1. Ryan Tannehill
The Dolphins are trailing the red hot Patriots in their division, so their only hope for the playoffs is a wild card berth. An early preview of the wild card race was on display Sunday when the Dolphins faced off against the surprising Chargers. Tannehill exceeded expectations for the big game in every possible way. His play led the Dolphins to a dominant 37-0 victory in a game in which he threw for three touchdowns. Tannehill accumulated 288 yards passing, but also added 47 yards rushing. His ability to scramble for yards set up a devastating read-option which allows the Dolphins’ running backs to also find plenty of room to run. With RGIII’s injuries and other struggles, it actually seems like Tannehill is emerging as the second best quarterback in the 2012 draft behind Andrew Luck.
2. Julian Edelman
I could really pick any player on the Patriots after their dominant statement win against the Broncos. Edelman had 9 receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown against the surprisingly stingy Broncos defense. While those numbers are good, what was really impressive was his 84 yard punt return for a touchdown which came just over four minutes after his touchdown reception. His back to back touchdowns changed the game from a 1-point deficit to a 13-point lead in such quick succession that the Patriots’ lead seemed much greater than it was. With Gronkowski healthy and Brandon LaFell emerging as a deep threat, Edelman should enjoy even more success going forward with opposing defenses spread thinner and thinner.
3. Ghosts of quarterbacks past
Were you a starting quarterback sometime between 2008 and 2012 and are no longer starting? Maybe just an oft-forgotten backup? Well congratulations, week nine of the 2014 NFL season was for you. Mark Sanchez, Kellen Clemens, Brandon Weeden, Michael Vick, Matt Simms, and Matt Moore all played minutes in Sunday’s games. Unfortunately for most of them, they were met with the same lack of success that has led them to their current clipboard holding status. Mark Sanchez actually managed to “lead” the Eagles to victory, but for the rest it was ugly. Most of these guys, save Sanchez, probably won’t see much more time on the field, so this was their lone week to shine.
1. NFC East
As the Colts put the finishing touches on a beatdown of the New York Giants, it is becoming more and more clear that the NFC East is falling fast in its attempt to remain respectable as a division. The Cowboys and Redskins have struggled recently, largely due to injuries to their quarterbacks. Not wanting to be left out of the quarterback drama, the Eagles have just lost Nick Foles to a broken collarbone. With teams like the Seahawks and the Packers in the running for wild cards, the NFC East is quickly becoming the opposite of the powerhouse some expected it to be. One of these teams is going to limp into a top four seed in the NFC where they will likely get taken out by a wild card team.
2. Philip Rivers
Last week (and this week) Ben Roethlisberger turned back the clock and delivered a vintage performance to lead his team to a much needed win. This Sunday, Rivers also turned back the clock, which was unfortunate for San Diego fans. Rivers had been having a great season for the surprising Chargers. But on Sunday, his throwback performance treated the Chargers to only 138 passing yards and three interceptions. With injuries at running back, the Chargers have been dependent upon Rivers to carry them to a wild card berth, as they trail the Broncos in the division. This weekend, Rivers showed why that might not be the best recipe for long term success.
3. AFC Wild Card Hopefuls
There are 7 teams in the AFC that have a record better than .500, including the 6-3 Steelers, who do not lead their division. All of these team, save for Rivers’ Chargers, won on Sunday, yet that really didn’t help any of them. There are only 3 such teams over .500 that are not leading a playoff spot in the NFC, meaning it seems like there will be 3 teams fighting for 2 wild card spots as we begin to look forward to the playoffs. However, with the exception of the Broncos and Patriots, there are few standout AFC teams, but many good ones who will all have a brutal path down the stretch. Sunday’s Dolphins vs. Chargers and Ravens vs. Steelers matchups were just two examples of matchups to come of good teams in which the loser will lose major ground in the wild card hunt.
Photo: US Presswire