1. With the Bears in the race for the NFC North crown, you would think the teams’ fans would be focused on the upcoming playoff run and the Bears chances of making a deep run into the postseason. However, the noise of the playoff run is being shared with debates as to whether the team will re-sign quarterback Jay Cutler at the conclusion of the season. Bears management has done its best to keep the Cutler debate out of the news, even announcing that they would not engage in negotiations during the season, but given the importance of the quarterback position, it has come to the forefront over the past several weeks. While it may seem like a foregone conclusion that Cutler will be re-signed, that isn’t necessarily the case. Cutler will turn 31 prior to the 2014 season, his backup, Josh McCown, is enjoying a solid season in relief and Cutler has led his team to the playoffs just once during his first seven years in the league. With Cutler having his second injury plagued season over the last three years, there is a solid chance the team will choose to place the franchise tag on him for the 2014 season. Given that leverage, the team can then sign him to a long-term extension on terms they are amenable to or else use a high pick in the upcoming draft on a quarterback to groom for the future.
2.In Oakland, the Raiders face a different type of conundrum at the quarterback position. Rookie undrafted free agent Matt McGloin is coming off a 18 for 32, 197-yard, three touchdown, no interception performance in the Raiders win over the Texans and incumbent starter Terrelle Pryor, thought to be the team’s quarterback of the future, is more than likely ready to return to the lineup from a knee injury. Head coach Dennis Allen has already named McGloin the starter for the team’s Week 12 matchup against the Titans but it is anybody’s guess as to what his reasoning is for that decision. It could be that Allen believes that he needs to win some games to return in 2014. While McGloin pulled out the win against the Texans, the team’s defense gets the kudos for that win, giving McGloin short fields to work with twice due to turnovers and allowing the team to play with a lead for the entire game. Meanwhile, although Pryor has been inconsistent as a passer and needs to improve his accuracy, he at least has the look of a potential starter provided he can improve on his ability to read defenses. The Raiders would do well to allow Pryor to finish the season as the team’s starter in order to determine whether they need to take a quarterback early in the 2014 draft.
3. The Texans face their own quarterback conundrum and also appear to be hindered by a head coach looking to win a few games to help save his job. With Matt Schaub struggling and benched in favor of 2nd year undrafted free agent Case Keenum, it appeared likely that Schaub’s days in Houston were numbered. However, head coach Gary Kubiak gave Keenum the quick hook this week against the Raiders despite the fact that he had thrown for 822 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception in his past three games. That’s not the type of decision making that inspires confidence in a young player or that signals that the organization views the player as a potential long term solution at the quarterback position. While Kubiak has said that Keenum will get the start this week against the Jaguars, you have to wonder whether that decision is of his own making or whether it is being forced upon him.
4. There are a couple of interesting matchups this week, one of which is Broncos’ wide receiver Wes Welker’s return to New England for Denver’s Sunday night matchup against the Patriots. New England’s fans are sure to give Welker, a long time fan favorite and quarterback Tom Brady’s go to receiver during his six year run as a Patriot, a warm welcome and it seems unlikely that Welker will give former head coach Bill Belichick the same type of welcome. Welker’s fantasy owners surely start him on a weekly basis but there could be some reluctance to roll with him this week due to his Week 11 concussion. However, teams often feature players when they face their former teams and it seems likely that quarterback Peyton Manning will look Welker’s way early and often this week.
5.In St. Louis, Rams defensive end Chris Long, who lines up mostly opposite the opposition’s right tackle, will face his younger brother, Kyle, during this week’s matchup against the Bears. Taken in the 1st round of this year’s draft, Kyle Long starts at right guard for Chicago. While they don’t figure to line up opposite each other since the Rams rarely use Chris inside as a defensive tackle, the Rams will surely stunt him inside where Kyle will need to slow him down.
6. The 49ers have struggled at the wide receiver position for almost all of 2013 but they appear to be getting healthy as they make a run at a wild card playoff berth. With Seattle leading the division and holding a nearly insurmountable 3.5 game lead, San Francisco will need to enter the playoffs with a wild card slot and that means holding off the Bears and a surprisingly strong Cardinals squad. Mario Manningham returned to the lineup in Week 10 and Michael Crabtree has an outside chance of playing during the team’s Monday night matchup against the Redskins. With Anquan Boldin slowing down as the season has progressed and Vernon Davis playing well when healthy, quarterback Colin Kaepernick has not had a breakout season during his second year as the team’s starting quarterback. However, with a healthy cast at receiver (Crabtree’s return to 100% may take several weeks), he could be in line for a strong run to the playoffs for the 49ers and for your fantasy squad during Weeks 14-16.