NFL Nation: Tshimanga Biakabutuka
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Here's my take on the morning headlines from the local newspapers.
Jeff Duncan writes the unthinkable: Monday could be Deuce McAllister's last game ever with the Saints in the Superdome. That thought may be troubling to Saints fans because McAllister might be the most popular player in franchise history. But Duncan relies on solid logic. He points out McAllister could be suspended as early as next week if his appeal for violating the league's rules on banned substances isn't won. McAllister could face a four-game suspension and that, effectively, could end his time with the Saints. It's become painfully obvious this season that McAllister is no longer a feature back. He still is making feature back money and that probably won't bode well when the Saints look at their roster (and salary cap) after the season.
Whatever happened to former running back Tshimanga Biakabutuka? He's running a restaurant in Georgia.
The old "under the radar'' question came Monday. I truly don't think anybody's overlooking the 8-2 Panthers. But the fact is John Fox kind of prefers that perception. His team has been at its best in years when expectations weren't real high and has had some big letdowns in years when it was the trendy Super Bowl pick.
It looks like Todd Weiner against Julius Peppers on Sunday. Although rookie left tackle Sam Baker is making some progress in his recovery from back surgery, coach Mike Smith said he doesn't expect him to be ready for the Panthers.
Undrafted rookie Clifton Smith has done a nice job as a return man and had a few bright moments as a running back. But Smith is likely to play a bigger role in the backfield rotation with Earnest Graham likely lost for the year. That's a scary thought because Smith has lost a fumble in each of his last three games. Coach Jon Gruden pledged to work with Smith on ball security.