The Game Plan (cont.)
Andrew Quarless, TE, Green Bay (No. 81)
With injuries to Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee, Quarless, a fifth-round rookie from Penn State, could play the vast majority of the game against Miami, and with the concern about presumptive starter Aaron Rodgers coming off a concussion last week, look for coach Mike McCarthy to call plays to get the ball out early. Quarless had four catches in relief against Washington last week. Look for his opportunities to increase Sunday against the Dolphins.
1. An elimination game in Minneapolis. No team that started 1-4 ever advanced to play in the Super Bowl. Crisis managers in Dallas and Minnesota, start your engines.
2. Darrelle Revis. I can't believe the Jets are thinking of playing Revis, who clearly is not over his hamstring injury, at Denver on Sunday. But he'll travel with the team and Rex Ryan will determine if he plays. I am not a doctor -- though I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night -- but I find it hard to believe, with a bye coming next week, the Jets would risk exacerbating the hammy at Mile High.
3. Ben returneth. It comes in the mismatch of the year -- Cleveland's Colt McCoy making his first career start, after a very, very shaky preseason -- but it'll be interesting to see how the local crowd reacts to Ben Roethlisberger's return. Get the emotion out of the way, and the Steelers can go about fixing the league's 32nd-ranked passing game (136 yards per game), which Roethlisberger should do in short order here.
4. The Favre Case. NFL commish Roger Goodell said this morning on The Today Show that he hasn't spoken with Brett Favre about his alleged indiscretions with a Jets' sideline host in 2008. I have a feeling that won't be the last piece of news we hear on Favre this weekend.
5. The Favre elbow. He'll play, barring a stunning setback, even with the tendinitis in his throwing elbow.
6. Michael Vick. He'd love to play against the Falcons, but it appears he'll miss his second straight game because of his chest injury. I do believe, however, he'll spend some time this afternoon and Saturday telling Andy Reid how wonderful he feels.
7. Rivers to Gates. Nine games in a row Philip Rivers has hit Antonio Gates for a touchdown, the longest touchdown streak for a tight end in NFL history. At St. Louis on Sunday, I think we'd all be shocked if the streak didn't continue.
8. The enigmatic Texans. In the past three weeks, Houston got blown out by Dallas at home, won a game the Texans easily could have lost at Oakland, and got blown out by the Giants at home. Now the Chiefs come to town, having not allowed any of four foes 20 points yet this year (including San Diego and Indy.) Time for the Texans to show who they really are.
9. The Patriots minus Moss. They've had a long bye week to figure out Life After Randy. Other than the fact it's a lot more peaceful, no one knows quite what they'll see Sunday against the mighty Ravens in Foxboro. Will it be Aaron Hernandez flexed out and running downfield more? Brandon Tate running deep routes? Deion Branch to the rescue? Tune in Sunday.
10. The Bucs try to slay the Big, Bad (and Flawed) Saints. In the last eight quarters, the Saints watched teams quarterbacked by Jimmy Clausen and Max Hall outscore them a combined 44-36. Now comes 22-year-old Josh Freeman, who is Johnny Unitas in experience compared to those two guys. And Freeman won't be scared of anything Gregg Williams throws at him. Amazing to think Tampa Bay could be a game-and-a-half up on the Saints, with a tiebreaker edge too, by 4 p.m. Sunday.