Player You Need To Know This Weekend
Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle, Tampa Bay (number 93). Coming off his best game as a pro (three sacks, three quarterback pressures, huge impact in a rout of the Falcons), McCoy leads the resurgent Bucs into Ford Field to play the NFC North-leading Lions. Tampa Bay has been impressive three weeks in a row after an 0-7 start, losing in Seattle after leading 21-0, then beating both Miami and Atlanta. McCoy told me this week he’s benefited by some advice from his starry predecessor at defensive tackle for the Bucs, Warren Sapp. “He told me to stop being so nice on the field,’’ said McCoy. He’s playing a little angrier now, but never dirty.
Sound Bite of the Week
“My mom thought it was a penalty.”
—Tom Brady, on his mother’s opinion of the official’s picked-up flag on the last play of the Carolina-New England game Monday night. The Patriots thought pass interference should have been called.
Ten Things I’ll Be Watching For This Weekend
1. Backup-quarterbackmania. The following players will start this weekend in NFL games: Scott Tolzien, Matt McGloin, Case Keenum, Josh McCown, Kellen Clemens.
2. The Giants overstating reality. “This is like a Super Bowl to us,’’ said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul of the game against the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. Except in a Super Bowl, the combined record of the two combatants is usually a tad better than 9-11.
3. Manning-Brady XIV. So Brady is up in the series, 9-4, and, as usual, they meet again in Foxboro. Don’t they always meet in Foxboro? Isn’t it an NFL rule that Manning must be at Brady every season, thought they’re not in the same division? The best stat of all, though, is that the last eight games between them have been split, 4-4. Composite score of the eight: Brady 215, Manning 212.
4. The JFK anniversary stuff. I know you’re sick of it, unless you’re a person of a certain age. You may be sick of it even if you are 56 or older (I am 56), but I cannot get enough of it. How about this one: Don Meredith, the Dallas quarterback who piloted the Cowboys against the Browns in Cleveland 47 hours after the assassination of the president, sat at a nightclub table with Jack Ruby a few months before Ruby murdered Lee Harvey Oswald an hour before the Browns and Cowboys kicked off that Sunday.
5. Tough turnaround for Pittsburgh. The Steelers have two must-wins in five days, both on the road: in Cleveland on Sunday, then a bus ride back home Sunday night, then a short flight to Baltimore on Wednesday for a Thanksgiving night game. When those two are over, the Steelers could either have a life or be playing for 2014.
6. Refgate. Watch for updates on the Roy Ellison/Trent Williams set-to. Ellison is the umpire accused of slurring the Washington tackle, Williams. Now Ellison is saying Williams started it. In the NFL offices, I can tell you vice president of officiating Dean Blandino and Roger Goodell won’t care. Officials have to listen to ugly things and just walk away. That’s why I think Ellison will be disciplined, and harshly, if he’s found to be guilty here.
7. The Ted Wells interviews. I talked to Miami owner Stephen Ross on Wednesday, and he wants the truth from the NFL investigator, no matter how ugly it gets. Seems like a lot of ugliness is on the horizon.
8. The Baltimore tight sitch. Joe Flacco has missed his best friend and best target since Dennis Pitta wrecked his hip in training camp. Pitta started practicing this week, and if all goes well, he could return for the last two or three games.
9. RG3 and life as a leader. Sure sounded like he wasn’t taking any responsibility for the final pass of last week’s loss, a duck thrown stupidly into the end zone on a third down when he had a play left. The ball was picked, ending a tough loss against Philadelphia. Santana Moss is right: Sometimes as a quarterback, you’ve got to shoulder blame whether you think you deserve it or not. In this case, Griffin really didn’t. Now the Niners come in for a Monday-nighter. Not exactly a reprieve.
10. Underrated game of the weekend: Indy-Arizona. At Arizona. The Cards look competent on offense and oppressive on defense. That’s been enough to beat the Colts in recent weeks. How bizarre is this: By nightfall Sunday in Arizona, the Cards—with a win—would be ahead of San Francisco in the NFC West standings.