The arrival of WR Braylon Edwards has made a big splash in New York, but the return of LB Calvin Pace could prove to be more meaningful in both the short- and long-term for the Jets.
New York’s defense has been lights out while Pace served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, but the versatile linebacker will make a more tenacious and athletic defense even more dangerous. Pace can play inside and outside linebacker, defensive end, rush the passer or drop into coverage.
I witnessed how good the Jets’ defense was against the Saints and thought several times that with Pace, this could turn out to be one of the top two or three units in the league by the end of the season.
Game within the game: While Washington vs. Carolina is a desperation game that could sink the Panthers’ season or further endanger Jim Zorn’s coaching tenure, it’s also a game that pits two rivals — Carolina WR Steve Smith and Washington CB DeAngelo Hall — against each other.
Even in the most solid of games where neither of these former friends has stood out for their play, something tends to happen to set one of them off, and it’s usually Hall. In 2006 Hall, then with the Falcons, drew a series of penalties and then lost his cool in a major way during a drive that ended up turning the tenor of a potential Atlanta victory into a loss. It wasn’t the only time Smith managed to get under Hall’s skin, but it was the most damaging.
While Hall seemingly has matured since then, there is something about facing Smith that boils his blood — and vice versa. With things so sensitive in Washington these days, this would be no time for Hall to lose his composure. With things so bad in Carolina, this would be the perfect time for Smith to have his 2009 breakout game to test Hall’s resolve.
Player to watch: Indianapolis WR Reggie Wayne. Wayne might be one of the most unmentioned studs in the league. This week, he is facing a Tennessee secondary that is still nicked up and has been lit up at times. With QB Peyton Manning and the Colts’ offense looking unstoppable, Wayne could put on a show Sunday night in Nashville.
Winners: Ravens, Bills, Panthers, Steelers, Giants, Eagles (Michael Vick should have some big plays vs. the Bucs), Vikings, Falcons, Cardinals, Broncos, Jags, Colts, Jets.
Upset of the week: Chiefs over Cowboys.