With Week 10 of the NFL season in the books, several things are becoming clear while others are simply being reinforced.
The Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions have identical records, but they are headed in opposite directions.
Although both are 6-3, the Bears appear to have a clear path to the playoffs while the Lions look like a .500 team or 9-7 at best.
The Bears get to play each team in the mediocrity-ridden AFC West in their next four games, including two at home, followed by another home game against the 3-6 Seattle Seahawks. They could already have a playoff berth locked up before they finish on the road at Green Bay and Minnesota.
The finale for the Bears should be an easy win, considering the Vikings are rebuilding under rookie quarterback Christian Ponder and will be playing out the string at that point.
The Lions have two games left against the Packers, and they have to play the Saints in New Orleans. They’re also on the road against the Oakland Raiders and have the San Diego Chargers at home. The way the Lions played against the Bears, the Lions they’ll be lucky to win one of those two.
The Lions aren’t as dangerous without Jahvid Best running the football, and no one knows when he’ll be able to come back from the concussion that has sidelined him. Without Best, the Lions don’t make it to the postseason; with him they have a chance.
Rodgers vs. Favre:
Aaron Rodgers is a far better quarterback right now than Brett Favre ever was.
Rodgers is better in every measurable and intangible category there is for rating quarterback play. He’s far more accurate, whether in the pocket or on the run. He clearly values the ball more, throwing far fewer interceptions than Favre did in his best years, and he’s a better runner, a facet of Rodgers’ game that is underappreciated.
In his fourth year as a starter, Rodgers has thrown 115 TD passes and just 35 interceptions, a better than 3-to-1 TD-to-interception ratio. His 2011 season is on pace to rival Tom Brady’s 2007 season as the best in NFL history. Rodgers has thrown for 28 touchdowns and been intercepted only three times.
Favre’s best four-year stretch was 1994-97, when he threw 145 TD passes and was picked off 56 times, a 2.5-to-1 ratio on TDs to interceptions.
Only once in 20 seasons did Favre have a passer rating above 100. Rodgers was at 101.2 last season, 103.2 in 2009, and he’s now at 130.7, which is 28 points higher than anyone else in the NFL.
Not only does Rodgers have the most TD passes in the league, he has the fewest interceptions.
And he’s already won as many Super Bowls as Favre.
The Tebow debate:
Say what you want about Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow — yeah, he has an incredibly slow delivery and he’s not very accurate — but he has a higher passer rating (81.6) than Mark Sanchez, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, Colt McCoy, Kevin Kolb, Matt Cassel, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford and Josh Freeman.
I agree there are aspects of the passer rating formula that aren’t precise indicators of proficiency, but until someone comes up with a better system, it’s a good indicator of production.
Tebow also has rushed for 283 yards in his four starts. Over a 16-game schedule that would net 1,132 yards.
I’m also aware that teams cannot consistently throw the ball just eight times a game, as the Broncos did last week.
The bottom line: Tebow is 3-1 as a starter. The Bears should get a chance to evaluate Tebow in person on Dec. 11 in Denver.
Props for 49ers:
The San Francisco 49ers are for real.
You can rip on Jim Harbaugh’s team for playing in the weak NFC West, but the 8-1 Niners have won games against four quality non-division teams, half of them on the road.
As visitors, the 49ers already have victories over the 6-3 Cincinnati Bengals and the 6-3 Detroit Lions. They’ve also defeated the 6-3 New York Giants and the still dangerous, 4-5 Tampa Bay Bucs.
The 49ers’ remaining schedule looks like a walk in the park. They have five games with their lightweight neighbors in the NFC West — home and away against the 2-7 St. Louis Rams and the 3-6 Arizona Cardinals, and a road game vs. the 3-6 Seahawks.
They appear to be a lock for no worse than the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
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