Instead of an intro, let's talk some real mid-week football. As the NFL starts it's Thursday night games, I'm here to warn you about the last-minute injuries here.
As for tonight's Broncos-Browns showdown, the focus for the Browns will be on Brady Quinn in his first start, but how he plays might depend more on whether the line can fill in and get Jamal Lewis some yardage. Otherwise, the Broncos will just blitz Quinn into the dirt. If he does have time to throw, Donté Stallworth is likely to be on the field, but he's not going to be a WR2, just a spot-in guy.
On the Broncos side, their RB situation is murky as normal, though it looks as if Ryan Torain is option No. 1 tonight with virtually everyone else injured. Selvin Young is a gametime decision to even play, so if he does, he'll just share carries with Torain. Tony Scheffler is also a gametime decision, though sources tell me he's unlikely to factor into the gameplan much. Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokely are both relatively healthy and will play. Now, let's get to the rest of the injuries:
The Cowboys have a bye week and boy, do they need it. With all the injuries and off-field issues dragging down one of the most talented teams in the league, a reboot might do them more good than an off week. Tony Romo is back taking snaps at practice and if all goes, well, he'll be in the same place in Week 11's game. The pinkie finger is still protected by the complex brace, but Romo wasn't having a hard time taking snaps or holding the ball, the two things he didn't feel he could do last week. If he can do that, he'll start and put up his normal stats.
The team is also expecting Felix Jones will be back in the mix after missing time with a serious hamstring strain. There's a bit more play here as they can be conservative with him, given that Marion Barber is healthy, but Jones does add an element and help in the return game.
Jason Witten, after playing but not participating in the passing game, should also be back to normal after the two weeks off.
When Orton was carted off, and Bears fans realized Rex Grossman was coming into the game, they didn't seem to think it could get any worse. Maybe that was the bottom, because Orton has improved from being said to be done for the year to maybe not missing a game in just four days. Orton suffered a high-ankle sprain when his foot was rotated on a hit, but the sprain wasn't that bad and the swelling, pain and weakness just didn't occur as expected. It's not healthy, by a long shot, but it's not so unhealthy that Orton doesn't at least have a chance of playing this week. The Bears will watch him closely, and facing a physical Titans defense, sources tell me the team is likely to be very conservative. Even if Orton doesn't make it back this week, he shouldn't be long.
While the anterior cruciate ligament gets all the attention, the medial collateral ligament might be the "it injury" in the NFL right now. Schaub is the latest to injure his, costing him a month. While getting hit low can be debated endlessly, it doesn't change the facts: Schaub's knee swelled up at halftime and ended up being a near-complete tear of the MCL. Schaub won't have surgery -- the current surgical standard is that the MCL is not replaced or even repaired unless absolutely necessary -- and after that month, there's still some issues. A QB like Schaub who doesn't run is still affected by the MCL sprain in his dropback, which is essentially a lateral run, or more accurately, a carioca. If Schaub is a beat slow getting back or has trouble with his footwork in throws, it could be more than the original estimates or towards the long end.
"It's football. You get beat up." That's what Allen said about his severely separated shoulder. Allen joked that he needed morphine but he's not far off. He had a pain-killing shot at halftime and played through it before doctors figured out what the problem was after the game. There may be some more damage due to his playing numb, but Allen is the type that will just take another shot. Someday 20 years from now, Allen might be one of those NFL old timers complaining about injuries, but for him and the others who knowingly took these kinds of risks with their health, I have no sympathy. As for this week, Allen's unlikely to play, though with him, you never can tell. Stupid tends to trump pain.
The Steelers won, and Byron Leftwich looked decent enough, but the continuing issues with Roethlisberger and his shoulder are the biggest weakness we're seeing for the Steelers. Roethlisberger did take a couple big hits from that Redskins, but from the first throw he made (and likely before), his shoulder was clearly weakened or limited by pain, keeping him from making his throws. By halftime, it was clear that he couldn't continue. Roethlisberger also has a broken finger on his non-throwing hand, though he had no real problems with it. With a short week before facing the Colts, the Steelers might be forced to keep Leftwich under center. Indy's pass rush hasn't been much this season as Dwight Freeney has lost some confidence in anything other than his spin move, so we likely won't know who'll line up at QB before game time. At this stage, Roethlisberger looks as if he'll need at least a week off to try and get healthy, though without more knowledge of what's going on with the shoulder, it's impossible to tell if that will be enough to just get him back or to keep him back. Roethlisberger will be a gametime decision, and if he does play, he'll have a very short leash.
Jackson wrote on his web site that he'd be playing, so "be ready." Umm, OK. For what, a crappy performance where he was clearly hobbled by the quad? Once again, I was surprised at how much the leg affected him. Since I haven't seen him in practice, I relied on the beat reports, which were all upbeat, but turned out to be dead wrong. Jackson's quad strain is obviously much more serious than we were led to believe, and the tire-swinging media isn't helping. The location of the strain, low on his quad near the knee, has led some of my sources to question if there's some tendon involvement as well. Jackson hid the injury last week and pushed his way into the lineup, something that the Rams staff will be much more cautious about this week. Jim Haslett is already saying Jackson will need a full week of practice to start, but with Antonio Pittman (hamstring) and Travis Minor (concussion) likely out, Haslett has brought in Samkon Gado to give him an option.
Last we saw the Saints, they were playing in London. Last we saw Bush, he was dancing in Vegas at his girlfriend's party. Yeah, that's a pretty big disconnect. Many took the dancing to mean that Bush's minor knee surgery wouldn't keep him out, but now that the team is prepping for a game, Bush is "questionable." While Bush says he needs another week, a lot of people, including his teammates, are noticing the disconnect. It's not outside the normal window for recovery, but it's the circumstances, and provides another data point against Bush being your typical tough NFL player who'll play through pain. Bush can't and won't. Though you'll see me rail against the macho culture of football forcing players to play through injuries, I'm certainly no fan of soft.
Jared Allen isn't the only key defensive player banged up this week. The Texans have lost their top tackler for the season after he broke his tibia during drills at practice. Sources tell me that the injury was a freak one. It was a non-contact drill, and Diles essentially tripped over his own legs while jogging, somehow snapping the bone. He'll be back next season, but upgrade the Ravens running game this week and watch to see how Xavier Adibi fills in for him to see how to adjust for the Texans defense over the second half. The Broncos will play Thursday's game and a couple more without Williams. He's got a torn MCL and is expected to miss a month. Without their leading tackler, the Broncos defense doesn't match up quite as well with the Browns.
Chris Chambers had a setback with his ankle. I'll be watching to see if he'll play Sunday ... LaMont Jordan missed last week, and sources tell me he's going to timeshare this week "at best" ... Dan Orlovsky didn't practice due to his injured thumb and looks to be watching Daunte Culpepper come Sunday ... The Bills' line is getting very thin, especially in the middle. It could hurt Marshawn Lynch more than anyone ... Santana Moss played last week on a sore hamstring, but it didn't get any worse. Expect him to fine once they come back off bye ... Darren McFadden is back at practice and expected to take on a bigger role once the Raiders come back ... Deion Branch is out again this week for the Seahawks.