NFL Hot Reads: Ryans' 1-2 punch
Bob GlauberBob Glauber
Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He
Tom Brady is about to get a heavy dose of the Ryan twins.
The Patriots quarterback faces the Saints and Jets the next two games, and how he does against both teams could go a long way toward the Patriots' pursuit of another AFC East title.
The common thread in both games: The opposing defenses are coached by Rob and Rex Ryan.
Rob Ryan has so far done an excellent job with the Saints, who are 5-0 behind more extraordinary work from Drew Brees, but equally impressive performances from Rob Ryan's defense. He brought his attack-style 3-4 alignment to the Saints after the team struggled last year with the 4-3 defense of former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Rob Ryan will no doubt take a page from Rex Ryan's approach against the Patriots, which is to put pressure on Brady up the middle and mix his coverages in the secondary. The Jets narrowly lost to the Patriots, 13-10, in Week 2 at Gillette Stadium.
The Ryan brothers face a Patriots offense still struggling to find its identity. Faced with a massive makeover at the skill positions, Brady has yet to find a consistent rhythm and was kept out of the end zone in last week's 13-6 loss to the Bengals.
He has thrown for 1,211 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions and has a quarterback rating of just 80.5.
Comeback kid: Andrew Luck
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck isn't even two years into his NFL career, but he's developing a reputation as a comeback specialist. Last week's 34-28 win over Seattle marked the ninth time he has brought the Colts back with game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. How good is that? It's unprecedented.
No other quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger has put together that many winning drives in his first 21 games.
"He's unbelievable," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "It doesn't matter what the score is, what the situation is, the guy just finds a way to make plays, finds a way to get out of the pocket, finds a way to extend. Obviously the guys believe in him. We can jump on his shoulders, jump on his back. We're very, very fortunate that we have him."
A couple of other noteworthy statistical achievements: Luck is 15-6 as a starter, the fastest to reach 15 wins by a quarterback drafted first overall.
Tight ends are making their mark
Through the first five weeks of the season, tight ends combined for 765 catches for 8,992 yards and 76 touchdowns. That's the most by tight ends in those three categories in any NFL season. Ever.
It continues a recent trend, an explosion in tight end production. Since 2010, tight ends have performed at a record rate in terms of receptions and receiving yardage. Last year, tight ends combined for 2,401 catches for 26,197 yards and 197 touchdowns. If they continue at their current pace, those numbers will be 2,543 catches for 29,895 yards and 252 touchdowns.
It helps that a guy such as Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is in the midst of a career year. Graham leads the NFL with 593 receiving yards, and he's tied for second with 37 catches and six touchdowns. And the numbers are this high without one of the league's best tight ends -- New England's Rob Gronkowski, who missed the first five games while recovering from forearm and back problems.
Terrelle Pryor the real deal?
The Raiders haven't had a quality long-term starter since Rich Gannon led them to the Super Bowl 11 years ago, but it looks as if Terrelle Pryor at least has a chance to provide stability at the position.
In his last two games, Pryor has completed 72.5 percent of his passes for 502 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Not only that, but he ranks third among NFL quarterbacks with 229 rushing yards.
Pryor will get another challenging test today, as the Raiders are on the road against AFC West foe Kansas City, which is 5-0.
It's a good year for West Virginia rookies: Jets quarterback Geno Smith is 3-2 as a starter, and is coming off a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback win over the Falcons. Meanwhile, his former Mountaineers teammate, Tavon Austin (Rams) leads all NFL rookies with 23 catches and is tied for the lead among NFC rookies with two touchdowns.
Packers wide receiver-kick returner Randall Cobb joins Hall of Famer Gale Sayers as the only two NFL players with a 60-plus yard run, 60-plus yard reception, 100-plus yard kickoff return and an 80-plus yard punt return in his first three seasons.
The NFL and NFLPA issued a statement Saturday night that Bucs cornerback Johnthan Banks, who was diagnosed with MRSA this week, did not pose a risk of transmission and would thus not necessitate a postponement of the game.