Articles By Athlon Sports
They caused an earthquake in Seattle, and it wasn’t the first time. That’s how loud the crowd at Century Link Field was last Monday night. It set a record for decibels and it shook a nearby Seismometer. It shook the New Orleans Saints pretty good too.
That’s why the general feeling around the NFL is that the Seattle Seahawks, already at 11-1, may be on an unstoppable road to the Super Bowl. It’s because the road will almost certainly go straight through the epicenter of the best homefield advantage in the league.
Here’s the thing, though. The Seahawks (6-0 at home) aren’t the only ones that claim to have one of the best homefield advantages in the league. The Saints are 6-0 in the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The Patriots are 6-0 at Gilette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. The Bengals are 5-0 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati and the Broncos are 6-0 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.
And that doesn’t even count the Ravens, Cowboys, Panthers and Cardinals who all could be playoff-bound and are all 5-1 at home, or the Chiefs at 5-2.
At the moment, though the reigning home kings reside in the Pacific Northwest. But the path to the Super Bowl won’t be easy for any team that has to take a detour through these cities, home to what are currently the five-best home-field advantages in the league:
1. Seattle – The loudest noise ever recorded at an outdoor stadium came at CenturyLink Field on Sept. 15 when the crowd noise was measured at 136.6 decibels. Then they topped it at 137.6 on Monday night. They have probably been louder over the years in a place where the “12th man” takes great pride in causing opposing offenses to false start.
The Seahawks were undefeated there last year and have won 14 straight games overall. It’s not all about the noise, either. A big factor for the Seahawks is their geographic isolation – there’s no harder place for most NFL teams to get to than the Pacific Northwest. And while their weather isn’t huge, it’s often a chilly rain, which the Seahawks are used to, while other teams are not.
2. New Orleans – The Saints have won 18 straight at the Mercedes Benz Superdome and 13 straight at night in what has to be the loudest indoor stadium in the NFL. The dome is huge, and even though it only holds 72,000, it seems like it holds about 100,000. It sounds like it too, especially when the music starts thumping and the fans start dancing along.
Aside from just the audible discomfort, many teams have said they can feel a wave when the Saints get on a roll and the crowd gets behind them. There are few places where things can go from bad to worse faster. When the Saints win there, they usually win in a blowout. And they don’t lose often. The Sean Payton-Drew Brees combo hasn’t lost there since 2010.
3. Kansas City – The stands can be a sea of red, which can be intimidating enough. So can the ride on the bus through the parking lot, where few fans throw a tailgate party like the ones in Kansas City. And when the game gets going, Arrowhead Stadium – an older stadium with architecture not exactly built for great acoustics – can be as loud as any in the league.
In fact, they proved that earlier this season when the Chiefs fans out-did the Seahawks fans and were measured at an ear-splitting 137.5 decibels in a win over the Raiders. Sure, the Seahawks reclaimed the world record a few weeks later, but their stadium was built with sound records in mind.
In Kansas City it’s all natural, and opposing players know it. Outside of Seattle, there’s not a more intimidating outdoor stadium in the league.
4. Denver – Make no mistake, this isn’t the old Mile High Stadium, which used to shake and was intimidating to opponents. What’s more intimidating about a trip to Colorado these days is the thought of Peyton Manning and the most dangerous offense in the league.
The bigger problem is this: The city is actually a mile high, which means the air is thinner and even professional athletes get tired quicker. The Broncos are used to it from practice every day. Opponents get no time to adjust at all. And when they’re huffing and puffing and trying to catch their breath, while chasing the Broncos receivers and trying to figure out what Manning is about to do, the whole thing can turn into a great big mess.
5. Cincinnati – The Bengals once enjoyed a great homefield advantage when they played in “The Jungle” – the nickname for old Riverfront Stadium. But it’s taken them a while to warm up to their new digs. At the moment, they’ve won six straight games overall there for the first time since The Jungle was demolished.
And they’re winning big and big games there, too. They beat the Packers there when Aaron Rodgers was healthy. They beat the Patriots and didn’t allow a touchdown. They also demolished the Jets and Browns, topping 40 points each time. And as the wins pile up, the stadium seems to be getting louder, which makes it a sneaky dangerous place to play.
—By Ralph Vacchiano, @RVacchianoNYDN
A quick look at every game on the NFL schedule for Week 14, along with the consensus picks of Athlon Sports’ editors.
Texans (2-10) at Jaguars (3-9)
The loser on Thursday night could be the winner of the Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota or Jadeveon Clowney NFL Draft sweepstakes. Jaguars by 1
Colts (8-4) at Bengals (8-4)
The leaders of the AFC South and AFC North go toe-to-toe jockeying for playoff position in what could be a sneak peak playoff preview. Bengals by 4
Browns (4-8) at Patriots (9-3)
It’s December, which means New England is nearly unstoppable — having posted a 48–8 record under Bill Belichick in the final month. Patriots by 12
Raiders (4-8) at Jets (5-7)
Expect this game to be interrupted by the classic TV movie “Heidi,” a la 1968 NBC-style. Raiders by 1
Chiefs (9-3) at Redskins (3-9)
What’s in a name? Political correctness is not such a big deal in D.C., is it? Chiefs by 5
Vikings (3-8-1) at Ravens (6-6)
Prince should be the halftime entertainment at this purple-loving showdown. Ravens by 6
Falcons (3-9) at Packers (5-6-1)
Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone remains the focus of all 364,122 stockholders in Green Bay Packers, Inc. Title Town is 0–4–1 without its star QB. Packers by 5
Bills (4-8) at Buccaneers (3-9)
This Big East throwback pits Syracuse’s Doug Marrone against Rutgers’ Greg Schiano. Buccaneers by 1
Dolphins (6-6) at Steelers (5-7)
Mike Tomlin thinks it’s “crazy” if anyone thinks he intentionally interfered with Jacoby Jones. Steelers by 6
Lions (7-5) at Eagles (7-5)
The 26th- and 32nd-ranked pass defenses will likely get abused early and often in Philly. Eagles by 3
Titans (5-7) at Broncos (10-2)
Let’s get this straight. Tennessee played against local legends Jeff Fisher and Peyton Manning this year and both games were on the road? Broncos by 12
Rams (5-7) at Cardinals (7-5)
Arizona let an 11-point lead fade away en route to a 27–24 loss at St. Louis back in Week 1. Cardinals by 3
Seahawks (11-1) at 49ers (8-4)
Colin Kaepernick is 0–2 against Seattle, losing by a combined score of 71–16. But this will be Kaepernick’s first home game vs. the Hawks. 49ers by 1
Giants (5-7) at Chargers (5-7)
Archie Manning was the mastermind behind the epic Eli Manning for Philip Rivers draft day trade of 2004. No word yet if the patriarch of football’s royal family will allow Eli to play in San Diego. Chargers by 2
Panthers (9-3) at Saints (9-3)
Cam Newton and the Cats have won eight straight; Sean Payton and Drew Brees have won their last 10 games following a loss. Saints by 4
Cowboys (7-5) at Bears (6-6)
The last time Tony Romo played the Bears on Monday Night Football, he threw five INTs in a 34–18 loss in Week 4 last season. Cowboys by 2
Look out, Peyton Manning. This year’s MVP race just got interesting. With four games to play, Seattle Seahawks second-year signal-caller Russell Wilson is making a strong run at the league’s top award. The Denver Broncos’ thoroughbred remains the favorite to add a fifth MVP to his already crowded trophy case. But Seattle’s favorite underdog continues to dramatically exceed all reasonable expectations while taking a circuitous — and unlikely — route to stardom.
A 5'11" quarterback, Wilson has long been “too short” for so-called “big time” football. The Richmond, Va., native was a lightly regarded two-star recruit by both Rivals and Scout coming out of high school. After signing with NC State, Wilson became the first freshman to be named first-team All-ACC. As a junior, he broke the NCAA record for consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception (379).
A two-sport star drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft, Wilson debated quitting football to focus on baseball in 2011 — resulting in his release from scholarship at NC State. But Wilson couldn’t stay away from the gridiron. With one year of eligibility remaining, Wilson transferred to Wisconsin and led the Badgers to a Rose Bowl berth.
Despite undeniable athleticism, leadership ability and a track record of success, Wilson fell all the way to the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, going to Seattle at No. 75.
The rest, as they say, is history. Wilson has posted 22 wins in his first two seasons under center for the Seahawks, tying the all-time mark of Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. And Wilson’s most recent victory was arguably his most impressive.
Wilson completed 22-of-30 passes for 310 yards, three TDs and zero INTs, while tucking the ball on eight carries for 47 yards during a 34–7 win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. On the year, Wilson has MVP-type numbers with 2,672 yards, 22 TDs and six INTs for a 108.5 passer rating through the air, as well as 456 yards and one TD on the ground.
Most important, Wilson has guided the Seahawks to a league-best 11–1 record, including a 6–0 record at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. In two seasons, Wilson has yet to lose at home, posting a perfect 14–0 mark for the “12th Man.”
Wilson’s poise under pressure — as much as his playmaking ability — have made him not only a fan favorite in Seattle but across the NFL.
“I get asked all the time and I really feel inadequate in trying to describe to you who he is and what he’s all about,” said coach Pete Carroll. “He’s an extraordinary individual. It goes way beyond his football ability. He’s an amazing person.”
Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the one-loss Seattle Seahawks to the two-win Houston Texans.
1. Seahawks (11-1) First team in league to clinch a postseason berth.
2. Patriots (9-3) Not worried about “Spygate II” allegations in Houston.
3. Broncos (10-2) Peyton Manning tosses five TDs in K.C. masterpiece.
4. Saints (9-3) Drew Brees’ 200-yard game streak ends at 43.
5. Panthers (9-3) Cats earn franchise-best eighth consecutive victory.
6. Colts (8-4) Need win or Titans loss to wrap up AFC South title.
7. 49ers (8-4) Michael Crabtree makes season debut in victory.
8. Bengals (8-4) Andy Dalton tops 3,000 yards for third straight year.
9. Chiefs (9-3) Three straight losses following 9–0 start to season.
10. Lions (7-5) End nine-game losing streak on Thanksgiving Day.
11. Cowboys (7-5) Tony Romo tosses record 18th TD on Turkey Day.
12. Eagles (7-5) Nick Foles INT-free streak at 233 straight passes.
13. Cardinals (7-5) Four-game winning streak ends in Philadelphia.
14. Bears (6-6) Marc Trestman’s second-down FG not popular move.
15. Packers (5-6-1) On five-game winless streak for first time since 2008.
16. Ravens (6-6) Defending Super Bowl champs back in playoff hunt.
17. Steelers (5-7) Mike Tomlin special teams coverage caught on tape.
18. Dolphins (6-6) Richie Incognito suspension extended — with pay.
19. Titans (5-7) Rob Bironas joins Al Del Greco in 1,000-point club.
20. Rams (5-7) Jake Long exits early with concussion symptoms.
21. Chargers (5-7) Mike McCoy claims defense “fell apart” vs. Bengals.
22. Giants (5-7) Referee Jeff Triplette steals spotlight from Big Blue.
23. Jets (5-7) Rookie Geno Smith benched in favor of Matt Simms.
24. Raiders (4-8) Lock up 11th straight year without winning record.
25. Vikings (3-8-1) A.D. third fastest to 10,000 behind Dickerson, Brown.
26. Buccaneers (3-9) Three-game winning streak snapped in Charlotte.
27. Falcons (3-9) Win in overtime in front of smallest Toronto crowd yet.
28. Bills (4-8) Toronto mayor Rob Ford steals seat, eats hot wings.
29. Redskins (3-9) Go from first down to fourth down in just one play.
30. Jaguars (3-9) Cleveland native Cecil Shorts catches game-winner.
31. Browns (4-8) Josh Gordon has 200 yards receiving again in loss.
32. Texans (2-10) Have lost franchise-worst 10 consecutive contests.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
“All Day” transcended time, making an impact on the past, present and future during a 23–20 win over the NFC North rival Bears. Peterson had 35 carries for a season-high 211 yards. That effort, combined with the 2,000-yard rusher’s previous six seasons, gives Peterson over 10,000 career rushing yards — 10,057 to be exact. The league’s reigning rushing champ joins Jim Brown and Barry Sanders as the only members of the 10,000-yard rushing fraternity to average five yards per carry. His five career 200-yard rushing games are only one behind O.J. Simpson for the all-time mark.
Justin Tuck, DE, Giants
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is pointing the finger at referee Jeff Triplette’s “chain gang” — which incorrectly signalled for a first down late in the fourth quarter. But if the Skins could have gotten a hand on Tuck, the outcome might have been different on Sunday night. Instead, the Big Blue Wrecking Crew’s resurgent pass-rusher notched four sacks for 21 lost yards and six quarterback hits during a 24–17 Giants win. Tuck’s quartet of QB takedowns marks the most sacks by one of the G-Men since Osi Umenyioria had six sacks back in 2007.
Justin Tucker, K, Ravens
New York’s Justin Tuck is a 6'5", 270-pound beast of a defensive lineman; Baltimore’s Justin Tucker is a 6'0", 180-pound monster of a kicker. The second-year undrafted free-agent from Texas hit all five of his field goal attempts during a 22–20 victory over the AFC North rival Steelers in prime time on Thanksgiving night. Tucker has now made 27 straight field goals. He is 59-of-64 (92.2 percent) for his career, making him the most accurate kicker ever. For the record, he is also a perfect 64-of-64 on extra-point attempts in two NFL seasons.
Eric Decker, WR, Broncos
After posting a combined 170 receiving yards over Denver’s previous four games, Decker shot out of a cannon with eight catches for a career-high 174 yards and another career-best four TDs during a 35–28 victory at Kansas City. The husband of country music starlet Jessie James is Peyton Manning’s third (maybe fourth) receiving option — behind wideouts Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas, and tight end Julius Thomas — but proved he is capable of dominating when his number is called.
During yesterday's game between the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams, tight end Vernon Davis was tackled by T.J. McDonald in the most painful way any man can imagine in the history of the universe—BY. HIS. CROTCH. Davis, who's around 6'3" and 250 pounds of muscle, was reduced to writhing in pain on the ground after the tackle.
After consecutive victories in miraculous fashion, Auburn has made another unbelievable jump. The Tigers are the new No. 2 in the Legends Poll.
Auburn ran a missed field goal back 100 yards as time expired in the Iron Bowl, knocking off the reigning champ and top team, Alabama, 34-28. The victory also paved the way for Florida State, who routed Florida 37-7 earlier in the day, to take over as the No. 1 team in the Legends Poll for the first time in its history. The loss dropped the Crimson Tide to No. 4.
No. 3 Ohio State escaped on a failed two-point conversion in the final minutes by rival Michigan to remain unbeaten. But the performance wasn’t enough for the Legends Poll voters to move the Buckeyes up in the rankings. Ohio State has one more chance to make a statement against No. 9 Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Missouri rounded out the top 5 after clinching the SEC East and a spot against Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. The winner will certainly have an argument for earning a spot in the BCS Championship.
In another hotly contested in-state rivalry game, No. 7 South Carolina knocked off Clemson, moving up two spots in the poll. No. 11 Clemson tumbled six spots.
No. 19 Northern Illinois finished its regular season undefeated and moved up three spots. No. 21 Wisconsin took the largest fall in the rankings this week after an upset at the hands of Penn State.
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.
|1||Florida State (16)||12-0||400||2|
* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward. You can see the entire Poll at www.legendschannel.com.
As a proud sponsor of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Transamerica would like to thank you all for participating in this year’s Johnny Unitas QB Challenge. The winner of the QB Challenge is being determined and will be announced shortly on Transamerica’s Facebook page. Meanwhile, we applaud the accomplishments of all the 2013 Golden Arm Award contenders, and we look forward to congratulating this year’s Golden Arm Award-winning quarterback, who will be revealed next week.
Derek Carr, Fresno State
A week after throwing for 527 yards and a career-high and school-record seven touchdowns, Fresno State’s Derek Carr once again put up big numbers for the Bulldogs. For the third time of his career, Carr surpassed the 500-yard mark in a game by throwing for 519 yards and six touchdowns. Carr completed 38 of 50 pass attempts in the effort but unfortunately all Carr did was not enough to pick up a win at San Jose State. Fresno State fell shy against the Spartans to fall out of the BCS mix, but Carr and the Bulldogs will get one more chance to end the season on a high note when they host Utah State in the Mountain West Conference championship game next week.
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
Once again Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch did more damage with his legs than his arm. Lynch obliterated Western Michigan for 321 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a home finale win for Northern Illinois. The win clinched a perfect 12-0 regular season for the Huskies and kept last year’s BCS Buster in the mix for a second straight BCS bowl trip. Lynch did not have much success throwing the football, completing just five of 17 attempts for 39 yards, but his feet were more than capable of handling this one.
AJ McCarron, Alabama
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron turned in a solid effort in his final game of the regular season. McCarron completed 17 of 29 pass attempts for 277 yards and three touchdowns on the road at Auburn. McCarron even added 16 rushing yards on four carries. Unfortunately for McCarron, and the Tide, Auburn pulled out another miracle in Jordan-Hare Stadium to hand McCarron and Alabama their first loss of the season.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Tajh Boyd completed 19 of his 27 pass attempts for 225 yards but failed to record a touchdown pass and was intercepted twice in Clemson’s 31-17 loss at South Carolina. Boyd did score a touchdown on the ground, while chipping in with 16 rushing yards. Boyd’s eight-yard touchdown run in the first quarter tied the game. Boyd also lost one fumble and was responsible for three of Clemson’s six turnovers in the loss.
Sponsored by Transamerica.
Week 13 not only marks the end of the bye weeks, it also signals the beginning of the stretch run, and that is especially the case as it relates to fantasy football. With the playoffs starting as early as this week (depending on the set up of your league), time is running out for those teams who need to make a move to secure their spot in the postseason.
Last week, it was players like Josh Gordon, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Jamaal Charles and Knowshon Moreno who brought smiles to their owners' faces. Gordon led all fantasy scorers with his 14-catch, 237-yard, TD effort against Pittsburgh. Rivers and Brady were the cream of the quarterback crop, as each threw for at least 344 yards (Rivers had 392) and three touchdowns.
The ground game was dominated by Charles and Moreno. Charles posted 157 total yards, including 115 on the ground, while Moreno gashed the Patriots for 224 and a touchdown. Denver and Kansas City will face off again for the second time in three weeks, and these two backs will obviously play a huge role. Moreno sustained a pretty nasty bone bruise last week, so his status is something worth keeping an eye on this week.
The Week 13 action gets started with the Thanksgiving Day tripleheader, and these early games will help set the tone. If you have any Baltimore, Dallas, Green Bay, Oakland or Pittsburgh players on your roster, you have to decide whether you are going to start them this week and then hope they can get your team out of the gates quickly. Strong showings on Thursday would certainly make for a more relaxing and enjoyable holiday weekend, no?
Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.
2013 NFL Week 13 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings
Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points
Packers (5-5-1) at Lions (6-5)
Detroit will kick off on Thanksgiving Day for the 73rd time in a tradition that dates back to 1934 and is older than 24 NFL franchises. The Lions have a 33–37–2 record on Turkey Day but carry an 11–8–1 record against their NFC North rival Packers. The last time Title Town played Motown on Thanksgiving, however, Green Bay won 27–15 in a contest remembered for the dirty stomp by Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh. Lions by 3
Raiders (4-7) at Cowboys (6-5)
Tell Leon Lett to stay away from the football — and the pumpkin pie — “America’s Team” is set to play on America’s favorite football holiday for the 45th time. The Cowboys carry a 28–15–1 record since beginning their fourth Thursday of November tradition in 1966. Cowboys by 6
Steelers (5-6) at Ravens (5-6)
Joe Flacco may think the Wildcat offense is for “high school,” but Pittsburgh and Baltimore is definitely a game for grown men only. Nine of the last 11 Steelers-Ravens heavyweight fights have been decided by exactly three points — including a 19–16 win by Pittsburgh in Week 7 this season. Turn on NFL Network, make a turkey and dressing sandwich, tune out your crazy uncle and get ready for an old school, black-and-blue brawl on Thursday night. Ravens by 1
Titans (5-6) at Colts (7-4)
Over the last three weeks, Andrew Luck has thrown just two TD passes, while committing five turnovers and leading Indianapolis to a 1–2 record with lopsided losses to the Rams (38–8) and Cardinals (40–11). Colts by 4
Cardinals (7-4) at Eagles (6-5)
This battle of the birds pits two first-year coaches with offensive guru reputations against one another. Zona’s Bruce Arians and Philly’s Chip Kelly will pull out all the gizmos and gadget plays with a playoff berth within sight. Eagles by 3
Dolphins (5-6) at Jets (5-6)
Two of the six teams tied at 5–6 in the AFC will tangle to get to .500, which might be all it takes to earn the final Wild Card berth this season. Dolphins by 2
Bears (6-5) at Vikings (2-8-1)
Chicago won a barn-burner, 31–30, over Minnesota in Week 2, thanks to a last-second TD pass from Jay Cutler to Martellus Bennett. Bears by 2
Patriots (8-3) at Texans (2-9)
A preseason AFC title game preview has taken a Texas-sized turn. Houston is now closer to the No. 1 overall pick than the Super Bowl. Patriots by 10
Buccaneers (3-8) at Panthers (8-3)
Tampa Bay is the first team since 1978 to go 3–0 after starting the season 0–8. But Carolina has been an unstoppable buzzsaw, winning seven straight after a 1–3 start to the season. During the winning streak, Cam Newton has accounted for 15 total TDs and just four turnovers. Panthers by 8
Jaguars (2-9) at Browns (4-7)
Jacksonville and Cleveland better be careful. These wins are moving the clubs down the draft board in a loaded QB class of 2014. Browns by 4
Falcons (2-9) at Bills (4-7)
Buffalo roams to Toronto, home of distinguished Mayor Rob Ford and, for one weekend only, owner Ralph Wilson’s Bills — who have a 1–4 record since 2008 in the annual Toronto Series. Bills by 3
Rams (5-6) at 49ers (7-4)
San Fran won, 35–11, at St. Louis in Week 4, kick-starting a five-game winning streak. 49ers by 6
Broncos (9-2) at Chiefs (9-2)
Didn’t you guys just play? The Broncos and Chiefs go head-to-head for the second time in three weeks to determine the division’s best in the AFC West. In Week 11, Denver defended its home turf, 27–17, as the normally aggressive Kansas City defense was unable to notch even one sack against Peyton Manning. Broncos by 2
Bengals (7-4) at Chargers (5-6)
Cincinnati’s bye week vacation ends. Or does it? A December trip to San Diego is awfully nice. Chargers by 1
Giants (4-7) at Redskins (3-8)
Two of the highest profile yet most embattled quarterbacks in the league — Eli Manning and Robert Griffin III — take center stage under the lights on Sunday night. Eli (14 TDs, 17 INTs) has played worse than RG3 (14 TDs, 11 INTs), but another home loss won’t help Griffin III’s approval rating in Washington, either. Giants by 4
Saints (9-2) at Seahawks (10-1)
Homefield advantage in the NFC could be on the line when New Orleans and Seattle kick off on Monday night. Hawks second-year signal-caller Russell Wilson remains a perfect 13–0 in the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field, home of the “12th Man.” Seahawks by 2
Last week: 9–4–1 // Season: 111–64–1
This Thanksgiving, families will come together and gather around the table to break bread — eating turkey and telling stories. Some of those families will include brothers who currently strap on a helmet and play football in the NFL.
This past weekend, St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long went head-to-head against his younger brother, rookie Chicago Bears offensive guard Kyle Long. In fact, the brother dynamic caught the eye of the cameras when a fight broke out and the older Long ran to pull his younger brother away from the scrum.
“One way to defuse that situation was to get everybody out of there,” Chris Long said, after the game. “He happened to be a body I saw, so I grabbed him.”
The Longs may be the latest pair of brothers in the NFL, but they are far from the only active siblings in the league. These are 10 of the top brother duos currently in the NFL:
Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
Eli Manning, QB, Giants
Archie’s boys were both the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, they’ve combined to win three Super Bowls (Eli: 2, Peyton: 1) and four league MVPs (all by Peyton).
Jim Harbaugh, Coach, 49ers
John Harbaugh, Coach, Ravens
Jack’s sons coached against each other in Super Bowl XLVII and carry an impressive combined regular season record of 90–43.
Rex Ryan, Coach, Jets
Rob Ryan, Def. Co., Saints
Buddy’s boisterous twins are following in their old man’s footsteps as two of the top defensive minds in the game today.
Chris Long, DE, Rams
Kyle Long, OG, Bears
Howie’s sons went head-to-head this weekend, with the older brother coming away with a headlock victory to brag about at Thanksgiving.
Jason McCourty, CB, Titans
Devin McCourty, S, Patriots
Another set of twins, the McCourty brothers are a ball-hawking pair of defensive backs.
Chuck Pagano, Coach, Colts
John Pagano, Def. Co., Chargers
“ChuckStrong” has beaten Leukemia, while John has rebooted a struggling Bolts defense.
Peria Jerry, DT, Falcons
John Jerry, OG, Dolphins
Like the Longs, the Jerrys can go one-on-one at the NFL level, which they did in Week 3 — when John beat Peria, 27–23.
Clay Matthews, LB, Packers
Casey Matthews, LB, Eagles
Not as famous as Bruce and Clay Matthews — their father and uncle — these Matthews hold their own.
Dustin Colquitt, P, Chiefs
Britton Colquitt, K, Broncos
The first family of kickers has two of the better foot-smiths working their magic with the laces out.
LaRon Landry, S, Colts
Dawan Landry, S, Jets
These hard-hitting safeties do not mess around over the middle. Beware of any Landry in the secondary.
Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the soaring one-loss Seattle Seahawks to the bottom of the AFC South cellar, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans.
1. Seahawks (10-1) Ready to host Saints in Monday night showdown.
2. Patriots (8-3) Tom Brady improves to 10–4 vs. Peyton Manning.
3. Broncos (9-2) Outscored 31–7 after halftime in loss at Patriots.
4. Saints (9-2) Jimmy Graham scores with goal post-bending dunk.
5. Chiefs (9-2) Suffer tough back-to-back losses after 9–0 start.
6. Panthers (8-3) Riding seven-game winning streak after win at Fins.
7. Cardinals (7-4) Larry Fitzgerald youngest to 11,000 receiving yards.
8. Colts (7-4) Outscored 93–12 in first half of last four contests.
9. 49ers (7-4) Michael Crabtree activated from PUP list, set to play.
10. Bengals (7-4) Chad Johnson steals bye headlines, wants to return.
11. Lions (6-5) Matthew Stafford throws four INTs in loss to Bucs.
12. Bears (6-5) Jay Cutler would “like to stay” in Chicago in 2014.
13. Cowboys (6-5) Tied with Eagles for first place in NFC East division.
14. Eagles (6-5) Chip Kelly officially names Nick Foles starting QB.
15. Packers (5-5-1) Endure first tie since 49ers-Rams on Nov. 11, 2012.
16. Titans (5-6) Currently lead six-way tie for sixth AFC playoff spot.
17. Steelers (5-6) Ben Roethlisberger improves to 16–1 vs. Cleveland.
18. Ravens (5-6) Justin Tucker boots four field goals in win over Jets.
19. Chargers (5-6) Beat Kansas City in game with eight lead changes.
20. Rams (5-6) Tavon Austin 65-yard TD run sparks win over Bears.
21. Jets (5-6) Ed Reed torched on deep ball against former team.
22. Dolphins (5-6) Ryan Tannehill-to-Mike Wallace nearly skins Cats.
23. Giants (4-7) Four-game winning streak snapped, swept by Boys.
24. Raiders (4-7) Sebastian Janikowski misses two field goals in loss.
25. Bills (4-7) Will Jon Bon Jovi buy franchise, move it to Toronto?
26. Browns (4-7) Jason Campbell knocked out of loss to Pittsburgh.
27. Redskins (3-8) RG2 in locker room to see RG3 after defeat on MNF.
28. Buccaneers (3-8) Earn third consecutive victory with win in Motown.
29. Vikings (2-8-1) Adrian Peterson carries Vikes to tie at Lambeau.
30. Falcons (2-9) Lose fifth straight, lock up first losing year since ’08.
31. Jaguars (2-9) Run past Houston for second win in three weeks.
32. Texans (2-9) Honorary captain Mary Lou Retton not solid gold.
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Tom Terrific was at it again, improving his career record against Peyton Manning to 10–4. After falling behind 24–0, the Patriots marched back for an epic 34–31 come-from-behind win in overtime. New England scored on its first five possessions of the second half and took a 31–24 lead early in the fourth quarter before Manning found Demaryius Thomas to force overtime, where the Pats were able to hold on to victory after a botched Broncos punt return. As predictable as visible breath in the cold night air, Brady led the charge — completing 34-of-50 passes for 344 yards, three TDs and zero INTs in victory.
Troy Polamalu, S, Steelers
The Samson-maned safety was once again the power source of the Blitz-burgh defense during a 27–11 win on the road against AFC North division rival Cleveland. In a vintage Polamalu play, the cerebral defender bowled through the Browns’ O-line, wrapped up running back Chris Ogbonnaya, stripped the ball loose and recovered the key fumble — which set up a late first-half field goal to give Pittsburgh a 13–3 lead it never relinquished.
Josh Gordon, WR, Browns
In a losing effort, Gordon posted one of the most prolific single-game receiving lines of the season — with an eye-popping 14 catches for 237 yards (16.9 ypc) and one trip to the end zone. The 14 receptions tied a Cleveland team record, while the 237 receiving yards set a new franchise mark. After rumblings and rumors near the trade deadline, the Browns have to be happy to have held on to their wideout who seems able to hold on to anything thrown his way this season.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos
Sure, the Sunday night prime-time main event was billed as Manning-Brady Bowl XIV. But it was Moreno who had the statistical explosion during the heartbreaking 34–31 overtime loss on the road in Foxborough. Moreno was the Broncos’ workhorse, with 37 carries for a career-high 224 yards (6.1 ypc) and one TD on the ground. More impressive, Moreno’s longest run was only 18 yards, highlighting his consistency between the tackles. Unfortunately, the fifth-year back did exit with an ankle injury.
Baylor became the latest team to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten, opening the door for once-beaten Auburn to move into the top 5.
Fourth-ranked Auburn is set to host No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl next weekend in a titanic clash of top 5 teams.
Florida State remained the No. 2 team in the rankings, receiving one first place vote. The other 15 votes went to top-ranked Alabama.
No. 3 Ohio State remained unbeaten this weekend, and No. 5 Clemson moved back into the top 5.
No. 11 Baylor dropped seven spots after their lopsided loss to No. 7 Oklahoma State, and No. 13 Oregon dropped eight spots after falling to unranked Arizona.
Michigan State moved into the top 10 for the first time this year after clinching a spot in the Big Ten championship game.
No. 25 Georgia was the only newcomer to the rankings this week, replacing Minnesota.
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.
|2||Florida State (1)||11-0||385||2|
Transamerica is a proud sponsor of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. The award is presented each year by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Education Foundation to the nation’s top college quarterback based on character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities, and athletic accomplishments. Candidates must be a graduating senior or fourth-year junior on schedule to graduate with their class. As a leading financial services company, Transamerica takes pride in being there for those moments when our customers say, “It’s real now.” Moments like the birth of a new baby, the opening of a new business, college acceptance, retirement, and other key milestones. By showing our support for the young men on the watch list, we look forward to seeing them thrill fans around the country and experience moments during the season and beyond when they say, “It’s real now.”
1. Derek Carr, Fresno State
No Golden Arm Award finalist had the kind of day Fresno State’s Derek Carr had. Carr completed 27 of 37 attempts for 527 yards and a career-high and school-record seven touchdowns as the Bulldogs blasted New Mexico, 69-28. Carr averaged 14.2 yards per attempt against the Lobos and he spread the ball around well with none of his receivers putting together a 100-yard game despite piling up the second most yards in a game in his career. This was the second time Carr had 500 passing yards in a game as well. With Carr at the helm, Fresno State continues to sit in a good position for a potential BCS bowl invite.
2. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
On senior day at Clemson, Tajh Boyd went out with a bang. In a 52-6 victory over Citadel, Boyd completed 21 of 28 pass attempts for five touchdowns and 288 yards. Boyd wrapped up a fine collegiate career in front of the Tiger fans and helped keep Clemson in position for a potential BCS at-large invite. The five touchdowns matched a career high and this was the fourth game in a row Boyd passed for at least 280 yards.
3. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
While most of the Golden Arm Award finalists do most of their damage through the air, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch tends to do most of his best work on the ground. This week Lynch rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns and completed 17 of 22 passes for 202 yards as the Huskies wrapped up the MAC West title with a win at Toledo. Lynch has now accounted for 38 total touchdowns and continues to keep Northern Illinois in the BCS conversation.
4. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Georgia’s Aaron Murray played his final game in Athens, but a knee injury has some hoping Murray has not played his final game in a Georgia uniform. Before Murray needed to leave Georgia’s 59-17 victory over Kentucky, he put together an admirable performance. Murray completed 18 of 23 attempts for 183 yards and four touchdowns, all from inside the red zone in the first half to help build a big lead early on.
5. AJ McCarron, Alabama
The Crimson Tide quarterback had a pretty easy afternoon at home against Chattanooga. McCarron completed 13 of his 16 pass attempts for 171 yards and two touchdowns before getting an early rest with Alabama cruising to a win against the FCS opponent. McCarron will look to send Alabama back to the SEC Championship Game next week by picking up a tough road win at Auburn. If McCarron can put together a standout performance against the Tigers, McCarron could emerge as the top candidate for the Golden Arm Award, if not other accolades.
Sponsored by Transamerica.
Every rivalry has its heroes and villains, but some villains transcend the mano-a-mano nature of rivalry week.
The best villains can irk fans from the SEC to the Big Ten to the Pac-12. Miami during its heyday managed to infuriate everyone. Steve Spurrier didn’t have to beat your team by five touchdowns and brag about it later to rub people the wrong way. And thanks to coaching moves, Lane Kiffin and Urban Meyer have managed to annoy fans East and West, North and South.
As a sport, college football has its share of bad apples through the years, but part of being a college football villain is rarely doing anything actually wrong in a legal sense.
College football villainy is more based on style, on and off the field. And let’s face it. College football villains are targeted, above all, because they’re good.
Villains make sports fun. For some — mainly their schools’ fanbase — villains even likable.
College Football's Top 15 Villains
1. 1980s Miami
More than 20 years after the 1991 national championship, the University of Miami has tried to distance itself from its image under coaches Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson. Back then, however, Miami cultivated a take-no-prisoners attitude, complete with lopsided final scores and personal foul penalties. Miami, which arrived at the Fiesta Bowl in 1986 wearing combat fatigues, set up a counter-narrative to the Penn State and Notre Dame powers of the day — all while winning four national championships in eight seasons.
2. Brian Bosworth
The headbands, the blonde mohawks, infuriating opponents and the nickname: The Boz became the focal point of Oklahoma’s renegade team in the 1980s under Barry Switzer. He was a villain even to the NCAA, which he coined the “National Communists Against Athletes.” The act eventually wore out its welcome when Bosworth tested positive for steroids before the 1987 Orange Bowl ... after twice winning the Butkus Award.
3. Barry Switzer
Switzer left Oklahoma as the school’s all-time wins leader, but his tenured ended in controversy. The FBI charged Oklahoma’s starting quarterback with selling cocaine, the NCAA levied sanctions as players received cash and cars, and police charged three Oklahoma players for sexual assault. Even before all that, Switzer had been under fire for years for being unrepentant for his lack of boundaries within the program.
4. Craig James
Before meddling in Texas Tech’s coaching situation, James was a college football villain thanks to being an ESPN blowhard. Then, he led the charge in building a case for Texas Tech to jettison coach Mike Leach. Not coincidentally, James’ son, Adam, had trouble gaining playing time on Leach’s team. James waited until his failed bid for the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Texas to admit he took illegal benefits while at SMU.
5. Steve Spurrier
The South Carolina version of Steve Spurrier is just as good a coach as the one at Florida, but he’s become more of a revered national treasure in his latest act in college football. But at Florida in the 1990s, Spurrier shook up the SEC with a high-flying passing game that wasn’t afraid to run up scores and brag about it later. “Free Shoes University” and “You can’t spell Citrus without U-T” only touches the surface of Spurrier gems.
6. Johnny Manziel
It’s actually been a quiet season for Johnny Manziel villain-wise, at least since the brief offseason autograph scandal and taunting Rice players with autograph-signing gestures in his first game of the season. The money gestures and dodging serious NCAA action aren’t anything new, but the first freshman Heisman winner also put himself further into the spotlight by living the good life during the offseason and posting it on Twitter.
7. Urban Meyer
There’s certainly a bit of schadenfraude among fans watching Urban Meyer plead Ohio State’s case for a spot in the BCS championship picture. Bragging to boosters about taking the “top one percent of one percent” and then watching a portion of that one percent run into legal troubles at Florida made Meyer less and less likable. But Meyer is most villainous on the recruiting trail. Whether a recruit is committed matters little to Meyer until Signing Day.
8. Tim Tebow
Perhaps this selection should read “media coverage of Tim Tebow” more than Tebow himself. From Thom Brenneman’s proclamation that “If you're fortunate enough to spend five minutes or 20 minutes with Tim Tebow, your life is better for it” to “The Promise” to Clay Travis asking Tebow at SEC Media Day if the quarterback was, indeed, a virgin, the fawning and hyperbole led to Tebow exhaustion. It only got worse during his short-lived NFL career.
9. Nick Saban
He’s not tall, he’s a control freak, he’s perpetually annoyed. And he’s leading the football dynasty of the time. His biggest offense, other than winning a ton of games, is saying this — "I guess I have to say it. I'm not going to be the Alabama coach” — weeks before becoming the Alabama coach.
10. Jackie Sherrill
Sherrill often ran afoul of the NCAA, but one of his biggest crimes was leaving Pittsburgh in 1982 to coach at Texas A&M for a sum of money that made higher education advocates shake their heads in disgust. He was paid $287,000. Sherrill also had a bull castrated on the practice field to motivate his Mississippi State team in 1992.
11. Lane Kiffin
When things were going well for Kiffin — which wasn’t all that often — he was described as having an edge or a swagger. When things didn’t go well, he was petulant. Kiffin racked up NCAA secondary violations at Tennessee, accused Urban Meyer of recruiting improprieties as a laugh line for boosters and then bolted after one season for USC. He appeared to have reformed his image after a 10-2 season in 2011 before imploding in a season and a half. From the Raiders to Tennessee to USC, Kiffin not only infuriated opponents, but also alienated his own team's fanbase.
12. Tony Mandarich
The rumors of Mandarich’s performance-enhancing drug use at Michigan State weren’t tough to track down, but he was still the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft in 1989. He denied it and never tested positive while in college, a career in which he once punched an Ohio State lineman during the coin toss. Long after Mandarich became one of the Draft’s biggest busts, Mandarich admitted steroid use.
13. John Jenkins
Jenkins was the offensive coordinator under Jack Pardee at Houston as the Cougars became an offensive powerhouse running the run-and-shoot. Jenkins, who was eventually elevated to head coach, made sure everyone knew about the offense by running up scores into the 60s, 70s and 80s and ensuring quarterbacks like David Klingler would passing records.
14. Phillip Fulmer
Fulmer once conducted his SEC media day interviews in front of hundreds of reporters ... via a speakerphone. The Tennessee coach avoided entering Alabama state lines for fear of being subpoenaed in a libel suit against the NCAA by Alabama assistants. Fulmer, who had turned in the Tide to the NCAA for recruiting violations, was served a subpoena four years later in a different case involving an Alabama booster.
15. Cam Newton
The SEC, the slimy side of recruiting, a one-day NCAA suspension and Cammy Cam Juice combined to make Newton a lightning rod through the 2010 season.
Much like tattoos or passwords, jersey numbers can be a highly personal affair for their owners. The significance behind a jersey number can sometimes offer a little glimpse into an athlete’s psyche, his past, or his hopes for the future. Other times, the number reflects a team’s plans for the player wearing it. Here’s a sampling from the surprisingly rich world of jersey numbers.
18—Archie Manning wore No. 18 during his college days at Ole Miss, where he scrambled his way into the hearts of Dixie and married the Homecoming Queen, Olivia. After Archie left Oxford, the campus posted speed limits of 18 MPH in his honor. Archie’s middle son, Peyton, wears No. 18 in the NFL — not only in homage to his father, but also as a tribute to Cooper, the oldest of the three Manning boys. Cooper wore No. 18 in high school but was forced to give up football when he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis as a true freshman at Ole Miss.
33—Former major league outfielder Larry Walker wasn’t the greatest 33 ever — good morning, Kareem and Larry — but Walker was, without a doubt, the most superstitious athlete ever to wear the number. Walker had a thing about 3s. To wit: He routinely set his alarm for 8:03 in the morning. His parking stall in the players’ lot was 3. He routinely would take three practice swings and dig his foot into the ground three times in the on-deck circle, then take three check swings before heading to the plate. Walker wore 33 in an attempt to derive twice as much luck out of his favorite number. He also got married on Nov. 3 at 3:33 p.m.
Said Walker, when asked back in the day about his thing for threes: “I’d wear 333 if they’d let me.”
12—Nine consecutive Super Bowls (VI through XIV) were won by quarterbacks wearing No. 12.
44—Syracuse football jersey number worn by Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little, among others. The university zip code was changed from 13210 to 13244 in honor of the number, which was retired on Nov. 12, 2005.
72—Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk wore 27 during his days with the Red Sox. After joining the White Sox, he wanted to put his days at Fenway Park behind him, so he switched to 72. The number, he said, represented a turnaround in his career.
76—What, you thought 76 was a football number? Think again. Shawn Bradley was 7-foot-6 and was drafted by the 76ers. Any guesses as to which number he was issued?
72—For whatever reason, 72 inspires nicknames. It was worn by Carlton “Pudge” Fisk, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Ed “Too Tall” Jones and John “Tooz” Matuszak.
38—Ole Miss football jersey given annually to the player who receives the Chucky Mullins Memorial Courage Award, named after the former player who was paralyzed during the Rebels’ Homecoming game in 1989.
68—Future Hockey Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr wears 68 to commemorate the Soviet invasion of his native Czechoslovakia in 1968.
088586—Rockies manager Walt Weiss wears 22 in honor of boyhood hero Mercury Morris, who, incidentally, wore No. 088586 during his stretch in a Florida prison for drug trafficking.
Notable Retired Numbers
40—Fallen soldier and former safety Pat Tillman’s number, which was retired by the Arizona Cardinals in 2004.
12—The Seattle Seahawks have retired the number of the “12th Man” — their fans.
42—Jackie Robinson’s number, which was retired across MLB in 1997. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was the last player to wear No. 42.
48—Former President Gerald Ford had his No. 48 retired by the University of Michigan.
99—Wayne Gretzky’s number, which was retired across the NHL, fittingly, in 1999.
Recently karate action star Jean-Claude Van Damme took his amazing flexibility to new heights, performing an epic slit between two Volvo trucks (watch at bottom). The video went viral and now the parodies have begun. Here are our two favorites, so far.
Saints (8-2) at Falcons (2-8)
Matt Ryan’s nickname, “Matty Ice,” is intended to be a reference to his cool under pressure. But lately, Atlanta’s quarterback has been ice cold, throwing eight INTs — including two pick-sixes — over the past four games, all losses. Saints by 11
Buccaneers (2-8) at Lions (6-4)
The best receiver on the planet (Calvin Johnson) goes toe-to-toe with the artist formerly known as the greatest cover corner (Darrelle Revis). Lions by 6
Vikings (2-8) at Packers (5-5)
Adrian Peterson limps into Lambeau Field on the heels of a 13-carry, 60-yard, one-TD effort in a 44–31 loss to the Packers in Week 8 this year. Packers by 2
Jaguars (1-9) at Texans (2-8)
This race to the bottom of the AFC South is also a race to the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Texans by 5
Chargers (4-6) at Chiefs (9-1)
Kansas City will need to avoid an AFC West hangover following an over-hyped first loss of the season against Denver on Sunday night. Chiefs by 7
Panthers (7-3) at Dolphins (5-5)
Cam Newton is taking his talents and Carolina’s six-game winning streak to South Beach. Panthers by 4
Bears (6-4) at Rams (4-6)
Jay Cutler (high ankle sprain) has already been ruled out. But Josh McCown (2–0 as a starter) has been as good or better than Cutler of late. Rams by 1
Jets (5-5) at Ravens (4-6)
The J-E-T-S are the first team to alternate wins and losses every week for the first 10 games of a season. Based on that alone, the Jets will win. Ravens by 4
Steelers (4-6) at Browns (4-6)
Big Ben has a 16–1 record against Cleveland. But the Browns did beat the Charlie Batch-led Steelers, 20–14, last season. Is Batch playing this week? Steelers by 2
Titans (4-6) at Raiders (4-6)
Ryan Fitzpatrick will take on Matt McGloin in a matchup of quarterbacks that fans in the Black Hole couldn’t pick out of a lineup. Titans by 1
Colts (7-3) at Cardinals (6-4)
Indianapolis is 4–1 on the road this season, with two blowout wins and a pair of FG margins. Cardinals by 1
Cowboys (5-5) at Giants (4-6)
Dallas came out of the gates with a 36–31 win over its NFC East rivals in Week 1 this season. Prior to that, however, the Boys had gone 1–3 over the past two years against the G-Men — with the victory coming without Tony Romo. Cowboys by 2
Broncos (9-1) at Patriots (7-3)
Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. It really will be “Football Night in America” on Sunday night. Broncos by 4
49ers (6-4) at Redskins (3-7)
Don’t believe the hype. Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III have combined for 28 total TDs and 25 turnovers. What happened, guys? 49ers by 7
Last week: 10–5 // Season: 102–60
Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback rivalry in NFL history. It’s as simple as that. There has never been a matchup of signal-callers as historically significant and charismatic as Manning and Brady.
Manning has a record four MVPs and a Super Bowl XLI MVP as well as a loss in Super Bowl XLIV. Brady has two MVPs, three Super Bowl wins (XXXIV, XXXVIII and XXXIX), two Super Bowl MVPs and a pair of Super Sunday losses on his shimmering resume.
But the status of the two goes well beyond the football field. The paths to the pinnacle have been fascinating for both Manning and Brady.
Manning is a blue blood born into NFL royalty who was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy at Tennessee, went No. 1 overall in the 1998 draft and was immediately inserted as the franchise quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts.
Brady split time with two-sport star Drew Henson at Michigan, fell to the No. 199 overall pick of the 2000 draft and sat anonymously behind Drew Bledsoe before taking over under center for the New England Patriots.
Despite taking decidedly different routes, both Manning and Brady have risen to the top and remain the gold standard for quarterback play in the modern NFL. Part of that job description includes thriving in the spotlight on and off the field. Both men are extremely capable of that tough task, as well.
Manning dominates commercial breaks in ads for DirecTV and Papa John’s, while Brady and ubermodel wife Gisele Bundchen routinely own the gossip column, not to mention a serious percentage of print ads.
But the appeal of both stems from their play between the lines. And the consensus top two signal-callers of their respective generation will share the field — or at least grace the same blades of grass on alternating possessions — in prime time for what NBC Sports’ Sunday Night Football television executives are billing as “Manning-Brady Bowl XIV,” when the 9–1 Denver Broncos visit the 7–3 New England Patriots.
Currently, Brady holds a 9–4 edge over Manning. But this season, Manning’s Broncos have been superior — at least statistically — to Brady’s Patriots. Denver has scored 51 touchdowns to New England’s 26. The Broncos’ average a league-leading 39.8 points per game compared to the Patriots’ respectable 25.4 points per game. Most impressive, Denver is carrying a plus-143 point differential while New England boasts a net plus-55.
Manning-Brady Bowl XIV should be another good one. But the 37-year-old Manning and 36-year-old Brady can’t go on like this forever. Enjoy the rivalry while it lasts.
Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the Mile High and mighty Denver Broncos to the rock bottom Jacksonville Jaguars.
1. Broncos (9-1) Tiger Woods, Lindsey Vonn on sideline Sunday night.
2. Seahawks (10-1) Earn franchise-record 13th straight win at Seattle.
3. Chiefs (9-1) Lose battle of best in the AFC West against Denver.
4. Saints (8-2) Garrett Hartley hits game-winner as time expires.
5. Colts (7-3) Erik Walden suspended one game for head butt.
6. Panthers (7-3) Steve Smith tells Aqib Talib to “ice up, son” after win.
7. Patriots (7-3) No call? Tom Brady says he could throw better ball.
8. Bengals (7-4) Score franchise-record 31 second-quarter points.
9. 49ers (6-4) Ahmad Brooks penalty nullifies Drew Brees fumble.
10. Lions (6-4) Winless in Pittsburgh for 58 years and counting.
11. Bears (6-4) Outlast weather delay, overtime to beat Baltimore.
12. Eagles (6-5) Earn first win at Lincoln Financial Field in 413 days.
13. Cardinals (6-4) Carson Palmer throws zero INTs for first time in ’13.
14. Packers (5-5) Three-game losing streak team’s longest since ’08.
15. Cowboys (5-5) JPP says Giants will “put it on” Cowboys on Sunday.
16. Jets (5-5) Geno Smith pulled after three quarters, four turnovers.
17. Giants (4-6) Jason Pierre-Paul predicts his own pick-six in win.
18. Dolphins (5-5) Jim Turner the new face of Jonathan Martin case.
19. Steelers (4-6) Big Ben throws four TDs in win against Detroit.
20. Ravens (4-6) Unlike Super Bowl, lengthy delay ends in defeat.
21. Titans (4-6) Collapse vs. Colts follows meltdown vs. Jaguars.
22. Raiders (4-6) Matthew McGloin throws three TDs, wins debut.
23. Chargers (4-6) Commit 10 penalties in third consecutive defeat.
24. Rams (4-6) Use bye week to prep for banged-up visiting Bears.
25. Browns (4-6) Suffer most lopsided loss to Bengals since 2006.
26. Bills (4-7) EJ Manuel wins rookie QB rematch with Geno Smith.
27. Redskins (3-7) Back foot INT by RG3 ends late rally against Eagles.
28. Vikings (2-8) Percy Harvin return haunts old Vikings teammates.
29. Buccaneers (2-8) Bobby Rainey: From Browns backup to Bucs star.
30. Falcons (2-8) Have lost four consecutive by margin of 135–61.
31. Texans (2-8) Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub upset following loss.
32. Jaguars (1-9) Score first TD at home on Danny Noble’s first catch.
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
Controversial no-call ending aside, Newton shined bright under the lights on Monday night during a 24–20 win over the Patriots. The face of the Panthers franchise completed 19-of-28 passes for 209 yards, three TDs and zero INTs while scrambling seven times for a season-high 62 rushing yards. After a 1–3 start to the season, Carolina has reeled off six consecutive wins. During that stretch, Newton has accounted for 13 total TDs and three turnovers, compared to seven total TDs and six turnovers over the first four weeks of the season.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants
The Big Blue Wrecking Crew defense carried the G-Men to their fourth straight victory — after a miserable 0–6 start to the season — with a 27–13 win over the Packers. JPP sealed the deal with an acrobatic, leaping interception of Green Bay backup Scott Tolzien early in the fourth quarter. Pierre-Paul’s 24-yard pick-six gave the Giants a 14-point lead they would not relinquish. New York’s defense has given up just two offensive TDs while scoring two return TDs of its own during the current four-game winning streak.
Bobby Rainey, RB, Buccaneers
Tampa Bay turned to a new workhorse during a 41–28 win over the Falcons. Rainey carried the load with 30 carries for 163 yards and two trips to the end zone on the ground to go along with a third TD through the air. The three-TD effort comes just one week after the 5'8", 212-pound running back out of Western Kentucky scored the first TD of his NFL career during a Monday night win over the Dolphins. The Bucs have now won two straight games after an ugly 0–8 start to the season.
Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals
Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald is usually the first in flight when it comes to the Cardinals’ passing game. But it was Floyd who dictated pecking order during a breakout performance in a 27–14 win at Jacksonville. The second-year pass-catcher out of Notre Dame hauled in six receptions for a career-high 193 yards — on a whopping 32.2 yards per catch — and one TD in victory. Through 10 games this season, Floyd has already exceeded his rookie-year yardage (657 to 562) and TD (3 to 2) totals.