Every week, the experts of FOX NFL Sunday reveal their observations and opinions as they prepare for football’s top-rated pregame telecast — seen each Sunday at noon ET/9 a.m. PT.
We’ll share some of the highlights from Curt, Terry, Howie, Jimmy and Michael grabbed from their weekly conference call with insider John Czarnecki.
Czar: Do any of you think the Broncos regret cutting Kyle Orton loose?
Jimmy Johnson: I believe their thinking was that Orton wasn’t good enough to keep as the starter and they had to put Tim Tebow in there. In hindsight, I’m sure they’d rather have him on their bench on Sunday, instead of having to face him this weekend because Kansas City claimed him.
Terry Bradshaw: I think they thought Chicago might claim him. I know they simply didn’t want to keep paying him $475,000 a week to be their backup quarterback.
JJ: It’s almost like recruiting. You don’t worry about losing a particular player, you worry about the one you keep because you see him every day.
TB: Can I write that down?
Curt Menefee: If it wasn’t for three or four miracle finishes, the Broncos wouldn’t be fighting for this playoff spot right now. When they cut Orton, I’m sure they never thought they would be in position to make the playoffs.
TB: The only thing is they got nothing for him. I know they had to do what was right for them in Denver. To them, it made a lot of sense to save a couple million dollars by simply cutting Orton loose.
Howie Long: I have never felt that Tebow was this team’s future. I simply don’t think that he’s John Elway’s vision of what a NFL quarterback is. But, how do they go about doing any of that like drafting another quarterback or looking for one through free agency?
TB: Well, Tebow has been fun to watch. But I don’t think he’s the answer, either. But what do they do? Do they go after somebody else’s rejects? Like Oakland’s Jason Campbell. I don’t know if I would want to do that. But teams are always trying to convince themselves that they can make a player better than what he is by simply relocating him.
JJ: If Tebow wins and makes the playoffs, it’s going to be hard to sit him next season.
HL: The one good thing about Tebow is he is only in his second year so the club is not pressed into giving him a new contract.
Czar: The Bengals are 0-3 against the top teams in their division. Anybody think they won’t go 0-4 against the Ravens and Steelers?
Michael Strahan: I don’t think the Bengals are a pushover team at all. I give them a shot in this game, especially playing at home. They only lost by a touchdown last time. They can score and they have been playing pretty good defense down the stretch.
Czar: This season some of the best teams have statistically awful defenses. Anyone still believe in the adage that defenses win championships?
Howie Long: Well, with teams like Pittsburgh and Baltimore I still believe that. I’m not sure I see that with the other teams.
TB: I know that New England, a team that is allowing almost as many yards as Tom Brady gains, has already beaten Pittsburgh once this year, but for some reason I believe Pittsburgh’s defense matches up well against New England. I could see the Steelers going to New England and winning. I’m not being a homer here, either. I still think Pittsburgh is the best matchup against Green Bay in the Super Bowl. If Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, I think Pittsburgh could probably win the Super Bowl, too. That is a very rugged, very tough team that Mike Tomlin has. I really like their style.
JJ: It’s been all about scoring this season. I don’t think it’s going to be easy to go to New England and beat them.
MS: I think the one team that is underrated right now is San Francisco. I know Big Ben was hurt in that game, but they dominated the Steelers when they played on Monday night. Defensively, the 49ers are very good and they moved the ball pretty well against Pittsburgh, too, in that game. People aren’t giving San Francisco enough credit.
TB: What I’m saying is I don’t see Baltimore and Joe Flacco beating Pittsburgh a third time this season. Houston might have given New England a good game, too, but they don’t have Matt Schaub now and it’s going to be hard for them to win a playoff game. Andre Johnson isn’t right, either. Michael may be right about San Francisco; that defense is awfully solid.
Czar: Does anybody give the Cowboys a chance in New York against the Giants?
TB: Tony Romo’s throwing hand is going to be a huge issue. I’m no weatherman, but I figure it’s going to be cold there. He was wearing a glove in practice, but if there’s stiffness he’s going to have a tough time gripping the ball and also throwing it as hard as he would like. There’s no injection that can block the pain for an injury like that. He’s just going to have to suck it up and do the best he can.
MS: As a defensive player, they should attempt to swat at his hand in order to knock the ball free. I think we will see a lot of swatting and clubbing at his hand.
JJ: In practice, he would take the glove off to make a few passes and then put it back on to keep the swelling down.
HL: I never saw a bruised hand swell up as quickly as Romo’s did.
TB: For all we know, there could be a bone cracked in there. What’s bad, too, is they don’t have Jon Kitna coming off the bench.
HL: The way the Giants won last week and also won a couple weeks ago in Dallas, I would say all the momentum is all on New York’s side in this one.
Czar: Saints coach Sean Payton sounds like he’s going to play his starters this Sunday. Does that make a lot of sense if they can’t get the No. 2 seed away from San Francisco?
TB: It sounds like the Saints want to make sure that Drew Brees keeps that record, especially with Tom Brady so close to breaking Marino’s record, too.
HL: The only thing that makes sense to me is for some unforeseen reason if the Rams are beating the 49ers, then you keep your players in to get the No. 2 seed. But if you are going to have to play next weekend in a wild card game, I think the Saints ought to rest some of their best players.
JJ: This is an issue everywhere. The Packers are talking about resting a lot of their key players and that could help Detroit win that game. The Lions want to win because they’d rather play the winner of the Giants-Cowboys’ game than be the sixth seed and have to play the Saints in that first game down in the Superdome.
TB: All I know is that my family and I were rooting for Brees the other night to get the record. It’s impossible not to like the guy and root for him. You have to believe a lot of fans were pulling for him to break the record.
JJ: It makes sense for every playoff team to at least play their starters through the first half and then rest them. You want to keep your players sharp for the next games. But if someone is nicked up, keep him on the sidelines. I think it’s tough to sit them for an entire game.