Game Plan (cont.)
Charles Godfrey, FS, Carolina (No. 30)
The Panthers, justifiably, have flown far under the radar this year, and they won't be a factor in the playoff chase in the last year of John Fox's reign. But there are a few solid building blocks for the next staff, among them NFL interceptions leader Godfrey, who, at 24, will likely be the long-term leader of this secondary.
Godfrey's an above-average tackler, good ballhawk (four interceptions, five passes defensed) and good return man; he's averaged 23.5 yards on his four interception returns. San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith certainly has been educated on Godfrey's range in film study this week.
St. Louis WR Danario Alexander is 6-foot-5. He's feisty. And he's starting to find a good bond with Sam Bradford.
Here is my prediction for Alexander's stat line against Tampa Bay:
1. Aggression. Or lack thereof. I guarantee many players rolled their eyes at the video they were shown Thursday in team meeting rooms leaguewide, when NFL discipline-man Ray Anderson narrated a four-minute presentation with highlights of both good and bad collisions (from the league's perspective). Everyone in America will be watching to see if players play differently this weekend. I doubt they will -- except for a Brandon Meriweather or two. As the Patriots safety told Rodney Harrison this week, he's going to leave the cheap stuff on the sideline.
2. Jared Allen to be a factor. One sack in five games. Now, he pressured Tony Romo pretty consistently last week, so maybe there's hope for him showing up in Green Bay Sunday night. After all, he did have 7.5 sacks in two games against the Packers last season. Minnesota needs him to torment Aaron Rodgers similarly Sunday night.
3. Favre, Favre, Favre, sort of. I'm sure Brett Favre was really disappointed to see the NFL's screed against big hits this week. He was enjoying the spotlight so much. The pregame shows will highlight the NFL's anti-headhunting mission Sunday, taking more of the heat off Favre for the investigation into alleged harassment of a former Jets sideline host. Speaking of Jenn Sterger ...
4. Will she talk? It's getting old now. Either talk or don't talk. Make a decision.
5. Reunion Week in Chicago on Sunday. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan watches his old quarterback, Jay Cutler, try to beat him. The city of Chicago watches their old high school star, Donovan McNabb, try to make it five wins in six games as a Soldier Field visitor. Should be a fun game between two teams that, in a weak NFC, have playoff shots.
6. Which Chargers will show up against New England. San Diego's playing for its 2010 life Sunday against New England because a loss drops it to 2-5. And their top four receivers all are in danger of missing the game -- tight end Antonio Gates (toe) and wideouts Malcom Floyd (hamstring), Legedu Naanee (hamstring) and Buster Davis (ribs) all missed practice Thursday. But practice squadder Seyi Ajirotutu did get some reps. Now there's reason for hope.
7. Jerry Jones getting serious. Somehow, when the ESPN cameras look for Jones Monday night, I don't expect him to be so jolly. Dallas is 1-4, in a huge NFC playoff hole with a 0-3 conference mark, and the Giants, who owned them last year, are coming to town. On Thursday, as Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News reported, Jones gave his team a "put up or shut up'' speech. Strong words from Jerral Wayne Jones.
8. Colt McCoy getting a chance to win the Cleveland job for good. What do the Browns have to lose? After McCoy went a surprisingly good 23 of 33 against Pittsburgh last week, I think if he has a competent-to-good game against the Saints at the Superdome he'll be the Cleveland quarterback when the men of Mangini return from their bye in two weeks to face New England.
9. Whether Miami can stop the weirdness. Dolphs are 0-2 at home, allowing 36 points a game; 3-0 on the road, allowing 13 a game. Pittsburgh plays at Miami Sunday but valuable Miami rookie defensive end Jared Odrick is lost with a broken leg. Gloria Estefan had better come with her most inspirational warbling this week.
10. Whether the Colts can stay healthy, and sober, on their bye weekend. Eventful bye week. Punter Pat McAfee got drunk and went swimming in a city canal at 5 in the morning -- in 39-degree weather. Peyton Manning fave Austin Collie had hand surgery and will be gone for two or three weeks. Manning superfave Dallas Clark is out for the year with a wrist injury. Uh-oh. Be careful in everything you do all weekend, Reggie Wayne.