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.
Brees for MVP?
Brees was an absolute surgeon against the Vikings, throwing for 412 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in a 42-20 win. He's now just 304 passing yards behind Dan Marino for the all-time single-season record. Knowing that Brees already has an NFL record 11 300-yard passing games this season, expect the record to fall next Monday against the Falcons.
Despite Brees' brilliance, Rodgers -- even factoring in a ho-hum performance against the Chiefs -- remains statistically superior in the categories that count most, leading the way in touchdowns thrown (40 to 37), interceptions (6 against 11), and passer rating (120.1 to 109.1).
Will it stay that way, though? If Brees' dominance continues for two more weeks and Rodgers' production drops (either through his play or because he's rested), Brees could finish with better overall numbers. If that happens, it might come down to arbitrarily deciding which player was more valuable to his team.
Good luck figuring that one out, voters.
The world's gone mad
There were other oddities, too. The Ravens surrendered over 400 yards of total offense. Jesus steered clear of the Broncos' locker room. Chad Ochocinco scored a touchdown. A monkey rode a dog. And how about Dan Orlovsky, who can now sit his future grandchildren on his lap and say, "Kids, there was once a day when I was respected on the football field."
Speaking of Colts quarterbacks, did anybody else arch an eyebrow when team vice chairman Bill Polian announced immediately following Indy's win over the Titans that Peyton Manning would not play this season? Manning recently started throwing at team headquarters, and we can't shake the sneaking suspicion that Manning planned to suit up if the Colts headed into Week 17 winless.
Imagine the scene: Manning riding in on his white horse to save the Colts from eternal NFL infamy. If he were successful, Disney would make a movie about it. Building on the promise of his commercial work ("Cut that meat!"), Manning could play himself. Head coach Jim Caldwell would be portrayed by Danny Glover, who'd bone up for the role by studying the habits of statues.
Coughlin's last stand
It certainly felt that way as the Giants added to their string of troubling no-shows this season in a crippling home loss to the Redskins. If this is Coughlin's last hurrah, he leaves fans with a season that has neatly encompassed his eight-year run in New York -- impressive highs, dreadful lows, and little else in between.
At 65, Coughlin already seems like a relic from another time. Head coaches simply can't pull off the "You don't have to like me, but you will respect me!" stepdad act in today's NFL. Coughlin has been the exception, perhaps because he's less a stepdad and more a stern, ultra-traditionalist grandfather who scares all the neighborhood kids. (At this point, Coughlin might as well drive a Gran Torino and single-handedly take on a local street gang.)
Of course, writing off the Giants -- and by extension, Coughlin -- would mean dismissing the predictable unpredictability of his teams in New York. We're not going to throw dirt on the old man just yet. Besides, he already told us to get off his lawn.
It was an odd look, only because the Patriots have reached a level where success isn't measured by playoff appearances -- only the Lombardi Trophy. But Wilfork was right to wear the cap. New England's continued dominance of the AFC East is worthy of recognition.
The Patriots aren't a perfect team. Their defense is mediocre at best, and losing Andre Carter for the year certainly won't help. They also have some postseason demons to slay, with losses in their last three playoff games dating back to Super Bowl XLII. But in a wide-open AFC, are you really going to dismiss Bill Belichick and Tom Brady? Didn't think so.