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Heroes & Villains: Peyton fans thrive, Rex stumbles

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If Week 2 taught us anything, it was this: Week 1 taught us nothing.

Nothing, at least, that wasn't comprehensively blown to bits seven days later. Chip Kelly's Philly offense was a corpse, Marcus Mariota isn't Dan Marino (not yet) and the Seahawks, Saints, Ravens, Eagles, Lions and Colts are all winless.

Nothing makes sense, all theories are moot and society is a mystery.

You know what that means: It's Heroes and Villains time:

Heroes


Every game, all season

1. Peyton Manning Loyalists -- For Now: The game tape doesn't lie. Manning's arm strength is Colt McCoy-esque and his play is a shadow of yesteryear. Still, Denver's stunning comeback win over the Chiefs silenced the torch-and-pitchfork crowd for at least another week. Finally allowed to operate his up-tempo shotgun attack, Peyton looked like Peyton. It doesn't excuse the fluttering lobs, but Manning was at home again. You want to save Denver's season? Then it's time for coach Gary Kubiak to firebomb his rollout-based scheme, rescue Manning's old playbook from the blaze and make one final push for the Lombardi.

2. New England's Nameless Assassin: Why would any coach hand Bill Belichick even a syllable's worth of fodder for the Foxborough bulletin board? Not surprisingly, that's exactly what we got last week from Bills coach Rex Ryan, who completely dismissed running back Dion Lewis prior to Buffalo's clash with the Pats, saying: "I don't think we're gonna focus on that kid. I can't even tell you that kid's name."

Fast forward to Sunday, when the hyper-elusive Lewis scorched the Bills for 138 of New England's 507 total yards. It was a great moment for a young player bouncing back from a 2013 broken fibula. Instead of acknowledging that -- or simply saying nothing -- Ryan chided Lewis after the loss, quipping sarcastically: "Uh, that's the reason we lost," before saying: "I still don't know his name."

Bad look by Ryan, who we have more on below. As for Lewis, he can shrug off Rex and wage on with his saucy bounceback campaign.

3. The Raaaaaaiders: The NFL is a better place when the Raiders are winning. It's been eons since they looked even marginally formidable, but Sunday's 37-33 outburst against the Ravens was a step in the right direction. Not only for the team, but for second-year quarterback Derek Carr. The Raiders passer sliced through Baltimore's defense at will, capping a 351-yard afternoon with Oakland's six-play, 80-yard game-winning march.

Raiders fans -- love 'em or hate ' em -- have waited years for a moment like this:

Villains


1. Bloviators Angling to Destroy 22-Year-Old Quarterbacks: Few newbie passers have endured more attention than Johnny Manziel, the second-year Browns arm whose first season was a comprehensive disaster. After handling his personal issues in the offseason, Manziel on Sunday won his first NFL game over Marcus Mariota and the Titans. Nobody rooted harder against his success than ESPN's Merrill Hoge, who called Johnny a "juvenile punk" after he was drafted and noted that AFC North teams "love the plan that Cleveland's under" because "all you do is set your organization back one more year by babysitting this guy as your starting quarterback."

Fast-forward to Monday, when Hoge -- wearing a sparkly orange tie -- completely shifted course after 18 months of white-hot takes:


2. Rex's Rambling Bluster Machine: Speaking of Hyper-Uncontrollable Bloviators (HUBs), can we circle back to Ryan for a sec? It's troubling to see a coach learn nothing the second time around. After making a trillion guarantees with the Jets that wound up as quintessential bunk, Rex still couldn't help but squawk before playing the "hated" Patriots.

Painfully aware of Rex's fixation on the organization, the Pats simply went about their business. Their move? Dropping a 40-burger on a Buffalo defense Ryan spent all summer boasting about. For better or worse, Bills fans will learn this is all part of The Rex Experience. Big talk, a few big wins, but little more. He's 47-51 in the regular season and his record is a fair reflection of what Ryan is: A talented defensive architect, but also a gusty quote-machine whose teams wind up suffering for his press-conference shenanigans.

Seacrest out.

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