Wilson's moment to shine
There have been some extraordinary performances from rookies throughout the NFL this season, from quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck to running backs Doug Martin and Trent Richardson to linebackers Luke Kuechly and Dont'a Hightower.
Giants running back David Wilson joined that impressive group with an electrifying game in last week's 52-27 win over the Saints, compiling a franchise-record 327 total yards that included a kickoff return touchdown, two rushing touchdowns and 100 yards on the ground. And with Ahmad Bradshaw out for Sunday's game against the Falcons in Atlanta, Wilson has a chance to join many of his fellow rookies who have played important roles all season.
Wilson said he's ready to shoulder the load. Those who know him best believe he'll be up to the challenge.
"The way he's responded to his lack of playing time is nothing new to him," said Dan Newell, Wilson's coach at Danville (Va.) High School. "He gets it. It's the same at every level for him. He's waited his turn and then he's made the most of that opportunity. Any time anybody ever doubts what he'd do, he quietly compiles the numbers."
Newell said Wilson's carefree personality only adds to his chances for success. Wilson did a backflip in the end zone after all three touchdowns last week, although he now says he won't be doing that anymore because of concerns from teammates and coaches about the possibility of injury. Wilson also has plenty of confidence -- he told Newsday in October that he believes he'll be in the Hall of Fame someday and that he's "like birth control -- 99.9 percent of the time I'm going to come through for you."
Now he gets to take the next step in his development in the biggest game of his young career.
"I don't know about the Hall of Fame," Newell said, "but I do think he'll make some Pro Bowls. I feel like he's that kind of player."
Carroll: Braylon can make it
The Seahawks thought wide receiver Braylon Edwards couldn't make it back from a hamstring injury before the end of the season, so they placed him on waivers last Monday. It was a major break for the Jets, who claimed him to shore up their own injury problems at the position.
The Jets hope Edwards can play as soon as tomorrow night against Tennessee, although it's uncertain if he'll be ready by then. Either way, Carroll had nothing but positive things to say about Edwards, who played for the Jets in 2009-10.
"From our sense, we felt it could be a three-week thing, but maybe he can get through that," Carroll said. "It wasn't a terrible hamstring injury, but it was significant enough. It showed up in the MRIs. It was legit. It doesn't mean he can't make it back. He's a terrific competitor and he's a tough player."
Goodell schooled by Tags
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue's decision to drop all punitive measures against the four players implicated in the Saints' alleged bounty program was a swift rebuke for his successor, Roger Goodell.
Tagliabue chided Goodell for taking such a heavy-handed approach to the issue, suggesting that bringing about a culture change requires a more balanced method. Tagliabue's decision to allow witnesses to be cross-examined by attorneys representing the players was seen as a more equitable way of handling the appeal process than Goodell's meeting with the players, which essentially was a one-sided process.
A day after Tagliabue announced his decision, Goodell said at an NFL owners' meeting on Wednesday that he and Tagliabue differed only on the punishment phase, but the sense here is that the current commissioner will take a page from his predecessor and proceed with more nuance and deliberation.
Tagliabue suggested in his ruling that more appropriate penalties for bounties were fines, not suspensions. Perhaps if Goodell had decided on a less extreme set of penalties while emphasizing the safety aspect, the bounty case wouldn't have turned into such a protracted mess.
The Patriots' defense is surging after initial struggles tied mostly to inexperience. Consider: 19 of 26 players on defense are 26 years old or younger. But Bill Belichick, whose defenses often peak late, appears to have his unit righted again. Since allowing 31 points in a shootout win over Buffalo, the Pats have allowed an average of 18.3 points per game in their last four, including only 14 against the Texans, including a garbage-time touchdown in the fourth quarter.
49ers linebacker Aldon Smith has 331/2 career sacks, the most by any player in his first two NFL seasons. His 191/2 sacks lead the NFL and he has 15 in his last seven games.