The Game Plan (cont.)
Brad Smith, QB/WR/Special Teams, Jets.
A weird choice. But there's something about the way the Jets have played the season, and used Smith, that almost feels like he's been purposely hidden the first two playoff games. Three touches from scrimmage, five yards. That's it. After a 25-touch, 270-yard impact in the regular season, and with the threat of Smith being able to throw it from the Wildcat or shotgun, I just feel like Rex Ryan, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and special-teams coach Mike Westhoff are cooking up some way for Smith to be a difference-maker Sunday. If he touches the ball four or five times, the slippery, fast and athletic Smith could be the difference in a tight game.
Ten Things I'll Be Watching For This Weekend
1. The continuing downward spiral of the Pro Bowl. It's almost like it's a punishment to have to play in it. If Peyton Manning wins Sunday, that will mean that eight of the 16 quarterbacks in the AFC this year can call themselves 2009 Pro Bowlers. The three voted in were Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers. Brady and Rivers bowed out because of injury, as did the first alternate, Ben Roethlisberger, though none of them missed any time because of their injuries late in the season. Then came Matt Schaub; he'll play. Then Carson Palmer; he won't because of thumb surgery on his non-throwing hand. Then Vince Young, who started all of 10 games this year. As I said on Twitter the other day, I bet Bruce Gradkowski's next.
2. The Dome Noise Factor. Yeccch. Two championship games with no elements because of closed roofs. No elements, of course, other than ridiculous noise. "It could be a factor,'' cornerback Antoine Winfield acknowledged Thursday. Maybe. Brett Favre's played in lots of loud games in his life. "I never listen for the snap count anyway,'' Sidney Rice told me last night. "I just watch the snap of the ball.'' Maybe it's more of a factor for rookie Mark Sanchez.
3. The Sanchize. "I've never had one like him,'' agent David Dunn said, waiting for client Sanchez to come out of the Jets locker room last Sunday. "He gets it. He gets everything.''
Normally I'd say a rookie in a championship game is a recipe for disaster. It might be. But I don't think the Jets lose Sunday because of some lack of readiness on Sanchez's part. He hasn't always played well this year, but nothing's shaken him yet.
4. Percy Harvin's migraines. Talked to Brad Childress Thursday night, and he didn't seem to think Harvin would miss the game. But these migraines are maddening. Minnesota sent him to the Mayo Clinic earlier this year to get them managed, but they're not going away. The Vikings without Harvin are a diminished team.
5. The Indy cornerback depth chart. Probably not a game-changer, subbing Jacob Lacey for Jerraud Powers (foot) if Powers can't go, especially against an offense that probably won't fill the air with footballs. But Indy already is short at corner, and if Lacey gets nicked it could be a big factor.
6. Revis Island. I watched it last Sunday in person, with Revis allowing Philip Rivers one completion for minus-four yards in four quarters of football. I expect a dedicated Reviscam on Sunday, CBS.
7. Rexcam. Of course, CBS is going to need an every-snap camera on the Clarence Clemons of the NFL too.
8. The future of Brett Favre. No! Not again! A Vike loss and you-know-what will be the story du jour for the next six months, no matter how stridently you-know-who states his case about his future.
9. Al Davis. Tom Cable. Does it matter?
10. 2011 lockout talk. Get ready for it. No progress in labor talks means 18 months of stories -- which I give you permission to gloss over totally -- with the two sides belittling each other. With player reps in Capitol Hill on Wednesday, let the politicizing of a simple labor dispute begin.
NFL Truth & Rumors