NFL Week 7 storylines: QB or not QB
Take your pick of intriguing QB angles this week: We've got a change in Washington, a rookie in Minnesota, a fan favorite in Denver and perhaps the missing piece in Oakland.
Add it all up and Week 7 could be critical in setting the course for the rest of this season.
• Is John Beck Washington's answer at QB?
The Redskins' 3-1 start felt a little bit like a mirage and now we know why -- Washington continues to be completely unsettled at the quarterback spot. The job was Rex Grossman's to lose heading into the season, but he failed to deliver.
So the ball is now in John Beck's hands. Yes, the John Beck who hasn't started an NFL game since 2007 and has thrown one career touchdown pass.
He could have a worse matchup for his first Washington start. In spite of Cam Newton, the Panthers are 1-5, and their defense is giving up more than 27 points a game. Can Beck deliver? If Washington plans to make a playoff run this season, he had better.
• Tim Tebow time in Miami
Sunday's game could not set up any better for Tebow, who will make his first start of the year for Denver. He's back in the state of Florida (and figures to have tons of people behind him, despite playing at Miami), the Broncos are coming off a bye and facing the 0-5 Dolphins.
If Tebow can lead the Broncos to a win, prepare for plenty of people to overreact -- the Dolphins are pretty terrible this year, so any takeaway from this one should be limited.
Still, this is the moment Denver fans have been waiting for all season. Assuming Tebow stays healthy and does not totally implode, this could be his job for awhile going forward.
• LaDainian Tomlinson faces off with San Diego
For the first time since becoming a New York Jet, LaDainian Tomlinson will take on his former team. Tomlinson spent nine years as a Charger, topping 1,000 yards rushing in eight of those seasons.
Rex Ryan will start Tomlinson Sunday as a nod to his running back's history with San Diego, but Shonn Greene will still get his fair share of carries. Tomlinson has just 97 yards rushing this season and is looking more and more like his career is approaching the end of the line. Could a big game against the Chargers reignite his season?
• Bears and Bucs head across the pond
For the fifth consecutive season, the NFL visits Wembley Stadium for a one-game London cameo. This will be the first time, though, that two teams from the same conference have done battle in the international trip.
And it's a big NFC game.
Tampa Bay heads into Sunday at 4-2 and fresh off a win over New Orleans; Chicago routed Minnesota to get to 3-3 but still has to prove it can beat legitimate competition. The winner will take a big step toward playoff contention.
• Oakland pins its hopes on Carson Palmer
As of the writing of this article, Oakland still had not officially announced Carson Palmer as its starting QB this week vs. Kansas City. That's understandable, given that the Raiders just acquired Palmer in a Tuesday trade.
Still, considering Oakland gave up at least one and possibly two first-round draft picks, getting Palmer into the starting lineup soon would be advisable.
If Palmer doesn't go Sunday, Oakland will try to get through with Kyle Boller -- the only other option is rookie Terrelle Pryor. The Raiders have no 2012 draft picks until Round 5, so they obviously believe they can compete for a Super Bowl this season.
Palmer will hold the key to making that dream a reality.
• Super Bowl XLIII rematch in Arizona
Arizona is still searching for its footing in 2011, with new quarterback Kevin Kolb. The Cardinals are off to a 1-4 start and look destined to finish well below the .500 mark.
The Steelers, on the other hand, have righted their ship despite a rash of injuries. With back-to-back wins, they're up to 4-2 and just a game back of Baltimore in the AFC North. They'll have their hands full with Larry Fitzgerald, who turned in a terrific performance in that Super Bowl classic.
This one probably falls somewhere between John Beck and Tim Tebow on the QB interest scale, for most people. Minnesota's rookie QB -- and, the Vikings hope, QB of the future -- takes over for Donovan McNabb.
His first opponent: 6-0 Green Bay. While Ponder could struggle mightily at times Sunday, a solid performance ought to get the Vikings fans back on the bandwagon and excited for the team's future again.
• Matchups not meant for prime time
Instead, the Colts have Curtis Painter starting and are 0-6. Indianapolis has been competitive in just about every game this season, but the Saints ought to be fired up coming off a loss in Tampa Bay last week. If Drew Brees gets going early, this one could turn ugly.
Same goes for Baltimore-Jackonsville on Monday night -- and it's hard to figure why that matchup was ever in consideration for a nationally-televised, prime-time game.