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Saints supplant Niners at No. 2; Cowboys stumble after loss

Tim Tebow delivers, while the Cowboys collapse ... ahh, another week of pro football.

While the Tony Romo haters are sure to come out in full force following Dallas' loss to the Giants, the man played great Sunday night and is the reason that team is even in games. Miles Austin ran a poor, half-speed route on the throw Romo "missed" late in the fourth quarter to seal the game.

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Meanwhile, Tebow gets a ton of credit, partially due to him and partially because he gets help from a defense that is playing some ball. Because of Tebow's competitive greatness and the effectiveness of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen's group, the past five weeks the Broncos have allowed 10, 13, 13, 32 and 10 points. That 32-spot just so happened to be the one game Von Miller was absent. He's the real deal, as are the Broncos.

Meanwhile, there is some movement just under the Packers, with a rankings adjustment finally going the Ravens way. Per the usual, let the dissension commence…

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While the big win was nice, and the 13-0 record is sterling, there is much anxiety regarding Greg Jennings' health. Aaron Rodgers is the MVP of the league, but he sure has some valuable ancillary parts, starting with Jennings.

Fans will look at the Saints' 22-17 win over the Titans and, at first glance, not be impressed. But this is the exact type of win New Orleans needed: a road win with stakes, where the offense couldn't Tecmo out on the opposing defense. The ground attack quietly was effective, gaining 114 yards on 26 carries. One thing the 2009 Saints could do was run the rock. If this team is to have a shot at Green Bay, it has to get back to that. Darren Sharper agrees.

The Ravens keep winning. No snarky remarks about beating the Colts not counting as a win here. The Ravens D, particularly Terrell Suggs, was solid if not suffocating. Baltimore is making a play for the top seed, with a road game versus the suddenly resurgent Chargers up next, before an AFC North run of the Ohio teams. That Week 17 matchup in Cincinnati might be one of the more important games of the year. Should be a good one.

The Ben Roethlisberger injury hangs over this team's hopes like a purple rain cloud, and with no help from the unresponsive run game, there is a drop in ranking this week. The race for the No. 1 seed is on with the Patriots, Ravens and Texans winning in Week 14.

Bottom line: You go 3 of 17 on third down, it doesn't matter how good your running game or defense is. A healthy Patrick Willis would not have helped that abomination of a third-down offense.

When you think of Tom Brady getting in a shootout with another quarterback, Rex Grossman has to be the first guy you think about. Maybe not. But it says anything and everything about the state of the Pats pass defense, which has been connected by Lincoln Logs as of late. Wideout Julian Edelman is playing defensive back. Real DBs haven't been playing like DBs, and thus this team's playoff kryptonite might be a secondary that allows more than 300 yards per game.

Some people snickered at my NFL Network colleague Mike Lombardi when he suggested that T.J. Yates gives the Texans a better chance to win than Matt Leinart. Same deal when I said it on NFL Fantasy Live. Don't worry, I'm not going to plug that show, which airs at 2 p.m. and midnight ET, in this space. But even more impressive than Yates is how Wade Phillips' defense clamped down when it counted, holding the Bengals to just 81 second-half yards.

How does an offense suck that bad for three quarters and then win the game in the overtime? Yes, Marion Barber's gaffes helped, but the legend of Tebowmania only grows. Another impressive win for the Broncos.

The Jets allowed four yards in the first half. Mark Sanchez didn't throw the ball to the other team. Shonn Greene didn't run like Joe Klecko toward the hole. All is right in the world. One concern going forward is the lack of separation the Jets wideouts are getting on most plays. Yes, the Chiefs corners are well above average, however, this wasn't a new phenomenon from Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress.

Nice comeback win with a little help from Cam Newton's nuttiness Sunday. At 8-5, Atlanta is putting a squeeze on one of the wild-card spots. The Falcons caught a break with the Bears blowing it in Tebowarctica.

Playoff hopes went from more than realistic at 6-2 to murky at best with the home loss to the Yatesans on Sunday. No pass rush, and the pass interference call on the final drive hurt bad. Now Cincy needs help. The club travels to St. Louis before hosting the Cardinals and Ravens. That Week 17 matchup, as mentioned, should have much riding on the outcome.

Eli Manning was nothing short of clutch Sunday night. There are a lot of cheap 400-yard games in the NFL these days, but Manning's performance at Jerryworld wasn't one of them. He made perfect throws under duress, as well as when his team needed them most. Terence Newman dropped one of the few bad passes Manning made all evening, after which, the Giants' quiet leader was on point all night. Big Blue controls its own destiny ... for now.

The Lions escaped with the win Sunday, and looked undisciplined again in the effort -- DeAndre Levy got away with a gnarly facemask grab of Joe Webb. If the Lions are to make any hay in the NFC, they must handle teams like the Vikings. Minnesota was without Adrian Peterson, and Christian Ponder was doing his best to give them the game.

No team in the 92-year history of the NFL beats itself more than the Cowboys.

The Raiders have been outscored 80-30 the past two weeks. With the Denver Tebows winning again, as well as potential wild cards in the Jets, Steelers and Ravens winning, Hue Jackson's group better get it together quick. Next up are the explosive Lions. Carson Palmer is no savior for this team and can't give Matt Stafford short fields by throwing four picks again.

Welcome to the 2012 Titans. Jake Locker wasn't perfect, but he certainly made some plays for his team, much like he did in the loss to the Falcons earlier in the season. Tennessee's focus is getting a wild-card berth at this point, with the 8-5 Jets currently controlling their own destiny for the sixth seed. The playoff outlook might look bleak with the Texans clinching the AFC South, yet considering the Colts and Jags are next up on the schedule, it ain't over until that one member of Wilson Phillips sings.

Most Americans who caught the end of the Bears- Broncos game were touched at the sight of Caleb Hanie encouraging Marion Barber, whose overtime fumble gave the Broncos an opportunity to win. My buddy from Chicago allegedly hurled a bottle of JB at his Matt Suhey bobblehead.

Too little, too late? One would think. But here are the Chargers, still alive, two games back of the Broncos in the AFC West. In a rematch of the '64 and '65 AFL title game, the Chargers got a much-needed win for Philip Rivers (to prove last week as no fluke), and for Norv Turner (to have any shot of being a head coach in the NFL again).

Seattle continues its hot play, although winning at home against the Rams isn't exactly a feat of Monroe Doctrine proportions. The defense continues to make clutch plays, and while playoff talk is pretty much out of the question, Pete Carroll has some positives to build on when the calendar turns to 2012. Respect them or not, the 'Hawks have won four of five games. It's worth mentioning that at 6-7, they're still alive. But with the Bears, the 49ers and the red-hot Cardinals on the schedule, the chances of winning out are slim.

Wow. Where did the 21-19 win over the Niners come from? I'll tell you: defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who was an NFL defensive back for 10 years. His unit allowed 233 total yards and sacked Alex Smith five times. Cam Newton and Rex Grossman beat Horton's defensive backs early this season, but that group is ballin' out now. Arizona hasn't allowed 300 net yards passing since Week 8.

While wins by the Falcons and Lions ruled out what was already a Shawn Bradley-thin chance of earning a wild-card berth, the NFC East title still is in play. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has taken more criticism than any assistant in pro football (although Arena ball hasn't started yet), but his unit was disruptive Sunday, starting with holding Miami to 3 of 15 on third down.

Don't blame Mike Nolan's defense. The Dolphins held Michael Vick to 208 yards passing. LeSean McCoy ran 27 times for a very Peyton Hillis-like 38 yards. The '72 Dolphins couldn't overcome nine sacks and four turnovers.

Since starting the season 5-2, Buffalo has been outscored 157-67. What the hell happened to George Edwards' defense? In related news, there are fan posts calling for his job. It's not hard to understand the frustration. For one, the much-maligned defense has forced only four turnovers in the six-game losing streak. And the good people of Buffalo, Rochester and even Toronto haven't seen their team in the playoffs since enduring the ominous Wade-face during the 1999 playoffs. You remember the look. The same one that said, "How come Rob Johnson isn't any good? He had one great game for Jacksonville!"

Cam Newton will learn. The two second-half interceptions sealed the Panthers' fate, particularly the Brett Favrian flip to Mike Peterson. Once again, that's life with a rookie playmaker at quarterback. Interesting that DeAngelo Williams only got seven carries Sunday, considering the explosiveness he showed on a 74-yard touchdown run in the first half. For now, the Panthers still are platooning their backs, despite Williams' monster contract.

A good argument took place on the set of Live during the Browns- Steelers game Thursday night. Network analyst Jamie Dukes feels Cleveland must draft a quarterback in the first round. My sense of the situation is that in order to properly evaluate Colt McCoy, the Browns have to provide some ancillary parts. It's easy to say Andy Dalton has such upside down the road in Cincinnati when he has A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham, a good O-line and a non-Hillis RB in Cedric Benson. Just sayin'.

The Redskins move up because of bad losses by the Chiefs and Bucs. By the way, that was the good Rex last Sunday. Funny how the Patriots defensive backfield has that effect. The DeVry quarterback could make plays on those guys. The issue here was the poor tackling and discipline shown by Jim Haslett's defense. There's no shame in losing to Tom Brady, but the Redskins don't want to falter down the stretch without playing their best football, win or lose.

Kansas City had nothing offensively for the Jets on Sunday. While Romeo Crennel's defense has kept the team in games as of late, there was nothing his unit could do to slow down a Jets offense that was playing with house money. It will be interesting to see what Kansas City does in the draft, particularly with respect to its commitment to Matt Cassel at quarterback and its regard for Kyle Orton. Cassel, incidentally, has three more years on his deal. We already saw what happened to Todd Haley.

Nice win for Mel Tucker and company. Call it a team win. Everyone made plays: the defense, MJD (per the usual), kick coverage and even Blaine Gabbert (especially the throw to Marcedes Lewis). There were the two picks, and the rookie's struggles are well-chronicled. But overall, if I'm a Jags fan, I'm encouraged by much of what I saw Sunday.

It's the "which-coach-is-gonna-get-fired" time of year. Never been a fan; speculating on other people's job security doesn't seem like much fun. That said, the name Raheem Morris keeps coming up. Coming into the 2011 season, the Bucs and Panthers had the youngest rosters in the league. While Morris' style has come under fire, including from this here website, there's something to be said for the lockout affecting a club with such youth. As much as they bore fans, there is tremendous value to mini-camps and OTAs.

On one hand, it's tough not to admire the heart the Vikings show without their best player and with the trials and tribulations of a rookie quarterback. This is one stubborn team. They showed it against the Packers early in the year, against the Lions (twice) and a host of other teams. At the end of the day, Leslie Frazier's defense -- particularly the secondary -- can't hold the fort for an oft-struggling offense. Thus the poor ranking in this space. Also, the missed call on the facemask tugging of Joe Webb was atrocious.

Sam Bradford took his lumps Monday night, as did the Rams. The jury still is out on whether the former Oklahoma product is a quarterback whom the franchise can build around. Unfortunately, the broadcast mentioned the possibility of St. Louis taking a quarterback in the first round. You kiddin' me? Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick just a year and a half ago! While a sense of urgency is one thing, a complete lack of patience is quite another. Give the kid an O-line, and someone besides Brandon Lloyd who can make a play.

What can be said about this team that hasn't already been written, said, or screamed? One of the producers at NFL West sits in his cubicle and watches his Colts every Sunday. I've walked by his desk approximately 14 times on Sunday afternoon this season, hearing him mutter "we suck" approximately 10 of those times. Only 10, because the Colts had a bye, played on Sunday night twice and on a Monday night.

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