While I understand that parity and the "Any Given Sunday" mantra rule in "today's NFL", I think that a particular week is better with fewer upsets and out-and-out weird crap going on. This week was one of those good weeks, with a couple of exceptions. New Orleans went to St. Louis and should have had another easy win. Instead, they get punched in the mouth, as it were. I'm still not sure what the impetus was; did New Orleans really play bad, or were the Rams struck by inspiration, as the reports seem to indicate? I guess in the end it doesn't matter; teams like New Orleans have roadbumps every season. Last year, they lost to Cleveland and looked terrible doing it. So it's not exactly unprecedented. I'm sure no one has forgotten their disastrous road trip to Seattle in last year's playoffs either. We're still in the middle of things in the 2011 NFL season, and it's not certain what we can take away from it all, or what we'll remember once the season ends.
Here are the standings for Week 8:
Everyone did better this week after a fairly pedestrian Week 7. I missed out with Carolina, New Orleans, New England, and Dallas. Carolina probably should have won their game with Minnesota. A missed Olindo Mare field goal (a chippy, it seemed) was the difference between a Minnesota win and OT, where anything can happen. New England had issues on defense again and suffered for it as Pittsburgh went up and down the field all day. Dallas just got demolished. I could say more, but I wasn't watching the game all that closely once I realized that they had no chance of winning.
That was in the first quarter, truth be told.
After watching New England yak it up against Pittsburgh, I was in no mood to see Dallas play like anything but world beaters.
What happened to Philadelphia, anyway? They stunk up the joint for weeks, and now they're good? Where has this been? Why couldn't they have been trustworthy before?
This stuff pisses me off.
Here are the Rankings for Week 8:
1.) Green Bay (7-0) [no change]
The bye week came at a good time for the defending champs, who had a chance to get focused. There's no one better, to be sure, but is anyone else even close? I doubt it, at this point. But as I said above, we're only at the midpoint of the season, and things sure do change quickly.
2.) San Francisco (6-1) [+1]
I admit, it's a bit odd to see the 49ers this high up in the Rankings, and looking this good. They just hired a new coach in the offseason, and they look miles ahead of every other team besides Green Bay. Their one loss was in OT against the Cowboys, which seems somewhat acceptable given how they've run roughshod through the rest of the schedule thus far. It gets a little more stiff since they have a Thanksgiving game coming up at the end of the month and a couple more trips to the east coast. Still, it's looking like SF is the second-best team in the league. At least, for this week.
3.) Pittsburgh (6-2) [+2]
It's interesting to see how far the Steelers have come since the beginning of the season. All of a sudden, they look like world-beaters again. Those losses to Baltimore and Houston are still disturbing to an extent that leads me to distrust them more than I probably should. Honestly, they should have won against the Texans, and they should have come out better against Baltimore. They have a rematch with the Ravens in Week 9, and this time it's in Pittsburgh. So we'll see just how "real" each team is. If one of them decides to do a swan dive into the toilet via painful and inexplicable disemboweling...well, it'll just be another weird occurrence in a season full of them.
4.) Cincinnati (5-2) [+2]
Is Andy Dalton for real? Apparently so. I didn't see any of the game against Seattle, but I'm assuming that if a team goes on the road and wins by two TD's, they're doing something right. So far, Cincinnati has done quite a bit right.
5.) Detroit (6-2) [+2]
And just like that, the Lions are on their way back up. I don't get it either. But, I'll be honest, I'm glad that they put such a beatdown on Denver; I've gotten far beyond tired of Denver and that QB that the media keeps talking about. I was never a fan of his and thought that being picked in the first round was one of the dumbest decisions I'd seen in a long time. Anyway, any time a team puts up 45, they deserve to move up, and this week was Detroit's to shine, and to gesticulate in the face of every other team.
6.) Baltimore (5-2) [+2]
It got a little dicey for the Ravens; not only had they lost last week, they were down 3 TD's to Arizona (Arizona? Seriously!?) at halftime. Then the comeback happened, and the Ravens head to Pittsburgh with ...something approaching confidence, I suppose. I'm sure there's a sense of relief as well. If they had lost two in a row before heading to Pittsburgh, things could have come crashing down right on top of them. But now, if they can stun the Steelers and win the season series, they could find themselves in the driver's seat in the AFC. That sounds weird, actually. I mean, I'm used to Baltimore being good, and being a perennial Super Bowl contender...but it's one thing to be a contender and quite another to be the "best" team in the conference and clearly leading the pack while the rest try to follow. To be honest, I'm not sure if Baltimore is cut out for that, or if that's the position that's the best for them.
7.) Buffalo (5-2) [+2]
Perhaps it sounds ridiculous, or even bandwagon to say that the Bills should be better off than they are. But really, they should be undefeated. Given the schedule they've had, and the few actual challenges that remain, it's not hard to believe that they're a contender, or that they could possibly be undefeated. As it turns out, they're not as good as they looked in the first few weeks of the season, but despite that, they could still win the AFC East. Of course, they have to tidy up their resume by beating New England and the Jets. Neither of those appears to be an impossibility at this point.
8.) New England (5-2) [-6]
It seems rather inexplicable that New England could lose to Pittsburgh after winning four in a row against them. And yet, here we are. The defense has to be a concern, especially for people like me who are trying to analyze this team and try to figure out where they're going. At the moment, it looks like New England could be a playoff team, but it's by no means set in stone. Then again, who's going to step up to beat them out?
9.) NY Giants (5-2) [-]
I guess it had to happen at some point. I have no confidence in this team, either in their ability to remain atop the NFC East, or to remain in the Rankings for longer than five minutes.
10.) New Orleans (5-3) [-6]
Apparently, we should have expected something like this at some point. It's just that nobody expects a good team to go on the road to face a terrible, winless team and lose. It's something I can't shake, no matter how much football I watch.
Finally, a note on the team that exited the Rankings. It was San Diego (10). As expected, they went into Kansas City and played a generally good game before completely giving it up at the end, sending it to OT where they crumbled. I guess I could say that I'm surprised that I saw this coming and completely missed on Dallas, New England, and New Orleans, but I also have more confidence in those three than in San Diego.
Let's also put to rest this notion that Philip Rivers is an "elite" QB. Now, I understand that Drew Brees didn't do himself any favors this week, but he's still got a ring. And despite being replaced, in essence, he's proven to be the better player so far. But the question here is, would any of the "elite" QB's have committed so offensive and inexplicable a mistake as Rivers did last night? I feel fairly certain that the answer is no. My list would include Brady, Peyton Manning, Brees, Roethlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers. I'm hard-pressed to see how any of those would do something that bad in a late-game situation. In fact, the only one I might even question slightly is Roethlisberger. The others are unquestionably better than that kind of mistake.
Rivers turned a surefire win into a loss. It's not just this week that marks him as not elite, though, in the same company as Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez. It's a body of work that shows that he is not worth the accolades that he often receives. I feel that Rodgers in particular was lumped into "elite" status far too quickly, before he had a chance to prove that he was worth it. Winning a Super Bowl and coming out the first 7 games of this season and just mowing down the competition has proved to me that he is "elite". Is he the best QB in the league? No. But then again, Peyton Manning hasn't played a single game this season.
So San Diego is out for now. Their schedule is not among the easier ones (I'm looking at you, Buffalo), so I'm not sure of their future returns.
That's all for this week. See you next week!