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Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham have been connected for most of their careers as the two best tight ends of their era. On Sunday in Week 12, they shared something no player should ever have to experience.

Gronkowski and Graham were both carted off the field for knee injuries. We know the extent of Graham's injury, and he suffered a torn patellar tendon against Pittsburgh Panthers . He will have surgery and is done for the season.

Gronkowski was hurt late in Sunday night's game at Denver, and the initial reports are positive. The NFL Network reported that the New England Patriots do not believe Gronkowski suffered a serious knee injury, but he is scheduled to undergo more tests Monday. It appears like all Fantasy owners can breathe a sigh of relief.

For Graham, this knee injury ends what has been a disappointing first season in Seattle. He had 48 catches for 605 yards and two touchdowns, and he only had three games this year with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league.

The patellar injury is tough for players to come back from, and it's the same knee injury that knocked out Victor Cruz last year - and he has yet to return. Graham, 29, will face a long recovery from this injury.

While Graham has been a struggling Fantasy option this season, Gronkowski has been a star. You can argue he's been the most important player at any position this year.

He had six catches for 88 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets against the Denver Broncos before getting hurt, and he came into the game with 51 catches for 843 yards and eight touchdowns. He had double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in eight of 11 games, including Sunday.

We hope Gronkowski is not out for an extended period of time, and Tom Brady obviously needs him. Brady went into Week 12 already without Dion Lewis (torn ACL), Julian Edelman (foot) and Danny Amendola (knee) and could not afford to lose Gronkowski also, although Amendola could return in Week 13 against the Eagles.

We'll continue to monitor the news on Gronkowski, and hopefully he will be back on the field soon. The Patriots need him for another Super Bowl run, and Fantasy owners would definitely love to have him at 100 percent with the playoffs on the horizon.


Player on the rise

Russell Wilson was a star on his 27th birthday on Sunday against the Steelers, and this is now two great games in a row. He was 21-of-30 passing for 345 yards and a career-high five touchdowns and 14 rushing yards for 44 Fantasy points in a standard league. He had 31 Fantasy points in Week 11 against San Francisco, and this was after he had only two games of at least 20 points through Week 10. Wilson took advantage of two great matchups at home against the 49ers and Steelers, but he has to face the Vikings in Minnesota in Week 13. And that's going to be a much tougher opponent for Wilson, who has only has one game with more than 17 Fantasy points on the road in five outings. Don't overvalue him based on his past two games, especially with Graham out, but it is encouraging to see him play at a high level after he's been disappointing for most of the season prior to Week 11.

Player on the decline

Matt Ryan had another bad game against the Vikings in Week 12 with 11 Fantasy points, and he's now scored 20-plus Fantasy points just three times in his past eight games. He has five interceptions in his past two outings against Indianapolis and Minnesota at home, and he has to face Tampa Bay on the road in Week 13. Ryan did score 23 Fantasy points against the Buccaneers in Week 8, but he has just one game with 20 Fantasy points outdoors this season, which was at the Giants in Week 2. Ryan should only be considered a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback in Week 13.

Quarterback injuries: Ben Roethlisberger (concussion) and Tony Romo (collarbone)
Quarterback waivers: Tyrod Taylor (66 percent ownership), Brian Hoyer (63 percent), Marcus Mariota (59 percent), Alex Smith (56 percent), Ryan Fitzpatrick (52 percent), Kirk Cousins (35 percent) and Matt Hasselbeck (25 percent)
Of note:

  • We hope Roethlisberger is OK with his concussion, and initial reports are he's expected to be fine heading into his matchup in Week 13 against the Indianapolis Colts at home. If he starts then he's obviously a must-start Fantasy quarterback in all leagues. Prior to leaving against Seattle, Roethlisberger passed for 456 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and added 18 rushing yards for 24 Fantasy points.
  • There was talk the New York Jets could bench Fitzpatrick for Geno Smith with the team struggling offensively of late, but Fitzpatrick ended that speculation with a strong game against the Miami Dolphins . He passed for 277 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 21 yards to finish with 37 Fantasy points. He should be considered a low-end starter in Week 13 against the New York Giants . Despite his struggles, Fitzpatrick still has at least 22 Fantasy points in five of the past seven games he's been able to finish.
  • Hoyer was supposed to have a huge Fantasy game against the New Orleans Saints in Week 12 given the matchup, but he let down plenty of owners with just 18 Fantasy points. He passed for 205 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Hoyer might not be a great Fantasy asset down the stretch with Houston Cougars 's defense playing at a high level. His best games have come in comeback efforts, and the Houston Texans might not put him in those scenarios very often moving forward. He's just a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback at Buffalo Bulls in Week 13.
  • Philip Rivers needed a big game in Week 12 for Fantasy owners to trust him after combining for 22 Fantasy points the past two outings against Chicago and Kansas Jayhawks City. He showed up in a big way at Jacksonville with 300 passing yards and four touchdowns for 36 Fantasy points. We hope it's a sign of things to come for Rivers, but he has a brutal matchup against Denver in Week 13. I'd only consider him a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback in that matchup.
  • Like Rivers, Taylor also needed a big game because Fantasy owners were giving up on him. He came into Week 12 at Kansas City with 39 Fantasy points combined in his previous three games, but he passed for 291 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 46 yards for 31 Fantasy points. It was good to see this performance, but he should struggle in Week 13 against Houston based on how well the Texans defense has played of late.
  • Garbage time was Ryan Tannehill 's friend in Week 12 at the Jets with 351 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception and a lost fumble for 28 Fantasy points. Most of his stats came with the Jets well in control of this game, but this could be a performance for Tannehill to build on heading into a great matchup in Week 13 against the Baltimore Ravens . It will be tough to trust Tannehill in most standard leagues, but he could be useful in two-quarterback formats with how Baltimore has struggled with opposing quarterbacks all season and playing in consecutive road games on a short week.
  • Blake Bortles snapped his two-game funk of scoring less than 20 Fantasy points with 26 points against the San Diego Chargers in Week 12. He passed for 329 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and ran for 33 yards. It took a late touchdown to Allen Robinson for Bortles to get over 20 Fantasy points, but we hope this carries over to Week 13 at Tennessee Volunteers . He only scored 11 Fantasy points against the Tennessee Titans in Week 11, but that was a Thursday night game, which is usually tough on quarterbacks. Bortles should have the chance for another quality outing in Week 13.
  • Cousins continues to play well at home, and you might consider starting him in Week 13 against the Dallas Cowboys . He's scored at least 23 Fantasy points in each of his past four home games against Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and the Giants in Week 12. He passed for 302 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score against the Giants, and we'll see if he can stay hot at home against Dallas. You might not start him in standard formats, but he should be a must-start option in two-quarterback leagues.
  • Mariota's performance was somewhat ugly against the Oakland Raiders in Week 12 as he completed just 17-of-37 passes for 218 yards, but he threw three touchdowns with two interceptions and finished with 24 Fantasy points. He faces the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13, and he scored 17 Fantasy points at Jacksonville in Week 11. I expect him to do better than that in the rematch, and he should be considered a low-end starting option in Week 13.
  • Drew Brees can no longer be trusted on the road, as he had another awful game at Houston in Week 12 with seven Fantasy points. This is now five road games this season with 19 Fantasy points or less, but the good news he has just two road games remaining at Tampa Bay in Week 14 and at Atlanta in Week 17, which shouldn't matter in most leagues. Now, he does have a tough matchup in Week 13 against Carolina, but I would still start Brees as a low-end No. 1 quarterback since he'll be playing at home.
  • Brady was once again dominant despite facing the Broncos amazing defense with 280 passing yards and three touchdowns. We hope Gronkowski and Amendola are active for Week 13 against the Eagles because that's a dream matchup, but you can still start Brady even if those guys are out. Philadelphia is that bad defensively, and Brady would get production from Brandon LaFell , Scott Chandler and whoever else steps on the field because he just elevates everyone else's level of play.

Running backs

Player on the rise

Spencer Ware started in Week 12 against Buffalo for the injured Charcandrick West (hamstring), who was starting for the injured Jamaal Charles (knee). Charles is an elite talent, but it hasn't really mattered who the starting running back has been for the Chiefs this season because the production has been spectacular. Ware picked up where West left off with 19 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 1 yard against the Bills, and he would be considered a must-start option in Week 13 at Oakland if West remains out.

Player on the decline

When Dan Campbell took over for Joe Philbin as the interim head coach of the Dolphins, it looked like good things were ahead for Lamar Miller. He had either a touchdown or 100 total yards in five games in a row, including at least 15 Fantasy points in a standard league in four of those outings. But the past two games against Dallas and the Jets have been brutal, as Miller combined for six Fantasy points, and he had just five carries for 2 yards and three catches for 11 yards at New York in Week 12. Jay Ajayi continues to get more work for the Dolphins, and Miller will be considered just a low-end No. 2 running back in a tough matchup in Week 13 against Baltimore.

Running back injuries: Chris Johnson (knee), Andre Ellington (foot), Karlos Williams (shoulder) and Jeremy Hill (ankle)
Running back waivers: Theo Riddick (56 percent ownership), Shaun Draughn (53 percent), Jay Ajayi (40 percent) and David Johnson (29 percent)
Of note:

  • It sounds like the Arizona Cardinals could be without Chris Johnson and Ellington in Week 12 at St. Louis. Carson Palmer indicated after the game the team will need David Johnson and Kerwynn Williams to step up. David Johnson had eight carries for 21 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 8 yards against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12 and is worth adding in all leagues even with the tough matchup ahead against the St. Louis Rams .
  • Hill was having his best game of the season in Week 12 against the Rams with 16 carries for 86 yards and one catch for 14 yards before leaving with an ankle injury. He said after the game he'll be OK, and the Cincinnati Bengals didn't need him back in the game with a comfortable lead. We'll keep an eye on his status heading into a great matchup in Week 13 at Cleveland, although he struggled against the Cleveland Browns in Week 9 with 15 carries for 52 yards and one catch for 8 yards. If Hill is out in Week 13 then Giovani Bernard would see his value skyrocket.
  • Thomas Rawls was solid filling in for the injured Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) with 21 carries for 81 yards and a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers . This is now five games on the season with at least 16 carries for Rawls, and he's scored double digits in Fantasy points in four of them. He should continue to produce at a high level heading into Week 13 at Minnesota Golden Gophers and is a must-start option in all leagues.
  • Chris Ivory needed a big game in Week 12, and he would love to face the Dolphins every week. He had 21 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 15 yards for 15 Fantasy points, and this was his first touchdown since Week 9. He has now combined for 37 Fantasy points against Miami this year. Ivory remains a must-start option against the Giants in Week 13.
  • Alfred Blue played great against the Saints in Week 12 with 16 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown and one catch for 4 yards for 13 Fantasy points. He had 14 Fantasy points in Week 11 against the Jets, and he could start becoming a reliable Fantasy option based on Houston's defense. The Texans aren't chasing points like they were earlier in the season, so Blue can get increased carries, which is crucial for his outlook. He is worth using as a flex in Week 13 at Buffalo.
  • It sounds like Devonta Freeman (concussion) will return in Week 13 at Tampa Bay, but if he's out it's clear you can rely on Tevin Coleman as a replacement option. He wasn't perfect with a lost fumble against the Minnesota Vikings , but he flashed his playmaking ability with 18 carries for 110 yards. Coleman is only owned in 77 percent of leagues on CBS Sports, so owners in shallow leagues should add him where available just in case Freeman isn't back against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers .
  • Shaun Draughn continues to be a solid running back in PPR leagues after he had 15 carries for 51 yards and five catches for 35 yards against Arizona Wildcats in Week 12. This is now at least 12 Fantasy points in a PPR league in three games in a row since he took over for the injured Carlos Hyde (foot), and he has at least 77 total yards in each outing. He will likely start again in Week 13 at Chicago and is worth using as at least a flex option in all PPR leagues.
  • T.J. Yeldon got off to a great start in Week 12 against the Chargers with 43 total yards on Jacksonville's opening drive. It looked like he was on his way to a big game as the Start of the Week. But things fell apart from there, and Yeldon finished with just nine carries for 36 yards and four catches for 46 yards. He wasn't completely awful compared to the field, and he went into Sunday's night's game as the No. 20 Fantasy running back in standard leagues with seven points. But obviously we were hoping for more, and he should be considered a No. 2 running back in Week 13 at the Titans. He had seven Fantasy points against Tennessee in Week 11.
  • Latavius Murray had another bad game in Week 12 at Tennessee with 22 carries for 59 yards and one catch for 23 yards. He is clearly missing center Rodney Hudson , who has been in and out of the lineup with an ankle injury since Week 9. In those four games, Murray has eight Fantasy points or less in each outing. We'll see if Hudson is back in Week 13 against the Kansas City Chiefs , but if he's out then only use Murray as a flex option in the majority of leagues.
  • The Broncos wanted to run the ball against the Patriots, and they had plenty of success with C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman . Anderson had the better game with 15 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns, including a walk-off score in overtime, and four catches for 40 yards, and Hillman had 14 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown. This was the best Anderson looked all season, and we'll see if he starts to get more work moving forward. Both running backs are worth using in Week 13 at San Diego.

Wide receivers

Player on the rise

There were several Fantasy receivers in need of a big game that delivered in Week 12 with A.J. Green, Sammy Watkins and Jeremy Maclin all coming up huge, but I wanted to focus on T.Y. Hilton here because of the concern with his production since Andrew Luck (kidney) went down. He played three games with Matt Hasselbeck prior to Sunday against Tampa Bay and combined for 16 Fantasy points against Jacksonville in Week 4, Houston in Week 5 and Atlanta in Week 11, but he exploded for six catches, 95 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets against the Buccaneers. We hope this is a sign of things to come, and he gets a great matchup in Week 13 at Pittsburgh. Even Donte Moncrief played well against Tampa Bay with eight catches for 114 yards on nine targets, so look for him as a solid No. 3 receiver against the Steelers next week.

Player on the decline

Demaryius Thomas was back to being awful again in Week 12 against the Patriots with one catch for 36 yards despite 13 targets. Maybe it was the snow. Maybe it was the return of Emmanuel Sanders (ankle), who had six catches for 113 yards on nine targets. But it's not like Brock Osweiler didn't try to get Thomas involved with the team lead in targets. The two just couldn't connect, and Thomas now has six games this season with single digits in Fantasy points in a standard league. He'll look to get back on track in Week 13 at San Diego, and you should still start him as a high-end No. 2 receiver. If the targets are there then hopefully the production will follow.

Wide receiver injuries: Allen Hurns (concussion) and Rishard Matthews (chest)
Wide receiver waivers: Cecil Shorts (11 percent ownership), Dontrelle Inman (9 percent), Jermaine Kearse (8 percent), DeVante Parker (7 percent), Markus Wheaton (6 percent), Devin Smith (1 percent) and Seth Roberts (0 percent)
Of note:

  • Hurns tweeted Sunday that he was OK after dealing with the concussion against San Diego. He had to taken off the field in a stretcher, and he's been beat up of late with thigh, foot and abdomen injuries. We'll see if he can return in Week 13 at Tennessee, but Fantasy owners should prepare for him to be out. Prior to leaving, he had four catches for 42 yards against the Chargers.
  • The Dolphins lost Matthews early in Sunday's game at the Jets, and hopefully he'll be OK heading into Week 13 against the Ravens. But even if he's able to return Miami might want to give Parker an extended look after the best game of his rookie season with four catches for 80 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets against the Jets. He is worth a speculative add in deeper leagues. The Dolphins also got great production from Jarvis Landry against the Jets with 13 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets. We'd love to see more of this from Landry to close the season.
  • The Seattle Seahawks receivers were among the biggest stars of the day as Doug Baldwin went off for six catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns on eight targets against the Steelers, and Kearse added four catches for 47 yards and two touchdowns on five targets. Kearse is too inconsistent to trust, but Baldwin now has at least 19 Fantasy points in two of his past three games and could be needed even more with Graham out. He should be considered a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in Week 13 at Minnesota.
  • The Steelers have two of the best Fantasy receivers in the league with Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant , but both were outplayed by Wheaton in Week 12. He had nine catches for 201 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets, while Brown was held to six catches for 51 yards on 12 targets and Bryant had five catches for 69 yards on 13 targets with an 11-yard rushing touchdown. Brown had a tough assignment with Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman , and Bryant had trouble coming down with several long pass plays down the field. Heading into Week 13, we're still confidently starting Brown and Bryant over Wheaton, who combined for two Fantasy points in his previous five games.
  • Watkins wanted the ball more, and Rex Ryan wanted him to have it. It worked out well in Week 12 at Kansas City with a season-high 10 targets, and he rewarded Fantasy owners with six catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns. We hope this is a sign of things to come, especially after Watkins had tough matchups the previous two weeks against the Jets and Patriots, but it won't be any easier in Week 13 against Houston. He should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy receiver in that matchup.
  • Maclin has been one of the bigger disappointments this season in his first year with the Chiefs, which was expected given how Alex Smith plays quarterback. He came into Week 12 with five games in a row with single digits in Fantasy points in a standard league, but he exploded against Buffalo with nine catches for 160 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets. The last time he had double digits in targets was Week 5 against Chicago. The Chiefs trailed against the Buffalo Bills , so Maclin was more involved, and that's typically when you'll see his production up is when Kansas City is chasing points. That could happen in Week 13 at Oakland, so consider Maclin a high-end No. 3 Fantasy receiver next week.
  • Like Hilton, Green was due for a big game, and he had six catches for 61 yards and two touchdowns against the Rams on eight targets. Green came into Week 12 with three games in a row with single digits in Fantasy points and only one game with double digits in points since Week 3. We hope he continues to find the end zone on a regular basis, and he has a favorable matchup in Week 13 at Cleveland. He had five Fantasy points against the Browns in Week 9, and we expect him to do better than that in the rematch.
  • Michael Floyd returned from his one-game absence from a hamstring injury at San Francisco and looked rusty with one catch for 14 yards on two targets. He should play better starting in Week 13 at the Rams. John Brown looked spry against the 49ers with five catches for 99 yards on seven targets, and hopefully his hamstring injury is behind him. He's an excellent Fantasy option against St. Louis.
  • The Jets had another great game from Brandon Marshall (nine catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets) and Eric Decker (five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown on nine targets), and they remain must-start options in all leagues heading into Week 13 against the Giants. But it was good to see Devin Smith involved with two catches for 33 yards and a touchdown on three targets. We hope he gets worked into the offense more, and he's worth keeping an eye on in deeper leagues.

Tight ends

Player on the rise

I liked Julius Thomas heading into Week 12 with his matchup against the Chargers, and it was nice to see him deliver since he's been a bust for most of this season. Injuries held back Thomas to start the season, and he hasn't been consistent with his production since returning to action in Week 5. But he scored in Week 11 against Tennessee and then had his best game of the year in Week 12 against the Chargers with nine catches for 116 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. He should be considered a No. 1 tight end in Week 13 at Tennessee.

Player on the decline

Benjamin Watson has cooled off quite a bit in his past three games and is no longer worth using as a starting option in the majority of leagues. He had four catches for 53 yards on nine targets Sunday at Houston and has now combined for 12 Fantasy points in a standard league in his past three outings. This was after he scored 43 Fantasy points in the three games prior to that. We'll see if he can rebound in Week 13 against the Panthers, but Fantasy owners should consider him just a No. 2 Fantasy tight end in most formats.

Tight end injuries: Jimmy Graham (knee), Rob Gronkowski (knee), Tyler Eifert (shoulder), Heath Miller (ribs) and Garrett Celek (ankle)
Tight end waivers: Zach Miller (47 percent ownership), Brent Celek (11 percent), Scott Chandler (3 percent), Vance McDonald (0 percent), Ryan Griffin (0 percent), Cameron Brate (0 percent) and Luke Willson (0 percent)
Of note:

  • Eifert said he expects to be OK after leaving Sunday's game against the Rams with a stinger. We'll find out his status heading into Week 13 at Cleveland, and hopefully he can play against the Browns since he had five catches for 53 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting in Week 9. He had three catches for 40 yards and a touchdown against the Rams before getting hurt.
  • Antonio Gates snapped out of his recent three-game funk with a big performance against the Jaguars. He had four catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns on six targets. Gates will be just a low-end starting option in a tough matchup against Denver in Week 13.
  • Like Gates, Kelce came into Week 12 in need of a good game, and he delivered with four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown on seven targets against Buffalo. Prior to Week 12, Kelce had combined for seven Fantasy points, and he only scored double digits in points once since Week 3. We hope Kelce can build on this game heading into a dream matchup at Oakland in Week 13.
  • I called Griffin a sleeper on our Fantasy Football Today show Sunday morning, and he came through with four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown on five targets. But that was more about the Saints defense than Griffin, and he's only worth looking at off the waiver wire in deeper leagues.
  • McDonald had six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown on seven targets against the 49ers for 13 Fantasy points, and he scored 12 Fantasy points at Arizona in Week 11. He could have an even bigger role if Garrett Celek is out, and McDonald is worth adding in deeper leagues heading into Week 13 at Chicago.

"Finally I just had to accept that I don't want to do this anymore."

And with that, the final chapter of the NBA career of Kobe Bryant, or the final section of the last chapter, or the final subheading of the final section of the final chapter, or whatever, began.

The Los Angeles Lakers star announced his retirement in an op-ed in The Players' Tribune Sunday evening before the Lakers' loss to the Indiana Pacers, and after the game, the Black Mamba held a lengthy and reflective press conference where he looked back on the process behind his decision and how he's feeling about it. Bryant said that once he came to that realization that the drive wasn't there anymore, it became a question of "why not" tell everyone, and "just get it off (his) shoulders."

Bryant shot 4 of 20 from the field, 2 of 7 from 3-point range in the loss to the Pacers. He drained a fadeaway catch-and-shoot 3-pointer to pull the Lakers within one, but after two Paul George free throws, air-balled his next one. The dream ending was not to be, but after the game, Bryant seemed downright happy in the press conference, content with his decision.

"I'm at peace with it, Bryant" said, adding that he's "excited for what's to come."

Instead of balking at the process or denying what's going on, Bryant's usually steely veneer seems softened by the reality that his time is finally up and this will be his final season.

"I've worked so hard, and continue to work really really hard, even though I played like s****, I work really really hard to not play like crap and do everything I possibly can. And I feel good about that."

Bryant revealed that one person he did inform early of this decision was Michael Jordan, who he told this summer.

The fact that Bryant had decided last summer seems confusing, since Byron Scott said he was shocked when Bryant informed him of his decision. So either Scott's lying or Bryant elected to tell Jordan before his teammates. The assumption has been for a while that this would be Bryant's final season, but the actual public announcement locks Bryant into retirement and all the hoopla that will come over the rest of this season as a result. (Unless he goes Brett Favre but you have to think that's unlikely.)

Bryant sounded downright philosophic in his ruminations, talking about how he knew it was time to retire when, during meditation, his mind would no longer drift to basketball.

"There's so much beauty in the pain of this thing," Bryant commented, when asked about the process of coming into this decision. "There's nothing I love more than being able to play this entire season, to go through these tough times, to play in these buildings one last time. I'm looking forward to that."

Bryan's final game of his NBA career will be Wednesday, April 13, vs. the Utah Jazz at Staples Center.

Kobe Bryant is saying goodbye to the NBA after this season. (USATSI) Kobe Bryant is saying goodbye to the NBA after this season. (USATSI)

We're living in a world where, three months into the season, the Panthers are the NFL's only unbeaten team; the Patriots fell from the ranks of the undefeated when the Broncos beat them in overtime on Sunday night, 30-24.

Any other year and subsequent conversations about this game would include something about how the wily veteran Peyton Manning outlasted his wily veteran counterpart Tom Brady. But we only saw Manning on the field before the game, and he was in a walking cast and civvies. It was Brock Osweiler and C.J. Anderson, with the help of the league's best defense, that led Denver to its biggest win of the season. We'll have to wait and see if it shifted the balance of power in the AFC.

1. It's fair to wonder if we've seen the last of Peyton. We were having this discussion last week too, after Osweiler looked comfortable in Gary Kubiak's offense during a road win over the Bears. The thinking was that if the fourth-year quarterback, who made his first NFL start in Chicago, could be replacement-level or slightly better, then not only would he give the Broncos the best chance to win, there was no reason to give Manning the job back.

Yes, Manning was diagnosed with a torn plantar fascia, and yes, that has something to do with his truly awful season to date. But he's also 39 and at some point, the Broncos have to prepare for life after Peyton. Osweiler looks very much to be that guy.

C.J. Anderson and Brock Osweiler helped the Broncos beat the Patriots. (USATSI) C.J. Anderson and Brock Osweiler helped the Broncos beat the Patriots. (USATSI)

2. Osweiler wasn't lights out, but he doesn't need to be. Here's his line from the Patriots game: 23 of 42 for 270 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. Efficient given the snowy conditions, but there were instances where you could say, "Yep, that's a mistake a young QB makes." But he also showed improvement from previous outings, and just as important -- at least when we compare him to Manning -- Osweiler has the athleticism and arm strength to run Kubiak's offense.

This big-boy touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter ...

... Was set up by a 39-yard Osweiler-to-Emmanuel Sanders bomb down the left sideline. Manning makes that throw with his eyes closed last season. No way he doesn't throw it 10 yards out of bounds -- and 15 yards short -- this season.

By the way, here's Tom Brady's line for the night: 23 of 42, 280 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs.

3. Don't forget about Denver's defense. It's easy to overlook this unit, especially with Demarcus Ware not playing and Sylvester Williams and T.J. Ward leaving early with injuries. The NFL's best unit (first against the pass, ninth against the run, according to Football Outsiders' metrics) looked sluggish early -- even after Aqib Talib said this week that the best way to slow Rob Gronkowski was to "triple-team him," the Broncos went coverage optional on the first series. That ended just like you'd expect it would:

There was this too:

But the Broncos' D made some adjustments and harassed Brady late, which was made easier by the fact that Scott Chandler was the Pats' best pass-catching option (more on that in a second).

So here's to you, Wade Phillips, the cuddliest defensive coordinator on the planet.

Also, this:

4. About all those injuries. The Patriots currently have 10 players on injured reserve, including OT Nate Solder, RB Dion Lewis, OL Ryan Wendell and WRAaron Dobson. Wideout Julian Edelman is sidelined until January with a broken foot, and Danny Amendola has a sprained knee. Then Gronkowski went down with what looked like a bad knee injury.

It's hard to imagine how anybody -- whether they answer to Tom Brady or not -- could run an offense without any legitimate playmakers, though some folks buy into the Belichick-Brady mystique (and for good reason, we know):

But even in the face of defeat, there is some encouraging news: early reports are that Gronk's injury isn't serious, at least by "your season is over" standards.

That's a silver lining -- as it the fact that the Pats' defense has been relatively healthy this season. And if Gronk, Amendola and Edelman are all around for the playoffs, it's hard not to expect the Patriots to do what they always do.

5. C.J. Anderson appears to be back. Anderson's resurgence coincides nicely with Osweiler taking over the starting job. It's no secret that Manning wasn't a perfect fit for Kubiak's scheme, at least not in the way Joe Flacco was last season when Kubiak was the Ravens' offensive coordinator, or Matt Schaub was with the Texans back when that offense featured a healthy mix of Andre Johnson and Arian Foster. Wherever the truth lies, Anderson had a huge game on Sunday, which included his 48-yard walk-off touchdown run in overtime.

6. Demaryius Thomas, however, appears to be lost. One of Manning's favorite targets, Thomas looked completely out of his element with Osweiler throwing him the ball. In fact, on the first 11 targets, Thomas didn't come close to catching any of them. On the 12th try, he hauled in a 36-yarder, and he finished with one catch for 36 yards on 13 targets.

7. Chandler Jones isn't human. It's sometimes easy to forget just how freakishly athletic these players are. Luckily, Jones provided a friendly reminder with this ridiculous interception.

8. About the officials starting the clock after a timeout ... On the Patriots' final drive of regulation, the clocked stopped after an injury timeout. Then, on the whistle, the clock started again, sending Twitter into a meltdown. Turns out, the officials were right even though we've become conditioned to expect the worst.

Those seconds didn't matter. Brady completed a pass in Broncos territory, the Pats' receiver got out of bounds to stop the clock, and Stephen Gostkowski calmly striped a 47-yarder in the snow to send the game to overtime.

9. Home cookin?

Make of this what you will but we're not blaming the refs. Was Gronk's offensive pass interference questionable. Yeah, without a doubt. But there are any number of plays you could point to -- for both sides -- that could be called and weren't. It happens every week. That's not why the Patriots lost. And even Brady, despite constantly yelling at the officials, would probably tell you the same.

10. What it all means. Actually, not much. The Pats remain the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the Bengals are No. 2. The Broncos are third, followed by the Colts, Chiefs and Texans. And it's those spots -- fourth through sixth -- that will be worth watching in the coming weeks. In addition to the Colts, Chiefs and Texans, the Jets and Steelers are also 6-5.