NFL 2013: Neil Reynolds on Rex Ryan, Case Keenum and Joe Montana
Neil Reynolds says Rex Ryan is lighting up the NFL - and now has a long-term future with the Jets.
Last Updated: 21/10/13 11:34am
The two teams arrive in London on Monday and Tuesday with differing fortunes; the 49ers have won four in a row and are sitting comfortably with a record of five wins and two losses, while the Jags are 0-7 and still looking for that first victory.
Despite the apparent disparity between the two teams, I think we'll get a competitive game at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening and, as I say all the time in this column and on Sky Sports' television coverage, we should be prepared to expect the unexpected in the NFL.
There were certainly a few eye-raising moments on Sunday evening and here are six headlines that caught my eye...
In Rex they trust
I felt that New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan was a dead man walking heading into the 2013 season. He was not 'the guy' brought in by new general manager John Idzik, he had seemingly mishandled New York's quarterback situation and his offense was devoid of talent.
But he has his players playing their tails off for him and, as we would expect from Ryan, he is bringing excitement and passion to the sidelines each weekend. The Jets ran out 30-27 overtime winners over the New England Patriots on Sunday and, at 4-3, are now a game out of first place in the AFC East.
Geno Smith blows hot and cold at the quarterback position but there is enough good in the hot stuff to offer a bright future. And as of right now, it looks as if Ryan actually has a long-term future with this team and I didn't think that was likely as we headed into the 2013 campaign.
There's nothing like a good, old-fashioned quarterback controversy to divide a team and excite us folks in the media. And while one might be developing in Houston, I think we missed out on another one in Philadelphia judging by the action that unfolded this weekend.
Case Keenum (pictured) played a very brave game for the Texans at Arrowhead Stadium before falling to a 17-16 loss to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. But he displayed the kind of moxie and attitude that has been missing in Houston this season. I'm not sure the Texans are ready to completely give up on the injured Matt Schaub just yet, but Keenum gave them something to think about, that's for sure.
As for the Eagles, I felt Nick Foles had a great chance to wrestle the starting job away from the injured Michael Vick - but he was really poor during Philly's 17-3 home loss to Dallas. It's not clear how long Vick will be sidelined, but Foles may have inadvertently opened the door for rookie Matt Barkley.
Putting on a show
What a show from Calvin Johnson, of the Detroit Lions, and Cincinnati's A.J. Green. They made big catch after big catch during Sunday's thriller which was eventually won 27-24 by the Bengals.
Green is the pretender to the crown and reminds me of a young Randy Moss, but Johnson is still the king of the NFL receiving corps. He underlined that on Sunday with a ridiculous 50-yard touchdown catch from Matthew Stafford in which he was surrounded by three Bengals defenders but still came down with the ball.
Imagine having that kind of weapon on your team? You see your receiver is covered by three players but you still throw it up there knowing he is the most likely to come down with it. That's quite a luxury for an offense!
The Special One
I can tell you first-hand, having spent a couple of days with him in the past off-season, that Andrew Luck (pictured) is one driven individual with all the qualities required to be a special quarterback in the NFL.
And the Indianapolis Colts passer proved that again on Sunday night as he threw for three touchdowns and ran in another score during his team's 39-33 victory over a Denver Broncos squad led by none other than Peyton Manning.
This was a massive test for Luck but the second-year quarterback didn't flinch in facing the old master who reigned for so many years in Indy before moving to the Broncos. And Luck is only going to get better as the weeks, months and years pass because that's who he is - there will be no resting on laurels here.
This statistic speaks volumes for Luck's talent, desire and competitive streak - since joining the Colts as a rookie last season, he has not lost back-to-back games. Every single time he has lost, Luck has followed it up with a win. That is impressive.
Quarterback carousel to spin again
It was quite a brutal NFL Sunday for injuries.
Houston linebacker Brian Cushing looks done for the year again after suffering a nasty leg injury against KC, Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was stretchered off after a serious-looking neck injury and Jay Cutler was sidelined at quarterback for the Chicago Bears after suffering a groin pull in Washington.
But perhaps the most serious loss came for the St. Louis Rams, who saw starting quarterback Sam Bradford go down with a season-ending torn ACL injury. That brought on the instant - and inevitable - talk of the Rams signing Tim Tebow.
But I think more likely is a trade for a veteran quarterback before the league-imposed deadline at the end of this month. Three is currently a crowd in Minnesota so could the Rams make a mid-season play for Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel. I would say that is more likely than the return of Tebow.
NFL comes to town
As I mentioned at the top of this column, the NFL is about to take over London - again! And we get to do it three times next year.
This week, I'll be hosting a Fan Rally in Trafalgar Square from 12 noon until 4pm on Saturday and the NFL expects more than 45,000 fans to pack into the heart of London.
It should be a special day because not only will we be graced by the presence of current Jacksonville Jaguars and San Francisco 49ers players, we will also have living legend Joe Montana (pictured) on stage as one of the special guests.
Montana played in and won four Super Bowls for the Niners and, in my mind, is the greatest quarterback who ever suited up in the NFL.
If you're in London on Saturday afternoon, make sure you get yourself down to Trafalgar Square to enjoy the NFL festivities ahead of the big game on Sunday evening.