Should Brady Quinn be starting? Which teams will make it to the postseason, and which players will stand out this week? After watching all the film, Scouts Inc.'s pro scouts debate the hot topics heading into Week 10.
Did the Browns make the right decision naming Brady Quinn the starter?
Jeremy Green: I think the Browns are doing it for the wrong reasons, but it is hard to argue the move. I would feel better about it if they were doing it because they thought he was ready, but they are doing it more because they feel like they will lose the fan base if they take the field with Derek Anderson as the starter. The Browns need a spark, and going with Quinn will ignite the crowd and could light a fire under the offense. However, if the receivers don't stop dropping passes and the offensive linemen don't pass block-better, then Quinn will suffer the same fate as his predecessor.
Gary Horton: Yes, even though it looks like a knee-jerk reaction from the organization to appease the fans. It is odd to insert a new quarterback into the lineup when you have such a short work week, but Quinn faces a bad Denver pass defense. Anderson seemed to lack confidence, looked nervous in the pocket and made poor decisions at times. Quinn has a lot of poise and physical skills, but we shouldn't expect miracles. However, this team needs a jump-start and this young quarterback will have the entire city behind him.
Keith Kidd: Nobody has a better feel for their team during the season than the head coach, and I respect Romeo Crennel's decision. However, I would have not replaced Anderson on a short week. Instead, I would have had Anderson on a short leash this week, and if he struggled, Quinn would have definitely gotten his chance to play against a very bad Broncos defense.
Doug Kretz: Yes, they did. Their season seems to be going nowhere, and it is time to find out if Quinn is the future of the franchise. They spent a lot of money and gave up a lot of draft picks to draft Quinn last year. You don't make that kind of an investment in a player and then not play him for two years.
Ken Moll: The Browns were in a tough situation, because Anderson has fallen well short of expectations thus far, while Quinn is a talented quarterback that the fans want to see. But was Anderson the problem? Changing quarterbacks in the middle of the season to a player that has little experience appears to be somewhat of a panic move for the Browns' organization. I don't see Quinn being the answer to reviving the 2008 season, but the decision to start Quinn was very calculated, because the Broncos' defense is not very good, and the Browns should be able to mount an effective ground assault to help Quinn a great deal.
I think the Browns made the right decision considering where they are at this time. The team hasn't performed well offensively, and they need some kind of spark. The drops, injuries and inconsistent line play can't all be blamed on Anderson, but they have definitely been contributing factors to the 3-5 record, and maybe some of that changes with Quinn under center. Anderson's numbers have not been great, and they eventually need to find out if Quinn can be the guy going forward. Now seems to be as good a time as any to start finding out.
Matt Williamson: Absolutely. Doing it on a very short week probably isn't wise, but Denver's defense is so bad that Cleveland should be able to rely on RB Jamal Lewis as Quinn gets acclimated. I have said for over a year now that Anderson just isn't good enough. Maybe the Browns have finally realized this, and while none us know if Quinn is the answer -- you have to find that out now. The change should have happened long ago, and Cleveland gets the win Thursday night.
Which six teams make the AFC playoffs, and who makes it to the Super Bowl?
I think the four division winners, in no particular order, will be New England, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and San Diego. The wild cards will be Miami and Baltimore. Tennessee is the best team in football right now, and I love the way the Titans run the ball and stop the run. Despite a tough schedule and a beat-up quarterback, the Steelers have an explosive offense that can run the ball and is backed up by a stout defense. New England, even without Tom Brady, has enough playmakers on both sides of the ball. San Diego is the best of a terrible division, and I feel the Chargers will turn the corner on defense with Ron Rivera taking over as defensive coordinator. Baltimore and Miami might be surprising choices, but the Ravens are still good on defense with coordinator Rex Ryan, and rookie QB Joe Flacco is making enough plays to back up a deep running game. Miami is probably the most consistent team in the AFC East, and even though the Dolphins are in last place at 4-4, they have the easiest schedule of any team in the NFL over the second half of the year. I like Tennessee to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The Titans are not very explosive, but they play great defense and know how to finish drives.
Horton: Tennessee, Pittsburgh, New England and San Diego will win their respective divisions. Indianapolis and New York will be the wild cards. The Titans will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and they have a game plan that can adapt to any situation. New England will beat the Jets, and Indy will beat San Diego on wild-card weekend. Then Tennessee will beat Indy and Pittsburgh will handle New England in the divisional round. That leaves a classic AFC Championship matchup featuring Pittsburgh and Tennessee, who are both physical teams with great defenses and good run games. The Titans will win it in the trenches and earn the trip to Tampa.
Kidd: The AFC is wide open, but in the end New England,
San Diego will win their divisions.
Indianapolis and Baltimore will be the wild cards. However, after watching the Packers-Titans game last week, I think the Titans will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The first thing you notice when you study the Titans on tape is how physical they are on the interior of their offense and defensive lines. It all starts up front in the NFL, and this team can run the ball, stop the run, get pressure from the front four, and play maximum coverage on the backend. You really don't see any weakness outside of their passing game, but offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger is very creative and does a very good job making in-game adjustments throughout the game.
New England, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and San Diego will be the divisional winners, while Baltimore and Indianapolis will be the wild cards. The Titans will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, because they really don't have any glaring weaknesses. Their defense is dominating, and the ground game piles up the most yards per game in the AFC. The Titans' passing game is not among the leaders, but only two teams have thrown fewer interceptions.
The four divisional winners will be Pittsburgh, New England, Tennessee and San Diego. Baltimore and Indianapolis will be the wild cards. The Steelers and Titans are no-brainers, while the Patriots and Chargers are educated guesses. There are so many clubs that are in play as possible wild-card teams, but looking at previous year's performances as well as the 2008 season, I think the Ravens and Colts will be wild cards. There are only two teams -- Pittsburgh and Tennessee -- that are clearly head and shoulders above the other AFC clubs, and deciding which team actually makes the Super Bowl is tough to say. But I will take the Titans because Jeff Fisher is coaching at such a high level.
Ribary: The four divisional winners will be Tennessee, Pittsburgh, San Diego and New York. Indianapolis and New England will be the wild cards. Right now, I like Tennessee over Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship -- mostly due to Roethlisberger's injury. Even if he is able to recover quickly, he has been taking so many hits that it will take its toll. I think Tennessee can protect its quarterback a little better.
Williamson: Pittsburgh, San Diego, Tennessee and New York will win their divisions, and I will put the Ravens and Dolphins in as wild cards. San Diego is the dark-horse team to watch here. Of course their division is horrible, but their schedule (like Miami's) is extremely easy. RB LaDainian Tomlinson and TE Antonio Gates should finally be 100 percent, and the defense has to be energized with better play calling from Rivera. The AFC is wide open, but I will go with those six and on quite a limb, the Chargers to go to the Super Bowl after catching fire in the second half of the season.
Which six teams make the NFC playoffs and who makes it to the Super Bowl?
Green: I think the four division winners will be the Giants, Bears, Panthers and Cardinals. Securing a wild-card berth in the NFC is going to be very tough, but in the end I think the Eagles and Buccaneers will get in. New York is in the driver's seat despite getting no better than average play from QB Eli Manning, who should have a better second half. I like Chicago because they have the best balance of offense and defense in the NFC North. Carolina can pound it in the run game, has big-play ability in QB Jake Delhomme and WR Steve Smith, and plays sound defense. Arizona has an explosive offense and confuses opponents with its defensive schemes. QB Donovan McNabb is playing as well as anyone in the league right now. I'm not a big believer in Tampa Bay, but at 6-3 the Bucs only need a decent second half to get in. The Giants will be back in the big game because they can beat teams in so many different ways.
Horton: The Giants, Cardinals, Panthers and Packers will win their respective divisions. The Eagles and Redskins are my wild-card picks. The Giants have too much depth on both sides of the ball to fall short of a return trip to the Super Bowl. They'll wear down the Panthers with their physical run game in the conference championship game, then head to Tampa with an excellent chance to win a second consecutive NFL title.
Kidd: My picks: the Giants, Packers, Panthers, Cardinals, Buccaneers and Eagles. How can anyone pick against the Giants? They remind me so much of the teams we had in New England while winning back-to-back titles. Coach Tom Coughlin has a program that works, and everyone has bought into it. They are built from inside out, with a big, physical offensive line and a running game that can wear down opponents. Manning has a great understanding of the system, and the Giants can attack all levels in the passing game. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's scheme is aggressive, highly effective and fun to watch.
Kretz: New York will win the East, with Philadelphia entering the playoffs as a wild card. Chicago and Arizona will win their respective divisions, and Carolina and Tampa Bay will fight it out in the South, with the loser landing the remaining wild-card spot. Like undefeated Tennessee, the Giants have no glaring weaknesses. They can punish opponents with their ground game, stop the run and get to the quarterback with their great pass rush.
Moll: The four division winners will be New York, Green Bay, Carolina and Arizona. Washington and Tampa Bay will pick up the wild-card berths. The Giants continue to play extremely well. I don't see a late-season slump in their future. The other divisions are clearly up for grabs. With their consistent defensive play, the Panthers have the best chance to come out ahead in the South. The Cardinals are much improved in a weak West. With the most stability on both sides of the ball in the North, the Packers have the best chance to capture that division. The Giants, Panthers and Redskins appear to be the most balanced of these clubs, and the Cardinals are the most explosive. It seems strange not to include Dallas in this conversation, but I don't see how they can turn it around with so many distractions and injuries. The obvious choice for the NFC's Super Bowl representative would be the Giants, but I'll pick the Panthers -- a team with an improving offense and a physical defense.
Ribary: New York, Carolina, Arizona, Green Bay, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. I like the Giants to get back to the Super Bowl. They play hungry and are solid in all three phases of the game. I think the Panthers, and possibly the Eagles, could make things very interesting in January. But right now New York appears to be the NFC team most capable of going all the way.
Williamson: I like the Giants to win their division, represent the NFC in the Super Bowl and take the whole thing again this year. They are just so strong in every aspect of the game. The other division winners: Green Bay, Arizona and Carolina. Tampa Bay and Philadelphia will grab the wild-card bids. All of these teams are dangerous, and a team like the Eagles could make a serious run. Dallas might even make it interesting after QB Tony Romo returns from injury.
Based on matchups, who will deliver a big performance in Week 10?
Green: Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson
It's so easy to pick on the Chiefs' run defense (last in the NFL, two 300-yard games allowed), so I'll pile on. The Chargers are coming off a bye and getting healthier on the offensive line, and Tomlinson appears ready to get back on track after turning in just his second 100-yard game of the season in Week 8. Expect a huge game from Tomlinson as the Chargers start their second-half march toward another AFC West title.
Horton: Giants DE Justin Tuck
Tuck is coming off a monster game against the Cowboys (six tackles, three tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and three hurries). This week he faces massive Eagles RT Jon Runyan, who can't match Tuck's athleticism and quickness. But if Runyan gets his hands on him, Tuck can be neutralized. Philadelphia also may try to double-team him with a tight end, but New York likely would counter by bringing a linebacker off the edge to again give Tuck a one-on-one matchup, most of which he'll win. The Giants also like to move Tuck around the formation to find more favorable matchups. He'll continue to be almost unblockable.
Kidd: Cardinals QB Kurt Warner
I could pick a matchup in the Panthers-Raiders game, but that's too easy. Instead, I'm going with Warner and the Cardinals' passing attack against the 49ers on Monday night. Warner has put up MVP numbers, and the emergence of rookie RB Tim Hightower and a real live running game will make Arizona's passing offense even more dangerous. You have to love the matchups WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston will get against that San Francisco secondary.
With San Diego hosting Kansas City and the league's worst run defense, I'd expect Tomlinson to go wild Sunday. He appears to be regaining his health and is running with confidence and abandon again. Given the Chargers' recent success in the passing game, the Chiefs may have to devote more personnel to coverage, opening up the field for one of the NFL's best running backs.
I'll go with Tomlinson. The Chargers are playing at home and have their backs against the wall coming out of a bye week. LT should be well-rested, his line should be healthy, and the Chiefs should have their usual problems stopping the run. Tomlinson has had a subpar season to this point, but a matchup with a defense allowing 5.4 yards per carry bodes well for such a talented back.
Tomlinson has looked more and more like his old self in recent weeks, and he could have a big day against the Chiefs' defense. The Chargers' offensive line is playing better, Tomlinson is showing more lateral quickness than he had earlier in the year, and he'll be fresh coming out of the bye.
Williamson: Arizona's offense
Give me everyone in Arizona's passing attack. The Cardinals have been unstoppable, and the 49ers are no deterrent to Warner, Fitzgerald, Boldin and crew. With Hightower giving the offense more juice in the running game and Breaston having emerged as a strong No. 3 receiver, this train will be very difficult to slow down.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.