Posted: Friday December 31, 2010 12:55AM ; Updated: Friday December 31, 2010 10:28AM
Peter King
Peter King>GAME PLAN

Game Plan (cont.)

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Under Pressure

sam-bradford.jpg
A win Sunday and Sam Bradford will have taken the Rams from 1-15 in 2009 to 8-8 and a playoff berth in his rookie season.
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Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis.

Kid, the franchise drafted you first overall to win play-in games for the playoffs. The Rams just didn't think it'd be in year one. Still, the Rams are the better team Sunday night, and it's because of the St. Louis offense. Bradford's a better bet to play well than the shaky Charlie Whitehurst of the Seahawks, and Steven Jackson's worlds better than a Seattle run game contending to be the worst in franchise history statistically. "Been an amazing year so far, but we've got more to do,'' Bradford said the other day. A turnover-less, 65-percent passing night by Bradford in the din of Qwest Field would be enough to get it done.

The Unknown Player You Need to Know This Week

Michael Hoomanawanui, TE, St. Louis (number 86).

Say it three times fast. The Rams call him "Illinois Mike'' and there's little doubt Sam Bradford will look for him often Sunday night. He's become the best pass-catching receiver in the intermediate area for the Rams. He missed four games with a high left ankle sprain early in the season, and he's missed four more with a high right ankle sprain now. He's been practicing this week, and the Rams think he has a good shot to play Sunday night. If he goes, he'll be a key guy for Bradford.

Stat Line of the Weekend That May Surprise You

Joe Webb, QB, Minnesota, at Detroit:

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rating
19 26 298 2 0 136.4

And all of a sudden, the Vikings scratch their heads and wonder if Webb might really compete for the starting job next summer.

Ten Things I'll Be Watching For This Weekend

1. John Fox's last (sort of) hurrah. "I'm not really in a reflective mood at this stage," Fox said this week. "But I'll be able to walk out with my head high and be able to look in the mirror." Good for him. He took a team that never had a franchise quarterback to a Super Bowl and the playoffs two other times, and played the game the right way, and coached with class.

2. How the Bears play in Green Bay. What are the chances Carolina beats Atlanta, in Atlanta? Five percent? Assume in the early time slot Atlanta wins. In the late slot Sunday afternoon, Chicago would have absolutely nothing to play for. The Bears would be locked in at number two in the NFC playoffs. And I don't care how passionately Lovie Smith or Lance Briggs might be about playing a game against Green Bay all-out. It makes no sense to think the Bears' motivation would top Green Bay's.

3. Tucker Carlson to be ridiculed on every pregame show. I think you can figure out why.

4. Barack Obama to be respected on every pregame show. People, all he was doing was telling the owner of a sports franchise he appreciated an ex-con getting a second chance, which benefits the hundreds of thousands of ex-cons in the United States. That's all.

5. Trent Baalke to be named the 49ers GM -- and to try to get Jim Harbaugh to be his coach. I think that's the best chance for the Niners ... even though it seems like after Harbaugh coaches Stanford in its bowl game Monday night, Michigan will come calling. Aggressively.

6. The Giants trying to recover from disasterville. New York's allowed 73 points in the last 63 minutes. There's only one way to go from there, other than on the way to get the coach fired.

7. The NFC West Championship. Quite looking forward to this one, actually. St. Louis-Seattle. I'm not even going to ridicule it ... unless Seattle wins.

8. Jim Tomsula coaching his only NFL game. Cool stuff. The guy who 15 years ago was selling carpet and 10 years ago was coaching in NFL Europe gets rewarded with his one (and probably only) shot ever to coach an NFL game, against the Cards on Sunday by the Bay.

9. Rex Grossman and Eli Manning duel in a big game for both. Grossman tries to show Mike Shanahan he doesn't have to go draft a big-name quarterback in April. Manning tries to show the Giants he's still the man who won the Super Bowl three years ago and not the interception machine he's been lately. Jobs hang in the balance.

10. The Colts try to win a division against Tennessee with half their roster in sick bay. It's a sign of the resiliency of the Colts and the badness of the other three division teams that Indy is on the verge of winning the South for the 91st straight year. They have to beat the Titans, or hope for a Jag loss to Houston, to win and lock up the fourth seed in the AFC playoffs.

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