Game Plan (cont.)
Brian St. Pierre, QB, Carolina.
I spoke to a class at Boston College a few weeks ago, and Brian St. Pierre's brother was in it. Bright kid. Nice kid. Said his brother was still hoping to get back on a team this year. But was he hoping to show up in a city with a god-awful team and hoping to be handed the starting job so he could face Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngata?
St. Pierre hasn't been with an NFL team since last season, with Arizona. By the time he takes the field Sunday, he'll have had four practices with the Panthers. I liked Steve Smith's reaction when he was asked in the locker room Thursday by the Charlotte Observer his impression of St. Pierre. "He ain't been here long enough for me to get an impression,'' Smith said. Well, there are only two words to say to the Panthers this week: Stay safe.
1. Colts-Pats. 'Nuff said. Just watch the way the Patriots play, and see how reliant they've become on the tight end. The Pats after nine games last year had completed 29 balls to tight ends Ben Watson and Chris Baker; this year it's 53 to Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, with eight touchdowns -- one more than Wes Welker and the Patriot totals of Randy Moss and Deion Branch. Bill Belichick has reinvented his offensive weaponry before our eyes.
2. Where Peyton Manning and Clyde Christensen will hold their pregame conversations Sunday afternoon. I've always heard, reliably, that the Colts never trusted that they were totally alone in the Colts' locker room in Foxboro, and that when Manning had something of strategic significance to say to offensive coordinator Tom Moore, they both stepped outside into the concourse outside the locker room. So if you're outside the locker room Sunday, don't be surprised to see Manning and his first-year coordinator, Christensen, huddling for a few minutes.
3. The most important game of the weekend. Oakland at the Ketchup Bottle. Indy-New England is the marquee game, and rightfully so. But this is more significant. Follow my logic here. We all think the Colts and Pats are playoff-bound, right? Can't say the same for Raiders-Steelers, based on the Pittsburgh injuries and the fact that 5-4 Oakland's two big division games left (at San Diego, at K.C.) are on the road. So I look for a back-to-the-future game of 60-40 run-pass ratio collectively, with each team trying to survive and move on in the highly competitive AFC.
4. Mike Williams (Tampa Bay's Mike Williams, that is) and the Buc discipline over his driving-while-impaired arrest. Williams, arrested at 2:45 this morning in the Tampa area after being seen weaving through traffic lanes, will travel and play with the team in San Francisco. Williams was picked up for suspicion of driving while impaired; he tested for an amount less than the .08 blood-alcohol limit in his system. But he also had to submit a urine sample to the arresting officer, and we'll see if there was another substance in his system. In the first nine games of the year, Josh Freeman has targeted Williams 76 times; the next-most-targeted receiver is Kellen Winslow, with 57. The Bucs, obviously, are furious with a guy they went far out on a limb to draft.
5. Andre Johnson-Darrelle Revis. Remember last year, when Revis started his incredible year by holding Johnson to four soft catches for 35 touchdown-less yards? Johnson remembers. At the Meadowlands on Sunday, Johnson will try to atone.
6. Colt McCoy solidifying the starting job in Cleveland. There's a reason the Browns are being very careful to not say they have handed the starting job to McCoy for the rest of the year. They don't want Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace to feel they're insignificant. But as long as McCoy continues to play the way he has, or close, he won't be replaced. Expect another efficient, fairly mistake-free game Sunday against the Jags.
7. Troy Smith. Interesting. He's got a chance to be the quarterback of the future, as long as Mike Singletary's on board. And beating the 6-3 Bucs would help him solidify his hold on the job, not just for this year, but for 2011 and beyond ... if Singletary -- who loves him -- is his boss.
8. Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett and the future of a team you may have heard of. The Cowboys have two chances, at home, in a five-day span to show they want Garrett to be their coach of the future. Against Detroit, I like their chances. Against New Orleans, on Thanksgiving, not so much.
9. Reggie Bush's motivation. I don't expect a warm-and-fuzzy handshake when Bush meets Pete Carroll on the floor of the Superdome, unless Bush buries all the bitterness of being abandoned by those he used to play with and for at USC. But in Bush's first game back after recovering from his Week 2 leg fracture, I think he will be supremely motivated to put up a big number on the Seahawks and his former coach.
10. Favre's last game against Green Bay (we all think) ... and the Sterger cloud hanging over him. It won't be long before the league decides on what, if any, discipline is imposed on Brett Favre for his relationship (or lack thereof) with the former Jets' sideline host. Weird game against Green Bay for that reason and others. And how good would Aaron Rodgers and the Packers feel to be the team that puts the final nail in Favre's 2010 playoff hopes.
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