Some Hoosier must have insulted Gus Bradley's mother at halftime.
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. What in the world got into the Jaguars on Sunday at around, say, 2:30 p.m. Eastern? Down 13-9 at halftime, the Jaguars went into the locker room like they had so many times in the last several years. They came out like a cornered bear. Literally, the first two times they touched the ball, they scored touchdowns. The first was an 80-yard, one-play drive immediately after the Colts' punt went for a touchback. The Cots punted on the next drive, and this one was returnable. The return went 73 yards for a touchdown. In two drives, the Colts managed six plays and two punts. In two touches, the Jags got 14 points. In fact, they had six possessions in the second half. Every single one resulted in a touchdown. What was a four-point halftime deficit became a 42-point half and a 35-point victory.
Russell Wilson isn't a top-tier quarterback, but he's sure playing like one right now.
Wilson has the look of the quintessential game manager. I don't mean that in the insulting way it's often used, either. He is the sort of guy who is at his best simply avoiding mistakes. For several years now, he's been one of the best at that. But in the last three weeks, Wilson has stepped up his game. All quarterbacks get hot at some point, but Wilson has 13 of his 26 2015 touchdown passes in weeks 12, 13 and 14 -- five each against AFC North foes Pittsburgh and Baltimore, with three in between against the Vikings. To top it off, he's done that with zero interceptions. Now, no one really expects it to last, but it may have been the best run for a quarterback since Ben Roethlisberger had 14 touchdowns to zero interceptions from week seven through week nine. The rest of the team certainly seems to be channeling a bit of Wilson's energy, too.
Khalil Mack is a monster.
Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler may be 6'8', but Oakland linebacker Mack was definitely the most imposing player on the field Sunday. Mack had nine sacks entering the game -- already an impressive number especially for a second-year player. He added five more to that total Sunday -- most impressive of all is that they all came after halftime. For an entire team to net five sacks in a game is impressive. One player getting five in thirty minutes? That's nothing short of miraculous.
Buffalo is proving me right: the only thing stopping the Bills is the Bills.
They have an up-and-coming quarterback, a stud receiver, a good ground game and a defense that is really jelling. If they could quit tripping over penalty flags, they might actually have a shot at the playoffs. Now, though, they are a full two games out of contention, plus tie breakers. Rex Ryan is right to complain about the penalties, but in his case, he may want to point the first finger inward. In Buffalo's case, the penalty issue lies more with coaching and discipline than with any possibly dubious calls.
I'm getting tired of talking about Carolina, but they're leaving me little choice.
Russell Wilson is hot right now. Cam Newton has been on fire most of the year. No one expected the Falcons to play this one close this year -- certainly not in Charlotte -- but I'm not certain anyone expected a 38-point, shutout win. The Panthers improved to 13-0, clinched a first-round bye and pretty much just outright embarrassed anyone remotely connected to the state of Georgia. They may have also started some heads rolling in Atlanta.
College Football Bonus! The annual Army/Navy game reached new levels of awesome this year.
Seeing the two primary branches of the U.S. military going to battle with something other than guns is always a refreshing sight. This year, the game was more competitive than in some other years, but that wasn't the awesome part. The helmets were. It was the first time in my memory that a single team used multiple helmets in the same game, and they were spectacular. Army's were all kinds of cool; Navy's may have been the best football helmets ever produced. Just seeing them makes me want to wave the American flag while feeding apple pies and buffalo wings to bald eagles. 'Murica!
And finally...the Steelers may be the AFC's hottest team right now.
With apologies to the Chiefs, who have won seven straight games, the Steelers have the hot hand right now. Yes, they lost two weeks ago to the Seahawks, but they've also put up 30 or more points in each of their last five games. Eight weeks into the season, they had only managed that feat once, in week two against the hapless 49ers. The only thing that is likely to hold the Steelers back right now is a defense that can go from hot to cold in a single play, as they did Sunday when they let Cincinnati's A.J. Green get behind them for a 66-yard score. But the run defense is stout, the linebackers are all making significant contributions, and the secondary is making splash plays. See William Gay's 23-yard pick-six, Robert Golden's jumping grab, or Stephon Tuitt's nearly miraculous interception behind the line of scrimmage with the Bengals threatening to tie the game from the Pittsburgh four-yard line. Only two teams are making opponents work harder for every point: the Steelers are forcing teams to gain more than 18 yards per point scored, third best behind the Bengals (19.1 yards per point) and the Packers (a small fraction of a yard per point more than Pittsburgh). They are clamping down in the red zone, forcing field goals and -- better yet -- turnovers. It's not the first time we've seen the bend-don't-break approach. It worked well in 2011, too. But, by adding a layer of aggressiveness, new defensive coordinator Keith Butler is generating sack and turnovers at crucial moments. If Pittsburgh makes the playoffs, they will be the team no one wants to face.