Scouting Notebook: Colt following

You can find more from Michael Salfino at Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia

We start our Scouting Notebook this week in Indy, where Peyton Manning(notes) continued his mastery over the Broncos – sort of – and Brandon Marshall(notes) entered the NFL record books.

Manning had one of the strangest four-TD games in history. He started out 12-for-20 with three TDs and finished four-for-five with another score. In between: 4-for-17 with three picks. Manning has thrown 19 TDs in his last five games versus Denver.

The Colts' mastery of the pick play (as on a wheel route to Joseph Addai(notes) early in their win) is why it's so difficult to play man against them. Of course, Manning eats soft zone defenses for lunch. So, pick your poison, NFL.

Brandon Marshall was a one-man show for the Broncos, catching an NFL-record 21 passes for 200 yards on the button and two scores. We tip our cap, but catches numbers are far less meaningful than yardage total – plus Marshall didn't even average 10 yards per catch.

I was debating with a couple of colleagues where Giants WR Hakeem Nicks(notes) (finally starting) should be drafted next year. He had just registered his sixth TD. He has everything you look for ability-wise and seems to have a good environment (which for a WR mostly comes down to QB). I say he'll be a top 50 pick. Mark Stopa seems to think that's aggressive, but wise. Yahoo!'s Scott Pianowski thinks that will prove to be a bad overdraft. Nicks is a swing player next year, is what I'm saying.

Tom Brady(notes) really fought through an uncharacteristically poor first half, probably resulting from a number of injuries. He received no help from Randy Moss(notes), who was ripped by the Panthers after the game for his lack of effort and professionalism. Moss seems put off by the fact that he's not longer an elite talent. Lord knows, he's never been an elite worker. So the end for him won't be pretty.

Very strange seeing the Bucs stay in punt return formation when Jets WR and former college QB Brad Smith(notes) was clearly in position to take the center snap.

Kellen Clemens(notes) showed us why the Jets opted to stick with Mark Sanchez's(notes) growing pains. Clemens missed a bevy of easy throws, including a wide-open Jerricho Cotchery(notes) in the end zone. In his fourth year, he's wasting a roster spot that should be spent on someone who at least has some veteran savvy.

Usually a team's offense wears out the opposing defense for the benefit of the running back, but Thomas Jones's(notes) first TD came courtesy of the Jets defense. Tampa Bay ran 17 plays in the first half – for 16 yards (no first downs).

Why do coaches like Atlanta's Mike Smith(notes) unveil things like Wildcat reverses in the final stages of a hotly contested game? Don't try to win games with playcalling brilliance when your players are holding their own. Most times, you end up looking like Wile E. Coyote after your genius plan explodes in your face.

Matt Cassel(notes) is going to be one of the worst free agent signings in history. I think GM Scott Pioli didn't do the simple math when making that decision. Cassel last year in New England was about 70 percent of Tom Brady, which makes Cassel average at best. GMs should be barred from signing their former players, with whom they are too personally invested.

How are people talking up Packers CB Charles Woodson(notes) as the NFL MVP when he's not even the league's best player at his position? Darrelle Revis(notes) is and it's not particularly close. Woodson is a good player, but it's not like the Jets are 1-12.

How can Dallas not have an opening drive TD this year? Wade Phillips has mastered the confused look on the sidelines. What's really clueless, though, is replacing your holder with your starting QB to make a kicker who's missing kicks happy. Kickers who miss kicks get cab fare out of town – one way.

Chris Johnson had a big day but lost ground on the 2,000-yard pace. What really jumps out at me on these long runs is his patience in setting up blockers and waiting for the flow of the defense to create running room to pay dirt. This is an uncommon trait for an NFL's Fastest Man.

I love Ray Rice(notes). He's a Maurice Jones-Drew(notes), Johnson kind of gamebreaker. But I worry that the Ravens are going to relegate him to committee duty indefinitely. All guys should cede about 30 percent of touches. But Rice's scouting profile says "change of pace," so is the split going to remain closer to 50-50?

Philip Rivers(notes) is now 16-0 in December and that's an NFL record. He'll be 17-0 after next week because the Bengals cannot beat a great QB with that pop-gun passing game (91 net passing yards on Sunday).

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

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