Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo and No. 4

(Julio Cortez/AP)

KICKOFF RETURNS GALORE! Remember the panic a week ago, when distraught fans — and a lot of media observers — thought the new kickoff rule would eliminate successful returns?

Hah! There were three returns for touchdowns in the first 14 games, including one of 108 yards by Randall “Corn” Cobb of the Packers on Thursday night, one of 103 by Percy Harvin of the Vikings on Sunday and one of 102 by the 49ers Teddy Ginn, also on Thursday. Ginn then rubbed it in 59 seconds later by taking a punt back 55 yards to score another TD!

JUST WONDERING. Will Peyton Manning become the first player to win an MVP award by not playing? The near incompetance of his Indianapolis teammates on Sunday showed exactly how valuable No. 18 really is.
The 35-year-old might be out for the season following his third neck surgery in 19 months, which brings up two related points.

1. Colts president Bill Polian was at Duke on Saturday watching Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, certain to be the first QB (if not the first player) drafted in April.

No one has dared breathe the thought that Manning might be done. But you don’t draft Andrew Luck to hold a clip board.

2. Kerry Collins was signed off his recliner less than two weeks ago to be a termporary stand in for Manning. If No. 18’s absense goes longer than that, Indy will need an upgrade. So, unless David Garrard excites you, it seems inevitable that Polian will make a call to Hattiesburg, Miss., to see if old No. 4 wants to crank it up one more time.

TRIVIA QUESTION: who was Manning’s predecessor as the starting QB in Indianapolis? (Answer later)

TRAIN WRECK IN ST. LOUIS.  The Eagles didn’t just beat the Rams — they ran over them. Quarterback Sam Bradford, running back Steven Jackson and receiver Danny Amendola all left the game with injuries of varying degree.

“Those are our three most productive offense players,” coach Steve Spagnulo pointed out to

Worst of all, cornerback Ron Bartell is out for the season with two fractures in his neck. Spagnuolo told reporters on Monday that it’s the worst injury report in his three seasons.

It seems the Eagles may have given old friend Kevin Kolb an inadvertant boost towards an NFC West title in Arizona.

COMICAL COWBOYS. Sunday night’s 27-24 Jets victory over the Cowboys was a fiesta for Tony Romo haters (and I know you’re out there), as the Dallas QB almost single-handedly blew the game.

Ahead by seven with nine minutes left, Romo tried to dive into the end zone for the clinching TD — and fumbled the ball away.

With a minute to go and the score tied, Romo badly underthrew receiver Dez Bryant, and the interception by Darrelle Revis led to the winning field goal.

Finally, with eight seconds left, Romo wasn't ready for the shotgun snap — which hit him in the chest.

Monday’s film session back in Dallas with the red-headed outlaw (AKA Jason Garrett) must have been a real thigh slapper.

IF IT’S SUNDAY, THIS MUST BE CHARLOTTE. Cam Newton set an NFL record for rookies by throwing for 422 yards in his first game in the league.

Small potatoes — he’s already Rand-McNally’s man of the year, having done more travelling than a presidential candidate.

In the last four football seasons, Newton has backed up Tim Tebow at Florida, starred at Blinn Junior College in Brenham, Tex., taken Auburn to a national championship, and now taken over the Carolina Panthers.
He meets Aaron Rogers this Sunday.

RATINGS BONANZA. The Jets’ comeback win over the Cowboys has earned the best preliminary television rating for a Week 1 game on Sunday or Monday night in 15 years.

New York’s 27-24 victory Sunday on NBC drew a 16.9 overnight rating and 27 share. A Cowboys-Bears game earned a 20.2/33 on a Monday night on ABC in 1996.

(Ratings represent the percentage of all homes with televisions tuned into a program. Shares represent the percentage of all homes with TVs in use at the time. Overnight ratings measure the country’s largest markets.)

INJURY REPORT. Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry will miss the remainder of the Chiefs’ season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. … the Chargers’ Nate Kaeding, who entered the season as the most accurate kicker in NFL history, is out for the year after injuring his left knee during the season’s opening kickoff when he tried to tackle Harvin on that 103-yard return. … Panthers linebacker Jon Beason will miss the rest of the season with a torn left Achilles tendon. … the Ravens rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith will be sidelined “a few weeks” with a high ankle sprain, coach John Harbaugh said. … the Bills veteran cornerback Terrence McGee is out indefinitely after hurting his left hamstring in the team’s season opener.

TRIVIA ANSWER. current 49ers and former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, who developed Andrew Luck.

Contact Don McKee at 
This article contains information from the Associated Press.