Vikings could feature Webb, not Ponder, against Bears

Editor's Note: The following items also appear in Michael Lombardi's Oct. 14 column on the Eagles.

  1. Don't be surprised if you see the Vikings unveil a Joe Webb package Sunday night against the Bears. Webb, not rookie Christian Ponder, will be the next quarterback in the game for the Vikings. Is this due to Donovan McNabb's poor play? The Vikings will say no, but in reality it has to be.

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  1. Bengals owner Mike Brown said this week that there is no trade in the works regarding disgruntled quarterback Carson Palmer. My sources indicate that Palmer has talked to Brown on the phone to plead for his release. But each time they talk, the further apart they become on critical issues. Don't expect this to be resolved before the trade deadline Tuesday.
  1. If I worked in the Falcons front office, I'd be worried about my defensive front and especially the defensive ends, who were blocked well last week by the Packers' two second-string tackles. Now, I know John Abraham was missing for the Falcons, but they needed to pressure Aaron Rodgers without having to rely on their zone dogs.
  1. Aaron Curry's departure from Seattle ends five years of really bad first-round picks for the Seahawks -- center Chris Spencer in 2005, corner Kelly Jennings in '06, receiver Deion Branch in a trade with the Patriots in '07, defensive end Lawrence Jackson in '08 and Curry in '09. All of these players are still in the league, but none of them are playing in Seattle.
  1. Chicago is making changes at the safety position again this week. Heading to the bench are Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather and in come Major Wright and Chris Conte. Both Harris and Meriweather have missed too many tackles in allowing big runs. Has a team ever devoted more time, money and draft picks to the safety position than the Bears? Since 2002, the Bears have spent nine picks on the position -- including Danieal Manning in the second round and Conte and Wright in the third -- and spent big money for Adam Archuleta and traded for Harris. And you thought the Bears only struggled to find capable offensive linemen ...
  1. I really think the pressure is on Josh Freeman and the passing game to improve -- or else the Bucs will have a hard time repeating their 10-win season. Freeman is the fourth-quarter comeback king, but he must play better during the first three quarters for the Bucs to win. And I mean a lot better.
  1. It will be fascinating to watch how the Cowboys play the Patriots' empty formations, especially since they struggled to handle those situations against the Lions. The Cowboys are not good against the spread offense because it highlights the weakness in their secondary -- coverage safety and nickel corners.
  1. Teams like the Rams, Jags, Bills and Titans should be all over the Broncos to obtain receiver Brandon Lloyd. He is a big-time player who could really help those offenses, especially Tennessee, given that Kenny Britt is out for the season.
  1. Curry going to Oakland gives them a true linebacker -- one who can play in space and run (Not sure how well he can play, but he has the characteristics of a linebacker). The Raiders essentially play with seven defensive linemen in their base unit, as Kamerion Wimbley, Rolando McClain and Quentin Groves move like linemen, not 'backers.
  1. How much longer are the Jets going to kid themselves by keeping fullback John Connor in the starting lineup? The "HBO Hard Knocks" star was a pet project of coach Rex Ryan, but he is not playing well. When Connor is in the game, the Jets are slow and predictable. Speaking of not playing well, linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott are not playing to the same level they are accustomed. But both will be on the Jets next season because both have fully guaranteed contracts for 2012.
  1. The strength of the Lions is their passing game, and the weakness of the 49ers is their secondary. For the 49ers to win, they must control the ball with their run game. This game is all about pace, and if the pace favors the 49ers they will win. But it will be difficult for the 49ers to come back if the Lions start fast.
  1. Lamarr Woodley looked and played like the Lamarr Woodley of old last week against the Titans. He was much quicker and more physical than at any point this season.
  1. The Giants' offensive line is not playing at its normal level, which is one of the reasons the team is struggling to consistently run the ball. Left tackle Will Beatty is not playing well, nor is Kareem McKenzie at right tackle.
  1. The Ravens have never lost to the Texans, though Houston did force overtime last season. The Texans must find a way to get their run game going. They cannot throw every down and expect quarterback Matt Schaub to stay healthy. He took some incredible hits last week against the Raiders.
  1. Every week, I watch Cam Newton and expect to see a rookie meltdown. But every week, he improves and so does the Panthers' offense. Carolina is a problem for every defensive coordinator in the league because it runs so many different concepts -- the option, speed option, single wing and power run. It's hard to prepare for all of that in just one week's time.

Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi

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