dank workout digs in New Jersey. He was flipping tractor tires, jumping over 64-inch-high hurdles from a standing start and twirling ropes that could tie down an aircraft carrier like dental floss. The dude's in shape. And he's in a rage (no pun intended ... OK, maybe it was). But will it transfer to the field for a talented Texans team in need of forcing more turnovers?
5. Does any team in the NFC West deserve a spot in the postseason? There's a very real possibility that all three NFC West teams will lose this weekend, with the Cardinals hosting the defending Super Bowl champion Saints, the Rams on the road at improving Detroit and the gawd-awful 49ers playing host to the Eagles. If "bye" had a team, there's a good chance the Seahawks would lose, too.
If all three NFC West teams lose, that would mean that five weeks into the season, three of the four teams in the division would have losing records and the fourth would be 2-2. That's not parity. That's just bad.
6. The Titans aren't dirty. They're just, "misunderstood," right? Oh, wait. They're not misunderstood. What Josh McDaniels saw and adamantly responded to probably was pretty much tack on. The Broncos coach said the Titans were unsportsmanlike. Quarterback Kyle Orton called Tennessee's tactics, "cheap." And right on cue, Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan was fined $5,000 for the third week in a row, for punching a helmetless Broncos lineman. Of course the Titans occasionally play dirty. The Broncos aren't the only ones who've said so. Of course they put on a little extra mustard any chance they get. They're by far the most penalized team in the league. But it works. The Titans get into opponents' heads ... can they do the same to Tony Romo?
7. When is Kyle Orton going to realize that, you know, he's Kyle Orton? Or is this the real him? He was rushed into the starting role in Chicago, demoted, elevated to the starter's spot again and finally unceremoniously moved on. Orton's career, to say the least, has been erratic. He found a home in Denver last year and started out like gangbusters before slipping at the end of the year. We'll find out a lot more about Orton against the fierce Baltimore defense, but he's on pace to break Dan Marino's record for passing yardage and has been mentioned in the same breath as Tom Brady, in terms of his accuracy this year. Whaa? Yup. Kyle Orton.
8. Peyton Hillis searches for three-straight 100-yard games, while fantasy owners scramble. He didn't exactly come out of nowhere, but Hillis, who wasn't a fit in McDaniels' Broncos offense, has found a home in Cleveland. This could be one of the better under-the-radar type stories of the week. And Hillis could be one of the league's best stories not named Arian Foster. After ripping run-stopping defenses, Hillis will be at home against a Falcons defense that allows 4.6-yards per-carry.
9. Death, taxes and Philip Rivers beating the Raiders. Just in time to help give the Chargers hope that all Super Bowl hope is not lost, here come the Raiders. This is an improving Raiders squad, for sure. But the Raiders have not beaten the Chargers in 13 tries and Rivers is a perfect 8-0 alltime against the division rivals. Worse, the Raiders will be without tailback Darren McFadden (hamstring) and the Chargers finally seem to be clicking, coming off a 41-10 thumping of Arizona.
10. Two ships passing in the night ... and one of them is steered by Max Hall? As impossible as it sounds, these teams that clearly are headed in opposite directions met in the playoffs last year. The Saints drilled the Cardinals then and most likely will do it again now. The Cards are pinning hopes on undrafted 25-year-old rookie Max Hall. And they're raving about his maturity, toughness and intangibles, some going so far as to compare him to the last rags-to-riches story the Cards knew well -- Kurt Warner. But hold on, kiddos. The Saints are masters at creating turnovers. This is a rookie starting his first game. It probably won't end well.
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