They've tried everything but Craigslist in search of offensive linemen in Chicago. They cut short James Harrison's retirement party in Pittsburgh. They may be bracing for two quarterback controversies for the price of one in Tennessee. And Cheeseheads probably still remember BrettFavre in Green Bay.
NFL storylines for Week 7 range from the bizarre to the predictable must-win-game variety.
But considering all the juicy storylines out there, we begin not with the major-market headline-grabbers and usual top-of-the-marquee teams. We start in Atlanta, where the generally sub-topic Falcons and Bengals have given the league a lot to talk about over the past week. The Falcons are trying to prove they're for real. The Bengals are trying to prove they're not imploding. In the meantime, stories abound:
• No one bothered to Get Their Popcorn Ready for the T.Ocho Show and he's overrated. Will he provide an answer on the field? The debut of TerrellOwens' show with ChadOchocinco should have been dubbed "Blutarsky." It drew a rating of 0.1. That wasn't the only sad and bizarre news for T.O. He also was rated the most overrated player in the NFL in an SI poll of NFL players and solicited the services of an elite dating service in hopes of finding a KimKardashian-type. One of these days, maybe Sunday against the Falcons, T.O.'s relevance on the field and off will pass.
• You can quote Mike Zimmer ... just make sure the kids are not listening. When ChadOchocinco is not the best pre-game trash talker, you know you'll have yourself a whale of a game. Ochocinco shipped a box of T-shirts with a caricature of his mug to Falcons defensive backs. The DBs were not amused. Meanwhile, Zimmer, the Bengals defensive coordinator, riled the entire state of Arkansas over Bobby Petrino's hasty 2007 in-season exit from the Falcons to take over as Razorbacks head coach. Zimmer called Petrino, "a gutless bastard" and went on: "When a coach quits in the middle of the year and ruins a bunch of people's families and doesn't have enough guts to at least finish out the year, I am not a part of that. You can put that in the Arkansas News-Gazette. I don't really (care). I am serious. He is a coward. Put that in quotes."
• Dunta Robinson got knocked out, was at the epicenter of a play that led to a controversial rule change and was fined $50,000 ... other than that he had a great week. Robinson, whose crushing hit on DeSean Jackson led to the league threatening suspensions for similar hits, did not practice Friday and likely will not play. He probably could use some time off, anyway.
Cincinnati's vertical game has become as horizontal as a doornail. Maybe CarsonPalmer will dress up like Carson Palmer for Halloween. He clearly hasn't been the only reason the Bengals have begun the year a disappointing 2-3. But he's the quarterback ... and five interceptions in his last three game hasn't exactly endeared Palmer to fans. If he doesn't get well against a mediocre-at-best Falcons secondary missing Robinson, he probably won't get well at all in 2010.
• "Overtrained Athlete Syndrome" must be catchy ... AntwanOdom seems to have come down with the same thing. Brian Cushing's positive test and four-game suspension was blamed on Overtrained Athlete Syndrome. Officially, Odom's attorney said Odom tested positive by accidentally ingesting a weight loss pill that belonged to his wife. Anyone else wondering what his wife had to say about Odom using that story?
Elsewhere in Week 7, try to keep up. Things are getting crazy:
2.) Somebody get Philip Rivers a Shop-Vac ... and maybe some Ibuprofen. Statistics are for losers? Ask the Chargers and, specifically, Rivers. The Chargers QB says his 2-4 team merely needs to "clean up" some things and will be just fine. They'd better get it done against the Pats, or else. San Diego leads the league in offense AND defense. But the Chargers are giving up sacks at a torrid pace and cannot hold onto the ball. A tough stretch of games begins with the mighty Patriots.
3.) Will the NFL's first "vicious hits" suspensions be on the entire Bears offensive line? Seriously, what the Bears O-line is allowing to happen to JayCutler is unfair, to say nothing of cruel and vicious. Cutler has been sacked a league-leading 23 times. The Bears are about to say hello to BrianOrakpo and a good Redskins pass rush. Will things get even uglier for the line and offensive coordinator MikeMartz?
4.) There's already one quarterback controversy in Eagles-Titans. Will there be two by the end of the day? KevinKolb and Michael Vick will be battling out for Philly's collective football heart all year. Don't look now, but KerryCollins likely will start Sunday after performing nicely in a Monday night win over the Jaguars after VinceYoung sprained a knee. VY remains the owner's favorite, but has been unreliable as a passer. Coach JeffFisher always has liked Collins. When asked about a potential quarterback controversy, Collins responded: "I'm the backup. Vince is the starter. Period. The end." Isn't that how every QB controversy starts?
5.) There were 51 million reasons James Harrison "unretired" ... will the Steelers get what they paid for? Did the league's crackdown on vicious hits get into Harrison's head and will it affect his play? He said he considered retiring. Every one of Sunday's tackles will be scrutinized. No game or player will better gauge just what the immediate impact of the league's tougher stance will be than this one. Steelers-Dolphins not only offers a glimpse into how two of the most physical teams react, but also one of its meanest players. BenRoethlisberger's first road trip after his four-game suspension only adds to the intrigue.
6.) Brett Favre won't be alone in the Vikings' backfield ... some of his former teammates could meet him there, too. The Packers have yet to fulfill the revenge part in a revenge game against their former hero. Favre has won both meetings as a Viking. But this time, the Packers have been bringing a lot of heat on opposing quarterbacks and Favre is struggling, especially avoiding trouble. He's been hit, hard, a lot.
7.) Bucs-Rams features two of the game's best young quarterbacks. That's why the running game likely will decide it. There's no question JoshFreeman has brought life to the Buccaneers. And SamBradford has showed signs of being the answer for the Rams. But the Bucs' run defense is atrocious. And with StevenJackson finding his groove with back-to-back 100-plus rushing games, the game will be decided by the Bucs stepping up, or Jackson stepping all over them.
8.) Will the Legend Of Colt continue to grow? Or, not. ColtMcCoy didn't die. That was the good news after his NFL debut last week against the mighty Steelers. He actually proved to be pretty respectable, throwing for 281-yards, although he did throw a couple of picks. For a reward, McCoy gets to face a ball-hawking Saints defense that seems due for another big-turnover game.
9.) The Dallas Cowboys are: a.) Undisciplined b.) A train wreck c.) Over-rated or d.) all of the above. Already facing the nearly impossible task of qualifying for the postseason after a 1-4 start, the Cowboys can't begin thinking about anything but winning a game. One game. This game. It's a division game. It's at home, where the 'Boys have yet to win this year, and it's on Monday night, where there's a chance to show the football world they're not as bad as we think they are.
10.) If the Chiefs don't bounce back, the AFC West champ may well finish 8-8. The Chiefs are coming off a pair of losses that could have been wins. The schedule turns cupcake now, with the Jaguars on tap Sunday, followed by an assortment of Bills, Raiders, Cardinals and Rams. These are the types of games the Chiefs MUST win. The Chargers face a much tougher schedule. In fact, if they don't beat the Patriots at home, they easily could start out 2-7. Does anybody want to win the AFC West? The Chiefs can answer with a firm yes by taking out the awful Jaguars, who are coming a short week after their a Monday night flop.