Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action, figures out the winners and losers and asks the big questions. Slightly condensed version this week as it's the holidays. No podcast, no picture of the week and only eight questions. Blame Mrs. Brinson if you're so inclined. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter.
The Greatest Rookie Season Ever?
That's right. The greatest rookie season ever is precisely what Cam Newton's going to wrap up in Week 17 against the Saints a game of no real consequence when it comes to his legacy as the best rookie in NFL history.
There should be no argument that Cam's season, even without the final week, goes down as the greatest season by a rookie quarterback in history. He has the record for most passing yards in a season (again, with a week to go) by a rookie. He has the record for most passing yards in a game by a rookie. He has the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season by any quarterback.
Of the seven rookie quarterbacks with 3,000 passing yards, Newton doesn't have the most passing touchdowns, but he doesn't have the most interceptions either. There shouldn't be any question that his rookie year is the greatest by any quarterback.
As far as other rookies go, you could argue for Eric Dickerson (more than 2,000 total yards and 20 touchdowns in 1983), Dick Lane (14 interceptions, two pick sixes for Night Train in 1952), Randy Moss (17 touchdowns and 1,313 receiving yards in 1998) or Lawrence Taylor (9.5 sacks -- before they were even counted -- in 1981) if you want.
But none of those guys dealt with the complexities of running an offense. None of those guys dealt with a lockout-shortened offseason. None of those guys performed the way they did under the intense scrutiny of 2011 Twitteratiland. None of those guys carried the expectations of the No. 1 overall pick who was supposed to save a franchise ... or cost a GM his job simply because no one was sure how good they'd be. None of those guys inspired the fierce debate that Newton did leading up to being drafted.
Cam's rejuvenated a franchise that was dead in the water and he might be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL right now. It's been a marvel to watch him perform and it's insane to think that there was a debate as to whether or not the Panthers should take him.
WinnersMatthew Stafford: The Lions are in the playoffs. That's worthy of "winner inclusion" all by itself. But the Lions were secretly facing a pretty bad situation, with the white-hot Chargers and the very good Packers over the next two weeks. 9-7 and getting snuck out of the playoffs wasn't out of the question at all. Until Stafford got his surgical precision on and shredded the San Diego secondary, going 29 of 36 with 373 yards and three touchdowns. Stafford's next up for the "is he or isn't he elite" debate.
Pete Prisco: Yes, my CBSSports.com colleague and former life coach (Pete doesn't know it, but I fired him when he suggested I not wear socks with my loafers). Prisco's the only guy that I know of who refused to budge off his negative stance of Tebow during the Broncos winning streak. There might be an argument that Pete's stubborn and you might be inclined to call him a "hater" but with the way that Tebow egged on Saturday, there are going to be a LOT of people ripping him over the next week. And Prisco's the only one of those people who's stood his ground the whole time.
Kevin Kolb: The Cardinals were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday and that means Kolb avoided his worst possible nightmare. That would be "John Skelton marching Arizona to an improbable postseason run and the team deciding to bail on Kolb's albatross of a contract." Instead, Arizona now plays out the string and regroups for 2012, likely with Kolb as the starting quarterback for at least another year.
Matt Forte: What's that, you say? Forte didn't play on Saturday. Oh, I know that. I also know that if the Vikings hadn't handed Adrian Peterson a monster contract before the 2011 season, things would be awkward right about now. Over the past month, the Bears have collapsed without Forte and Jay Cutler, meaning he's beefed up his leverage as an important player for the franchise and, with the Peterson injury, justified his rationale for wanting a new contract.
Jerome Simpson: Did you see his touchdown catch?
|Turner's time might be up in San Diego. (US Presswire)|
LosersNorv Turner: A lot of credit goes to the Lions for the way they played on Saturday. Detroit is a very good team and a formidable opponent. But how can the Chargers not show up, especially knowing that the Broncos lost and that they were either a Bengals/Jets pair of losses or a Broncos loss in Week 17 away from making the playoffs? That's still not "controlling your own destiny" but out of everyone who was gifted an early Christmas present during the early games on Sunday, Turner and the Chargers were probably the luckiest. A 24-0 halftime deficit in the most critical game of the season isn't going to inspire any Spanos family members to keep their pink slips tucked away.
Jason Garrett: No one's going to blame him for losing to Philly. That's what happens with Stephen McGee under center. But holy cow does Garrett have the hardest decision -- and the most scrutiny -- of his short career coming up over the next week. The Giants and Cowboys will play in Week 17, with a trip to the postseason and a division championship on the line. Tony Romo will almost certainly play, but will he be effective? Can Garrett gameplan in order to play to Romo's injury? Will he cough up a shot at the postseason? These are the ways we will judge him after next week's game. And by "we" I obviously mean "Jerry Jones and his potentially angry family."
Adrian Peterson: AP's leg injury on Sunday was so brutal that I even feel like a jerk putting him in the "losers" section. But if you saw the horrific nature of Peterson's injury, you know precisely why he's not feeling like a winner right now. The Vikings announced after the game that it was a sprained knee but -- all due respect to Minnesota -- that's just not believable at all. The multiple reports that it's a torn ACL (and potentially worse) make a lot more sense. It's just sad that Peterson could miss significant time because he was playing in a meaningless game for a three-win team.
Rex Ryan: Ryan spent all week running his mouth about the New York-New York rivalry and when push came to shove, his guy Mark Sanchez fumbled on the Giants goal line and threw a "pass" to an offensive lineman that resulted in a safety in a devastating loss on Saturday. The Darrelle Revis/Antonio Cromartie combo got torched by Victor Cruz (that's his name, right?) and Brandon Jacobs got to say "It's time to shut up, fat boy." That's just embarrassing. Oh, right, and the Jets lost control of their own destiny with respect to the playoffs. It wouldn't be nearly as mortifying if Ryan hadn't run his mouth all week.
Pipedreams: Just like San Diego, the Eagles were very much a longshot to make the playoffs. But I'm telling you, there was a chance. Then the Giants killed that chance (adding to their winner-y-ness) with a win over the Jets. That means Week 17 is no longer a dream scenario for fans of long shots, because both early-season favorites are now removed from any chance of a postseason berth. You don't have to root for the Eagles or Chargers. In fact, you can root against them. But if you don't like ridiculous storylines and clowning around with playoff predictors then we're not friends.
The Big Questions
|The new Tebow narrative could be awkward. (AP)|
1. What's the new Tim Tebow narrative?
No, but it's on life support (and Prisco wants to pull the plug!). Look, Tebow can still win against Kansas City in Week 17, or even lose as long as the Chargers beat the Raiders. But think about how quickly this narrative could be absolutely flipped on its head: if Kyle Orton, the man Tebow replaced, beats Tebow in Week 17 because Tebow can't win late, and the Raiders beat the Chargers and make the playoffs, the Broncos new narrative will be as chokers. No, really, it will. And that is nuts when you consider where we were just two weeks ago.
2. Why does Leslie Frazier keep playing guys who are hurt?
NO CLUE. But this is a story that's flown under the radar for the past few weeks and it culminated with AP's injury against Washington, as well as the concussion that Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder suffered on Saturday. The Vikings are 3-12 after winning on Christmas Eve, but they didn't even need Peterson or Ponder to put up points -- it was all Joe Webb against the Redskins. Of course, winning, at this point, should be secondary. Frazier's top priority should be the health of his franchise quarterback and running back. Instead, these guys keep getting trotted out with injuries late in a lost season. That's not the sort of thing that keeps a job safe for long.
3. Did Raheem Morris get fired on Saturday?
Almost certainly. The Panthers went out and walloped Tampa Bay 48-16 in Charlotte, meaning that the Bucs lost their eighth game in a row. Worse than the losses is the way they've happened: over the last four games, the Buccaneers have been outscored 158-64. They've given up 40 points to the Panthers and Jaguars and have topped 20 points just once since their trip to London in late October when things really started to unravel. It's an embarrassing collapse down the stretch and it's hard to blame the Glazer family and GM Mark Dominik when (not if) they fire Morris.
4. Anyone else getting fired?
Gotta think that Turner's done in San Diego now and that Romeo Crennel's the only interim hanging around. I can't buy that Jim Caldwell's saving his job so I'd add him to the list too. But I think any questions about Chan Gailey can now be reserved for a while, given the way he dismantled the Broncos on Sunday.
5. Why should Tom Brady be worried?
Because his offensive lineman are dropping like flies. And while the Patriots are going to continue being good because that's what the Patriots do, there's absolutely cause for concern in New England if Logan Mankins and Matt Light are hurt for any length of time. As you may be aware, this isn't a team predicated on playing any sort of defense, and if they can't protect Tom Brady, there's little chance of them advancing in the postseason.
5. How mad are the 49ers?
Furious. And it doesn't matter that they won, because they gave up a rushing touchdown to Marshawn Lynch. They might hold the record for most games without one, but you know they wanted to make it the entire season. They did not.
6. Am I going to have to watch Matt Flynn on Christmas night?
Not as much as you might have feared. The 49ers won against the Seahawks on Saturday, and that means Green Bay hasn't clinched the top seed yet. Which means that Aaron Rodgers will stay in the game against the Bears for the entire game, barring an absolute Packers blowout.
7. Was Simpson's catch the play of the year?
Yup, it sure was. Maybe not the "play of the century" or anything insane like people are saying, but it was an absolutely bananas catch and it deserves incredible props. Watch -- it's going to be the type of thing you talk with your relatives about on Christmas. That's the way you can truly judge the greatness of a play.
8. Should Ben Roethlisberger play next week?
No. There's just no need. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice handled the Browns just fine in Week 16, and Charlie Batch/Rashard Mendenhall can do the same in Week 17. Rest the guy, run the ball, cross your fingers that Cincy can summon the strength to beat the Ravens on the road and let Roethlisberger rest.
GIF O' THE WEEKI mean duh. Did you notice I liked it?
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