Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers - The 49ers may finally have their quarterback of the future - at least the near future - and it isn't Alex Smith. In his two games this season, former Heisman Trophy winner and Baltimore Ravens backup Troy Smith(notes) has completed 29 passes in 47 attempts for 552 yards and two touchdowns. Smith was the pilot for two of the team's three wins all season, and the 49ers really seem to believe in him. There are no such quarterback transitions in Tampa Bay; everyone's firmly behind Josh Freeman(notes). But the Niners seem to be on a bit of a hot streak; they know that even at 3-6, they're not out of the running in the NFC West. For the last few seasons, it's been believed that San Francisco was one good quarterback away from a playoff run. It's a bit late in the game, but the 49ers seem game to try and validate that hypothesis.
Seattle Seahawks at New Orleans Saints - Very good news for Pete Carroll's Seahawks - Reggie Bush(notes), the man who both solidified Carroll's place at USC and then helped him out the door, will not play today. This gives Seattle, who have been double-digit underdogs all week, the same chance that the Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals had when they posted upset wins against the NFL champs - get Drew Brees(notes) out of his comfort zone, force turnovers, and take advantage of every opportunity. Not having Darren Sharper(notes) in the game also gives Matt Hasselbeck(notes) a better chance with shots downfield to Deon Butler(notes) and Ben Obomanu(notes). All of a sudden, this could be interesting.
Atlanta Falcons at St. Louis Rams - Which of these teams has the most quarterback sacks? Surprise, surprise - it's the St. Louis Rams, who actually went into Week 11 leading the league in quarterback takedowns with 28 (tied with Green Bay). You can start with Chris Long(notes), the former first-round defensive end who has really come alive this year. Long should expect to face tackle Tyson Clabo(notes), who has already allowed four sacks this season. So, Matt Ryan(notes) should watch his back. Another guy to watch on that Rams line is tackle Fred Robbins(notes), who has made an amazing comeback from microfracture knee surgery to lead the league in pass deflections among players at his position. The Falcons are enjoying justified praise as the NFC's best team, but this has "trap game" written all over it. The Rams are for real all of a sudden, and they're eager to prove it to everyone.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots - Yet another common denominator between Tom Brady(notes) and Peyton Manning(notes) - the Patriots lead the league in receiver drops with 27, and the Colts are third with 25. Both quarterbacks are running different offenses, but Brady is doing it by choice, and Manning is doing it by force. The Pats saw the apex of their new two-tight end offense (64 percent of all offensive snaps with more than one TE this season) last Sunday against the Steelers when rookie Rob Gronkowski(notes) bagged three touchdown catches. Manning is without his main tight end and primary weapon in Dallas Clark(notes), and as much as people say that "as long as #18 is in there, everything will be okay," that offense may be stretched too thin in a road game against a Pats team that is really starting to find its way on both sides of the ball.