FIVE STORIES TO WATCH
1. Renewal of the NFL's best (current) rivalry
That would be the Baltimore Ravens vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's mid-November and, of course, these two teams again are battling atop the AFC North. The Steelers host this one on Sunday night, with the return game only two weeks later. Enjoy.
2. Luck vs. Brady
Both Andrew Luck's Indy Colts and Tom Brady's New England Patriots are 6-3. The Pats host this game (moved to a 4:25 p.m. EST kickoff), and don't think the Colts can't win. After a decent start, the Pats' defence is reverting to 2011 form -- not a good thing. Yet Brady and the Patriots' offence are as prolific as ever. A shootout between the old man and the kid looms -- and would be cool.
3. Concussion discussions
The finger-waggers will be out in full force this week, after three starting quarterbacks were knocked dizzy on Sunday -- Jay Cutler (Chicago), Michael Vick (Philadelphia) and Alex Smith (San Francisco). We get it, it's an important issue. But participation in the sport at all levels is voluntary, last we checked. So is viewing.
4. Speaking of which ...
If you weren't already taking the under in next Monday night's Bears-at-Niners game, do it. If Cutler can't play for the Bears, nor Smith for the Niners, then considering how solid both defences are, another tie might loom in San Francisco. A scoreless tie this time. And we're only half joking.
With 18 of 32 NFL teams sporting a losing record after Week 10, and with most playoff spots in both conferences fast solidifying, the coaching hot seat will only grow more crowded as December approaches. Andy and Norv will have plenty of company soon enough.
STOCK GOING UP
The New Orleans Saints. After that awful 0-4 start, Drew Brees and Co. have won four of five. They play at dissolving Oakland this week. And they'd better win, because then come the 49ers, Falcons, Giants, Bucs and Cowboys, before finishing against the Panthers.
STOCK GOING DOWN
Everybody was praising Joe Philbin's Miami Dolphins and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill two weeks ago. Now, they've unravelled. In the past six quarters, the Fins have been outscored 47-6. And Tannehill has been picked three times.
ON THE HOT SEAT
New York Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. We're still of the belief Rex Ryan will keep his job as Jets head coach. But it's difficult to see Sparano keeping his. Seriously, could he be doing a worse job?
HYPE WE'RE BUYING
A few weeks ago, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers embarrassed the Houston Texans defence, thereby slapping a Texas-sized asterisk on the unit's previously impressive performances and low statistics. But after the Texans destroyed the Baltimore Ravens and held both the Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears touchdown-less, we're sold.
HYPE WE'RE NOT
One impressive win at Washington on Nov. 4 compelled hype-sters to pronounce that the Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton had shaken off the Kryptonite and was super again. Nope. He's sinking quickly into the middle of the pack of quarterbacks drafted the past two years.
That C.J. Spiller is still averaging more than seven yards per rush says one thing more anything else -- that the Buffalo Bills aren't using him enough. I woulda given him a lot more than the nine carries he had at New England.
The Chicago Bears coaches shoulda insisted that backup quarterback Jason Campbell not check down on virtually every pass play during the fourth quarter, when they trailed Houston 13-6. Chicago had no hope of scoring the tying touchdown like that.
The Detroit Lions coulda jumped squarely back into the playoff picture after their rough start if they'd beaten a short-handed, wobbling Minnesota Vikings team. But they couldn't even come close, really.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
The San Francisco 49ers placekicker might have tied the NFL record for longest field goal earlier this season (63 yards), but he pulled a game-winning 41-yarder in overtime against the Rams wide left, and is only seven of 13 beyond 39 yards this year.
HERO OF THE WEEK
The Minnesota Vikings great is proving he's the best running back in the NFL and just redefining how fast an athlete can return to peak performance after reconstructive ACL surgery -- not only that, but he almost single-handedly ran the Vikes to an important win over Detroit with 171 yards.
ZERO OF THE WEEK
The Giants offence
It is not panic time for the New York Giants -- they always seem to go into an all-units November funk. Yet it is still shocking how inept their offence has become the past three games. They've averaged 11 first downs and 264 total yards, and Eli Manning has thrown four interceptions against nary a touchdown pass.