Week 11 is going to be quite an important week for some teams around the NFL, in more ways than one.
Pay no attention that there are some intriguing matchups around the league (Indianapolis/New England, San Diego/Denver, Chicago/San Francisco). They're some tasty matchups, but that's not the sole reason that this is such a critical week.
No, it could be a crucial week for Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago and Pittsburgh.
We'll find out what these teams are made without their leaders at quarterback.
The first three lost their quarterbacks to concussions. Pittsburgh could lose Ben Roethlisberger to a sprained or separated shoulder. The timeline for each quarterback's return varies, depending on how their recovery goes.
For Philadelphia, the injury to Vick doesn't change this season's outcome. They're not going to make the playoffs, even in a weak NFC East. But what this does for them is allow them to see if Nick Foles is really going to be the answer going forward. Fans have been clamoring to see Foles all year, and while he didn't play lights-out in the second half against Dallas, he certainly didn't play terribly. Plus, it's not like the Eagles were barn-burners with Vick at QB anyways; while he wasn't the problem in Philadelphia, you have to think he was at least one of them.
The Bears turn to Jason Campbell, a former Redskin and Raider who probably has the best chance out of the four backups to help his team not miss a beat. Jay Cutler is a fine quarterback, but he has some personality issues, as he's been critiqued for pouting and whining. Chicago hasn't been known for their offense this year, either; while they've put up the points, their calling card is their defense. And as long as guys like Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers can stay healthy, the Bears will be fine.
The 49ers are an interesting case. I personally have never seen Alex Smith as an elite quarterback, though some have started to pencil him into that category. He's a solid quarterback who can make the throws, the perfect compliment to a team that has a top-tier running back in Frank Gore. But Colin Kaepernick has seen probably the most playing time out of the four backups, not because Smith has been injured, but because coaches like his arm (I think). The 49ers also have a solid corps of wide receivers that won't make it too hard for Kaepernick to transition into a starting role while Smith is out, but one has to wonder whether he'll relinqiush the role, even when Smith comes back.
And that leads us to the curious case of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger isn't afraid to play through an injury, which tells you that he probably won't miss much time. But in the meantime, the Steelers are left with Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch, two quarterbacks who are great team leaders, but are on the downsides of their careers. Monday night was the first snap Leftwich took since week 17 of 2011, and before that, you have to go to week three of 2009. And while Leftwich completed seven of 14 passes for 73 yards, he's not Big Ben; he can't escape the pocket, and he just doesn't have the same charisma. Charlie Batch, meanwhile, hasn't played since week 16 of 2011, and hasn't played in more than seven games since 2007-08. Neither of them really have the same charisma as Big Ben, which could put the Steelers in trouble, especially with two games against Baltimore in the next three weeks.
Page 2 of 2 - Now, if this had happened three weeks ago, just think...Tim Tebow might not still be in New York. I'm sure one of those teams above might have scooped him up on the cheap. But we'll find out what these teams are made of, whether they rise to the challenge or flop like a fish.
Alix Kunkle is the News Editor of the Leesville Daily Leader in Leesville, La. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.