1. ESPN reported last week that Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell will report at the start of the team’s Week 7 bye, which would be just over a week from now. But he sure isn’t telling the team that. Bell hasn’t been communicating with anyone at the club on that—not coaches, not players, not front-office folks. And that isn’t new. In fact, the reason the Pittsburgh linemen spoke out the way they did in early September was because Bell told them he was showing up on Labor Day, then didn’t show and didn’t respond to his text. So it will be interesting when/if he does show up. One other thing to add here: My understanding is even if Bell does show up, the door on a trade wouldn’t be closed. And another thing to remember: If he’s traded, the Steelers would have to convince him to sign the franchise tender, and it’s no sure thing that he would.
2. One subplot in today’s NFC championship game rematch: Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo just so happened to be the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach for Philly’s 38-7 blowout win in January. He knows how the champs picked at Minnesota then, but my understanding is that the value he’s brought this week is less about the how and more about the who. Per the guys in Minnesota, DeFilippo was particularly detailed in helping break down the strengths and weaknesses of individual Eagles the last few days.
3. While we’re there, I’d be stunned if Dalvin Cook plays.
4. With Travis Frederick on IR and now officially unavailable until December, it’s worth mentioning that Dallas’s replacement, veteran Joe Looney, has been surprisingly competent. He’s not Frederick, but he is better than some other guys starting at the position in the league. While the Cowboys certainly aren’t better off for all this, they aren’t up a creek either.
5. The Ravens used Lamar Jackson as scout-team quarterback this week, largely because of his extensive experience running the kind of RPOs (run-pass option plays) that the Browns have been using with Baker Mayfield in the saddle. Another thing that the Baltimore coaches are impressing on their players: Mayfield is not afraid to swing for the fences, and as such the Browns have become a much more downfield offense with him in there.
6. One thing that has become visible on film: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers doesn’t seem to trust what’s around him like he once did. What coaches see is a player who’s quicker to turn plays into scramble drills than he was before, which is even more noticeable when you consider he’s on a bad wheel. I’d expect the Lions to try to exploit that today.
7. Cardinals QB Josh Rosen impressed on tape last week, flashing the kind of accuracy and instincts that had him on the NFL’s radar from the minute he stepped on the field at UCLA in 2015. This week’s opponent, San Francisco, concluded that Rosen should’ve had 400 yards and the Cardinals 28 points and a win against Seattle last week, had his receivers not committed three bad downfield drops.
8. The NFL and NFLPA quietly traded letters over a week ago—union president Eric Winston penned one to the league, and league EVP Troy Vincent responded—on the enforcement of the helmet and the body-weight rules. Vincent wrote that the body-weight rule isn’t new. But there has been a change in emphasis, and it seems like that’s softening now. Patrick Chung’s hit on Andrew Luck on Thursday night would’ve been a flag in September—it stands an example of the in-season adjustment.
9. The Saints plan to lighten Alvin Kamara’s load this week with the return of Mark Ingram—Kamara had a staggering 55 touches over the last two weeks. The good news is that the increased workload against Atlanta and the Giants at least gave the coaches a look at what Kamara is capable of in an increased capacity.
10. It’s worth keeping an eye on Titans rookie Harold Landry this week going against a shaky Buffalo line. Tennessee, like everyone else, was aware of the medical concerns surrounding Landry in April, as well as the questions on his motor. But they had connections at Boston College—GM Jon Robinson knows the program well from his decade-and-a-half as a Patriots scout, and coach Mike Vrabel’s son Tyler plays there—and got good info on Landry. They’ve felt all along he was a first-round talent, which is showing now.
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