Game Plan (cont.)
Cortland Finnegan, CB, Tennessee.
No eyes in Nashville will be on the outcome of the Texans-Titans. All eyes, and I'm sure the CBS iso cameras, will be on the matchup between Finnegan and Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson, who brawled when the teams met last month. Finnegan told me he wants to play the role of peacemaker with Johnson. "My hope is me and Andre can just call a truce,'' Finnegan said. "I respect him first and foremost as a football player. I'm sorry that got out of hand.'' Finnegan said he's "not exactly sure what I'm supposed to be sorry for, because I was just playing hard, but if it requires me to say I'm sorry, I will, just so we can move on from this.''
Finnegan also told me he will continue to "quick-jam'' (his words) aggressive receivers like Johnson at the line of scrimmage, and said he thinks the reason he hit Johnson high, apparently causing the receiver to flip out three weeks ago, is because Johnson leaned back at the point of impact, causing his jam to go up around the shoulders instead of the chest. Regardless, look for Finnegan to try to bury the hatchet Sunday when they step on the field together. I'll be interested to see Johnson's reaction. I tried to reach out to him, with no luck, but my feeling is that he's enough of a gentleman that he'll shake hands with Finnegan when they line up across from each other Sunday afternoon.
Jamar Chaney, MLB, Philadelphia (number 51).
Bad news for the Eagles heading into the NFC East prize fight with the Giants at the Meadowlands. Chaney, a seventh-round pick from Mississippi State, makes his first career start at the nerve center of the Eagle D -- and all he has to do is be quick enough to chase down Ahmad Bradshaw, strong enough to take down Giant monsterback Brandon Jacobs, and tough enough to take the beating from aptly named Giant tight end Bear Pascoe.
Chaney held the fort last week after middle linebacker and defensive signal-caller Stewart Bradley went down with a dislocated elbow, but starting this week, he'll be a studied target. "He wasn't shy with his calls, and he played physical football,'' Andy Reid said of Chaney's job against Dallas last Sunday. Ratchet it up, kid.
Tight end Dustin Keller's projected line against the Steelers on Sunday:
The Steelers are surrendering a historic 60.1 rushing yards per game, and I don't see Mark Sanchez having much time to get the ball downfield. Be happy you've got Keller in fantasyland if you do.
1. Drew Brees trying to make a little bit of history against Ray Lewis. He'd join Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks with five straight 4,000-yard passing seasons if he can manage 145 yards Sunday in the Inner Harbor.
2. The impact on the first overall pick. Carolina, taking on beatable Arizona at home, finishes at Pittsburgh (on a short week) and at Atlanta. In other words, the Panthers are likely to have two straight losses to end the season, unless the Falcons have zero to play for in Week 17. So this could be the last chance for the Panthers to trip up on the first overall pick next April. And a shot at Andrew Luck.
3. Kerry Collins approaching a milestone I'm stunned he's close to. Eleven quarterbacks have thrown for 40,000 yards in NFL history. Collins could be the 12th if he throws for 331 yards in the final three weeks. Who knows? As bad as the Houston secondary is, he could get it this week, though I doubt it. Incredible for a guy who the Panthers had to babysit and continually make excuses for after he was drafted in the first round in 1995.
4. The Jets, trying to save their season. Won't be easy, at Pittsburgh in the late game Sunday, and then at Chicago next weekend. I want to show you something that's quite possible if the Jets, who will be favored to lose both of their next two, actually lose to the Steelers and Bears to fall to 9-6. The following teams could be 9-6 entering Week 17, with a 10-6 record likely to win the second and final wild-card playoff spot in the AFC: Miami, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Kansas City, San Diego. Take the Chiefs and Jags, let's say, out of the mix for winning their divisions. That still leaves four teams entering the final Sunday of the season vying for the final playoff spot. The Jets could whittle down the odds by winning in Pittsburgh. I don't see it.
5. Aaron Rodgers' head. Looks like he won't be playing Sunday night at New England; he missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, days after suffering his second concussion of the season. All those who think Matt Flynn can win in Foxboro, raise your Cheeseheads. I didn't think so.
6. The Giants chasing Mike Vick, and so early in the day. A game for the NFC East championship usually would never be played early on Sunday. (Vegas dwellers, it's breakfast at the Sports Book Sunday.) Here's how it happened: CBS has the doubleheader game this week; that's the Jets and Steelers, which cannot be moved. The two New York teams cannot play games in the same time slot by league rule, so the Giants-Eagles had to either be the 1 p.m. Eastern Time game, or have been flexed to Sunday night 11 days ago. With New England-Green Bay scheduled for Sunday night, NBC and the NFL weren't going to move Tom Brady and the ratings-magnet Packers -- meeting for the first time in four years -- for Iggles-Jints.
7. A winter wonderland in Minneapolis. I don't know about you, but to me, the more winter we get in the NFL the better. And for the Vikings to actually have an outdoor game in a frigid Snow Globe Monday night at the University of Minnesota's stadium is exceedingly cool. Or cold. Having Joe Webb reprise the Joe Kapp role for the Vikings makes it ever cooler.
8. The Championship of Missouri. Chiefs-Rams, with everything to play for in mid-December. I love it. Next we'll be talking about Lions-Browns in December, with everything to play for. (We can dream, can't we?)
9. Hall of Fame voters, filing their ballots. There are 44 of us. Ballots are due Wednesday. I mailed mine two days ago, with my choices of cutting the list of 26 modern-era candidates to the required 15. The Hall will tabulate the ballots, then give us the final 15 in January, in time to research and reflect some more before we go into the meeting to select the Class of 2011 on Feb. 5 in Dallas.
10. Sal Alosi. Mike Westhoff. Rex Ryan. Someone's going to have interesting news on the June Taylor Dancers formation on the New York sideline on the Sunday pregame shows. Looking forward to hearing it.