Scouting Notebook: For whom Bell tolls

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Let's focus heavily on the Big Easy in this Week 6 Scouting Notebook, the theme of which is the rapid fluidity of this NFL season.

Mike Bell(notes) is a goal-line vulture for Pierre Thomas(notes) at least. Maybe more. Reggie Bush(notes) gets the preference in the passing game. This leaves a much smaller piece for Thomas than his owners hoped. We can forecast the player and the environment with some insight. But how the player is used is more of a guessing game. It looks like I guessed right in August and wrong when revising that upwards after Mike Bell's injury.

Thomas owners shouldn't hit the bar tonight and cry in their beers until closing. He's getting the bulk of the run action and had five rushes inside the opposing 20 (two inside the opposing five). But it's not good when a putative lead fantasy back doesn't score on a day when seven different teammates do.

The Saints offense is so fine that it's unlikely that the team will need to deviate from whatever whim Sean Payton has with personnel. Thomas's superior skills are thus more likely moot.

As for the passing game, we learned this week on the great "NFL Matchup" show on ESPN that the Saints just pick formations in the huddle. Brees calls the actual play based on how the defense responds to the Saints formation.

You need to play Lance Moore(notes) every week to get his big days like Sunday. But when the Saints use the fullback and Jeremy Shockey(notes) in their base offense, Moore isn't even on the field because he doesn't start.

Too many Saints are in the offensive mix. Well, too many for us. For them, it seems to be just right.

The Vikings played for a field goal late when the opposing QB, Joe Flacco(notes), was closing in on 400 yards. Brett Favre(notes) is playing in peak form now with a receiver in Sidney Rice(notes) who is looking downright freaky (size plus speed).

Eli Manning(notes) had his first poor game. He missed numerous open receivers, including Steve Smith on what should have been a 31-yard-TD early.

What about Hakeem Nicks(notes) (5 catches, 114 yards and a TD)? In addition to the normal garbage time caveats, I didn't notice Nicks on the field for one first-half snap even in three-WR formations (Domenik Hixon(notes) was the third guy in).

After Brandon Jacobs(notes) (neck) exited again, Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) badly read a blitz, leading to a pick. Manning chewed him out afterwards and Bradshaw was not seen on third-down again.

Another fumble lost by Steve Slaton(notes) and another miserable day running the ball (19 carries, 43 yards). But he made a living for his owners in the screen game, where he's very good.

Rashard Mendenhall(notes) and Willie Parker(notes) both lost a fumble, but Mike Tomlin passed the test – two thirds of the carries and the goal-line stuff for Mendenhall. This makes Mendenhall very valuable even with the Steelers now quite comfortable as a passing team.

What happened to Steve Smith (the Panthers version, one catch, four yards)? Tampa Bay had "two guys committed to [Steve] Smith every play but one or two," says Jake Delhomme. Remember when that didn't matter? Delhomme's too mentally shot to throw into tight coverage.

On days when Zach Miller can bust off a 86-yard-TD receptions courtesy of blown tackles and bad angles, he'll be very playable. (Sarcasm alert.)

The Eagles executed their plan to have Brian Westbrook(notes) and LeSean McCoy(notes) split carries, hurting Westbrook more than helping McCoy.

I didn't see Matt Hasselbeck's(notes) Week 5 coming, or the crash back to earth in Week 6. He's the proverbial box of chocolates and thus not a spot starter or matchup play.

Kurt Warner's(notes) day (276 yards on 32 completions) didn't jazz me, in fact I found it downright snoozy.

The Pats were up 45-0 at halftime and then came out in the third quarter against an injury ravaged Titans secondary and went shotgun, throwing on six of nine snaps with Tom Brady(notes) hitting Randy Moss(notes) for another score. How sporting. Weren't five second-quarter TD passes enough? Do not draw lasting conclusions from this game, Laurence Maroney(notes) owners. Getting him via free agency is fine, but paying with players is always a losing proposition off a career day.

The theme here seems to be the fluidity of the NFL season. Mark Sanchez(notes) started out playing like a three-year veteran. Now, he looks like he'd have to sweat admission into NFL Preschool. Forget the wind; the bulk of his unconscionable five picks were horrendous decisions. Never chuck it up on first and 10, Mark!

Maybe the theme today is me eating crow. Thomas Jones(notes)? I can be a jerk and say the back-to-back 64-yard and 71-yard (TD) runs were untouched, except he got 75 other yards, too. With far more subtlety, Leon Washington(notes) had 18 touches from scrimmage for 145 yards. While there is randomness to which time-share back gets more wide-open blocking, note that Washington most often is teamed with a third WR and a TE, Dustin Keller(notes), who blocks like a wideout. Jones most often gets the Jets great blocking FB and TE, Tony Richardson(notes) and Ben Hartsock(notes), respectively.

You can't fumble on back-to-back goal-line carries, Matt Forte(notes). Now carry that football around all week like it's a new-born baby.

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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