Adam Schefter's Blitz

Is this a golden age of cornerbacks?

It's a golden age for quarterbacks, but the same also can be said for cornerbacks. They are picking off attention and passes.

Last weekend, Seattle's Richard Sherman, 25, snagged a pick-six that saved the Seahawks' day and led them to an overtime victory against the Texans.

Cleveland's Joe Haden, 24, shut down Cincinnati's Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green, taking away the Bengals' best offensive weapon and best hope to beat the Browns.

Arizona's Patrick Peterson, 23, intercepted two fourth-quarter passes that keyed the Cardinals' victory in Tampa Bay and led his coach Bruce Arians to shower him with praise.

"I think he's the best in the league," Arians said of Peterson. "Some will argue that Darrelle [Revis] is, but it's not even close in my opinion."

If Peterson is No. 1 -- and he might be -- other great young cornerbacks aren't far behind. There's Sherman and Haden, and Tennessee has a great young tandem in Jason McCourty, 26, and Alterraun Verner, 24. 

There are standout veteran cornerbacks, too: Tampa Bay's Revis, Chicago's Charles Tillman, Seattle's Brandon Browner, Houston's Johnathan Joseph, the New York Jets' Antonio Cromartie.

While offensive coordinators are getting smarter, quarterbacks are getting better, and receivers are getting bigger and faster, cornerbacks have to stand taller than ever. This crop of young cornerbacks does. They can defend half the field, isolate it, giving their teams huge advantages defensively.

Rarely has the NFL had so many good young cornerbacks trying to overcome the rules and the offenses that are designed to beat them. But while this is a league built on great young quarterbacks, the players best equipped to slow them are the great young cornerbacks.

Comeback cities: For years, the surprises have come in some other city, not Detroit, Cleveland or Buffalo.

Those are three of the only four cities -- the other is Jacksonville -- that haven't won a division title since the NFL realigned 11 years ago. Every other NFL team has won at least one. But not Detroit, not Cleveland, not Buffalo.

All are rust-belt cities, but what are rustiest are their championship dreams. Part of the problem is just awful luck, Andrew included.

Detroit has had to battle Brett Favre, then Aaron Rodgers, Cleveland had Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco, Buffalo had Tom Brady. Even worse, the franchise that left Cleveland for Baltimore is now the defending Super Bowl champ. Yet those cities' troubles go beyond football.

Detroit is battling bankruptcy, Cleveland's unemployment issue extends beyond the Browns' coaching staff, Buffalo has lost games and population. Those cities could use a welcome diversion. The local NFL teams are doing their part to try to help out.

The Lions are tied for first place in the NFC North, facing their most significant regular-season game in recent memory Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. Detroit already has won two division games this season – two more than it won all of last season. Reggie Bush has made the type of plays for Detroit he once routinely made at USC. And Ndamukong Suh has been the leader of an aggressive defensive front. These days, Detroit is not just a baseball town.

The Bills hit a bump in the road Thursday night, losing to Cleveland. The Browns, however, moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC North with the win, at least until Sunday.

In a league that thrives on surprises, it looks as if the Lions, Browns and Bills finally could be providing some of the best.

Patchwork Pats: The most impressive thing about the Patriots' 4-0 start is who has helped them get there. They are getting production in key spots from undrafted rookie free agents. That must continue for New England to have the type of season it wants.

When Wes Welker left for Denver and Danny Amendola got injured, New England needed undrafted rookie free agent wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins to produce. So far he has. Thompkins has become Brady's most trusted young weapon, catching six passes for 127 yards and a touchdown in a Sunday night win over Atlanta.

When Patriots Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork exited the Falcons' game and season because of a torn Achilles, New England turned to another undrafted rookie free agent, Joe Vellano, who impressed. Vellano will not be Wilfork -- no one can be. But he looked serviceable in his first extended action.

These are two rookie free agents who stand out. But the Patriots' roster is filled with rookies. The Patriots are winning, but they're also quietly rebuilding -- with players other teams in the league ignored and overlooked. But those players cannot be ignored or overlooked any longer.

The Schef's specialties

Game of the week: Lions at Packers -- Teams on a bye this week -- Minnesota, Washington, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay -- are a combined 2-14, which is why this Sunday's slate of games is off the charts. Lions at Packers might be best, but there are a bevy of choices for game of the week.

Upset of the week: Tennessee over Kansas City -- If new Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick can be smart with the football, Tennessee can end Kansas City's unbeaten streak.

Player of the week: Chargers QB Philip Rivers -- Were it not for Peyton Manning, more people would be noticing and discussing how superb Rivers has been.

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