Week 5 Judgements: No question who wins Tebow-Orton debate

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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1. C'mon, John Fox, get real. This one's a no-brainer. Your next quarterback is not "up for discussion," as you put it after Sunday's loss -- not unless that discussion involves no one but Tim Tebow. Tebow gave the Broncos what they need, which is a pulse, and he did it after Kyle Orton was benched. There's a reason all those people filing out of the stadium chanted "Tebow! Tebow! Tebow!" So do it now, or do it later, John, but just do it. Start Tim Tebow.

2. The more I watch Orton the more I think Denver should have made that deal with Miami.

3. Make San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh the early frontrunner for Coach of the Year, and here's why: Not only are the 49ers 4-1, their quarterback, Alex Smith, has seven touchdowns, one interception and a 104.1 passer rating. Somebody cue Al Michaels: Do you believe in miracles?

4. A close second to Harbaugh: Chan Gailey. He has the Buffalo Bills tied with New England at the top of the AFC East. Only guess who wins the tiebreaker? For all the attention quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (justifiably) attracts, I make running back Fred Jackson an early MVP candidate. He leads the team in rushing, leads it in touchdowns, is third in receptions and comprises 36 percent of the offense.

5. The NFL will not "fall apart" without Al Davis, so, sorry, Drew Rosenhaus, it won't fall apart without you, either.

6. And that, Tennessee, is what is known as a measuring stick.

7. Losing to Oakland wasn't the biggest setback for Houston. Losing linebacker Mario Williams is. He has what was called a torn pectoral, and, if tests confirm that diagnosis, it could sideline him months.

8. I look at Oakland's next three games -- Cleveland, Kansas City and Denver, all at home -- and, suddenly, "the Greatness of the Raiders" doesn't seem like such a reach anymore.

9. Just a hunch, but you get your AFC West favorite when Oakland goes to San Diego on Nov. 10. The Bolts have the more difficult road there, playing at the New York Jets (Oct. 23) and home to Green Bay (Nov.6).

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10. The New York Jets are in trouble. They went to the conference championship game the past two years because they won on the road. In fact, last season they beat Indianapolis and New England there before just finishing short in Pittsburgh. Well, the last three weeks they lost on the road. That makes them 0-3 there this season, and when you play in the same division as New England that's a concern. Reason: If you make the playoffs, you go as a wildcard, which means you go on the road.

11. Yes, Cam Newton is everything Carolina hoped and then some. But where's the love for rookie Andy Dalton? So he doesn't throw for a gazillion yards. He's 3-2. He has one less touchdown pass than Newton, one less interception and a better completion percentage. But here's the only number that matters: He has two more victories.

12. Michael Vick had no interceptions in his first seven games last season. He has seven in his first five this year, including four Sunday, and 10 turnovers, period. That, plus a defense that looks like an open window, has the Eagles in the emergency room.

13. The only salvation for the Eagles: There's still no favorite in the NFC East ... which means I'm not buying Washington.

14. Good suggestion from the press box: Forget the pre-game speeches, Mike Tomlin; just show your players what Warren Sapp says about them each week. That should get them fired up.

15. Last week, San Francisco's Frank Gore said the Eagles quit. Now, it's 49ers' tight end Vernon Davis charging that the Bucs quit. Looks like upcoming opponents should pack white flags ... only let's hold off on that idea at least one week. The 49ers next play unbeaten Detroit.

Five things I like

1. Sebastian Janikowski at any distance. To say he has a strong leg is like saying Cliff Lee has control. Nobody does it better, and Janikowski proved it Sunday with three field goals of 50 or more yards -- all kicks that made it easily. Al Davis was criticized when he made the Polish Cannon the 17th pick of the 2000 draft. Now it looks like he knew what he was doing.

2. New England in throwback uniforms. First of all, I love the helmet. Much better than what the Pats have now. Second, look how they play in them. They're 8-3, including big wins in their last three games.

3. The courage of Denver tackle Orlando Franklin. He played only days after learning that his younger brother was killed. Sorry, I don't know how. I'd be devastated.

4. Nick Barnett in Buffalo. Released by Green Bay, the linebacker seems to have found a home with the Bills. He leads the team in tackles and on Sunday led it to another upset. Barnett had two interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown that quarterback Michael Vick later termed "a game-changer." I'd say that's about right.

5. Philip Rivers' poise in the face of an all-out Denver blitz. It was third-and-10 at the Chargers' 20 with just over three minutes left when Rivers dropped back, looked left and let loose a deep pass just before he was swallowed by a Denver pass rush. Result: When the ball came down it landed in the arms of Malcom Floyd, a perfectly thrown 38-yard strike that kept the series going and led to a game-clinching field goal.

Five things I don't like

1. Oakland trying a two-point conversion in the second quarter when it trailed 14-12. You never, ever, ever go for two that early, but coach Hue Jackson must have missed the memo. So what happened? When Sebastian Janikowski drilled his fourth field goal to put the Raiders up by eight, they should have been ahead by nine. But they weren't, which meant it was still a one-possession contest.

2. Roman Harper's cheap shot of Steve Smith. The guy scored, OK? So leave him alone. I have no idea what the late hit was about, other than to remind Carolina there were still defenders on the field -- easy to forget sometimes when you watch the Saints. Look for Harper to hear from the NFL office this week.

3. San Diego in the red zone. The Bolts move up and down the field better than almost anyone out there. But once inside the 20 they suddenly and mysteriously shift into neutral, and don't ask me why. They've been there 22 times this season, with only eight TDs.

4. Philadelphia's clock management at the end of the first half. The Eagles were out of timeouts when Michael Vick stepped to the line with 8 seconds left. Philadelphia was on the Buffalo 26, and the smart move would've been to try a 43-yard field goal. But the Eagles decided to take a shot at the end zone. Only one problem: Vick took so long to make a throw that when his pass fell incomplete time had expired. No touchdown, no field goal, no nothing. "I was just trying to do too much," Vick said. Somebody get these guys a tourniquet.

5. Eli Manning's inconsistency. Just when you're ready to buy into the guy again, he goes out and throws three interceptions. Yeah, I know, he also threw for a career-high 420 yards. Big deal. He lost, and he lost because of that ghastly third interception -- one that never should have been thrown.

Five guys who have some 'splaining to do

1. Oakland coach Hue Jackson. I don't mean to pick on a winning coach, but, c'mon, Hugh, what in the name of Daryle Lamonica were you doing on that last series? The Raiders have the ball second-and-9 at their 21, and Houston is out of timeouts. Just under three minutes remain, so it doesn't take a genius to figure out the next move. Only the Raiders don't make it. They throw. And it's not a 7- or 8-yard pass; it's a bomb down the right sidelines. Huh? The ball falls incomplete, and Jackson just spared the Texans 35-40 seconds.

2. Philadelphia defensive end Juqua Parker. Geez, how many times do I have to tell you: When it looks as if an opponent is trying to lure you into jumping offside on a fourth-and-short, it's usually because it is. Parker thought the Bills were going for a fourth-and-inches with 1:23 left when it made sense to punt, so he jumped with the cadence ... and was ruled offside. Ballgame. "He got me," he said of the quarterback. No, Juqua, you got you.

3. Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris. What was that?

4. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh. He's up 41-3 late in the game, typically when most coaches kill the clock with runs into the middle of the defensive line. Not Harbaugh. For some reason he has backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick throw to Josh Morgan on a fourth-and-3. Sorry, I don't get it ... but Morgan did. He hurt his ankle and hurt it so badly he was carted off the field -- with reports later saying the ankle was broken.

5. New England tight end Aaron Hernandez. He had a sure touchdown at the end of the first half, but dropped it ... into the hands of the Jets' Antonio Cromartie. Not only did it cost New England a score, it was the first red zone interception at Gillette Stadium in Tom Brady's entire regular-season career.

Just asking, but ...

  A.J. Green or Julio Jones?

  What's wrong with Ben Roethlisberger's foot again?

  Who's the favorite in the NFC East?

  Should Atlanta be concerned?

  What's going on with Kevin Kolb?

Numbers, numbers, numbers

3 -- Straight weeks where Buffalo returned an interception for a touchdown

5 -- Career two-sack games by Jason Pierre-Paul

7-2 -- Harbaughs vs. the NFL

7 -- Number of times this season a club rallied from a 17-point deficit to win

10 -- Individual 400-yard passing games this season

12 -- Packers with at least one catch Sunday

13 -- Straight New England games with 30 or more points

15 -- Philadelphia turnovers this season

19 -- Straight regular-season wins for New England at home

32 -- Consecutive games with a Drew Brees touchdown pass, third-best in NFL history

740 -- Wes Welker receiving yards after five games

My top five

1. Green Bay

2. New Orleans

3. Detroit

4. New England

5. Baltimore

My bottom five

32. St. Louis

31. Miami

30. Indianapolis

29. Arizona

28. Jacksonville

Next weekend's three best games

San Francisco at Detroit ... Will the real playoff contender please stand up?

Buffalo at N.Y. Giants ... Who will it be: Good Eli or Bad Eli?

Houston at Baltimore ... Texans think they're playoff material; they can prove it here.

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