Fluke records are usually ironed out by week 11 in the NFL season. Whether you underperformed or over-performed early, it’s that time of the season where a team’s true colors show. That fact couldn’t make a Packers fan happier. After a 2-3 start, Green Bay is now sitting at 7-3, thanks to a five-game winning streak. Their latest victim, the Detroit Lions, put up a good fight, but Aaron Rodgers – en route to a 44-TD season – proved why he’s the best quarterback in football, throwing a game-winning 22-yard touchdown to Randall Cobb with slightly under two minutes left. Green Bay looks like a playoff team, even with a brutal six-game close to the season: they play the Vikings twice, and Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit once apiece.
Across leagues, Houston put down a feisty Jacksonville squad behind some eye-popping offensive numbers. Matt Schaub (527 yards, 5 touchdowns) and Andre Johnson (273 yards, 1 touchdown) made a legion of Texans fans and fantasy owners thrilled with their video game performances. Houston would end up needing every single yard and touchdown, though, as Jacksonville took the inevitable AFC South champs to overtime. Thank Chad Henne and rookie Justin Blackmon for that. Jacksonville won’t register many more wins this season, but performances like Blackmon’s 236-yard day will make them at least interesting to follow.
The only other member of the 9-1 club also found tougher-than-expected competition from a lesser opponent. Atlanta withstood five Matt Ryan interceptions as the Falcons narrowly edged a quarterback-less Arizona team. Tough defense, special teams and Michael Turner carried a team that MVP candidate Ryan has powered all season. If the adage that Super Bowl-caliber have to know how to win ugly is true, Atlanta looks like a prime candidate to represent the NFC in February.
— Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm on New England’s very last extra point of their shellacking of the Colts. In the postgame interview, Bill Belichick announced that he will think twice before running up the score from here on out. D’ah one of those two is false. You can probably guess which one.
— The Cowboys barely escaped the hapless Cleveland Browns, losers of their past 12 games on the road. The Browns put up a surprising 13-0 first half lead before the ‘Boys got their act together and pulled out a dramatic 23-20 overtime win. Hats off to Dez Bryant, who turned in several big plays and finished with 12 receptions, a career-high 145 yards and minimal bonehead plays.
— Don’t look now but the Bountygaters are on a roll as the Saints put a 38-17 beat down on the Raider Nation. The guys from the Big Easy have won five of their last six with a rejuvenated run game and a defense that’s bending without breaking. Even with the momentum, the 0-4 hole may still be too deep to come out of, which is a damn shame considering the Saints are playing like they should be Super Bowl contenders. Here’s to ya, Goodell.
— Officially place Peyton Manning in the MVP discussion with the Broncos sitting at 7-3. Eli’s big brother hit nine different receivers on Sunday, including tossing three touchdowns (the sixth time that’s happened this year).
— Quiet as a mouse pissing on cotton, Andy Dalton, AJ Green and the Bengals are 5-5 with 28-6 dogging of Kansas City on Sunday. For the Chiefs, it’s time to speculate who they’ll be drafting with the number one overall pick next April.
— It’s happened the last few games for the Eagles, usually sometime late in the third or fourth quarter. The announcers, seeing eleven listless men in green and white on the field, and the game firmly out of their reach, begin to eulogize Andy Reid. They speak of him being a good man, and of his three Coach of the Year trophies, and how he will bounce back no matter what happens at the end of this season. They speak of him the way distant family members speak huddled around a dying cousin’s bed in a hospice facility. RGIII’s 93% completion rate, four passing touchdowns, and perfect 158.3 passer rating transformed the hot seat into an electric chair, and Andy Reid into a dead coach walking.