Talked to Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier about his quarterback situation last night and came away unsure about whether Brett Favre will play his 298th straight regular-season game (322nd including playoffs) Sunday against the Giants in Minneapolis.
But here's what the Twitterverse, the webworld and the talk-show folks will be most interested in. I know, because I've been bombarded all week by the same question: Would the Vikings play Favre one snap, or one series, just to keep his consecutive-game streak alive? Frazier's unequivocal answer:
"No,'' he said from his Vikings office. "I wouldn't do that. We wouldn't do that. And I can tell you Brett wouldn't want it that way. That isn't what Brett's about. Whoever's writing that or saying that ... it's just not the way we do things. I can tell you this: If we decide to play Brett, it's with the mindset that he'll play the game, and play well.''
Favre did not practice Wednesday because of a severe bruise to the joint between his shoulder bone and neck, and it kept him out again Thursday. He did, however, take the field Friday, though he was limited. "He can bring his arm back to start the throwing motion,'' Frazier said Thursday, "but when he brings it forward through the motion, there is tremendous pain.''
Said Frazier: "This injury is different than the other ones he's had. The pain is different. I don't know if he can play. We'll have to see how he does [Friday] and make a determination.''
So ... stay tuned. Whether you're sick to death of Favre or not, this is a huge game for the Giants in the NFC East pennant race, so it does matter.
Since Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season, the Buffalo Bills have tried nearly every way possible to find his successor. They gave journeymen backups (Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, Kelly Holcomb) shots. They gave a Canadian League hero and breakfast-cereal entrepreneur (Doug Flutie) a try. They traded a first-round pick to acquire a promising backup (Rob Johnson). They traded a first-round pick to acquire a proven star (Drew Bledsoe). They used a pick in the first round (J.P. Losman) and third round (Trent Edwards) on college hotshots.
What would you call Harvard product Ryan Fitzpatrick? Journeyman, insurance policy, good Scrabble partner? I'd call him this: A man with a real chance to keep the job longer than any of his post-Kelly predecessors.
Nothing's certain, and after a conversation with Bills coach Chan Gailey, I can't tell you with certainty that the Bills won't use one of their top picks on a quarterback if they have a chance to get, say, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. (It's highly likely Luck will be the first overall pick if he enters the draft, and the way the Bills are playing, I doubt they'll end up with the first pick overall anyway.)
Gailey said of Fitzpatrick: "There's no question he's got a chance [to be the long-term quarterback]. Don't ask me to put a percentage on it,'' and, "You've got to be an idiot to have watched him this season and say he can't play. We've got plenty of areas we need to improve to be a strong team, and that is not one of them.''
Sounds very much like Fitzpatrick, with a strong final four games (Cleveland, at Miami, New England, at Jets) could stake a claim to the job in 2011 and beyond -- barring the Bills having a shot at Luck.
Said Gailey: "The two greatest attributes for a quarterback, in my opinion, are decision-making and accuracy. He's got them both. He's got great decision-making, pre-snap and post-snap. When he has to look over a defense and make important decisions before the ball is snapped, he does that as well as anyone. Then he knows when to get rid of the ball, when to look for the hot receiver.''
I asked Gailey if Fitzpatrick had enough arm, particularly in a place that's an occasional wind tunnel like Orchard Park. "Yes,'' Gailey said. "There've been a lot of guys over the years who've won with worse arms.''
One last good Gaileyism on Fitzpatrick. I asked him if Fitzpatrick was much of a Harvard guy on the field, and this was his money quote:
"His demeanor in meetings and practice is Harvard. His play on Sunday is Ohio State.''
Randy Moss is on a milk carton.
Last night, in Tennessee's 30-28 loss to Indianapolis, in maybe 15 snaps (Moss didn't play for the first 20 minutes of the game), Moss had zero balls thrown to him. Interesting. Kerry Collins threw 39. Zero to Moss. Eight combined to Jared Cook, Craig Stevens and Ahmard Hall. Zero to Moss.
Afterward, Jeff Fisher said it was because Kenny Britt had returned from injury, and because he and Moss play the same position and Britt is the unquestioned starter, that's going to have a major effect on Moss' involvement. But zero throws in 39 snaps? Moss isn't good enough, or enough of a threat to a defense playing backup safeties, to throw a couple of 40-yard jump-balls in an offense that had been struggling mightily?
This is what the Titans bought for the $3.2-million it cost to bring Moss on for the last half of the season: five catches and zero touchdowns in five games.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez, Jets.
He played the first five games of the season without throwing an interception. He's thrown at least one interception in every game since. Seven games, 11 interceptions. He got called to the principal's office this week to have a little chat with Rex Ryan, and I can bet you the message was jovial but pointed. Stop screwing it up, kid. With Dolphins pass-rusher Cameron Wake coming to the Meadowlands on Sunday afternoon, Sanchez will have a Tazmanian Devil, and not just his own accuracy, to worry about.
Tarvaris Jackson's quarterback line against the Giants:
Not saying he'll start. Don't know if he will. But I can't see Favre making it very long in the game.
Defensive ends Jeremy Mincey (No. 94) and Austen Lane (No. 92), Jacksonville.
Mincey, a third-year player from Florida, and Lane, a fifth-round rookie from the football power of Murray (Ky.) State, were backups at the beginning of the year, but morphed into starting roles after Derrick Harvey was benched in October and Aaron Kampman was lost for the season a month ago with his second ACL tear in a year. Over the past five games, Jacksonville, with Mincey and Lane outside and young forces Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu inside, has held foes to 17.8 points per game. Just another sign that GM Gene Smith is going to be on my short list for executive of the year after the season; three of those four players (including Mincey, a former Jag who last played for them in 2008 before being waived injured in 2009) were Smith pickups this calendar year. They'll be instrumental in pressuring Jason Campbell and trying to stop Darren McFadden Sunday to try to keep their AFC South lead.
1. Matt Cassel to take a seat in San Diego. Sanity, please. An NFL team medic told me Thursday "it would be sheer negligence'' for Matt Cassel to play a football game four days after undergoing surgery for appendicitis. This doc told me he'd clear an appendicitis patient two weeks after the procedure if all went well with the recovery. I understand it was an [laparoscopic] procedure, and I understand Cassel [apparently] is champing at the bit to play in this big game, but unless there's some miracle healing that occurs in 48 hours, I don't see how it's worth it.
2. Percy Harvin's head. The Minnesota wideout missed last week's game with a migraine headache, and he missed Wednesday and Thursday workouts because of another one. His career is now officially under the microscope. Will he ever be the player the Vikings drafted, or will he consistently be a question mark because of those headaches?
3. Another durable Manning. Eli makes his 100th straight start Sunday in Minnesota. He's only 197 behind Favre, and 105 behind his brother.
4. How the Ravens bounce back. They're on the road, with an extra 31 hours to recover from the crushing loss to the Steelers (physically and mentally). But the Houston offense won't be a walkover Monday night.
5. More adjustments for the Steelers. Now Flozell Adams has a high ankle sprain, and if he can't make it to the starting gate or through the game against Cincinnati, that would mark the fifth offensive tackle for the Steelers this year. That news comes in the same week that Pittsburgh ruled out star defensive end Aaron Smith (torn triceps) until the playoffs, if he plays at all this year.
6. Maurice Jones-Drew against an old friend. MJD puts his five-game streak of 100-yard rushing games on the line against the Raiders as the Jags try to hold onto their one-game lead over Indy in the AFC South. In MJD's way: defensive tackle John Henderson, the longtime Jag turned Raider, who feels dissed by the way he was treated by Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio. Henderson was cut a week after Jacksonville made Tyson Alualu its first pick in the 2010 draft. "They'd better bring it,'' Henderson said of his former team. "That's all I've got to say.''
7. Rams on the road. Ridiculous stat of the week: It's been 33 years since the Rams won three straight on the road in the same season. They get to try (a longshot, to be sure) Sunday at New Orleans.
8. The return of Pierre Thomas. This is how transient the running game is in the NFL: Thomas has missed nine games with a sprained ankle, and it seemed like a major loss. In the past four games, Tiffin College's finest, Chris Ivory, has rushed for 304 yards and five touchdowns, and the Saints have averaged 33 points in those four wins. Not to be a wise guy, but you should have signed that extension when you had the chance before the season, Pierre.
9. The new and improved Jay Cutler against Bill Belichick's D. In the Bears' five-game winning streak, Cutler's been smart and not forcing the issue (10 touchdowns, three interceptions) and taking the short stuff much more. He'll need to do that, especially on a frigid, windy day at Soldier Field.
10. The new rules on hard hits. I'm in favor of them as much as anyone. Truly. But $15,000 for a two-handed shove on a quarterback, as Ndamukong Suh did to Jay Cutler? Absurd. Consistency, league. Consistency.