Posted: Saturday December 25, 2010 1:26AM ; Updated: Saturday December 25, 2010 1:31AM
John P. Lopez
John P. Lopez>INSIDE THE NFL

Ryan's focus, Jags' chances and Tebow lead Week 16 storylines

Story Highlights

Forget Michelle Ryan's feet, the Jets should be worried about Mark Sanchez's arm

The Jaguars could be without Maurice-Jones Drew against the Redskins this week

If Gary Kubiak loses to the Broncos, he could end up coaching them next season

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Michelle and Rex Ryan
While many have been focused on Rex Ryan's love for feet this week, the Jets head coach has kept his attention on the Bears.
AP

The NFL already knew Jets coach Rex Ryan was prone to sticking a foot in his mouth. Who knew it may not always be his?

If reports are to be believed -- and Ryan's deflecting of the subject may have spoken volumes -- leave it to the always-interesting Jets to turn this game of inches into a game of feet. Specifically, reportedly, Michelle Ryan's feet. They stole many a Week 16 headline.

But let's not forget the other New York team and the other big foot story -- punter Matt Dodge's. While Jets past and present make news with various appendages, from Sal Alosi's knee, to Michelle Ryan's feet, Mark Sanchez's erratic arm and of course Brett Favre's manhood (reportedly), the epicenter of Week 16 will be Green Bay.

That's where we begin Week 16 storylines, as Giants-Packers drips with intrigue and twists that should set the playoff course for some and perhaps determine future employment.

• Will the Giants allow the Philadelphia Eagles to beat them twice in a row? That is, the hangover effect from giving up 28-points in less than eight fourth-quarter minutes could be very real, if the Giants allow it to affect them. Will they? It was a devastating loss with far-reaching playoff implications. Even Tom Coughlin admitted he sat in a dark room for more than two hours after the loss and said players were sluggish when practices started this week.

• Matt Dodge, say hello to more pressure than you've ever known. Rest assured, the Packers will come after Dodge at least once after the Giants punter unspeakably kicked to DeSean Jackson, who gutted the middle of The Meadowlands on his way to the winning points last week. That wasn't the only special teams blunder, however, and Giants special teams coach Tom Quinn finds himself in the crosshairs as well, after his guys gave up Jackson's return and allowed an onside kick.

• All Bill Cowher wants for Christmas is Tom Coughlin's job? As if Coughlin hadn't heard enough of the seemingly endless simmer about his job being in jeopardy, now there are reports that Cowher is ready to jut his jaw into the Giants coaching picture. Giants owner John Mara appears to have Coughlin's back for now, but what will he be saying behind it if the Giants lose?

• This one truly is a, "must win." You hear that term quite often, but for both teams, they just don't get bigger than this. If the Giants win, they clinch the playoffs and the Packers are realistically in the identical situation.

On to other Week 16 storylines, where playoff berths and implications abound. So, too, do some jobs hang in the balance:

2) Forget the feet. What about Mark Sanchez' arm? The real story of Sunday's Jets-Bears game is the Bears' Jay Cutler putting together a terrific season and Sanchez trying to piece his back together. Sanchez apparently was cleared to play after getting through Friday's practice and will start. Ryan's team responded nicely in Pittsburgh last week. Win here and it will be another, yup, step forward.

3) Don't count out the Jaguars just yet? Oh, wait ... they've lost their MoJo. Despite losing at Indy, Jacksonville still has a realistic shot at the AFC South title, considering the Colts head to the Black Hole in Oakland and all the Jags have left is Washington and Houston. But Maurice Jones-Drew didn't practice all week and apparently will not play on Sunday. That makes the path unspeakably tougher.

4) And for your parting gift, Gary Kubiak, you get this shiny new Denver icon named Tim Tebow. In just another bizarre twist to one of the more bizarre NFL seasons, if Kubiak loses to Tebow and the Broncos, he could well end up coaching Tebow and the Broncos. Kubiak remains a popular coach in Denver. Expectations in Houston this season were much higher than their current 5-9 mark. Lose to the raw Tebow and it could be the last straw in Texans owner Bob McNair's eyes.

5) Don't look now, but just in time for the playoffs and the Raiders in Oakland, Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning again. After the well-chronicled magnificent struggles Manning had over a three-game stretch, he's completed 54-of-74 passes for 548 yards and four TDs, with no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 112. Oh, yeah. He gets running back and play-action partner Joseph Addai bacj this week, too.

6) When you're good, the ball bounces your way. This is why the Eagles are going to win the NFC East with a victory over the struggling Vikings. The game was flexed, thinking it could be a Michael Vick vs. Brett Favre showdown. It's not looking that way, as Favre likely will not play. Still, the Eagles have become a huge Super Bowl threat with Vick standing as their marquee player. But don't forget the plus-14 turnover margin the Eagles own this year. The Vikes, meanwhile, are minus-14.

7) At least the NFC West champ will be bowl-eligible. Still, would even the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl take a 7-9 team? Niners-Cardinals has serious playoff implications, even if the standings are an embarrassment to the league, considering the division winner could finish with a losing record. That wouldn't matter to the Rams, of course, but in order to get there Sam Bradford has to recapture some of his magic from earlier this season.

8) The Falcons may have the NFC South wrapped up, but they'd feel a lot better with a home win over the defending Super Bowl champs. The Falcons have earned everything they've won this year. Michael Turner has been a beast, the defense has made plays, receivers have stepped up and Matt Ryan has been virtually unbeatable at home (19-1 over his career). Still, the momentum from a convincing win over the rival Saints would be huge.

9) John Skelton, Jon Kitna ... Jon Kitna, John Skelton. Introductions will be necessary when the woeful Cardinals hitch their wagon to Skelton as they take on the 5-9 Cowboys. Once upon a time, this game might have been circled as a huge one. Instead, it's all about players and coaches -- specifically the Cowboys' Jason Garrett -- auditioning for future employment.

10) The ever-dangerous Chargers enter the final two weeks at Cincy this Sunday and at Denver next week on Phillip Rivers' wing and a prayer. Don't count 'em out. Inevitably, the Chargers seem to disappoint come the postseason, but they always seem to get there. After a 2-5 start, the Chargers appear on their way again miraculously. They still need the Chiefs to lose to either the Titans this week or the Raiders next to make it, which may be asking a lot. But the Chiefs have been erratic. Oh, yeah. Rivers never has lost a December road game, either.

 
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