Broncos over Chiefs
It has been a mess of a season for Denver coach Josh McDaniels. But a big win over a chief rival in the Chiefs could get fans off his back — for at least a few hours.
Packing little punch
Former Steelers RB Jerome Bettis wrote in his SI.com column last week that the NFL made a mistake in not suspending Texans WR Andre Johnson and Titans CB Cortland Finnegan for fighting in last week's game. The two players were each fined $25,000, but Bettis worries about what message it sends. Johnson played against the Eagles on Thursday night, catching six passes for 149 yards.
"When helmets are off and punches are thrown, the league needs to send a message with its punishment. By handing out fines, it failed to do so. Players around the league will take note of this and, coupled with Richard Seymour's slap-on-the-wrist $25,000 fine for shoving/punching a quarterback, know how far they can take their actions without facing a suspension. Not only does this create the potential for more unacceptable violence, but it also becomes a nightmare for referees trying to keep control of games."
NFC West a 'disgrace'
Former Bucs coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said during Monday night's Cardinals-49ers game that the NFC West winner should forfeit its automatic playoff berth. It's a fair suggestion considering the division is led by the Rams (5-6) and Seahawks (5-6) with the four teams being outscored this season by a combined 247 points.
It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Bills WR Steve Johnson. He was the talk of the NFL after a big game against the Bengals. Then came the low last week, when he dropped a potential winning touchdown pass in overtime of a loss to the Steelers. Johnson was hard on himself in an emotional postgame news conference, then vented on Twitter.
What's important is how Johnson bounces back, and he had Hall of Fame candidate WR Andre Reed to offer him much-needed perspective. Reed should know how to handle disappointments, having been on Bills teams that lost four straight Super Bowls.
"You're going to drop a few," Reed told the Buffalo News. "The great players drop them. … We all dropped 'em. We're not perfect, man. The irony is that it came so fast for him. It's hard to get to that level. He's got to let it go. It's hard to let it go. Believe me!"
Could the Colts miss the playoffs? QB Peyton Manning & Co. are struggling, with injuries having caught up to them in the past few weeks. Manning has had three consecutive games with three-plus interceptions for the first time since his rookie year (1998). Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz points out that the offensive line is the problem, and there's no help on the way.
"In the past, Manning could at least count upon his line to protect him, and he was surrounded by transcendent receivers, but that's all gone — along with the Colts' realistic chances of making a deep postseason run. Three losses in four games. The injuries — and a failure to upgrade the offensive line — have finally caught up to this team."
Times wires and the NFL contributed to this report.
Jets coach Rex Ryan immersed himself in the rivalry with the Patriots last year by saying he wasn't going to kiss the rings of coach Bill Belichick. Ryan, who's never short on bold predictions, then told Newsday last week that, "I came here to kick his (butt), and that's the truth."
But if the Jets (9-2) can back up their coach's words in Monday's showdown with the Patriots (9-2) — and sweep the season series — it could make Ryan the talk of the NFL.
The winner would be a favorite to get the AFC's top seed and a first-round bye, with the loser dropping to the top wild-card spot. And while the Patriots boast the rings — three Super Bowl titles in the past 10 years — and arguably the league's top quarterback in Tom Brady, some think there soon could be a changing of the guard.
"This is the Jets' time," wrote Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. "They will successfully execute a hostile takeover of the AFC East in Foxborough on Monday night in the most important regular-season game in their 51-year history. They were built to win now. Right now. … This might be the best Jets team since Joe Namath took them to the Super Bowl nearly 42 years ago."
Now that's saying something.
What they're saying
"Nobody really cares about Randy anymore. He has blown things up in Minnesota, Oakland, New England and now Tennessee. He is destined to go into the Hall of Fame as a guy who never won a Super Bowl. And now he gets to watch the Patriots gang of 5-foot-10 receivers in the game of the year Monday night on Revis Island."
SI.com's Dan Shaughnessy, on Titans WR Randy Moss