In one city, we find the Denver Broncos, who are 3-8 and losers of 16 of 21.
In another city, we find the Chicago Bears, 8-3 and so far under the radar they don't even qualify as stealth.
In the middle of both teams: Josh McDaniels. He's the guy who gutted the Denver Broncos' roster upon his arrival and sent the team's one-time franchise quarterback to Chicago. There, Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo accepted the quarterback and have the opposite record of the dismal Broncos.
Sunday, the Bears beat the mighty Mike -- Vick -- in Chicago. They did it with defense, especially in the red zone, and with four touchdown passes from Jay Cutler, who would be the guy McDaniels could not wait to get rid of once he took over in Denver.
McDaniels alienated Cutler by first trying to acquire Matt Cassel. So Cutler got into a hissy fit and was traded to the Bears. Then, McDaniels alienated the standout wide receiver, Brandon Marshall, who lasted one season, then was traded to Miami.
In the offseason, McDaniels wanted Brady Quinn from the Browns. He gave Cleveland a couple draft picks and a throw-in running back by the name of Peyton Hillis. Few saw Hillis having the season he's having in Cleveland, but if anyone could have it would have been McDaniels. He coached Hillis for a season in Denver.
Imagine an offense that starts with Cutler, Marshall and Hillis. It's not hard to imagine. Denver had it. Except McDaniels got rid of it -- all of it.
Sunday, the Broncos lost to the St. Louis Rams. St. Louis started the game 0-4 on the road. They finished 1-4. The final was 36-33, but the Rams led 33-13 in the fourth quarter and the Broncos had a furious rally that in the end only made the score look close.
Kyle Orton is throwing for a ton of yards, but they are all coming in losses. Three of his TD passes came in the fourth quarter. The score should fool no one. This was a one-sided first win on the road for the team that a year ago had the first overall pick in the draft.
This loss came one day after the latest NFL version of Spygate broke. That's the one where McDaniels' video guy illegally filmed the San Francisco 49ers walkthrough in London even though he knew it was illegal. The one where McDaniels, who was in New England for the first Spygate and thus had to understand the consequences of such actions, said he did not view the tape, but still neglected to report it -- as league rules require. The one that led the Broncos to apologize to the 49ers, and where the Broncos said nobody ordered the taping and nobody watched the tape. All that stuff.
A year ago, after six wins in his first six games, McDaniels was viewed as the young Bill Belichick. Now he's Belichick redux, with his own version of illegal taping and Spygate. His stock has had the fastest drop since Enron, and his fate following the season has to be on Pat Bowlen's mind.
Meanwhile, Lovie Smith has used McDaniels' castoff and beaten Vick and the Eagles. He's done it with defense, led by Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher, and opportunistic play. Cutler had a career-high four TD passes, and the Bears won their fourth in a row. They are oft-questioned, but are quietly efficient, and have earned a spot on the radar. If the season ended today, the Bears would force the Packers into a wild card spot.
The Broncos have been hurt by the loss of Elvis Dumervil to injury, but little can explain their slip-sliding into obscurity. Denver gives up 29 points per game, and 143.5 yards rushing. They are a bad team.
A lot can happen in the season's final five weeks, and the Bears have the Patriots, Jets and Packers left. But it's safe to say that when the season started McDaniels' star was high and Smith's was shaky. Now, Smith is on the verge of a contract extension, and McDaniels might be seeking another job come February.
Atanta's last-second win over Green Bay will have significant reverberations come playoff time -- if the Falcons keep playing like they have. The Falcons are in the proverbial "control of their own destiny." Win out (against Tampa, Carolina twice, Seattle and New Orleans) and they have the home field throughout the playoffs.
"I have no plans of going to Lambeau Field in January," Falcons WR Roddy White said. "I plan on staying right here and sleeping in my own bed in the playoffs."
Have the home field and they have a huge edge.
The Falcons are 6-0 at home, with five of the wins coming by seven points or less. Matt Ryan -- the guy they call "Matty Ice" -- is 19-1 at home in his career. Those are ridiculous numbers, but they harken back to the "Dirty Bird" days of Jamal Anderson and Dan Reeves. That 1998 team was the last one to win five in a row, before the Falcons did it Sunday. And that team went to the Super Bowl -- beating Minnesota in another Dome in the NFC title game. For whatever reasons, when the Falcons are good they are better than good at home. They cannot be ignored if they finish with the NFC's best record.
The margin of victory was razor-thin. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers fumbled in the end zone. The Falcons won with nine seconds left. But that razor-thin margin might be the difference between the chill of Lambeau or Soldier Field, and the warmth of the dome come January.
You wonder how much longer Jeff Fisher will deal with the things he's facing. First, Vince Young walked out on him, then tried to apologize via a text message, about as lame as it gets. Sunday, Fisher's Tennessee Titans were shut out by a team that has a worse pass defense than the "Sex and the City" ladies. The Houston Texans shut out the Titans. To top it off, Fisher had to watch as cornerback Cortland Finnegan baited one of the league's best guys -- wide receiver Andre Johnson -- into an ugly fight in the fourth quarter.
Johnson landed a couple roundhouse rights to Finnegan after ripping off Finnegan's helmet. Clearly, Finnegan had goaded Johnson into the fight, and in the end Houston lost more than Tennessee when the two were ejected.
Houston could be bigger losers on Thursday night when it plays the Eagles. It would be a shock if the NFL did not suspend Johnson for what was a pretty ugly little scrap (no matter how much the Texans tried to make light of it).
Then again, Richard Seymour gave Oakland's Ben Roethlisberger a full-force smack in the throat and face and he was fined just $25,000.
On the NFL scale, Johnson's two punches might warrant a warning.
Johnson, meanwhile, was given a game ball -- because his nine receptions meant he became the first receiver in NFL history to have more than 60 catches in his first eight seasons.
Interesting take on Finnegan from the NBC crew before "Sunday Night Football." Tony Dungy, who is brutally frank on TV, said he always told his players they had to keep their cool against Tennessee, "especially against Cortland Finnegan."
Rodney Harrison, who was never known as the league's cleanest player, said of Finnegan and the fight: "This is no surprise to me. This is their personality. They're dirty. They're cheap. Whenever we played this team, the coaches would always say, 'Guys, beware. They're going to take a cheap shot at you. They're going to try and provoke you to doing something.'"
Harrison concluded by saying that the Titans "tore my knee up."
There were many statistical anomalies (are there other kinds of anomalies?) in Kansas City's win over Seattle. Running back Jamaal Charles had 173 yards rushing and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe had 170 yards receiving.
How often does a team have a RB and WR over 170 yards?
Especially when the receiver gets three touchdowns.
Bowe's day was pretty ridiculous. Matt Cassell had 223 yards passing, and Bowe had 170 of them -- on 13 catches.
In the category of obscure records, only two other receivers in NFL history have had games with at least 13 catches, 170 yards and three TDs: Jimmy Smith of Jacksonville and a guy named Jerry Rice. Now Dwayne Bowe is in that group.
There's more. Thomas Jones had 68 yards rushing for the Chiefs, giving Kansas City more than 200 yards rushing in a game for the fifth time this season.
And Bowe holds Kansas City's single-season touchdown record. Move over Otis Taylor, Elmo Wright and Ed Podolak. Actually, Bowe's 14 TDs broke the previous mark held by Chris Burford.
Oh ... one other statistical oddity. Kansas City held Seattle to 20 yards rushing, the fifth-lowest total in team history. The Chiefs are 89-0 in their history when holding the opponent to 65 yards rushing or less.
As well as Kansas City has played, it best look out: San Diego is No. 2 in the AFC West with a big-time bullet. The Chargers have won four in a row, have the league's best quarterback and are playing extremely well. Sunday night they intercepted Peyton Manning four times and returned two for touchdowns in winning in Indianapolis. ... The Colts and Chargers have the same record, but the Colts are struggling and the Chargers are hot. Next up for San Diego: Oakland. Come January, the Chargers will be the proverbial "team that nobody wants to play." ... It's been this kind of season in the NFL: Miami was shut out by the Bears one Thursday night. Ten days later they go on the road to Oakland and set a season high by scoring 33. ...
One certainty this season: Changing coaches means a win. It worked for Jason Garrett in Dallas. Now it's worked for Leslie Frazier in Minnesota. And Frazier's win ended a nine-game Vikings road losing streak.
Watch highlights of the Vikings' victory over the Redskins:
Listen to Tom Cable after a game and he's the most consistent speaker you've heard. Never up, never down. Just straightforward and analytical. ... His team needs to learn something from him, because it is wildly inconsistent. Start by losing three of four. Win one. Lose one. Win three. Lose two. Perhaps it's immaturity. More likely it's uncertainty at quarterback between Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski. ... It's always amazing to see a team celebrate when it wins a game due to a field goal kicker's miss. So it was in Cleveland, where several Browns players celebrated after John Kasay's miss on the game's last play. The Browns had done everything humanly possible to give the game to the Panthers, but won only because the normally reliable Kasay was wide left. At least, Browns coach Eric Mangini had the right expression. His look after the win said: "Man do we have no right to be happy after we almost blew that game and earned me a ticket out of town." ... That being said, Peyton Hillis continues to ... well ... amaze. Hillis had 131 yards and three TDs, and six catches for 63 yards. He and Marshall Faulk are the only players in NFL history with at least 130 yards rushing, three rushing TDs, six receptions and 60 receiving yards in a game. Yes, it's from the same obscure record department. ... Hillis has 11 rushing TDs, joining Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly as the players in Browns history with 11 rushing TDs in a season. ... San Diego WR Vincent Jackson pulled a calf in his first game back after his contract dispute. Darrelle Revis pulled a hamstring in his first game back with the Jets as well. Training camp might not matter for veteran players, but not being used to football conditions and not being in football condition leads to these injuries. ... Even with that, San Diego steamrolled the Colts in Indianapolis. ... Eagles tackle Jason Peters said this of the Bears: "As bad as we played, we lost by five and they know we're a better team." Umm ... maybe they don't. ... The Titans are 0-3 since Randy Moss arrived. ... Pretty odd Tweet from Bills receiver Steve Johnson, who dropped a gam-winning TD pass against Pittsburgh, then put on Twitter: "I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO..." ... If it really came from him, it's further evidence that not every thought needs to be shared with the rest of the world.