Five more sunday story lines

race for league MVP

The Arizona Cardinals just might be the league's best team at the moment, and a case can be made that their quarterback, Carson Palmer, is on equal footing with Carolina QB Cam Newton and New England QB Tom Brady for MVP honors. Palmer is the league's second-rated passer; is fourth with 4,542 passing yards; and is third with 34 touchdown passes. Plus, he has thrown only 10 interceptions.

orange crush defense

The Denver Broncos could become the first team since the 1970 merger to lead the NFL in total defense, scoring defense, sacks and pass defense. Right now, they are leading in three of those four categories, with scoring defense (18.4 points per game) the only exception. But another suffocating performance against the San Diego Chargers (4-11) could vault them to the top of a list led by the Cincinnati Bengals (17.4).

manning the … backup?

Not since he was a skinny 18-year-old freshman at the University of Tennessee has Peyton Manning served as a backup quarterback. But with his longtime understudy, Brock Osweiler, making his seventh consecutive start for the Broncos, Manning will be the No. 2 man for the first time since replacing an injured Todd Helton against Mississippi State on Sept. 24, 1994. That's 7,772 days.

the amazing julio

The Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones will conclude one of the most prolific seasons by a receiver in NFL history. Jones is the second player with at least 125 catches and 1,700 yards receiving, joining Marvin Harrison (2002). He leads NFL with 127 receptions and 1,722 receiving yards. He needs 127 yards to pass Jerry Rice for the second-most receiving yards in a season. The NFL record for catches in a season is 143, by Harrison.

woodson's farewell

The Oakland Raiders safety will play his final NFL game, the 254th of his career, against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. On Sept. 6, 1998, Woodson played the first game of his career at Arrowhead. There have been 252 games in the interim (with a stint in Green Bay) that will some day land Woodson in the Hall of Fame. He's tied for fifth in NFL history with 65 interceptions.

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