Player You Need To Know This Weekend
Kirk Cousins, quarterback, Washington (No. 12). When Cousins, Washington’s fourth-round pick in 2012, got a chance to play last season, he was impressive: 69 percent passer, four touchdowns, three picks, 101.6 rating. Now he’ll have the last three games of a disastrous season for the team to prove his worth. It’s no secret to anyone in Washington (or New Zealand, for that matter) that Washington, missing its first-round pick in 2014 as the last vestige of the Robert Griffin III trade, wants to develop a trade market for Cousins. GM Bruce Allen would love to recoup a low-first-round pick for him, because Griffin, even with his struggles this year, is unquestionably Washington’s quarterback of the future. So Cousins gets to face the Falcons, Cowboys and Giants to end the season, with Griffin sitting. It’s a good time to go in: Atlanta and Dallas, combined, have allowed 66-percent passing, with 52 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.
Sound Bite of the Week
“I’m sure everybody knows by now that coach decided to shut me down for the rest of the season. I talked to coach, he talked to me about it. I expressed my desire to play. He explained to me his reasoning. At the end of the day, coach’s decision is what we go with.”
—Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, on being made the team’s third-string quarterback this week—and likely for the last two weeks of the season as well—by coach Mike Shanahan.
Ten Things I’ll Be Watching For This Weekend
1. The latest on Shanahan. Did he clean out his car this week? His garage? You’ll hear some news on Mike Shanahan’s benching of RG3, certainly, but let’s keep these things in mind after analyst after analyst has talked about how damaging a blow this is for a 22-year-old player: Griffin will have a new coach next year, and he’ll get to show the world that either this was a fluky year and he never felt right the whole season and he got messed up by the Shanahans … or maybe he isn’t the savior he was supposed to be. I do find it interesting that, according to Mike Shanahan, the owner and GM were on board with the move to yank Griffin. The season needs to end, and Griffin needs to take three weeks far, far away, and when he comes back there needs to be a new coach (Jon Gruden? Art Briles?) who coaches him hard and builds back his confidence. If he’s scarred for life at 22, then he was over-drafted to begin with.
2. Test for Trestman. Josh McCown’s passer rating is 21 points higher than Jay Cutler’s, and his TD-to-Interception differential is plus-12, compared to Cutler’s plus-five. But Cutler, after four weeks off with a high ankle sprain, got his job back Thursday from Trestman and acted like it was no big deal. (Has anything ever seemed a big deal to Cutler?) But Cutler goes to Cleveland needing to play well for the Bears to keep pace with Detroit. They’re tied atop the NFC North at 7-6. Will Trestman waver if Cutler stinks and loses? I would if I were him.
3. The zebras to rebound. Good start for Bill Vinovich’s crew Thursday night in Denver; no gaffes. The NFL needs a newsless Sunday from the men who have had a very bad couple weeks.
4. AFC home-field. New England can win out and win it, now that Denver has a third loss. But for New England to cop the top seed, a tough sweep might be necessary (at Miami, at Baltimore, vs. Buffalo).
5. Road sweet road. Saints are 1-3 in their last three roadies, and now take off for St. Louis and Charlotte in back-to-back weeks.
6. Someone’s going to get hurt. Ravens (7-6) at Lions (7-6). Bring the smelling salts.
7. Some boring playoff races. Three games left. Only one division tie at the top (Detroit and Chicago, NFC North). The biggest drama might be whether a 7-7 team (San Diego) or a pair of 7-6ers (Miami and Baltimore) end up winning the AFC’s sixth seed.
8. Son of Gronk. Zaniest stat line from last weekend was Pats running back Shane Vereen’s against Cleveland: 12 catches, 153 yards; three carries, nine yards. Vereen and Josh Boyce will be the combo platter to replace Gronkowski starting Sunday in Miami.
9. This is groovy: All three Florida teams play at home at 1 p.m. Sunday. Second time in the past month it’s happened. Miami, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay started the season a combined 4-20. They’re 11-4 since. Roll this one around in your head: Jacksonville’s got a very good chance to finish second in the AFC South. Tough go this weekend, though … Pats at Dolphins, Niners at Bucs, and, in the latest installment of “Gus Bradley Vies for Coach of the Year,” the Jags host Buffalo.
10. Dirty dozen for Houston. The drive for Teddy Bridgewater continues in Indy. A 12th straight loss (I still cannot believe the 2013 Houston Texans have lost 11 straight) would keep at least a one-game lead in the race for the first pick in the draft.