Entering the season Dallas and Denver had playoff-worthy rosters built to win now, but each team had a shaky veteran at quarterback. They also had young passers who had been impressive in preseason play: untested fourth-year man Tony Romo and 2006 first-round pick Jay Cutler (above), respectively. The Cowboys replaced Drew Bledsoe with Romo in Week 8, resuscitating their season. With Jake Plummer ranked 28th in the league in passer rating, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan faced the same dilemma and is switching to Cutler in Week 13. Some will say the Broncos are making their move too late, particularly in the case of a rookie quarterback. Nonsense. It's never too late to do the right thing.
One thing is clear about the 9--2 Bears: They won't play deep into January if they don't do a better job of protecting the ball. The offense was too careless in three games this season, losing two of them and lucking out against the Cardinals in the other. The turnover fallout from those three games:
|<p></p>||<p>Turnovers committed</p>||<p>Opp. points off turnovers</p>|
Bears 24, Cardinals 23
Dolphins 31, Bears 13
Patriots 17, Bears 13
"In this league you throw passes to score and run to win," said Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, after K.C.'s big 19--10 victory over Denver last Thursday. No other team has drawn so distinct a line of demarcation on its 2006 schedule. A 45--7 loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 15 left the Chiefs 2--3; since then they're 5--1, during which time Larry Johnson (left) has become the busiest back in the league. After handing him the ball an NFL-high 177 times for 845 yards over the last six games, Kansas City will rely on Johnson's powerful legs down the stretch.
1 Tiki Barber's first postfootball job will be a combination of news and sports broadcasting, and ABC News and ESPN (both under the Disney corporate umbrella) are chasing him hard.
2 Whether the Redskins finish 6--10 or 9--7, Joe Gibbs is almost certain to return for a fourth season. He's been energized by his new starting QB, Jason Campbell, a 2005 first-round pick.
3 Though Junior Seau, who broke his right arm on Sunday, will be 38 in January, I'm betting he'll come back for an 18th season in 2007. Bill Belichick loves Seau, and he played well in his 11 games for the Patriots.
Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback, every week at SI.com/football.
PAUL CONNORS/AP (CUTLER)