NFL Media researcher Brandon Mendoza identifies several of the biggest overreactions from each week's set of games. The storylines below are bound to play out because, after all, numbers never lie. Right?
NOTE: All stats and rankings are current through Sunday of Week 13.
Cam Newton, Pats CANNOT be counted out
At 6-6, are the Patriots in unfamiliar territory? Sure. Until this year, they hadn't lost six games in a season since 2009. But can you really count Bill Belichick and Co. out after Sunday, when they blasted the Chargers to secure the sixth-largest road shutout in NFL history (45-0) -- and their fourth win in their last five games?
Things may look different than they did in the days of Tom Brady; Cam Newton (5:9 TD-to-INT ratio) will likely not even reach 20 passing TDs, something Brady did every full season with the Patriots except his first as the starter (2001). However, Newton has four games with at least two rushing TDs, which is the most by a QB in a single season in NFL history.
While Cam was once again demonstrating his running acumen, the defense and special teams got up to their old tricks, with the Patriots becoming the sixth team in NFL history to log both a punt-return TD and a blocked-field-goal return for a TD in the same game.
The key, however might be the schedule, where history is on the Patriots' side. New England will finish its current three-game road stretch with games against the Los Angeles Rams and Miami Dolphins before ending at home with the Bills and winless Jets. The Patriots are 6-1 against the Rams (including the playoffs) under Belichick. And with an NFL-best record of 95-32 (including wins in nine of their last 11 contests) against divisional foes since 2000, I'll take my chances with New England.
Sean Payton: ultimate QB whisperer or QB-proof?
The Saints extended their winning streak to nine games on Sunday behind Taysom Hill's third straight victory in relief of the injured Drew Brees. Hill is just the fifth QB to make a start for New Orleans since Sean Payton joined the Saints in 2006, which is the third-fewest of any team in the NFL in that span, behind the Giants (four) and Chargers (three).
Of the five QBs to start games for New Orleans under Payton, Brees -- the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards -- stands head and shoulders above the rest. But don't forget, before Brees got together with Payton, he averaged a measly 209.1 pass yards per game.
Two QBs went winless under Payton, albeit in spot-start duty: Mark Brunell lost a meaningless Week 17 game in 2009, and Luke McCown lost a Week 3 game in 2015 to the eventual NFC champion Panthers.
Fast forward to 2018-19, when Payton guided Teddy Bridgewater to a 5-1 record, with Bridgewater's only loss being another Week 17 game where key starters did not suit up. During his five-game winning streak in 2019, Bridgewater, who had a 85.9 career passer rating entering that season, saw his passer rating shoot up to 103.7, which was ninth-best in the NFL during his time as the starter.
And then there is Hill, who is having success in his own unique way -- via efficiency and running, becoming the only QB since 1950 with a passer rating above 90 and at least four rushing TDs in his first three QB starts. Yes, Hill needed 63 career pass attempts to throw his first TD pass. But then, against Atlanta on Sunday, Hill rushed for a career-high 83 yards, which is a total the 20-year veteran Brees has only hit four times in a season. Hill may be unconventional behind center, but two constants remain: Payton is pulling all the right strings, and the wins continue to pile up.
Davante Adams is most underpaid WR in the NFL
Before reading any further, know this: There are 14 wide receivers with a higher per-year salary than Davante Adams ($14.5 million).
Adams is tied for the NFL lead in receiving TDs (13) while ranking third in receptions (84) and fifth in receiving yards (1,029) this season. That's even more impressive when you consider he has played two fewer games than anyone ranked ahead of him.
Adams had 10 receptions for 121 receiving yards and two TDs against the Eagles on Sunday, becoming the third player in NFL history with at least five catches and a receiving TD in seven straight games in a season, joining Antonio Brown (eight in 2018) and Terrell Owens (seven in 2007).
If you were Adams' agent, knowing his current contract is up at the end of the 2021 season, how much would you ask for if I told you that, along with Adams, the only other players in the Super Bowl era with at least 1,000 receiving yards and 12 receiving TDs in their first 10 games of a season were Randy Moss (2007), Terrell Owens (2007), Marvin Harrison (1999) and Jerry Rice (1986 and 1989)?
Answer: a lot.
Justin Jefferson is Odell Beckham Jr. ... Jr.
Justin Jefferson and Odell Beckham Jr. have a lot in common. Both attended college at LSU, where they each finished in the top 10 in receptions and receiving yards. Both were selected in the first round of the NFL draft: Beckham was chosen 12th overall by the Giants in 2014 and Jefferson was picked 22nd overall by the Vikings in 2020. And, like Beckham did in 2014, Jefferson is taking the NFL by storm as a rookie.
Jefferson has 1,039 receiving yards this season, which is the second most through a rookie's first 12 games in the Super Bowl era. The only other player with more is Beckham, who posted 1,305 receiving yards in 2014.
Beckham, who is now with the Browns and is set to miss the rest of 2020 with a torn ACL, finished his inaugural NFL campaign with the third-most receiving yards by a rookie in the Super Bowl era, behind Anquan Boldin (1,377) and Randy Moss (1,313). Jefferson, who averages 86.6 receiving yards per game, needs 339 receiving yards in four games to climb to the top spot of that distinguished list. And should Jefferson achieve that distinction, he may very well join Moss, Boldin and -- of course -- Beckham by claiming the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Time to fear the Giants' defense
It has been a few years since the Giants' defense garnered headlines for positive reasons. After all, in 2019, New York allowed 28.2 points per game, which was the team's second-worst average in a season in the Super Bowl era.
Ah, but today is a new day. And on Sunday, the Giants allowed fewer than 20 points for the third straight time, something they had not done since 2009. Making that feat perhaps their most impressive of the season thus far is the fact that Giants held a Seahawks team that entered the game with the third-best scoring average in the NFL (31.0 points) to just 12 points. The futile output was tied for the Seahawks' lowest scoring total in any game over the last three seasons.
Entering Sunday, the Giants were 2–14 against opponents averaging 30 points per game at least 10 games into a season -- and the two wins dated back to 1998 versus the Broncos and 1950 over the New York Yankees.
The Giants' current four-game winning streak, which is their longest since 2016, is no fluke, thanks to a defense that ranks in the top five in scoring (16.5 points allowed per game, fourth-best in the NFL), rushing (86.0 yards allowed per game, third-best) and takeaways (10, tied for fourth-best) since Week 9. The Giants will have a great chance to continue this run, finishing the season with the Cardinals, Browns, Ravens and Cowboys. All but Arizona rank outside the top 10 in scoring average, which could translate to more success for the defense -- and, more importantly, more wins for Big Blue, which still has a shot to take the NFC East at 5-7.