Friday November 16th, 2007

Let me get this straight. In order to re-set the NFL's starting quarterbacking landscape in Week 11, we have to remember that ...

-- Rex Grossman is back in Chicago, and Brian Griese sits.

-- Daunte Culpepper is back in Oakland, and Josh McCown sits.

-- Kyle Boller is back in Baltimore, and Steve McNair sits.

-- Trent Dilfer is back in San Francisco, and Alex Smith sits.

-- Tarvaris Jackson is back in Minnesota, and Brooks Bollinger sits.

-- David Garrard is back in Jacksonville, and Quinn Early sits.

-- Byron Leftwich is (probably) back in Atlanta, and Joey Harrington sits.

-- J.P. Losman stays in for Buffalo, and Trent Edwards sits.

-- Brodie Croyle is going in for Kansas City, and Damon Huard sits.

-- John Beck is going in for Miami, and Cleo Lemon sits.

-- And last, but not least, just-turned-44-year-old Vinny Testaverde -- balky Achilles tendon and all -- is expected to stay in for Carolina, rather than give way again to David Carr. It appears to be one of those top-secret game-time decisions that coach John Fox is facing.

If you can't quite keep track of all those QB comings and goings, don't sweat it. Those same 11 teams could re-shuffle their lineups again next week in this, the year of the Quarterback Change.

• For my money, the quarterback story of the week will be in Baltimore on Sunday, where the Browns and Derek Anderson visit the Ravens. Anderson was drafted out of Oregon State in the sixth round by Baltimore in 2005, but he was claimed off waivers by Cleveland in Week 2 of that year, when the Ravens were trying to sneak him onto their practice squad.

Baltimore starter Kyle Boller had injured a toe in the opener, and backup Anthony Wright was going to take his place in the lineup in the season's second game. But behind Wright, the Ravens only had the rookie Anderson, so they signed veteran Kordell Stewart for insurance at the position. That precipitated the roster move with Anderson, and the rest is history.

The Browns eventually discovered their starting quarterback of the future in Anderson (Brady Quinn is not guaranteed anything at this point and could well be trade bait in the offseason), while the Ravens' woes at quarterback continue. With Steve McNair being shut down for the foreseeable future with a bum non-throwing shoulder, Boller is once again back in the lineup in Baltimore.

Upon further review, I'm guessing the Ravens think Kordell Stewart probably wasn't worth it.

• Why are the Dolphins taking yet another chance on running back Ricky Williams, who has played just 12 games in the NFL in the past four seasons? How's that song go, "When you've got nothing, you've got nothing left to lose''?

That sums it up nicely for Cam Cameron and his 0-9, Ronnie Brown-less Dolphins.

Said Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas of Williams: "Everybody deserves a second and third chance.''

Or more.

• I maintain that all those folks who are starting to question whether Patriots coach Bill Belichick will jeopardize a potential perfect season by liberally resting his starters once New England wraps up its playoff seed simply have not been paying attention.

Belichick in recent seasons has continued to play the vast majority of his starters late in the year, even when the games had very little impact on New England's playoff seeding. So what makes anyone think Belichick will abandon that approach this year of all years, when the Patriots, from day one, have made a rather concerted effort to keep their foot on the gas pedal -- and for that matter, opponents' throats?

I don't think Belichick at any point will publicly acknowledge his team's quest for a perfect season. It may not even be discussed privately within the team. But that doesn't mean New England won't be going for it. My gut tells me the Pats want it, and want it badly.

• It says here that the Eagles have benched Jevon Kearse in favor of Juqua Thomas at left defensive end for this week's home game against winless Miami. Huh. I didn't even know Kearse was still in the league. Apparently he's only four years into that eight-year, $66 million deal that Philly unwisely gave him in 2004.

Need another object lesson about the perils of big-money free agents? Eagles right defensive end Trent Cole -- a fifth-round pick in 2005 -- continues to get more snaps and out-perform veteran Darren Howard, who signed a lucrative free agent deal with Philadelphia in 2006. So Kearse and Howard, who will be paid a combined $7.2 million this year, are getting handily out-played by Thomas and Cole.

• New Orleans is at Houston this week, and that means Texans defensive end Mario Williams and Saints running back Reggie Bush will be on the same field together for the first time since they went 1-2 in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Want to start up the old debate about who should have gone first overall? Start with these facts: Williams, who was brought to Houston mainly to rush the passer, has recorded 8.5 sacks in his first 25 games in the NFL, or roughly one every three games. Bush has logged just one 100-yard rushing day in his first 25 regular-season games in the NFL, and that came in Week 16 at the Giants last year.

• Cold, windy conditions are forecast for Buffalo on Sunday night, with snow and rain expected in Western New York on Friday and Saturday. Bad weather conditions could wind up being the forgotten factor when assessing the Patriots' chances of going undefeated this year, and that starts this week with New England playing the Bills Sunday night at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

If there's anything that could completely ground the high-flying Patriots' passing game, it's wind and precipitation. New England plays its final seven regular-season games in the Northeast corridor, bouncing from the Bills game to another Sunday nighter at home against Philadelphia, to a Monday night date at Baltimore, daytime home games against Pittsburgh (4:15 p.m. start), the Jets (1 p.m.) and Miami (1 p.m.), and finally a Saturday-night finale at the Giants.

Could the Patriots win games with just a running game and defense? Certainly. Would they likely be as dominant as they have been when their passing game was clicking like a well-oiled machine? What do you think?

• Smart move by Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin, re-installing Culpepper as his starting quarterback for this week's game at Minnesota. The last time Culpepper faced a team that once gave up on him, he accounted for five touchdowns in a Week 4 rout at Miami, throwing for two scores and rushing for three in Oakland's 35-17 win.

I'm also thinking that Bills coach Dick Jauron might have had a similar motivational mindset in sticking with Losman at quarterback for this week's game against visiting New England. The last time these teams met, Losman was knocked out of the Week 3 game with a first-quarter knee injury on a questionable low hit by Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. Losman made it known he didn't think Wilfork's play was entirely clean, and that's at least a small sub-plot that looms Sunday night.

• We're less than a week away from Thanksgiving, and that means more than the kickoff of the NFL Network's eight-game late-season TV package. It means the annual debate over whether Detroit and Dallas should be allowed to monopolize the host duties on Turkey Day is about to crank to life again.

For the record, I'm a traditionalist, and Detroit and Dallas are Thanksgiving Day fixtures that aren't broken.

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