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. No Pick-Six Podcast this week because of Sandy, but go ahead and subscribe via iTunes.
As November approaches, the weather is cooling off but there is nothing chilly about some of the coaching seats around the NFL right now. Bad losses in the early games by a group of teams notably produced some uncomfortable situations for Norv Turner, Ron Rivera and Andy Reid.
Turner's team, coming off their bye, traveled to Cleveland and scored six points. Six! The weather was miserable, but that's no excuse for being completely unprepared and generating 265 total yards of offense and only a pair of field goals. San Diego was unable to get anything going in the passing game; Ronnie Brown ended up as their leading receiver. That is not a good thing. When Philip Rivers actually hit on his passes, guys like Robert Meachem coughed up easy touchdown passes. Ryan Mathews ran 24 times for 95 yards ... but why didn't he carry it more? Perhaps it was his early-game fumble, but the Bolts are so desperate they didn't consider yanking him.
It's long been thought that Turner's teams struggle in September, but over the past two seasons the Chargers have started well and gone into a swoon in the middle of October. Last season it resulted in six-straight losses. If that happens again in 2012 -- and we're halfway there now -- it's hard to imagine Norv surviving to the end of the year. He certainly doesn't have the public's support; #FireNorv was trending nationally on Twitter Sunday afternoon. It appears the football gods have abandoned him. Literally.
Thou shall #FireNorv.— NFL Jesus (@NFLJesus) October 28, 2012
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora wrote about Rivera's hot seat before the Bears game, and even though the Panthers nearly beat one of the NFL's tougher teams on the road, they ended up gagging away a 19-7 fourth-quarter lead. Cam Newton's continued struggles, the utter lack of a power running game despite the presence of the Jonathan Stewart/DeAngelo Williams combo and some flummoxing end-of-game decisions are not setting things up well for Rivera.
His refusal to kick to Devin Hester stands out as bizarre from Sunday. Hester's dangerous, obviously, but on Carolina's final punt, Brad Nortman shanked his punt in an effort to avoid Hester, with the result being a six-yard punt. Nortman averaged 25.7 yards per punt on the day and if you think field position didn't help the Bears come back, you're crazy.
The logical conclusion is that Rivera gets the rest of the year to show some improvement with the Panthers. But the Panthers go to Washington in Week 9. If Newton and the offense struggle against a banged-up Redskins defense and Robert Griffin III looks sensational, would it be that stunning to see Jerry Richardson lose it and bring out the ax on Rivera at 1-7? I don't think. One hint on this could be what happens with Williams -- if a GM-less team peddles him for pennies on the dollar before the deadline, it sure has the makings of a serious shake-up.
And then there's Reid: he just lost his first game out of the bye, the Eagles are 3-4 and Reid might be turning to Nick Foles soon. The idea of benching a $100-million quarterback for a completely untested rookie in the middle of a make-or-break season is ludicrous. And Reid might do it, which should tell you precisely the level of concern he has for his job security.
Imagining the Eagles without Reid running them is difficult to do, but it might be a reality. Their offense continues to be inconsistent and sloppy. Their personnel decisions aren't paying off on defense; Nnamdi Asomugha was torched by Julio Jones on Sunday. Firing Juan Castillo wasn't the answer, because Atlanta shredded the Eagles defense. Benching Vick doesn't solve the issues either and playing a rookie quarterback instead of the guy making $100 million isn't going to suddenly turn this season around or make the offensive line start blocking better.
The issue might actually be Reid and it's possible that the Eagles could end up deciding whether or not he's fit to run Philly at this point. Unless he can rip off a winning streak, there's a good chance we'll find out.
Speaking of hot seats
Romeo Crennel should probably be sweating his gig as well as Scott Pioli. The Chiefs, with their loss to the Raiders on Sunday, became the first team since 1940 to play their first seven games of the season without holding a lead in regulation.
Think about that for a second, pick up your jaw and think about it some more. Whether it's Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn under center is irrevelant; the Chiefs, who scored one offensive touchdown in the month of October (a garbage pass to Dexter McCluster late on Sunday), are a dumpster fire on offense.
Jamaal Charles, their best offensive player and one of the more dynamic running backs in football, was given five carries in the loss and no one, including Crennel seems to understand why.
"Now, that I'm not exactly sure either," Crennel said when asked about Charles workload.
I suggested on Twitter that KC should just roll with a Wildcat offense featuring Charles and Dexter McCluster. The more I think about it, the less sarcastic and the more sensible that actually becomes.
Peyton Manning for MVP?
It's early so we don't have to set the MVP award in stone just yet. But Peyton Manning is, quite incredibly, making a pretty good case for himself eight weeks into the season.
He has 2,113 passing yards (fourth in the NFL), has completed 68.5 percent of his passes (third), thrown 17 touchdown passes (tie-second), just four picks and is averaging over 300 yards per game.
Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers will spend the next few weeks staking a claim to the award and Ryan might have the best resume of anyone with the Falcons at 7-0 right now. But to see the way Peyton's throwing the ball this soon after multiple neck surgeries, and to see how he's transforming the Broncos this year is simply phenomenal.
You can pencil him in for Comeback Player of the Year already, but if he continues on this pace it might not be the only hardware he scores.
Don't be fooled by the narrative
When Tony Romo throws four interceptions and the Cowboys lose late at home to the Giants, you're probably going to get some "Romo's not clutch" and "Cowboys are chokers" stories. It's the nature of the business. But don't be fooled by this tired old narrative again.
Romo did a fantastic job leading the Cowboys back from a 23-0 deficit (even if he happened to help create the deficit in the first place) and even tho
"It's a hard league, it's a hard position," Garrett said Sunday after the loss. "When you look around the league, this is not the first time a quarterbacks have thrown interception in games. I was really proud how he responded and brought our team back to give us a great chance to win that ballgame at the end."
And that's the thing: it's easy to get sucked into simply blaming Romo. But it makes no sense. If Dez Bryant's hand is in-bounds on the final Hail Mary, Romo would be hailed as a hero and the Cowboys would be labeled a dangerous team that might've just overcome their inability to beat the Giants.
But Dez was out and that leaves some wiggle room to pin everything on Romo. He didn't play a perfect game -- or even close to it -- but laying it all on him is silly. Just be warned when it happens.
The Bears offense can struggle to score sometimes. But you know who doesn't struggle to score? The Chicago defense.
Through seven games, the Bears D has a whopping six interceptions returned for touchdowns, the most ever through that time span in NFL history. Their success is largely due to the fact that, right now, Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are the best cornerback duo in the NFL.
Many would argue the Seahawks combo of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are better and that's fine (Pro Football Focus rates each of them higher, actually, but all four are top eight). But you see what Tillman did to Calvin Johnson in Week 7 and then see how Jennings was able to turn a slip-up from Steve Smith into a game-changing pick to the house and it's hard not to give the Bears the top spot.
"It's body type," Smith said about putting Jennings on Smith. "It's as simple as that."
Jennings was fairly humble about the pick-six ... Smith not so much. The Panthers wide receiver said he was "kicking his ass" prior to the slip.
"I know you want to pump him up," Smith said. "I've been kicking his ass every time I've come up here and today no was different. Do you disagree? I didn't think so."
Smith finished with a nice game, but the majority of his yards came on a single 47-yard catch. That play still only resulted in a field goal because the Panthers were unable to convert in the red zone. That's because of the Bears defense, and much of their stout play this season should be credited to the fact that their cornerbacks are the best duo in the NFL.
Strangers in the Race
It's stunning to me to head over to our NFL Playoff Race page (updating constantly!) and look at the AFC Wild Cards through the first two weeks. Because if you predicted the Dolphins and Colts would be tracking to make the postseason almost halfway through the season, you'd be lying.
But there they are, holding down the wild-card spots, and it's because of rookie quarterbacks, which makes it even more amazing.
Rookie quarterbacks can make the playoffs, but almost always, they've got to have a great defense or a strong running game to help them. The Dolphins have a bit of both, but Ryan Tannehill's been a revelation for them and Joe Philbin deserves a world of credit for the job he's done.
In Indy, though, it's all Andrew Luck. He's been as-advertised thus far through the season, helping the Colts to a 4-3 record despite serious defensive struggles and not being able to lean on a running game or an offensive line.
The best part? These two teams are headed for a stunningly important Week 9 showdown next Sunday.
GIF O' THE WEEK
Vick Ballard's effort at the end of the Colts game did not go unnoticed.
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