Even when the Cleveland Browns were struggling to just make some positive yardage, it still seemed like Johnny Manziel might not get in. Because once Browns coach Mike Pettine went down that road, there was no turning back. There was a reason Manziel had logged five snaps all season, according to Pro Football Focus. Pettine had managed the controversy all year, turning Manziel into a non-factor as Hoyer played well enough to lead the Browns to a 7-4 record. The seal was broken on Sunday with about 12 minutes left against the Bills. After the offense got eight yards over seven possessions, and Hoyer threw a bad interception, it was time. Manziel came in. Life now changes for the Browns. Remember all that offseason talk with Manziel? It’s back. Manziel came in and immediately drove the Browns 80 yards for a touchdown, diving in on a 10-yard running score. You may hate Manziel, and that’s fine, but if you were in a sports bar, you were watching. If you had NFL Sunday Ticket, you flipped to that game. He makes the Browns exciting. He might make the Browns better too. Hoyer’s rating has significantly declined each month, and was just 69.3 in November before putting up a 51 rating in an ugly performance at Buffalo in a 26-10 loss to the Bills. Can Pettine go back to Hoyer? He said after the game that the coaching staff would watch the tape and make a decision at quarterback after that. He could have easily have tabbed Hoyer. He didn’t. Longtime Browns beat writer Tony Grossi, with ESPNCleveland.com, listened to Pettine and came to the conclusion he’s ready to make the change. After listening to Mike Pettine, little question in my mind he is prepared to turn over the team to Johnny Manziel. But he wouldn't say. — Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) November 30, 2014 Even if Hoyer gets the start next week, Manziel did enough that Hoyer will be looking over his shoulder with every mistake the rest of the season. Hoyer said after Sunday's game that he was shocked he was benched, but he wouldn't be so surprised a second time. It’ll be an uneasy situation unless one of the quarterbacks makes the competition obsolete by playing lights out. Manziel likely can’t run anything close to a full NFL offense yet, but he can do what he did on Sunday: extend plays, improvise, use his great arm and athleticism to move the ball downfield. That’s not a long-term winning formula, but we’ve seen it work in spurts before. The Browns are 7-5 and need to manage the quarterback situation perfectly to get to the playoffs for just the second time since re-entering the NFL in 1999. And if Johnny Football is the one to get the Browns into the playoffs with a hot December? No offense to Hoyer, but that would be one heck of a great story. Here are the rest of the Week 13 winners and losers: WINNERS Ryan Fitzpatrick: There were 33 games of at least six touchdown passes in NFL history before Sunday. Fitzpatrick became No. 34, and might be the most unlikely entry on that list. It helps to have the NFL’s rightful MVP to throw the ball to, but Fitzpatrick had to feel very good about his big day. He had 358 yards and six touchdowns, and was only starting because Ryan Mallett – the man who he was benched for a couple weeks ago – suffered a season-ending injury last week. Don't take my word for it that Fitzpatrick was fired up. He showed that here: Sean Payton: Win or lose, Payton can be a little, shall we say, feisty with the media. He was in fine form after his Saints won 35-32 at Pittsburgh, for the moment giving themselves some life in a terrible NFC South race. First, he addressed reports the Saints were interested in former Ravens running back Ray Rice. “ I think I would know if I were interested in signing any player,” Payton said, according to the Twitter feed of New Orleans Times-Picayune beat writer Evan Woodbery. He also shot down that he and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan “s trongly dislike each other and a change is inevitable this offseason,” which CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported . Although, after the Saints were caught with 12 defensive players on the field, this happened: But Payton said about the relationship, according to Woodbery, " It's outstanding…Jason [La Canfora] gets his information from an old defensive coordinator .” He didn’t mention Gregg Williams by name, although that’s one guess. Payton on journalism: "Those are the Sunday splash stories. When you're in this business, on Sunday you've got to have something." — Evan Woodbery (@TheSaintsBeat) November 30, 2014 Well then. Payton was allowed to crow a little bit. His Saints, led by Drew Brees’ five touchdown passes, showed a little bit of fire on the field as well. Dan Herron: NFL late-season heroes come from out of nowhere sometimes. So who knows, maybe Herron is the next one. Herron had nine carries in his first two seasons with the Bengals and Colts. But with Ahmad Bradshaw done for the year and the dreams of Trent Richardson emerging as a solid NFL running back about done too, the Colts are turning to Herron to carry the ball. And he’s not bad. Herron had 88 yards on eight carries in the Colts’ easy win over the Redskins. He had a 49-yard touchdown that was better than any of Richardson’s runs in his nearly three-year NFL career. The Colts need a running game to take at least a little pressure off Andrew Luck. Who knows, maybe they found an answer in Herron. Stranger things have happened. Oakland Raiders: Winners, huh? Yes, for this reason: If that 52-0 loss knocked them to 0-12, there would be a week-long discussion of if they’re the worst team in NFL history. Every outlet would spend all week mocking the Raiders. But they won last week, so that embarrassment to the Rams knocked them down to 1-11, and other than a quick joke or two after seeing the score, nobody will care. There’s a big difference between zero wins and one win, and now the Oakland Raiders can stink for the rest of the season in peace. Colt McCoy: You can’t blame McCoy for the defense looking like it never made the trip to Indianapolis. McCoy was solid again for the Redskins, completing 31-of-47 passes for 392 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions (if that doesn’t put Robert Griffin III’s struggles into perspective, nothing will). McCoy has now had a chance to play three times for the Redskins, and he has a 113.5 rating. I don’t think McCoy has suddenly become an above-average starting quarterback at age 28, after not doing much with the Browns. But at very least he might be following the Josh McCown plan of putting up a handful of good games and parlaying that into a nice payday and a bigger chance. McCoy has a one-year, $730,000 contract. Let’s say he keeps playing at a decent level. He has built up enough equity through three good games that his numbers will look pretty good at the end of the season. And for a Redskins team that has clearly moved on from Kirk Cousins and will likely do the same with Griffin, would that be enough to convince them that McCoy is the right fit for Jay Gruden’s offensive scheme (Andy Dalton isn’t a great quarterback but was very productive in it because he knew where to go with the ball) and sign him to be the starter in 2015? The way he’s playing, it seems possible. And maybe if given the chance to start for a full season in Gruden’s offense, McCoy can resurrect his career. Already, his rise from forgotten third-stringer to clearly Washington’s best option at quarterback has been pretty unbelievable. LOSERS One Super Bowl-winning coach … : This year, the omnipresent “Is-it-time-for-the-Giants-to-move-on-from-Tom-Coughlin?” speculation might have some legs. No matter what Coughlin has done in New York, the slide since his second Super Bowl title hit what is probably a low point on Sunday. The Giants turned a 21-3 halftime deficit into a 25-24 loss in the final minute against a Jacksonville Jaguars team that had just one win coming in. The Giants are now 3-9. It’s getting tougher to see Coughlin keeping his job. … and another Super Bowl-winning coach: The tougher call will be the one in Pittsburgh. The Steelers sleep-walked through another game against a bad team. The Saints, at 4-7 and coming off three straight home losses, dominated a 35-32 game that was never that close. The Steelers are 7-5, which isn’t terrible, but they’ve dropped games to Tampa Bay, the New York Jets and New Orleans. They escaped close games against Jacksonville and Tennessee. They consistently play down to the competition. That’s coaching. And even though Mike Tomlin hasn’t been bad as Steelers coach, is he still the right fit? The Steelers don’t fire head coaches, it’s not what the organization does, but there should be some serious questions about the Steelers’ preparation and why they are so inconsistent this season. If they don't make the playoffs this season, there should be some rightful anger in Pittsburgh over that. They have blown way too many games they should have won. There’s probably no way the Steelers move on from Tomlin, because of the organizational philosophy and the fact that the Steelers record is still fairly good. But that doesn’t mean Tomlin has done a good job this season. Andy Dalton: The Bengals won 14-13, although it’s more fair to say the Buccaneers lost 13-14 (a penalty for 12 men on the field on offense for a key play that was called back is … unusual). The fact that the Bengals didn’t lose spares Dalton from a lot of grief. Dalton had 176 yards and three interceptions. Had the Buccaneers won – and they probably would have if the coaching staff wasn’t so overwhelmed it could tell the difference between 11 and 12 – the criticism of Dalton would have been fierce. As is, the reviews shouldn’t be good. Dalton has taken a big step back this season. For a Bengals team that now has a game-and-a-half lead in the AFC North after the rest of the division imploded on Sunday, they might be able to make a run with decent quarterback play. The rest of the pieces are there. But days like Sunday make you wonder if Dalton is capable of that this season. Or ever. Arizona Cardinals’ strong grip on the NFC West: Before a Week 12 kickoff in Seattle, the Cardinals had a three-game lead in the NFC West. A little more than a week later, the lead was down to one game and the defending champion Seahawks were coming on strong. The notion that the Cardinals wouldn't suffer at all with quarterback Carson Palmer out for the season was obviously misguided. Arizona's offense was stuck on 10 points, until a meaningless touchdown in the final minute, in a bad 29-18 loss to the Falcons. Atlanta was 0-7 in non-divisional games before Sunday. The Cardinals, who started 9-1 and have lost two in a row, are a game ahead of the Seahawks in the NFC West. What might be worse is that the Lions and Cowboys, who are in second place in their respective divisions and could snatch the wild-card spots away from the Cardinals if they don't win the division, are just a game behind as well. The Cardinals aren't in big trouble yet. But the cushion they built up in their first 10 games is almost gone. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab
Tennessee Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger injured his right shoulder in the third quarter against the Houston Texans on Sunday.
(Reuters) - Aaron Rodgers drove the Green Bay Packers to a 26-21 victory over New England on Sunday that lifted them to the top of the NFL standings and sent a strong message to the rest of the league they were genuine Super Bowl contenders. Rodgers outshone the Patriots' Tom Brady with 368 yards and two touchdowns as the Packers snapped New England's (9-3) seven-game win streak and improved to 9-3 themselves. ...
NEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL has moved its Week 16 game between San Diego and San Francisco to prime time.