Tag:Cam Newton
Posted on: December 15, 2011 6:16 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 10:43 pm
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Steve Smith: 'You can't compare Cam to Tebow'

By Will Brinson

For whatever reason, people want to justify "Tim Tebow > X Quarterback" these days. Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers is not one of those people.

Smith was asked about Tebow's performance, presumably how it relates to Cam's this season, and doesn't think the two compare.

"You can't compare Cam to Tebow. I think Cam's a more complete player," Smith said, per Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. “Tebow has the wins. But everybody wants to crown Tebow. Yes, he has the will to win. I think Tebow is no different than any other professional. But Tebow has a great opportunity to play behind a great defense."

Cam does not have the same opportunity: though the Broncos don't rank that much better than the Panthers in total defense, the Panthers give up nearly a half a yard more per rush and have 26 sacks on the season to Denver's 37.

Additionally, Tebow's asked to do much less on offense than Newton and, really, just isn't as talented.

Tebow Saturation

"Versatile would mean you can throw the ball very accurately, run the ball, create things. And the only thing he's creating is running," Smith said. "He isn't very accurate. You watch him, I don't think 3-for-10 (after) three quarters is a versatile quarterback."

Smith meant 3 of 16, but it doesn't really matter. Newton, who's got a shot at setting the NFL rookie record for passing yards this week also already holds the NFL record for rushing touchdowns in a season by any quarterback.

He's simply better than Tebow and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to have their head checked. Of course, the problem is, there's really no need to even invoke the comparison.

But Tebow's the hot topic (rightfully so), and if you have a pulse and are remotely related to the NFL (player, coach, media, fan, whatever), you're probably getting asked about the Broncos quarterback.
 
That doesn't necessitate ridiculous comparisons to other NFL quarterbacks though. And Tebow would probably agree.

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Posted on: December 14, 2011 6:15 pm
 

Keep an Eye on: Week 15's finer points

Palmer and Netwon face stiff tests this week. Suggs, meanwhile, has been a beast in 2011. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Lions vs. Raiders

A few weeks ago, Carson Palmer was throwing interceptions but still playing great football for his new team. Lately, Palmer has just been throwing interceptions. What’s changed?

For one, Oakland’s pass protection. It has been shaky the last two games, particularly when it comes to sorting out blitz pickups. Also, general protection on the right outside has been an issue. Even when the Raiders go with a six-man line – which they do frequently – Palmer knows that Khalif Barnes and Stephon Heyer don’t consistently move their feet well. Consequently, Palmer has started to anticipate, and even perceive, pressure. This makes him jittery in the pocket.

What’s interesting is that one of Palmer’s brightest shining traits earlier this season was how firm he was in the pocket even when there was pressure closing in on him. You’d think that the time away from football would have made Palmer more frenetic in the pocket, and that he’d settle down after getting more games under his belt. Instead, the opposite’s been true.


A lot of Palmer’s interceptions have come when he’s trying to force a play. He’s made some careless decisions outside the pocket and on third-and-long situations. That may partly be a function of not knowing his own personnel (no other quarterbacks have found Darrius Heyward-Bey as trustworthy as Palmer has).

Things won’t get easier this week. The Lions picked off Christian Ponder three times last Sunday and, with Ndamukong Suh back, have a pass-rush that Palmer can legitimately worry about.

Panthers vs. Texans

Cam Newton is facing his most difficult test yet. The sensational rookie has gone up against some good cover corners (Charles Woodson, who played exclusively outside against the Panthers in Week 2, Cortland Finnegan in Week 10 and Aqib Talib in Week 13). He’s also faced some aggressive pass-rushes (Ray Horton’s blitzing Cardinals in Week 1, Gregg Williams’ blitzing Saints in Week 5 and Gunther Cunningham’s tireless Lions in Week 11).

He’s yet to face a combination of both, though. That’ll change Sunday. The Texans’ pass-rush is as fast and relentless as any in football. Their four-man linebacking unit might be the only group capable of chasing Newton down. Behind them, Johnathan Joseph is not just a good cover corner, he’s a great corner period. Joseph is one of just three players in the league this season who appears to possess the skill set necessary for shutting down Steve Smith (the others are Darrelle Revis and Champ Bailey, though strong arguments could also be made for Ike Taylor, Corey Webster and Patrick Peterson).

What sets Joseph apart is his acumen for defending the deep ball. And it’s the deep ball that has set Newton and Smith apart (they’ve hooked up for a league-high 25 passes over 20 yards). Aside from in the Week 3 monsoon at Jacksonville, Newton has not yet faced a defense that could wipe Smith out of the equation with just one player. We’ll find out just how much the young quarterback has really grown as a progression passer this Sunday.

Chargers vs. Ravens

Ray Lewis is an icon. Ed Reed is perhaps the greatest free safety who ever lived. Haloti Ngata is unblockable. But the best player on Baltimore’s No. 3 ranked defense is Terrell Suggs. In fact, one could argue that Suggs has been the best player on any defense this season. We’ve highlighted him in previous Film Room posts, but not with an outright endorsement for his Defensive Player of the Year campaign.

Last week against the Colts, Suggs forced three fumbles and recorded his second three-sack game in 17 days. He has a career-high 13 sacks on the season. Great as he’s been rushing the passer, his impact has been larger in other areas. His dropping back into coverage to take away quick slants played a big role in Baltimore’s win at Cleveland two weeks ago. In all games this season, Suggs has been a demon against the run. His length and speed are critical in backside pursuit, and his leverage and sheer physical force have long made him the best playside run defending linebacker in the game. Right now, there isn’t a better all-around defensive player than the ninth-year pro out of Arizona State.

Suggs is in perfect position to make a late push for Defensive Player of the Year this week. He has a game on Sunday Night Football, where you can bet Cris Collinsworth will share with the national television audience many of the items we’ve covered here. That game happens to be against a Chargers team that, because of Marcus McNeil’s neck injury, is starting recently signed journeyman Jared Gaither at left tackle.

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Posted on: December 9, 2011 4:08 pm
 

Barkley to Bears on Tebow: 'Stop the madness'

By Will Brinson



Remember when we told you that some NFL players appeared to be getting sick of all the Tebowmania that Tim Tebow is Tebowing causing across the country? They're not the only ones, apparently.

Charles Barkley, NBA analyst, speaker of his mind and noted yeller of outlandish things, went on the radio in Chicago and made a plea to the Chicago Bears to "stop the madness."

"I want to make a personal plea to Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Mr. [Julius] Peppers, please stop the madness," Barkley said Friday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I'm just so tired ... I like Tim Tebow. He seems like a good kid, and I wish him success, but I am Tebowed out. So this is my personal plea for you three guys, please stop this madness."

Barkley also said he believes Tebow's only getting run in the media because people like to argue about whether or not Tebow is a good quarterback. (Or something like that.)

"It's clearly a media-drive story," Barkley said. "They just want you to argue about Tim Tebow. Dude, let the kid play. If he can play, good. If he can't play it will show. But to have this argument every single day after five or six games is just ridiculous."


This is probably somewhat true; Tebow creates discussion and he definitely pushes pageviews. But there's also a reason he does those things. And that reason is, well, that no one really knows. I mean, everyone knows about Tebow and everyone has an opinion about Tebow, but no one's opinion is right.

Cam Newton had the same thing happen to him before the NFL Draft. People couldn't stop debating about whether or not he could be successful in the NFL. Once he started performing at a high level, that debate died down significantly.

Tebow, on the other hand, is winning but doing it an unconventional manner, and with a non-controversial lightning rod of a personality to boot. Because of that, people are confused, flummoxed and fired up enough to debate his success in the league.

It's not like this a phenomenon specific to football -- perhaps Chuck should ask non-NBA fans what they thought about the pummeling everyone took when it came to Miami Heat coverage in 2011.

But at least we can all agree on one thing (or, half of one thing) that Barkley had to say.

"I wish him luck," Barkley said. "But if I don't ever hear the words Brett Favre or Tim Tebow again it won't be enough."

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Posted on: December 9, 2011 1:02 pm
 

Teammates, coaches back Newton's bold statements

By Will Brinson



Cam Newton's rookie season's gone quite controversy-free (outside of handing a football to a fan anyway!), and people seem content to just let him cruise along, shattering NFL records.

Until he says stuff that could be misconstrued anyway -- during Newton's first national interview in quite some time, the Panthers quarterback said he's just trying to "get everybody on my level."

Well, kind of. What really happened is that Newton tried to point out how difficult it is to be on a losing team, since he's never been there before by making a jungle analogy, then turning it into a house analogy then accidentally saying he wanted to "get out of that house" at which point he was like "wait, I love it here!" or something.

“What happens when you take a lion out of the safari and try to take him to your place of residence and make him a house pet? ... It ain’t going to happen,” Newton said in an interview with ESPN the Magazine this week. "That's the type of person that I am. I'm that lion. The house that I’m in is somewhat of a tarnished house where losing is accepted. But I’m trying to change that, whether I'm going to have to turn that house into a safari or I'm just going to have to get out of that house.”

"I'm not trying to leave this place. I'm just trying to get everybody on my level."

So what Cam's trying to say, really, is that he wants to change the culture in Carolina. And good news -- everyone's OK with that.


"It doesn’t bother me at all," wide receiver Steve Smith told The Charlotte Observer. "I’d rather have a guy who is upset that we lost, obviously handling it the right way, than a guy who is neither way, whichever way.

"I like a guy who has the desire not to win next year, but he wants to win immediately. I think we needed more of that."

Smith's not the only member of the Panthers organization getting Newton's back, either. Head coach Ron Rivera is firmly on board with the notion that the culture in Charlotte needs to change.

"To me, the thing I like about it more than anything is it's important, it really is," Rivera said. "It's the old saying that if you didn't put your heart into it, it wouldn't hurt. He does. He puts everything into it.

"To me, there is no issue. I still struggle when I hear people talking about the stuff with that and the towel and that stuff, it doesn't make sense to me."

When Rivera refers to "the towel" he's discussing the inexplicable need for anyone covering a Panthers game to discuss the fact that Newton wears a towel on his head in between offensive series. The natural talking point is that Newton's "tuning out teammates" or "hiding his emotions" or something silly.

The idea that he might just be paying homage to the G.O.A.T.'s practice of doing the same is just too simplistic, apparently.

What's kind of interesting about this "controversy" from a social perspective, though, is the difference between the response to Newton's comments now and the response to Newton's pre-draft comments about becoming an "icon and an entertainer."

Obviously "changing the culture" and "becoming famous" aren't equal in terms of the soundbite value they hold, but the reaction to Newton's latest comments is much more tepid than the previous outcry.

And, quite simply, it's because Newton's been successful this season. And he's helping the Panthers win more than they were before he got there.

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 10:56 am
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Posted on: December 8, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: December 8, 2011 10:58 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Potential head coaches

Zimmer (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

It’s getting to be about that time. Christmas? Yes, of course. Hannukah? Naturally. Festivus? It depends on your syndicated TV viewing habits. The carousel of coaches who are fired and hired, changing the courses of several franchises for the foreseeable future? Abso-freakin-lutely.

Personally, I hate to see any coach drawing the pink slip, but as Bum Phillips once said, “There’s two kinds of coaches, them that's fired and them that's gonna be fired." Jack Del Rio knows of what Phillips speaks -- he’s already been asked to vacate the Jaguars premises. And there will be plenty more firings to come.

As colleague Will Brinson pointed out in this week’s Sorting the Sunday Pile, at least seven coaches (Steve Spagnuolo, Andy Reid, Jim Caldwell, Raheem Morris, Tony Sparano, Todd Haley and Norv Turner) are on the hot seat, and that means there’s a strong possibility a whole mess of new coaches will be needed. Like last year, when I presented my list of potential coaches*, many of the candidates are career assistants who have never had a chance at a head coaching slot. Some you’ve seen in this role before. All, though, deserve a chance --- or another chance -- to run a team of their own. And who knows, maybe they’d be the one to turn around a franchise in need of a jump-start.

*Only two from last year’s list made it this list (Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer), and with Leslie Frazier, Jim Harbaugh and John Fox in new jobs, I’ve also dropped candidates like Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron from consideration.

10. Bruce Arians: I had Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau on the list last year, though I figured that’s not going to happen at this point, but why shouldn’t teams take a look at Arians, Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator? He was the head coach at Temple in the 1980s -- his record is an unshiny 21-45 -- but the paradigm shift made by the team since he’s been offensive coordinator is impressive. The Steelers are no longer a smashmouth, pound-the-rock offense. No, with Ben Roethlisberger and a trio of talented young receivers, the Steelers have entered the 21st century with their offense. There was talk Arians was a contender for the Ole Miss job, and it sounds like these people also would be rooting for Arians to get a head coaching job.

9. Joe DeCamillis: Before you say, “Why in the hell would you hire a special teams coach to be your head coach?” remember that John Harbaugh followed a similar path -- he spent nine years as the Eagles special teams coach and didn’t spend one second as a coordinator -- and it seems to have worked out OK for the Ravens. Plus, as CBSSports.com Pete Prisco said in a recent chat, DeCamillis, the Cowboys special teams ace, is organized and passionate. And if Prisco says he’s OK, it must be true.

8. Rob Chudzinski: He hasn’t spent much time as an NFL offensive coordinator, but he’s performed his finest work this year. Sure, he has some talent on his hands (Cam Newton and Steve Smith, obviously), but the work he’s done with Newton this season has been impressive. It’s difficult to remember this now, but Newton was considered a raw specimen with only one year of major college football before the Panthers took him No. 1 in the draft. But with Chudzinski’s help, Newton oftentimes plays amazing football for a rookie. It’s doubtful anybody will take a chance on Chudzinski at this point, but he’s one to keep an eye on in the future.

7. Chuck Pagano: While the Ravens offense has been in a state of flux this season, there’s little question about the effectiveness of Baltimore’s defense, which is ranked third in the league in points allowed and yards. Pagano is only in his first season as a coordinator, taking over this season for Greg Mattison, but the Ravens have been more effective this year (they were 10th in the league in yards in 2010). Pagano might need more seasoning, but he’s a guy who could ride Baltimore’s wave, particularly if the Ravens go deep into the playoffs, into a possible new job.

6. Brian Billick: There are plenty of reasons not to hire Billick. Like he said recently, he’s not young and he’s not cheap. But if you’re not necessarily looking to hire somebody for the next three decades and you have some money to spend, why wouldn’t you take a look at Billick? Yes, he’s pompous (though very good while being interviewed, and I like him on the NFL Network), but he’s also confident in his abilities. As well he should be. In nine years in Baltimore, he went 80-64, and you might remember that he won a Super Bowl title. It would take a special owner to turn to Billick, but I think it could be a very good choice.

5. Wade Phillips: The job Phillips has done in Houston this year has convinced me that Phillips deserves another chance at a head coaching job. Obviously, things didn’t end well in Dallas -- do they ever with Jerry Jones, though? -- but did you know he has a better winning percentage (.573) than Jeff Fisher (.542) and Brian Billick (.556)? And that in his nine full seasons as a head coach, he only had one losing record? There’s no doubt that Phillips knows what he’s doing as a defensive coordinator, and we know Phillips can win as a head coach as well. He’s deserving of another chance.
Ryan
4. Rob Ryan: This is what I wrote last year: “We need – I mean, we NEED – another Ryan brother as a head coach in the NFL. Aside from being the most entertaining coach out there today – publically, at least – Rex Ryan has done a wonderful job turning the Jets into Super Bowl contenders. Now, Rob Ryan, the Browns (now Cowboys) defensive coordinator, needs to get his chance. With the marked improvement in Cleveland, does Ryan deserve the shot? Probably not at this point. But how awesome would it be if somebody gave him a job?” Indeed Josh from 2010, it would be pretty awesome.

3. Russ Grimm: He was finally elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year as a player. Now he deserves his own team to run. He was nearly selected to follow Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh -- and some believe he was offered the job before the Steelers rescinded the offer and gave it to Mike Tomlin -- and for now, Grimm is an assistant head coach to Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona. You’d think Grimm would get his chance eventually, but he has to wonder how much longer he’ll have to wait.

2. Jeff Fisher: If you were going to hire a former head coach and you had an infinite amount of money to woo even the most resistant of people, you might go with Bill Cowher as the first choice. But my second choice probably would be Fisher. For 17 seasons with the Oilers/Titans, he recorded a 142-120 record, and he came ever so close to a Super Bowl victory. Aside from Cowher, I’m not sure there’s another former head coach out there that would command as much instant respect as Fisher.

1. Mike Zimmer: After a one-year slip-up, when the team was ranked 24th in the NFL in points allowed, the Bengals, once again, are one of the top units in the league. This, even after losing top cornerback Johnathan Joseph to the Texans and after failing to re-sign starting linebacker Dhani Jones. Zimmer has received effective play from youngsters Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, and though there are no legit stars on defense, somehow Zimmer keeps making the case why somebody (anybody?!?) should give him a job. It’s time for Zimmer to have his shot.

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Posted on: December 6, 2011 9:45 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 10:59 pm
 

Newton gives girl football, Panthers get it back


Carolina fan Katie Brown gets the football Newton used to score his 13th TD of the season. (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

Remember in the weeks leading up to the draft when there were questions about whether Cam Newton would be the next JaMarcus Russell? Turns out, he's been slightly better than that. Against the Buccaneers Sunday, he scored three touchdowns (and threw for another), his 13th of the season, which set the record for most ever by a quarterback.

In anticipation of that eventuality, the Pro Football Hall of Fame had requested the ball Newton used to score the record-breaking touchdown.

Except that Newton had given the ball to a fan, 16-year-old Katie Brown, who spent the night before the game making a t-shirt that read "Katie and Cam" on the front and "Mrs. Newton" on the back. Her dad had surprised her with front-row seats. After his final rushing touchdown, the Panthers rookie jogged to where she was sitting and handed her the ball.

“It was the most amazing moment,” Brown told the Associated Press Monday. “I thought he was going to do his Superman celebration like he normally does, but then all of sudden he started running over and pointed right at me. I was in shock. I thought, I must be in a dream.”


"That's quite a gift for that young lady," FOX color analyst and former NFL head coach Jim Mora said. "That ball belongs in Canton." And Canton is where it's headed.

Panthers assistant equipment manager Don Toner experienced a different range of emotions as he saw Newton give away a football already promised to Canton.

“The funny thing is when Cam scored and started running over there we’re all yelling, ‘Oh no, don’t,’” Toner said laughing. “It was like watching it happen in slow motion. It was painful.”

Toner was tasked with getting the ball back, which turned out to be much easier than he expected. It didn't hurt that he came bearing gifts. He grabbed a replacement game ball from a ball boy in addition to four hats out of a Panthers equipment trunk.

“I just asked her real nice, ‘Would you mind exchanging that ball — we kind of need it,’” Toner said. “And she was real sweet about it. She didn’t hesitate. She was so excited she was trembling. She was just giddy about what had just happened.”

Brown was happy to oblige.

“I was like, ‘OK, no problem,’ ” she said. “I honestly believe Cam deserves to have that ball because it was his record and his achievement. He should have it.”

Hat tip: Shutdown Corner

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Posted on: December 6, 2011 5:09 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 2:25 am
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 13

Posted by Will Brinson



Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.

Week 13 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Cam Matthews Tolbert Coughlin
Judge  Tebow Harrison   Brown  Kubiak
Prisco Rodgers  Houston  Brown  Kubiak
Brinson  Cam Harrison  Brown  Kubiak
Katzowitz  Rice  Smith  Brown Munchak
Wilson  Cam Harrison  Brown  Carroll
Week 13 is a wrap and that means awards time!

Props to rookie quarterback Cam Newton for his first-ever division win, his first-ever NFL winning streak and now, his first-ever Eye on Offense Award!

On defense, we had a tie between Clay Matthews and James Harrison. Since Harrison's picture scares me more (my defacto tiebreaker these days), he got the nod for our Eye on Defense Award. Sorry, Clay.

Antonio Brown, who returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown as the Steelers whipped the Bengals, nearly swept the Eye on Special Teams Award.

And Gary Kubiak provided the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with its first start at quarterback by an alumni in the NFL ... and got the win with rookie T.J. Yates. That's worth something, right?

Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Cam Newton Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
Newton scored his 13th rushing touchdown this season. He ran for three alone against Tampa Bay on Sunday but did you see how he jumped over the Bucs defense on one of them? It was like a Michael Jordan dunk. It was crazy.

Tim TebowTim Tebow, QB, Broncos
People said he can't throw, so he puts up a passer rating of 149.3. They said the Broncos couldn't win with him, but they're 6-1. Maybe it's time to start looking for what's right with the guy instead of what's wrong ... and what's right is that he has Denver in first in the AFC West.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Tony Romo Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
He completed 28 of 46 passes for 369 yards and four touchdowns against the Giants. He also drove the Packers to the game-winning field goal in the final minute. Give him this award every week.
Cam NewtonCam Newton, QB, Panthers
Newton set an NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback on Sunday with his 13th on the season. Three of those came Sunday as Newton had arguably his best game as a pro, also throwing for another score. It was his first win in the division.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Ray RiceRay Rice, RB, Ravens
Remember how we criticized the Ravens for not giving Rice enough touches (and somehow John Harbaugh defending the strategy)? Yeah, this is what happens when Rice gets plenty of opportunities – 204 yards on 29 carries and a TD. Hopefully, Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron have learned their lessons.
Cam Newton Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
Not only is Newton the rookie of the year, you could make a good case that he's a top-10 NFL quarterback. Against the Buccaneers, he was 12 of 21 for 201 yards and a touchdown, but he also scored three more times on the ground. Oh, and he hauled in a 27-yard pass, too. This ain't your Jimmy Clausen Carolina Panthers.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Clay MatthewsClay Matthews, LB, Packers
The Packers defense isn't great and it can be had but every week it seems Matthews makes some sort of huge play. He did it again against New York with a pick-six. No, the Packers defense has holes but Matthews continues to make offenses pay.
James Harrison James Harrison, LB, Steelers
He had a team-high three sacks in the Steelers' 35-7 shredding of Cincinnati, keeping Pittsburgh on track with Baltimore in the AFC North. The Steelers' defense was supposed to wear down as the season went on. Instead, it's getting better,  allowing 16 points in its last two starts.
Prisco Brinson
Justin HoustonJustin Houston, LB, Chiefs
This rookie from Georgia had three sacks and spent the day in the Bears backfield. Houston gives the Chiefs another option on the other side from Tamba Hali. Three, zero, zero and three sacks, respectively, in four games.
Clay MatthewsClay Matthews, LB, Packers
For as much as junk as the Packers defense takes for giving up a ton of points, it's important to remember they've got a pile of playmakers -- Matthews proved that with a pick six of Eli Manning that ended up being the difference in the Packers shootout win over the Giants.
Katzowitz Wilson
Aldon Smith Aldon Smith, LB, 49ers
Aside from the fact Smith recorded two sacks against the Rams, his celebration after his final sack was awesome. Instead of dancing like a maniac, he sprinted to the sideline, tried not to touch anybody and just sat on the bench. It was awesome, sort of like Smith’s performance.
James Harrison James Harrison, LB, Steelers
Harrison missed four games in the middle of the season with an eye injury but since returning to the lineup in Week 9 he has six sacks, three coming against a Bengals offensive line that had done a good job of protecting Andy Dalton all season.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Mike TolbertMike Tolbert, RB, Chargers
The play he made on kickoff coverage wasn't the kind of play you will see on highlights across the country but it was damn impressive. Tolbert completely annihilated a kick return by the Jaguars. I mean, it was a textbook, single-handed destruction. And remember: Tolbert is one of the key cogs on offense and he still sacrifices his body like that.
Antonio Brown Antonio Brown, WR/KR, Steelers
H His 60-yard punt return for a touchdown finished off Cincinnati in a game that was supposed to be closer than it was. One reason it wasn't: Antonio Brown. The guy's been a productive receiver all year, but he pushed the Steelers to their third straight win and seventh in eight games with a nifty punt return. Hey, the more you can do ...
Prisco Brinson
Antonio BrownAntonio Brown, WR/KR, Steelers
He has emerged as a big-time receiver this season, but he's still a good return man. He had a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown to make it 28-7 at the half against the Bengals.
Antonio BrownAntonio Brown, WR/KR, Steelers
Brown's one of the more underrated all-around performers  in the NFL. A big sleeper coming into his second season, the Pittsburgh wideout's begun blowing up as of late and doing it all over the field -- Sunday he took a punt 60 yards to the house to finish off the Bengals by halftime.
Katzowitz Wilson
Antonio Brown Antonio Brown, WR/KR, Steelers
Aside from his 45-yard catch that helped set up the Steelers first score, Brown also finished off Cincinnati late in the first half. After the Bengals scored to get some momentum and cut the lead to two touchdowns, Brown took a Kevin Huber punt and returned it 60 yards for the score to give Pittsburgh a 28-7 lead. And that was basically ballgame.
Antonio Brown Antonio Brown, WR/KR, Steelers
Pittsburgh hasn't been known for their coverage or return teams for some time but young players are changing that. Brown is not only an emerging talent at wideout, he's a dangerous return man, too. His 60-yard punt return against the Bengals capped a 28-point second quarter for the Steelers.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Bill BelichickTom Coughlin, HC, Giants
I know, unusual choice, but seeing the Giants against the Packers after they were debacled the previous week, was interesting to see. Coughlin had his team ready and I don't think there's going to be a Giants collapse. For once.

Gary Kubiak Gary Kubiak, HC, Texans
He wins without his top defensive player. He wins without his top offensive player. He wins without his starting QB. Now he wins with a rookie third-string QB, beating Atlanta behind T.J. Yates. Kubiak was supposed to be fighting for his job. Instead, he's jockeying for playoff position.
Prisco Brinson
Gary KubiakGary Kubiak, HC, Texans
Kubiak, after losing both Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart to injury, beat the Falcons, who are a good team with rookie T.J. Yates making his first start. That's impressive. 
Gary KubiakGary Kubiak, HC, Texans
The meltdown is supposed to happen, because this is the Texans we're talking about. But no matter who goes down for Kubiak's team, he keeps the ship righted and Houston steered towards the franchise's first playoff berth. A win over would-be contender Atlanta was especially impressive.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jim Schwartz Mike Munchak, HC, Titans
Tennessee went to Buffalo and beat the fading Bills, and if you wanted to know why, you could point to Chris Johnson’s 23-carry, 153-yard, two-touchdown performance. But considering Johnson has had about two strong games this year and yet, the Titans are 7-5 and in the AFC wild card race, Munchak deserves plenty of credit.
Hue Jackson Pete Carroll, HC, Seahawks
Beating the Eagles in Week 13 doesn't carry quite the cachet as doing it earlier in the season but the Seahawks are one of the league's most improved teams over the last month. They steamrolled Philly last Thursday and if the 49ers hadn't run away with NFC West, Seattle might be in the running for another 7-9 division title.



 
 
 
 
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