December 12, 2011
See Sunday's five least valuable players here.
T.J. Yates, Quarterback, Houston Texans. It's hard to not love what T.J. Yates has done in two starts with the Texans. Two weeks and two wins, over the Falcons and Bengals, both playoff-quality teams. And this time, it wasn't dink-and-dunk stuff, either. The Texans needed Yates to throw downfield and lead a comeback, and he did it. Yatesie (that's probably not going to stick) went for 300 yards on Sunday, including a game-winner with three seconds left. With Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and now Yatesie, and throw in Christian Ponder and Jake Locker, is this the best year ever for rookie quarterbacks?
Philip Rivers, Quarterback, San Diego Chargers. Over the last two weeks, Philip Rivers has six touchdowns and zero interceptions, which is just like his first 12 weeks of the season, except for all the touchdowns and the lack of interceptions. The Chargers opened the season at 4-1, and everyone thought, "Hey, finally, they aren't getting off to a slow start." But that was a total mirage. They won, but they didn't play well in those first five weeks. As it turns out, they just waited longer than ever to start playing ball. This year, it was Week 13.
Rob Gronkowski, Tight End, New England Patriots. With the primes of Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates behind them, it feels like Rob Gronkowski is raising the bar in this golden age of tight ends. Here's a short documentary about his day, in which he had (arguably) Week 14's best highlight and also set a record for tight end touchdowns in a season. He's big, he's fast, he's strong, he's agile, he refuses to be tackled, he blocks, he's got great hands, he's got a cool nickname ... what else could you possibly want from a tight end? He's the blueprint.
Caleb Hanie, Quarterback, Chicago Bears. He didn't play quarterback particularly well on Sunday (of course, that never stops some other quarterbacks from winning), but I really liked the way he went and sat next to Marion Barber at the end of the bench after Barber had, you know, exhausted every possible option on how to fail at the end of a game. It was a sweet gesture. Hanie knows what it's like to be the target of an angry Bears' fan base. I hope he can help Barber through the next few days.
Eli Manning, Quarterback, New York Giants. Jason Pierre-Paul would be plenty deserving himself, but when in doubt, I'm going with the quarterback -- and I don't think anyone's going to argue against Eli. Four hundred yards and two touchdowns, including a tremendous late fourth-quarter drive that put the Giants ahead for good? That'll do. That was an extremely entertaining game, and it makes it impossible to know which one of these teams that have shot themselves in the face multiple times this season will make the playoffs.
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