Alas, my dreams of a win over an elite team have been crushed. At this point, our only chance seems to be winning our last 7 games, as I doubt anyone will have a shot at the playoffs in the AFC without a 10-6 record or better. Is that realistic? Maybe, maybe not. I still think we’re on the right path. I actually like Jeff Tuel, and I think he performed well considering what was asked of him and where he is in development. Personally, I’d love to see Manuel and Tuel (the -uel brothers) remain our primary and backup QBs for years to come. It would take a little time for them to mature, but then we’d have a pretty solid core to our offense. With the release of Matt Flynn, it seems the coaching staff agrees. Now that EJ might be back, anything could happen. With some grit (and a little luck) we could see an improbable run over the next several weeks. Here’s hoping!
1. Kansas City Chiefs (same): I’m not gonna hate on the Chiefs for beating us ugly. 9-0 is 9-0, and I’d like to give our Bills credit for playing them tough. The Chiefs took advantage of the opportunities we gave them. That’s the hallmark of a good team… unfortunately.
2. Denver Broncos (same): They cruise off the Bye with John Fox out for a while. Jack Del Rio takes over with former head coaching experience. Good thing this Peyton Manning team pretty much drives itself. San Diego is hardly a push-over, so the Broncos need to fly out of the gate.
3. Seattle Seahawks(+2): I overheard a conversation at work with someone saying the Seahawks aren’t a playoff or championship caliber team since it took late-game heroics to beat one of the worst teams in the league (the Bucs). Besides the fact that a win is a win, all any team has to do is GET TO THE PLAYOFFS by any means necessary. How you play at THAT point will determine if you win the Super Bowl. 2007 Patriots vs. Giants is a perfect example. The regular season is one monster… the post-season is another.
4. New England Patriots (+4): Speaking of the Patsies… I couldn’t leave them out of the top-5 anymore without feeling dirty. We knew the Patriots had to weather the storm of their early schedule so Brady could develop chemistry with his receivers. Well guess what? They did. They’re 7-2 entering the bye, and now they look scarier than ever.
5. New Orleans Saints (-2): Facepalm. How could the Saints let the JETS, of all teams, beat them. Right after trouncing us, no less! They get the Cowboys in New Orleans, so they should bounce back on Sunday night.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (-2): And here lies ANOTHER team that failed to beat our division rival shortly after beating us. With the Browns looking revived, this team needs to get things in order or lose their best shot at going deep into the post-season in years. Baltimore is next.
7. San Francisco 49ers (same): Fresh off the Bye, the Niners get Carolina in a hot-streak. This could be one of the biggest games of the week, with two young, mobile QBs trying to prove themselves.
8. Indianapolis Colts (+1): Another ugly win, but it feels better when it’s divisional. Indy gets St. Louis this week, but it looks like exactly the type of game they could lose. Consistency will be key for Andrew Luck.
9. Detroit Lions (+1): On the back of the Packers’ misfortune, the Lions gain a spot during the Bye. They get to battle Chicago this week for the top spot in the NFC North. How did this game not get flexed to prime time?
10. Green Bay Packers (-4): I wouldn’t have pushed the Packers this far down, if not for the loss of Aaron Rodgers. With a battle looming against the Eagles, the Packers can’t afford to lose any ground in their division. With the NFC West likely owning one Wild Card spot this year, the race for the other spot will likely focus on the NFC North.
11. Chicago Bears (+3): McCown has proven himself a decent backup, but the real reason the Bears are seeing success is the rebirth of Matt Forte. As long as the coaches keep giving him the ball, the Bears have a chance. McCown needs to avoid mistakes, though, or the Bears could end up a 10-6 team that misses the playoffs… again.
12. Dallas Cowboys (same): Beating the Vikings is about what we expect from the Cowboys at this stage. It says something about how this team has grown… that they’re actually winning the games they’re supposed to win. Of course, now they get the Saints on Sunday night, who are sore from being embarrassed by Geno Smith.
13: Carolina Panthers (+2): The Panthers smell blood. With the Saints loss, the Panthers are only a game back in their division. They’re on a 4-game winning streak going into the game against the Niners, but it’s important to note that those four wins were against teams that live at the bottom of my rankings (Vikings, Rams, Bucs, Falcons).
14. San Diego Chargers (-3): Well that was a bust. The Chargers offense continues to impress, but the defense failed to contain the Redskins ground-game. Beating Denver would be a MASSIVE statement.
15. Cleveland Browns (+2): Jason Campbell saves the day? For a team that has seen constant bad luck at the QB position, the Browns are finally having some luck. From Brian Hoyer to Jason Campbell (and even Brandon Weeden again when he has to return), the Browns are getting excellent performances at the most important position. 4-5 at the Bye isn’t amazing, but these guys seem poised for a late-season rally.
16. Arizona Cardinals (same): After their Bye, they get the Texans… who have something to fight for this week.
17. Baltimore Ravens (-4): The loss to the Browns is proof that the balance of power has shifted in the AFC North. Now they get another attempt at the Bengals… but I’m guessing the men in orange are gonna bring all the rage from their loss to the Dolphins.
18. New York Jets (+1): Stupid Jets. Enjoy your stupid Bye week.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (+2): As much as Nick Foles deserves credit for exploding last week, I’m gonna file this one away in the “The Raiders are THAT bad” category. Still, the Philly crowd is now firmly behind Nick Foles. He might even beat the Packers (but don’t forget they’re without Rodgers).
20. Miami Dolphins (+3): Stupid Dolphins. I hope the Bucs embarrass you.
21. Buffalo Bills (-3): ARGHH! The one takeaway from that game, in my opinion, is that we would have won if EJ was at the helm… and guess who’s back?
22. Washington Redskins (+6): The NFC East is hardly won, and the Redskins have a chance for a late push this year. RG3 clearly hasn’t pushed past his early season woes, but the rest of his team is finding a way around that. They get an easy game against Minnesota on Thursday night… or at least it SHOULD be easy.
23. Tennessee Titans (+2): 4-4 at midseason is a big victory for the Titans, considering recent history. They face the Jags this week, which almost guarantees win number 5. They can win consistently if Chris Johnson is running well. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening often.
24. Houston Texans (-4): That was easily one of the worst nights in Texans history. Not only did they give up a huge lead against their division rival, but they lost their head coach at half time. Arizona offers them an opportunity to prove they can still be relevant, but you wonder how much a win will matter.
25. Atlanta Falcons (-3): It’s official. The mighty have fallen. The upcoming game against the Seahawks was probably highlighted on a lot of schedules at the start of the season. Now it looks like a snoozer.
26. New York Giants (same): The Bye week wasn’t great for the Giants, who watched the rest of their division win all their games. With their hole looking very deep, the Raiders could provide a foothold for one last attempt at a streak.
27. St. Louis Rams (same): The Rams have firmly been delegated the title of “spoiler” from here on out. Their chances at the playoffs are slim to none, but they have the drive to surprise some teams. That pass-rush is GOOD in St. Louis. Andrew Luck better watch out.
28. Oakland Raiders (-4): As electric as Terrelle Pryor is, he paled in comparison to Nick Foles on Sunday. That Raiders defense couldn’t do ANYTHING to stop Foles. They’ve got to feel ok going against the train-wreck Giants, but even Eli Manning could have a blast gashing this team for big yards.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers (same): Confirmed. The Steelers can’t stand toe-to-toe with the big teams. Hopefully they can’t stand with our Bills either. Please let us win ONE GAME convincingly!
30. Minnesota Vikings (same): The fact that this was a playoff team last year is just sad. The Thursday night game against the Redskins just seems like another opportunity for embarrassment. Imagine what could happen if Adrian Peterson gets a good QB in the draft next year.
31. Tampa Bay Bucanneers (same): I award ZERO credit to the Bucs for blowing that lead and losing the game. They played half of a decent game, while the Seahawks played some of their worst ball all year. Then the Seahawks stiffened and the Bucs… well… buckled. If they’re going to improve on that performance, what better time than now, against the Dolphins?
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (same): Even in the Bye week, the Jags are clearly the worst team in the league. The Jags ONLY legitimate receiving threat, Justin Blackmon, is suspended for the rest of the season due to substance abuse. That’s right. I know it didn’t seem possible, but the Jaguars got WORSE during the Bye.