Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 13: Jets QB mess gets worse, somehow
Sorting the Sunday Pile breaks down all the storylines from the week that was in the NFL.
If you've got a certain step in your house that's stupidly mis-built and caused you to trip the first five times you walked over it, you either pay to have it fixed or remember not to trip on it, right? That's what most people would do.
Not Rex Ryan. He's refused to fix his step until he'd tripped on it, stubbed his toe, cussed himself silly and nearly broken his damn leg before, finally, with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter of a nauseating 3-0 derp-fest between the Jets and Cardinals, he yanked Mark Sanchez for Greg McElroy.
McElroy's not some savior; he'd never attempted a pass in the NFL before Sunday. But he made it look relatively easy against the Cardinals going 5-of-7 for 29 yards for an easy score and no embarrassing mistakes. The bigger issue is what happens going forward, because this is the ultimate culmination of stubbornness.
And the hilarity of it all is two-fold. First, Tim Tebow wasn't even available because of a rib injury. Second, Rex says he sensed that a change was needed.
"It's just something that I sensed, that I felt," coach Rex Ryan said. "When you're around this game long enough, you get that feeling that, 'You know what? I've seen enough, and it's time to make that change.'"
Really, Rex? You thought now was the time to make a change? Really. Because there were other times to make a change and he's stuck by his guy. Sanchez, after all, took Rex's team to two AFC title games. But those were different teams and this is a different situation.
And now Ryan's staring down the barrel of the biggest nightmare imaginable: Sanchez might not be better than Greg Freaking McElroy, which means he shouldn't be better than the guy between them on the depth chart, and the Jets are about to head to Jacksonville, the home of one Timothy G.D. Tebow.
The Jets have an insanely soft schedule over the next four games, with the Jaguars, Titans, Chargers and Bills on the docket. The playoffs are highly, highly unlikely, but those are four beatable opponents, and, impossibly, 9-7 isn't out of the question. That brings the AFC wild card into play.
Is it Tebow Time? I mean, yes, right? Do I want this to happen? No, of course not. Doesn't it have to happen? The only other option is Rex Ryan continuing to run out Greg McElroy. Because Sanchez isn't the answer. The next week is going to be nuts, annoying, over-covered and everything that's wrong about society, when a 5-7 team gets 90 percent of the media coverage.
But the Jets wanted the attention. They got the attention. They did nothing to continue receiving said attention and now they're in a weird rock and a hard place that has America watching. Again. Somehow.
End of the Madden Curse
The Madden Curse decided to take a break this year, apparently, or it's just not strong enough to stop Calvin Johnson. There was some ignorant chatter early in the year that Megatron was "struggling" because he didn't find the end zone early on -- just once in his first eight games actually -- but he's not got three-straight games with a score.
He's also locked in on Jerry Rice's single-season receiving record. Rice caught 122 passes for a ridiculous 1,848 yards and 15 touchdowns in 1995. That's an insane 115.5 yards per game. 17 years later, Johnson's got a legit shot at breaking that ridiculous number.
Megatron has 1,428 yards through 12 games after catching 13 passes for 171 yards on Sunday against the Colts, as well as 86 catches on the year. That puts him on pace for 1,904 yards (he's averaging 119 yards per game) and 114.67 catches.
I'd list who the Lions are playing (it's the Packers, Cardinals, Falcons and Bears) but it's largely irrelevant at this point, even if Charles Tillman did shut him down in Week 7. Megatron is having his way with defensive secondaries, Matthew Stafford is giving him chances to make ridiculous plays and Johnson is averaging 154.75 yards per game over his past four games.
He's making some catches no human being is supposed to make. Don't be surprised if he breaks Rice's record and be prepared for the possibility of a 2,000 yard receiving season. Even if his season ended today, he would have the 50th-best receiving season, yards-wise, in NFL history.
The Madden Curse is over.
NFC West Spice
The week-to-week fluctuation of the NFL is what makes this sport so wonderful: wasn't long ago the 49ers were cruising and Seattle was dead in the water when it comes to winning a divisional title. Not so fast my friends, because things are setting up for a barn-burner in Week 16 in Seattle.
The 49ers (perhaps flush with an quarterback controversy?) are 8-3-1 now and set to play the Dolphins (in San Francisco) and the Patriots (in New England). If they go 1-1 in those games (not unreasonable), they're 9-4-1. The Seahawks are 7-5 and face the Cardinals (in Seattle) and the Bills (in Buffalo). If they go 2-0 in those games, they're 9-5.
And the week after that, San Francisco and Seattle square off at Qwest Field and somehow, some way, the NFC West is going to be up for grabs.
Rookie Statement Game
Speaking of the Seahawks, Russell Wilson engineered two fourth-quarter-or-overtime-and-on-the-road comeback drives against the Bears, managing to lead the Seahawks to a stunner of a win.
Someone on Twitter (I can't remember who, sorry) that Wilson looks "like a point guard" when he's running the Seahawks offense, and it's a perfect description. Wilson isn't the focal point of Seattle's offense, but he's what greases the wheels. He's not some cannon-armed dude that's going to sling for 5,000 yards, but he's a mature quarterback who's capable of running an offense in an incredibly efficient way and making nearly every throw required of him.
On a day when the vaunted Seattle defense continued to struggle in pass coverage -- what was that against Brandon Marshall late in the fourth quarter, Seahawks secondary? -- Wilson remained cool, calm and collective and didn't flinch against one of the toughest defense in the NFL. He put his team on the back and might've just taken them to the playoffs. If people discount his candidacy for rookie of the year, don't listen to them. He's worthy of consideration.
But he won't get it ...
Because Andrew Luck's doing unholy things at the quarterback position. He is literally the Colts right now. They have weapons on offense and they have players on defense but Luck is making throws that rookies don't make. He's laughing off a rookie wall and he's already taken the Colts to eight wins.
He has five -- FIVE! -- game-winning drives in the fourth-quarter or overtime in his first year. FIVE. Luck makes big-time throws with defenders draped all over him, he overcomes stupid mistakes like he did on Sunday and he's part of a magical and incredible Colts season.
I noted on Twitter at halftime of the Colts-Lions game that Luck secretly has worse stats on the road than Wilson. It's kind of true ... but it doesn't matter. I laughed when Wilson threw his game-winning touchdown, but my jaw just dropped when Luck threw his. How on Earth he brought the Colts back from 12 points back with less than eight minutes to go is beyond me, but so much of what the Colts are doing this year isn't really explicable.
And the crazy thing is, Robert Griffin III hasn't even played this week. We are so, so lucky as football fans to see this crop of young quarterbacks come into the league. Enjoy it.
Quinn, a former first-round pick of the Browns who's bounced around three different teams since leaving Notre Dame, won't get many inches of copy when it comes to newspapers around the country. The Chiefs rallied in the face of adversity and that's the story that will, rightfully, win out.
But let's give Quinn credit, because he was fantastic against the Panthers on Sunday. He went 19-for-23 for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the win, not the sort of stat line you expect out of a guy buried on depth charts behind Derek Anderson, Tim Tebow, Kyle Orton and Matt Cassel for his career.
Sunday, though, he was decisive, accurate and efficient. Quinn put the Chiefs in position to win and stunned just about everyone who watched the game with his ability to make some big throws.
It probably doesn't warrant the Chiefs forsaking a future franchise quarterback in the 2013 NFL Draft, but it's the type of game that should be remembered come the offseason, especially if Quinn can build on it as the Chiefs close out the year.
Quinn wasn't even the most surprising quarterback to win Sunday. That honor goes to Charlie Batch, who is going to turn 38 years old on Wednesday. Batch went 25-of-36 for 276 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Not stunning numbers, but not so bad this context:
Most importantly, Batch didn't kill the Steelers like he did in Week 12. Now Pittsburgh is just two games back of the Ravens, who have to play the Redskins, Broncos, Giants and Bengals down the stretch.
Pittsburgh gets the Chargers, Cowboys, Bengals and the Browns and if Ben Roethlisberger can come back and play at a reasonable level, it's not that insane to assume the Steelers could catch the Ravens in the AFC North. If they do -- or even if they make the playoffs -- it's in large part because Batch was able to fill in Sunday and come out of Baltimore with a monster win.
The AFC's Sleeper
Of course, having a discussion about the AFC North without mentioning the Bengals is just silly. Cincy's now 7-5 and just a tiebreaker back of Pittsburgh for the wild card, as well as just two games back of Baltimore. The Bengals have won four games in a row and are doing good things on both sides of the ball right now.
They weren't perfect against the Chargers, but that's the nice thing about playing the Chargers: you don't have to be perfect, because Norv Turner and Philip Rivers are more than happy to beat themselves these days.
What makes their potential playoff run -- they're a tiebreaker back of Pittsburgh right now -- most intriguing is their final two games. Cincy might house some rivers, but for the Bengals, everything runs through Baltimore and Pittsburgh. They play their AFC North rivals in the final two weeks of the season. With games against Dallas and Philly before that, it's possible that even a split could get them into the postseason.
Either way, everyone's talking about Pittsburgh and Baltimore because they're the bigger names. Do not sleep on Cincy.
Brady/Manning Collision Course?
It's an insult to the Texans to do this, but I'm going to do it anyway, mainly because I picked the Texans to win the AFC before the season began. So I'm not a jerk, OK, Houston? But it sure does look like we're on a collision course for the continued evolution of the Tom Brady/Peyton Manning rivalry, which will go down as one of the NFL's greatest rivalries, not to mention one of the greatest in sports.
Denver's the current No. 4 seed and New England only just jumped Baltimore for the second seed in the AFC but the football gods just seem to have something in mind, as both Manning and Brady clinched their respective divisions on Sunday.
For Brady, it was the 10th divisional title, the most by an NFL quarterback in history. Realignment and chronological caveats apply, but it's not like this is some cherry-pick job. Brady's an all-timer, and he passed Joe Montana, who had nine divisional titles. You know who else has nine now?
Peyton Manning. He clinched his ninth -- and his first with a team other than the Colts -- on Sunday with a Denver victory and a Chargers loss. That puts him one behind Brady in that particular statistical category and just another reason for Brady champions to put their guy on a pedestal above Peyton.
We already got one look at the two guys squaring off earlier this year. A rematch in the AFC Championship Game -- with the right to potentially take a big leg up on the rivalry overall? -- would be epic. Here's hoping it happens.
Kudos to the Rams
For two things, actually. First of all, the Rams decided to honor the late Rick Majerus (who recently resigned from coaching the St. Louis basketball team) before the game with a moment of silence before the game. Majerus was a legend in college basketball and deserved just that.
Secondly, props to the Rams for busting out the Greatest Show on Turf throwbacks (right) Sunday instead of their standard new-era colors (left):
In what world is the uniform on the left better than the uniform on the right? (The Rams have three winning seasons since swapping uniforms after winning the Super Bowl and lost to the Patriots in their subsequent Super Bowl trip. So not this world I guess.
Also fun: Rams coach Jeff Fisher was the coach of the Titans ... when they lost to the Rams in these same yellow/blue uniforms.
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