Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan is making a strong bid for NFL Executive of the Year honors, what with his bold moves to remake his secondary by signing Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Marcus Gilchrist and his decision to draft USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams at No. 6 overall. But it’s Maccagnan’s move to acquire Brandon Marshall for a song that really separates him.
In the ultimate low-risk, high-reward move, Maccagnan surrendered only a fifth-round pick and received a seventh- rounder from the Bears in exchange for Marshall, who had outlived his welcome with the Bears. Marshall has responded with one of his best seasons; with 93 catches, he’s tied for sixth in the NFL and tied for the Jets’ franchise record set by Al Toon in 1988. Marshall has 11 touchdown catches, one fewer than his career high in 2013 with the Bears.
Marshall also is on the verge of a historical statistical accomplishment. With seven more catches in the final two games, he will become the first player to produce six 100-catch seasons. He’s currently tied with Andre Johnson, now with the Colts after a brilliant run with the Texans, and Wes Welker, the former Patriots and Broncos star who now plays for the Rams.
It’ll be interesting to see if Marshall can have a big game against the Patriots on Sunday in a huge AFC East matchup for the Jets. The Patriots consistently double-covered Marshall and held him to four catches for 67 yards and no touchdowns in a 30-23 win in Week 6. The 31-year-old receiver has been particularly hot of late with 31 catches for 461 yards and four touchdown catches in his last four games.
“If you want to take someone away, you can do a pretty good job, for the most part,” Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said. “You have to keep trying to manufacture ways to get him the ball. But then again, you have to have other people step up and make plays.”
Class of 2004 still thriving
Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers were the stars of the Class of 2004, three quarterbacks who have a combined four Super Bowl championships and plenty of impressive passing feats.
In the 12th NFL season for each, they continue to play at a high level and justify the handsome contract extensions each received earlier this year. While their teams have experienced mixed success this season — the Chargers and Giants have losing records — the quarterbacks’ performances have been terrific.
Manning has thrown a career-high 32 touchdown passes — including four in each of the past two weeks and six against the Saints on Nov. 1 — in 14 games. Rivers leads the NFL in passing yards (4,564) and Roethlisberger leads the NFL with six games with at least 350 passing yards.
Their passer ratings are virtually identical: Roethlisberger is at 96.4, Manning is at 96.1 (which would be a career high) and Rivers is at 94.2.
Ginn finally finds a home
What a long, strange trip it’s been for the Panthers’ itinerant wide receiver, Ted Ginn Jr.
He came into the league amid much fanfare in 2007, when the Dolphins drafted him ninth overall and drew heavy criticism for not selecting Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.
Ginn, 30, never lived up to expectations in Miami and lasted only three seasons before moving on to the 49ers, where he played from 2010-12. He played one season in Carolina in 2013, went to the Cardinals in 2014, returned to the Panthers this year — and has played a major part in the team’s 14-0 season.
Although still prone to the occasional dropped pass, Ginn has gone a long way toward filling the void left by the injured Kelvin Benjamin. He has 43 catches for 730 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s one fewer TD than he had in his previous eight seasons combined.
Ginn has contributed two touchdown catches in each of his last three games, including last Sunday’s 38-35 thriller over the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
Another veteran receiver figuring into the Panthers’ offense: former Jets wideout Jerricho Cotchery, who has 33 catches for 409 yards and two touchdowns.
Stunningly, Chiefs close to playoffs
At 1-5, it appeared the Chiefs’ season was over less than halfway through the season. But the Chiefs have made a spectacular comeback, becoming the first team in NFL history to win eight straight games immediately following a five-game losing streak in the same season. Currently in second place in the AFC West with a 9-5 record, Kansas City can clinch a playoff berth with a win and a loss by either the Jets or Steelers. The Chiefs are guaranteed a playoff spot if they beat the Browns and Raiders at home in their next two games.
Quarterback Alex Smith has been remarkably consistent during the winning streak, completing 69 percent of his passes and throwing for 10 touchdowns and one interception for a 104.7 rating during that stretch. He also has run for two scores.
Williams likely done in Buffalo
Mario Williams has made no secret of his frustration with Rex Ryan’s 3-4 defense, with the pass-rushing defensive end consistently complaining about having to drop back into coverage.
It doesn’t figure to last much longer, because the Bills are likely to part ways with Williams in the offseason. This just four years after signing Williams to a $100-million deal, which was the richest contract for a defensive player at the time he signed it.
Williams’ contract will count $19.9 million against next year’s salary cap, and the Bills are expected to release him in the offseason.