1. Denver (9-1). Well, I guess Peyton’s guys can block.
2. Seattle (10-1). Percy Harvin must love his new gig. Got his feet wet Sunday (one target, one catch, 17 yards) and now the Seahawks have a week off with the bye. What a country!
3. Kansas City (9-1). To those who would have the Chiefs plummet because of the loss last night, I ask you this: KC was a decided underdog, playing at Denver. If you rated the Chiefs low before the game, fine. If you rated them high and would drop them a few spots this morning, I am confused.
4. New England (7-2). Tough game to call tonight, but for the first time since Week 1 the Pats should have their IR/designee-to-return running back Shane Vereen. He was so vital to this offensive attack, and now, for the first time, he’s likely to play a game with Rob Gronkowski. Tom Brady will have close to a full weaponry, post-Hernandez and -Welker.
5. New Orleans (8-2). Drew Brees harped on turnovers, and not committing them. The Saints committed three—and still beat the Niners.
6. Carolina (6-3). Folks in the Carolinas are making a very big deal of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick coming to town, seeing as it hasn’t happened since 2005. Rightfully so. These two teams are playing like peers as the season heads for the home stretch.
7. Indianapolis (7-3). I am reminded of Dean Wormer in Animal House, dressing down Faber College student Kent Dorfman for getting a 0.2 on his grade report: “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, Mr. Dorfman.” How does this apply to the 2013 Colts? “Trailing by 21-3, 38-0 and 14-0 is no way to go far in the playoffs, Colts.” (That’s how much they’ve been behind in the last three games; Andrew Luck has bailed them out in two of them.)
8. San Francisco (6-4). Let’s see how they react to playing for the fifth seed. Hard to imagine they can finish any higher now.
9. Detroit (6-4). What I feared about the Lions secondary showed up Sunday in Pittsburgh.
10. Philadelphia (6-5). First time over .500 since opening night, and the arrow is trending upward.
11. Chicago (6-4). The more I see Josh McCown, the more I hear of Josh McCown, the more I like him. Chicago’s very fortunate to have the man playing as one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL west of Philadelphia on the roster.
12. Cincinnati (7-4). You put up 41 on Cleveland, regardless how the 41 comes, and you’re doing well. Andy Dalton has some worrisome stretches, to put it mildly, but the Bengals have a commanding 2.5-game lead in the AFC North with six weeks to play.
13. Arizona (6-4). Won three in a row. Carson Palmer with 660 passing yards in his last two (over 400 Sunday at Jacksonville). Not a coincidence.
14. New York Giants (4-6). NFL Result Weirdness Dept.: Four weeks ago this morning, the Giants were 0-6 and Dallas was 4-3. Next Sunday, Dallas and the Giants meet in New Jersey. If the Giants win, they’ll both be 5-6.
15. Green Bay (5-5). You tell me how long Aaron Rodgers will be out, and I’ll tell you when I’ll re-insert the Pack among the relevant teams.
The Award Section
Offensive Players of the Week
Chris Clark, Zane Beadles, Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez, Orlando Franklin, the starting offensive line, Denver. The prime focus of the Kansas City-Denver showdown was how beat-up Peyton Manning would be when it was over. And these five men (plus Knowshon Moreno, who stuck his nose in there when called upon) allowed no sacks, no pressures, and had just two harmless second-half penalties. Only once all night—Justin Houston walking Franklin back into Manning—did I see any of these five men get handled by the Chiefs. A superb job for a unit that came through at the biggest moment of the year. So far.
Matt McGloin, quarterback, Oakland. How insane is football? McGloin was camp fodder, the fourth passer in camp for the Raiders, after not being drafted last April. On Sunday, he started an NFL game for Oakland, completed 18 of 32 passes for 197 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions, as Oakland stunned Houston 28-23. Just watch him, and you see why he might have a chance to stick in the league. He’s confident, throws a good ball and looks like he has a chance to be accurate downfield.
Defensive Players of the Week
Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive end, New York Giants. Playing with a shoulder injury that required him to wear a harness restricting his movement, Pierre-Paul first predicted the play and then made it. He picked off Green Bay quarterback Scott Tolzien with two hands and ran 24 yards for the touchdown that clinched the Giants’ 27-13 win over the Packers. “All I said was, ‘I’m going to pick this off and run it to the house,” he said. Call him Soothsayer of the Week too.
Special Teams Players of the Week
Adam Vinatieri, kicker, Indianapolis. A month shy of his 41st birthday, Vinatieri was a difference-maker Thursday night in the 30-27 win at Nashville. He kicked field goals of 48, 30 and 50 yards, and he’s now an 87-percent kicker for the year. A couple of things you don’t realize about the veteran South Dakotan: He’s now close to having a split career between New England and Indy, incredibly; he kicked 10 years as a Patriot, and this is his eighth year (already) for Indianapolis. And he’s three field goals out of seventh place all-time; Jason Elam has 436, Vinatieri 433.
Donnie Jones, punter, Philadelphia. Four of his six punts in a 24-16 win pinned Washington inside its 20-yard-line (at the 2, 17, 15 and 4), but it was that last one that was one of the plays of the day. Having lost all offensive momentum, midway through the fourth quarter and clinging to that 24-16 lead, the Eagles had to punt from their 26, and Jones nailed a 70-yarder down to the Washington 4-yard-line. Robert Griffin III didn’t have a 96-yard drive in him, and the Eagles hung on.
Coach of the Week
Greg Schiano, head coach, Tampa Bay. Three weeks ago, fans left Raymond James Stadium with bags over their heads after a dispiriting 31-13 loss to Carolina. Since then, with every fan leaving this season, and this head coach, for dead, the Bucs flew to Seattle and bolted to a 21-0 lead over the two-TD-favorite Seahawks before losing in overtime; beat Miami on a Thursday night; then, on Sunday, routed the woebegone Falcons 41-28. The Bucs are still paying for the sins of starting 0-8, for sure. But 2-8, and playing hard, feels hugely different than 0-8.
Goat of the Week
Antonio Cromartie, cornerback, New York Jets. With the Jets creeping back into a disaster of a game at Buffalo, Cromartie let wideout Marquise Goodwin behind him for an easy touchdown pass from E.J. Manuel. Not why they’re paying you the big bucks, Antonio.
Geno Smith, quarterback, New York Jets. In the four minutes after the Cromartie brainlock, Smith threw interceptions to two Bills, Jairus Byrd and Da’Norris Searcy (who returned it for a pick-6). By the end of the third quarter at Orchard Park, E.J. Manuel had the edge in passer rating, 123.0-10.1. For the day, Smith was 8 of 23 with no touchdowns and three picks, and Rex Ryan had to leave the stadium scratching his head. Or worse.
The Falcons. You have to ask why?