By Danny Cox
He may have been small in stature during his time in the NFL, but Steve Tasker was a player that had not only the biggest heart but showed some of the most talent in the history of the league. The special teams ace was always all over the field and now for CBS Sports, he’s all over the country checking out all the games.
This weekend, there are a number of big games and Tasker took some time to speak on three of them that could have serious playoff implications going forward. Each game also has high-level quarterbacks that are either injured, under-performing, or maybe seeing their careers round the corner to its close.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Atlanta Falcons – CBS, Nov. 22 at 1p ET
Against the Colts without Andrew Luck, is this the week when the Falcons bounce back and look like they did at the start of the season?
Steve Tasker: “I think they will. The strength of the Colts is Andrew Luck and his ability to make plays. The defense of the Colts certainly is not and they are very suspect up front. They just don’t have enough to get after Matt Ryan and shake up the Falcons’ game plan.
Matt Ryan and his crew, Julio Jones and others, will get back on track this week. This is a get-well game for the Falcons. If they don’t against a hurting Colts team without Luck, then it’s bad and they are just heading in the wrong direction. This is a team that was playing so well a month ago, and they’ve got to start playing better again.”
Why is the AFC South such a sub-par division?
ST: “The main thing is the quarterbacks. Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles are not yet ready to be franchise quarterbacks. They are very good and will be great for a long time, but they need a year or two to get there. Andrew Luck is banged up and playing sub-par and the Colts don’t have a good enough roster to win without him.
Houston has had a carousel of quarterbacks. They started to get on track against Cincinnati this week, but it’s still not totally there. The quarterback play in the AFC South is just too poor and has the division down.”
Denver Broncos vs. Chicago Bears – CBS, Nov. 22 at 1p ET
Peyton Manning’s injuries are now really piling up; how much do you feel they affected his play?
ST: “Peyton Manning’s injuries are the entire reason they didn’t beat the Chiefs. Manning looked like another person entirely. Last year in the playoffs, he had the quad injury and couldn’t pull out a win that we’ve seen him do over 100 times in his career.
The injuries are now much more serious and that plantar fascia is a bad injury for a quarterback. He can’t plant as he needs to do and it makes it tougher for him to fight through having a weaker arm now. I think we’re going to see a lot of Brock Osweiler before the season is over. The Broncos currently have a cushion right now and can afford to let Peyton Manning rest a while.”
The Bears are finally starting to come around…do they have a legitimate shot at the playoffs?
ST: “The Bears have won four out of their last six after starting 0-3 and looking very bad. They are starting to get back in line now. Jeremy Langford is a fresh young running back who coupled with the return of Matt Forte could give them a very good running game.
Jay Cutler has been rejuvenated with coach John Fox and others. He has what he’s been missing. I covered them a couple weeks ago and was impressed with them. They may not get in the playoffs, but if they keep it together, they will be there until the very end. Their fate is in their hands and if they win out, they will get in.”
Oakland Raiders vs. Detroit Lions – CBS, Nov. 22 at 1p ET
The Detroit Lions did just beat the Green Bay Packers, but they are a very talented team and this season has been a total loss. What is their biggest issue?
ST: “Inconsistency. The talent shines through at times, but not nearly enough. There is no rhythm in their offense. Calvin Johnson seems to disappear at times and they don’t throw his way nearly often enough. He’s your biggest talent, get him the football. On defense, they are still acclimating to life without Ndamukong Suh and it’s not working. The talent is there, but the chemistry is not.
Some of this can be placed on head coach Jim Caldwell, but not all of it. The team is searching for its identity and that is amazing considering Matthew Stafford and the talent the team has. If it doesn’t start to look better, there will be big changes coming.”
Just how good can Oakland Raiders’ rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper be?
ST: “He is just a total difference maker. He’s a big guy with size and speed and he’s a polished wide receiver. He’s looking so good at an early stage in his career. It wasn’t like that 10 years ago, but now you see Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry…they are looking great right at the start of their careers in the NFL.
With the Raiders, Derek Carr is a smart young quarterback and he knows how good Cooper is. The Raiders have young, elite-level talents and they’re playing consistently well. Every game, the Raiders have a handful of plays go their way and now they’re starting to get wins out of it.”
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.