By Nick Shook | NFL.com
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Do you feel bloated?
Are you confused because you stopped eating Thanksgiving leftovers two days ago, you’ve traversed nearly five miles worth of department store aisles, spinning around and stiff-arming fellow shoppers like Earl Campbell, and yet the feeling won’t pass?
Well don’t fret, because that isn’t excess calories testing the limits of your waistband — it’s the fulfilling slate of redemption games upon which we just feasted.
That’s right, this week is all about that R word. Mark Sanchez carried the ball on Thanksgiving without fumbling or running into the rear end of his teammate. In fact, he scored! Two years after the butt fumble, Sanchez reversed his fortunes. We did it, America.
Our winner and one of two considered each filled the profile of a player who at the very least got his own 30-second debate segment centered around “What’s wrong with Player/Team X this season?” Some of these segments became so frequent, players addressed them in press conferences multiple times. But they won’t have to hear about it this week!
Here are Week 13’s Greatest on the Road — to redemption.
Greatest on the Road …
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
For much of the second part of the season, the sun rose, the sun set and somewhere in between there, someone asked “What’s wrong with Philip Rivers?”
The quarterback who stormed out of the gates with a scowl on his face and a smattering of bolo ties in his locker earned five wins in his first six games. The Chargers beat the mighty Seattle Seahawks and looked to be legitimate.
Then something inexplicable happened: San Diego lost three straight, including a shutout, blowout loss against the Miami Dolphins. Suddenly, the Chargers were frauds, destined for another season of playing second fiddle to the Denver Broncos in the AFC West.
The quarterback connected with Keenan Allen over and over, completing six passes to the receiver on the team’s final two drives, including a touchdown that pulled them within three with 3:40 remaining. It was Allen’s second score of the afternoon, which he finished with an eye-popping stat line: 11 receptions, 121 yards and two touchdowns.
Rivers and the San Diego offense got the ball back with just over two minutes left, engineering an eight-play, 80-yard drive that was aided by a blatant pass interference call on Ravens safety Anthony Levine and finished off with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal. San Diego became the first West Coast team to win at M&T Bank Stadium ever, and kept itself just a game behind Denver in the race for the division.
And for at least one week, no one will be asking what’s up with the Chargers‘ signal-caller.
Also considered …
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
While the Steelers were busy trying to use all 11 men to cover Jimmy Graham, Drew Brees comfortably carved up the Pittsburgh defense, completing 19 of 27 attempts for 257 yards and five touchdowns. Much like Rivers and Allen, Kenny Stills had a whale of a day, too (five catches, 162 yards, one touchdown), accounting for over 60 percent of New Orleans’ receiving yards by himself.
Of course, he couldn’t do it without the precise passing of Brees, who has often been the center of that “What’s wrong with the Saints?” chatter I referenced earlier. Statistically speaking, he’s having another solid season. It’s not a record-smasher like he’s had in past years, but he’s completed over 70 percent of his passes for nearly 4,000 yards and a touchdown-to-interception ration of 27-11.
Yes, at times Brees has looked — gulp — human, but he showed Sunday in a hostile environment that he’s still the Brees we all know and love and by whom we’re tricked into buying NyQuil because it sure looks like it helps him sleep when he’s got a cold.
It’s the rest of his team that isn’t necessarily holding up its end of the bargain, but luckily for them, their division is really bad. They’re still in the thick of the battle to play in Week 18, and in a road game they couldn’t afford to lose, Brees led the way.
C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
Unlike Brees and Rivers, there has been very little wrong with this player in 2014. Of course, he wasn’t expected to contribute much at all, but injuries offered him the opportunity, and boy, has he seized it.
Anderson has become just the latest obscure Denver running back to set the league on fire in a short period of time, joining brief wunderkinds Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary, Reuben Droughns and Tatum Bell on the “Hey, that Broncos running back was pretty good for a hot second” list.
As Gregg Rosenthal noted Monday, Anderson leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage over the last four weeks. He’s shredded multiple defenses with his bruising shoulders and slippery moves.
Thanks to Anderson, Denver hasn’t really missed a beat in the run game after losing Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman to injury, and Sunday was no different. Anderson rushed for 168 yards on 32 carries and caught two passes for 17 yards and a touchdown.
What makes Anderson so lethal is his dual-threat ability out of the backfield. Just when a defense thinks they’ve got Denver’s running game bottled up, Anderson slips out of the backfield into the flats, or sits under the second-level zone coverage and waits for Peyton Manning to find him. It’s at this point when Anderson does his damage, as he did on a 15-yard touchdown Sunday night.
Whether Anderson goes the way of Gary, Droughns and Co., his contribution during the 2014 season will not be easily forgotten.