Pushing the Envelope: NFL Mailbag, Week 5

You've got questions. I've got answers. If not, I'll make them up. Each Thursday at 1 p.m. EST, I answer your queries on all things related to the NFL. If you have a question, send it over to NFLMailbag@gmail.com. Don't forget to include your name and location. Click here for the archives. Rock'n'roll.

How bad will the Colts beat the Texans on Sunday? Also, will the Texans win a game this year? Matt Schaub got in tune with the game for a while last week but he is so inconsistent. I think it's time for him to take a hike and take Gary Kubiak with him.
- Ward77029, Texas

Oh ye of little faith. The Texans won't continue to slide into the 2008 twilight. While the Dolphins and Rams last year offered legitimate hope for an 0-16 season, the Texans are simply too talented to continue losing, and I think it comes together this week in what most would consider a shocker. Schaub did begin to harmonize last week, and though the Colts defense is offering a remarkably stout pass defense, they're also now missing Bob Sanders, and if we've learned anything about the Colts it's that their defense relies quite heavily on that tiny young man. Add in a remarkable Texans front four that will be playing against a Colts line that will be missing Tony Ugoh and Ryan Lilja (though the line has done a good patchwork job of protecting Peyton Manning, they've been awful on the ground, and they haven't played a unit like this), and I like the increasingly-healthy Texans' chances of getting in the win column this week. Added motivation? I don't care what Bob McNair says, the Texans have a chip on their shoulder after Jerrah equated the fourth-largest city in America with Mayberry.

While the world outside of Packerland continues to talk about Aaron Rodgers' shoulder injury, the defense is being torn apart. Can they survive with the shape they're in?
- ElQueso, DePere, WI

Well, while Rodgers appears on the injury report as probable, he was pulled from practice today after only handing off three times. So ... not good.

But you're right, there isn't enough attention being paid to all of the team's injuries on the other side of the ball. The loss of Cullen Jenkins for the season is a bigger blow than most would realize; he has really been coming into his own as a player lately. The Packers have a great enough secondary to make up for the diminished pass rush when healthy, but they're not, either. Atari Bigby and Al Harris are both going to miss this week and likely more in the future, and I don't care that Charles Woodson is listed as probable; just because a player's on the field doesn't mean he's going to produce as expected, and a toe injury for any skill position is dehabilitating.

The matchup against Atlanta isn't worrisome, but games against the Seahawks and Colts follow before the bye gives them a chance to get healthier, and Green Bay can't afford to lose ground in a division they were expected to win handily. Even if Rodgers plays, this team's in for a fight for the next few weeks. But with today's developments, well, the outlook got much bleaker.

Is this Raiders situation giving you a headache too?
- Jeff Walbright, NoCal

No, not at all. This is wonderful. This entertainment. This is theater of the absurd. I wake up every morning thankful that Al Davis walks the same ground I do. He just makes the NFL better (obviously not from an on-the-field sense).

That being said, I am confused. I've always seen Davis as the NFL's sort of Boo Radley, the scary old man that nobody ever sees but is terrified of. Tim Kawakami's note that it's Al alone "in the darkness" only served to reinforce that point of view. So with that, and the context of seeing more than one coach fail miserably in Oakland, I've believed that Lane Kiffin was a heroic figure in a tragic situation.

I still believe that Kiffin is a mostly sympathetic figure. But hearing the other side of the story (and realizing that it's not coming from a vampiric old man looking to eat my soul) has convinced me that Kiffin has gone about this wrongly, even if he was pushed into taking the low road by a franchise which consistently does so. Kiffin may not have brought this mess on himself, but he let it continue, and so he's just as much to blame as Al Davis is.

As an unabashed Saints fan, I knew you were the perfect person to come to for an opinion on new Rams coach Jim Haslett.
- Maria Dalton, Thibodeaux, LA

Let me put it this way -- if the Rams now decide to eventually go with Aaron Brooks over Marc Bulger and Trent Green, it will be the greatest Christmas present I could get this year. My disdain for Haslett went from non-existent to consuming during his stint in New Orleans, and it wasn't just because the team was terrible. Look, the Saints have had many more terrible coaches than just Haslett, and while I'm glad the team no longer employs them, I wouldn't root for their demise elsewhere in the league (I still have a soft spot for Mike DItka, despite his absolutely ruining the team and setting them back for years).

Haslett is just a grossly unlikable person with a list of character flaws that begin to subtly reveal themselves over time and then just smack you in the face when you least expect it. And so now it's nice to be able to dislike him (and hopefully his favorite former Saint quarterback) without the internal conflict of seeing him in my colors. That's all.

Oh, by the way, good luck, Rams fans.

Do you think the NFC East will send three teams into the playoffs?
- Dave Grambino, Philly

Well, the Cowboys and Giants are both obviously making it, but the Redskins and Eagles are less bankable choices. In fact, I'm going to say that neither makes the playoffs.

The Redskins look fantastic now, but I'm not fooled by their recent hot spell. I just don't think that the team has the talent to compete in the winter, especially with an ancient front seven and a quarterback that rides peaks and valleys.

As for the Eagles, the reason they haven't won a Super Bowl (or 3) with this current regime is already evident -- the two players they need to win -- Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb -- are always hurt. And yes, they've got a lot of talent elsewhere, but if Westbrook and McNabb aren't there to distract defenses the Eagles become another pedestrian team. And it turns out they're never there. Or at least not there enough. The injuries to those two have already started this season, and they're only going to progress as the season wears on and the duo get older.

I see both teams near .500, but the NFC is suddenly, possibly, the dominant conference, and 8-8 is probably no longer good enough to sniff a wild card spot.

Got a question? Email it to NFLMailbag@gmail.com.

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