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Scouting Notebook: Houston has a problem

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

You can find more from Michael Salfino at Comcast SportsNet Chicago

No huge developments, but fantastic finishes and surprises were plentiful as the always too-short NFL season now rushes onward through December. Here's what made it into my Scouting Notebook on Sunday.

Matt Schaub's(notes) (non-throwing) shoulder injury reunited us with Rex Grossman(notes) and taught us that "Grossman stinking" never changes along with death and taxes.

Tom Brady(notes) gave his owners a heart attack early but came back in and played great – 14-of-15 for 277 yards and two TDs at one point. Then, he was limited to only Wes Welker(notes), who isn't enough. Randy Moss(notes) right now is too one-dimensional – bomb or bust.

I saw too many people starting Terrell Owens(notes) this week. He's no longer good enough to overcome the Jets supreme Darrelle Revis(notes). Those shut-down stats vs. the league-leading receivers would be even more impressive if the NFL Network would have backed out the Mike Sims-Walker(notes) TD that came against the Jets other corner.

Pierre Thomas(notes) owners were really rooting for the Saints to cough up that game in Washington as the use of Mike Bell(notes) over Thomas has gotten comical. But the Saints showed that you have to be lucky to be really good. That game was stolen. Thomas looks like we do at this point, visibly confused while standing on the sideline and seeing Bell – a journeyman scrub – getting preference in key moments.

Drew Brees'(notes) first-half TD to Marques Colston(notes) came when he had 3.9 seconds to throw (said my stopwatch on replay, and he could have had more). So, sure, Colston is going to pull a double move. So did Robert Meachem(notes). Yes, those work. But QBs aren't supposed to have four seconds to make them work. The Jets showed early in 2009 that you disrupt the Saints offense by blitzing heavily when they go empty and always blitzing when Reggie Bush(notes) (who blocks like a Regina) is on the field.

Nate Washington(notes) dropped an easy 65-yard-TD and then the Titans went quietly into the Indy night.

Peyton Manning(notes) to Pierre Garcon(notes) looks like it's going to have a shelf life of, oh, about seven-to-10 years (or whenever Manning decides to hang 'em up. He rarely gets hit, so it's not like he's been beaten up.)

Michael Vick(notes)! Sunday made it all worth it, Philly. His only TDs come in a 34-7 win. How could the Eagles have survived without him? Here's my prediction for where Vick will land as a starting QB: nowhere. He still can't throw and now can't run well enough.

Carson Palmer(notes) does not look right to me. Sunday, again, he had just terrible awareness on a backside corner blitz. It was like a slow-motion scene in a horror movie when everyone can see the killer except the victim. It hasn't been the first time this year for him, either.

So much for the running back committee in Cincy. It's clearly still Cedric Benson's(notes) team.

The Texans have written a book this year on how to screw up things on the goal line. The latest chapter – a halfback option on first and goal. Interception. Game over. Coaching tenure of Gary Kubiak over.

The Raiders-Steelers went all 1977 on us. Bruce Gradkowski(notes) turned into a right-handed Snake Stabler. So much for the promised hell the Steelers said they'd "unleash" in December. They didn't say what year.

The Raiders remain a non-professional organization, so we must wait for big changes there structurally before investing in Louis Murphy(notes).

Devin Thomas (Redskins) and Davone Bess (Dolphins) stepped up Sunday and into WR3 consideration next summer. As for their QBs, Chad Henne(notes) has impressed me. But consider Jason Campbell's(notes) day a tease. The injuries may have caught up with the Saints secondary on Sunday.

And have we gotten to the point where we have to discount passing performances against the Patriots? Bad pass defenses rarely travel well.

In big moments, coaches need to think players first, then plays.

Hakeem Nicks(notes) is going to be a big player very soon. September 2010 at the latest.

Brandon Jacobs'(notes) 74-yard catch and mostly run was a real wonder to behold from a 270-pound man. I'll always find a spot for him on my team whenever his owner grows tired.

Roy Williams has ability. This isn't Mike Williams or Charles Rogers(notes). Most of us hate the Cowboys. But the Williams-bashing was too amplified. I was wrong about Miles Austin(notes), however, who is very good and decidedly not a fluke.

Tony Romo(notes) made a bad decision by throwing a slant (or something) to Tashard Choice(notes) when he had the wheel route up the sideline for a TD. But all QBs make bad decisions. No one is perfect. To present him as a reason for the Cowboys loss was shameful on the part of Tony Dungy. He's a very good player who played great in the Meadowlands – all-time Dallas record for single-game completions, 392 passing yards, three scores and no picks. He's also been fantasy gold. Again.

Antonio Gates(notes) is on pace for 1,325 receiving yards, which would break former Charger Kellen Winslow's(notes) record of 1,290 in 1980. Gates looked like Larry Fitzgerald(notes) when Philip Rivers(notes) threw it up to him on a couple of deep passes. He can do that whenever they wish.

Rivers had 373 yards on 18 completions. It wasn't Joe Namath in 1972 vs. Johnny Unitas when Namath had 496 yards on 15 completions (including TD tosses of 65, 67, 79 and 80 yards among six scoring strikes), but it still was fun to watch in this AFL Golden Anniversary.

Michael Salfino's work has appeared in USA Today's Sports Weekly, RotoWire, dozens of newspapers nationwide and most recently throughout Comcast SportsNet and NESN. Michael also covers the Jets and Giants each week for SNY.tv.

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