Arians — who last season became the first interim coach to win coach of the year, when he stepped in for cancer-stricken Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis — is once again in the coach-of-the-year conversation, along with Rivera, New England's Bill Belichick, Kansas City's Andy Reid and Philadelphia's Chip Kelly.
Seattle's Pete Carroll lost Sunday to Carson Palmer, one of his Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks at USC. Palmer had four interceptions, but made the big play when he had to — a 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd with 2 minutes 13 seconds left. That was enough in a staunch defensive battle.
Arians' old team looked good too, as the Colts rolled to a 23-7 victory at Kansas City. Those teams are on track for a rematch, as Indianapolis looks as if it will be the fourth seed, and Kansas City is locked in as the fifth seed. They would play a first-round game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"We'll see them again," Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "They've got the upper hand on us right now, because in their minds they think they can beat us. If we go down there, it will be a different story. But we've got to fight our way back."
There's a lot of fight left in the NFL. Strange, just a few years ago the league was wringing its hands about teams clinching too early in the regular season, then coasting into the playoffs by playing out a string of meaningless games. Now, with the playoff picture still fluid heading into the final week, that seems like a different age.
Sign of the times
Manning's 51 touchdown passes in a single season are four more than his father, Archie, threw in his first five NFL seasons combined.
"Don't do that!" Archie said with a laugh after the game, when informed of that during a phone interview.
"We're certainly proud of Peyton. It's been a good two years since they wondered whether he would come back and play or not [after four neck surgeries]. To be able to play on an offense that's that productive the last two years, it's been fun.
"He worked so hard to try to play again, and he wanted to play so badly. We really feel blessed that he's had the opportunity to play some more."
Like his son, Archie said there's a good chance Peyton's record will be broken. (What's more, Peyton still has a game to play.) But the Broncos are also the first team in NFL history to have five players with at least 10 touchdowns. Eric Decker joined that group with two touchdown catches against the Texans.
"That [record] might hang around for a while," the elder Manning said. "It think it's about spreading the ball around, taking what they give you, balancing a running game, and I also think it's unselfishness in a group of players. It also speaks to what Adam Gase, their offensive coordinator, has done. He's a special young guy."
We meet again
Philadelphia plays at Dallas in a winner-take-all game Sunday with the NFC East title hanging in the balance.
That sets up a fascinating chess match between familiar foes Chip Kelly and Monte Kiffin.
Less than a week after Dallas hired Kiffin as defensive coordinator last January, Philadelphia hired Kelly as head coach.
That raised eyebrows because Kiffin and Kelly had some history. In fact, USC's biggest meltdown in 2012 was a 62-51 loss to Oregon, when the Ducks — running Kelly's innovative offense — gained 730 yards against Kiffin's Trojans defense, including 321 on the ground by Kenjon Barner. Oregon's points, yardage and Barner's yards rushing were all records for a USC opponent.
Kiffin got some payback this season when the Cowboys won at Philadelphia, 17-3. Even though Dallas' defensive line was missing three projected starters, the Cowboys harassed Nick Foles the whole day, sidelining him in the third quarter with a concussion.
For the first time this season, San Diego has won three in a row.