Former Vikings receiver Randy Moss has been about as unproductive as can be the last two months, but that isn't stopping him from believing there will be a big offer waiting for him in free agency next year.
Despite his paltry numbers with his last two teams - 27 catches, 375 yards, five touchdowns, including Thursday night's performance - wide receiver Randy Moss expects to have a fairly solid market for his services when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the spring. And don't expect Moss, 33, to swallow the kind of one-year deal Terrell Owens
did for 2010 (although it's worked out pretty nicely for the Cincinnati wideout, who can hit all his bonuses, and collect $4 million for the year), unless he is forced to take it.
People close to Moss insisted to The Sports Xchange this week that the 13-year veteran, whose two teams have gone 1-8 since his trade from New England in October, fervently believes he is worthy of a multi-year contract.
Said one source: "There's no 'prove yourself' in Randy. No matter how things came down this year, he still feels he can play and this season was (an aberration). And he thinks teams will feel that way, too. He believes he can still be a factor."
Moss, who wasn't targeted a single time Thursday night according to the league play-by-play documents - only the second time in his career, and the first time since mid-season 2004 that Moss wasn't thrown a pass - could be playing for his fourth team in six seasons in 2011. He banked $6.5 million in 2010, and is on pace for 33 receptions, 462 yards and six touchdowns. The catches and yards would represent the worst production of Moss' career, and the touchdowns would be his fewest since he had just three for Oakland in 2006.
The NFL has a conundrum in balancing actual in-stadium attendance with the increasingly attractive technology that prompts some fans that have already purchased tickets to stay home and watch the game on television.
"It's a challenge we (owners) all face," acknowledged Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, whose team has sold out every game at the Georgia Dome in 2010, but has averaged 7,687 no-shows, according to actual in-house figures obtained by The Sports Xchange. Information from NFL vice president Brian McCarthy arrived too late for the column, but it's interesting stuff, and so we present it now.
According to the league, ticket sales are down five percent in 2010, in large part due to the economy, but actual attendance has declined just one percent league-wide. There have been 19 blackouts so far and there were 17 through Week 14 last season. In the era 2000-09, the league had 31 percent of its game blacked out. The blackout levels were at 40 percent and 50 percent, respectively, for the periods 1980-89 and 1973-79.
Commissioner Goodell, while embracing much of the new technology, still feels the in-stadium experience is key.
"It might be more comfortable," Goodell says of viewing the game at home on television, "but it's not as exciting."
The league has made available to stadiums the RedZone package for display screens and there is use in some facilities of hand-held devices that permit in-house patrons to watch highlights from other games and monitor statistics on their fantasy teams. Still, the original premise of the column - that the league has to be concerned that it is for some fans a "studio game" remains a matter of concern.
Super Mario: A Giants coach relates that, while wide receiver Mario Manningham still has "some maddening moments," he has unwittingly benefitted from the absence of fellow pass-catcher Steve Smith the past four games because of a pectoral injury. Quarterback Eli Manning, who had adopted Smith as a safety blanket, of sorts, said the coach, has developed increased confidence in the inconsistent Manningham during the past month. Manningham isn't a blazer, but has very good short-area quickness, and Manning has played to that strength. The former Michigan star has a modest 18 receptions and two touchdowns during Smith's absence, but his five scoring catches overall for the year equal last season's total, and he has grown in just about every phase of the game.
Quarterback count: Through the Thursday night game, there had been 53 different starting quarterbacks in the league. There is a chance that three more quarterbacks - John Skelton of Arizona, Minnesota's Tarvaris Jackson and Brodie Croyle of Kansas City - could be added to the list of guys making their first 2010 starts this week. That would raise the number to 56, the same as there were for a full season in 2009.
The high for this decade is a remarkable 64 starters in 2007. The average for the previous 10 seasons was 56.0. By the way, the league has made 41 "switches" at quarterback this season - not accounting for the potential changes this weekend - and there have been at least three changes every week with the exception of Week 4, when there were none.
Notable about Jackson, who was uneven in last week's relief appearance for the injured Brett Favre, is that he is on the free-agent radar screen for at least four teams seeking an experienced backup for 2011. There is some question as to whether Jackson will be back in Minnesota in 2011, now that his biggest patron, former coach Brad Childress, is gone.
Punts: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has now gone five straight games without throwing an interception, and that's the longest such streak in Packers history since Hall-of-Famer Bart Starr in 1966. Rodgers faces the Detroit Lions on Sunday, and has a 105.3 passer rating against the NFC North opponents in his last five games against them. ... Based on the number of letters of recommendation that have been disseminated, and early discussions between the electors, NFL Films founder Ed Sabol is getting strong support for consideration for the Hall of Fame this year. Sabol is one of the record six coaches/contributors who are among the 26 Hall semifinalists. ... Too bad for tailback Adrian Peterson that the Minnesota Vikings' final four games are all against NFC opponents. In 15 games versus AFC teams, Peterson has averaged 120.9 rushing yards and scored 19 touchdowns. By the way, the heretofore butter-fingered Peterson now has 276 "touches" this season without a fumble. In the previous two seasons, Peterson fumbled 20 times and lost 13 of them. ... Redskins' quarterback Donovan McNabb has thrown a career-high 15 interceptions this year. The two men who replaced him in Philadelphia, Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb, have combined for six interceptions. ... Defensive end Julius Peppers, the big-money addition for Chicago this year, has really cranked up his game recently. Peppers has five sacks in the past three games after going five straight contests without a sack, and getting just two quarterback kills the first nine outings.
Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.