Tuesday, December 6, 2011

NFL Tuesday Takeaway: What We Learned in Week 13

You know what makes the NFL great, its unpredictability.

Each week, contradiction and conventional thinking collide, giving us sport writers more than enough good stuff to write about on Tuesday.

From the superstar running back who's turned around his season to Tebowmania to a pair of rookie quarterbacks taking charge in year one, it's all covered in the Week 13 edition of the Tuesday Takeaway.  

CJ2K is OK

Don't look now, but Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson is relevant again.

Johnson had his best game of the season Sunday, rushing for 153 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-17 win over the Buffalo Bills.

In the last four games, Johnson has 486 rushing yards and three touchdowns, which included a 13-yard dud of a game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Prior to his recent breakout games, Johnson had rushed for a total of 366 yards in the Titans previous eight games.

Johnson needs just 148 yards to reach the 1000-yard rushing mark for the year. Johnson can make a lot of people forget about his sluggish start with a strong finish.

Tebow at ten

Tim Tebow started his tenth career game for the Denver Broncos on Sunday and he won again. Tebow has figured out how to win in the NFL, even though most of us haven't figured out have he's doing it.

Tebow is 7-3 as a starter, including 6-1 this season since taking over for Kyle Orton. Despite the continued winning, V.P. of Football Operations John Elway still isn't ready to commit to Tebow as the Broncos quarterback of the future.

Elway's non-commital approach to Tebowmania got me wondering about Elway's first ten games as a starter.

In 1983, Elway started ten games as a rookie. He was afwul.

Elway finished 4-6 as a starter that year. He threw seven touchdowns, 14 interceptions and completed just 47.5 percent of his passes. He also had one game-winning drive, something he would become known for during his career.

When you compare the two player's stats, there really is no comparison.

In ten starts, Tebow has 14 touchdown passes, six rushing touchdowns and four interceptions. And perhaps the most intriguing stat, Tebow has a higher completion percentage at 48 percent.  

I know it's only ten starts and it's a small sample size, but right now it's all we have,

Pondering Percy's big day

The Minnesota Vikings are getting Percy Harvin (pictured) the ball more often these days and it's paying off.

Harvin is coming off his best game of the year in Week 13 against the Denver Broncos. Harvin finished with eight catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns. He also had five carries for 19 yards.

I've documented Harvin's rise this season in a previous article, but it bares repeating, he's on the brink of superstardom.

In the past five games, Harvin has 32 catches for 434 yards and five touchdowns (four receiving, one rushing). In the previous seven games, Harvin had 27 receptions for 276 yards and zero touchdowns.

It's clear that Harvin and rookie quarterback Christian Ponder are clicking right now. I expect this duo to be great for many years to come for the Vikings.

Run, Cam, run

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton broke an NFL record Sunday that stood for 35 years.

In the Panther's Week 13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Newton ran for three touchdowns giving him 13 rushing touchdowns on the season.

Those 13 rushing touchdowns by Newton are the most rushing touchdowns in NFL history, one more than New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan scored in 1976.

Newton also became just the second player in NFL history to score a rushing touchdown in nine of first 12 games. The other player was hall of famer Eric Dickerson.

Newton has single-handedly turned around the Panthers offense. He's accounted for 26 touchdowns this year, which is remarkable when you consider the Panthers offense scored 16 touchdowns total last season.

A former quarterback leads Bills wide receivers

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Brad Smith was a heckuva quarterback at Missouri. Now he's a heckuva wide receiver in Buffalo.

In Week 13, Smith led all Bills players with ten targets. He made seven catches and 72 yards in a loss to the Tennessee Titans.

With all the injuries to the Bills receivers, Smith has moved into the starting line-up for Buffalo. In two games as a starter he has 17 targets, 11 catches, 149 yards and a touchdown.

The quarterback-to-wide receiver transition is not an easy thing to do. But Smith looks like he's ready to put his quarterbacking days behind him.

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