Monday Brunch: Hakeem Nicks, you're a big star now

On Sundays, I watch a day of football and make observations. On Mondays, I come here and empty the notebook.

The Giants hit a home run with Hakeem Nicks(notes), a legitimate No. 1 receiver (sorry Steve Smith, you're the Robin here). Nicks has enough size to be a factor in the red area, he's got the speed to get deep, and he understands the technical aspects of the position. His hands could be a little bit better but I'm not worried about that long term. There's a chance he'll be seen as Top 5 fantasy receiver this season.

The growth of Nicks allows Eli Manning(notes) to move into the every-week starter category. Manning has multiple touchdown passes in three of his starts this year, and he piled up 386 yards in the loss to the Titans. He's never going to be in the pantheon with his brother, but he's a legitimate star in his own right. These guys should have fun with Detroit next week.

It befuddles me that the Panthers have never made a serious effort to get their backs involved in the passing game. That deficiency really hurts them now, as they have two inexperienced quarterbacks and no confidence developing things downfield. If John Fox can survive this situation and keep his job, he's got Polaroids on somebody.

It's discouraging that Ryan Torain(notes) wasn't able to get to the second level on any of his 16 carries (a long of just eight yards). But we have to give Green Bay's defense some of the credit for that, and Torain at least got involved in the passing game. I'm not ready to write him off as a throwaway back; I still think he's got a chance to be a RB2 while Clinton Portis(notes) is out. Let's see what he can do with Indy next Sunday night.

If Tampa's Mike Williams can keep his head on straight, he's got a chance to play in multiple Pro Bowls. He's a demon to cover on slants because of his hands and his size, and he's fast enough to run past people. Keyshawn Johnson(notes) 2.0. And while we're on the Tampa passing game, I can't believe how much Josh Freeman(notes) has improved over the past year.

Kevin Kolb(notes) faced off against a San Francisco defense that was desperate and walked out with a W and a 103.3 QB rating. More data to support that Andy Reid is a helluva coach Monday to Friday, no matter what we think of his strategic decisions on game day.

There's no logical reason for the Bucs to keep featuring Carnell Williams(notes). Give Kareem Huggins(notes) and LeGarrette Blount(notes) a chance to show what they can do, or heck, dust off Earnest Graham(notes) and see what's there. Caddy no longer has any explosion and he goes down like he can't wait to get tackled.

Maybe there's a route in the passing tree that the Texans secondary is capable of covering, but I haven't seen it yet. I'd start Calvin and Hobbes against these guys. Houston has Kansas City and a bye coming up, and then the schedule gets cruel: at Indy (Peyton Manning's(notes) payback) and against San Diego (hey, Philip Rivers(notes)).

If the Ravens want to use Willis McGahee(notes) at the goal line because they want to limit punishment on Ray Rice(notes), that's fine. But when it comes to scoring from in close, power isn't as important as vision, quickness and decisiveness are. Following the same principle, Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) is a better short-yardage fit for the Giants than Brandon Jacobs(notes) is. Rice's two short-yardage scores against Denver might encourage the Ravens to scrap any plans to make McGahee the designated scorer.

I have no data to back this up, but it seems like most backup quarterbacks immediately look to the tight end when they're forced into a relief appearance, mid-game. And often times that preference carries over to the next few weeks.

There are plenty of Kyle Orton(notes) stats that jump out and grab you, but I'm particularly impressed that he's only taken 12 sacks despite the fact that the Broncos have no semblance of a running game. That reasonable sack total tells us a little about the Denver offensive line but more about Orton; sacks are more about the quarterback than the common fan accepts.

Two San Francisco prime-time games down, two to go. At least Mike Singletary always entertains us.

Jamaal Charles(notes) was Kansas City's featured back at Indianapolis (19 touches, 101 yards) but keep in mind he lost one fumble (off a hellacious hit) and nearly dropped a second one in the red area. Coaches at every level hate fumbles, of course, but Todd Haley strikes me as a coach with a shorter trigger than most.

I'm too sad to think about the Green Bay offense, my favorite passing game to watch when everyone is healthy. Jermichael Finley(notes) (knee) looks like he's going to be out for several weeks and it would be a surprise if Aaron Rodgers(notes) (post-concussion) plays next week. James Jones(notes) is a fantasy-viable receiver when Rodgers is in the saddle, but I'm not going deep with this offense when Matt Flynn(notes) is under center (Flynn scores around 65 in the PBI– Pianow Backup Index).

We can all accept that Dallas is a lot better than its 1-3 record– if you alter about six plays in their season, they're 4-0. But if they can't find a way to fix or at least scheme around that messy offensive line, I worry that Tony Romo(notes) and Felix Jones(notes) won't get through the full season unscathed. Tennessee's underrated pass rush had no problem getting to Romo on Sunday, especially in the first half.

Kevin Walter's(notes) three touchdowns pay a lot of bills, but remember he's topped the 35-mark just once in five starts. He's just a flex guy, nothing past that.

Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather watch a passionate and intense player like Philip Rivers than a zombie walking like J.D. Drew. Sure, Rivers barks a lot and maybe it wouldn't be the worst idea in the world if he calmed down the act somewhat, but at least you know how badly he wants to win.

And we certainly can't argue with the ridiculous numbers Rivers is posting every week. He's leaping Drew Brees(notes) in the next Shuffle Up and Deal.

Malcom Floyd(notes), butter. Legedu Naanee(notes), Parkay.

I've run out of theories on Dwayne Bowe(notes). We know he has a problem with drops– he muffed one in the end zone Sunday– but there must be more to this. Is he not getting open consistently? Is Matt Cassel(notes) missing him? Are the KC coaches doing a poor job designing plays to their most physical receiver? I know we've got a lot of Chiefs fans in our readership– I concede the floor to you and your theories.


Image courtesy Associated Press