October 23, 2012
All around the NFL, this figures to be a landmark week for the men who carry clipboards and draw up Xs and O's.
Joe Vitt has returned to the New Orleans Saints as interim coach, his six-game suspension behind him.
Carolina's Ron Rivera is facing Chicago, his former team as a player and eventual defensive coordinator.
Todd Bowles makes his debut as defensive coordinator in Philadelphia.
A couple of high-profile offensive coordinators will scheme against their old teams — New England's Josh McDaniels against St. Louis and the New York Jets' Tony Sparano against Miami.
And two head coaches who need to make a case to keep their jobs — San Diego's Norv Turner and Cleveland's Pat Shurmur — stand across the field from each other, each hoping to expunge the bitter memory of their most recent loss.
Whether they're on the field, or in boxes high above it, coaches will be in the spotlight in Week 8, as the league approaches the midway point of the season.
When Philadelphia plays host to Atlanta, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will face his former team. Normally, that would be the central story line. But the stakes are higher now, with Vick and Eagles Coach Andy Reid playing for their jobs. Philadelphia has gone from 3-1 to 3-3 in a blink, and the Eagles are entering a do-or-die stretch with their three games after Atlanta coming at New Orleans, at home against Dallas and at Washington.
The good news for the Eagles is Reid is 13-0 coming off the bye week, so he knows how to get his team ready. Then again, Atlanta is the league's only undefeated team — despite scares by Carolina and Oakland — and is balanced on both sides of the ball.
Silver and back?
Are the Raiders clawing their way back into contention in the AFC West? They have a chance to make things interesting at least in a division in which mediocrity reigns. Coming off an overtime victory over Jacksonville, they play at Kansas City. The one-win Chiefs have been outscored by a league-worst 79 points, and they're the only team that has yet to hold a lead in regulation at any point this season. The Chiefs' victory came in overtime at New Orleans.
Brady Quinn will start at quarterback for the Chiefs, ahead of Matt Cassel. Coach Romeo Crennel explained the move to reporters Monday, saying: "When you think about changing the dynamic, what position can change the dynamic the most?" Crennel said. "That's the quarterback position. So I decided that was the move I wanted to make, to try to change this team and impact this team."
The Arizona Cardinals are rolling — in the wrong direction. After starting 4-0, they have lost three games in a row heading into Sunday's home game against San Francisco. The Cardinals' offense is ranked 31st and will be severely tested by the 49ers' top-ranked defense.
When Arizona lost at Minnesota on Sunday, the 49ers took sole possession of first place in the NFC West. But it's not as if everything is clicking for San Francisco. Quarterback Alex Smith is nursing a finger injury suffered Oct. 7 against Buffalo, and that could have been a factor in his four interceptions over the last two games. That's one fewer pick than Smith had all last season.
St. Louis will play New England in London on Sunday, and the Rams will prepare for the game by practicing at Arsenal's soccer facilities.
The Rams have a key to the place, considering their owner, Stan Kroenke, also owns Arsenal. Jeff Fisher's team left for London on Monday and will practice in the early afternoon this week to adjust to the six-hour time change.
"They're excited," Fisher said of his players. "They know the challenges associated with going across the pond, as they say, and they're looking forward to it."
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