The NFL has been an entity since 1920. The Nineteenth Amendment was ratified just two days before the American Professional Football Conference’s official founding on August 20, 1920. Woodrow Wilson was president.
In the thousands of games, billions in T.V. dollars and one World War since, a lot has happened. Something that had never happened before Sunday? A quarterback throwing for seven touchdowns while posting a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3. The feat was accomplished by Nick Foles, a player 555 days removed from being the No. 88 overall pick of the 2012 draft, and making his ninth career start. You may know Foles from such other starts as “Week 7,” where he completed 11-of-29 passes for 80 yards (2.76 yards per attempt) before departing with a concussion.
But there he was 14 days later, not only posting the 35th perfect QB rating in NFL history, but tying the all-time record with seven touchdown passes in four quarters of play. Foles had more TDs than incompletions (six) against a Raiders defense that entered Week 9 having surrendered only 10 touchdown passes in seven games. No player had ever thrown for more touchdowns than incompletions in a game where they passed for at least 400 yards.
What does it all mean? First, that for all we know, there’s more we don’t. Foles was Rotoworld’s No. 14 quarterback for Week 9, just one spot ahead of his experts consensus rank. In other words, a player universally regarded as a QB2 — and coming off one of the worst quarterback performances of the season — had what could be reasonably argued as the greatest start of all time.
Second, Michael Vick’s job? Let’s just say it’s on thin ice. For the season, Foles now boasts a 13:0 TD:INT ratio, which he’s accomplished in 118 pass attempts. That is not to leave out his rushing touchdown. Vick, meanwhile, has gone 5:3 across 141 attempts, and has only one more score on the ground. No, Foles is not offering nearly as much as a runner. He has 42 yards on 12 attempts, Vick 308 on 34. But he’s generated twice as many touchdowns in roughly two thirds the snaps, and is outpacing Vick in every meaningful passing category. Foles equaled Vick’s season passing TD total in 30:46 on Sunday.
Is it possible it’s still a mirage? We’d venture anything is possible for a player who went from Foles’ Week 7 to his Week 9. But coach Chip Kelly will probably be inclined to give some rope to a player coming off one of the very best performances in the 93-year history of the NFL. Vick’s health could make the decision even easier. Vick felt a “pop” in his hamstring in last week’s loss, and could realistically be sidelined through Philadelphia’s Week 12 bye.
On top of everything else, owner Jeffrey Lurie has publicly stated that finding a franchise quarterback is the team’s No. 1 priority. At the very least, hasn’t Foles proven worthy of seven more games of evaluation? Especially when the alternative is an increasingly injury-prone 33 year old? The worst that could happen is a 4-5 team realizes he’s not the quarterback of the future and moves on. Barring injury or another 11-for-29 dud, Foles should — and likely will — be under center to stay in Philadelphia. A lot can happen in 93 years, but the same is also true of three weeks. Foles is a testament to both.
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1. Case Keenum
For his NFL debut, Keenum came within a whisker of beating the AFC’s best defense on the road. For his follow up, he came within a missed field goal of sending the division-leading Colts — a team that’s beaten the Broncos, 49ers and Seahawks — to overtime. He did so by relentlessly targeting his No. 1 receiver, finding Andre Johnson for nine catches, 229 yards and three touchdowns. But he didn’t just target Johnson, but target him downfield. It’s why Keenum averaged over 10 yards per attempt for the second straight game, and now has 11 plays of 25-plus yards in only eight quarters of play. It’s possible Sunday will go down as Keenum’s rookie high-water mark. The word — and film — is out to opposing defenses that this is a quarterback they have to take seriously. Ds are going to be cracking down on Keenum’s already-patented rollouts, while Arizona on the road in Week 10 is a particularly imposing matchup. But Keenum has all but buried Matt Schaub, and now has eight more games to turn his underdog story into a starting job for 2014.
2. Chris Johnson
CJwhateverK entered Week 9 averaging 2.39 yards per carry over his past four games and 46 totes, and 3.2 YPC on the season. The Rams represented the beginning of what was supposedly a soft stretch-run schedule. So did Johnson take advantage? Only to the tune of 23 carries, 150 yards and his first two rushing touchdowns of the year. The big day came amidst threats from the Titans coaching staff to start giving Shonn Greene 15 carries per game (he got nine). It also came against a run defense that’s made one-week stars out of many the past few seasons, but big days have been hard to come by for Johnson against any opponent. Now he gets a similarly soft Jaguars D in Week 10, and at least for one week, is back amongst the RB2s.
3. Tom Brady
Brady had his full deck of offensive weapons for the first time all year in Week 8. When he struggled anyways, it was — rightly — interpreted as a sign that his slump might extend to the “season-long” variety. Turns out, all he needed was another week. With Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski both seven days healthier and Stevan Ridley out of the doghouse, Brady unleashed 432 yards and four scores on the Steelers. The four-touchdown effort was his first three-touchdown effort of 2013, while the yards were a new season high by 116. Now he gets the Patriots’ bye week to heal up, and could be joined by passing-down back Shane Vereen — a massive upgrade over Brandon Bolden — in Week 11. It might already be too late for some of Brady's fantasy owners, but he's finally out of the QB 10-12 wilderness.
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