SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 27: Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos prays before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 27, 2011 in San Diego, California. The Broncos went on to win 16-13 in overtime. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
The Packers stay perfect, Tim Tebow's not the reason for Denver's success and T.J. Yates and Caleb Hanie are leading serious playoff contenders. It's all part of the Week 12 NFL Debrief.
With only Monday Night Football to go, Week 12 in the NFL is nearly done. We saw three Thanksgiving day games as well a full slate on Sunday and the theme this week is backup quarterbacks. A number of starters (and even those starters' backups) were injured in the last week so you have guys like T.J. Yates and Caleb Hanie leading two of the top teams in the league. Yes, T.J. Yates and Caleb Hanie are going to play a major role in the AFC and NFC playoff picture.
The Packers are still perfect, the Patriots are stating their case for best in the AFC and the Broncos defense should be overshadowing Tim Tebow (if anything in the world actually could overshadow Tebow). It's all here in the Week 12 NFL Debrief:
Tim Tebow? He's not the reason for the Broncos success. So the Broncos line up and run the ball a lot and Tebow carried the ball 22 times on Sunday which set a new quarterback record. So what? He's definitely not the biggest reason for the Broncos success (now 5-1 under Tebow). Denver's defense -- the John Fox impact -- might be the most underrated unit in football. Their last four games, all wins, in points given up: 16, 13, 10, 24. We all want to talk about Tebow but the real transformation is with the defense. I'm a fan of a team in the AFC West so I know how awful that Broncos defense was for a while. And now? Von Miller will be chasing AFC West QBs for a decade.
The Texans quarterback rotation turns to...T.J. Yates? The name sounds a little familiar from draft stuff last April but T.J. Yates is about as random as it gets when it comes to an 8-3 team on their way to a division title. So how did the Texans get here? Matt Schaub went down with a foot injury a couple weeks ago and backup Matt Leinart stepped in -- for a half at least. Leinart suffered what's believed to be a season-ending shoulder injury on Sunday which means the reins are now given to Yates. You almost feel bad for Texans fans. The team hasn't made the playoffs since the franchise came into existence in 2002 and, in the year they' obviously have the best shot, they enter quarterback hell with the injuries.
In other backup quarterback news...Jay Cutler is out in Chicago, possibly for the season, so the Bears turn to Caleb Hanie and....well, let's just say it's obvious why the Bears put a claim in on Kyle Orton. Hanie hit 50 percent of his passes and threw three picks as the one-dimensional Bears lost to Oakland, 25-20. It's going to be interesting to see how the Bears handle this -- they don't have many options either way -- because they're 7-4 and tied with a number of teams for a playoff spot. They won't win their division (Green Bay is there) but they're right there in the thick of the playoff race and need a minimum of two to three wins down the stretch. (And count the Bears being screwed here as one more reason they need to move the trade deadline back.)
Packers road to 16-0 continues and Aaron Rodgers playing like one of the best ever. Green Bay's best shot at losing a game came last Thursday on Thanksgiving. The Lions were hosting, they were fired up and the Lions, as a team, were built to stop the Packers. Unfortunately for Detroit, Aaron Rodgers and Co. is just too good. Rodgers is completing 71.8 percent of his passes, on pace for 48 touchdowns and might make a run at Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage record. I'm not sure people realize that the captain of the undefeated Packers is making a case for the best individual performance in league history. The final five games en route to 16-0: at New York (Giants), Oakland, at Kansas City, Chicago and Detroit.
The Patriots are starting to hit their groove. If Green Bay is the best in the NFC then who's the best in the AFC? At the moment, the Patriots are making a strong case. They've won their last three against the Jets, Chiefs and Eagles scoring 37, 34 and 38 points. The offense, clearly, knows what it's doing while the defense, who is much criticized, makes critical stops at critical times, despite a ton of yards.
Your AFC playoff picture: Outside of the division winners, your wildcard candidates are the Ravens (8-3), Steelers (8-3), Bengals (7-4), Jets (6-5) and Titans (6-5). The Ravens or Steelers likely win the AFC North but, after that, who do you pick to make the playoffs from that group?
Your NFC playoff picture: And the teams vying for the wildcard in the NFC are Cowboys (7-4), Giants (6-4), Bears (7-4), Lions (7-4) and Falcons (7-4). The Cowboys or Giants will win the NFC East but after that it's very difficult to find the wildcard winners.
Colts are in full Suck For Luck mode. The fact that the Colts, who say they're happy with Curtis Painter but can't legitimately believe that, passed on a chance to add Kyle Orton at quarterback last week -- Indy's 10-0 record gave them first dibs on Orton -- tells us all we need to know. The Colts have a two-game lead on the Suck For Luck race with five to go and it would be a massive upset if they didn't clinch the No. 1 pick in the next month. Speaking of the Colts ineptitude...
Patriots are a 21-point favorite over Indy next week. You read that right -- 21 points. in case you didn't know, that's a huge line in the NFL. In fact, it's the biggest for any game this season. The Colts fall from disgrace has been quick and harsh, which is why the league flexed them out of the Sunday night broadcast. But a 21-point line? For an NFL game?