CBSSports.com pro football writers Pete Prisco and Clark Judge face off weekly throughout the season.
|Pete Prisco||Clark Judge|
|Your choice: Ben Roethlisberger or Eli Manning?|
|That's like asking thin pizza or Sicilian. You can't go wrong with either. But I'd probably go with Roethlisberger. The reason is his toughness. He showed that off last Sunday night against the Jaguars. Even without any practice time, he was sensational on a sore shoulder. He took a ton of shots and stood in there and made the plays. He has a rocket for an arm and he's strong in the pocket. He probably doesn't have the decision-making powers that Manning has, but he's close. Roethlisberger does sometimes let his love of his arm get in the way. He makes mistakes. But the great ones always do; just ask Brett Favre. I'll take a risk-taker at quarterback over the play-it-safe guy any day. Both of these guys take risks. Roethlisberger lets it rip a little more, so right now I'd take Big Ben. But it's really, really close. Manning has established himself as a star. They are both now among the top seven quarterbacks in the game. With Tom Brady out, they are even higher.||A tough call, but give me Manning. I love Big Ben's resilience; the guy is tougher than last week's steak, and he makes few mistakes. He's the perfect fit for the Steelers, and he's a guy I'd take over almost anyone. But Manning is not anyone. I tilt ever so slightly toward him because he's a superior passer, especially down the field. He has a strong and accurate arm, and he can make plays with his feet. So can Roethlisberger, but Eli is becoming the quarterback the Giants envisioned when they gave away the store for him. Both these guys have won Super Bowls, and both are almost impossible to get out of the lineup. The knock on Manning was his inconsistency, but that's gone. Over his last nine games he has 16 touchdown passes, three interceptions, eight wins and one Super Bowl. That clinches it for me.|
|Bigger surprise: The Falcons at 3-2 or the Chargers at 2-3?|
|That's tough, but I'll have to go with the Falcons at 3-2. I really didn't think they would be as good as they've been. With a rookie starter at quarterback, I expected some growing pains. But they've run the ball and they've controlled the clock. One thing about the Falcons is that they are feisty. They don't back down from anybody. Just watching them you see a physical team that pushes the envelope when it comes to hitting close to the whistle. And that's OK. That's what they have to do. They're still a couple of years away from being a legitimate playoff contender, but one or two drafts will fix that. For now, they will be a handful for every team they face this season. As long as Matt Ryan continues to take care of the football and Michael Turner keeps ripping off the yards, they will be competitive. If they beat the Bears this week, they'll be 4-2. Can you believe it? Amazing.||The Falcons, but only by a nose. Were it not for Ed Hochuli, the Chargers would be 3-2, and we wouldn't be having this conversation. The Falcons, however, were viewed as a preseason doormat, pegged to win no more than four games. Now they're only a game out of first in a competitive division. Mike Smith should be commended. So should GM Tom Dimitroff. They had a plan, and it's working. They bought free-agent running back Michael Turner, and, in so doing, freed themselves to take a quarterback with the third pick of the draft. Good idea. I didn't foresee either of these two clubs having these starts, but at least the Chargers have been here before. They were 1-3 a year ago and made it to the AFC Championship Game. But Atlanta with a rookie quarterback? That win in Green Bay convinced me something is right with the Falcons.|
|What has happened to the Jaguars?|
|They can't stop anybody on third down and their passing game lacks any threat down the field. All offseason they talked about how they would amp up the passing game. Well, David Garrard's passer rating is way down and his yards-per-attempt is down over a yard from last season. They just don't threaten down the field. In turn, that leads to teams loading up against the run, which is why Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew can't shook loose, except for one game. Jerry Porter and Dennis Northcutt, their two high-priced receivers, have a combined six catches. Nobody stretches the field. Or at least tries it. On defense, they have eight sacks in five games. That's awful. That's a big reason why they are last in third-down defense, allowing teams to convert on 49 percent of their third downs. That will keep a lot of drives alive. It's also why the defense has given up game-winning scores in all three losses in the fourth quarter. No pass rush and no deep passing game make for a lot of problems in this pass-happy NFL. The Jaguars are proof of that.||I'll make it short and simple: They can't run. They're the league's 19th-best rushing offense, but throw out that 236-yard game against Indianapolis, and they're dreadful. Hey, against Pittsburgh they produced 38 rushing yards, and that's not going to cut it. I don't fault Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, I fault the line in front of them. It was depleted by injuries, and, frankly, it's not very good. The Jags rely on the run and their defense, and neither has been good -- especially the pass defense. So when they fall behind and can't run, what happens? Uh-huh, David Garrard must carry the load, and, I'm sorry, that never was his job. He's not a franchise quarterback; he's a guy who doesn't make mistakes on an offense geared to pound you to death. But he's been forced to take chances because the Jags' offense is one-dimensional and because its defense can't hold down opponents. You see the results.|