10 Spot: 'Perfect' reasons to worry
Week 12 offers big obstacles to regular-season perfection for the Saints, Colts
In this Thanksgiving week, it's time to give thanks to many who deserve it.
Thanks to all the NFL players who absorb more physical punishment than fans realize to provide us with the entertainment they do.
Thanks to the men who leave their families to defend our country.
Thanks to the NFL executives, coaches, personnel men and agents who put up with me and share the information they do.
Thanks to the people with far more noble jobs than mine -- teachers, doctors, nurses, volunteers -- for the time they spend looking after and tending to others.
Thanks to the great people at ESPN who have welcomed me so graciously into their tremendous family.
Thanks to Olivia and Archie Manning for raising boys who serve as examples of the professional way that people should go about doing their job.
Thanks to the people who created Twitter, though I'm not sure my wife feels the same way.
Thanks to @OGOchocinco on Twitter for giving me more wins versus him this season than the Bucs, Browns or Rams have.
Thanks for "C'mon, man!" -- the surest way to make anyone smile on a Monday.
Thanks for my family for everything, not the least of which is allowing me to devote the time I do to work. Thanks for the health, blessings, friendships and peace we have. Thank you.
And now, on to this week's 10 Spot:
Don't look now, but there, coming up the block, on the verge of pulling into Mercury Morris' neighborhood, are the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. There are road blocks in clear view, but none that look any more daunting than the ones each will encounter on their drive to perfection this weekend.
New Orleans plays host to the New England Patriots on Monday night in the next Game of the Year. Indianapolis visits the tough and angry Houston Texans. If the Saints and Colts emerge victorious this week, it will be time for the rest of the 1972 Miami Dolphins to whip out their pocket schedules and see what each team has left to encounter.
After this week, the Saints' remaining games are at Washington, at Atlanta, Dallas, Tampa Bay and at Carolina. Those are some challenging matchups. Still, don't expect the Saints to be underdogs in any of them.
After this week, the Colts' remaining games are against Tennessee, Denver, at Jacksonville, the New York Jets and at Buffalo. The Colts' slate is less challenging, and the Colts should be favorites in each game.
This is a crucial week. And if the Saints and Colts win their respective games, it's time for Morris and the rest of the '72 Dolphins to start getting uneasy. But here's where they can take some solace: As veteran football writer Rick Gosselin pointed out this week in The Dallas Morning News, none of the past three teams that started 10-0 -- the 2008 Titans, 2007 Patriots and 2005 Colts -- won a Super Bowl.The Buccaneers, Browns and Rams are on the flip side of the Saints and Colts. The league's cellar dwellers are locked in a fierce battle for the No. 1 pick. The "winner" will have the ability to draft either Nebraska nose tackle Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
It could come down to schedules. The Buccaneers have only two more home games, against the Jets and Falcons, in addition to road games at Atlanta, Carolina, Seattle and New Orleans; it's tough to find more than one more Bucs' victory.
The Browns close out their season at Cincinnati, San Diego, Pittsburgh, at Kansas City, Oakland and Jacksonville; there might be a Cleveland victory somewhere in there.
And the Rams finish their season against Seattle, at Chicago, at Tennessee, Houston, at Arizona and San Francisco; the Rams might have the toughest finish of the teams locked in the battle for the No. 1 pick. It's not the battle for home-field advantage in the playoffs, but it is a battle for which the ramifications might be even greater.For all the plays he has made, for all the stats he has accumulated, Brett Favre never has accomplished some of the feats he has through this season's first 10 games. Consider this: Tom Brady's quarterback rating now is 100.4, Peyton Manning's is 102.7, Drew Brees' is 105.8. Favre's rating is an NFL- and career-best 112.1. If that weren't impressive enough, Favre has thrown fewer interceptions than any full-time starting quarterback: three. Favre's completion percentage is 69.7, one-tenth of a point less than Manning's 69.8. The 40-year-old Favre not only has become the most valuable player in Minnesota, but maybe the most valuable player in the league. Heading into Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears -- the team that was supposed to have landed the true difference-making quarterback last offseason -- Favre's numbers are as unreal as they are surreal. Hard as it is to imagine, Favre and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers could be teammates one more time. If Pro Bowl voting goes according to the way the quarterbacks have played, Favre and Rodgers could play on the same NFC team at January's Pro Bowl in Miami. The NFC's three best quarterbacks this season have been Brees, Favre and Rodgers. It's hard to imagine another quarterback beating out any one of them, though Kurt Warner could make a push. Typically, Favre has stayed away from the Pro Bowl, but part of the reason that happened was the long flight to Hawaii. Plus, with the NFL placing more of an emphasis on player attendance, it's possible that Favre and Rodgers could be teammates again. More than 10 years ago, then-Saints coach Mike Ditka made the seemingly outlandish trade of the Saints' entire 1999 draft, plus first- and third-round choices in 2000, in exchange for the Redskins' fifth overall pick and the chance to select Texas running back Ricky Williams. In turn, then-Redskins general manager Charley Casserly used three of the Saints' picks and traded the rest away.
Here is a look at the players who turned out to be involved in the Saints' 1999 deal with the Redskins for the right to draft Ricky Williams.
But all these years later, as the 32-year-old Williams is leading the Dolphins on a playoff push that continues Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, it is worth reviewing all the players who were drafted with the picks that were traded for Williams. Of them, the only player still playing now is Bears tight end Desmond Clark -- so maybe Ditka did know exactly what he was doing. How many teams would make that deal today? Correct, all 32.
Earlier this season, Texans running back Chris Brown fumbled just before he would have scored what would have been a game-winning touchdown against Jacksonville. And Brown also failed to get 1 yard on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1-yard line against Arizona, a play that could have sent the game to overtime. The Texans just as easily could be 9-1 as they are 5-5, but they have failed to convert in the red zone or in the clutch. Now they get a chance to redeem themselves Sunday versus the unbeaten Colts. It will not be easy. But none of the Texans' losses this season has been.Jacksonville doesn't seem to care, not based on the number of tickets it sells to Jaguars games. But its team is making a push for the playoffs. Skeptics still are out there, and rightfully so. The Jaguars have scored 199 points and allowed 235, and yet somehow have found a way to post a 6-4 record. They are the only playoff contender in the league with such a large negative differential in points scored versus points allowed. Part of the reason could be the Jaguars' schedule. Outside of the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints, the Jaguars have had the easiest schedule in the league. Their opponents' record is a combined 44-56. Now comes a real test, Sunday in San Francisco. If the Jaguars can win it, they set themselves up with a 7-4 record, heading into three straight home games against Houston, Miami and Indianapolis, three playoff contenders. But many around the league are skeptical of the Jaguars and think this could be the time when the slide starts.
The Schef's Specialties
Game of the week: New England at New Orleans -- A team that knows plenty about being unbeaten now takes on one of the game's two unbeatens in what will be an electric atmosphere.
Upset of the week: Houston over Indianapolis -- A Texans team that has found ways to lose finds a way to win.
Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.