By Nate Winkler (@natewinkler)
Cold, Hard Football Facts Gridiron Grinch
The NFL's Week 16 is in the books and Santa's naughty and nice lists are almost complete.
All six playoff teams in the AFC have been determined, as have the division winners, while there are still two spots up for grabs in the NFC with five teams still in the mix.
The AFC West continued to be more naughty than nice on Sunday, like it has for most of the season.
Peyton Manning solidified his MVP candidacy as the Denver Broncos won their NFL-best tenth straight game, a 34-12 victory over the visiting Cleveland Browns, giving them as many wins (12) as the other three teams in the division combined.
The San Diego Chargers (6-9) sacked Greg McElroy 11 times in a 27-17 victory over the Jets in New Jersey for their second victory in three weeks after losing seven of their previous eight games coming into December.
Despite making the game respectable it won't be enough to save Norv Turner this year.
The Oakland Raiders got back to their losing ways, falling 17-6 to the Panthers in Carolina. Carson Palmer was knocked from the game and replaced by Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor, so at least there's that.
Finally, the Kansas City Chiefs were done in by terrible quarterback play once again as they fell at home to the Indianapolis Colts 20-13.
Unless they can knock off the Broncos in Denver next week the Chiefs will be looking to replicate what the Colts did by drafting a franchise quarterback with the first overall pick in next April's draft. It's not all bad for the Chiefs, however, as running back Jamaal Charles rushed his way into the record books on Sunday afternoon
Here are four things we learned:
1. Jamaal Charles is the most explosive running back in the history of the NFL.
Charles entered Sunday's game against the Colts with 748 career rushing attempts, two shy of the minimum required attempts for the record books.
With his 22 carries and 226 yards on Sunday, the third 200 yard game of his career (and second this season), Charles is now the NFL's all-time leader in rushing yards per attempt among non-quarterbacks. His 4,483 yards on 770 attempts gives him a RY/A of 5.82. Here's a look at the leader board for some perspective:
NFL All-Time Rushing Leaders by Yards per Attempt (Non-QB)
|NAME||YEARS||GAMES||RUSH ATTEMPTS||RUSH YARDS||RY/A||TDs|
While Charles will likely never catch Jim Brown or Barry Sanders in career yardage, he's proven to be a home-run threat every time he touches the football and has been a bright spot for a Kansas City Chiefs team that has had very few in 2012.
Charles had an 86 yard touchdown run against the Colts on Sunday, giving him three 80+ yard runs this season, which ties him with Chris Johnson for most in the NFL.
Furthermore, since he came in the league in 2008, Charles has had 13 rushes of greater than 40 yards, more than anyone but Adrian Peterson (20) and Johnson (18).
Take another look at that chart before you move on. Charles is six-tenths of a yard better per carry than Jim freaking Brown and he's doing it on a terrible team against defenses that are game-planning against him and him alone. Pretty impressive stuff, folks.
2. Peyton Manning is the MVP of the league without question.
While Tom Brady is having another terrific season and Adrian Peterson no doubt deserves consideration, there in not a single player who means more to his team's success than Peyton Manning has for Denver.
Manning has "risen all boats" while adding balance an offense that is currently second in scoring (29.5 PPG) and fourth in yardage (391.9 Yds/game) after the run-centric Broncos were first in rushing but last in passing in 2011 under the de-frocked Tim Tebow.
Manning is having one of the best statistical seasons of his career in a new city with a new team and a blended offensive system that has evolved as the season has gone along. With 145 passing yards next week against the Chiefs, Peyton will eclipse 4,500 yards for the fourth time in his career and his 34 touchdowns are the second most behind the record-setting 49 he threw in 2004, when he won his second MVP award.
Greatly overlooked is the impact Manning has had on the defense with his ability to sustain drives and control the clock, keeping the likes of Champ Bailey, Von Miller, and Elvis Dumervil fresh throughout the game and allowing the defense to pin their ears back and dial up the pass rush when the Broncos hold a lead, which they have for what seems like the last two months straight.
Denver's defense got a lot of credit for their success last season but the reality is they finished 24th in points allowed and 28th in yardage allowed, surrendering 40+ points five times including the playoffs.
In 2012 the Broncos are allowing just 19.1 points per game (5th) and just 302.2 yards per game (3rd) and making guys like Chris Harris and Wesley Woodyard household names. Denver is the only team in the NFL that ranks in the top five in both offensive and defensive yards and points per game.
Not too shabby for a guy who had four neck fusion surgeries last winter and could barely throw the ball 20 yards this time a year ago.
3. The Oakland Raiders got a glimpse of their future on Sunday, and it better include drafting a legitimate quarterback.
The Raiders raised a lot of eyebrows when they traded a first and second round draft pick for Carson Palmer mid-season last year. In a move that was no doubt influenced by the ghost of Al Davis, the Cincinnati Bengals hoodwinked the Raiders into giving up too much for a quarterback who has never been elite.
While we have to commend the gusto (something the Raiders have never lacked), the trade was unsound from a football perspective and the McKenzie/Allen regime is looking for an answer at the quarterback position as they conclude their first season.
Palmer was knocked out of Sunday's game against the Panthers in the first half and replaced by the combination of Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor.
Leinart has been a disappointment everywhere he's been since following Palmer's Heisman winning footsteps at USC. At this point in his career he can't be considered anything but a solid clipboard holder. Pryor is still a raw developmental project at this point but there is no denying his athletic abilities.
The Raiders will end up with a top ten (top five?) draft pick next April but in a weak quarterback draft class they may make a move for someone like Kirk Cousins or a more Raider-like Mike Vick. Despite a roster that is devoid of talent at nearly every position group the Silver and Black must solidify the signal-caller or they will continue to struggle to rise back to relevance.
4. The San Diego Chargers are surging in December again (kind of), but it won't be enough to save Norv's job this time.
OK...relax, it was against the New York Jets, but Philip Rivers played an efficient and effective game (11-22, 165 Yds, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) and the defense played lights out as the Chargers exacted revenge on the Jets after losing on Broadway a season ago.
Despite only gaining 223 yards of total offense, the Chargers controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the game. Paced by their defense that registered 11 sacks against Greg McElroy after having only 26 sacks in their first 14 games, San Diego allowed just 225 yards themselves, including just 69 on the ground.
San Diego didn't commit a turnover against the Jets for just the fourth time this season. Not surprisingly the Chargers are 3-1 in those games and 5-2 this season when they win or tie the turnover battle. They are 0-7 when they lose the turnover battle and Norv Turner is 20-84-1 (.190) in his career when -1 or greater in turnovers.