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 Pick-Six Podcast below and go ahead and subscribe via iTunes.
Russell Wilson Unleashed
Here is a list of quarterbacks that are taller than Russell Wilson: Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo. Wait, sorry. Wrong list. That's actually a list of quarterbacks Wilson's beaten this year. All this despite the many complaints that he's too short to play in the NFL, and the constant moaning of Seahawks fans that Pete Carroll needs to give Matt Flynn some run. Newsflash: he doesn't.
Carroll finally took the training wheels off his rookie quarterback on Sunday against the Patriots and the results -- the 24-23 win notwithstanding -- were superb. Wilson went 16-of-27 for 293 yards and three touchdowns, two of which were beautiful deep bombs that showed off his true ability as a pure passer.
Wilson averaged 10.85 yards per attempt and spent the fourth quarter engineering a remarkable comeback against one of the better teams in the NFL, throwing a pair of final-period touchdown strikes and a number of different deep balls against the New England secondary.
The chemistry he showed with Braylon Edwards on the 4th-and-3 touchdown was impressive (Wilson threw the ball where it couldn't be picked and Edwards made a perfect adjustment), but not nearly as impressive as the 46-yard bomb to Sidney Rice later in the quarter.
This was the first time Carroll and Darrell Bevell really let Wilson loose, but it shouldn't be the last. Seattle's defense is unquestionably elite and Marshawn Lynch is one of the better backs in the NFL. Letting Wilson -- the first rookie since the merger to toss two different game-winning touchdowns in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter -- air it out a bit will only maximize Seattle's efficiency on the ground and make them a more balanced team.
The complaints about Wilson were always a little silly; people either pointed to his interceptions without realizing that many weren't his fault or lamented him not being a deep-play threat, without realizing that the Seahawks were being uber-conservative with the way they handled him.
Acting like Wilson, who completed 52.4 percent of his passes over 15 yards in 2011 at Wisconsin, couldn't make the deep throw is just dumb. He was incredibly dangerous out of play-action over the course of his career, and that fits what Seattle wants to do to a tee.
It's not like Flynn, highly unproven other than a few late-season games with Green Bay over the past two years, was going to step in and turn a low-key offense into Packers 2.0. Is the signing a waste? Sure, maybe. Seattle probably wishes they hadn't bothered grabbing Flynn at this point. But they did, and they followed it up by drafting Wilson. Wilson won the job and as much as some fans want to think otherwise, he's done what's necessary to keep it too.
Here's the added bonus for Seattle fans: once defenses have to respect Wilson, it'll make Lynch's job easier. And once Lynch's job gets easier, everything will fall into the place for the Seahawks, particularly in the play-action attack.
Even if Carroll and Bevell don't keep letting the rookie cut it loose, Wilson at the very least proved on Sunday that there's no need for Flynn to be anything more than a $6 million seat-warmer for the immediate future.
Another Historical Rookie Season
Speaking of talented rookie quarterbacks ... I could probably watch Robert Griffin III's 76-yard, game-sealing, yeah-I'm-looking-back-at-you touchdown run on repeat forever. Thanks to technology, that's entirely possible:
Putting aside for a second the notion of the Redskins taking over first place with a win against the Giants next week, we need to recognize what Griffin is doing this season, because it's amazing. My boss, a Redskins fan, likes to point out that RG3 > Cam Newton. He's (mostly) joking, but he might be onto something.
Break down Griffin's numbers this year and extrapolate them out over the course of a season, and he'll finish with 3,581 passing yards, 1,040 rushing yards, 16 rushing touchdowns and 13.33 passing touchdowns.
Last year, I wrote that Cam's rookie year was the greatest of all time. I still maintain that, despite the luster being lost because of his struggles in 2012. But Cam didn't throw for 3,500 yards and rush for over a 1,000.
Here's a list of people who have done that in NFL history. No the link isn't broken. It's never been done before.
Shrink the parameters if you want: only Randall Cunningham threw for 3,000 yards and rushed for 750 in a season before. And only Michael Vick and Cunningham have thrown for 2,500 yards and rushed for 750 in a season. (Cam threw for 4,000 and rushed for 700.) But none of those guys completed 70 percent of their passes or finding the end zone with their feet the way Griffin is in 2012.
Enjoy it, because it's incredibly impressive to watch.
Lions Waking Up?
All year long, the Lions have been nothing short of lethargic. It's like we all forget about their offseason issues and got confused at their inability to win games and/or look competent playing football. Their two biggest strengths -- the defensive line and the passing game -- were unimpressive.
And then suddenly, with about five minutes left in the game, it's like the Lions emerged from a several-month blackout and decided to start playing football. Following Jeremy Maclin's 70-yard score with just over five minutes remaining in the game, the Lions ran 24 plays for 180 yards and scored 13 points. The Eagles ran six plays for negative 15 yards, scored zero points and held the ball for less than three minutes.
It was a flurry of offense and defensive play and the kind of football that made the Lions such a compelling story in 2011. It also put their coach on the injury report.
Shoulder very sore. Too many fist pumps today. Proud of the team. Showed a lot of toughness.— Jim Schwartz (@jschwartzlions) October 14, 2012
Schwartz kind of wigged after the game, displaying the sort of antics that sent him after Jim Harbaugh during the handshake debacle of 2011.
Lucky for Schwartz, whose team moved to 2-3 after the overtime win, Andy Reid was probably too depressed to care. Also luckily for Schwartz, his team appears to have woken up before their the Lions became as relevant as a team from the Matt Millen era. Whether they can keep it rolling over the next few weeks remains to be seen, but the Bears (shoddy offensive line) and Seahawks (potentially, ahem, passive passing attack) are the type of teams that could be vulnerable to Detroit when they're clicking on all cylinders.
AFC East Boondoggle
Just when you think you've got everything figured out, you know nothing. At least this is how I feel about the AFC East in my head. The Patriots will still win the division; that doesn't concern me. But it's crazy that all four teams are tied at 3-3 for first place right now.
It's even crazier that with the Bills playing the Titans (at best a total toss-up) and the Dolphins on bye, the Jets could be in first place if they beat the Pats. Yeah, it's a lot to ask -- the game is in New England and the Pats are already installed as 10.5-point favorites -- but considering the entire world spent the last two weeks writing their eulogy, do you really want to count the Jets out?
Miami, as I wrote last week, could easily be sitting on one loss. The Jets are either really up or really down. The Bills are a trainwreck that sneak out wins when no one's paying attention. And the Patriots can't close teams out this season for some reason. Again, do you really want to count the Jets out?
Another Dallas Disaster
There was much ado about Dez Bryant's behavior towards the end of the Cowboys-Ravens game, which Baltimore won by the skin of their teeth. Yeah, Dez probably should've caught that two-point conversion. But the dude already had 13 catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns, so cut him some slack.
The real travesty for the Cowboys is what went down during the final half minute. With 26 seconds remaining, Romo hit Bryant on a slant, tried to stretch out for a first down. He foolishly pleaded with the ref for forward progress instead of sprinting back to the line of scrimmage. And the Cowboys, with one timeout and 22 seconds remaining, got off one more play: Dan Bailey's 51-yard field goal attempt.
How on earth that happens is beyond me -- I'd venture that 75 percent of the people who play Madden online are more capable of managing a two-minute warning then the Cowboys on Sunday, and that falls squarely on Jason Garrett and Tony Romo. Bang the timeout, run a quick play and spike the ball.
It can be any play too. Throw another slant, run up and spike it. Call a draw, run up and spike it. Throw an out, maybe squeeze in another play to get greedy. 22 seconds is an eternity when you've got a timeout, as long as you're not using it to set up a 51-yard field goal.
Stupid mistakes made by talented people is something we see far too often in Big D for anyone to ever trust them when things get hairy in the postseason. Sunday was another perfect example.
Best Defense in the AFC North Is ...
The Browns. No really -- with the return of Joe Haden, the Browns are sporting the best D in what used to be the most dangerous defensive division.
Mike Freeman did a great job of breaking down Baltimore's offense and their ability to save the defense from disaster, but man, their situation is bad. Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb might be gone for the season and that's coming on the heels of a pair of game where two teams -- the Chiefs and Cowboys -- without high-end offensive lines had their way with Baltimore in the running game.
The Steelers are, despite their protests, aging on defense. Pittsburgh might click just fine when they've got everyone back, but that hasn't been very often this season. They gave up game-winning drives to the Raiders and Titans. Nuff said.
So I'm giving the nod to the Browns. It's not necessarily a compliment to Cleveland so much as it's a knock on the division, but it might just be the case.
When the Jets Punt ...
Please stop being fooled by fakes everyone. Kudos to Rex Ryan for using Tim Tebow in smart fashion twice over the last two weeks with the result being a first-down conversion instead of handing the ball back. The fake run against the Texans on Monday didn't matter, but letting him pass for a first at the end of the first half was brilliant and crippling to the Colts chances Sunday.
It allowed the Jets to continue their drive and it resulted in a touchdown, making the score 21-6 at half. If Indy gets the ball back and can put any semblance of a drive together, they might go into half down 14-9 or 14-13.
For all the annoying hype and hoopla that surrounds Tebow, and for all the ridiculous statements Rex made this offseason about his new "personal punt protector," this was an instance where it dramatically altered the outcome of the game. Which is precisely why people should probably be on the lookout for the fake every time the Jets line up to punt.
About that Cardinals Bandwagon
Yeeeeeeaaaah. That was fun. And it might be over. Not to discount Ken Whisenhunt or anything, because he really does a lot more with less than most coaches. But it's hard to stay on this bandwagon, for a couple of reasons.
First, the division's tough. St. Louis is improved. Seattle is very good. San Francisco is, well, San Francisco. Second, Kevin Kolb's hurt. Normally that would be a good thing for the Cardinals, but he's been playing well with the exception of the last two weeks.
Most important, though, is the utter lack of offensive line. They were manhandled by the Rams last Thursday, and with 10 days to prepare, they gave up five sacks to the most uninspiring and overpriced defensive line in football. Mario Williams even sacked Kolb twice. Jay Feely and John Skelton gave them a chance to salvage a victory, but then stuck their hands in the jaws of defeat.
And with Minnesota (away), San Francisco (home) and Green Bay (away) coming up before the bye, things are starting to look kind of grim for the team that began the first four weeks as the biggest surprise in the NFL.
Your Power Rankings Are Worthless
The AFC East is but a microcosm of the parity in the NFL: there's no way that you can argue one way or another for a single club as the most dominant team in football right now. I'm notoriously on the Falcons bandwagon, so I'm thrilled to see them at 6-0, but they've run out of excuses for the close games the last three weeks. Tight with Carolina? Sure, they're in division. Close against the Redskins? Tough game on the road. Um, the Raiders? Trap game, anyone?
Eh, maybe. The Falcons head into their bye undefeated and they'll get the de facto top spot in most Power Rankings, but there's no reason to believe they can hammer any one else to any major degree. Look at the Texans, who got demolished on Sunday by the Packers, in Houston no less. That wasn't the Texans getting exposed; it was Aaron Rodgers doing Aaron Rodgers things.
The 49ers were hammered by the Giants (in San Francisco no less), but, just like the time the Niners lost to the Vikings, they're not exposed either. They can't play from behind and their offensive line was manhandled by the Giants front seven, forcing Alex Smith to try and win the game.
If you need further proof re: parity, take a look at the current NFL Playoff Picture as of Sunday night. The freaking Bills and Jets are in as wild cards in the AFC. There are only a few things we know right now: about six teams (Cleveland, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Carolina, Oakland and Kansas City) aren't making it into the playoffs. Though I wouldn't entirely put it past a couple of those squads to get hot and turn things around.
And the AFC is substantially weaker than the NFC. Other than that, it's wide open in the NFL.
GIF O' THE WEEK
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network was assigned to work the Texans-Packers game tonight. And he was just hanging out, doing his job, filing a lovely pregame report when LOOK OUT RAPSHEET.
WORTH 1,000 WORDS
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