1. The biggest game of this weekend for a handful of NFL teams will be at the Coliseum, and the Rams aren’t even home on Sunday. Archrivals USC and UCLA meet for the 87th time, and potential Top 5 picks Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen will lock horns for the final time (presuming at least one declares for the draft) as collegians. Should be a fun one.
2. Tyrod Taylor’s $6 million roster bonus, and the $10 million base salary attached to it for 2018, make it a virtually certainty that he’ll be cut by the Bills and hit the market in March. And that market could have Kirk Cousins, Drew Brees, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater on it. (Jimmy Garoppolo’s up, too, but the Niners will almost certainly tag or sign him.) As we said here before, add that to an intriguing draft class and it’ll be a fascinating spring at the position.
3. I asked one player who’s been vocal in his criticism of Thursday Night Football about its future last week. He immediately raised the idea owners often have floated of moving the Super Bowl to Presidents Day weekend, and adding a second bye to the schedule, which would allow the flexibility to front each TNF game with an off week. To me, that’s always been the most logical solution.
4. ICYMI: Brett Hundley actually looked like an NFL quarterback last Sunday in Chicago as the Packers snapped their three-game losing streak. His performance has given the team some hope that he can help them tread water into December contention. The problem? The schedule. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are next, and the Packers close with the Panthers, Vikings and Lions.
5. Pro Football Talk mentioned Denver’s Vance Joseph as a coach who could be fighting for his job down the stretch. It’s something I heard earlier in the week, too. And while it doesn’t seem fair, or particularly sharp, to hire a young coach who only spent one year as a coordinator, and then turn around and not let him grow into the job, the Broncos’ defense is approaching the back end of its prime and so there is a sense of urgency there, plus the fact that John Elway’s never been afraid to act aggressively. It’s worth keeping an eye on that one.
6. I’m not sure if the Patriots asked the league to stack its trip to Denver in front of the trip to Mexico City—teams often make requests like that to scheduling czar Howard Katz—but if they did … then that was brilliant. The team played Sunday at 5,200 feet at Mile High, its practicing in Colorado Springs this week, and all that should have the Patriots ready to play at 7,000 feet in Mexico on Sunday.
7. If the Giants do decide to blow up their football operation—and that would be the first time they’ve done that in my lifetime (I’m 37)—the GM job will be about as hotly pursued as it gets, and there’s already a lot of noise out there about the big names the Maras and Tisches could pursue.
8. We’ll see what happens but perception has built in scouting circles that Carolina interim GM Marty Hurney would like to keep the job and peel the interim tag off his nameplate. Hurney, the team’s GM from 2002-12, was brought back to shepherd the team from Dave Gettleman’s strangely-timed summer firing through this season.
9. Speaking of perception, there’s always been one out there that Seattle’s system doesn’t demand great corner play—it’s more built on its safeties—and that’ll be tested now. Four-time All-Pro CB Richard Sherman played in 105 consecutive games, every one in his seven-year career, before blowing out his Achilles last Thursday. He started the last 99 of those games.
10. Drew Brees is on pace for 4,263 yards, which would be his lowest total in 12 seasons as a Saint. And that’s positively fantastic news for a team that’s winning with its third-ranked running game and eighth-ranked defense. The Saints don’t need Brees to throw for 300 yards every week to win anymore. It also could make coming back more attractive for the prospective free agent, who’ll turn 39 during the playoffs.