Instant reactions to this week's early action. If only every game was as good as the shootout between Minnesota and Denver...
DEN 35 - MIN 32
This is a game started by a rookie and a second-year QB with a mere ten starts under his belt, and without a couple of big-impact players in Adrian Peterson and Von Miller. But you'd never know it. Christian Ponder has set a new Vikings franchise record for passing by a rookie in this one, while standing up under a series of hellacious blitzes. Meanwhile, Tim Tebow has thrown only three incompletions, has a pair of touchdown passes and a 2-point conversion. Just an outstanding matchup.
Vikings take a 32-29 lead but kick away to Tim Tebow with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Tebow drives for a game-tying field goal. Broncos have to kick away to Ponder with less than two minutes left. Ponder throws a pick deep in his own territory. Could this game have turned out any other way?
With a win, Denver would takes over a share of the AFC West. Stunning.
CAR 38 - TB 19
Wearing their creamsicle throwbacks seems to have brought back the old no-tackle defense to Tampa Bay. That, or Cam Newton is just that good. 204 yards passing, 54 yards rushing, 27 yards receiving (!), and four combined touchdowns on the day make this game a waltz for Carolina.
Meanwhile, a pregame report out of Tampa suggested that Raheem Morris' job security might depend on showing tangible improvements in the season's remaining weeks. He might want to burn tape of this one.
KC 10 - CHI 3
Chiefs punted eleven times in this game. And won. Chicago fans everywhere, in unison: "Welp."
@ChrisBurke_SI: That Chiefs' Hail Mary touchdown was just their second TD in the last five weeks. Amazing.
MIA 34 - OAK 14
At some point, we'll have to figure out how the Dolphins are doing this. In the meantime, we're just going to sit back an enjoy it. It's just a shame that no one in Miami seems to care about watching.
@PhinsDaniel: Under no circumstances including 8-8 do I want Tony Sparano coaching this Dolphins team next year
PIT 38 - CIN 7
Just your classic total domination, with one interesting historical note:
@ChrisWesseling: Hines Ward is the 3rd player in NFL history w/ 12,000 receiving yards, 2 Super Bowl rings. Joins HOFers Art Monk and Jerry Rice.
The Hines Ward-Art Monk comparison is an interesting one, that deserves an in-depth look after the season. Not many WRs are getting into the Hall, but Ward has been too good for too long to be forgotten.
HOU 17 - ATL 10
Atlanta Falcons fans have to be scratching their heads trying to figure out Matt Ryan. He plays well at times, but just doesn't seem to be a player that the team can lean on. He was outplayed by the Texans' third string quarterback today, somebody named "TJ Yates." And he was playing without an injured Andre Johnson while driving for the crucial go-ahead points.
@jeff_underscore: @ThisGivenSunday I thought Ryan was overrated coming out of BC. Made too many bad decisions. Catching up to him finally.
Expect this to be a heavily-discussed topic this week. Meanwhile, this Yates kid is no Caleb Hanie.
TEN 23 - BUF 17
This game was not as close as the scoreboard makes it look. Tennesse rode a revitalized Chris Johnson and methodically pulled away from Buffalo early. A cosmetic late touchdown from Fitzgerald to Stevie Johnson made this one close at the end. CJ Spiller showed early life for the Bills, and totaled 102 yards and a touchdown, but was largely shut down in the second half.
NE 31 - IND 24
Yes, that was Dan Orlovsky beating a 20-point spread, with a big assist from a New England defense that basically didn't bother to show up in the game's second half. If you're big into chemistry between QBs and WRs, you should note that Pierre Garcon caught 9 balls for 150 yards and 2 TDs. But that's putting a lot of weight on garbage time stats ... both TDs were scored in a 21-point fourth quarter after the Patriots decided it iwas nappy nap time.
NYJ 34 - WAS 19
Give the Redskins some credit: behind Roy Helu's running, they gave the Jets a game for a full three quarters. But then Rex Grossman rexed it up, and the Jets got a big win going away. After a 19-46 day passing and two turnovers, the best thing you can say about Grossman's day is that he didn't spoil his team's chance to replace him early in the draft.