1. How many points will it take?
The New Orleans Saints have scored over 40 points four times this season and have seven games with 30 or more. They average 36.4 points a game at home. But, here come the Patriots and their 37.2 points a game over their last five contests. Tom Brady and Drew Brees can both fire the ball as many times as it takes to win a game. Brady already has five games with more than 40 throws and Brees has seven games with over 30 passes. It wouldn't surprise me if this Monday Night Game has 80 passes and 75 points.
2. To be young again
|Jim Mahoney / Associated Press|
|Ricky Williams is proving age isn't slowing him down.|
It's great to watch a 40-year-old Brett Favre play like he drank from the fountain of youth.
However, 32-year-old Ricky Williams is playing like he took a bath in the youthful water. He should have over 1,000 total yards after Week 12. He's averaging 5.3 yards per carry, has demonstrated a burst out of the hole, speed to turn the corner, and real passion for the game. He has a better yards per rush average this season than any other in his career. His four runs over 20 yards ties what he did all of last year.
3. Division clashes galore
Nine divisional games makes this one of the more compelling weekends on the calendar. It's hard to sweep a division opponent because teams that were beaten by a rival earlier in the season want revenge. Will it be the Texans, who host the Colts, after falling 20-17 in Week 9? Can the Chiefs rebound against the Chargers following a 37-7 drubbing in Week 7?
4. Are Warner and Roethlisberger healthy?
Even though Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger experienced some form of a blow to the head last week, both quarterbacks claim they are healthy enough to play. While the players are convinced they will be alright, if they get hit again and the problem worsens like it has for Brian Westbrook or like it did for Al Toon of the Jets, there will be serious ramifications coming down from the league office about these types of injuries.
5. Streaks worth attention
The Colts own a 19-game regular season winning streak heading into Week 12. The Steelers have beaten the Ravens three straight times, including the playoffs. Seattle has won nine straight against St. Louis. San Diego is riding a five-game winning streak. Tom Brady has five straight 300-yard passing games. Chris Johnson has five straight 100-yard rushing games.
6. Left to wonder
|Jim Mone / Associated Press|
|Will Jared Allen add to his sack total against the Bears?|
Left tackles get paid well to pass block, but a few of them will struggle to sleep Saturday night thanks to the matchups they face. Jared Allen (10.5 sacks) goes up against Orlando Pace of the Bears in Minnesota. Dwight Freeney (9.5 sacks) is in Houston against Duane Brown. The Saints' Will Smith has six sacks in his last four games and rookie Sebastian Vollmer draws the assignment for the Patriots in a game where Tom Brady may throw 40 times. And finally, keep a close eye on Steelers pass rusher James Harrison, who already has 10 sacks, as he faces Jared Gaither of the Ravens. I wouldn't be surprised if the group collects eight sacks between them.
7. Rookie growing pains
Although Matthew Stafford played a courageous game on Thanksgiving with a shoulder injury, he also threw four interceptions and 11 of his 18 picks have come in the last four games. Mark Sanchez is no better, throwing six of his 16 interceptions in the last two games. Josh Freeman is coming off a loss where he had three interceptions to go with a fumble. The Falcons now have three games of film to study Freeman's style and habits. There may be rougher roads ahead for all three rookies
8. Road woes
The Browns, Buccaneers, Redskins and Seahawks hit the road without a single road win between them. They are a combined 0-18 when they are away from home, and it doesn't look much better this weekend. Seattle may have the best chance to get a win from the group as it beat St. Louis 28-0 in the first matchup this season and the Rams are winless at home.
9. More than the kicker
There is no denying Kris Brown missed critical field goals that cost Houston two games (against the Colts and Titans) and possibly the season. However, the Texans have not won a game since tight end Owen Daniels was lost to injury. In the three games prior to his season ending injury, Houston put up 28 points a game while Daniels averaged five receptions and a touchdown per contest. Since he was put on IR, the Texans have averaged 17 points a game and are 0-2.
10. 3-4 nose tackles are scarce
Any team that plays a 3-4 defense knows that success starts up front with a massive nose tackle that plays over the center's head and forces double teams. In the NFL, 3-4 nose tackles are an endangered species. The Chargers lost Jamal Williams and somehow keep winning. The Jets have dropped three of four games since Kris Jenkins went down. Jason Ferguson of the Dolphins just found he is heading to IR, which leaves Paul Soliai to replace him. All three teams have playoff aspirations, but the lack of a quality nose tackle hurts their chances. So far, the Chargers have adjusted best.