Judgements: Bolts are for real
San Diego typically gets off to slow starts ... but not this year. It's not just that the Chargers are 2-1 and tied with Denver at the top of the AFC West; look at their upcoming schedule: Three of their next four games are home vs. Jacksonville, the New York Jets and Kansas City. And their one road game? Uh-huh, it's vs. winless Oakland. Do the math, people. The combined record of their next four opponents is 2-9, which means 6-1 is more than a possibility for San Diego. It's a probability. If I'm the Broncos, I have these guys in my rear-view mirror. Remember, the Bolts were the only team that won in Denver last year.
2. Beating Buffalo was not without its cost. The loss of Danny Woodhead is a blow. The Chargers were never the same after third-down specialist Darren Sproles left ... then Woodhead came along. He wasn't Sproles, but he was a security blanket for Philip Rivers.
3. Coaches always talk about finishing strong, and nobody does it better than Arizona. If you wonder why the Cardinals are unbeaten, look no farther than the fourth quarter. Arizona owns it, outscoring opponents 30-0. And if you're wondering how San Francisco is 1-2, don't touch that dial. The 49ers have been outscored 31-0 in the same period.
4. No, the Cardinals are not imposters. They're 10-2 over their last 12 games, with more regular-season wins than everyone but Carolina (the Panthers also have 10). What's more, one of those wins was in Seattle -- the Seahawks' only home loss in their last 20 games there.
5. Look at it this way, Denver fans: Your Broncos took the Seahawks to the mat ... in their house. Plus, they're the second team in two weeks to poke holes in that vaunted defense. I know there are no such thing as moral victories in the NFL, but this was mighty close. It was the Super Bowl the NFL wish it had in February.
6. Fantasy-football alert: This is the week to play the Baltimore defense ... vs. ESPN.
7. The most complete team? Easy. It's Cincinnati. Then again, it's not January.
8. All those wondering what's wrong with Joe Flacco, here's your answer: Nothing. Rewind the videotape of that 32-yard shot to Steve Smith to set up the Ravens' game-winning field goal. It was perfect. There are few guys anywhere more accurate on deep throws than Flacco.
9. Joe Theismann was right. The Redskins are better off with Kirk Cousins.
10. That should quiet the Pittsburgh doomsayers. Not only did the Steelers rediscover the end zone, settle their offensive line and hammer a quality opponent in a stadium where it doesn't lose; they found a comfy schedule, too. Their next two opponents are Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, followed by Cleveland and Houston ... and alll but the Cleveland game are home.
11. The way I see it, St. Louis may already have a plan for a future starter. It's called Austin Davis.
12. I'm sorry, but if you're counting on Billy Cundiff to win tight games you're in trouble. Baltimore knows. Now, so do the Browns.
13. Memo to Jim Harbaugh: Get control of your team. The past two weeks the 49ers have been penalized 25 times for 225 yards -- including several taunting calls."We had to be smarter today," tackle Joe Staley said Sunday. Today? How about this season?
14. Yep, the Saints played better on defense, and it's about time. But where are the takeaways? They have one this season, and that was supposed to be an area where they improve.
15. Congratulations, Florida. You have three teams with a combined record of 1-9, including the two worst (Jacksonville and Tampa Bay) in the league. In case you missed it, those two just combined to hemorrhage 100 points in one weekend.
16. Oh, and just for the record: Tampa Bay's next three games are, in order, at Pittsburgh, at New Orleans and home vs.Baltimore. Say hello to 0-6.
17. Welcome back, Eli. Finally, he looks more like a quarterback than a Toyota salesman. In fact, his 123.2 passer rating was his best since the final game of the 2012 season.
18. The 49ers are living dangerously. Colin Kaepernick cannot continue to run 13 times and not get hurt.
19. A sideline brawl in Philadelphia? Shocking.
20. That was more than Carolina's first loss. It was a beatdown ... and it might be a signal of tough times ahead. Reason: Look at the Panthers' schedule. The next seven weeks look like this: At Baltimore; Chicago; at Cincinnati; at Green Bay; Seattle; New Orleans; at Philadelphia and Atlanta. Going down?
FIVE HALL-OF-FAME SIZZLES
1. Cincinnati WR Mohamed Sanu.It's not just that he hasn't missed one of four career passes; he has two TD throws and a perfect passer rating, too, which is great if he were a quarterback. But he's not.
2. Arizona QB Drew Stanton. No, he doesn't get the attention Colin Kaepernick does, but he outplayed him. And he's won his last four starts, including two this season. Now the question: What happens when Carson Palmer returns?
3. Washington WR DeSean Jackson. I thought he was supposed to be hurt. Apparently, so did his ex-teammates. Jackson burned the Eagles for 117 yards in catches, including an 81-yard TD. Jackson is one of only three receivers (Hall of Famers Art Monk and Charlie Joiner are the others) to have 80-yard scoring catches for and against the same team.
4. Arizona WR John Brown. So he's small. He's fast. He's quick. He has sure hands. And he has three TDs in his first three pro games, the first Cardinal in nearly 60 years to accomplish that.
5. Washington QB Kirk Cousins.When you throw for three touchdowns, produce 427 yards and score 34 points, you should win. Cousins did not. But he's playing so well he's initiated a debate once considered unthinkable inside or outside the Beltway: Cousins or RG3?
FIVE HALL -OF-FAME FIZZLES
1.Tennessee CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson. He could have intercepted that Sanu pass to Andy Dalton. No, he should have. Instead, he cost his team six points, and this just in: Tennessee worked on the play last week in practice, and Wreh-Wilson was on the field for it. Let's just put it this way. It wasn't a good day for No. 25. Wreh-Wilson threw in a pass interference in the end zone, too, that cost the Titans another TD.
2. St. Louis TE Jared Cook. First, he drops a touchdown pass that would've put the Rams up by eight. Then he shoves his quarterback, Austin Davis, on the sideline out of .... I don't know ... frustration? "I feel like I let the game slip through my hands," Cook said later, apologizing for the outburst. As a matter of fact, Jared, you did.
3. Detroit K Nate Freese. He didn't miss a field goal a year ago. He's missed four already this season, all between 40 and 40 yards. When your kicker is 3-for-7 you better start thinking about a change. The Lions have. Reports have them signing Alex Henery on Monday.
4. Washington DL Chris Baker. Bad enough he leveled Nick Foles with a blindside cheap shot after an apparent interception. Worse, he had absolutely no remorse. "If I could do it again," he said, "I would do it again." Good thing this goon doesn't play hockey. Frontier justice would guarantee he doesn't get a chance to "do it again."
5. Oakland G Gabe Jackson. His holding call cost Darren McFadden and the Raiders a game-tying TD. "I wasn't going to be denied on that touchdown run," said McFadden. "Then I turned around, and nobody was coming to celebrate with me." There' s a good reason, and you're looking at him.
ON THE HALL-OF-FAME RADAR
Baltimore QB Joe Flacco. That makes him 12-1 vs. Cleveland, but he had to do it the hard way -- rallying Baltimore from behind with a last-gasp drive to clinch it.
New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings. He runs for 176 yards and a touchdown to lead the Giants to their first win, dedicating the game to his double-amputee father. Nice. In one afternoon, the Giants' offense went from a punchline to the Giants again. And the team Jennings left behind? Yep, the Raiders' had three backs who combined for 67 yards vs. New England.
Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck. He missed only eight of 39 passes, threw for four TDs and produced a career-best passer rating of 140.4. In short, he had a good day. Luck and Johnny Unitas are the only quarterbacks in Colts' history to complete 75 percent of their passes in a game for at least 350 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson. That game-winning, 80-yard drive was a masterpiece, with Wilson running for 22 yards and two first down and completing four of six for another 35 yards. It reminded me of his game-winning performance vs. Chicago his rookie year, and it was the only way he was going to beat Peyton Manning on this afternoon -- by not letting him touch the ball again. With the victory, Wilson is 7-0 vs. Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
Denver QB Peyton Manning. Nobody but the Seahawks are supposed to win in Seattle. But Manning came this close. In fact, had he touched the ball in OT the smart money was on Denver. But he didn't, and that's OK. He proved he can solve the Legion of Boom -- with an 80-yard game-tying drive in six plays and 41 seconds the proof.
THIS WEEK'S HALL-OF-FAME NOMINEE
Philadelphia QB Nick Foles. I knew the guy was accurate. What I didn't know was how tough he is. Constantly "blown up," as Fox analyst Troy Aikman put it, Foles played through repeated hits and one disgraceful Chris Baker cheap shot to rally the Eagles (stop if you've heard this before) to another victory.
"We're not going to win any games when I play like that." -- Houston QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
0-3 -- Peyton Manning in OT with Denver
2 -- Jacksonville first-half first downs
3 -- Straight DeMarco Murray 100-yard games
4 -- Times teams that trailed by 17 points this season have won
4-2 -- Record of Super Bowl champs vs. their Super Bowl opponent when the two meet the following season
15 -- -Straight losses for Oakland in the Eastern Time Zone
74-24 -- Philadelphia's second-half score vs. opponents
36 -- Donald Brown touches, a career-high
264 -- Pittsburgh yards rushing, the most under Mike Tomlin