Quick turnaround this week, what with lateness on my part and the first Thursday night game of the season. It's hard to know what to make of Week 9, to be honest, as it was another one where weird stuff happened and teams that we thought were golden looked less like gold and more like urine.
Here are the standings for Week 9:
As you can see, it was a rough week for everyone, but King was the worst off. In spite of that performance, Prisco and I are still a couple wins behind him, a testament to how solid he's been all season. I missed out on a bunch of teams I thought would win, but somehow lost despite looking better coming in and/or being the better team outright.
What really disappointed me were the Pennsylvania teams and New England. I think Philadelphia is done, finally, barring an incredible set of miracles. It also appears that the NY Giants are for real, at least this week. We all know that they tend to fall off in the second half.
Here are the Rankings for Week 9:
1.) Green Bay (8-0) [no change]
Even when facing the supposedly elite Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and co. don't blink. What do they do? Allow a ton of points while intercepting Rivers three times (TWO were pick-six's), including two by Charlie Peprah that broke the game open and won it, respectively. If they can get their points allowed down, great things could be in the offing. Even still, with the defense they've had all season (i.e. not much) they've remained undefeated. My respect for Rodgers has grown tremendously over the last 8 games, I must say. While I derided him as not elite and such, he's won a Super Bowl and come out in 2011 looking unbeatable.
2.) San Francisco (7-1) [no change]
I think we can safely say that the 49ers are not only the biggest surprise, but also the second-best team in the league. They're virutally guaranteed a playoff spot at this point, with a first-round bye easily within reach. Some may be concerned about the remaining East Coast trips they have on their schedule; I look at what they've done so far while in the Eastern time zone and just marvel at it. It's hard to believe how good this team has been in the Eastern time zone. Jim Harbaugh would be a cinch for Coach of the Year if not for Mike McCarthy and his boys going undefeated.
3.) Cincinnati (6-2) [+1]
Earlier in the season, people wondered about Detroit and Buffalo. While Detroit seems to have overcome their hiccup, Buffalo has fallen off the wagon somewhat. Cincinnati has to be viewed the same way; while they've done an admirable job thus far, their schedule tightens up considerably down the stretch, and I think we're all justified in wondering how this team will respond. I don't think they're too high at the moment, these Rankings being what they are. But I would not be surprised to see them fall back slightly.
4.) Baltimore (6-2) [+2]
Were it not for the Patriots crashing and burning, Baltimore's unlikely win over the Steelers would have been my biggest surprise from Week 9. As it is, Joe Flacco and co. did a hell of a job surprising not only the critics, but their opponents in the black & gold. The season series (two games makes a series?) is in Baltimore's favor, but I'm not certain they'll finish with a better record than Pittsburgh. Let's not forget that Cincinnati is in the AFC North as well, and even if they haven't played the difficult part of their schedule yet, a couple unexpected wins could turn the tide for them. That said, Baltimore appears to be one of the better teams in the AFC. If Flacco can keep giving consistent effort, this is probably the best team in the AFC, given the Patriots' lack of defense.
5.) Detroit (6-2) [no change]
Coming off the bye, the Lions get a rematch with Chicago. I fail to see why anything would be different from the last time they played.
6.) NY Giants (6-2) [+3]
I certainly didn't expect a restatement of the surprise win that the Giants pulled on New England in the Super Bowl a couple years ago. If anything, I expected the Pats to run wild and put up 40. Alas, the Giants won and now I have to take them seriously again, even though it remains solid fact that every time I take them seriously, they have an inexcusably bad loss that defines the term "bad loss" (i.e. that honker Eli Manning threw against Seattle). While I don't think the Giants are good, much less the best at anything, they appear to have figured some things out. So let's see where they go from here, shall we?
7.) New Orleans (6-3) [+3]
And just like that, the Saints are back in my good graces. Beating a division rival will do that. On a day when Aaron Rodgers stated his case as elite (and Philip Rivers boldly stated that he isn't), Drew Brees went out and won against the Bucs, a team that had beaten them surprisingly earlier in the season. It appears that New Orleans will eventually claim the NFC South and host a playoff game, I'm not sure about their chances for playoff success. Green Bay looks like such an unbeatable monster, yet the Saints played them tit-for-tat on opening night. Though it seems hard to remember now, that game was one of the best of the season, as I saw it.
8.) Houston (6-3) [-]
Another team that I have little respect and less love for has re-entered the Rankings. Much like the Giants, it would appear that the Texans have figured some things out, even without Mario Williams (an overrated player, at best) and Andre Johnson (a top 5 WR at worst). I'm definitely in favor of the "wait and see" approach with this team; you literally never know what will happen next, even when they look like they're pulling it together.
9.) Pittsburgh (6-3) [-6]
If it turns out that one play defines the Steelers' 2011 season, it may well be the catch Torrey Smith made to win the game on Sunday night. I don't really have any complaints about how the Steelers played; they were pretty awesome, and so was Baltimore. I have some faith that Roethlisberger and the rest will end up with a better record than Baltimore, thus rendering those games moot, but one never knows. This team is also a bit difficult to figure out. Some of their losses this season really defy description.
10.) New England (5-3) [-2]
Hanging on by a thread, seriously.
Finally, a note on the team that exited the Rankings. It was Buffalo (7). They're now 5-3 and looking like they're on a downslope after losing to the Jets in a baffling way. I still feel this team should be undefeated given their cake schedule. We'll see what happens, but I'm not exactly bullish on their chances against Dallas in Week 10. The three-way tie in the AFC East doesn't bode well for anybody either, as all three teams have vast shortcomings that they'll struggle to remedy if they make the playoffs. Honestly, I don't think any of them will do much in the playoffs. One of them will have to host a game, with a Wild Card opponent that likely brings the pain and an upset.
Also, I'm taking the Chargers in the first Thursday night game of the season, for whatever that's worth.
That's all for this week. See you next week!