The NFL is sending England its worst export since the AMC Pacer. Brett Favre won't be surprised by anything Brett Favre does. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is dwarfed by all sorts of Giants. And could "None Of The Above" be the answer to who's the best team in the NFC?
Week 8 is rife with all those storylines and more.
1. Brett Favre wouldn't put anything past Brett Favre -- just ask Brett Favre. Sure, Brett Favre is self-absorbed and enjoys making himself sound like a warrior, as he did this week when he said he wouldn't put anything past himself. He added that most guys wouldn't play on his kind of bum ankle. But admit it. Even if he occasionally makes you roll your eyes, inevitably those eyes are going to watch Vikings-Patriots. You always watch Brett, either for the train wreck that's been his 2010 season or the unlikely win he could lead. Brett Favre isn't the only one who likes him some Brett Favre. And by the way, Brad Childress may have been "leaning" toward Tarvaris Jackson, but Favre practiced Friday. He'll start.
2. The Steelers have been lucky AND good ... right now, the Saints would take either. The defending Super Bowl champs have been thrashed by Cleveland, have played disjointedly all season, are wondering whatever happened to their near-perfect quarterback and are hurting everywhere. Friday's news only made things look worse, with both featured backs, Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, declared out for this showdown between the last two Super Bowl champs. The Steelers performed beyond expectations without Ben Roethlisberger and have won with him, with help from NFL referees in Miami.
3. Exactly which defense in Packers-Jets figures to be the most intimidating? Obviously, the only thing Rex Ryan loves more than boasting about his D is backing it up. And he has. But as much as almost everything points to a Jets edge, two key matchups could swing things the Packers' way. Foremost, the Jets' pass defense is not nearly the force it was a year ago. Teams are frankly flinging it against the Jets and the Pack's Aaron Rodgers seems to be playing better. As for the Pack's defense, its strength clearly is rushing opposing quarterbacks -- led by linebacker Clay Matthews. And for all the headlines he's grabbed, Mark Sanchez still is a young quarterback prone to be forced into mistakes.
4. The NFL is sending Niners-Broncos to Wembley? Why not go all-in and have Roseanne sing the National Anthem and The Who perform at halftime? The league had no idea things would be this bad for a couple of name brand NFL franchises. But, really. As American exports go, this is like sending an AMC Pacer to Germany, so German engineers can admire the styling and performance of a real car. Both coaches could lose their jobs. Both teams struggle putting points on the board. Both teams have trouble hanging onto the ball. And both rank low in rushing.
5. Did Raheem Morris go to the Rex Ryan school of self-fulfilling cockiness? Or is the Tampa Bay coach about to get schooled in the art of bad karma? Certainly, everyone loves a good sound bite. There's something to be said for a coach exuding confidence like Morris, who called his team the best in the NFC. Josh Freeman, who will be starting his 16th game against Arizona, is the kind of player and leader who makes special things happen, too. But keep in mind that starting with Sunday's game, four of the Bucs' next five games are on the road. And then they'll face the Falcons at home.
6. Who's going to be forced into retirement first -- Brett Favre or the entire Buffalo Bills defense? This could get ugly. And we don't mean as in a humiliating lopsided score, although that could happen, too. The Kansas City Chiefs are the league's best rushing team -- by far -- and can gash opponents with Thomas Jones' brute power or Jamal Charles' electrifying speed. The Chiefs seem to throw the ball only when they have to throw. The Bills have the worst rushing defense in the NFL, have allowed 200-yards rushing in three of their last four games and are the last winless team at 0-6.
7. The Titans are beginning to look a lot like the complete team the Chargers were supposed to be. Is there such a thing as a Coach Of The Decade award? If so, it should go to Jeff Fisher, who continues to find ways to field terrific, opportunistic defenses and enough playmakers offensively to keep winning. Chargers-Titans should be a one-sided game on San Diego turf. It just may be ... with the Titans romping. With or without Vince Young (questionable), the Tennessee offense has clicked. With or without Chris Johnson piling up yards, his breakaway threat alone has opened up things. Kenny Britt is becoming a huge weapon. Meanwhile, San Diego turns over the ball a lot and Tennessee's D makes teams turn it over. It's last-stand time, Chargers.
8. The Metroplex went 0-for-3 against the Giants last week. Will Jacksonville's Little Giant do the same? Wade Phillips is a dead man walking in coaching terms. The Cowboys are all but out of the playoffs already. But much like the car fire on the side of the road, you can't help but slow down and look. The Jags probably are not as good as their 3-4 record, but they still have Maurice Jones-Drew, who's been efficient but yet to have a monster game. If there's any hangover from the Monday night meltdown and a short week, the Cowboys could fall again. At least they still have the Rangers, though. Oh, wait.
9. Sam The Ram continues to make strides. Not that Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is popular, but he has been named the Missouri Athletic Club's personality of the year for 2010. Of course, he's been a Ram for all of three months. It's been enough time, however, for everyone to see this rookie's quarterbacking and leadership abilities. A win over the Panthers would vault the Rams to a .500 record midway through the season. The last time that happened was in 2006.
And, finally ...
10. Colts-Texans is a showdown worthy of the MNF hype. The Texans' season-opening romp past the defending AFC champs was viewed in some circles as a Super Bowl of sorts for Houston. The Texans had beaten the Colts just once in 15 tries and lost several heartbreakers along the way. They haven't looked as good since opening day, but a 4-2 record still is their best start in franchise history. A 5-2 start with a Monday night win at Lucas Oil Stadium not only would prove the Texans' legitimacy, but turn a tough AFC South into a free-for-all where three teams (Titans, the third contender) fight for perhaps just one playoff berth.
Twists and turns are everywhere:
• Who's going to be the former insurance agent, truck driver or baggage handler that's going to catch 180 yards worth of Peyton Manning passes this week? The Colts are decimated by injuries. Dallas Clark is out, Austin Collie is out, Anthony Gonzalez should be back but is listed as questionable, and on Friday Reggie Wayne was limited in practice with a hamstring problem. Still, this is what Manning does. He takes no-names and beats you.
• Considering the defenses here, should the Over/Under on this one be Eleventy-billion? The Texans rank last in the NFL against the pass by a wide margin. With Manning likely to sling it even more than usual with running back Joseph Addai also out, Manning's numbers could be video game-like. The Colts, meanwhile, have been nearly as bad against the run; Texans tailback Arian Foster gashed them for 231 yards in the opener
• Can Brian Cushing handle playing middle linebacker? Cushing has not exactly been lights-out since returning from a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. With DeMeco Ryans out for the year, Cushing must match wits with Manning -- not exactly a fair fight.
• When will the real Matt Schaub stand up? Monday nights tend to bring out the best in everyone and have made stars of many. Schaub, the league's leading passer in 2009, has flirted with elite status. This year, he's alternately struggled and made amazing plays. If he can carry this team on the road, he'll get there.