Cutler looking to overcome poor play:
Foot injury? What foot injury?
Eli Manning is continuing to downplay any health issues this week, despite a fresh round of reports that a stress reaction has been causing him problems in the same right foot that was plagued by plantar fasciitis earlier this season. Manning acknowledges he's had to spend more time in the training room lately, but that's about it. On Wednesday, he said "the foot feels great, it really does. It feels better than it ever has been since I originally injured it."
Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger/US Presswire
Jay Cutler has struggled in his first season in Chicago, leading the league with 18 interceptions.
Manning insists he has no problems moving around the field, and in fact his numbers bear him out. Despite the Giants 6-5 record, Manning's is racking up his highest-ever completion percentage (60.5 percent) as a Giants quarterback. He's currently on pace for 26 touchdown passes, which would also be a career-high, and while his 10 interceptions already match the 10 he threw in 16 games last season, he's nowhere close to the 20 picks he threw in 2007, the year the Giants won the Super Bowl.
That's hardly to say that Manning's been perfect of late -- some of the mistakes he has been making have been particularly ill-timed and contributed to the Giants' current slide. Yet he doesn't think he -- nor his foot -- is the team's main problem.
"I thought in the Atlanta game I moved around well and threw the ball well," he said. "I didn't play as well in Denver as I wanted to. I thought the second half we played a lot better, got into a rhythm, moved the ball, and did some good things. We had some self-inflicted problems that kept us from scoring points, but I still feel good. I feel like I can go out there and perform at the level I want to play."
-- Rachel Nichols
Vick could make impact against former team: This is not the way Michael Vick wanted to come back to Atlanta -- as a back-up quarterback, relegated to occasional wildcat and red zone duties. By this time, he thought he'd be a starter, leading his new team out of the Georgia Dome tunnel, the returning, conquering hero.
Not to be. Not yet.
Still, his long climb back to respectability with the Eagles has given him a strong center of gravity in a football life that has floated precariously between pyrotechnic highlights and internet scorn.
So, he returns to the Georgia Dome on Sunday, knowing things could be much better, but they also could be much worse. Thus, his long-awaited return to Atlanta to play his former team, the Falcons, feels bittersweet.
"Mixed emotions right now -- excited and sad in so many ways," said Vick. "I've been thinking about all the great memories that I have. That's where I started my career. So, I think it's going to be mixed emotions when I get down there and a very emotional day for me. Hopefully it will be a standing ovation but I think it may be 50-50. I hurt a lot of people. I let a lot of people down. I've just got to expect the worst and hope for the best."
Considering the Eagles have invested about $2.1 million in him ($1.5 million salary and $500,000 in donations to animal rights groups), Vick's contributions, thus far, have been minimal: just 71 total yards in eight games: 65 yards rushing, with 34 of those yards coming on a quarterback draw against Chicago; and just six yards passing.
But his role could increase dramatically in front of his old home crowd on Sunday. The Eagles have only three healthy veteran wide receivers. So, don't be surprised if Vick lines up at wide out.
-- Sal Paolantonio
Ravens offense out of sync:
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward spent much of this week apologizing. First to head coach Mike Tomlin. Then to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"He reached out to me and I told him I was just more hurt than anything," Roethlisberger said. "It's a dead issue now for us. We're moving on and getting past it."
Ward said before last Sunday's game in Baltimore that about half the locker room felt Roethlisberger should have tried to play despite post-concussion headaches. After apologizing to Roethisberger on Monday, Ward also expressed regret to the entire Steelers team in a locker room meeting on Wednesday.
"I'm proud of him that he stepped up in that way," safety Ryan Clark said. "But for us it really wasn't needed."
"I could really care less about it," center Justin Hartwig told me. "We're here and we play football and we're a team and we're unified. I don't think it's anything that was a distraction for us at all."
Roethlisberger suffered his fourth concussion in four years November 22 in Kansas City. He said on Thursday that he hadn't had a headache since last week and that he planned to start against the Raiders on Sunday.
-- Bob Holtzman
Each week, Football Outsiders takes a look at every game with a mix of interesting numbers and in-depth statistical analysis. Football Outsiders stats explained here. (All times Eastern.)
Eagles at Falcons, 1 p.m.
Philadelphia's defense ranks third overall in DVOA, but just 25th in "late and close" situations (second half or overtime, score within a touchdown).
Atlanta goes shotgun on 31 percent of offensive snaps, not counting "Wildcat" style plays, but has only handed off to a running back four times -- less than two percent of all shotgun snaps. No offense in the NFL is as predictable out of the shotgun.
• More Eagles-Falcons
: Intel Report
Titans at Colts, 1 p.m.
One reason the Colts' 11-0 record is even more incredible than you might think: Indianapolis has had terrible luck when it comes to aspects of special teams that they can't control. Opposing kickers average 69.1 yards per kickoff, tied for third in the NFL. Opposing field-goal kickers are 22-for-26, with one of the misses being a nearly-impossible 63-yarder by Jacksonville's Josh Scobee. Indianapolis opponents have hit 11 field goals over 40 yards, tied with Miami for the most in the league.
In plays we've charted so far this season, the Titans have given up 5.4 yards per carry in spread sets with just one running back, but only 2.3 yards per carry in standard running formations with two running backs. That's a bit of a problem against the Colts, because the Colts almost never use more than one running back
• More Titans-Colts: Intel Report
Cowboys at Giants, 4 p.m.
This game features two defenses that like to blitz and two quarterbacks that opposing defensive coordinators love to blitz against. Tony Romo
has faced more than four pass rushers on 45 percent of charted passes, and Eli Manning
on 43 percent of charted passes, ranking them 1-2 among full-time starting quarterbacks. The difference? Blitzing Romo doesn't seem to get you anywhere -- he averages between 6.2 and 6.5 yards per play no matter the number of pass rushers. However, the blitz really gets to Manning. He averages 8.1 yards per play against three or four pass rushers, but just 5.9 yards against five or more pass rushers, and this isn't a half-season fluke -- he had similar splits last year.
As for these defenses, the Cowboys send a big blitz of six or more on 16 percent of passes, while the Giants send a big blitz on 15 percent of passes. That ranks fourth and fifth in the NFL. The Cowboys are also high in percentage of five-man pass rushes, although the Giants don't send five as often. Both teams have allowed fewer yards per pass this year when blitzing.
• More Cowboys-Giants: Intel Report
More Week 13 previews from Football Outsiders