1. Broncos2. Patriots
3. Texans4. Falcons
Broncos (10-3) over Ravens (9-4)
The Ravens are tough at home, but Peyton Manning hasn't lost since baseball season was still going.
What they're saying
"He is the best safety in the league and has been really for this past decade."
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning on Ravens safety Ed Reed, above
As special — and stunning — as this season has been for the Colts, they have a special opportunity in front of them. In facing the first-place Texans today, the first of two matchups between the AFC South rivals in three weeks, quarterback Andrew Luck & Co. can clinch a playoff spot with a victory. And considering how bad Houston looked in Monday's loss to New England, don't be surprised if Luck — the No. 1 overall pick in April — pulls out his seventh game-winning drive of the season. "The thing about this guy, it reminds me a lot of (Steelers quarterback) Ben Roethlisberger," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "From a standpoint of even when you get there, he's hard to tackle." Said Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips: "I can't say enough how good a quarterback he is and how good a future he has."
Information from Times wires, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the NFL was used in this report.
Receiver Dez Bryant has been a lightning rod in Dallas during his first three seasons with his maturity (among other things) called into question. But you have to give Bryant credit for his toughness. He's risking long-term injury in trying to play with a fractured left index finger. Though Bryant is officially listed as questionable, he plans to start even though he knows he'll have limited flexibility and have to fight through excruciating pain for the rest of the season. Why is Bryant doing it? Because the Cowboys need a win over the Steelers to help their playoff hopes. "The position that we are in, that makes me want to be out there," said Bryant, who leads the team with 1,028 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. "If there was anything less than what we have a chance of, I would have went ahead and gotten surgery."
The NFL is coming off tragic off-field incidents over the past two weekends. There was Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who fatally shot his girlfriend before committing suicide. Seven days later, Cowboys practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in what police say was an alcohol-related car wreck involving teammate and driver Josh Brent. In the aftermath, foxsports.com's Alex Marvez tackled the question of if the NFL is doing enough to prevent such events from occurring. He reached out to an interesting source: Bengals cornerback Adam Jones, who has gotten into his share of trouble for incidents involving alcohol and guns. "I think the league does a great job offering resources. We just don't use them," Jones said, citing rides that can be provided to those who have had too much to drink. "I know I didn't use mine when I was younger. This happens to a lot of young guys who come into the league. The first four years happen so fast, you never really get to catch up and realize the resources you have."
Just when the Chargers were written off and reports surfaced that coach Norv Turner, left, and GM A.J. Smith would be fired after another disappointing season, they delivered a stunning win over the Steelers last week. San Diego is still likely to miss the playoffs, but the culprit of its roller-coaster season might not be Turner or Smith. In the Chargers' five wins, quarterback Philip Rivers has a combined three turnovers. In their eight losses, Rivers has 17. As Rivers goes, so go the Chargers. "What he brings to the table, he's kind of like the jumper cable," Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes said. "Everybody else is just waiting, hanging on, waiting for him to flip the switch open."
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder believes teammate and running back Adrian Peterson is a "freak of nature."
You have to believe him.
How else do you explain that less than a year after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee, Peterson is having the best season of his six-year career? He leads the league in rushing at 1,600 yards and has a legitimate shot at the NFL single-season record?
Peterson is carrying the Vikings into a big matchup with the Rams, stealing the show in a league dominated by quarterbacks.
"He's just gotten better and better, and I don't think there's anybody who thought going into the season that we'd be talking about Adrian with 1,600 yards, leading the league in rushing, MVP candidate, comeback player of the year candidate," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "It's just mind-boggling in a lot of ways."
Eric Dickerson set the record of 2,105 yards 28 years ago with the then-Los Angeles Rams. Peterson, 27, needs 506 to pass him.
"I don't want him to break it," Dickerson, 52, told cbssports.com. "If anyone ever broke it and if my son played football, I'd want my son to break it. But that's it. No one else. If a player was to break it, I'd probably want it to be Adrian, but I like having the record. I don't think it's going to be broken."
But Peterson has taught us something this season: Don't count him out.
A 'FREAK OF NATURE'