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Heroes & Villains: Cam soars, Colts trickery tanks

All season long, Around The NFL's Marc Sessler will offer up his laundry list of heroes and villains from the week that was.

Let's get down to it:


The Super-Toned + Undefeated Dan Campbell: Back in the lazy days of summer, a debate broke out in the NFL Media newsroom over who would prevail in a fight-to-the-finish battle royal involving all 32 head coaches. Mike Tomlin earned high marks along with the rough-and-tumble Bruce Arians. I lobbied for Mike Pettine, but colleague Dan Hanzus argued that Cleveland's coach wouldn't get past his slimmed-down mentor, Sexy Rexy. We couldn't agree on a winner, but we all viewed Joe Philbin as an automatic out in a street brawl of his peers. Philbin's replacement, though, is a different story. Not only did the beefy Dan Campbell have his 'Fins ready to rumble on Sunday, but he did so while roaming the sidelines as a muscle-bound flesh-tank who still looks capable of donning an aqua jersey and blowing up opposing linemen. His perfect record won't last, but Campbell has already ended the debate over who would take this mythical Head Coach-Infused Royal Rumble.

Cam Newton's Oft-Overlooked Panthers: Football heads have been dismissing the Panthers for years now. I'm guilty myself after penning a boozy Week 1 "Bold Prediction" suggesting that Blake Bortles and the Jaguars would fry Carolina's secondary in the opener. A rash of Panthers groupies sent my dud of a prophecy to cornerback Josh Norman, who alerted me via social media channels that my career as a football analyst was ill-placed. Norman and his teammates have been proving people wrong all autumn, with a 5-0 record capped by Sunday's edgy win over the 'Hawks. Bottom line: Cam Newton is playing the best football of his career, while the cohesive handiwork of coach Ron Rivera and GM Dave Gettleman have the Panthers atop the NFC South once again. Carolina can write its own story from here, no matter what we say.


Hugely Doomed/Dunderheaded Colts Trickery: Fellow Around The NFL colleague Conor Orr boldly made Indy wideout Griff Whalen the centerpiece of his podcast-darling Madden squad -- an apocalyptic, post-DeflateGate Patriots team with a three-quarterback rotation (none of them Tom Brady) and Whalen embedded as this virtual franchise's playmaking WR1. Griff's an irreplaceable Jenga piece in Orr's video-game milieu, but Whalen -- in real life -- found himself at the epicenter of one of the dumbest play-calls of our lifetime. If you somehow missed it, the Colts on Sunday night attempted to outsmart Bill Belichick with a fake punt that will never be forgotten for all the wrong reasons. Not good, Griff:

Murky Rules On What's A Catch/What's Not A Catch: It's gotten to the point where league-mandated explanations about what constitutes a catch are an expected weekly headache. Sunday's touchdown by Golden Tate only tumbled us deeper into a web of ultra-hazy guidelines. Some very wise people claim to have this nailed, but for run-of-the-mill football enthusiasts, understanding what counts as a catch feels akin to cracking military code out of 1968 Saigon. It's beyond time for a simplification of the standards toward a common rule that refs, players and fans can agree on -- something that finally makes sense to the human eye.

TV-Watchers Still Expecting '60 Minutes' to Start At Its Regularly Scheduled Time: My earliest football memories center around watching the 4 p.m. game every Sunday with my dad during the glorious '80s era of NFL action. Those old CBS showdowns came with a familiar reminder that rang down religiously during the fourth quarter: "For those of you expecting to see '60 Minutes,' you're watching the NFL on CBS. '60 Minutes' will be seen in its entirety immediately following this game, except on the West Coast, where it can be seen at its regularly scheduled time." Thirty years later, the same mantra repeats every Sunday from play-by-play men across the land. Anyone still watching this age-old TV news mag has certainly figured out by now that '60 Minutes' will NEVER start on time during the football season. This charade is tiresome.

Bye-Week Update From The Streets on Private Eye/Play-Caller Frank Cignetti, Jr.

While Rams coaches huddled for high-level meetings during the bye, we're told by a team source that offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti remains "a phantom." Continuing his "obsessive" search for a missing L.A. girl by the name of Regina Jane François, Frank "hopped a bird for California" without consulting coach Jeff Fisher. From there he went "totally dark." Rams brass are tired of Cignetti "prioritizing" his "hobby side gig as a PI" over fine-tuning the offense. Said the source: "He thinks he can win games by just handing the ball to (Todd) Gurley while he drives around Los Angeles hunting for this lammed-out François broad. It's getting hot inside the building."

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