One of the better stories for the team has been the play of reserve offensive lineman Fred Wakefield. For the first four seasons of his career, Wakefield played defensive end but this past off-season, he was moved to the offensive line.
Wakefield is set to make his seventh start this season and has been able to handle himself fairly well at tackle and guard.
Head coach Jim Mora has benched starting FS Bryan Scott who has struggled mightily this season. Scott has been a liability in coverage and doesn't have good instincts for the position according to personnel evaluators that scout.com has talked to recently.
Sixth-year S Ronnie Heard, who played for Mora in San Francisco, will take over the starting job.
Don't be surprised if head coach Lovie Smith has a quick hook on struggling QB Kyle Orton Sunday if Orton struggles. QB Rex Grossman is fully healed from his broken leg and has looked sharp during practice in recent weeks.
Look for the team to address their offensive line in next year's draft. While the unit made some strides this season, they lack dominance in any one area and only C Jeff Faine's starting job seems secure.
TE Jeb Putzier has a roster bonus due in March but those close to the team tell scout.com that the team is expected to keep him on the roster. They feel he's still very important to the passing game.
The final four games of the season could determine whether the team gives rookie RB Samkon Gado a realistic chance to be the starter next season. While he's still a bit raw and doesn't always hit the hole that his line opens up for him, Gado runs with power and has proven to be hard to tackle at times.
With veteran backs Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport free agents after the season ends, it's not out of the question that Gado becomes their next starting running back.
The coaches have benched starting FS Marcus Coleman and will replace him with rookie S C.C. Brown. Coleman signed a contract extension last year but his play as waned considerably and he's shown a lack of discipline by being late for team meetings.
Third WR Brandon Stokley has seen less than a third of the offensive snaps over the last four games as the team is using more two tight end sets. The coaching staff is trying to get the defensive to commit an extra defender in the box and then they do, it's making it easier to pass.
Fourth-year TE Bryan Fletcher has essentially taken over the No.2 role at the position recently. Fletcher has done a good job of improving his blocking and has gained the trust of QB Peyton Manning in the passing game. When scout.com had a chance to watch Fletcher during Senior Bowl practices in 2002, he was very impressive as a pass catcher but didn't show the ability to block well. That area seems to be vastly improved.
In what has to be a rarity in the NFL, head coach Mike Tice continues to substitute his offensive linemen freely during games if they struggle. Only starting LT Bryant McKinnie has been free of such moves. It's unheard of to make substitutions during games on the offensive line unless absolutely necessary as linemen need to get a cohesiveness going as a unit but so far, it's worked.
New England Patriots
Amazingly, the team started the sixth different strong safety last week when journeyman CB Artrell Hawkins started in that position for the first time in his career. It appears it's Hawkins' job to lose for the rest of the season.
New Orleans Saints
One player who has fallen under the radar since he signed with the club is veteran MLB Ronald McKinnon. Since taking over the starting job for struggling second-year player Courtney Watson, McKinnon has done a decent job against the run. He signed a one-year deal with the team but could have a chance to return next season. Another player to look out for is rookie LB Alfred Fincher who had an outstanding week of Senior Bowl practices earlier this year. He could wind up challenging for the starting job next season.
New York Giants
One of the areas where the coaches will work with RB Brandon Jacobs next off-season is getting him to run with his pad level lower. Jacobs is what scouts call a high runner meaning he runs high and is an easy target for defenders to knock down which shouldn't be the case because of his immense size.
According to a team source, the team has no plans to play rookie QB Andrew Walter at this point over the last four games. They want to get a better look at No.2 QB Marques Tuiasosopo who enters next season on the final year of his contract.
The coaches want to get a good look at rookie LT Todd Herremans over the final four games of the season in order to determine if he's ready to take on the starting job full-time next season. Herremans will get matched up on Giants' RDE Osi Umenyiora Sunday who is having a terrific season.
Veteran LT Tra Thomas has three years left on his contract for a total of around $13.5 million in base salaries. Over the next three seasons, Herremans is owed about $1.5 million in base salaries.
While many thought the move to let WR Plaxico Burress walk after last season, the team clearly misses him in their down field passing offense. WR Antwaan Randle El hasn't shown that he could stretch the field consistently and he doesn't have the size to fend off defenders. Look for the team to address that position in next year's draft.
There's a better than 50-50 chance that rookie RB Frank Gore gets a few starts in before the season ends even if starter Kevan Barlow is healthy. Barlow is owed close to $10 million in base salary over the next three seasons so the team would like to be able to make a strong evaluation on Gore over the final part of the season.
With starting TE Erron Kinney (knee) possibly out for the rest of the season, keep an eye on rookie TE Bo Scaife. In the four games where his role was increased due to injuries to tight ends above him on the depth chart, Scaife has 23 catches.