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Colts quarterback Andrew Luck pulled off some Tom Brady-like comebacks. • Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III stole the show on highlight reels. • As the Nos. 1 and 2 picks in the draft, respectively, the rookies have led their franchises to turnaround seasons and potential playoff berths. • But you can make a strong case for another QB when it comes to the rookie of the year. • That would be Seattle's Russell Wilson, the lesser-known third-round pick out of Wisconsin who leads the red-hot Seahawks into a prime-time Puget Sound showdown tonight with the 49ers. • Wilson, who had to beat out high-priced free agent Matt Flynn in the preseason, has impressed with his mobility and intangibles. He has thrown for more touchdowns — and has a better quarterback rating — than Luck. And though he has fewer rushing yards than Griffin, unlike Griffin, he has avoided injuries. • "If it wasn't for RG3, Russell Wilson would actually have played the best out of any rookie quarterback: completion percentage, passer rating, touchdown-to-interception ratio," NFL Network analyst LaDainian Tomlinson said on SiriusXM radio. "What he has done in getting this team to this point is really remarkable. And so really and truly, at this time, I think Russell Wilson is your rookie of the year." • Said CBS analyst Rich Gannon: "He has been very special." • Tonight could be a major showcase for Wilson and the Seahawks, who have won five of six and scored a combined 108 points over the past two weeks. Seattle is 6-0 at home, and with a win tonight, it clinches a playoff berth and keeps its division title hopes alive. It's an intriguing matchup with two coaches, Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll, who feuded in college (Stanford and USC, respectively). There are two talented young quarterbacks, Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, and two top-five defenses. • "We're fighting for a championship," Carroll said. "That's all I could ever ask for. We've got a chance to do something special."

Fab five

1. Broncos 2. 49ers

3. Patriots 4. Texans

5. Falcons

Fighting for Flacco

You think Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman is under fire? Just look at Ravens QB Joe Flacco, left. Not long ago, it seemed like a slam dunk that Flacco, who can become a free agent after this season, would get a long-term deal. Coach John Harbaugh said after the opener, when Flacco threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-13 win over the Bengals: "Pay him whatever he asks for." But with the Ravens on a three-game losing streak, Flacco has become a target for criticism and doubters (despite his six touchdowns and three interceptions). Clark Judge of, however, says the Ravens will keep him for one reason: He wins. Flacco has led Baltimore to the playoffs in each of his first five season as well as two AFC title games. Writes Judge: "The Ravens ran a lot of guys through the door at quarterback, and only one stuck. You're looking at him, people, and you should be looking at him for a long, long time."

Boo birds

The Bears, apparently, aren't too high on the home crowd booing them after last week's loss to the Packers. "I know there are a lot of experts in the media, a bunch of smart guys out there who know exactly what they're talking about all the time," linebacker Brian Urlacher, above, said. "They don't know what they're talking about. The only team in our division that gets booed at home is us. It's incredible to me. Believe it. Don't believe it. We don't care." Said linebacker Lance Briggs: "I've been here for a long time, too, and I've seen a lot of boos; for a lot of the wrong reasons. Nobody on any team that I've ever been on gets booed more at home than here in Chicago."

Times wires contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at

Best bet

Giants (8-6) over Ravens (9-5)

The defending champions looked bad in a blowout loss at Atlanta last week but are in a must-win situation in a crowded NFC East.

Tough luck Tebow

Remember all the back-page headlines and nonstop ESPN coverage Tim Tebow received during training camp? Well, with the Jets benching struggling quarterback Mark Sanchez and bypassing the ex-Gator for Greg McElroy, there are reports they will trade or release Tebow after the season. Acquired from Denver as the league's most popular backup and a wildcat threat, the Tebow trade "hasn't panned out to my expectations and, maybe, to Tim's either," coach Rex Ryan said. Tebow has won a Heisman, spurred several fourth-quarter rallies in the NFL and led the Broncos to an unforgettable playoff win. But some believe he will never again be an NFL starting quarterback.

Best news of the week

Colts coach Chuck Pagano, left, who has inspired many during his battle with leukemia, is expected to return to work Monday, according to the Indianapolis Star. With his leukemia in remission, Pagano, 52, can resume full duties, and he'll likely take over a playoff team. (The Colts can clinch a berth with a win over the Chiefs today.) Buoyed by Pagano's "ChuckStrong" movement, Indianapolis has been one of the league's biggest surprises, going 8-3 under interim coach Bruce Arians. Said Arians: "Hopefully, we can get this victory and secure our playoff spot and turn it back over to Chuck."

Around the NFL 12/22/12 [Last modified: Saturday, December 22, 2012 7:34pm]
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  1. Ronde Barber: Want intimidation? Look at past Bucs teams


    Ronde Barber says these days "it's hard to find throwbacks, where you go, 'That guy is a badass.' Where do you find that now? It's such a show-off sport." (Times 2012)
  2. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  3. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. gets extra day off to let hip heal

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RF Steven Souza Jr. ran in rightfield before batting practice under the watchful gaze of the Rays training staff and manager Kevin Cash. Afterward, Souza told Cash he could use one more day of rest before playing on the left hip he strained Wednesday in Oakland.

    Steven Souza Jr., hugging Mallex Smith after Smith’s solo home run in the eighth inning, feels relief after tests are negative on his injured hip.
  4. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: FS1; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)