Brees, Manning to duel for perhaps last time (cont.)
A coach, actually: Todd Bowles, defensive coordinator, Philadelphia. The Eagles canned Juan Castillo because the defense had become predictable, and because the pass-rush had gotten stale, and two excellent rushers, Jason Babin and Trent Cole, weren't getting home enough. Bowles said all the right things this week about how he didn't feel pressure as a first-time coordinator, and it's all about getting the job done as a unit. And he's right, of course. But if the Eagles don't pressure Matt Ryan more than they've pressured their past six quarterback foes, all eyes will focus on Bowles for not figuring a way to knock the passer around.
1. The hook for Mike Vick. With 13 turnovers in six games, Vick may not be looking over his shoulder at Nick Foles, but he won't have to. A couple more turnovers in a game against Atlanta and the fans will remind him of it -- and Andy Reid will have to strongly consider playing the rookie with his season, and maybe his Eagles career, on the line.
2. Jordy Nelson. Randall Cobb. Ted Thompson. Nelson could miss Sunday's walkover against the Jags, which would mean Nelson and Greg Jennings (groin), Aaron Rodgers' two faves, would both be out. Thanks heavens Cobb got plucked in the second round last year by Thompson, because he looks like a long-term star, and certainly the short-term savior for a battered receiving corps.
3. Cam Newton trying to save Carolina's season in a very bad place. Panthers at Soldier Field. Voracious Chicago defense. Newton with battered confidence. Franchise on alert. Angry owner just fired the longtime general manager. This is where franchise quarterbacks step up and win games they have no right to win.
4. The Bounty story. America says: Wake me when it's over.
5. RGIII vs. Big Ben. Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning so far, and now Ben Roethlisberger. Robert Griffin III has played some giants of the game so far and been ahead of each in the second half. Now the aging Steelers defense, which hasn't allowed a 270-yard passing day to a quarterback this year, will see what tricks they can use on the calculating Griffin.
6. The London Experiment continues. But it's not one game a year that will tell the tale, particularly one game (St. Louis-New England Sunday, 6 p.m. London time, 1 p.m. Eastern) with Tom Brady and the great Bill Belichick there for the British press to pump up. The NFL's test in Europe will come when multiple games are played with some mediocre teams. The Jags next year, for instance.
7. Colts going for four. Peyton Manning won three as a rookie phenom in 1998. Andrew Luck matched that by Week 7 of 2012. The Titans stand in the way (and should be able to run freely Sunday) of allowing Luck to pass Manning.
8. Kansas City plays for Pioli, whether the players like it or not. The Chiefs were the trendy pick of a few idiots (like me) to win the AFC West. And here we are on Oct. 26, and they haven't held a lead in regulation yet this year. (Their lone victory came in overtime.) Owner Clark Hunt has to decide whether to allow GM Scott Pioli (22-33 in his fourth season as GM) to continue in the job after the season, and it might be a tougher decision than you think -- because whoever is the GM is likely to pick the Chiefs' next quarterback. And if Pioli decides to make a coaching change ... well, anyway, you can see why it'll be a tough call for Hunt, who would want to be loyal to Pioli, but may figure it's time to start everything new.
9. Eli's coming, hide your heart, Dallas. Eli Manning's 3-0 at Jerryworld (aka Dallas Cowboys Stadium, aka Somebody Please Pay Jerry Jones $25 Million A Year To Put Their Name on That Huge Spaceship), and he's put up 37 points a game in those outings. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, this is one of those games you were brought to Dallas to win.
10. Red Zone fans in mourning during the late games. Again. Last week there were two late games. This week there two late games. One has stunk each week (Jags-Raiders last week, Chiefs-Raiders this week). So if you're sitting home hoping to have a magic-carpet ride from 4:15-7:30 ET, the league sked's letting you down.