Sports Illustrated has MMQB by Peter King.  We here at ScoutsNotebook have MMQB by Gimpy.  Pete is the better babysitter, but is much less fun at a keg party.  Or in a holding cell.  Our man Gimp is an old friend.  He’s not a scout, but is a diehard football fanatic.  He is an Eagles fan so there is some bias in regard to NFC East matters, but he can be trusted to speak fairly with the other 28 teams.

Sorry for the late column everyone, I’m sure after my international debut to critical acclaim you’ve been getting antsy waiting for this. Let’s just call it a tryptophan overdose and get on with the show.

I’ll start off with the worst story of the week: the Houston Texans and their awful luck at QB. The stars finally align for them: Peyton Manning is out, their running game clicks, Wade Phillips turns their defense into one of the best in the league (#1 in yards per game, yards per pass attempt, first downs per game, #2 in 3rd down percentage and points per game) and what happens? Matt Schaub goes down last week. Ok, you’ve got a capable backup in Matt Leinart who knows the system and has the talent to be a good QB in this league if he works at it. Then, Leinart goes down with a broken collar bone and the TJ Yates (5th round rookie out of UNC) show begins. Here’s what NFL Draft genius and legend Tommy Lawlor had to say about the draft choice:

“Yates isn’t special physically, but he’s good enough to play in the NFL. His accuracy and decision-making were the biggest areas to work on and they were better [his senior year]. He seems comfortable on intermediate and deep routes, so he should fit in well with the Texans offense. Yates reportedly had a great showing at his Pro Day. I don’t know that he’ll ever start in the NFL, but could develop into a good backup.”

Yates does have the benefit of arguably the best 1-2 punch at RB and one of the top defenses in the league, plus a returning Andre Johnson. The Texans are definitely going to bring someone else in (they already brought in Kellen Clemens).  Unfortunate for John Madden, Brett Favre is not on the list. The Texans still have a 2 game lead over the Titans, but with Chris Johnson finally remembering he’s a very good RB (23 carries, 190 yards), a team starting a 5th round rookie at QB just might falter enough to lose the best season in Texans’ history. I just hope they win a playoff game, preferably against the Jets to wipe that smug look off Rex Ryan’s face.   

Cincinnati continues their miraculous season with a crazy win against the Cleveland Browns. They’re currently 7-4, 1 game out of first place in the AFC North but a game ahead for the 6 seed in the wild card. I said last week that their very much in the race for a playoff spot and the AFC North title, and while the win wasn’t pretty, just ask Ravens fans how much they’d love to have a close win against an inferior team (losses to Tennessee and Jacksonville). If I were Roger Goodell, I would add a “Rookie of the Year that isn’t a QB” award. Sure, I’d also add the “if any player named or was formerly named Tom Brady steps onto the field, that team automatically forfeits.” That rule would also be retroactive to, oh I don’t know, January of 2005. That’s a good starting point.

Anyways, back to my “ROTYTIQB” award. AJ Green has been phenomenal. Sure, ROY is going to go to Cam Newton or Andy Dalton, but take a look at AJ Green’s stats over 10 games: 44 catches, 745 yards, 6 touchdowns.  Project that over 16 games and you have 70 catches, 1190 yards, and 9 or 10 touchdowns. That’s better than Larry Fitzgerald’s rookie year. I’m not going to go as far as Mike Florio who said “In the first NFL season since 1997 without T.O. and Randy Moss, the Bengals have a wideout who could be better than both of them” but Green is certainly clutch. With the game on the line, Green delivered. 3rd and 8, 1:08 left on the clock in a tie game, Green made a spectacular catch in traffic and ran all the way to the 2 yard line to set up a chip shot FG for the win. Watch the play right here.

With a QB that isn’t a whiny little girl like Carson Palmer and a game breaking receiver, the Bengals are going to be a tough matchup for years to come. That’s bad news for the AFC North.

Quick Hits!

  • The Miami Dolphins kicked 4 FGs inside the red zone. 4 red zone trips, 4 FGs. They lost the game by 1 point on a last second FG. Gee, I wonder why they lost?
  • If you told me Mark Sanchez would throw 4 touchdowns against anyone, much less a non-Indianapolis Colts defense, I would have told you to put down the crack pipe.
  • The Denver Broncos defense has allowed an average of 15 points per game during their 4 game winning streak.  Their first 8? 28.6 points per game. To put it even more into perspective, they allowed less than 20 points twice. They’ve done it now 3x in a row. Does anyone else think Kyle Orton would still be the starter if the defense played this well all season?
  • Drew Brees: 24/38 383 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tom Brady: 24/34 361 yards and 3 touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers: 22/33 307 yards and 2 touchdowns. There’s nothing to really say other than sit back and enjoy the ride of 3 QBs in their prime playing at a level we’ve never seen before. These guys are NFL record killing machines.
  • Beanie Wells finally showed a glimpse of what made him a 1st round pick vs. the Rams. 27 carries, 228 yards and 1 touchdown. Wells had a run of 71 yards yesterday. His previous career high? 33. He’s still a distant 2nd to LeSean McCoy in the 2009 RB draft class, but maybe Beanie can be a late bloomer like Darren McFadden. Wells is currently 8th in the NFL in rushing yards (849) but with Adrian Peterson and Fred Jackson hurt, Wells could make a run into the top 5. I’m sure Cardinals fans don’t want moral victories right now, but a 1200 yard, 10 touchdown year for Beanie would be a nice setup for next year.
  • Josh Freeman’s 2010: 3,451 yards, 25 touchdowns 6 interceptions. In 2011 he only has 12 touchdowns through 11 games to go along with 16 interceptions. This seems to be the year of the regressing QB. Freeman, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Joe Flacco, Phillip Rivers and Mike Vick are all having seasons that are all blatantly statistically worse than the previous. Only Flacco is having similar team success but I’m pretty sure my boy Tyler Palko of the Chiefs could win 11 with that defense and Ray Rice.

I was trying to think of throwing a weekly award/dishonor into my column that I’ve never seen. I’m sure someone does my idea, but I’ve never seen it. So here’s my new award/dishonor: Underpaid and Overpaid player of the week!

Underpaid: Zach Strief, RT, New Orleans Saints.

I’ll pause for everyone to google him. This guy doesn’t even make $2 million per season and he’s going up against Jason-Pierre Paul and Justin Tuck, 2 of the best pass rushers in the game? 0 sacks allowed. Throw in that the running game had 29 carries for 197 yards and it’s pretty obvious that the Saints’ OL dominated the Giants up front. Drew Brees gets a lot of the credit (rightfully so) but the big uglies made it possible and Strief was a huge part of that.

Overpaid: Matt Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions.

Between salary, roster bonus, and the proration of his signing bonus, Stafford is “worth” over $15 million this year. What does he do on national television with a chance to dethrone the Packers? 6.1 yards per attempt on 45 attempts, 3 interceptions, 1 touchdown in the 4th quarter when the game was already over. Matt, your defense kind of held the Packers in check. 27 points for them is a bad day at the office. You were only down 7-0 at halftime. Heck, your first interception set up that first touchdown by giving the Packers the ball on your 13 yard line. Then, after going down 14-0, you throw another interception. Packers score, you’re down 21-0 and what do you do? You throw another pick.

I would have given this award to Suh, but he won’t be getting paid the next 2 weeks. Stafford will be.

Week 13 predictions:

Bengals: 17
Steelers: 13

The Steelers offense looked putrid against the Chiefs. The Bengals are due for a huge win and I think they get it this week.

Packers: 38
Giants: 24

The Packers continue their push for 16-0 against a Giants team begging for someone to put them out of their misery. A loss here coupled with a Dallas victory vs. the Cardinals puts them 2 behind with 4 to play. Anything but winning out will likely put the Giants on the outside looking in.

Saints: 45
Lions: 31

The Lions will still have a hope at the 6 seed even after this loss, but it won’t be easy. I predict a Giants collapse, but without Cutler, the Bears aren’t going to win 3 of their next 5. The Falcons are pretty much a lock for the 5 seed, so it comes down to Stafford and the Lions vs. whoever and the Bears for the right to lose to Saints or 49ers in the wildcard round.

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