Sunday Scramble: 2012 rookie class is unlike any other


It wasn't so long ago that Robert Griffin III looked like a heavy favorite in the best NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year race in memory. One record-setting day from Andrew Luck and Doug Martin will alter that perception.

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I've been screaming from the rooftops for weeks that Luck's excellence was not showing up in the numbers yet, but it's very real. Breaking the record for passing yards in a game by a rookie with 433 should help convince some people. It's a rare thing to see a rookie make those around him so much better. Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton each topped 100 receiving yards Sunday.

Not to be outdone, Buccaneers running back Doug Martin rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns in Oakland, setting the Bucs' franchise record. He's the first player in NFL history with rushing touchdowns of at least 70, 65 and 45 yards in a single game. His total of 486 yards from scrimmage in a two-game stretch is the fifth-most in any two-game stretch since 1960. The only guys with more yards in a two-game stretch: Walter Payton (twice), Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson. That list says it all.

Griffin has been sensational this season. Ryan Tannehill looks like a veteran. Russell Wilson gets better every single week for a 5-4 team.

This sort of thing just doesn't happen every season. Or any season until now. Enjoy it.

They're real and they're spectacular

1. Taking care of the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins was nice. Winning on the road against the New York Giants with a dominant fourth quarter shows the Pittsburgh Steelers are contenders in the AFC again. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out the Steelers have allowed 407 passing yards combined in the last three weeks against Andy Dalton, RG3 and Eli Manning. Suddenly, the AFC playoff picture looks rather clear. We'd be surprised if the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Steelers, Denver Broncos and Houston Texans didn't make it. Looks an awful lot like last season.

2. The Broncos are looking dangerous because they're looking more complete. Von Miller was just as good on defense Sunday as Peyton Manning was on offense, with three sacks, four quarterback hits and three tackles for loss. That's dominant.

3. Dominant doesn't begin to describe the Chicago Bears' defense. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman had the most forced fumbles in a game (4) since they started tracking the stat in 1994. The team already has seven pick-sixes, just two away from the all-time record. The Bears scored 28 first-quarter points with just 53 yards of offense. Unfortunately, they don't face the Tennessee Titans again.

4. It's amazing to see how Wilson steadily improves each week. The Seattle Seahawks are starting to win with offense. Now they just have to win more away from Seattle, where they are 4-0.

On blast

Titans owner Bud Adams had a classic rant after the loss to the Bears. The short version: "I'm old and ready to fire anyone." The long version:

"In my 50 years of owning an NFL franchise, I am at a loss to recall a regular-season home game that was such a disappointment for myself and fans of the Titans," Adams told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. "We were grossly outcoached and outplayed from start to finish today.

"At this time, all aspects of the organization will be closely evaluated, including front office, coaches and players over the next seven games. If performance and competitiveness does not improve, I will look at all alternatives to get back to having the Titans become a playoff and championship football team."

So you're saying there's a chance

1. The Detroit Lions' best two performances of the season came in the last two weeks. Stomping a bad team like the Jacksonville Jaguars might not sound like much, but stomping bad teams is what good teams do. At no point in their first six games did the Lions resemble a good team. They survived with a couple comeback wins early and have come out the other side at 4-4.

2. The Green Bay Packers badly need the bye week to get healthy. Mike McCarthy has to feel good they manufactured 176 yards from their running game against the Arizona Cardinals with James Starks increasingly a factor.

3. The San Diego Chargers might be the least-respected 4-4 team in league history. But they are 4-4 in a watered down conference with a game at Tampa Bay this week. Then again, the Buccaneers are better than any team the Chargers have beaten.

4. Speaking of the Bucs, they're feisty! Most importantly, they have an identity on offense with Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson playing well, along with Doug Martin's insane running game. At 4-4, they could be playing meaningful games past Thanksgiving.

Don't panic

1. The Miami Dolphins blew a great chance to get in position for the No. 6 seed in the AFC, but we still think nine wins will get you in the AFC playoffs. There's a long way to go.

2. Cam Newton continues to play better than public perception. The Panthers are a dangerous team because their defense has improved since an awful start. Newton avoided the big mistake against the Washington Redskins and continued to make plays with his legs. The Panthers aren't great, but they are a 4-4 team trapped in a 2-6 team's body.

3. Eli Manning's three worst games of the season were his last three games. He admitted after the game that the Giants' offense is struggling, and it finally caught up to them.

Possible titles for Raiders' year-end video

1. 35-32, Carson Palmer throws late interception.

2. Raiders almost deliver magical comeback.

Oakland hasn't been particularly good this season, but it sure keeps things interesting.

Some panic is acceptable

1. Christian Ponder officially is a problem. He averaged fewer than 3 yards per attempt, took four sacks and threw an interception in Seattle. The Minnesota Vikings essentially don't have a passing game.

2. Don't buy the arguments about the Dallas Cowboys' second-half schedule. Yes, it's easy. But there are too many teams in front of them. You will need 10 or 11 wins to make the NFC playoffs. Dallas already has five losses. Do the math.

3. The Bengals are just about out of things at 3-5. They aren't explosive other than A.J. Green on offense. The defense hasn't played to last year's level.

4. The Jaguars have lost four games by at least three scores. Not to be outdone, the Titans have lost five games by at least 21 points. So that's why Bud Adams is so mad.

5. If Mike Shanahan already is looking to 2013 in Washington, everyone else might as well do the same. Shanahan should be there regardless of Washington's record. He's done too good a job shepherding RG3.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.