Quite possibly the best week of NFL action so far this year. Close games, teams stepping up, and teams faltering a bit. Lets get to it.
Team of the Week: New York Giants
-This could have gone to a handful of teams: The Jets, Dolphins, and Ravens all had arguments to get this spot. But I decided to give this one to the Giants for a couple of reasons. Reason 1: They went into Foxboro and beat the New England Patriots. That doesn’t happen too often. The Giants for the most part shut down Tom Brady and kept the entire Patriots offense in check. Reason 2: The Giants gave Tom Brady a dose of his own medicine. After Brady put the Patriots up with under 2 minutes to go, Eli Manning got the ball back and drove his team right down the field. Eli’s TD pass to Jake Ballard with 16 seconds left sealed the win for New England. It was the first game of a brutal stretch for the Giants and they passed with flying colors. It doesn’t get easier with their next stop at San Francisco. But if the Giants play like they did Sunday then there’s no reason they can’t survive this brutal stretch.
Game of the Week: Baltimore 23 Pittsburgh 20
-When in doubt, go with the game that is the better rivalry. It was another dog fight between the Ravens and Steelers, but the Ravens came out on top for the second time this year. You have to give the Ravens credit. I don’t know if anyone gave them a chance after their two poor outings this year. But just like the Giants, the Ravens were handed the ball with time running low and drove right down the field on the Steelers. I’m sure the Steelers were thrilled that Joe Flacco was getting the ball at the 8 yard line with his poor play the last two weeks. But Flacco didn’t fold, and threw a beautiful TD pass to Torrey Smith with 26 seconds left. The Ravens now have the tiebreaker edge on the Steelers and stopped all the momentum the Steelers had going into this game.
Dog of the Week: Pittsburgh Steelers Defense
-Up 4 with about 2 minutes to go. You give Joe Flacco the ball at the 8 yard line, forcing him to go 92 yards for a touchdown. And you let him? Joe Flacco has struggled mightily the last 2 weeks and you would think the Steelers could shut him down. But they let Flacco go right down the field on them, and lost the game in the dying seconds on a beautifully thrown ball by Flacco to Torrey Smith. The game should have ended earlier on a similar pass to Smith, but Smith dropped it. Now the Steelers lost both games to Baltimore and are looking up at them in the standings. That was a game the Steelers had to have. Now they face another stiff test in Cincinnati next week.
Other Week 9 Notes
-Do we have to consider the Jets the favorites in the AFC East now? They absolutely dominated the Bills in every aspect of their game Sunday. They shut down the Bills offense and wore down their defense in the second half with their ability to convert on 3rd downs. The Jets have now won 3 in a row and have a reeling New England team coming to New York on Sunday night. This is the perfect opportunity for the Jets to kick the Patriots while they are down. The Jets defense kept Tom Brady in check for the most part in their first meeting, no reason they can’t do it again. And you still can’t count out the Bills either. They have a big 3 game road trip ahead. Games at Dallas and Miami are both winnable, and you know they will have revenge on their mind when they go into New York in 3 weeks. This may come down to the final week of the season, when Buffalo goes to New England while Miami tries to play spoiler against the Jets. Basically, I think 4 AFC Playoff Spots will come down to the Bills, Jets, Patriots, Ravens, Bengals, and Steelers.
-The Bears may be the team no one talks about in the playoff hunt in the NFC, but they may just as well sneak in come the end of the season. The Bears took care of the Eagles in Philadelphia Monday night and now sit at 5-3 in the NFC. They also have a head-to-head tiebreaker over Atlanta. Matt Forte may be the best running back in the NFL right now. He leads the league in yards from scrimmage. The biggest improvement in the Bears game is the protection their offensive line is giving Jay Cutler. Cutler has more time to throw the ball and is finding his open WRs much easier. Other than a Christmas Day trip to Lambeau, the Bears schedule isn’t that daunting. They have a huge opportunity next week against the Detroit Lions to get a win back from their loss a few weeks ago to them. If the Bears win next week, they’ll be serious contenders.
-And all of the sudden, the AFC West is a four team race again. The Raiders, Chiefs, and Chargers are all tied at 4-4, and the Broncos sit one game back at 3-5. Everyone likes to say the NFC West is the worst division in football, but that crown this year may belong to the AFC West. The 49ers make the NFC West respectable again. Every team in the AFC West has taken a step back in recent weeks. The Chargers are on a 3 game losing streak. The Raiders have lost 2 straight home division games. The Chiefs just got thumped by the Miami Dolphins at home. The Broncos have won 2 of 3 but neither of their wins have looked pretty. We should get some answers this week, as Oakland takes on San Diego Thursday night while the Broncos go to Kansas City. Every team still has a somewhat brutal schedule ahead, so the winner of this division may be the team that gets to 9 wins.
-We will find out just how for real the Bengals are in the coming weeks. It starts with a pissed off Steelers team coming to Cincinnati next Sunday. Then the Bengals travel to Baltimore the following Sunday. If they can win one of those games, then I think they will be in good shape. But two losses sends the Bengals to 6-4. I think 10 wins is the minimum to make the playoffs as a Wild Card this year in the AFC. The Bengals also have a visit from Houston coming. Two straight losses could be deflating to such a young team like the Bengals. Can they overcome the two top dogs in the AFC North? They have the talent, but they need to stay focused all week and not let the hype get to them.
Hey I’m Just Sayin…
-Did anyone even watch the Rams/Cardinals game this week?
-Who’s the favorite in the AFC?
-Do the Colts even care anymore?
-Are the Texans that good? Or is their division and schedule that bad?
-I hope Todd Haley didn’t cut himself shaving.
-I can’t believe the Dolphins took themselves out of the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.
-If the Denver Tebows win the AFC West, I’m not watching Sportscenter during the playoffs.
1. Green Bay Packers (8-0, #1 last week)- Yeah you know the story. Next.
2. San Francisco 49ers (7-1, #2)- Big test against the Giants this week. Can Alex Smith beat a good Giants defense?
3. New York Giants (6-2, #4)- I guess you can’t spell Elite without Eli. Great win to start their brutal schedule ahead.
4. Detroit Lions (6-2, #5)- The bye week accused them of playing dirty as well.
5. Baltimore Ravens (6-2, #9)- Joe Flacco shut up his critics for one week.
6. Atlanta Falcons (5-3, #8)- If Julio Jones has finally arrived, then the Falcons just got a lot more dangerous.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3, #4)- The defense let Joe Flacco drive 92 yards in 2 minutes. That is not Steelers football.
8. New York Jets (5-3, #11)- They’re playing the best football in the AFC East right now, and they have a chance to put down the Patriots next week.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2, #12)- I want to put them higher but I don’t know if they are better than the teams above them. We will find out the next two weeks.
10. New Orleans Saints (5-3, #10)- The offense has been slowed down a bit in the past few weeks.
11. Chicago Bears (5-3, #14)- Jay Cutler looks like a good QB when he has time to throw.
12. Buffalo Bills (5-3, #6)- Can they rebound after their first butt kicking of the year? Time for this young team to show if they’re for real.
13. Houston Texans (6-3, #13)- Still don’t know if their record is a by-product of their schedule and weak division, or if they really are that good.
14. New England Patriots (5-3, #7)- That pass defense could keep them out of the playoffs. It’s that bad.
15. Dallas Cowboys (4-4, #21)- Only reason for the big jump is because everyone above them looked bad in defeat. Loss of Miles Austin for a few weeks might hurt.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5, #15)- This team isn’t unified enough to win 7 of their next 8 games.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4, #18)- Only move up because they didn’t look terrible in defeat. Offense has regressed though.
18. San Diego Chargers (4-4, #17)- If it wasn’t for Philip Rivers, they might have actually beaten the Packers.
19. Tennessee Titans (4-4, #19)- The most stagnant offense in the NFL. You can thank Chris Johnson for that.
20. Kansas City Chiefs (4-4, #16)- You follow up your big Monday night win with that? Talk about a deflater.
21. Denver Broncos (3-5, #29)- I don’t think they are this good, but no one below them is either.
22. Oakland Raiders (4-4, #20)- Apparently Hue Jackson is getting power hungry in Oakland. Maybe he should focus more on the games rather than making personnel decisions.
23. Minnesota Vikings (2-6, #23)- Christian Ponder had two weeks to prepare for Green Bay. Can he pull out an upset this time?
24. Cleveland Browns (3-5, #22)- Looks like the Dawg Pound got neutered.
25. Carolina Panthers (2-6, #25)- Looking for a spoiler in the NFC? Look no further.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6, #26)- How did they get 2 Monday night games?
27. Washington Redskins (3-5, #24)- Mike Shanahan dreaming of Andrew Luck during games too.
28. Arizona Cardinals (2-6, #30)- John Skeleton or Kevin Kolb? Does anyone even care?
29. Miami Dolphins (1-7, #31)- Playing better football then everyone else down here.
30. Seattle Seahawks (2-6, #27)- Wishing they still played in the AFC West.
31. St. Louis Rams (1-7, #28)- Disappointing follow up to their upset of the Saints.
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-9, #32)- If Peyton still has some years left, they could always trade #1 overall pick for a lot of assets.
Three Games I’d Like to See Next Week
NY Giants vs San Francisco 49ers: Giants looking to keep hot streak going.
New England Patriots vs NY Jets: Can the Jets bury the Patriots even further?
New Orleans Saints vs Atlanta Falcons: Winner has inside track on NFC South crown.
That’s all from me today.
Until next time,
Follow Me on Twitter @JCWonka
Tags: Football, NFL