Rivers, Manning in tough

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers passes against the Jaguars in San Diego, California on September...

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers passes against the Jaguars in San Diego, California on September 19, 2010. (MIKE BLAKE/Reuters)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:11 PM ET

Want to get a good read on how good your starting quarterback really is?

Philip Rivers will be a good case study Sunday afternoon. Next week you can watch Peyton Manning and see if he’s still the same guy.

Both men will head into battle without the bulk of their favourite targets, forcing them to look elsewhere.

Rivers could well wind up without a single familiar target to throw to if Antonio Gates doesn’t come through.

Gates, the league’s best tight end and Rivers’ favourite target will be a game-time decision as he determines whether his injured toe will allow him to suit up.

“The decision Sunday will be the best decision for this team,” Gates told reporters Friday. “We won’t know until I try to run. And we’ll see from there.”

The Chargers tight end has played though injuries, including toe injuries before and has a consecutive games streak of 85 games riding on his decision Sunday, but says he feels he must do what is best for the team and if he doesn’t feel he can help, he’ll sit out.

All of which leaves Rivers with former Cowboys wideout Patrick Crayton, a newcomer to the Chargers this year, as his most comfortable target.

Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee, and Buster Davis are all likely out or playing with injury as well putting the onus on Rivers to be more accurate and more creative than ever.

Manning has lost his tight end Dallas Clark for the rest of the season and his 2010 go-to guy in Austin Collie for the next few weeks following surgery. He still has Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne, but like Rivers, he’ll get his turn to show just how good he is when the talent level of the cast around him falls off next week.

Ward a softie

Hines Ward might benefit if the headhunters in the NFL were reigned in, but he’s not supporting Roger Goodell’s move to tone down the rough stuff in the league.

He’s putting the onus back on the receivers and quarterbacks to protect themselves.

“You can’t just run through zone coverage,” Ward told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“If you run by one guy and then another guy, you have to know there’s still going to be a third guy there waiting for you. That’s why you always see me sitting down (stopping) when I see zone coverage. You’re not supposed to run through zone coverage. You’re supposed to find the opening and sit down.”

As for the quarterbacks, Ward said they too have to be more responsible in the situations they put their receivers.

“It’s funny, I was talking to (Browns receiver Mohamed) Massaquoi) about quarterbacks in pre-game,” Ward said. “I told him it’s rough playing with three different quarterbacks. It’s especially tough playing with a rookie. If he considers you his go-to guy, he’s going to watch you run your route the whole way. That’s what happened (last Sunday) on that play when (Massaquoi) was hit. (Colt McCoy) followed him with his eyes the whole way. (Steeler linebacker) James (Harrison) saw that and knew that pass was coming.”

Just that kind of season

The Buffalo Bills just can’t seem to catch a break. Six weeks into the season, the Ravens have been without the services of perennial Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed. On the physically unable to perform list since the season began following hip surgery, Reed is just now healthy enough to get back on the field.

Rex’s BIG regret?

Rex Ryan may be thoroughly impressed with his Jets who reached the bye week with a 5-1 record, but even he must have a few regrets and he doesn’t have to look any further than the New England Patriots to see the reason.

Danny Woodhead is turning heads with his ability to convert third downs for the Pats. The Jets aren’t exactly crying poor in the run department either with LaDainian Tomlinson giving them more than anyone expected while Shonn Greene sits in the weeds waiting for his turn during those bad-weather days in November and December.

The Jets, though, could have Woodhead in reserve instead of their fourth-round pick Joe McKnight, who so far has been more problem than revelation.

The Jets basically chose McKnight over Woodhead earlier this fall and the Pats have been the benefactors.

In New England, it is raving about the production it is getting out of Woodhead. McKnight, meanwhile, has been inactive in every game but one this year because of his lack of fitness, his loose grasp of the playbook and a bad case of the dropsies in the pre-season.

Even in Rex Ryan’s world, a little rain must fall.

Favre scores again

And ta-dah, the Brett Favre/Jenn Sterger saga appears to have reached its inevitable conclusion. Brett pays up, Sterger clams up, and the league investigation goes no where. At least that is the scenario as laid out by Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Fowler uses the old “has learned” to protect his source for this but states pointedly that as long as Favre opens his wallet not only will Sterger refuse any attempts by the league to interview her but will also sign a confidentiality contract ensuring this whole lame pick-up attempt goes away.

Quick Hits

Redskins TE Chris Cooley suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s loss to the Colts and was slow to come around this week. Cooley though got through a full practice on Friday and will start against the Bears on Sunday ... Look for Brian Westbrook to spell Frank Gore a little more than he has in the past on Sunday. The Niners are concerned with the heavy workload Gore has undertaken ... Oakland RB Darren McFadden is all but certain to return to the Raiders lineup on Sunday against the Broncos.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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