1. Dallas Cowboys
This is a no-brainer; anytime you can beat the Seahawks in Seattle you deserve to skyrocket to the top of the Hot List. Demarco Murray was high on the Hot List earlier this season and for good reason. He continued to impress this week, despite facing the vaunted Seattle defense. The Cowboys have realized that the key to winning is to take the ball out of Tony Romo’s hands and put it in Murray’s. The Cowboys now head back home to face a reeling Giants squad that looks like it might be poised to give up 200 rushing yards to Murray. There still might be doubters of the ‘Boys, but the win in Seattle certainly silenced a lot of them.
2. Joe Flacco
After Eli Manning, Flacco is easily the most disrespected Super Bowl winning quarterback in recent memory. In a crazy year off the field, the Ravens have actually been performing decently on the field. This Sunday Flacco took advantage of the weak Tampa Bay Buccaneers, completing 21 of 29 passes with 5 of them going for touchdowns. Flacco spread the ball around, hitting eight different receivers for touchdowns. Oh by the way, Flacco had 4 of those touchdowns in the first quarters. Flacco is no Peyton Manning but Sunday reminded everyone that he did win a Super Bowl and he has the ability to play like it.
3. Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers’ place on the list almost completely stems from the fact that his line ends up on the Cold List. Rodgers was under pressure the entire game. He was sacked only 3 times but had to escape the pocket repeatedly, and even ended up with 7 carries for 34 yards. With no running game and constant pressure Rodgers was still able to make tough throws en route to 264 yards and 3 touchdowns, including the game-winner in the final seconds. Oh, and if somehow you missed it, Rodgers also pulled off the fabled fake-spike in the final moments of the game, completing a pass which set up the game winner.
1. Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers
With an ugly 37-37 tie, neither of these teams technically win, but the consequences of the tie are more unfortunate than just awkward record-keeping. The Bengals were coming off an awful loss to the Patriots, in desperate need to prove themselves again this week and they only brought up more questions. Meanwhile the struggling Panthers were desperate to get back on track to prove that they still belong among the elite in the NFC South. Both teams needed a win to dispel the doubts, and neither team was able to come through, which is disappointing for both.
2. Green Bay Packers Offensive Line
As mentioned before, Aaron Rodgers was under pressure all day. However, worse than that is the abysmal running effort of the Packers. Eddie Lacy has the talent, as he showed last year, but this year he was had no room to run. This is especially troubling considering the impressive play of the Packer’s passing game. Opposing defenses have to respect Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb, yet they still are able to stop the run. Imagine how ineffective the running game would be if they had a lesser quarterback and receiving corp? The offensive line has to step up big time in the coming weeks. Otherwise teams will start getting to Rodgers, which would spell trouble for the Packers’ division title and Super Bowl aspirations.
3. New York Giants
After a finding parts of the team on the Hot List in the past weeks, the Giants have plummeted back to mediocrity after being demolished in every aspect of the game by the Eagles on Sunday night. The Giants were held without a score and committed 10 penalties in the drubbing. On a very somber note, the Giants lost star reciever Victor Cruz to a torn patella tendon on what looked like a benign play. Cruz was down for several minutes and then was carted off the field, tears streaming from his face in a combination of physical pain and emotional distress. Though the game was already out of hand when Cruz went down, after his departure, the Giants simply seemed like they had had enough emotionally. Rookie Odell Beckham Jr might be able to help replace Cruz’s talent, but few can replace his personality in the locker room and on the field. Things don’t get better for the 3-3 Giants as their next five games are at Dallas, home against Indianapolis, at Seattle, then home against San Francisco and Dallas. Sunday Night was a test for the Giants, and they failed.