If you want to know a huge reason the Arizona Cardinals are a possible Super Bowl team—you read that right; don't snicker—it comes down to one word: accountability. The accountability mandated by coach Bruce Arians.
Actually, make that two words. Something called the accountability sheet.
"A lot of coaches talk about accountability," Arizona kicker Jay Feely said. "But they let the quarterback or the star player get away without having accountability while asking every other player to be accountable. Bruce doesn't do that."
Cardinals players point to the aforementioned accountability sheet as a huge part of what has changed the culture of the team and made them a contender.
Arians started the sheet, and it goes like this: The sheet is put on a projector at the beginning of every team meeting. It will be the player's number, a certain play in a game and the mistake the player made.
It's done in front of the entire team. Go the wrong way on a play? On the list. Miss a block? On the list. On and on it goes.
It's not uncommon for position coaches in much smaller meetings with their players to go over mistakes, but it's highly unusual for something like what Arians is doing—to call out every player for every mistake.
No one is immune. Quarterback Carson Palmer will make the accountability sheet. So will star receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
"It basically shames you into knowing your job and executing it properly," said Feely.
It also, in a strange way, creates a great deal of unity. Stars aren't exempt from the list. There's no favoritism. Everyone is equal.
Arizona is 7-4 and dangerous. Really dangerous. That defense has been good for the past several years, and now that Palmer no longer stinks—that seems to happen to everyone when they leave Oakland—Fitzgerald no longer has to pluck footballs out of the dirt.
This is how a team transforms.
There is always some team, some franchise, that comes from nowhere. That team this season could be the accountable Cardinals.
There are many things that have changed about Robert Griffin III. His poor play on the field this season is well documented. Not good. There's also a chance he's still hurt. And while losing can turn any player miserable, the RGIII we are seeing this season is vastly different from the one we saw last year. Now that things are bad, we're seeing more of a finger pointer. This past week, he called criticism of him "character assassination." That's a fairly over-the-top term to use.
One of the things you see with the great quarterbacks is steadiness when things go wrong. Griffin's personality is a seismograph. He's definitely a bit of a front-runner. When Colin Kaepernick struggled earlier this year, he didn't change. As Kaepernick has since regained his form, he hasn't changed.
Steady is almost a required feature for a starting quarterback. It at times trumps everything else—including, in some cases, physical ability. This is a lesson RGIII needs to learn above all others.
3. One last thing on Griffin
Griffin has been sacked an astounding 26 times this year. The Big Lead pulled video of each sack, and he's been helped up just three times.
That stat can mean a lot or nothing. I've covered teams where a lineman picked the quarterback off the ground after every sack, and I've covered teams where that rarely happened and the line loved the quarterback.
My guess: This is an indicator of what the line thinks of Griffin.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo takes massive heat. Sometimes it's well deserved. Sometimes it's not. Many times he chokes. Many times he carries the franchise on his back. What he did on Sunday, no matter what you think of him, was fairly impressive.
Romo became just the fifth undrafted player in history to reach 200 career touchdown passes.
Consider how hard it is just to get drafted in the NFL.
How hard it is to become a starter.
How impossible it is to generate statistics.
What Romo has done as an undrafted guy is pretty remarkable.
The other players are Warren Moon (291, and he played in Canada for the bulk of his career), Kurt Warner (208), Jim Hart (209) and Dave Krieg (261). Moon is in the Hall of Fame, and Warner should be.
5. Calvin Johnson's dominance
We know how great Megatron is, but one stat sticks out. Since 2011, Johnson leads the NFL with 4,843 receiving yards and an average of 115.3 yards a game.
How is almost 5,000 yards since 2011 even humanly possible?
6. Best quote ever?
Boston College running back Andre Williams to Sports Illustrated: "If it wasn't for football, I would probably invest in a couple cows and chickens and go live in the bush and make my own cheese."
This isn't NFL-related, but it's maybe the best quote I've ever seen, so I had to include it here.
7. Irsay explosion
The anticipated Twitter explosion of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay finally arrived, and it was a goodie.
7-4,2 game lead,5 to go with our injurIes n schedule is something we'd take 3 months ago/But the play n last 10 out of 12 quarters-ALARMING— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) November 26, 2013
In Golf you're allowed 14 clubs..but if you're playing with 9 clubs..U got to hood a 8 iron n hIt It like a 4 iron! Improvise n find a way!— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) November 26, 2013
Must find a way 2 win Division,no excuses,no explanations..hide weaknesses,accent strengthens/We gotta get our heads out of r butts-WAKE UP!— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) November 26, 2013
I didn't break the bank,millions cash over cap/Load Brinks Truck,only to be hijacked n stormed on the way 2 stadium by machine gun MANIACS!— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) November 26, 2013
I know there are some in the Colts organization that are amused by Irsay's tweets, and they were probably laughing when they saw them.
Yet, as funny as they are, Irsay is dead serious. If the Colts collapse, heads will roll.
8. 49ers getting healthy
And they're doing it at the perfect time. This week, the team activated wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Kaepernick is regaining form, and that defense is still ridiculously good. As they get bodies back and Kaepernick has more targets, the 49ers will once again be scary.
Interesting, since meanwhile in Seattle, the Seahawks are losing players to suspensions.
9. Joe Flacco is right
When he says that the Wildcat formation is a high school offense, he's dead on. The Wildcat is dead. It rarely works, and playing your quarterback at wide receiver is even dumber.
10. Emotional interview
This interview of college and pro football Hall of Famer Lance Alworth is worth your time. There's been a lot of bad news about players and life after football, and Alworth went through some tough times financially, but his story is a successful one. Alworth is showing football players can live into their 70s and be healthy and happy.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. His Ten-Point Stance column appears on Wednesdays. All stats and historical info via the NFL, unless otherwise noted.