At the quarter pole, there are only three unbeaten teams left – Chiefs, Patriots and the surprising 49ers. But the two conference have very different looks.
The AFC race still looks like a two-team battle featuring the Patriots and Chiefs. Both survived scares on the road Sunday, finding a way to win. Their game on Dec. 8 may be for homefield advantage in the AFC title game.
It is a different story in the NFC, which is a wide-open race with the 49ers at unbeaten at 3-0 and six teams – Rams, Seahawks, Cowboys, Saints, Bears and Packers — all at 5-1. No team has emerged as the team to beat.
On the bottom in the race for the No. 1 pick, Miami remains a clear favorite as its tanking plan is working to perfection.
But Washington is so dysfunctional that it may challenge the Dolphins. They meet in two weeks with the loser in good position to get the top pick. The Dolphins also play the 0-4 Bengals on Dec. 22.
–Chase Daniels came off the bench after Mitch Trubisky was injured and led the Bears to the victory over the Vikings. Trubisky is already out for next week and in this season of quarterback injuries, Daniels shows how important it is to have a backup quarterback who can take over and be effective. there may not be much of a drop-off because Trubisky is showing the Bears made a mistake by taking him over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.
–Minshew magic is alive as well as Gardner Minshew brought the Jaguars back from a 17-3 deficit to beat the Broncos on a field goal at the end. Minshew had to make two comebacks, the second one in the final minute of the game after the Jaguars defense failed to hold the lead.
–The league made a statement when it suspended Vontaze Burfict for the rest of the season for his latest illegal hit. It may be reduced on appeal, but the NFL had to make a stand that his late hits won’t be tolerated.
–Teddy Bridgewater is in his sixth season, Kyle Allen his second and Daniel Jones is a rookie, but they have one thing in common: All three are 2-0 since replacing their team’s injured starters.
–Bruce Arians’ reputation as a quarterback whisperer has been enhanced by the recent play of Jameis Winston, who has thrown seven touchdown passes and two picks the last two games and led the Bucs to a victory over the defending NFC champions Rams Sunday.
–Ozzie Newsome proved a Hall of Fame player can be a successful general manager. John Elway is having problems duplicating his success. Elway got two Super Bowl appearances and one win on his resume when he signed Peyton Manning. Since then it’s been all downhill. He shook things up this year by bringing in coach Vic Fangio and quarterback Joe Flacco but the team is 0-4 and likely to miss the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
–The Washington Redskins under owner Daniel Snyder continue to bear no resemblance to the great Redskins teams of the Jack Kent Cooke era. They’re 0-4 and Snyder and his right-hand man, Bruce Allen, have no answers. Jay Gruden, in his sixth season, survived despite reports he would be fired if the team fell to 0-4. But he will take the fall, maybe sooner rather than later. It won’t make much difference who the coach is as long as Snyder and Allen are in charge.
–Four rookie coaches – Zac Taylor, Fangio, Brian Flores and Kliff Kingsbury – are 0-15-1. Kingsbury has the tie. Matt LeFleur leads the rookie coaches at 3-1 and Freddie Kitchens is 2-2. Arians is 2-2 and Adam Gase is 0-3 in their first seasons with their current teams although both were head coaches in the past.
–The number that haunts Atlanta coach Dan Quinn is 28-3, the lead they had in the Super Bowl and still lost to the Patriots. Now the number that haunts him is 1-3, his record this year. He is skating on thin ice as the team is 8-13 in their last 21 starts, including the playoffs.
–The new pass interference rule continues to be a fiasco. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin challenged a pass interference call on Johnny Holton when it didn’t appear he interfered. But officiating head Al Riveron didn’t overturn the call. Riveron has been criticized in the past for overturning too many calls. When it comes to pass interference, he has apparently decided to let the calls stand. Maybe it will lead to the new pass interference rule being thrown out in the offseason.