Weird week. Only one of my top four teams played on Sunday, and six of the Fine Fifteen had Sunday off.
1. Green Bay (7-0). Imagine if Aaron Rodgers goes through a season and the worst single-game passer rating is 111.4. That is the planet he is living on now, folks. Amazing thing I've noticed the last two or three weeks is he's able to throw a good fastball when need be, and put some air under it when he needs to do that, and rare is the time when he throws into tight coverage and the ball's tipped. It just gets there. Immune to problems on the road too. His three toughest road games, in terms of defense and crowd noise, have been Chicago, Atlanta and Minnesota. Completion percentages in those: 74, 67, and on Sunday in the Metrodome, 80.
2. San Francisco (5-1). Three of the next four at home (Cleveland, at Washington, Giants, Arizona), and if the Niners can somehow find a way to win three of them, then we've got ourselves two must-watch games on Thanksgiving: Green Bay-Detroit and San Francisco-Baltimore. You have my permission to shut the TV off and eat dinner during Miami-Dallas, the game sandwiched by the others.
3. Baltimore (4-1). OK, I may have been wrong on Bryant McKinnie. I was not complimentary about the Ravens' signing of McKinnie to play left tackle, because I thought he began mailing it in in Minnesota (including the Miami Pro Bowl debacle). But see what happens when a player has to answer to Ray Lewis if he's not at his very best, and where he has team guys like Matt Birk and Marshal Yanda in the offensive line meeting room? McKinnie's lost 20 pounds in seven weeks, and he's getting close to being the perfect left tackle weight for the massive man he is. And though he hasn't played at a Pro Bowl-level yet, he's shored up a position that looked like it might be real trouble.
4. New England (5-1). Bob Kraft is not letting looming free agent Wes Welker get away. He can't. You don't let the leading receiver in the NFL over the past five seasons go, and Welker doesn't want to go anywhere either.
5. Pittsburgh (5-2). Saw Bill Cowher at a restaurant Saturday night in Manhattan. He raved about Aaron Smith, who was placed on IR over the weekend. Just raved. Said Smith was the only lineman they could keep in on nickel downs because he could play the run and pass with equal skill and never made a mental error. He'll be missed.
6. New Orleans (5-2). Welcome to the NFL, Brian de la Puente. Know who that is? That's the heir to Olin Kreutz as the Saints' center. Been on five teams' practice squads since 2008. The good thing for him is we didn't hear his name called much Sunday night, and centers are best when invisible. And the Saints only put up 62 points, with two sacks, no other quarterback hits and no interceptions.
7. Atlanta (4-3). Much-needed bye, then a game against the JV-like Colts in 13 days. Matt Ryan needs to get his left ankle right. Those things are not meant to bend at 90-degree angles.
8. Tampa Bay (4-3). Made it interesting with two late touchdowns, but Bucs never seemed to be in this one. And they lost another running back, Earnest Graham (Achilles) for the year. That led Mike Florio to bring up the T word on Football Night in America, and me to opine, "You mean it might be Tiki time in Tampa?''
9. Detroit (5-2). I don't like how chippy some of the Lions are getting.
10. New York Jets (4-3). The Jets are 4-0 at home, 0-3 on the road ... and, after the bye next week, have five of their final nine on the road.
11. San Diego (4-2). Charger coaches and offensive starters set to begin Clock Management 101 classes at San Diego State Monday night.
12. New York Giants (4-2). Giants need the real Brandon Jacobs (knee, expected to play after the bye) in order to be the real Giants.
13. Buffalo (4-2). This is the reason I dearly hope whoever buys the Bills never moves them. When Kent Hull died, the local sports station, WGR, did wall-to-wall coverage Wednesday. Hours of it. And this was the team's center from the Bills' glory days. The team means so much to the fabric of the community.
14. Philadelphia (2-4). LeSean McCoy/Mike Vick: 150 carries, 941 yards, 6.3 per rush. No team has a better 1-2 run threat right now, even if the Eagles don't want Vick exposed as much as he has been (7.5 rushes per game).
15. (tie) Dallas (3-3). America, meet DeMarco Murray. Loved his honesty when asked after the game about the hole he ran through for his 91-yard touchdown run in the first quarter: "A bus could have gone through there.''
15. (tie) Cincinnati (4-2). Robert Geathers, Domata Peko, Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Pat Sims, Jonathan Fenene, Frostee Rucker. That's the Bengals' eight-man rotation at defensive tackle, and I list them all because defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is playing all eight, and those eight men are playing between 22 and 46 snaps per game. They stay fresh, they stay productive. The Bengals, through six weeks, were tied with Pittsburgh at 4.55 for second-fewest yards per play allowed in the NFL.
Offensive Players of the Week
Dallas RB DeMarco Murray, for having the 10th-best rushing game in the 92-year history of the NFL -- and the best in Dallas history. Think of his 253-yard afternoon against St. Louis this way: He could have been Offensive Players of the Week twice. In the first half, he ran 10 times for 112 yards (11.2-yard average), including a 91-yard touchdown run. In the second half, he ran 15 times for 141 yards (9.4-yard average).
Atlanta TE Tony Gonzalez. Five catches by the steady-Eddie tight end of the Falcons helped Atlanta upset the Lions 23-16 at Ford Field, and the personal significance of the five grabs is just as important. Gonzalez passed Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison into second place on the all-time receptions list. A tight end with 1,104 catches. Amazing. More amazing to me is Gonzalez, 35, has the body of a 25-year-old, and if he chose, he could certainly keep playing after this season. Selfishly, I hope he does. But he might have to play until 45 ... because this morning he's 445 catches behind the all-time leader, Jerry Rice.
Defensive Player of the Week
Kansas City LB Derrick Johnson. And not just for his 13-tackle game in the 28-0 shutout of the Raiders in Oakland. With the Chiefs up 14-0, Oakland drove to the Chiefs' two-yard line early in the second quarter. This was the time they'd get back in the game -- if they were going to get back in the game at all. On second-and-goal from the two, Johnson stuffed running back Michael Bush after a one-yard gain. Third-and-goal from the one: Bush, no gain. Team tackle. Fourth-and-goal from the one: Bush over left guard, stoned by Johnson. And that was Oakland's best chance of the day.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Seattle DE Red Bryant. In the second quarter at Cleveland, Bryant burst through the line to block a 48-yard field goal attempt by Phil Dawson. In the fourth quarter, he got one of his big mitts on a 24-yard attempt by Dawson. In his day job, he also got half-a-sack on Colt McCoy and made four tackles. Bryant was kicked out late in the fourth quarter for head-butting Browns tight end Alex Smith during the 6-3 loss. Quite an eventful day for the oft-invisible Seattle defensive end.
Green Bay K Mason Crosby. In a 20-minute span, starting with five minutes left in the first half, Crosby kicked field goals of 39, 45, 24 and 58. In that time, the Pack went from a 14-10 deficit to a 33-17 lead. Crosby also kicked all seven kickoffs into the end zone. Nice day for the heir to Ryan Longwell.
Coaches of the Week
Virginia (UFL) head coach Marty Schottenheimer. At long last, in his 22nd season as a pro head coach, Schottenheimer won a professional football championship. His Virginia Destroyers beat Jim Fassel's Las Vegas Locos 17-3 in Virginia Saturday night. "I'm a simple man,'' Schottenheimer said. "I told our guys that we didn't need to do anything fancy to win the game. Just go back to the basics and execute, and that's what we did.'' Is that a Marty quote or what? I think I've heard him say that 67 times as an NFL coach.
Kansas City coach Todd Haley. There's quite a bit of mayhem swirling around the Chiefs and their third-year head coach in the wake Kansas City's historically bad start. But to go into the Black Hole with the Raiders all revved up after the big deal for Carson Palmer, and to have the team playing hard, and to have made the cool call of a seven-yard Wildcat touchdown for Javier Arenas ... just a very impressive day for Haley's ability to command his team, even with all the noise reverberating around his job status.
Houston head coach Gary Kubiak. After a 41-7 rout of the Titans in Nashville, the most lopsided win in the Texans' eight-year history, Kubiak would have been excused if he'd had an oh-my-God-what-a-win moment in front of the team. But what he told his players is: "Nothing's decided after Week 7.'' Just the right thing to say, because Houston still has a long way to go to win the AFC South for the first time and make the playoffs for the first time. But this road rout was a very good start.
Goats of the Week
Oakland QBs Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer. Wow. Tough crowd. Palmer walks into a tough situation, practices three days and shares this hallowed honor? Well, the Raider quarterbacks threw six interceptions -- three apiece for Boller and Palmer -- and put zero points on the board. Look on the bright side. Can't get any worse, Carson.
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