Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady: Round 12
By JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency
|Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning during warmups prior to facing the Steelers at Sports Authority Field in Denver, Colo., Sept. 9, 2012. (RICK WILKING/Reuters)
FIVE WEEK 5 STORIES TO WATCH
1. Peyton vs. Tom
Going out on a limb here, but there just might be a thing or two said in advance about Sunday afternoon's matchup between Peyton Manning's 2-2 Denver Broncos and Tom Brady's 2-2 New England Patriots. Tom has bested ol' Peyton 7-of-11 times in their head-to-head matchup, but Peyton has won four of the past six.
2. Circus vs. Maximus
Could things get any worse for the reeling, injury-ravaged New York Jets? Yes. The undefeated Houston Texans buzzsaw comes rippin' thru the Meadowlands on Sunday. The Jets just got cut up by the Niners 34-0 but, like the good witch told Dorothy about the Wicked Witch of the West in comparison to the Wicked Witch of the East: "She's even worse than the other one."
3. The surprising Minnesota Vikings
We all knew the Vikings would beat the 49ers and Lions back-to-back, right? Well, anyways, this Vikings team that won three games last year, and went 0-6 vs. the NFC North, is now 3-1. And it faces this schedule before U.S. Thanksgiving: vs. Tennessee, at Washington, vs. Arizona, vs. Tampa Bay, at Seattle, vs. Detroit. The Vikes could well remain in the playoff hunt into December.
4. The AFC Least
Half the teams in this conference (eight) have one victory or less. Just as damning, only four teams have a winning record -- Houston (4-0), Baltimore (3-1), Cincinnati (3-1) and San Diego (3-1). That's it. We expect the Chargers to fall back, and New England -- and perhaps Denver -- to ascend. Otherwise, mediocre and bad teams abound.
5. The battle for Pennsylvania
It's been years since the Philadelphia Eagles were kings of the Pennsylvania hills. In all likelihood, the 3-1 Eagles can cement that title for 2012 if they defeat the 1-2 host Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon.
STOCK GOING UP
In a 30-10 Week 1 loss in Houston, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill looked for all the world like the raw rookie the experts said he was coming out of Texas A&M: zero TDs, three interceptions. He made slow but steady progress against the Raiders and Jets, then riddled a good Cardinals secondary for 431 yards -- an NFL record for rookies on the road.
STOCK GOING DOWN
The Seattle Seahawks defence might still be one of the NFL's best. But six days after an emotional Hail Mary win over Green Bay, the Seahawks D had to continue helping rookie QB Russell Wilson by doing what the Bears did the week before -- relentlessly harass Rams QB Sam Bradford. But Seattle sacked him only twice, and St. Louis eked out a 19-13 win.
ON THE HOT SEAT
Granted, New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez has no running game to speak of and hardly anyone to throw to. But since lighting it up in Week 1 against Buffalo, Sanchez has completed only 44% of his passes for just 547 yards (182 yards per game) and two TDs vs. three picks.
HYPE WE'RE BUYING
Washington's sensational rookie backfield tandem of QB Robert Griffin III and RB Alfred Morris get better by the week. They combined for 479 total yards Sunday in Tampa. When the Bucs took their first lead with 1:42 left, RGIII zipped the Skins right down the field to set up a game-winning FG.
HYPE WE'RE NOT
The San Diego Chargers. They're 3-1, but the victories have come against lowly Oakland, Kansas City and Tennessee (3-9 combined). In their other game, the Chargers were crushed at home by Atlanta, 27-3. Philip Rivers and Co. put up only 293 total yards on the Chiefs. Much better foes await.
The Giants got greedy at Philly Sunday night. Down 19-17 in the final 30 seconds at the Eagles' 26, the Giants were well within Lawrence Tynes' range. But Eli Manning threw a bomb to Ramses Barden, who was flagged for offensive pass interference. Tynes' 54-yard FG was short. Woulda been best to try the 43-yarder.
Up 21-14 in Arizona with under three minutes left, Miami coaches called for rookie QB Ryan Tannehill to throw on second-and-long. But Tannehill was hit hard and fumbled. The Cards then marched 51 yards for the tying score (barely), and won in OT. Miami shoulda played it safe there, then punted. No way Kevin Kolb marches the Cards 80-90 yards for the tying score.
With any semblance of a late-game pass defence, the Bucs coulda been 3-1 right now. As it is, after two late-game, give-back losses in three weeks -- to the Giants and Redskins -- Greg Schiano's team is 1-3. And surely frustrated.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
Detroit Lions special-teams coach Danny Crossman. How was it even possible, a week after allowing the Titans to score both a punt-return TD and a kickoff-return TD, that Crossman's coverage units allowed the Vikings to pull the same dang double trick?
HERO OF THE WEEK
Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan. He truly has joined the elite QBs club. In the final minute Sunday, down one to the Panthers, and from his own one-yard line, Ryan launched a rocket to one of his two star WRs, Roddy White, a ball that traveled more than 60 yards in the air. White hauled it in -- pass of the year so far. A few plays later, Matt Bryant booted the winning FG.
ZERO OF THE WEEK
Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. How does his defence allow the Patriots to score TDs on six consecutive possessions? Here's a radical thought: Change your defence! Run blitz! Pass blitz! Anything different!