Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Listen to the Week 4 Pick-Six Podcast recap below (go ahead and subscribe via iTunes for future episodes too!) and don't forget to check out Pro Football 360 every day at 3 p.m. ET.
1. You Won't Like Tom Brady When He's Angry
There's an epic GIF of Tom Brady shortly after he ran for a touchdown pass, mouthing "F--- you, b----es" to the Bills crowd that was booing his score. Though you can't see him, Wes Welker is laughing hysterically at Brady's swearing.
And it's hard to blame him, but there's nothing funny about an angry Tom Brady. I (incorrectly) said all week long the Bills would beat the Patriots, everyone would write New England off and Brady would come out and eviscerate the Broncos and his rival Peyton Manning. Turns out, I was kind of correct: Brady got pissed a lot earlier than I expected and he went on a tear. The Bills led 14-7 at halftime and the Pats hung 31 on them ... in the fourth quarter.
Brady is mad and it doesn't matter how the defense is playing. The last time this happened, New England was coming off a loss to the Browns, people were trying to bury the Pats dynasty (sigh) and then Tom Terrific went out and terrified the Steelers on Halloween. Brady didn't throw an interception the rest of the season, heaved 22 more touchdowns and won the MVP as the Pats waltzed to a 14-2 record.
I feel confident we're going to see something similar from Brady when he gets an unexpected rematch against Manning in a different uniform. It's hard to project the rest of the season, especially when New England's defense is suddenly struggling, but if you can get anything remotely resembling good odds on an AFC East division-title bet, you should put your house on it. Brady's about to go nuts, trust me.
2. Hello, Kitty
Nothing draws the attention of criticism in the NFL quite like a decision on a fourth-and-one. But make no mistake, Ron Rivera and the Panthers coaching staff deserve every bit of second-guessing for their call not to go for a fourth-and-one late against the Falcons in a game they ultimately lost.
That the Panthers punted the ball down to the Falcons one-yard line is irrelevant. In fact, it's also irrelevant that Atlanta won the game. The only thing that matters is the decision and it was a bad one.
Carolina led 28-27 with 1:51 to go when Cam Newton ran the ball on third-and-two, picked up a first down, fumbled and had Mike Tolbert recover behind the first-down marker. The Panthers were left with a fourth-and-one from the 50 and somehow decided not to go for it. Going for the first is the smart decision in almost any situation, but it's magnified a million times over when you've invested millions and millions of dollars in the running game and have a quarterback who picks up a yard just by falling forward with even the slightest momentum.
Please do not defend the situation simply because Carolina punted to the one: if you ran a list of pros for the Panthers roster, it would be a picture of Cam smiling and DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart/Mike Tolbert gleefully rolling around in piles of $100 bills.
If you wanted to do a presentation on the list of cons, you could simply show a picture of the defense. What would possess you not to run the ball there if you're Ron Rivera? There are probably 10 play calls -- play-action rollout to Cam, quarterback sneak, running one of your three talented running backs up the middle, etc., et al -- that would've gotten a half-yard. The outcome is irrelevant to the decision, and in this case, the decision should make you very angry if you're a Panthers fan.
3. Signature drive for RG3
Most Redskins fans would've preferred Steve Stricker lining up to kick the game-winning field goal against the Buccaneers instead of Billy Cundiff. But Cundiff redeemed himself from earlier in the day, sunk the kick and helped to build on the legacy of Robert Griffin III, who completed his first game-winning drive.
And Griffin completed that drive in impressive fashion, going 4-4 (not including a spike, obviously) for 46 yards and rushing for another 15. Greg Schiano and the Buccaneers handed him the ball with 1:42 left on the clock and Griffin marched down the field and set up Washington for a game-winning score.
It sure doesn't look like the Redskins will win many games. Their defense has been ravaged by injury and they need more weapons on the offensive end. I've said comparing RG3 to Cam Newton is lazy and I still agree, but I think there's one more thing he showed on Sunday: Washington is going to be a team you want to watch all season. If only because of their quarterback's incredible talent.
4. Hope in Miami
At 1-3, there's not a lot to love about the Dolphins. But no one other than Karlos Dansby expected much out the 'Fins this year, and having seen the way Ryan Tannehill played on Sunday in a tough loss to the still-but-just-barely-undefeated Cardinals, perhaps there's a little room for hope.
Tannehill made a terrible interception late that allowed Arizona to take things to overtime (his second pick of the day) and he threw only one touchdown. But he also came darn close to breaking Cam Newton's record for most passing yards in a single game by a rookie, coming up just a yard shy of Newton's 432-yard record.
To put that in a more impressive context: Tannehill was only 102 yards shy of equaling the combined total for Michael Vick and Tom Brady in the previous two weeks against Arizona.
Brian Hartline wasn't bad either, setting a Dolphins record for receiving yards by hauling in 12 passes for 253 yards. No one's going to mistake him a true No. 1 wideout, but in a contract year, why can't he turn into a poor man's version of Jordy Nelson? Yes, I'm sorry for the Caucasian comparison, but there are some viable similarities (size and speed, notably), along with the fact that that they both worked with Joe Philbin.
The Dolphins aren't going to win the AFC East, even though a victory would've put them in a four-way tie for first, but they're not going to be nearly as bad as people thought. And Tannehill is starting to provide the first glimpse of signal-calling hope for Miami since my esteemed colleague Dan Marino took snaps in South Beach.
5. Harbaugh Trolls the Jets
Not a good day for the Jets. The 49ers skunked them and one thing became evident: grounding and pounding won't do you much good if you can't keep a relatively tame offense from scoring.
Oh, I'm sorry. I shouldn't call the 49ers tame. After all, they have Colin Kaepernick, who the 49ers used in exotic offensive packages that could be called, if you're so inclined to be stubborn about football terminology, the wildcat.
Do you know how many [blank]ing ounces of virtual ink were spilled discussing the Jets offense this offseason? I don't, but I'm guessing it was roughly 12 billion. Every hour of every morning of every day featured some stupid coverage of the Jets offense, as if using the wildcat was going to flummox defensive coordinators and change the way the NFL works.
Um, whenever you're ready, Tony Sparano. Thankfully, Jim Harbaugh really seems to be a funny jerk, and he decided to bust out a little funkified offense on the Jets just for trolling's sake.
What you see above isn't actually the wildcat (it's actually a read option run out of the pistol formation), but it's close enough to make me chuckle heartily while thinking about Rex Ryan and Sparano watching the film this week. Harbaugh should be smiling only when he checks out the film, as the 49ers returned to a dominant-looking team after taking a week off in Minnesota. They've never lost back-to-back games under Harbaugh. That's an impressive feat, and almost as impressive as trolling the Jets.
6. Return of the refs
Strong day for the regular refs. I backed the replacements in the early going, but, man, we didn't know what we had wrong. (Or maybe some of you did. Whatever.) The whole process of watching football was more "normal," if you will.
There weren't bizarre, game-changing calls. There weren't 20-minute huddles to figure out what was going on. There was a little more predictablity to the day, and that's not always a good thing. But it was totally worth it to have everyone not spending the entire day on Twitter complaining about every single flag like it was the end of the world.
Some mistakes were made -- CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman detailed Jeff Triplette's screw-ups in Green Bay/New Orleans -- but overall it's hard to hate on the work the regular guys did. Getting back to business in a strong fashion is something they should go back and document, too, because at some point they'll find themselves in another labor dispute with the NFL. Being able to point out the substantial improvement in officiating wouldn't be a bad thing.
7. Vikings get physical, Lions worst in NFC North
People in the comments of the Weekly NFL Grades apparently think I was either too generous to the Vikings (A) or too mean on the Lions (D). Actually, one person did say I was too nice to Detroit, but the majority of the opinions fall into the two aforementioned categories.
What I saw, though, was a Minnesota team that continued setting the tone they started in Week 3 when they stunned the 49ers. Josh Robinson and Harrison Smith are helping to change the identity of one of the NFL's worst secondaries by becoming dangerous, hard-hitters on a previously soft unit. Jared Allen isn't the only guy who cares on that unit anymore.
Christian Ponder's still the "worst" quarterback in the NFC North, but I'm not sure the Vikings are the worst team anymore: they definitely showed finishing third is a possibility, and I'm not entirely sure they're that much worse than the Bears, especially when the bad Bears show up. It's quite possible that Minnesota ends up being closer to the team that need OT to beat Jacksonville and the team that lost to Indy rather than the Vikings we've seen in the last two weeks. But the way they've handled their business the last two weeks should make people sit up and take notice.
8. KC's Quarterback Market
I tweeted a bunch about this on Saturday night (pontificating the draft market is what happens when you're at a wedding with your wife and multiple friends and none of the other husbands show up, you bunch of jerks), but I think it's going to be fascinating to see what happens with the 2013 NFL Draft.
Matt Barkley and Geno Smith are the only ones putting up some silly numbers, but the guys at NFLDraftScout.com still have five guys who could land in the first-round range. Here's the problem: just about everyone in the NFL's already invested in a quarterback. Run through the teams in the league and you'll see that more than 90 percent of the teams in the NFL either a) have a "guy," b) recently signed someone to a contract, or c) recently used a first-round pick on someone.
Only the Chiefs and the Jets stick out. And, yes, regime changes in the front office could totally change things, but I can't actually see a hypothetical new GM in Cleveland burning back-to-back first-round picks on quarterbacks. Not if he's good at his job anyway.
And on the heels of the egg that Matt Cassel laid against San Diego, it's increasingly clear that the Chiefs need a new guy. (The Jets do too, but Rex Ryan won't admit that.) Given that there won't -- and almost can't -- be many teams willing to burn a first-round pick on a quarterback, it's quite possible that Scott Pioli (or a hypothetical news GM) could land a quality quarterback in the second round. Ultimately, teams won't pass on elite talent up top, but the recent surprising purge of quarterbacks near the top of the draft -- Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, etc -- could result in a serious drop for some talented quarterbacks come draft day in 2013. It's something to watch as teams begin to identify whether or not they have a competent signal caller moving forward.
9. Peyton Manning hushes the haters
It was only the Raiders. And the Broncos are only 2-2. But Denver's only one game back of San Diego, and Peyton's had a pair of games this season, along with chunks of the two others he's played in, where he looked like the Manning of old.
He's still 36, and he's still recovering from neck surgery. It would be nuts if he came out and put up MVP numbers every single week. That wasn't going to happen any more than Adrian Peterson was going to rush for 200 yards every week coming off an big knee injury.
And the Raiders defense is bad. There's no explaining how Oakland came back on Pittsburgh last week. But Manning was good. He threw mostly short, but also took some shots down the field, didn't throw a pick, only had eight incompletions, and led some lengthy drives that should put to rest any major questions about whether he can win games.
Remember, he's 2-2 now, but the teams that he lost to are currently 8-0. Losing to Atlanta and Houston shouldn't result in people wondering whether Manning's healthy, but it's the nature of this business to question someone when they lose, and sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees.
It doesn't matter much now, though, because Manning appears to be seeing things quite fine.
10. Tebow Talk Will Ruin Your Life
The fact that Mark Sanchez struggled -- badly -- against the 49ers shouldn't surprise you. Lots of people struggle against the 49ers. The worst is that, as Freeman wrote from New York, the talk of Tim Tebow is going to begin.
Let's look at some facts real quick. The Jets have no skill-position talent, and they have even less after a "foot" injury (really?) to Santonio Holmes. The 49ers are possibly the best defensive team in the NFL. The Jets are 2-2 and tied for the AFC East lead.
None of these things should lead you to the conclusion that Tebow should start for Rex Ryan, which is precisely why Rex quashed any quarterback controversy following the Jets loss on Sunday.
Granted, there's a very good chance that, at some point, the Jets will eventually turn to Tebow. Sanchez struggling could cause that. He was great against the Bills and terrible against the Steelers, Dolphins and 49ers. But the Jets have much bigger issues than the quarterback position.
Tebow will not solve whatever ails them. Nothing short of the backup magically healing Darrelle Revis' ACL will do that. So, please, do not buy into the week-long media trainwreck that will be the Tebow watch. It's nonsensical, and feeding the bears will only result in pain and continual use of bears eating people as a source of entertainment.
GIF O' THE WEEK
There truly were some notable entrants for this contest this week. But I can't look past Vince Wilfork "defending" a pass against the Bills.