It's obvious that Jerry Jones never had an injured pinkie toe. If he has, he doesn't remember how it felt. You can't say he doesn't know about playing the game, though. While he certainly doesn't look the part, Jones was an offensive lineman and co-captain for the 1964 national champion Arkansas Razorbacks. Calling out Marion "The Barbarian" Barber this past week, however, after another frustrating loss that has Dallas on the brink of extinction for this year's playoffs, has more to do with his frustration than reality.
I think Jerry is looking at the game checks and figuring that, with the money they signed Barber for, he should be playing with both legs broken if it comes to that. Something tells me Barber will be playing for the Dolphins next year. It's just a hunch, but I'm willing to start a rumor right here, right now. Better yet, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need a big bruising back who can catch passes in the West Coast Offense. I'll put the call in to Bruce Allen personally.
• No more Plaxico stories please. It's just not amusing any more.
• What to do about Denver this week? This year, it isn't Mike Shanahan's fault that we can't pick a running back to start for the Broncos. After Peyton Hillis gave us all food for thought about how good that Arkansas backfield had to be with him, Felix Jones and Darren McFadden in the same huddle, the injury bug took another bite out of the Broncos, leaving them with Tatum Bell and all his baggage as their only healthy RB. Meanwhile, Denver is 3-0 against the NFC South, having beaten Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Atlanta. Can they make it a sweep? On paper, the obvious answer is no, but after that huge emotional win against the Bucs this past Monday night, it isn't hard to imagine Carolina coming out a little flat.
• For all intents and purposes, it seems as though Detroit blew its last chance at sneaking a win in for the 2008 season. Actually it was Paul Magnuson, a federal judge working in Minnesota, who blew the call. I'm still trying to work this one out, but it seems to me that this long-time resident of the state of Minnesota might have ulterior motives in blocking the NFL suspensions. In this case, the judge should recuse himself and let someone who isn't so close to the situation make the call. If you are a Detroit fan, you have to wonder how big an impact that decision made, considering it allowed Pat and Kevin Williams the chance to dress for the game. Final Score -- U.S. District Court, Minneapolis 1, Detroit Lions fans 0-13.
• Arena Football is reportedly mulling shutting its doors in 2009, yet teams like Philadelphia, Chicago and Arizona have continued to conduct open tryouts. It seems to me they wouldn't be wasting their time if the league wasn't going to play. Let's hope they do. My kids would be very upset not to be at the home opener for the Tampa Bay Storm. Where else can you get season tickets and a pair of T-shirts for only $99?
• Does anyone really watch the Pro Bowl anymore? It has become such a joke over the last few years. It seems as if most of the players who actually play are alternates, because the winners beg off for various reasons, both legitimate and questionable. I think we should go back to the old format, where the defending Super Bowl champions played against a team made up of college All-Stars. Want to make it even more interesting? Let the Detroit Lions play against the All-Stars and see if they are as bad as they play every Sunday. It would be like a train wreck ... people would watch just to see the carnage.
• Fred Taylor is out for the season. If this news actually means something to you, your team isn't in the fantasy playoffs.
• We're in the end game in the fantasy football season, and your choices become more difficult every week. Will the Titans rest their starters just when you need them for your league's Super Bowl? Savvy owners have already jumped on players like Pierre Thomas, so your options are extremely limited on the free agent list. Trade deadlines are a distant memory for most leagues, so you are likely making tough decisions with your available depth.
Do you start Deshaun Foster if Frank Gore doesn't play? I'm thinking I'd rather have Derrick Ward or Ahmad Bradshaw, at least this week, over Foster.
The Bucs were run over last week. Does that make Michael Turner a viable start on Sunday? I'd be hard-pressed to go with that logic in a critical game for both teams.
Just when it seemed that Jeff Garcia might be a viable starter for the last couple weeks, his age catches up to him again with another calf injury. If Garcia can't go, Luke McCown would likely get the start. The offense is already crippled. The Bucs' running game lacks power, as evidenced by their horrendous red zone offense. In 50 trips inside the 20, Tampa Bay has scored 18 touchdowns and 24 field goals. Meaning: eight times they walked away with nothing. The loss of Earnest Graham has exacerbated the situation, and the loss of Garcia, coupled with the questionable status of defensive linemen Jovan Haye and Chris Hovan, might be the determining factors in this week's game against Atlanta.
And what about Matt Ryan? In his second game as a pro, the Bucs defense harried him into making poor throws all day. But this isn't the same rookie signal-caller who lined up against Tampa Bay in Week 2. Ryan has looked more like a polished veteran, and the Falcons have responded accordingly in a story line that has Atlanta faithful feeling good about their team for the first time in a long while.
• My game of the week is Pittsburgh at Baltimore. I know most people seem to be focusing on Dallas and their constant drama queen pageant hosting the Giants, but for pure, physical, smash-mouth football enjoyment, this is the game that really stands out. When these two teams met in Week 4 at Heinz Field, it was a bruising, battering contest that saw three running backs get knocked out of the game. Rashard Mendenhall was lost for the season, and Carey Davis also went down. Willis McGahee was carted off the field, to be replaced by Le'Ron McClain. The Steelers also lost OG Kendall Simmons for the year, as each team hacked and slashed their way through one of the most physical games I'd seen in a long time. You just know that, with the AFC Central crown hanging in the balance, this will be another epic.
• Can't the NFL do something about Monday Night's game? Watching Cleveland travel to Philadelphia is about as entertaining as Christians versus the Lions in the Coliseum.
• I imagine the schedule-makers had a different contest in mind when they saw Seattle playing at St. Louis this weekend. It sure seemed like the game would mean something, at least to one of the teams. I wouldn't blame the local affiliates for switching out the game for reruns of Happy Days.
• I know the answer is obvious, but it still fun to think that there might actually be a quarterback controversy in New England next year.
• Speaking of New England, I wonder if anyone is really giving Oakland a chance this week? While I don't think they'll win, they've done their best Denver impression against the AFC East. Early in the season, they traveled to Buffalo and controlled the game until the waning moments, allowing the Bills to come back and win it with a last gasp field goal. Four weeks later, they played host to the Jets, taking them down 16-13. Then it was a trip to Miami, where they barely missed again, losing 17-15. You have to believe that is the only thing keeping odds makers from making the Patriots more than a touchdown favorite.
• Finally, because I feel like I need to pick an upset game and I'm just not comfortable giving Al Davis any props, I like Kansas City at home this week against the Chargers. It's at Arrowhead, against a division opponent, and frankly, San Diego with Norv Turner at the helm is a shadow of its former self.