Player You Need to Know This Weekend
Terron Armstead, left tackle, New Orleans (number 72). Armstead has a professional pass-rusher, Trent Cole (last seven seasons: 66 sacks), coming outside his left shoulder all night in Philadelphia, where the crowd will make it hard for Armstead to hear his quarterback, Drew Brees. In his first two games as a starter, Armstead, a rookie third-rounder from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, has allowed either three or four sacks, depending on your source, and was a nightmare in protection two weeks ago at Carolina. You can be sure if the Saints pull the upset at Philadelphia, Armstead will play better than his first two games show.
Sound Bite of the Week
“Any way possible I could get a signed jersey from you?’’
—Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis, to Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez during Gonzalez’s last career game Sunday, as captured by NFL Films. Gonzalez said sure—after the season.
Ten Things I’ll Be Watching For This Weekend
1. The weather. And not just in Green Bay, where it’ll be below zero and breezy Sunday afternoon at kickoff. Had the NFL scheduled Cincinnati’s home game against San Diego for Saturday afternoon (a recent playoff tradition), it would have been about 40 with the sun setting. But Sunday it’s supposed to be sleeting or snowing all afternoon, with temps around 33. Saturday night in Philly: No precipitation, but about 24 degrees with 10-mph winds. Not Breesian, in other words. Dome in Indy. Inhumanly cold in Green Bay.
2. The coaching jobs. Titans drag feet. Raiders likewise. Browns fact-find, try to convince Josh McDaniels it’s a great job. Lions shrouded in secrecy. Vikes too. Washington carpetbombs. And will Penn State steal an NFL coach with Nittany roots, like Jim Caldwell?
3. And while we’re at it, Josh McDaniels. He’s gotten hot again, though his rep was badly tarnished by The Tebow Experiment. It’ll be interesting to see if the team that makes the most sense for him—Detroit, with a just-add-coaching quarterback in Matthew Stafford—gets serious about McDaniels. And he about them.
4. Bob Stoops. If he’s interested in an NFL head-coaching job, he’s got a lot of friends in the NFL—and his Oklahoma team’s seven-sack, 45-point bowl display against Alabama Thursday night won’t hurt.
5. The draft. It’s 18 weeks away, but if Blake Bortles of Central Florida declares for it in the coming days (and don’t try to hide that you’re coming out, Johnny Manziel), there could be a gold rush on top-10 quarterbacks: Teddy Bridgewater, Bortles, Manziel and Tajh Boyd all will contend to go to Houston (picking first), Jacksonville (third), Cleveland (fourth), Oakland (fifth), Minnesota (eighth) … and maybe second overall, if St. Louis can find a ransom partner.
6. The new Tampa Bay braintrust. Lovie Smith will coach, Jeff Tedford (tutored Kyle Boller, Joey Harrington, Aaron Rodgers, which is quite a triumvirate) will offensively coordinate, and now we’ll see how much more of the Dungy Era Buccaneers can be scotch-taped back together to try to challenge three better teams in the NFC South.
7. The Kluwe fallout. The former Vikings’ punter, Chris Kluwe, writing on Deadspin, accused his special-teams coach in Minnesota, Mike Priefer, of using homophobic slurs after Kluwe very publicly supported gay marriage. One of the rants Kluwe accused Priefer of going on was positively brutal. Priefer denied it all. This story’s not over.
8. Jeff Triplette has a wild-card game … in Cincinnati. That’s where, four weeks ago, he botched a replay review as badly as a replay review can be botched. And five weeks ago, he got reprimanded by the league for messing up the last series of the Giants’ game at Washington, signaling for third down while two of his wing officials said it was first down. It’s bizarre enough he somehow earned a playoff game, but going back to Cincinnati?
9. The Jay Cutler deal. Let the debate commence: In exchange for not guaranteeing him a dime after the third season, and thus being able to cut him then, the Bears handed their incumbent quarterback (who has missed 12 games due to injury in the last three years) $54 million over the next three years. After that, the contract for the next four years is non-guaranteed, and he can be cut without a cap hit. Maybe it’s me. Seems excessive.
10. Fate of the ‘Fins. While Stephen Ross ponders, all Dolphins coaches and brass wonder about their future … and what in the world is taking so long for the NFL investigation into the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin ordeal to finish. Could Ted Wells be watching every frame of the 2012 “Hard Knocks” footage?