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It'd be best if Barber laid low in Chicago -- at least for this week

Every Sunday night, Around The League takes a closer look at four of the day's most interesting subplots. We call it The Filthy Four ... mostly for alliteration purposes.

For every Tebow there must be a Barber

It's not exactly a Steve Bartman situation, but Marion Barber would do himself a favor to keep a low profile in Chicago for the time being. We're talking large sunglasses, fedora, prosthetic nose, maybe a fat suit -- basically just raid Eddie Murphy's prop closet if possible.

On NFL Network
"NFL Replay" will re-air the Broncos' 13-10 OT win over the Bears on Wednesday, Dec. 14

at 8 p.m. ET.

Lost amid the euphoria of Tim Tebow's two booming field goals to beat the Bears (is that right?) was a Barber meltdown -- both mental and physical -- that could cost Chicago its season.

There's just no way to understate the mistakes, first failing to stay in bounds when the Bears essentially could run out the clock in regulation, then fumbling the ball while well within kicker Robbie Gould's range in overtime.

It all ended with a crushing third consecutive loss for the Bears, who suddenly find themselves on the fringes of the playoff picture. Barber, meanwhile, gets a sharp pair of goat horns and the realization that Windy City waiters will be tempted to do terrible things to his food.

And you thought you had reason to dread Monday.

Romo's no Eli

The difference between Tony Romo and Eli Manning -- indeed, the difference between Romo and every elite NFL quarterback -- was on display in neon lights late in Sunday night's instant classic between the Cowboys and Giants.

Romo is not a quarterback you can accurately judge by statistics. If you looked at his numbers against New York -- 21-of-31 passing for 321 yards and four touchdowns -- you'd believe he was one of the game's best signal-callers.

But the hard truth is that Romo can never -- and might never -- get out of his own way. Despite all his great throws against the Giants, it was his third-and-5 airmail over Miles Austin's head with less than three minutes to play that changed the complexion of Dallas' season.

Austin was by himself in the Giants' secondary, primed for a walk-in score that would've sent the Giants into extinction with a five-game losing streak. The Cowboys would've had a stranglehold on the division. Instead, they punted.

Given new life, Manning showed why he's the best quarterback in the NFC East, and why he's the only QB in the division who owns a Super Bowl ring. Manning marched the Giants to the go-ahead score, showing a coolness under pressure that Romo sorely lacks.

The successful icing of Dan Bailey for a second consecutive week -- this time in its more traditional form -- might be the big storyline here. But Romo's latest failure will be the enduring imprint from one of the season's greatest games.

Houston, we have no problem

Generally speaking, third-string quarterbacks are bad at football. Many are so bad, you wonder what blackmail they use to keep receiving paychecks. This is why third-stringers are never put in positions of real consequence.

This extends to real life. Would you have a third-string surgeon perform your open-heart surgery? (Not unless you want to know what it's like to float above your body.) How about a third-string carny strapping you into a creaky amusement park ride? (Sure, if you'd like to act out your very own scene from "Final Destination.")

I bring up life-and-death examples because the third-string QB represents the grim reaper for NFL teams.

The 2011 Houston Texans are an outlier in that sense. First, Matt Schaub went down for the year with a foot injury. Then Matt Leinart's chance to extend his legacy beyond hot tubs and intensely attractive love partners was doomed by a broken collarbone.

Enter third-stringer T.J. Yates, a rookie so unheralded that Bengals officials gave his family nosebleed seats to watch him play Sunday. Yates might have started the day as an afterthought, but he didn't that way after leading Houston to its first AFC South title with a dramatic last-minute touchdown drive.

With a favorable schedule over the final three weeks of the regular season, the 10-3 Texans are in position to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Unlikely? Maybe ... but Yates isn't your average third-string QB.

Raheem's rise and fall

Unless your name is Bill Belichick, true job security for an NFL head coach doesn't exist.

Last year's hot shot is on this year's hot seat. We see this stuff all the time, and it's happening again in Tampa Bay, where Raheem Morris' clock officially is ticking.

On Sunday, the Buccaneerslost 41-14 to the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars, who hadn't scored half that many points in a game all season. Tampa Bay turned the ball over seven times and committed 12 penalties for 97 yards, numbers that don't reflect well on leadership figures.

Neither do the seven consecutive losses for the 4-9 Bucs, who share cellar space with the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South. This wasn't how it was supposed to go for a Tampa Bay team that jumped from 3-13 in Morris' first season to 10-6 and a near playoff berth a year ago.

Does Morris deserve one more shot to send this franchise back in the right direction? Perhaps, but if the Bucs can't figure out a way to win a game or two this month, it could force ownership's hand.

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