TORONTO - There’s a lot of excitement out in Oakland over the trade that brought them quarterback Carson Palmer.
Palmer may be going from the couch to making the start for the Raiders on Sunday against the Chiefs but in Kansas City they are making plans for whoever shows up behind centre Samson Satele.
Be it Palmer or veteran backup Kyle Boller, the 2-3 Chiefs are making plans.
“It sounds like Carson has been working extremely hard to be ready if something came up,” Chiefs coach Todd Haley said the other day. “This isn’t a one- to two-year guy you’re talking about. This is a guy who has a bunch of years under his belt.”
It’s a big game for both teams as the Chiefs were massacred in their first two games, losing 41-7 to Buffalo and 48-3 to Detroit. Following a narrow loss to San Diego (20-17), they won back-to-back games against two weak sisters in Minnesota and Indianapolis.
So, a victory Sunday over the 4-2 Raiders would go a long way in restoring their confidence.
But whether it be Palmer or Boller, the Chiefs’ mindset is to first stop the run and that means putting the brakes on the Raiders Darren McFadden.
“First and foremost, we have to stop one of the best running attacks in the league, one of the best backs in the league,” Haley said of McFadden. “If we don’t do that, it will be a long day for us. It won’t matter really who’s playing quarterback. We’ve got to stay focused on the specific strengths of their team.”
On the season, McFadden has gained 610 yards on 111 carries for a 5.5 yard average and four rushing touchdowns.
UNDER THE BUS
Following their bye week the Arizona Cardinals return to action and draw a tough opponent in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
At 1-4 the Cardinals have been a disappointment as they were expected to contend in the NFC West. Part of the reason for their stumbles has been the mediocre play of quarterback Kevin Kolb.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, though, points to another problem and that’s the loss of Anquan Boldin, who was traded to Baltimore in 2010.
“Here’s the one small thing that everyone forgets about when Kurt (Warner) was here,” Fitzgerald told the Arizona Republic. “We had this other guy, what was his name? Oh, yeah. Anquan Boldin. I think he made a couple of Pro Bowls or something. He was a decent player around these parts. I wasn’t here by myself. I had some talented guys around me.”
And now there’s Fitzgerald and nobody?
“Look at Green Bay, they have a plethora of talented guys,” Fitzgerald said. “When you have so many things teams have to worry about defensively, you’re going to get open, you’re going to get the big shots for your offence.
“Right now, teams are saying, ‘Fitzgerald is over here, we’re not going to let him beat us. We’re going to do whatever it takes to hold him down and not allow him to do that.’ In years, past, when I had ‘Q’, even last year with Steve (Breaston), defences approached it a little differently. There were times when I could find some (space). Now those times are few and far between.”
He may be right but it’s a nice job of throwing his teammates and fellow receivers under the bus.
JOHNSON’S CHANCES OF PLAYING ARE SLIM
In Houston, there seems to be as much wishful thinking going on as there is practice and preparation for the Texans game Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
The Texans have been reeling of late as following their 2-0 start they have lost three of their next four to sit 3-3 in the AFC South.
A big part of their inconsistency has been the absence of star wide receiver Andre Johnson who has been out since undergoing a minor procedure Oct. 6, to repair his injured right hamstring.
Even though he has yet to practise, Houston coach Gary Kubiak isn’t ruling him out for the key divisional matchup.
“He’s running,” Kubiak said the other day. “He ran some routes and caught the ball. There is still progress to make before Andre is going to be on the field. It may be that he gets on the field and practises a little bit before the week’s out. I don’t know right now.
“He continues to progress, and what are we — two weeks and a couple of days into this thing? There have been no setbacks. Everything has been positive, so we’ll keep going.”
When pressed, Kubiak would not rule Johnson out.
“I don’t ever want to say no, but I think, like I said before, there is still progress to be made before Andre is back on the field for us,” Kubiak said. “He has not returned to practice yet as of right now.”
As much as Kubiak is praying for his return, don’t look for Johnson to be in uniform Sunday.
NOT WORTH THE RISK
Times are tough for the 0-5 St. Louis Rams and they could get a whole lot tougher on Sunday when they travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys as they may have to go without the services of quarterback Sam Bradford who suffered a high ankle sprain last week against Green Bay.
Bradford is wearing a protective boot and head coach Steve Spagnuolo said a decision will not be made until Friday at the earliest.
One factor that could go in Bradford’s favour is the fact the injury is to his left ankle and not his plant leg. But if he can’t go, journeyman A.J. Feeley will get the call.
A determining factor will be how much mobility Bradford has. He doesn’t want to be a dead duck in the pocket, what with the likes of the Cowboys DeMarcus Ware on the prowl.
“Obviously, I have to be able to drop back,” Bradford said. “I have to be able to have some mobility where I’m not just standing back there.”
A motivating factor for Bradford is the fact it is as close to his hometown as he will get. He was born in Oklahoma City and played for the Oklahoma Sooners.
“I’ve had this Dallas game circled for a while now knowing that it’s about as close to home as I get,” Bradford said. “It’d mean a lot for me to play down there, so hopefully I’ll be ready.”
Rams coach Steve Spagnulo would rather wait until Friday or Saturday before he is forced to make a decision.
“I don’t want to think about it, to be honest with you,” Spagnuolo said. “I don’t venture to take any guesses on high ankle sprains. I’ve seen them go all different ways, so I don’t know.”
From this view, the risk of playing Bradford seems greater than the reward.