1. The Giants offense has enjoyed a very productive campaign in 2010, ranking second in total offense, fifth in rushing offense, and sixth in passing offense. However, there are storm clouds on the horizon as the team’s offense has taken a major hit in the injury department in recent weeks. With wide receiver Steve Smith out another week (and likely longer) with a torn pectoral muscle and with Ramses Barden being placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, the team was forced to re-sign Derek Hagan. Hagan will likely be the team’s third receiver until Smith returns. In addition to those injuries, tight end Kevin Boss is having problems with his back, and the team may be down to their third-string left tackle for this week’s game against the Eagles. David Diehl is out with hip and hamstring injuries, and backup Shawn Andrews is dealing with a bad back. That may force untested second-year player William Beatty into the starting lineup in a crucial matchup against stud Eagles defensive end Trent Cole. Center Shaun O’Hara has missed the past two games with a foot injury, which has forced left guard Rich Seubert to slide over to center and has pushed unheralded Adam Koets to left guard. However, Koets was put on injured reserve this week with a torn ACL, leaving veteran journeyman Kevin Boothe to sub in this week. Add it all up and the injury situation on the offensive side of the ball for the Giants seems all but certain to limit the unit’s effectiveness for at least the next couple games.
2. The Redskins have been inconsistent on offense, and one of the main reasons for that has been their inability to sustain drives. They were horrendous converting third downs Monday night against the Eagles, failing to move the chains on any of their ten third-down attempts. They rank last in the league—by a wide margin—in third-down conversions. Look for head coach Mike Shanahan to target a big wide receiver either in free agency or through the draft. While former Arena League player Anthony Armstrong has enjoyed unexpected production starting opposite Santana Moss, it is unlikely the Redskins will enter 2011 relying on him in the starting lineup.
3. There were plenty of quarterbacks who had solid performances in Week 10, but the Colts’ Peyton Manning wasn’t one of them. He went a mediocre 20 of 36 for 185 yards and no touchdowns against the Bengals. That marked his worst full-game performance since Week 13 of the 2008 season. With his receivers dropping like flies and running back Joseph Addai still not in the lineup, it appears that Manning’s production is finally taking a hit due to the Colts’ depleted offensive unit.
4. Sticking with the Colts, the team’s two biggest question marks on offense entering the season were at guard. Jamey Richards and Mike Pollak, a pair of 2008 draft picks, won their respective battles to man the left and right guard spots on opening day, but both have been benched in recent weeks in favor of undrafted rookie free agents. Kyle Devan took over for Richards, and Jeff Linkenbach replaced Pollak this week. With the Colts also giving up on former second-round pick Tony Ugoh, drafted in 2007 to be the team’s fixture at left tackle, Indianapolis has done a very poor job of drafting along the offensive line in recent seasons.
5. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is enjoying a solid season and is on his way to posting career bests in passing yards and touchdown passes. Although his strong season has vaulted him into fantasy starter status as a top ten quarterback, he remains a much stronger play at home than in road games. He is averaging a very solid 23 points per game in home games, but that drops to a mediocre 17.5 in road matchups.
6. A running back to keep your eye on during the balance of the season is Packers’ rookie sixth- round pick James Starks. Starks was expected to compete with Brandon Jackson for the backup spot behind Ryan Grant, but he suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out of training camp and resulted in his being placed on the PUP list. Green Bay activated Starks last week and head coach Mike McCarthy commented this week that he looked “dang good” in practice. Jackson has been a steady performer but he hasn’t generated many big plays, and he has just two games this year of over 100 total yards. Neither John Kuhn nor Dmitri Nance have proven worthy of a bigger role in the Packers offense, so Starks figures to get a look at some point in the coming weeks.
7. Bills rookie running back C.J. Spiller hasn’t enjoyed much success on the field this year, despite being taken with the ninth overall pick in the draft. Things have gone from bad to worse over the past week. Against the Lions, during the Bills’ first win of the season, Spiller suffered a hamstring injury that will cause him to miss at least one game and possibly more. He followed that up by using a derogatory term toward gays on his Twitter account, which he quickly apologized for. Just one more example of a young player falling into the trap of using social media to increase his exposure when he should be focusing on getting better on the field.
8. And that brings us to Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams. An owner in one of my leagues commented recently that it would be no surprise if Williams fell off the wagon at any time. How prescient then to read that Williams was arrested on suspicion of DUI this week. Prior to the draft, Williams was often described as a player having first round ability but lacking the mental capacity to succeed in the league. Sure enough, he has proven both comments correct during his rookie season, as he is on pace to finish with over 1,100 receiving yards and nine touchdowns but is now facing the possibility of DUI charges. Monitor this situation and use Williams accordingly.
9. And that brings us to 49ers left tackle Joe Staley. Bringing back memories of former Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood playing an entire second half of a playoff game with a broken leg, Staley left this week’s game against the Rams with a leg injury, only to return to finish the last half of the fourth quarter in a game the 49ers came from behind to win. This week, the 49ers announced that Staley had suffered a broken leg and will be out four to six weeks. I’m not sure which is more amazing: Staley playing with a broken leg, or the 49ers letting him play with a broken leg.
10. Chiefs head coach Todd Haley created a minor furor this week by refusing to shake the hand of head coach Josh McDaniels after the Broncos soundly defeated the Chiefs 49-29 in Denver. While Haley has refused to divulge the reasons for not shaking McDaniels’ hand, it seems clear that he felt the Broncos ran up the score on offense. The tradition of NFL coaches shaking hands after a hard-fought contest seems out of place anyway. However, going back to the final game of the 2009 season, Haley’s Chiefs ran up the score on the Broncos in Denver, winning 44-24, and that makes his actions more than a little hypocritical. He is a known hothead, and it likely came as a surprise to no one in the Cardinals organization that the emotional Haley let his emotions get the better of him after a second consecutive loss to a divisional opponent.
11. With Chad Pennington on injured reserve and Chad Henne expected to miss several weeks with a knee injury, former Chief Tyler Thigpen may finish the season as the Dolphins’ starting quarterback. Henne has failed to progress this year, and Miami may be more interested in using the balance of the season to evaluate Thigpen. He was a bit of a dud this week against the Bears, missing several throws on his way to a 187-yard, one-interception performance against a solid Chicago defense in a game in which Brandon Marshall left just prior to half time. It’s worth noting that Thigpen struggled mightily when he first started for the Chiefs, before he rebounded to finish the season with a string of solid performances. Over his last ten starts in 2008, with a Chiefs offensive unit that was clearly lacking talent, Thigpen averaged 22.0 fantasy points per game. He is worth a look if you’re desperate for a backup.
12. Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown is likely to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, but he has done little in 2010 to warrant a new contract from Miami—or any other team. With just 454 rushing yards this season, he is on pace to have his worst full season as a pro. He has looked tentative hitting the hole, and his shifty style of running seems ill-fitted to the team’s current offensive line, which features larger, less athletic players. His current production combined with a broken leg and torn ACL in his past means that the Dolphins are unlikely to offer him a lucrative contract in the offseason, which also means he will likely have a new team in 2011.
13. Sticking with the Dolphins, their 39 rushing yards this week against the Bears was their lowest total since Tony Sparano took over as the team’s head coach. Don’t be surprised if Lex Hilliard gets a few carries in the coming weeks.
14. The Texans’ woes on defense have been well documented, particularly their inability to stop the pass, where they rank last in the league. They have given up 24 or more points in every game this season, and you have to go back to their Week 15 matchup last season against the Rams, who had the fourth-worst offense in the league in 2009, to find a game in which they gave up fewer than 24 points.
15. As it turns out, the controversy over the contract Donovan McNabb signed with the Redskins is little more than a tempest in a teapot. Inside the numbers, the contract gives Washington the option of jettisoning McNabb after this year, having paid out just $3.75 million as part of the contract extension. McNabb also gets a healthy salary in 2011, and the big money kicks in after that. In a nutshell, the Redskins gets a happy, motivated quarterback for the stretch run to the playoffs for under $4 million, with the option to lock him up for next season—and in each subsequent year—if he performs well. Seems like a good business decision to me. And that’s not something we’ve always been able to say about the Redskins in recent years.