1. Jared Allen, Minnesota defensive end: After compiling 12.5 sacks in the Vikings’ first 11 games, Allen has only one in their past four. That slip has corresponded with a 1-3 skid that has called into question the Vikings’ playoff viability. To be clear, Allen is seeing more double-teams and chips from running backs and tight ends. But he’s also not winning the one-on-one battles when he has them. I made a point to watch him Monday night against Chicago, and second-year left tackle Chris Williams pretty much had his way with him. Sacks can come in bunches, and right now Allen isn’t producing.
2. Drew Stanton, Detroit quarterback: The fans’ choice gave little indication he deserves a second NFL start, let alone a chance to be the Lions’ primary backup next season. Four turnovers and no touchdowns might have been all coach Jim Schwartz needed to see. Stanton has had a rough go of it in his Lions career, playing for three different offensive coordinators. But at some point he needs to give the Lions a reason to keep him around. To this point, he hasn’t.
3. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota tailback: Peterson ranks third in the NFL with 1,329 yards, but he also has six lost fumbles -- the most of any non-quarterback in the league. You could argue his overtime fumble Monday night was abetted by an obvious facemask penalty that wasn’t called. But the play set up Chicago’s game-winning score, and the bottom line is that Peterson hasn’t been able to solve what is now a three-year problem. He has lost 13 fumbles since the start of the 2007 season, the most of any non-quarterback over that time. The Bears are especially adept at punching the ball out, but other teams are catching on.
1. Jay Cutler, Chicago quarterback: We’ve hammered Cutler pretty consistently for most of this disastrous season, so it’s only fair to note his four-touchdown performance Monday night included some of the prettiest throws you’ll ever see. His 7-yard touchdown to tight end Greg Olsen was a dart. His game-winning 39-yarder to Devin Aromashodu was beautifully arced. It was interesting that Cutler had arguably his best game of the season on a night when Devin Hester (calf) was sidelined and Johnny Knox left the game early with an ankle injury.
2. Atari Bigby, Green Bay safety: Two interceptions Sunday against Seattle demonstrated Bigby’s continued maturation in the Packers' defense. He’s played in 11 consecutive games after being limited by an ankle injury, and the consistency he has provided has played a big role in the Packers’ defensive improvement. Cornerback Charles Woodson is getting most of the attention in the Packers’ defensive backfield, and rightfully so, but Bigby has made his presence known as well.
3. Devin Aromashodu, Chicago receiver: In addition to his 39-yard game-winning touchdown Monday night, Aromashodu caught two other passes of more than 20 yards and has made Cutler look prescient after lobbying all season for him. In the three games since replacing the injured Hester in the starting lineup, Aromashodu has 17 receptions for 236 yards and two touchdowns. There is plenty of uncertainty about next season’s Bears team, but it seems hard to imagine it not including this guy in a substantive role.