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Five Questions surrounding Week 13 in the NFL

Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak coaches against the Cleveland Browns in the second half at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas on November 6, 2011. The Texans defeated the Browns 30-12. UPI/Aaron M. Sprecher

What are some of the biggest questions heading into Week 13 of the NFL season?

1. Can the Texans survive with T.J. Yates at quarterback?
And by “survive” I mean win enough games to clinch the AFC South and make their first ever playoff appearance in franchise history. Apparently Gary Kubiak and his staff worked out Jeff Garcia and Jake Delhomme but for the moment, the starting job is firmly in the hands of Yates, who has zero experience outside of the two and a half quarters he played on Sunday. Now, Yates did have an impressive Pro Day back in April and does come from a pro style offense under North Carolina offensive coordinator John Shoop and head coach Butch Davis. He also impressed the Houston coaching staff this offseason and was considered a “sleeper” but some in the draft. But he’s a fifth-round pick and a developmental quarterback. He was never supposed to see the field this year and now all of a sudden the Texans’ playoff hopes are on his shoulders (for the moment, at least). Talk about pressure. This weekend the Texans play the Falcons, who have a solid run defense and who will certainly challenge Houston’s tough defense, unlike Jacksonville did last Sunday. It’ll be interesting to see how Yates on the Texans fare this week.

2. Can the Giants hand the Packers their first loss?
“Detroit and New York” were the two games most people pointed to as the games in which the Packers could suffer their first loss of the season. But after Green Bay somewhat easily disposed of the Lions on Thanksgiving Day, and following the Giants’ pitiful effort in New Orleans on Monday, it’s likely that there are less people on the New York bandwagon this week. If Aaron issues getting past New York. Granted, the Giants usually play better when their backs are against the wall but their backs were pressed firmly against the wall in New Orleans and they didn’t bother showing up. Thus, it makes you wonder if this isn’t another one of the G-Men’s late-season collapses under Tom Coughlin and Green Bay is just going to burn house down. We’ll find out soon…

3. Can the Bengals knock off the Steelers?
Just when you thought they would go quietly into that good night, the Bengals pulled off a come-from-behind victory last Sunday against the Browns and remain in Baltimore and Pittsburgh’s rearview mirror. That said, Cincinnati has to beat Pittsburgh this weekend if the Bengals are going to have any chance of making the playoffs this season. They’re not mathematically out if they lose but they have to prove to themselves that they can beat one of the two best teams in the AFC North. They fell to the Steelers by a touchdown at home three weeks ago but if they can win in Pittsburgh this weekend then the Bengals must be viewed as a legit contender.

4. Will the Cowboys seize control of the NFC East?
With the Giants’ loss to the Saints on Monday night, the Cowboys now have sole possession of first place in the NFC East. And seeing as how the Giants host the undefeated Packers on Sunday and the Cowboys play the 4-7 Cardinals, Dallas has a great opportunity to take a two-game lead in the division. But this is the Cowboys – the same team that needed overtime to beat the hapless Redskins in Week 11 and who were taken to the brink by the three-win Dolphins on Thanksgiving Day. (In defense of Dallas, Miami was on a three-game winning streak.) My point is that the ‘Boys have yet to put together that one signature win of 2011 and haven’t played a team with a winning record since Week 6 at New England. I wouldn’t be shocked if Arizona gives Dallas a game on Sunday.

5. The Broncos can’t keep winning this way, can they?
Actually yes, they probably can. At least this Sunday they can, because they travel to Minnesota to play a Vikings team that may or may not have Adrian Peterson (ankle) for a second straight week. There’s certainly no reason to believe that the Broncos can’t come away with another 16-13 victory as Denver’s defense stymies another opponent and Tim Tebow rushes for the game-winning score as time expires. Whatever “it” is, Denver has it as all of the players believe in Tebow despite his massive shortcomings as a passer. If the Vikings can’t figure the Broncos’ defense out then it’s going to be another long afternoon for Christian Ponder and Co.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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NFL Week 4 MVP, COY and ROY power rankings

We are a quarter of the way through the NFL season, and there are lots of wacky things happening. The Chiefs are 3-0 and the only undefeated team. That’s a far cry from last year, when the Colts and Saints were unbeaten almost all the way to the end of the 2009 campaign. There are also some interesting candidates emerging for MVP consideration, as well as for Coach of the Year and Rookie of the Year. And like last year, we’ll start to analyze them in power rankings fashion. For this week and maybe the next few, we’ll put this in one post and give three names for each category. Around the halfway point of the season, more candidates will emerge so we will separate things out. Sound good? Right. Let’s go……..

MVP Power Rankings

1. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles—Do we even have to spell this out? He steps in for Kevin Kolb in Week 1 and almost leads the Eagles to victory against the Packers. Then he wins against Detroit and Jacksonville before having his ribs crushed on a meaningless play vs. Washington last Sunday, knocking him out of the game early. Kolb comes back in, and the Eagles lose. Vick is averaging 200 yards passing per game, has 6 TDs and no interceptions, and is also averaging 7.2 yards per rush on 26 carries and one TD on the ground. He has a QB rating of 108.8 while Kolb’s is 71.1. Simply put, this team is dangerous with Vick, and not scaring anyone without him. That’s the very definition of MVP.

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Eagles have options if they eventually decide to dump Michael Vick

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 9: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on from the sideline in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys during the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game at Cowboys Stadium on January 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported that the Eagles were seriously considering dumping Michael Vick, although the rumor was quickly denied by reputable NFL insiders Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN, as well as the team itself.

But what if the Eagles decided to part ways with Vick in wake of his latest off-field situation? Would they be comfortable releasing him with no veteran to backup the inexperienced Kevin Kolb next season?

Considering Vick was mostly used out of the Wildcat formation last year, the answer to that question is easy. Jeff Garcia, the veteran QB who has history with the Eagles, would be the most logical option if Vick were released. Garcia is already well versed in Andy Reid’s offense and despite his weak arm strength, he’s a better passing quarterback than Vick, who may have a rocket attached to his left shoulder but whose accuracy remains a major issue.

Another option the Eagles might have is one that was brought up by ESPN and that’s Troy Smith, who probably could be had for the right price. The former Heisman Trophy winner is rotting behind Joe Flacco in Baltimore and would like the opportunity to start somewhere else. Kolb is entrenched as the starter right now in Philly, but that doesn’t mean Smith wouldn’t have the opportunity to unseat him if he starts to struggle at any point during the season.

The point is that Vick isn’t worth the trouble for the Eagles. Reid’s experiment with him in the Wildcat last year often produced poor results and at 30 year’s old, it’s not like the former No. 1 overall pick has regained his lightening-quick speed. (He’s reportedly in better shape than he was last year, but that doesn’t mean he’s the athlete he once was.)

I would stop short of calling Vick expendable, but he’s certainly not worth the headache if he gets into even an ounce of trouble with the league over the Quanis Phillips shooting. And truth be told, the Eagles missed out on a golden opportunity to trade him this offseason by asking for a second round pick (which was way too high) in exchange for his services.

Decade Debate: 10 Worst NFL Free Agent Signings

There’s nothing worse for an organization then when it sinks a ton of money into a player that was supposed to turn around a franchise and instead he turns out to be a Grade A bust. As part of our ongoing Decade Debate series, here is a list of the 10 worst NFL free agent signings of the past decade. Whether it was because of performance, injury or the player’s attitude (or a combination of the lot), these signings just didn’t pan out.

10. Chuck Smith, Panthers, 2000/LeCharles Bentley, Browns, 2006

These players are listed together because they both fell victim to the same curse at separate times during the decade. After finishing as the Falcons’ all-time leader in sacks at 58.5, Smith signed a lucrative five-year, $21 million deal with the Panthers. But after playing just two games for Carolina, a knee injury cost him the rest of the season, as well as his career. If only Bentley were fortunate enough to play two games. After signing a six-year, $36 million deal that included $12.5 million in guaranteed money, Bentley ruptured a patellar tendon on his first day of training game, which led to a series of staph infections that almost led to doctors having to amputate his leg. The Browns essentially paid him $16 million for zero games and while injuries are to blame for both of these players’ misfortunes, they were nevertheless busted free agent signings for their respective teams.

9. Edgerrin James, Cardinals, 2006

The Cardinals opened up their wallet for James, who was coming off two consecutive Pro Bowl seasons with the Colts. But after shelling out a four-year, $30 million contract and committing $11.5 million in bonuses to the 28-year old back, James failed to rush for 4.0 YPC in each of his three seasons in Arizona. In his final year in the desert, James lost his starting job to Tim Hightower and managed only 514 yards on 133 carries with three touchdowns. Outside of a decent (and that’s putting it generously) effort in the postseason last year, James was a huge disappointment in Arizona.

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Russell named Raiders’ starting QB

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that Raiders head coach Tom Cable has officially named JaMarcus Russell his starting quarterback.

Raiders coach Tom Cable made the unstunning declaration during a conference call, all while lamenting how Jeff Garcia’s calf strain kept a true quarterback competition from breaking out in training camp.

It’s not that Cable wanted Garcia to beat out Russell. The job was Russell’s to lose. It’s just that Cable hoped Garcia would use his experience and fiery attitude to spur Russell to greater growth.
This is the season Russell has to step up and stop relying on the excuse that he’s still learning. He’s entering his third year and while Oakland doesn’t have the greatest line in which to play behind, Al Davis has surrounded Russell with more than enough playmakers to be effective.

I don’t think the Raiders are expecting Russell to post a 100-plus QB Rating and lead the league in touchdowns. But they do expect him to look more comfortable in the pocket, not overthrow his receivers by 20 feet and most importantly, to work hard and be a leader.

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