(1) Where does Brady-Manning rank among the great QB rivalries in NFL history?
This Sunday’s matchup between New England and Indianapolis was originally slated for prime time on NBC. But with Peyton Manning out indefinitely and winless Indy freefalling through a miserable season, it got bumped to 1pm EST on CBS. The relative lack of interest in this game underscores just how central the Brady–Manning rivalry has been to the Patriots–Colts rivalry. Over the past decade, the two teams and their Hall of Fame QBs have produced a series of memorable contests, such as the goal-line-stand game, the snow game, the 18-point-comeback game, the fourth-and-two game, and the almost-comeback game. In 2006, Sports Illustrated included Brady–Manning on its list of the “top 10 QB rivalries of all time,” along with Stabler-Bradshaw, Unitas-Namath, Marino-Montana, Elway-Kosar, Young-Aikman, Graham-Layne, Kelly-Marino, Starr-Unitas, and Bradshaw-Staubach. (SI inexplicably omitted Montana-Elway.)
(3) Will Tim Tebow continue to avoid turnovers?
When Tebow critics want to summon evidence that his much-ballyhooed run of success “just isn’t sustainable,” they typically point to his lousy completion percentage (45.5). “But completion percentage is only one small part of the story and not a very meaningful one at that,” notes NFL analyst Kerry Byrne, founder of Cold, Hard Football Facts (CHFF). According to the Real Quarterback Rating devised by CHFF, Tebow has outplayed the opposing QB in each of his five wins as a starter. Byrne explains that his consistently high rating can be attributed to two factors: Tebow scores touchdowns — either through the air or on the ground — at a relatively fast pace (relative, that is, to his aggregate number of pass attempts, rush attempts, and sacks), and he commits remarkably few turnovers. “Tebow has suffered just two turnovers all year, one interception and one fumble. Both of those turnovers came in the Detroit game, his lone loss this year.”
(4) How many teams will be sitting atop the AFC North on Monday morning?
If Baltimore loses at Cleveland and Cincinnati wins at Pittsburgh, there will be a three-way tie for first place in the Black and Blue division. The Ravens (8–3) are ranked No. 2 in the latest ESPN power rankings and are fresh off a suffocating defensive performance against San Francisco. Yet Joe Flacco & Co. have made a bad habit of losing trap games after big victories, and their record away from M&T Bank Stadium is 2–3. As for the Bengals (7–4) and the Steelers (8–3), Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger believes that his Cincinnati counterpart, Andy Dalton, has been the NFL’s rookie of the year. (“I think he’s that good of a quarterback,” Roethlisberger told reporters on Wednesday.) When Pittsburgh topped the Bengals 24–17 in Week 10, Dalton threw a pair of TD passes but also a pair of interceptions. Roethlisberger broke his throwing-hand thumb in that game, and he tweaked the injury during practice this week.