Whispers from around the NFL

• There's a growing sentiment around Washington that the poor performance of the Redskins' defense this season might have cost Gregg Williams a chance to succeed Joe Gibbs as head coach. Williams is the highest-paid assistant in the NFL, and though a lot of the blame can't be put on his shoulders, he might end up being the one who shoulders the blame.

• There is an opinion around the league that the Patriots paid a high premium to sign C Dan Koppen to a long-term contract extension as a way of proving to the other Patriots players that the team is willing to reward its own, following the trade of popular WR Deion Branch earlier this season.

• Minnesota's nickel backs are picked on more often, but CB Fred Smoot is definitely the weak spot in the Vikings' base defense. Smoot simply hasn't shown the shutdown skills his reputation suggests, often giving too much cushion. In short, we're told he isn't as good as he thinks.