Now in the seventh season of its eight-year, $17.6 billion TV contract, the NFL is deep into talks with the networks about extending the deal--which should get done this winter. One league source says it's an even bet that there won't be substantial changes to the package with CBS, Fox, ABC and ESPN. But one idea being discussed is the addition of Thursday-night and Saturday-night games after Thanksgiving, when there wouldn't be a conflict with college football telecasts. One other TV note: Former NFL wideout Cris Carter is in discussions with a cable network to produce a reality show that would have 20 receiver prospects vying for a spot on a team's 80-man training-camp roster. One problem: The league doesn't sound interested. "Our games are our reality shows," says one league official. "We're not getting into that business."
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe versus the New England defense. Other than Buffalo's 31--0 victory over the Patriots in the 2003 season opener, Bledsoe (right) has had forgettable games against his former team, losing by 31, 10 and 31 points. New England has confused Bledsoe with some weird schemes, including one that had four linebackers and seven defensive backs. His four-game totals against the Patriots: four touchdown passes, seven interceptions, 11 sacks.
BY THE NUMBERS
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning hasn't missed a start since being taken with the first pick in the 1998 draft, and this Sunday he is set to make his 100th regular-season start, in Jacksonville. But here's the most remarkable number: Of the 6,294 plays the Colts have run in his 99 starts, Manning (above) has missed only one snap because of injury. He took a few moments to shake out the cobwebs after injuring his jaw against the Dolphins on Nov. 11, 2001.
1. Retired running back Ricky Williams should have to repay the Dolphins $5.3 million for not honoring the contract he renegotiated with the team in 2002. For an arbitrator to rule last week that Williams (right) owes Miami $8.6 million, including the remaining $3.3 million in prorated bonus from his 1999 rookie deal with the Saints, is absurd.
2. The 0--3 Chiefs have only one lightweight on their schedule between now and Thanksgiving (the Buccaneers in Tampa on Nov. 7), so I don't see how they can rally to make the playoffs.
3. The Giants' Michael Strahan, who had a pair of sacks and two fumble recoveries while playing with an injured hand in a 27--10 victory over the Browns on Sunday, is the best defensive end in the game.