Player You Need To Know This Weekend
Greg Jennings, wide receiver, Minnesota (No. 15). The Vikings host arch-rival Green Bay Sunday night, and Minnesota’s in disarray. Hard to imagine the Vikes, switching quarterbacks back to Christian Ponder, will get better facing the hot Pack. That brings us to Jennings, who switched teams in free agency in the offseason, and hasn’t paid many dividends in his first six games—five of which have been touchdown-less for him; he hasn’t had a 100-yard receiving game yet. For the year, he has 24 catches and two touchdowns. Good thing for Jennings the first Pack-Vikes game is in Minneapolis, because he won’t be treated very well by the crowd when he returns to Lambeau, after criticizing Aaron Rodgers in the offseason and saying he felt “brainwashed’’ while in Green Bay. Said Jennings this week: “There were things said that if I could take back, I would. I would. I absolutely would. But I can’t. So I have to live life with the cards that I dealt myself.’’
Sound Bite of the Week
“I guess [the leash] was short the whole first three games, and I didn’t realize it.’’
—Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder, who got yanked because of injury for Matt Cassel, and then for performance by Josh Freeman in the first six games of the season. Ponder is likely to get the start Sunday against Green Bay, with Freeman missing because of concussion symptoms.
Ten Things I’ll Be Watching For This Weekend
1. Kansas City to stay unbeaten. Here’s what stands in the way of KC flying to Denver in three weeks 9-0: Cleveland at home Sunday (with Jason Campbell the apparently reluctant quarterback choice of the Browns’ coaching staff), Buffalo on the road, and a bye. Feels like a matchup of 9-0 versus 8-1.
2. The quarterback market. When the status of Brett Favre is inquired about, and Brady Quinn gets signed by his 64th team, you know we’re scraping the bottom of the quarterback barrel. And just think: There are 10 regular-season game weeks left. Warm up, Steve DeBerg. Got anything left, Eric HIpple?
3. The real Miami to stand up. The Dolphins, 3-3, travel to New England Sunday. Miami won its first three by an average of seven a game. Miami lost its last three by an average of nine a game. Ryan Tannehill’s beat up. Looked before the year that Miami might be ready to challenge an adjusting-on-the-fly New England team. Doesn’t look that way now.
4. Percy Harvin. He hasn’t played a game in 51 weeks, since missing the last seven games last year hurt and, obviously, getting labrum surgery in his hip during training camp. Looks like a gametime decision for Seattle’s Monday nighter at St. Louis, but I hear he’s running freely and very fast.
5. Make-or-break time for the Cards. Arizona (3-4) has what looks to be a soft spot in the schedule and a chance to stay relevant. Next three foes: 4-16. The first two are at home. But—and it’s a big but—the first two are the biggest disappointments in football this year—the two-win Falcons and Texans.
6. The left side of the Denver offensive line. Tackle Chris Clark gave up three sacks Sunday night in Indianapolis, and guard Zane Beadles was leaky too. According to Pro Football Focus, Clark and Beadles gave up eight pressures/hits of Peyton Manning in addition to the sacks. Washington won’t be the biggest test Sunday, but you can be sure the Broncos will slide a tight end or chip with a back on more passing downs than they did Sunday night.
7. Shahanan returneth. Shanahans, really. Mike, the coach, and Kyle, the former Cherry Creek High football star—now the Washington coach and offensive coordinator, respectively, return to play the Broncos Sunday. But once that’s out the way, the real story is this: Robert Griffin III had his best game of the season by far last Sunday in putting up 45 points on the Bears, and he finally looked like the sligingest, option-weaponest quarterback in the league—exactly what he was last season.
8. Peyton’s ankle. As much as the Broncos and Manning pooh-poohed him missing practice Wednesday because of the sore ankle from the game in Indy Sunday, I’m not buying it. Manning puts such a value on practice that him actually missing one during the season means he’s got to be really affected.
9. London calling. With three 2014 games announced for Wembley Stadium on Thursday, it’ll be interesting to hear the Sunday pre-game-show spin on when we can expect a permanent team in London. I’m guessing it’s at least five years away. The market must still be made.
10. Favre’s head trauma. With the former quarterback saying he can’t remember some portions of his recent past (such as a season of his daughter playing soccer) in an interview with ESPN radio in Washington this week, the focus, again, will be on head trauma and its long-term impact. Which, even in the midst of a very exciting season, is the way it should be.