We're in the home stretch now for the 2013 NFL season, and yet we still get surprised each and every week.
Some players and teams may do things the way we expect them to—either for good or ill—but the unexpected still pops up each Sunday.
Take for example the Washington-New York game on Sunday night.
Overall a pretty boring game—sloppy and forgettable—we ended up witnessing one of the better games Giants tight end Brandon Myers has played since joining New York.
His 61-yard, one-touchdown game isn't quiet good enough (or bad enough) to make this list, but it was a surprise considering how mediocre he's been this year.
Who else stood out this weekend?
Let's take a look at what I saw. Remember, I only have 10 slots to work with, so I may not include guys you thought were terrible or terribly good. So add your choices in the comments.
At one point in his decimation of the Jacksonville Jaguars secondary, Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon left the game to get checked out for a possible concussion.
Gordon was hurt in the third quarter, via FoxNews.com, when his helmet was knocked off by Jaguars safety Winston Guy. When Gordon hit the ground, his head snapped back and the impact seemed to stun him.
Gordon left the field on his own and went to the locker room for further evaluation.
It seemed like the sort of play which tends to end a day, but Gordon only missed a few series.
When he returned, he scored on a 95-yard touchdown from quarterback Brandon Weeden, which gave the Browns the lead. Unfortunately, the defense couldn’t make the score hold up, and the Jaguars won the game.
Despite missing a portion of the game, Gordon totaled 261 yards on 19 catches with two touchdowns.
According to Fox Sports, Gordon is the first player in NFL history to total 200 or more yards in a game two weeks in a row, and his 498 yards is the most in a two-game span in NFL history.
Last week, Gordon set a franchise record for receiving yards in a game with 237 yards on 14 receptions.
This week he broke his own record—one of two players to break their own single-game receiving records this week (the other being Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery).
His team may be struggling, but Gordon is about as hot as you can be.
As far as replacements go, New England Patriots receiver Danny Amendola has fallen a bit short of the man he replaced, Wes Welker.
When Welker left for Denver, the Patriots grabbed Amendola as a replacement—a move which produced mixed reaction among media members (per Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport)—though in some cases, fans felt they were getting the younger and more explosive version of Welker.
That hasn’t happened.
Injuries continue to be an issue for Amendola as well.
Amendola has played just one full season of football since entering the league in 2009, and this year he will play in just 12 games—assuming he stays healthy for the last four games.
That isn’t something anyone should feel comfortable betting a large sum of money on.
All of which takes a huge toll on his overall numbers, of course.
His sporadic availability keeps him from building enough chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady to get him targets at key moments or a large number of targets overall.
That would change if he can stay in the lineup long enough for Brady to look his way.
But again, it’s hard to trust in that.
As mentioned in the Josh Gordon slide, Alshon Jeffery broke the Chicago Bears franchise single-game receiving record—his own record as a matter of fact, according to FOX Sports.
Like Gordon, Jeffery’s huge day—12 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns—also came in a loss, as the Chicago Bears collapsed in overtime to the Minnesota Vikings.
It was also his second 200-plus yard game this season, though his previous effort came back in Week 5.
With his huge game, Jeffery topped 1,000 yards total for the season for the first time, actually putting him above fellow receiver Brandon Marshall in yards for the season.
Jeffery’s size, athleticism and great hands were on display during his 46-yard touchdown reception, which gave the Bears the lead late in the third quarter.
Unlike Gordon, who is coming off back-to-back 200-yard games, Jeffery has been quieter of late, but the Bears hope that he can use this game as a spark to carry him—and the team—forward on a final push toward the playoffs.
Amazingly, Smith leads the team in targets with 95 but isn’t catching enough of those passes to put up the numbers he has before.
The amazing thing is he’s not that far off from his numbers compared to previous years.
Smith is currently getting about 7.91 targets a game, while he averaged 8.34 per game over the previous two seasons. He’s also catching around the same amount both over the last two seasons versus this season—both around 56 percent.
His yards per reception is lower at 11.4 than it was either of the previous seasons—in 2012 he had an average of 16.1, while in 2011 his average was 17.6.
Smith has yet to have a 100-yard game this year, while last year he had five, and the year before he posted six.
In the end, that might be the difference in yardage totals come the finish of this season.
Whatever the reason though, it’s clear that Smith is not performing well this year.
All this Philadelphia Eagles quarterback does is throw touchdowns and never throw interceptions.
Now, he’s had one dropped and had one overturned because of a penalty, but all that matters at the end of the day is—no interception stands.
Foles has zero interceptions in 162 pass attempts.
His 237-yard, three-touchdown game against the Arizona Cardinals is the third multi-touchdown game in his last four starts and the fifth time he has thrown for more than just one touchdown in nine appearances (six of which were starts).
Aside from settling the sticky issue of who the starting quarterback for head coach Chip Kelly’s offense will be, Foles has also steadied a team which was floundering a bit.
Since Week 9, when Foles returned to the lineup, the Eagles have ripped off four straight wins.
The defense has played better as well, but Foles has helped the offense start taking advantage of the field position and kept the defense off the field so it can rest.
While there are still some issues for the Eagles to deal with, Foles has made the quarterback position one less to deal with.
Rookie quarterbacks like Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mike Glennon will have games like Sunday’s poor performance against a tough Carolina Panthers defense.
Glennon was under pressure all day, made some poor throws (one of which was picked off) and basically played like he was a rookie.
That’s not a sign the Buccaneers and their fanbase should panic; it’s not a sign to bench Glennon and flail around like their hair is on fire.
No, it’s time to regroup and accept the fact that they’ll get games like this from time to time. Glennon's next game is a very winnable one at home against the Buffalo Bills, so expect a rebound next week.
With the weapons he has to throw to and a stable of solid running backs, Glennon has the tools around him to be successful in Tampa for a very long time.
While he did turn the ball over twice, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had an overall good game, and his play is a huge part of the reason the franchise is on an eight-game winning streak.
Newton hasn’t done it with gaudy stats like Nick Foles or Peyton Manning, but he has put his team on his back nonetheless. His leadership when the game is on the line, his cool demeanor and ability to make the big play when needed have been what lifts this team.
That’s not to downplay the excellent defense, the great play by the offensive line and the players around Newton. Merely to point out that when needed, he has helped lift the offense up.
In the midst of an eight-game win streak, that is the definition of hot.
The quarterback carousel seems to have finally worn down Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson.
Really, the whole offense looks worn down—rookie running back Eddie Lacy, fellow receivers Jarrett Boykin and James Jones are all struggling now.
Moving from Scott Tolzien to Matt Flynn didn’t do anything for the Packers offense—at least nothing good.
Since Flynn took over in the third quarter of the tie with the Minnesota Vikings, Nelson has been targeted eight times—four in overtime last week and another four on Thanksgiving.
No matter when Rodgers returns, it can’t be too soon for Nelson and Packers fans alike.
When it comes to Denver Broncos wide receivers, most people think of Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas. After that the attention has fallen largely on tight end Julius Thomas.
People tend to forget about Eric Decker, a guy who sits well behind Thomas and Welker in targets this season.
Still, even with fewer chances, he’s actually been more productive than Welker in terms of yards.
And after catching eight balls for 174 yards and four touchdowns, nobody should overlook him again.
Decker was basically unstoppable, as the coverage seemed unable to stay on him during the game. And the catch defenders were equally powerless, as Decker was able to shed tackles as he gained extra yards.
In a tense AFC West shootout, Peyton Manning looked for Decker early and often.
Decker did not let him down.
An offense like Denver’s has a lot of room for players to contribute. Decker may quiet down a little over the next week or so, but he has certainly shown that when the offense needs him to, he can step up and deliver.
It’s probably time to put the nail in this coffin, kids.
Since Week 8, where he compiled 122 yards on eight catches and scored four times, Jones has all but disappeared.
While he saw seven targets both in Week 9 and 10, the quality of those targets seemed to degrade, and he only caught five of the 14 passes he saw.
In Week 11, his targets dropped off the map—just a pair—and only crawled back up to three this past Sunday.
Some of it is Jones struggling with the extra attention that comes with a high volume of targets, but some of it is also the struggles of his quarterback, Andy Dalton.
Dalton has his own issues, struggling over the same period of time that has seen Jones’ production drop.
A large portion of the time, Dalton has regressed back to relying chiefly on A.J. Green, spreading around the meager amount of remaining targets among the rest of the receivers.
Jones clearly has a lot of ability, but it may be some time—and require his quarterback settling down—before we see the full range of it again.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.