Notes from the North

A lot of really interesting matchups in the NFL this weekend, with lots of questions to be asked and answered.

For example, can the Pittsburgh Steelers rebound? They have had an extra week to brood over their embarassing loss to Oakland in Week 3. Life doesn't get any easier for the Steelers with the Eagles coming to town to welcome them back to active duty. Have they addressed their offensive line problems so that they can open holes for newly returned Rashard Mendenhall and keep Big Ben on his pins? have they developed a defensive game plan to account for significant losses to injury on that side of the ball?

Have the Patriots finally built themselves a top-calibre running game with Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden in the backfield? Both runners topped the 100-yard mark in last week's offensive explosion against Buffalo and the running threat helped immensely in the protection of Tom Brady. This week, they draw a tough Denver defense and, with Peyton Manning at the helm for the Broncos, New England will need to have a balanced, clock-controlling offense to stay in this game. The Patriots ability to run, and their commitment to the running attack, may just decide this game.

Can the Saints save their season? With all the suspensions and the controversy, New Orleans has been the most disappointing of the pre-season playoff favourites. The defense has been flat and the offense uninspired. At least until their rivalry with Green Bay prompted the Saints to play their best game of the season in a losing cause last weekend. This week, New Orleans is at home and facing an up-and-down San Diego Chargers club. This is a must win if I've ever seen one.

Will Matt Hasselbeck take this opportunity to re-establish himself as an upper echelon quarterback? With Jake Locker on the IR, the veteran pivot gets a chance to start. Can he take advantage and lead Tennesse past the surprising Vikings?

Will recent criticism inspire Bills defensive lineman Mario Williams to perform up to expectations? Williams came to Buffalo for a pile of money and with a great deal of hoopla but so far has been pretty much a bust. With San Francisco on the slate this weekend, Williams has a chance to answer the recent shots he's taken in the media and prove that he deserves to be on the same field as that awesome Niner defense.

And, seriously, when are we going to see Tim Tebow get a real shot with the Jests? After completly reviving the Denver Broncos last season and taking them deep into the playoffs, Tebow has been languishing on the New York bench, despite the fact that starter Mark Sanchez has struggled. So far this season, Tebow has thrown a total of one pass and has run the ball only nine times. In last week's game against San Fran, the Jests were trailing by a bunch in the fourth quarter, Sanchez was getting hammered while performing poorly and yet coach Rex Ryan still refused to give Tebow some snaps behind centre.

Tebow time is here, New York. The only person who doesn't seem to know it is your head coach.


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