There's hot....there's not.....and there's Aaron Rodgers
We've rounded the corner and are on the final leg of the regular season, heading towards the playoffs.
Some players and teams are gaining momentum while others—we're looking at you, Detroit Lions—are busy collapsing.
Next week we'll take a look at who has that momentum and who doesn't heading into the playoffs, but for now, let's take one more look into our regular-season performers.
For what it's worth, the entire Chicago Bears team gets a "Not," while the Carolina Panthers get a "Hot" and the Dallas Cowboys get a "What the heck was that?"
With another game left, you can bet 51 isn't the final total for Manning's season.
Just another ho-hum 400-yard, four-touchdown game for Manning as he and the Denver Broncos clinch the AFC West divisional title, a first-round bye and take one step closer to home-field advantage.
Manning looked sharp for most of the day as he continued his assault on our football sanity.
Many thought he was done after he missed all of the 2011 season. After his neck surgeries, a lot of people—media and fans alike—felt he would never be the same.
So much for that, huh?
The Houston Texans’ season wouldn’t have been complete without another bad performance by Matt Schaub.
He’s had worse—at least he didn’t throw a pick-six—but his completion percentage was just 48.6 percent, something which included throwing a complete pass to Andre Johnson on just four of 13 pass attempts.
While you can blame some of those on the receiver, the majority of it comes down on Schaub.
I’m a pretty vocal critic of the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, and at times it has been well-deserved.
But credit where credit’s due—he was surgical on Sunday.
With the Baltimore Ravens creeping up on them, the Bengals had a tremendous game against the Minnesota Vikings and nobody more than Andy Dalton.
Dalton completed 71 percent of his passes, never turned over the ball and completed passes to eight different receivers.
In what has been a terribly inconsistent season, Dalton could be heating up at just the right time for a Bengals playoff run.
So is everyone still saying the San Francisco 49ers made the wrong move trading Alex Smith? Because it sure doesn’t look like it.
This isn’t to say Colin Kaepernick has been fantastic—he hasn’t—but Smith isn’t a franchise savior.
He’s showed more dimensions to his game than we thought he had, but this second half of this season has been inconsistent and—at times—downright mediocre.
Last week he looked a lot better than he was since Jamaal Charles did all the heavy lifting. This week he looked lost, and both of his interceptions made you cringe.
The Chiefs need him to rebound next week so he can have some momentum going into the playoffs. The Chiefs may not be able to change their playoff position much, but they’ll need their quarterback hotter than he’s been.
There has been some muttering about a Jamaal Charles MVP run, but the odds are stacked against the Kansas City Chiefs running back with Peyton Manning having the season he is.
Yet, Manning or not, Charles has a real argument, especially after the last five games. In fact, there is a lot recently which echoes what Adrian Peterson did last season.
He has been dominating on the field, having had five straight games where he’s topped 100 combined yards.
There is very little else in the offense to make his job easier and many of the most recent wins have been on his back.
Unlike Peterson, he’s not breaking records—the only thing which seems to put running backs over the top for MVP votes—but otherwise he is playing incredible football.
Despite doing it in a losing effort, Charles’ work on Sunday was once again fantastic.
Can we put the “Matt Cassel for Minnesota Vikings quarterback” narrative to rest now?
We knew he wasn’t the answer back in August and we were reminded strongly of that fact over the course of the past few weeks.
Cassel often isn't within a mile of his targets and he consistently has his balls batted at the line of scrimmage.
Even if the passes would have gone past the line, quite often a look at Game Rewind reveals a linebacker in the passing lane. Case in point, his interception by Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga.
In other words, most of the time if it isn’t batted at the line, there is a strong chance it’s intercepted moments later.
Cassel is another quarterback whose completion percentage was below 50 percent, hovering at a paltry 48.1.
And the Vikings are another team who will be looking at quarterbacks in free agency as well as early in the 2014 NFL draft.
For two weeks in a row, Pierre Garcon has lifted the Washington offense up, albeit not to a win.
Over the past two weeks, Garcon has served up 18 catches for 273 yards and two touchdowns. This past week he accounted for 73 percent of quarterback Kirk Cousins’ yards and was the recipient of Cousins’ only touchdown pass.
While the season is pretty much over, Garcon is giving Washington fans hope that maybe next year will be better.
Sure, the Arizona Cardinals beat the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle, but it was despite the play of quarterback Carson Palmer, not because of him.
While you can give Palmer credit for a critical touchdown pass with 2:13 left in the game for the win, you can’t overlook a brutal four interceptions and just 178 yards.
Special mention goes to the Seahawks themselves, because when you generate four interceptions, you should win a game. When you lose—well, those Super Bowl predictions start looking shaky.
Right off the top we need to give a shout-out to the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line—they made the Chicago Bears defense look goofy all night and made running back LeSean McCoy’s life much easier.
That’s not to take anything away from “Shady’s” night though, as he thoroughly manhandled the Bears himself. He showed off his speed getting to the edge, some strength breaking tackles and a distinct nose for the end zone.
In a game which really didn’t mean much to the Eagles and meant everything to the Bears, McCoy ate the defense’s lunch and probably stole their dessert as well.
There was no way to stop McCoy, who was over 100 combined yards with a pair of touchdowns before the end of the third quarter.
There are times when Matt Stafford can blow up a secondary.
Sunday, against a not-so-good New York Giants defense, it was his turn to be blown up.
In fact, he looked awful for most of the day—even before the game-killing pick-six in the fourth quarter which allowed the Giants to tie the Lions and send the game into overtime.
While he did complete most of his passes, that interception loomed large, as did his inability to get the ball to Calvin Johnson.
Normally, you think perhaps it would be good to target someone other than Johnson, but on Sunday you were wondering why he wasn’t trying to get the ball to his No. 1 receiver more.
We can point to his wonky mechanics, we can question his field vision, we can wonder at the play-calling—but on Sunday, when they needed him to stand tall in order to stay viable in the division, he came up small.
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.