10 Things to Watch For in the NFL this Week - with assorted baseball notes

And just like that, we're almost halfway done with the season.

(snaps fingers)

It goes that quick. I swear, we could play 24 games a year and it wouldn't be enough.

One of our wunderkid interns, Collin Orcutt, was kind enough to lay out what you should be looking for in the NFL this week. It's got nothing to do with me suggesting the Giants would steamroll over the Browns on Monday night in last week's column. Or that the Ravens would handily beat up on the Colts. Or that I called the 49ers legitimate.

Nothing at all. Nope, nothing at all.

Young Collin, take it away:

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The NFL is a copycat league. Tony Romo's bum pinky? An obvious attempt to join in the new trend of Pro Bowl QB injuries (see Brady and Manning, knee surgery part deux). The Browns' trick offensive set? Ask the Patriots and Chargers how effectively the Dolphins ran it against them. Pacman Jones circa 2008? Seems pretty similar to Pacman Jones circa... well, always.

Let's start there, with the living, breathing soap opera that is the Cowboys:

1. Is Dallas doomed?
Not against the Rams, but there's some real issues to think about. Pacman's packing (possibly for good), Romo's got a busted finger, star rookie Felix Jones and  workman wideout Sam Hurd are out, and they really have trouble defending the pass.

The biggest bright spot in big D? Roy Williams. No, not THAT Roy Williams, THIS Roy Williams. All it cost them was a first, third, and sixth round pick, plus Williams' five-year, $45 million contract ($20 mil guaranteed). Displaying economic savvy like that, no wonder they're called America's Team.

2. Will the Chargers finally get out of their own way?
The Chargers can never seem to put it together. After 2 heartbreakers to open the season, it seemed like more of the same for the Bolts. But they've won three of their last four, and a win over the Bills would put them right back in the mix for tops of the AFC West, so maybe the Chargers are headed in the right direction. With a power shift in the AFC, and Rivers playing like a waterfall compared to his leaky faucet drip of an 07 season, all San Diego needs is a big win get the momentum rolling.

Which means they'll probably crash and burn this weekend. Call it the Norv Turner factor.

3. The Miami WTFs
The wildcat offense? Winning? Do you realize that if Texans WR Andre Johnson hadn't made one of the sickest catches of the season to keep the Texans alive last week, the Dolphins would be in second place in the AFC East? Next you'll tell me the Tampa Bay Rays are going to the World Series. Don't fail me now Sox. (ED NOTE: Actually, yes. Please fail him, Sox. If Boston and Philly play for a World Series, I'm going to be sick for a week). Still though, before we claim the Fish are legit, lets see if they can gimmick their way through a Ravens defense boasting the lowest rushing and passing yards per game average in the NFL.

4. Return of the Saints
Guess who's baaack? Word is that both Saints WR Marques Colston and TE Jeremy Shockey will be primed and ready for the NFC South showdown with the Panthers. That's good news for both QB Drew Brees and fantasy owners who have him--although it's not like he's been struggling in their absence - but bad news for Carolina. Adding these two weapons to an already nuclear New Orleans arsenal could mean a ton of points. Especially Panthers QB Jake Delhomme, who will be the equivalent of Ugly Betty at a Miss Universe pageant when held up against Brees all night.

5. In which we create a poor excuse to show off Evan Longoria's girlfriend

Stick with me on this one. This is Evan Longoria's girlfriend.

That is all.

6. Steelers Motivated/Bengals Awful
Did you catch Steelers safety Troy Polamalu's quotes about the NFL's recent fines against the Steelers? As if being 0-6 and facing the Steelers without Bengals QB Carson Palmer (again) wasn't daunting enough, now the Steelers will be fired up. I'm expecting the Pittsburgh D to lay some clean and nasty hits on the Bengals in a big "eff you" to the NFL.

I'm also expecting to only be able to see those hits on the highlights, because I doubt even Cinci TV stations will be airing this stinker.

7. Will the real good teams please stand up?
Seriously, San Francisco, sit back down. 3-2 Indy at 3-3 Green Bay. 2-3 Cleveland at 4-2 Washington. Will these teams PLEASE pick a side of the fence to stand on? Either be good or be bad, but be something, because it's pretty damn hard to gam... er, guess for fun effectively when you're so up and down!

8. Cutler inserts arm in mouth, lets see if he pulls out a win
Broncos QB Jay Cutler loves him some Jay Cutler (not so much some Phillip Rivers). He's been yapping a lot lately. The Broncos have been looking sub par a lot lately, too. Luckily for the Broncos, Matt Cassel looks like he's Sam Cassell at QB, so Denver shouldn't have any problems winning this Monday night matchup.

Another thing to keep an eye out for: Belichick collecting the sleeves from all of his gray sweatshirts and making a noose out of them.

9. How will the G Men respond?
Here's a telling stat to answer that question: Niners QB JT O'Sullivan leads the league in interceptions and times sacked. Which is like leading the league in hang nails. And the Giants are top 10 in the league in team sacks, so let's go on a limb here. My guess is that the Giants respond to last weeks demoralizing loss with 4 sacks, 4 touchdowns, and 1 Eli Face. Write that down.

10. Things are looking up for the Lions
Sure they're 0-5, but the Roy Williams trade just landed them 3 draft picks. That means 3 more wide receivers! Sometimes, things just break your way.

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