Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 9: Colts fans are quite ... lucky

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Here's a surprise: right now the Colts are 5-3. Here's a bigger surprise: if the season ended today, Indy would meet the Broncos, also 5-3 and leading the AFC West, in the first round of the playoffs.

But this is just mind-blowing: through nine weeks of the season Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck have the exact same number of passing yards. Both quarterbacks are sitting at 2,404 yards following their teams' respective wins on Sunday.

Denver fans should be thankful for the addition of Manning, obviously, but it's Indy fans that should truly appreciate the good fortune they've had recently with quarterbacks.

When Indy drafted Manning first overall in 1998, he started every single game for them up until the beginning of 2011. It appears they're starting a similar run with Luck, who broke the single-game rookie record for passing yards in Sunday's victory, tossing for 433 yards.

There's no telling if Luck will manage to start 208 games over the course of 12-straight years. That sort of forecasting doesn't exist. But it's quite obvious that he's going to be a superstar in the NFL and that it won't take long for him to achieve that status. Considering that Indianapolis needed just a single 16-game stretch of putridity in order to bridge the gap between a lock-job Hall of Famer like Manning and a blossoming franchise quarterback like Luck, well, fans of the team should consider themselves fortunate.

Many franchises in the NFL struggle to ever find one great quarterback. The Colts landed two in a row. Here's hoping the football gods figure out a way to have them meet in the postseason.

Atlanta Dangerfields
Why isn't anyone respecting the Falcons? OK, let me rephrase that because everyone is begrudgingly sticking them atop power rankings around the web. But no one thinks they're going to win the Super Bowl, and why doesn't anyone think they're going undefeated?

Seriously. No one is asking this. Until now anyway. Why can't the Falcons go undefeated? Because they can. They've had close games against several teams this year, but that's football, folks.

Of their four road games, two are in domes, against the Lions and Saints. They'll play the Buccaneers and Panthers outside. Atlanta gets the freefalling Cardinals in two weeks and the Giants on December 16th. Other than that and Detroit, it's just divisional games.

The Giants are the only team on that schedule, by the way, with a winning record. That's a pretty cushy setup for a team without a loss on the season.

The Falcons do so much so well on offense that they're not going to be out of any games they play. I'd expect the Saints, Bucs and Panthers to make a run at them at least once. Winning out won't be easy. But this time last year we were wondering if the Packers would lose, not when. Everyone simply expects Atlanta to lose at some point, and I'm not sure

Reggie Bush Reignites An Argument?
This is going to sound crazy, but is it possible that Reggie Bush and his performance since moving to Miami will make us rethink the way we perceive the 2006 NFL Draft?

Clearly Bush was a bust to some degree for the Saints, because they eventually traded him and, even though they won a Super Bowl while he was in New Orleans, he never accomplished what they thought he would.

But watch what Bush did against the Colts on Sunday ...

And tell me you're not reminded of his USC playing days. That run shouldn't be humanly possible and yet, it's right there, joysticking my mind numb every time I watch it.

With the way Mario Williams is playing this way, and with how poorly he's underperforming in relation to his contract, is it worth revisiting whether or not he was the right pick? Clearly "Mario with the Texans" > "Bush with the Saints." And it's too early to flip their careers and pass out the mea culpas to Bush. But the dude's reinventing himself in Miami and he's still got the same old moves that made him such an appealing pick.

A few more weeks, months and, gulp, years like this for Bush and Williams and there's a real good chance we'll rethink what seemed so obvious just a year ago.

The Muscle Hampster
Investing heavily in running backs isn't smart. But the decision of Mark Dominek to trade up into the back end of the first round and snag the diminutive Doug Martin is looking like a stroke of genius.

Martin, after a monster 251-yard, four-touchdown effort, joins an exclusive club of high-rushing rookies, as he's just the fourth player to rush for 250 yards or more in a single game in his first season. Martin's also just the 12th player in NFL history to cross the 250-yard plateau and by most accounts, he posted what is a top-five day in fantasy football history.

In league's that don't have bonuses for yardage plateaus or longer touchdowns or receptions, Martin posted 51.2 fantasy points; in one league I'm in that does have bonuses, he popped up 68.2.

The man they call the "Muscle Hampster" became the first running back since 1940 to score three touchdowns on runs of 45 yards or more. He shredded the Raiders defense and he might already be one of the best all-around running backs in the NFL. Martin can physically pound the ball, he's capable of catching plenty of passes out of the backfield, and he's an excellent blocker.

There's little chance that Martin -- or anyone -- can beat out Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but let's go ahead and make this clear: as of right now, he should be in the middle of the conversation. He already has 1,039 yards from scrimmage and with 794 rushing yards, he's second in the NFL. Don't wait too long to include him in the great rookie chatter.

Vikings, Cardinals Stumbling
Remember the halcyon days of the undefeated Cardinals? Goodness that feels like so long ago. Arizona's now losers of five-straight games and looks for the most part completely inept on the offensive end of things. The Vikings, losers of two-straight games, are in a similar spot, quickly losing their Cinderella luster.

Minnesota, at 5-4, is in much better shape than Arizona, simply because they have Adrian Peterson on their roster. But there are questions about benching Christian Ponder who is one of five quarterbacks (Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Matt Cassel and Matt Hasselbeck are the others) with one or less completion of 40-plus yards. That's bad company to be in. Ponder has a pair of games in the last three weeks with less than 75 yards passing.

The idea of the Cardinals making the playoffs is laughable at this point, with three of four games after their Week 10 bye being on the road. Minnesota might find itself in a similar position soon too: they get the suddenly warm Lions in Week 10, followed by their bye and then trips to the Bears and Packers after that.

The bell is starting to toll midnight for some NFC Cinderellas.

Hot Seats Are So Hot Right Now
Last week I wrote about some of the hotter seats in the NFL. Ron Rivera, Romeo Crennel and Norv Turner are still very much in the crosshairs, but there are some folks joining them.

Mike Munchak was put on notice by Bud Adams following Sunday's embarrassing blowout loss to the Bears, with the Titans owner telling Jim Wyatt of The Tennesseean that his team was "grossly outcoached" and that "all aspects of the organization will be closely evaluated" over the remainder of the season.

"In my 50 years of owning an NFL franchise, I am at a loss to recall a regular season home game that was such a disappointment for myself, and fans of the Titans," Adams said. “We were grossly outcoached and outplayed from start to finish today.

“At this time, all aspects of the organization will be closely evaluated, including front office, coaches and players over the next seven games. If performance and competitiveness does not improve, I will look at all alternatives to get back to having the Titans become a playoff and championship football team."

The Titans were whipped up and down the field all day long so it's not shocking to see Adams angry. It's just crazy to think how quickly a coach and organization can go from treading water to potentially being set on fire. With two games against the lowly Jaguars remaining, Munchak best not finish with anything less than five or six wins ... or else.

Speaking of the Jags ... guh. Shad Khan's got to make some moves in the offseason right? Mike Mularkey's quarterback magic isn't working on Blaine Gabbert, the defense is a total trainwreck, they can't get going at at home and they look just dreadful right now. On the bright side, Justin Blackmon just caught his first touchdown pass of the season ... in Week 9?

Cleveland's inability to close out winnable games -- despite a dearth of talent -- might have Pat Shurmur sweating as well. Just like with Jacksonville, there's new ownership in charge now, and sweeping change is often something that comes with a new guy cutting the checks.

And then there's Dallas -- if Jerry Jones was really pounding on the locker room door and as happy as he seemed ... Jason Garrett

Bears Defensive Scoring
Chicago now has eight defensive and special-teams touchdowns on the year. That's worth a whopping 56 points. That's ridiculous.

"Our whole motto on defense is scoring," Tillman said after Sunday's game. "We practice it every day in practice. Every single day. Not the game. But practice."

Tillman then went on to bust the media's chops when no one laughed at his Iverson pun. But there's not much funny about having to play the Bears, who are absolute ballhawks right now. Tillman had four forced fumbles (!) on Sunday and Brian Urlacher managed to find the end zone.

At times Chicago's offense can stall out, and there's no guarantee they'll keep scoring a ton of points moving forward. Houston, San Francisco and Green Bay are all on the schedule coming up. Those teams won't hand out a pile of points like the Titans and Jaguars did to Chicago this year.

But if Chicago even hangs around slightly on their current pace, they're going to destroy the record for most defensive touchdowns in a season. And they might manage to outscore the Chiefs or Jaguars this season.


I freaking love these Redskins uniforms. Almost as much as a ref getting a football to the grill.

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