The story goes that every person on Earth is just six steps away from meeting somebody else, as told by the old six degrees of separation paradox. Every week, Six Yards of Separation compiles the NFL action on Sunday and connects one player to another unsuspected player through four other players by way of statistics, facts and idiosyncrasies.
Peyton Manning and the Denver offense looks unstoppable. The only defensive personnel that seems to stand a chance is the daunting Seattle Seahawks.
This week's Six Yards brings Manning and Sherman together prematurely.
Denver Broncos, 4-0, AFC West
In a parallel world, the inverse is true of the Broncos’ 52-20 win over the Eagles. Chip Kelly is scheming the offense that puts up exponential amounts of points—not losing to such an offense.
In Denver on Sunday, Philadelphia fell to 1-3 on the year, which added to the perilous 4-12 collective start by the NFC East. Peyton Manning led the Broncos offense to a franchise-record 35 first downs against Philadelphia.
Manning also has casually thrown for 16 touchdowns and no interceptions through the first quarter of the season.
Which 4-0 team will miss the playoffs?
First-year Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker has hauled in a team-leading six of those touchdowns from Manning, including two of Manning’s four touchdown throws on Sunday. The other 10 touchdowns are divided between Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas and Andre Caldwell.
Denver leads the NFL in passing yards, averaging approximately 364 yards per game.
With a maestro like Manning directing the league’s most explosive offense, it comes as no surprise that the Broncos have won 15-straight regular season games. With the remaining schedule that the Broncos have, it’s assumed that that streak isn’t ending in the foreseeable future.
One quarterback’s streak did end at nine games on Sunday because of the number 35.
Matthew Stafford, quarterback, Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford had 35 passing attempts in Detroit’s win against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field—the fewest passes attempted in a game by Stafford since Week 9 of last season against Jacksonville when he threw 33 times.
Stafford’s lightened load is attributed in part to a more balanced offensive attack. Running back Reggie Bush—who returned on Sunday from a knee injury that held him out in Week 3 at Washington—had 18 rushes for 139 yards in the Lions’ 40-32 win over the Bears.
After setting the record for most passing attempts by a quarterback in a single season last year with 727, Stafford should use Bush to his advantage.
A recharged quarterback in the AFC West used the number 35 to his advantage on Sunday, as well.
Philip Rivers, quarterback, San Diego
Philip Rivers completed 35 passes to accumulate 401 yards through the air and resulting in three touchdowns with just one interception to match on Sunday against Dallas.
Rivers is throwing darts, and the Chargers are embodying their logo. First-year head coach Mike McCoy has turned Rivers' infamous frown upside-down and might be a quarterback magician. Rivers' 74 percent completion percentage in 2013 is the highest mark of his career.
San Diego’s 30-21 win over Dallas marked Rivers’ second 400-yard passing game of the season and fifth such game of his career.
Eleven touchdowns and two interceptions through four games is a very not-Rivers, but thinking that Tim Tebow was a plausible NFL quarterback was also loony until McCoy made it seem possible in Denver.
Another player reached a feat for the second time this season.
Adrian Peterson, running back, Minnesota Vikings
It doesn’t matter what country Adrian Peterson is playing in or what team he’s playing against. He will make defenses pay and give fans a show worth their money.
Peterson’s 140 rushing yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns lifted the Minnesota Vikings to their first tally in the win column of the season in a 34-27 win over Pittsburgh in London.
This was Peterson’s second 100-yard rushing game of the season.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder sat out on Sunday due to injury, giving Matt Cassel the start. Cassel was 16-for-25 for 248 yards on the day, and his two touchdowns through the air match Ponder’s total touchdown count on the season.
In years past, anybody would expect a game involving the Steelers to include a Pittsburgh running back torching the field. Instead, the Steelers are winless for first time since 1968.
Another team has a zero stamped in their stat sheet for the season.
Tennessee Titans, 3-1, AFC South
The Tennessee Titans are the only team remaining in the NFL to have not committed a turnover through the first four games (joining the 1995 Rams as the only teams to do so in the Super Bowl era).
Quarterback Jake Locker threw for a career-high three touchdowns before going down to an apparent leg injury at the start of the third quarter, which automatically makes The Hurt Locker every Titans fan’s least favorite movie.
Locker’s growth and brilliant start to the 2013 season is responsible for Tennessee not turning the ball over. Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald limped the Titans to a 38-13 win against the flailing New York Jets on Sunday at home, but the extent of Locker’s injury and subsequent absence is worth significant concern moving forward.
Inversely, it was a turnover forced by one player that helped another team advance to 4-0.
Richard Sherman, cornerback, Seattle Seahawks
Richard Sherman jumped the route by Texans tight end Owen Daniels, intercepted Matt Schaub and returned it 58-yards for a pick-six to tie the game at 20 late in the fourth quarter.
Houston led Seattle 20-3 at halftime and lost 23-20, scoring all 20 of their points in the second quarter.
The Seahawks comeback to win the game had just as much to do with playmakers like Sherman and quarterback Russell Wilson as it did implosion on the part of Schaub.
Heading to San Francisco in Week 5 spells trouble for Houston as the Texans are in danger of falling under .500 and losing ground to the surging Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. The uncertainty of Schaub and split-duty of running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate are colliding to inhibit the Texans from living up to their expected potential.
The Texans are one of the more paradoxical teams in the NFL thus far, looking like a shell of themselves from one year ago, while Seattle looks exactly how everybody expected them to: high-flying.