1. In what has to rank as a major surprise, Colts owner Jim Irsay revealed that if Peyton Manning regains his health, the future Hall of Fame quarterback will be back with Indianapolis for the 2012 season. At the same time, Irsay also said that if there was a quarterback in the draft, the Colts would not hesitate to draft one. Irsay’s comments are the clearest signal yet that the Colts will take the high road with their long time star quarterback and draft Stanford’s Andrew Luck if Indianapolis finishes the season as the league’s last ranked team. That possibility seemed a foregone conclusion two weeks ago but wins over Tennessee and Houston have given the Colts a chance to finish ahead of the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams. If the Colts win at Jacksonville in Week 17 and the Rams and Vikings both lose their last two games, the Colts will lose the opportunity to select Luck. If Irsay is to be taken at his word, there are only two scenarios in which Manning does not suit up for Indianapolis next year. First, he doesn’t regain his health. Second, he requests to be released or traded to another team, paving the way for Luck or another rookie quarterback to start a new era in Indianapolis in 2012.
2. With the firing of Todd Haley in Kansas City, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel took over as the team’s interim coach and was given little to no chance of succeeding Haley as the team’s next head coach. However, an upset win last week over the previously undefeated Green Bay Packers and some help from other teams has given the Chiefs an opportunity to win the AFC West division crown for a second consecutive year. If the Chiefs beat the Raiders at home this week and the Broncos lose to the Bills, next week’s Chiefs-Broncos game in Denver could decide the division winner provided San Diego does not win both of their final games (road games in Detroit and Oakland). If the Chiefs somehow pull that off, Crennel could be the head man in Kansas City in 2012.
3. Bills fans in Buffalo couldn’t have been too pleased when owner Ralph Wilson announced this week that the team is in talks to continue playing games in Toronto in upcoming seasons. While the Bills haven’t received much, if any, of a home field advantage when playing in Toronto, the arrangement has been a lucrative one for the small market team with Buffalo receiving a staggering $78-million for allowing Toronto to host eight games. If Rogers Communications, which hosts the Toronto games, is willing to approach the $10-million per game mark, Wilson will almost certainly take them up on their offer. In his recap of the season, Wilson also indicated that he was pleased with the play of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick but that he needed help on offense, particularly at wide receiver. Those comments seem to indicate that Fitzpatrick will lead the team for at least the next few years and that wide receiver Steve Johnson, a free agent at season’s end, will be back in Buffalo on a long term contract extension or as a franchise player.
4. Browns head coach Pat Shurmur refused to endorse Colt McCoy as his starting quarterback when he returns from the concussion he suffered against Pittsburgh in Week 14. That means Seneca Wallace could finish the season as the team’s starter, leading the team this week against Baltimore and in Week 17 against the Steelers. If that transpires, McCoy will not have another chance this season to prove to Browns management that he should be the team’s starter in 2012. With general manager Tom Heckert stating that the team has seen enough of McCoy to evaluate him and McCoy showing only minor improvement over his 2010 rookie season, his only hope of entering next season as the team’s starter is if Heckert and the team’s management determines the lack of playmakers on offense is what is held McCoy back from making a big leap forward in 2011.
5. The Cardinals quietly placed linebacker Joey Porter on injured reserve this week, ending his season and likely signaling the end of the career of one of the league’s most colorful players. Porter suffered a knee injury that kept him out of much of this season but Arizona has been pleased with the player of young linebackers such as Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield, making Porter’s return in 2012 unlikely. He had stints in Pittsburgh and Miami before signing with Arizona prior to the 2010 season and accumulated 98 sacks during his 13-year career.
6. Rams running back Steven Jackson has been remarkably consistent despite playing for a St. Louis team that has been consistently bad since he entered the league in the 2004 draft. Aside from his rookie season when Jackson split carries with Marshall Faulk, he has topped 1,000 rushing yards every season and is on the verge of his seventh consecutive season of reaching that plateau, sitting just 34 yards shy of the mark heading into this week’s game in Pittsburgh. If Jackson reaches the 1,000 yard mark for a seventh consecutive season, he will become only the seventh player in league history to accomplish that feat.
7. Bills second-year running back C.J. Spiller was on the verge of being labeled a bust prior to his improved play since taking over for the injured Fred Jackson beginning in Week 11. However, head coach Chan Gailey ended any speculation that Spiller might take over as the team’s starter next season, stating that Spiller lacked Jackson’s size and that he wasn’t a 20 plus carry a week player. Although Spiller won’t unseat Jackson in the starting line up, his run of solid performances ensures that he will be a solid flex option in 2012.