Ups and downs for C. Taylor
Chester Taylor (above), who left the Ravens as a free agent this year, became the first Minnesota running back in four years to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Taylor, however, is wearing down from 265 carries, and left the game in Chicago - while it was still in doubt - with 99 rushing yards. That was the Ravens' big concern about Taylor in deciding to keep Jamal Lewis instead.
A week after Arizona ran the ball just six times - tying an NFL record low - the Cardinals pounded the Rams' soft defense 37 times for 137 rushing yards in a 34-20 rout. Edgerrin James, who left the Colts in the offseason, had his first 100-yard rushing game for the Cardinals with 115. It's too little, too late for coach Dennis Green.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees' streak of consecutive games with 300-plus passing yards ended at five - one shy of the league record - when he threw for 186 yards in a 34-10 win over the 49ers. The 49ers took away Brees' passing game but got gouged by Deuce McAllister (136 rushing yards). That versatility will make the Saints' offense tough to defend in the playoffs.
How far has the Redskins' defense fallen this year? It couldn't stop Atlanta's running game (256 yards) and didn't force any turnovers against the Michael Vick-led offense. Vick completed just eight passes, but they went for 122 yards and two touchdowns. The Redskins aren't close to being a Super Bowl contender, even in the sad-sack NFC.
Just when it looked like the bottom might drop out of the Browns' season, second-year quarterback Derek Anderson delivered an inspired, 31-28 comeback win in overtime against the Chiefs. Anderson, a sixth-round pick by the Ravens in 2005, passed for 171 yards and two touchdowns. He set up Phil Dawson's game-winning field goal with a 33-yard scamper to the Chiefs' 12-yard line. Coming a week after Browns GM Phil Savage gave embattled coach Romeo Crennel a vote of confidence, it was a huge win.
When the Patriots have to struggle to beat the woeful Lions at home, it answers the question of whether the free-agent, salary-cap system has brought New England back to the league. It has, and the new question is whether the Patriots can build themselves back up.