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Week 7 Judgements

The SportsXchange

Owner Jim Irsay wasn't the biggest winner in the Indianapolis Colts' upset of the undefeated Denver and Peyton Manning on Sunday night. The NFL was.

With a 39-33 loss to Indianapolis, not only did Denver sacrifice a 17-game regular-season winning streak, it ceded its position as the NFL's most complete team.

The playoff picture is wide open again -- with the Colts proving that Denver is vulnerable and may have trouble getting out of its own conference.

And that's nothing but good for league-wide interest. The Broncos proved mortal, and an upcoming stretch that includes two games against the 7-0 Kansas City Chiefs and a meeting with the Patriots in between will test them further.

So who's the best team out there?

The NFC can offer Seattle, San Francisco and New Orleans, and take your pick. All are worthy, with the Saints holding the inside track.

Reason: They play in a division where the competition is a combined 5-13, with no one having a winning record and one team (Tampa Bay) winless.

The AFC will pitch unbeaten Kansas City, but the Colts just proved they belong, too. Not only did the Colts torpedo Denver; they've knocked off the 49ers and Seahawks, too.

That's three teams with a combined record of 17-4, and that puts Indy near the top despite its two losses.

2. Yes, Peyton Manning had three more touchdown passes, but you have to wonder if he was hurt on that second-quarter sack and safety by Robert Mathis. He never appeared to get comfortable again afterward -- throwing erratically, with no velocity and often leaving passes short of their intended receivers.

3. There's a lot to like about Andrew Luck, and this is near the top: He's 7-0 following losses for his career.

4. They're the most improved team you don't hear about, but the San Diego Chargers deserve attention -- primarily because of the play of quarterback Philip Rivers. All he's done is throw three times as many touchdown passes (15) as interceptions (5) and produce a gaudy 111.1 passer rating -- including a season-best 125.2 vs. Jacksonville Sunday.

The Chargers are 4-3. They could be -- no, should be -- 6-1, but two second-half hiccups and an inexplicable loss to Oakland conspired to keep them down.

Rivers has the Chargers playing decent football, and we find out how decent in the next month. Three of those games are on the road, including one against the Chiefs.

5. And let's not forget San Diego's defense. It completed its second straight victory without allowing a touchdown, and that's without starting linebackers Jarret Johnson and Donald Butler in the lineup. OK, so it was Jacksonville.

The week before it was Andrew Luck and Indianapolis. The Chargers have now gone 11 consecutive quarters without allowing an offensive TD, the first time that's happened since 1993.

6. The more you see Wes Welker in Denver the less you understand how New England could've let him get away. Meanwhile, Welker's so-called replacement, Danny Amendola, was inactive for the fourth time in seven games. He has a grand total of 16 receptions in 2013.

7. No surprise someone won the Baltimore-Pittsburgh game by three points. Eight of the last 10 games between the AFC North rivals were decided by three and 10 of the last 13 were decided by no more than four.

8. Maybe, just maybe, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly isn't the reincarnation of Bill Walsh after all. It's not just that the Eagles didn't produce a touchdown; it's that, after a season-opening defeat of Washington, Kelly's offense has run 32 fewer plays (439-407) than its opponents. It was the first time in Kelly's coaching career at any level that his team didn't score a touchdown.

9. So the Texans not only drop their fifth straight; they lose Arian Foster and Brian Cushing, too? Fork, please.

10. You know the Texans are in deep kimchi when their defense allows Alex Smith to convert a third-and-21. The Chiefs didn't just get 21; they got 43. Sorry, but that shouldn't happen ... especially to Houston's defense.

11. Someone last week asked me when RG3 would be RG3 again. I think we just got our answer. Griffin had a season-best 105.2 passer rating, averaged 10 yards per completion and has 20 carries for 161 yards the past two games.

12. Don't be surprised if Kansas City wins its first nine games. The Chiefs are home next weekend against Cleveland (3-4), then go to Buffalo (3-4) for a Nov. 3 date. Granted, the Chiefs aren't exactly Air Coryell or the Greatest Show on Turf, but they don't have to be. Not with a defense that just held Houston to minus-one yard in fourth-quarter offense and has a league-leading 35 sacks.

13. It wasn't Geno Smith who beat New England; it was the Jets' defense. In case you missed it, the Pats were 1-of-12 on third down and Rex Ryan's group became the first team to hold Tom Brady to less than 50 percent completions twice in the same season. When you wonder what's wrong with New England start with its play on third downs: It's 7-for-39 over its last three games, including two 1-for-12s.

14. Three weeks ago, Brady had touchdown passes in his previous 52 games. Now he's been blanked in two of his last three and avoided a clean sweep only with that last-second scoring throw vs. New Orleans.

15. When you wonder why Jacksonville fans are ambivalent about their winless Jags, consider this: In three home games their team has exactly 11 points ... and no touchdowns. Opponents have 89. No wonder the Jags can't wait to get to London.

16. People say Philadelphia fans aren't happy unless they're miserable. Well, then, they must be delirious. The Eagles have now dropped their last nine at home.

17. Look at it this way, Denver fans: Your team won't go unbeaten, but it gets a reprieve. Washington is next up, and the Redskins aren't just the worst defense anywhere; they just hemorrhaged 313 yards in the second half to a Chicago team playing without Jay Cutler and with Josh McCown.

18. Now playing at a theater near you: "All is Lost," starring Greg Schiano and the Tampa Bay Bucs.

19. The more I see of Chicago's defense the more I like Green Bay in the NFC North.

20. Nice call on that Jacksonville upset of San Diego, Warren Sapp. Just a suggestion, but don't lose your day job.

FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED

1. Kansas City is going from 2-14 to the playoffs. In the Super Bowl era, all 31 teams that started 7-0 made it to the postseason -- with 15 of them graduating to the Super Bowl and nine winning it.

2. The Titans' Chris Johnson is a more effective receiver than he is a running back. He has two touchdowns this season -- both on catches of 49 or more yards. His longest run in the past month? Nine yards.

3. Cincinnati is the strongest team in the AFC North and a legit playoff threat. But that Achilles injury to cornerback Leon Hall is a huge blow. Hall not only is their best defensive back; he's one of the best cornerbacks in the league.

4. St. Louis is one of the season's biggest disappointments and, with Sam Bradford (knee) lost for the season, is on life support. The Rams were supposed to move forward to challenge San Francisco and Seattle in the NFC West. Instead, they're mired in last, lost in convincing fashion to Carolina and the Seahawks come calling in a "Monday Night Football" game this week played opposite the hometown baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals, in the World Series just up the street.

5. Rex Ryan is a survivor. He doesn't have a great team. He doesn't even have a very good team. But he's in second place in the AFC East and played New England tough twice. The Jets were supposed to be the division's bottom feeder, but look at them now: They're a game back of division leading New England. If they can hold together through the middle of the schedule, they have a chance -- a chance -- to make things happen down the stretch. Three of their last five starts are home, and there's a three-game swing vs., in order, Oakland, Carolina and Cleveland.

JUST ASKING BUT ...

Who should feel the heat more -- Greg Schiano or Gary Kubiak?

How many fantasy-football owners left Roy Helu on the bench?

Which division is stronger -- the AFC West or NFC West?

Why give the ball to Ronnie Hillman there? Why not Knowshon Moreno or a Peyton Manning pass?

How did Case Keenum go undrafted?

FIVE GUYS WHO HAVE SOME EXPLAINING TO DO

1. New England cornerback Logan Ryan. You know what you did after scoring on that interception return. Now explain it to the league office while you write a check.

2. Denver running back Ronnie Hillman. He has a reputation for fumbling, and he just demonstrated why. He's the guy who fumbled away Denver's chance at a last-gasp comeback.

3. Houston safety D.J. Swearinger. Repeat after me: When a quarterback slides feet-first, you do not hit him. And you absolutely, positively never hit him in the head.

4. St. Louis defensive end Chris Long. You're supposed to be a defensive leader, which means you're supposed to be smart enough not to get ejected. Just another example of why the Rams are stuck at the bottom of their division.

5. New England defensive tackle Chris Jones. It was his personal foul that gave Nick Folk and the Jets another chance at a game-winning field goal in overtime, and Folk didn't miss. Jones deserves some slack: It was the first time that penalty (pushing into the pile) was made anywhere this year, and coach Bill Belichick disagreed with the call. It was the right one, and sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. The Jets are. It was the second time this season they were saved at the end of a game by a 15-yard penalty.

NUMBERS THAT MAY MEAN SOMETHING

3-0 -- Dallas vs. the NFC East

4 -- Geno Smith game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime

5 -- Second-half sacks by Kansas City

9 -- Denver series with no first downs

10 -- Former Texas high school quarterbacks with NFL starts this season

15 -- Straight games with at least two sacks by Baltimore

16.5 -- Terrell Suggs' career sacks of Ben Roethlisberger

18 -- Consecutive field goals by Shaun Suisham from 40-49 yards

19 -- Devin Hester career return touchdowns

NEXT WEEKEND'S THREE BEST GAMES

Dallas @ Detroit

Miami @ New England

N.Y. Jets @ Cincinnati
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