Week 11 winners/losers: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady on collision course for playoff meeting

With the Denver Broncos putting some more nails in the coffin of the San Diego Chargers and coach Norv Turner on Sunday, there is one interesting issue to consider in the AFC playoff picture:

Will Peyton Manning and Tom Brady face off in the playoffs one more time?

Although the 8-2 Baltimore Ravens still have something of an edge in the battle for the No. 2 spot in the AFC, it's going to be tough for them to hold on to that spot for the remainder of the season because of their remaining schedule. By contrast, the New England Patriots and Denver – both 7-3 after victories Sunday – each has only two games remaining against teams with winning records.

In short, it's not hard to paint a scenario in which Manning and Brady will be battling for the No. 2 and 3 seeds (New England has the upper hand having defeated Denver earlier this season). More important, it's a chance for two of the most dominant quarterbacks in NFL history to meet for the 14th time in their careers, but the first time in the playoffs since the AFC championship game in the 2006 season – eventually leading to Manning's only Super Bowl title. Brady owns a lead of 9-4 in the season, including 2-1 in the playoffs.

While some fans may be tired of the idea of Manning vs. Brady, football purists will never tire of it. With Manning having a Comeback Player of the Year-type season, a potential playoff matchup becomes that much more compelling when you consider that it seemed like a remote possibility going into the season.

[More: Pats TE Rob Gronkowski reportedly has broken forearm]

In other words, savor the chance that they play again.

Here are the winners and losers for Week 11:


Give the New York Jets credit. In a week when the team appeared to be coming apart at the seams (there was the mess with backup quarterback Tim Tebow being called "terrible" and owner Woody Johnson reportedly meeting with GM Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan on Tuesday), the Jets managed to get it together on Sunday. The win at St. Louis was surprisingly lopsided. More important, it came after some early troubles, including the Rams going up 7-0 and the Jets having a field goal blocked.

It appears that St. Louis rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins took his one-game penalty for missing curfew very seriously. In the first half against the Jets, Jenkins deflected a third-down pass to force a punt, tackled Jets running back Shonn Green after a 1-yard gain on a first-down play inside the St. Louis 20-yard line and then blocked the aforementioned field goal attempt after the Rams held the Jets without a first down on that possession. Good stuff.

Despite the overtime loss to the Houston Texans, congrats to Jacksonville Jaguars rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon and backup quarterback Chad Henne. Blackmon came up with the first truly big play and game of his otherwise disappointing season when he broke away for an 81-yard fourth-quarter touchdown off a throw from Henne. That was the signature play of a seven-catch, 236-yard performance for Blackmon, who came into the game with 26 catches for 250 yards and one touchdown. While this was clearly borne of some bad tackling by Houston, it was a perfect example of what Blackmon should be, a better version of Baltimore's Anquan Boldin. Blackmon, who has been visibly out of shape all season, has the ability to move like a running back with the ball when he's at his best. As for Henne, he had a career-high four touchdown passes. That included a 67-yard scoring toss to second-year wide receiver Cecil Shorts, a fourth-round pick from 2011 who is actually the best receiver on the Jaguars' roster.

[More: Saints creep back to .500 after blowing out Raiders]

In the 20-year history of NFL free agency, there have been very few players who have changed teams in a big-money deal and had it pay off (Reggie White, Deion Sanders and Bryce Paup are among a handful). However, wide receiver Vincent Jackson is already paying off in a big way for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after signing his five-year, $55.55 million deal. On Sunday, Jackson caught six passes for 94 yards, but his value continued to skyrocket with the victory over the Carolina Panthers. Jackson caught a 24-yard touchdown pass and a two-point conversion to force overtime as the Buccaneers came back to win their fourth in a row and cement their position in the playoff race under first-year head coach Greg Schiano.

The Atlanta Falcons improved to 9-1 with a very ugly win over the Arizona Cardinals. The Falcons were down 13-0 after the first quarter as quarterback Matt Ryan struggled with three interceptions. However, Atlanta has become one of the best teams in the league at bouncing back after a regular-season loss under fifth-year head coach Mike Smith. The Falcons are now 16-3 in the next game after suffering a loss under him. In fact, the only time they have lost back-to-back games under Smith was in 2009, when Ryan struggled much of the season with injuries. Ryan finished with five interceptions and no TD passes, becoming the first QB since Bart Starr in 1967 to do so in a victory.

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Falcons RB Michael Turner on resilient win]

Despite the overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys, give Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden credit for some impressive work on the road. Weeden came up with two sweet touchdown passes to tight end Ben Watson. Both throws were into tight spots against pretty good coverage by the Cowboys. Now, if Weeden had just hit one of two earlier fade routes in the game, the outcome might have been different.

If Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson drafts a wide receiver in the second round, you can pretty much bank on that guy becoming an impact player. In addition to Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, Thompson can add Randall Cobb to that list. Cobb continues to impress in the absence of Jennings. On Sunday, he caught the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter and now has 54 catches for 574 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Beyond that, the second-year receiver is an excellent return man and has been used occasionally as a running back. On Sunday against Detroit, Cobb converted a third-and-2 run and finished with two carries for 19 yards. For the season, he has eight carries for 115 yards.

Congrats to cornerback Aqib Talib, who opened his (likely brief) career with the New England Patriots by returning an interception for a touchdown in the lopsided victory against the Indianapolis Colts. The Pats hope it's an indicator of things to come. If Talib can play up to his talents, the Pats' secondary can improve to reasonable.


It wasn't all bad for Andrew Luck this weekend as his Colts got a dose of reality in New England. On Saturday, Luck enjoyed Stanford's upset of No. 1-ranked Oregon. However, Sunday was for lesson-learning as he had four turnovers, including two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. Luck often left the ball too high on deep throws in each of his past two games. That's what happened on the aforementioned interception by Aqib Talib, who returned it 59 yards.

Is this really what Dallas owner Jerry Jones pays all that money for? The Cowboys improved to 5-5 but that was about as ugly a victory as you could imagine – and it required the help of penalties for the game-tying field goal in regulation. The Browns committed 50 yards in penalties on the drive (the unnecessary roughness call when wide receiver Kevin Ogletree was hit was debatable, but not outrageous). The fact that the Browns were playing without their best player (cornerback Joe Haden) is telling. If the Cowboys expect to become something more than a mentally-weak, inconsistent squad, they can't allow games like this to be close.

The meltdown in Arizona continued, but don't expect it to cost coach Ken Whisenhunt his job. The Bidwill family, which owns the team, is highly unlikely to fire a coach it has to pay off. Still, do people around the league think Whisenhunt did the right thing against the Atlanta Falcons when he pulled starting quarterback John Skelton after he completed only two of his first seven passes for six yards? Conventional thinking says if you have a lead like the 13-0 margin Arizona enjoyed early on Sunday, give a guy some rope. Instead, Whisenhunt put in rookie Ryan Lindley, a raw prospect who proceeded to play like it as the Cardinals scored only six points the rest of the way despite getting six turnovers (five interceptions and a fumble). This should have been a lock to win. A big reason is that Lindley had a fumble returned for a score in the second quarter.

[More: Lions assistant coaches engage in heated discussion]

The interception woes are again catching up with San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. He had two more in the loss to the Denver Broncos and has 14 for the season, including nine in his past five games. That's a big reason why the Chargers have lost five of their past six after starting the season 3-1. Ultimately, his struggles play a strong role in the likely firing of coach Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith. However, Rivers, who has been a big fan of Turner and even advocated for keeping the coach last season, isn't likely to go anywhere.

Browns president Mike Holmgren is a classy guy and a great coach, one of only five men to take two different teams to Super Bowls as a head coach. However, his fawning of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was silly on Sunday before the Cowboys-Browns game. As longtime Browns beat writer Tony Grossi noted, it was the first time Holmgren – who has already been linked to a potential Cowboys opening – has been on the field before a Browns game this season. What a coincidence.

Oh, Oakland Raiders fans, I hate to do this to you … well, except for those of you who drop f-bombs via electronic communication at the drop of a hat … but here goes: In the past three games, the Raiders have allowed a total of 135 points. That's an average of 45 per game. In that time, the Raiders have faced more backup quarterbacks in garbage time (two, Chase Daniel of New Orleans and Tyrod Taylor of Baltimore) than they have interceptions (one).

Finally, to Jets linebacker Bart Scott: grow up. You used to be a good dude before copping a lame attitude. Don't be one of those guys who completely humiliates yourself at the end of your career.

So much for kicking off the Nick Foles era in Philadelphia. Not that this was the poor lad's fault (although that haircut is on him), but he completed only 21 of 46 passes for 204 yards. He was sacked four times, reinforcing the notion that the problem with the Eagles is not with the quarterback. He also fumbled three times (all three were recovered by the Eagles) and was picked off twice. Although Michael Vick truly does have a serious concussion issue, this may force some of the Eagles assistant coaches to rethink their position on Foles starting the rest of the season.

Speaking of Eagles assistants, the decision to fire defensive coordinator Juan Castillo continues to look like lunacy for Philly coach Andy Reid. In six games with Castillo as defensive coordinator, the Eagles were 3-3 and had given up 125 points. In the four since he was fired, the team is 0-4 and has given up 127 points.

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