Andrew Luck is the hot name in the NFL with five game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime this season. Houston and Matt Schaub are favored by many to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. But, if you don't mind, I'd like to remind you of two men you may or may not know.
Tom Brady has a six-game winning streak and the Patriots just won their ninth AFC East title in the past 10 years. The Patriots will finish over .500 for the 12th consecutive year, the first team to do so since free agency began in 1993 -- a lot of that due to Brady. This season, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to win 10 division titles, surpassing Joe Montana's nine. Last Sunday, Brady threw his first interception in six games. Before that, Brady had thrown 24 touchdowns in 11 games with just three picks. He is arguably the most efficient quarterback in football right now.
Peyton Manning has a seven-game winning streak. He has 29 touchdowns this season, a Broncos team record, putting him ahead of John Elway. The adjustments Manning made during last week's game against Tampa Bay left Buccaneers players stunned.
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"It was amazing, almost like I thought he was cheating," safety Mark Barron told the Tampa Tribune. "I was just kind of in amazement that he was able to recognize some the things that we were doing. Most of it was new but he picked up on it and he recognized a lot of the things that we were doing."
Quietly, oh so quietly, Brady and Manning are playing some of the best football of their lives. This has been lost among the Luck orgasmatronics in the media and the fact the Houston Texans are having a remarkable regular season themselves. In fact, almost everyone in football is predicting a Texans Super Bowl appearance and some, like hyper-ventilator Trent Dilfer, think not only is Luck the MVP for the season, Luck could end up as the greatest quarterback of all time.
Yet in the end, based on how Manning and Brady are playing, the AFC title game could easily be a battle between two old foes at the top of their games in Brady and Manning.
Ignoring the Patriots and Broncos is almost understandable. We like new players and storylines. Luck taking over a broken franchise that had ejected just about every key figure is a sexy story and the steady greatness of Brady and Manning just isn't as attractive. Or the Texans, also new blood, with a great general manager, a top runner and maybe the best pass rusher in J.J. Watt, who should be the defensive MVP.
It is still fun watching Brady and Manning, their skill, their accuracy, their will. Just their overall veteran-ness.
Even as the young guys like Luck and good stories like the Texans dominate the AFC news, Brady and Manning, somewhat quietly, are playing some of their best football ever.
They don't seem ready to yield the stage just yet.
2. One year ago, Ndamukong Suh and other Lions players were accused by Atlanta players of cheering and laughing after a vicious hit. This week, Suh and other Lions were accused by Colts players of cheering and laughing after a vicious hit. One accusation is a meteor strike. Two identical ones is a trend. And, once again, Suh continues to prove he is a dirty player who doesn't learn from past transgressions. Both the NFL and Lions will one day regret not administering more severe punishments of Suh when they had the opportunity.
3. The Buccaneers continued their juvenile and borderline pathetic attempt at blowing up a team's victory formation at the end of a game. This time it was against the Broncos. I know what I'm going to hear: a team has every right to play hard until the game is over. But if you get your butts kicked for 59 minutes and 45 seconds, a gimmicky pseudo-cheap tactic at the very end is unbecoming of a professional team. Who do the Bucs think they are? The Mean Machine?
4. I continue to believe that Paul Tagliabue will throw out most, if not all, of the bounty accusations against the New Orleans Saints. He's hearing the case basically re-litigated and a source close to the situation said Tagliabue is being incredibly fair. We'll see. His decision will likely come next week.
5a. Champ of the week: The Kansas City Chiefs for handling an impossible situation with dignity and class.
5b. Chump of the week: Any Lions player who allegedly stood over an injured Colts player and cheered. In other words, you, Suh.
5c. Tweet of the week: Former Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards on quarterback Mark Sanchez: "Don't blame Sanchez. I played there. Blame the idiots calling shots. Mark is a beast and will (prove) it when given a proper chance." Hmmm, what idiots would he be referring to?
6. Brady Quinn, once viewed as a joke of a professional quarterback, is now seen in almost heroic terms after his passionate and brilliant words following Kansas City's win, just a day after a teammate killed his girlfriend and committed suicide. Good for Quinn.
7. Amazingly, despite mounting evidence to the contrary about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease caused by repeated head trauma, there remains some in the media -- and even some NFL players -- who have doubts about CTE. CTE is football's version of global warming. Some could see an iceberg melt before their eyes like it was in a giant microwave and still not believe. Same with CTE. Neurosurgeons could bring forward any number of damaged brains from NFL players some will still have doubts. Incredible.
I ran the latest CTE news by an incredibly smart player I've known a long time and he still expressed doubts about the science. Some of this is just a lack of belief in science and the scientific method, but I think an even larger issue is a simpler one: denial.
8. Some teams in the run for a coach will approach former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy. You can count on it. You can also count on Dungy saying thanks, but no thanks. Unlike Jon Gruden, who will return to the NFL as a head coach, Dungy likely never will.
9. One coach who isn't getting the credit he should is Pete Carroll. Remember: it wasn't a no-brainer decision to start quarterback Russell Wilson this past summer. There were definitely Wilson doubters, even in the Seahawks locker room, but of course not any longer. That's all Carroll.
10. Next season Mike Vick will be the starting quarterback for the New York Jets.