Power Rankings! Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they exist.
As much as I wish I was including the Bills in this conversation rather than scouring the web for news on our coaching vacancy, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. Dearest Bills Mafia, as devoted football fans there is still excitement in our guts for the prospect of watching playoff football this weekend, even though the Bills aren’t in it anymore. There really is nothing in the sporting world like the NFL post-season, where EVERY game counts and any team is vulnerable. As we prepare for the next month of glorious playoffs, I’ve decided to rank the 12 playoff teams in order of likelihood of winning it all. Take note: That doesn’t necessarily mean these teams are listed in the order of best to worst. I’m just giving my own (meaningless) opinion on how likely it is for each team to end the season with the Vince Lombardi Trophy and a big parade back home.
Without further adieu….
- Denver Broncos: These guys have to be my favorite to win it all. Not only is Peyton Manning imposing his will on opposing defenses, but the Denver defense is having its way with all challengers as well. This is one of the most complete teams I can remember seeing in recent memory. The way this season has gone, anything other than the Lombardi trophy will be a disappointment in Denver.
- Seattle Seahawks: Some may wonder at this placement, but part of it is due to the fact that the Seahawks play in the NFC. Remember, these rankings are for likelihood of winning the Super Bowl. Since the Seahawks don’t have to fight through the Broncos AND the Patriots to get there, I put them at number 2. I believe the Seahawks have the best chance to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, and that’s because no one is playing hotter than they are in that conference. Even with the prospect of facing the Niners or the Falcons on the road, I take Seattle. They’ve matured to the point where they can play their form of dominant football no matter where they are. Russell Wilson plays like a veteran.
- New England Patriots: It’s difficult to not predict a Broncos-Patriots AFC Championship game, and I’m perfectly fine with that. Peyton Manning battling Tom Brady is a rematch that never gets old. The Pats are just so strong in the playoffs, I can’t see any other team derailing them from the Super Bowl other than the Broncos themselves.
- Green Bay Packers: I REALLY hope the stars align and we see the Seahawks play the Packers once more this season. You know the Packers have a score to settle for that Replacement Ref TD/INT fiasco. With the Packers getting healthy they look scary in the playoffs, despite the recent loss to the Vikings. Don’t expect them to lose two in a row, especially when this time it’s at Lambeau.
- San Francisco 49ers: An inexperienced QB is what is keeping the Niners from being higher on this list. I just can’t see Kaepernick making the big plays when it counts. That said, everything else about this team is scary. The defense is still incredible, and you’ll always get production from the offense with Frank Gore on the field. Depth at WR is getting to be a concern, though.
- Atlanta Falcons: I would feel much better about the Falcons if they had rested starters in Week 17, and I’d also feel better if they beat the Bucs as well. Granted, I don’t think they were trying very hard, but it was a questionable day at best. Let’s not forget how explosive that offense is, though. With Matt Ryan capable of lighting up the scoreboard with the help of Roddy White and Julio Jones, the Falcons could beat anyone on a good day. The question is if their next three games are “good days” or not.
- Indianapolis Colts: Call this optimism, but the Colts are looking like the 3rd best team in the AFC at this point. Would I absolutely LOVE to see the Colts go all the way this year, with Chuck Pagano leading the way? Hell yes. Will it happen? Probably not. Andrew Luck is just making too many mistakes to get to the Super Bowl.
- Baltimore Ravens: Resting the starters was a good move, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Ravens have shown a lot of inconsistency of late. While they are capable of big games and big wins, it’s the team that wins big every week that wins the Super Bowl. Since Week 7, the Ravens have played against four different teams that are currently in the playoffs. The Ravens lost all four.
- Washington Redskins: If the Redskins somehow managed to beat the red-hot Seahawks, they could make an unlikely run for the Super Bowl. They only played one playoff team during their 7-game winning streak, but it was still an impressive run. Alfred Morris has quite the future in the NFL.
- Cincinnati Bengals: They started rough, but the Bengals have won 7 of their last 8 games. Granted, there hasn’t been much challenge in the last half of their season, but I could see the Bengals winning a playoff game this year. Not much more than that, though. They have a top 10 defense, but the offense’s inconsistency will trip them up.
- Houston Texans: The Texans last four games were against “playoff” teams. They lost three of them. The way the Texans are playing, most teams have figured them out by now. Against the league’s best, the Texans won’t be able to keep up.
- Minnesota Vikings: I want to rank them higher, but I give the Vikings just about zero chance of beating the Packers in Green Bay. As great as Adrian Peterson is, Christian Ponder doesn’t give the offense enough to allow flexibility. The Packers will be ready for the Vikings this week, and the impressive Vikings playoff run will likely end.
As you might guess, I’m predicting a Broncos-Seahawks Super Bowl, with the Broncos emerging the victor. I know, it isn’t a bold move to pick a #1 seed to win it all, but come on… Have you SEEN that team? Random prediction for some time in the next several years: When Peyton Manning does retire, Brock Osweiler is going to step right in like Aaron Rodgers did after Brett Favre left Green Bay. Is that not the PERFECT situation for a rookie to be in? Expect the Broncos to be in the playoff conversation for the next decade, folks.
Happy Offseason, Bills Mafia! Whether it’s CoachWatch 2013, free agency, or the NFL Draft, I look forward to riding the rolling waves of expectation/anticipation with all of you.
Power Rankings! Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they exist.
Well that was a bust, huh? As we cruise towards a disappointing end to a disappointing year, we can at least be heartened by the fact that our Bills will be around for a while longer. That 10 year extension was GREAT news. As for this year, there is only our redemption against the Jets to hope for. I don’t want any of that “lose for the draft position” garbage, though. I’m spending hard-earned cash (and vacation time) to be there with many of you fine #BillsMafia members this Sunday. I want a hard fought, well-deserved win to close the year, and I want to experience it with the Bills #FAMbase. Plus, it would be really embarrassing to lose to the Jets 3rd string QB.
Fastest Riser: Seattle Seahawks (+5)
Steepest Falls: Houston Texans (-4), New York Jets (-4)
- Denver Broncos (+2): I’ve passed over the Broncos for far too long now, and while other teams have faltered here and there, the Broncos have just continued to win. They just need to beat the laughable Chiefs and that first round bye is theirs. Does anyone in Denver miss Tebow? I didn’t think so.
- Seattle Seahawks (+5): A lot of folks may suggest this is too high for the Seahawks, but few teams are playing ball like they are. In the last three weeks, the Seahawks have outscored opponents 150-30. Offense, defense, special teams, the Seahawks are doing all of it extremely well.
- San Francisco 49ers (-2): Quite the roller coaster that Niners fans are riding the last two weeks. After clobbering the Patriots, they were subsequently clobbered by the Seahawks, and now their division title is in jeopardy. Sure, it will take an epic collapse to lose to the Cardinals and give up the division, but still the Niners weren’t planning on ending the season like this.
- New England Patriots (-2): The Patsies take a hit for clearly struggling against one of the worst teams in the league on Sunday. Of course they’re still very dangerous, but they likely won’t even get a first round bye, even if they beat the Dolphins this week.
- Atlanta Falcons (-1): The Falcons looked mighty fine on Saturday night, but let’s remember how bad the Lions are this year. Fortunately for them, they have nothing to play for against the Bucs with the top seed already locked up. Expect to see a lot of rested starters on Sunday.
- Green Bay Packers (same): This team is admittedly riding a hot streak, but I think their dominance really hinges on the performance of the defense… which hinges on Clay Matthews. If he’s healthy, the Packers are in it. Clay will be spending Sunday trying to keep Eric Dickerson’s record unbroken.
- Baltimore Ravens (+2): That’s the offense that the Ravens want to play with. They amassed almost 300 yards in the first half alone. Even though they already clinched the division, the game against the Bengals feels like the real battle for the best in the AFC North.
- Minnesota Vikings (+3): There you go. Leslie Frazier, Coach of the Year. This week’s game against the Packers is almost a must-win, but playing in Minnesota I think I’d favor the Vikings. Too bad Adrian Peterson probably won’t manage the record this year, but he could probably land MVP as a consolation prize.
- Houston Texans (-4): That offense just doesn’t look dangerous anymore, does it? Even the infamous Texans defense seems a bit less scary these days. Can they even beat the Colts in Indy this week?
- Washington Redskins (-2): They drop a bit due to struggles against the Eagles, but they are still in position to win the NFC East, amazingly enough. The health of RG3 is a concern, but they can’t afford to rest him at this stage.
- Cincinnati Bengals (+1): Guess who is no longer the red-headed stepchild of the AFC North? Get it? Andy Dalton? Anyways… strong play on both sides of the ball have put the Bengals in the postseason, and now they get a chance to knock the division champion Ravens down a peg.
- Indianapolis Colts (-2): Late-game heroics required to beat the Chiefs? The Colts need to be better than that. It would be nice to see them prove themselves playoff-ready against the Texans, but they’re already locked in at the #5 seed. If the starters play, it won’t be for the whole game.
- Chicago Bears (+3): The Bears stay in the hunt with that win, but they need help. First they have to beat the Lions. Then they get to watch the late game between the Packers and Vikings and root for the Pack to win. I’m not sure they deserve a playoff berth at this point, though.
- Dallas Cowboys (-1): Even after a disappointing loss to the Saints, the Cowboys are still sitting pretty with a win-and-they’re-in scenario. The final game of the season will be everything we love about the NFL. Two divisional foes fighting for their lives in prime time.
- New York Giants (-1): All but eliminated from the playoffs, the Giants didn’t look remotely close to competitive against the Ravens. At this rate it’s hard for me to believe they can even finish the season with a win over the Eagles.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (-1): The Steelers defense did what it could this year, but the offense just couldn’t close the deal. That was the story on Sunday as the Steelers held the Bengals to only 13 points, but couldn’t manage more than 10 for themselves. They get to end with a feel-good game against Cleveland, but I imagine Pittsburgh fans will be angry whether they win or lose this week.
- New Orleans Saints (same): We’re seeing glimpses of the playoff team that could have been, but the Saints just couldn’t overcome their early-season problems this year. As long as the organization doesn’t see any huge personnel losses (like Drew Brees somehow leaving), this team should be in the mix in 2013.
- St. Louis Rams (same): The Rams have to feel great about their season. They owned the Niners this year and they came somewhat close to the playoffs. They could even manage a winning season this year, though it would take beating the Seahawks in Seattle (something no team has accomplished this year).
- Carolina Panthers (same): In a win over the Raiders, Cam Newton still managed to look like a spoiled, whiny brat. He got flagged for blowing up at a referee (which he later apologized for), and he got away with kicking an Oakland player in the head (and no apology for that ejection-worthy act is forthcoming). He’s got talent, but he looks like a terrible leader right now.
- Miami Dolphins (+2): Stupid Dolphins. We did plenty to make them look good on Sunday, and now they’re pretty much locked in as #2 in the AFC East (not a big accomplishment at this point). As much as I’d love to see them upset the Pats, we kind of know that won’t happen.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1): What happened to these guys? They effectively had the season that our Bills had last year. They started out looking hot and upsetting big teams… and then everything went to crap. They have a shot to beat Atlanta this week, but that’s only because the Falcons will be resting their starters most of the game.
- San Diego Chargers (+4): The Chargers have actually managed a strong finish to the season, which is amazing considering most of the front office has no job to play for at this point. Of the teams searching for new coaches next year, the Chargers have to be one of the more attractive options.
- Cleveland Browns (same): It’s been up and down for the Browns, but I think most Browns fans are looking forward to next year. Trent Richardson is clearly the big story there, though the jury’s still out on Weeden. They’d sure like to end the season on a high note by upsetting the Steelers.
- Buffalo Bills (same): Oy. Not only have we underperformed this season, but we may end up with an even worse record than last year. It’s nice to see CJ get the ball, but when we turn over the ball like we did on Sunday it doesn’t matter much. We may only play for pride this Sunday, but I still want to get even for that Week 1 embarrassment.
- New York Jets (-4): I have to rank the Jets below us just because of the epic level of dysfunction the Jets manage to produce each week. Even hard-working, ne’er-do-wrong Tim Tebow managed to give up on them this week. With Tebow’s exit all but assured, I can’t blame them for going with McElroy as the starter.
- Tennessee Titans (-1): A blowout loss like that makes you wonder about Jake Locker. Not that he’s getting much help in Tennessee. They get Week 17’s “Garbage Bowl” game against the Jags to find out which AFC South team is the worst at the end of the year.
- Detroit Lions (same): It looks like Calvin Johnson will make even more history this week as he aims to break 2000 yards. Some are talking about “garbage time” yardage for Megatron, but don’t forget that the Lions have been losing a lot of close games. 8 of their 11 losses were decided by 8 points or less. It ain’t garbage time when you’re trying to win.
- Philadelphia Eagles (same): Nice attempt against the Redskins, but the Eagles are still an utter disappointment this year. Michael Vick gets his shot at redemption against the rival Giants, and he better take advantage. His performance this week may determine his future in the league.
- Arizona Cardinals (same): Down to their 4th QB of the season, the Cardinals are eyeing a great spot in next year’s draft. They’ll need it. They have new fans this week, as everyone in Seattle is rooting for them to pull off a highly unlikely upset of the Niners.
- Oakland Raiders (same): The Raiders are on their own QB carousel of sorts, and they have Terrell Pryor sitting on the bench with everyone on the coaching staff telling us how he can’t run the offense. Then why is he on the team?
- Jacksonville Jaguars (same): The Jags deserve praise for taking it to the Patriots early on, but it wasn’t a surprise to see their lead get blown like it did. They’re in the rare situation where they can regain some pride by beating the Titans this week and STILL earn the 2nd pick in the draft. Appreciate the little victories.
- Kansas City Chiefs (same): Here’s another team refusing to quit in the face of adversity, but it would take a miracle for the Chiefs to avoid the top pick in the draft at this point. I suppose that’s good for them at this point.
So that’s it, folks. I’ll post one last Power Ranking next week for the final twelve playoff teams and then my duties are complete. I’ve had a blast writing these, as it has forced be to think about the league in a way I never have before. It was eye-opening, meditative, often cathartic, and sometimes downright uncomfortable. Through it all I hope I’ve provided a little entertainment and a little insight.
Now let’s ground those Jets! Will you be there? I will. You’ll find me in Hammer’s Lot bright and early, and then in Section 127 for the game. I hope I’ll see you there!
LET’S GO BUFFALO!
Power Rankings! Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they exist.
While the apology was a nice sentiment, I’m still pretty riled up at that fake punt by Pete Carroll and his Seahawks. That said, I suppose our team probably should have done more to keep them from dropping 50 points on us. Oh well. Now our mission is to avoid being dead last in the division. We sort of control our own destiny in that aim, since we just have the Dolphins and Jets remaining on the schedule. Here’s hoping!
In other news, I only have one of these rankings left to write. I do, however, plan on ranking the final 12 playoff teams when the season comes to a close. As for this week, the top ten saw a lot of shuffling again due another wild NFL week.
Fastest Riser: Carolina Panthers (+6)
Steepest Fall: Detroit Lions (-8)
- San Francisco 49ers (+4): When you beat the best, you ARE the best. Despite that nasty business with the Rams, the Niners have looked like the best the league can offer, and that was no more true than it was on Monday night. As much as I have criticized the move from Alex Smith to Kaepernick, it turns out the Niners are so good that they’ll win with either QB. They get to prove their dominance against the Seahawks this week.
- New England Patriots (-1): Even looking as bad as they did in the first half, the Patriots still roared back within striking distance and almost stole the game back. Sure they lost. They’re still the Super Bowl favorite for the AFC.
- Denver Broncos (-1): I hate to move Denver down a spot after proving they could beat a top-tier team, but the Niners leapfrogged them. It’s true, the Broncos have three losses against three good teams, but that was all early in the season where the team was still finding its identity. Now they look like an unstoppable force.
- Atlanta Falcons (-1): Shutting out Eli Manning is pretty impressive, though the Giants haven’t looked like the toughest opponents of late. Still, with Roddy White effectively out, the offense still managed to explode against the normally stout Giants D. I REALLY want to see them face the Niners in the playoffs. This week they just get the Lions.
- Houston Texans (-1): That’s how you win a division. There isn’t much the Texans have to do from here to earn a first round bye, though getting home field advantage through the playoffs may require a little work. The Vikings won’t make it easy on them this week.
- Green Bay Packers (same): The return of Clay Matthews means this team is a contender again. Aaron Rodgers even seems to play better when he knows that long-haired, sexy beast of a man is making plays on defense. As shaky as their season began, the Pack now own their division and could actually nab a first round bye if the Niners falter.
- Seattle Seahawks (same): Not only do the Seahawks have a defense, but it turns out they have an offense too. Over 100 points scored in two weeks, and Russel Wilson is looking like the rookie of the year at this point. If they manage an upset of the Niners, next week’s rankings are gonna be all screwed up.
- Washington Redskins (+3): Some may question ranking a team still fighting for playoff hopes as high as this, but a 5-game winning streak shows that this team is getting good at the right time. Beating Philly would improve their divisional record and get them one step closer to the postseason.
- Baltimore Ravens (-1): Speaking of streaks, the Ravens have lost three straight. Sure, they clinched the playoffs, but they don’t look like they’ll be doing much more than that at this point. As bad as the G-Men have looked recently, they are still a threat to the Ravens this week.
- Indianapolis Colts (same): So the Colts aren’t the best in the AFC South. They’re still a playoff-bound team, which is something the fans in Indy can be proud of. They get to pad their record this week against the Chiefs, though their minds are likely already on the rematch with the Texans after that.
- Minnesota Vikings (+1): When the week began, I thought there was no way Adrian Peterson would break the single-season rushing record. Now I’ll be shocked if he DOESN’T break it. The Vikings incredibly old-school ground and pound gameplan is a perfect example of adjusting your coaching style to your team’s strengths. If the Vikings make the playoffs this year, Leslie Frazier deserves Coach of the Year. Oh, they play the Texans next? Oh.
- Cincinnati Bengals (+2): The Bengals now sit in the driver’s seat for the playoffs, and they have a legitimate shot at beating the Steelers and the Ravens in the next two weeks. It’s been a long time since that’s been the case, but this season has shown a shift in power in the AFC North.
- Dallas Cowboys (+3): What can I say? The Cowboys have finally found that wily and elusive beast they’ve been looking for: Consistency. They’ve won three in a row and have a decent shot at the playoffs. This week they play the Saints, though, who don’t seem to be messing around.
- New York Giants (-5): How does Eli Manning get shut out? Suddenly the Giants need a LOT of help getting to the postseason, and I just don’t see it happening. If they can manage to top the Ravens this week, they might keep their slim hopes alive. It’s a question of which faltering team has fallen farther.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (same): What is with Ben Roethlisberger? He had a decent game, but usually the Steelers fans want him throwing the ball with the game on the line. Instead Big Ben threw a terrible, game-sealing interception in overtime. With two straight losses since Ben’s return, do the Steelers look to Charlie Batch against the Bengals? Probably not.
- Chicago Bears (-3): Things are looking BAD in Chicago. Suddenly the Bears are behind the Vikings and seeking tons of help in getting to the post-season. They should beat the relatively soft Cardinals, but even if they get to the playoffs the Bears don’t look like they belong there.
- New Orleans Saints (+4): What a way to bounce back! While shutting out the Bucs doesn’t really matter at this point, we got to see a preview of what the Saints hope to do next year as they try to put Bountygate behind them. They would likely revel in the sweetness of squashing the Cowboys playoff hopes this week.
- St. Louis Rams (-1): Apparently the Rams can beat the best, but they can’t take on the “pretty good.” They KNEW that Adrian Peterson would run the ball, but there was literally NOTHING they could do to stop it. One the big Peterson runs happened when the Rams loaded the box with 8 players. It’s like building a brick wall to stop a train. It ain’t gonna happen.
- Carolina Panthers (+6): The Panthers have won 3 of their last 4, and they’ve beaten the Falcons and the Redskins this year. They deserve a little credit for that. They could add to that success against the Raiders this week.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2): The Bucs have lost 4 in a row and have fallen far since breaking out in the middle of the season. Doug Martin is now being game-planned for, and it’s showing. With the run being stopped, Josh Freeman can’t get much going. They’ve done enough to probably keep their head coach for a year, but not much else.
- New York Jets (-1): It is SO much fun to watch the soap opera that is the New York Jets. Did you see that stretch of plays where Tebow stayed in under center? It was HORRIBLE. It doesn’t surprise me that McElroy is starting next week against the Chargers. How does this team have a better record than us?
- Miami Dolphins (+4): Not surprising that they could beat the Jags, but now they have to face our Bills in Miami. Most people will probably pick the fish in this matchup, but I hope they will be wrong.
- Cleveland Browns (same): Bummer to see the Browns lose, but their easy streak of games is over. After losing to the Redskins, they now have to face the Broncos. Ouch.
- Buffalo Bills (-2): There has to be a lot of rage in that Bills locker room after that loss against Seattle. The much-improved defense did not look so great in Toronto. Fitz had a terrible day. Many players are likely very angry at themselves. Let’s hope all that rage is directed towards the Dolphins this week.
- Tennessee Titans (+2): While that Monday night game was mostly ineptitude on the part of both teams, Jake Locker and his Titans managed to look less inept at the time. Still, Locker isn’t growing as fast as many Tennessee fans would like, and if he doesn’t show significant improvement next year he may be done as a starter. The Packers will provide him a great learning experience, I’m sure.
- San Diego Chargers (-2): Getting blown out by the Cardinals is pretty freaking bad. In less surprising news, Ryan Mathews is out for the season. What? Ryan Mathews? An injury? Impossible! The upcoming game against the Jets may be almost unwatchable.
- Detroit Lions (-8): How does this team have a receiver who is poised to break Jerry Rice’s single season receiving record? Of course Calvin Johnson deserves it, but this is a 4-10 team! In the end, it’s a testament to just how bad the team around Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson has become. This team is getting handled easily by bad teams. I doubt they’re happy to see the Falcons next week.
- Philadelphia Eagles (same): And just like that the Eagles suck again. This week Michael Vick gets to see what an athletic QB should look like as RG3 and the Redskins visit.
- Arizona Cardinals (+3): Where did that sudden offensive production come from? Beanie Wells with 3 touchdowns? Granted, a lot of it had to do with great field position provided by the Cardinals admittedly decent defense. With their losing streak ended, do they have what it takes to beat the beat-up Bears? Probably not, but hey.
- Oakland Raiders (+1): It freaked me out to see the Raiders defense post one of the best fantasy scores of the week… and then I saw it was against the Chiefs and it all made sense. Good for the Raiders in getting a leg up on their lowly rivals. I think the Panthers might knock them down a peg, though.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (-1): They were very nearly shut out by the Dolphins, and that’s pretty darn sad. In response to this embarrassment, their prize is a game against the Patriots. Oh joy.
- Kansas City Chiefs (-3): They’ve fought hard to regain their seat on the bottom of the league, and it can no longer be denied. The Chiefs are the league’s worst, and they will surely spend their draft pick on a QB. With this draft light on QB talent, however, look for them to trade down some spots. Will the Chiefs be our path to drafting Manti Te’O?
So here we go, Bills Mafia! On to Miami to face the Dolphins for the second time this year. I, for one, would love to see us sweep the fish. It would give us Bills fans something to keep us warm at night during the off-season. Something to hang over Dolphins fans’ heads when they start talking trash.
GO BILLS! SQUISH THE FISH! AGAIN!
Power Rankings! Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they exist.
I had to buy a new keyboard to type these power rankings on, because the old one was SOAKED IN TEARS. Yes, even I, in my undying optimism, have come to accept that this is the end of the road for our playoff hopes. I won’t even begin to predict the upcoming off-season moves, but I’d like to think they will make our team better, whatever they will be (there’s that optimism again). There is still much to look forward to, Bills Mafia, no matter how hopeless it seems. In the coming weeks, we could spoil Marshawn Lynch’s day in an upset, complete a sweep of the Miami Fish, and potentially be the team that eliminates the Jets from playoff contention. While my tickets to that season finale won’t hold the magic of a possible post-season berth, I’m still clutching them with excitement at the chance to see my Bills in person with a shot at revenge and redemption for our embarrassing Week 1 game.
This week’s power rankings got pretty jumbled in the top 10, with a lot of unexpected wins and losses.
Fastest Riser: Dallas Cowboys (+5)
Steepest Falls: New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills (all -4)
- New England Patriots (+3): I hate putting the Patriots on top, but who can argue at this point? Their offense is consistently unstoppable, and their defense is somehow getting better every week. Those three early losses are a distant memory now. If the Niners can’t stop them this week, who can?
- Denver Broncos (+1): The Broncos move up as the former top two falter. As great as their winning streak has been, just remember that their 3 losses came to the other 3 teams in the top 4 of this list. This week against the Ravens they get to prove they can beat a playoff team.
- Atlanta Falcons (-2): The Falcons fell in that trap HARD. We all know that the Falcons could play the Panthers 10 times this season, and they’d win 9. Honestly, if I’m a Falcons fan I’m happy. This is exactly the wake-up call they need to keep them focused and working hard going into the playoffs.
- Houston Texans (-2): Matt Schaub could barely complete a play against the Patriots on Monday night. What happened? The Texans were dominated on almost every play, and it wasn’t even the 4th quarter when they effectively gave up. They ran the clock, and starters were benched. It’s not like the Texans NEEDED a win, but losing one more this year could cost them that top seed.
- San Francisco 49ers (+2): Call me crazy, but I still think Alex Smith is the better QB in San Francisco. That said, I’m happy to root for Kaepernick’s continued success. Maybe Alex Smith hits the market and the Bills step in? Ok, I know it’s a longshot… but a guy can dream. Let’s see how that defense stands up to the Pats on Sunday night.
- Green Bay Packers (-1): Green Bay gets bumped down a bit for a less-than-spectacular win. Aaron Rodgers just hasn’t looked his best this year, and neither has the Packers defense. Don’t get me wrong, this is a strong unit, but they don’t quite fit into my top 5.
- Seattle Seahawks (+3): Watching the Seahawks lay the smack down on the Cardinals somehow reminded me of seeing Neo figure out he was “The One” in “The Matrix.” Like Keanu Reeves stopping bullets, the Seahawks forced an insane 8 turnovers and completely shut-out their opponent. Not only are they favored to make the playoffs, but they could actually steal the division from the Niners at this rate. Woah.
- Baltimore Ravens (-2): If you have to point at a reason for the Ravens current 2-game slide, it has to be the defense. While some blame goes to the offense for not executing late in games, that Ravens defense looks almost porous at times. They need a win, but the upcoming Broncos are tougher than the Ravens’ previous two opponents.
- New York Giants (same): It’s admirable how well the Giants play when their back is against the wall, but they really need to work on performing for a full season. I guess it’s just the end of the season that really matters, though. The Giants know that better than anyone. If they really want to impress us, they’ll beat the Falcons this week.
- Indianapolis Colts (-2): To the Colts credit, in an ugly win over Tennessee they’ve put themselves a win away from the postseason. That alone is incredible. It’s tough, however, to believe they’ll go anywhere in the playoffs. They’ve won a lot of very close games against so-so teams. This week’s game against the Texans will either bring the Colts down to earth or prove to us that they can contend.
- Washington Redskins (+2): While everyone in DC is happy to hear RG3 is okay, I don’t think anyone would be terribly concerned if he sat out a game either. Kirk Cousins didn’t blink when the game was put on his shoulders. Everything is going right for this team, and if they squeeze into the playoffs they could be very dangerous.
- Minnesota Vikings (+3): Here’s my case for Adrian Peterson as the NFL MVP: In the last 7 games, Peterson has ran for more yards than his QB has thrown. There isn’t a lot about the Vikings to write home about, but Adrian Peterson (along with his supporting O-Line) makes this team capable of stealing games. There isn’t much room in the NFC Wild Card race, though, and their weaknesses may still keep them on the outside looking in come January.
- Chicago Bears (-1): Brian Urlacher may be getting old, but it’s easy to see just how much the Bears need him anchoring that defense. In his absence, the Bears could do little to stop the Vikings run-game. Late-season Cutler injuries are becoming an annual tradition in Chicago. This upcoming game against the Packers is simply HUGE.
- Cincinnati Bengals (-3): After weeks of riding high, it’s gotta be painful to lose a heartbreaker against the Cowboys. I still think they could edge the Steelers for the #6 seed, but I doubt they’ll go much farther. If they lose to the Eagles on Thursday night, however, that would change everything.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (-1): They get Big Ben back… and lose to the bloody Chargers. For the Steelers’ sake, you hope that poor defensive performance was a fluke. This week’s game against the Cowboys means everything for both teams.
- Dallas Cowboys (+5): Speaking of which, my lack of confidence in the Cowboys took a back-seat this week. Call me sentimental, but I have to give them a lot of credit for the thrilling comeback win amidst a terrible weekend for the organization. Like the Chiefs last week, it was good to see Dallas get the win.
- St. Louis Rams (+3): I’d like to say that we got beat by a contender, but that just isn’t the case. While the Rams are a longshot to make the postseason, they deserve credit for outlasting our Bills like they outlasted the Niners. Also, they’re managing all this without their biggest playmaker, Danny Amendola. With the right moves, this team could be very good in 2013. As for this week, I think Adrian Peterson will be too much for them.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2): The Bucs are in the middle of an epic fall from grace. Only a few weeks ago they were in the driver’s seat for a Wild Card spot. Now they get beat by the Eagles and they sit near the bottom of a long list of Wild Card suitors. Even if they win their last 3 games, it may be too little too late.
- Detroit Lions (same): Yes, their record is worse than several teams below them on this list, but in their current 5-game losing streak they’ve been close to winning each one. Consider this: The Lions’ last four losses were to the Packers, Texans, Colts, and Packers again. All playoff teams. In each of those 4 losses, the margin of victory was 7 points or less. This team is better than their record, though I’m sure they aren’t comforted by that fact. They finally get a softball this week against the Cardinals. They’ve GOT to win that one, if only to heal their wounded pride.
- New York Jets (+3): The absolute WORST part of this weekend was that everything happened right for the Jets. Not only did they beat Jacksonville, but they got losses by the Bengals and Steelers (something that would have helped us too… if only we had won). A deep, dark part of me wants the Jets to do well from here… so we can officially eliminate them and crush their dreams in Week 17. MWAHAHAHAHAH!!!
- New Orleans Saints (-4): Yeah, so my prediction for a Saints playoff run looks pretty stupid right about now. It blows my mind how BAD Drew Brees has been this year, especially after an unprecedented 2011 season. They’d like to stop the bleeding against Tampa Bay this week.
- Buffalo Bills (-4): As much as it sounds like a cop out, injuries were what did us in on Sunday. Sam Young and David Snow actually deserve a lot of credit for performing well in their first start against an aggressive Rams defense, but Eric Wood is not easily replaced. This was especially apparent in the ground game, which was surprisingly and painfully stagnant. On the bright side, it looks like Snow and Young will get some much needed experience in the coming weeks. Depth at O-Line is important. We’ve learned that the hard way.
- Cleveland Browns (+1): Should I feel good for the Browns or bad for the Bills that both teams share the same record? It says a lot about preseason expectations when you look at the reactions for each team. We’re 5-8 and pissed. The Browns are 5-8 and ecstatic. The Browns don’t have any easy games left on their schedule, though. They close out the season with the Redskins, the Broncos, and the Steelers.
- San Diego Chargers (+1): As surprising as the victory over the Steelers was, the Chargers are still having a terrible season. You can’t have continued success in this league when your feature running back averages 2.6 yards per carry. The Chargers organization also proved it has no class with its preemptive announcement of the eventual firing of Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith. At least wait until the end of the season, man.
- Carolina Panthers (+3): Can I say they got lucky? They got lucky. Condescension aside, Cam Newton appears to be recovering from his terrible start in his second year. I expect his third year to be significantly better, given what we’re seeing at the end of the season. They could beat the Chargers and keep Cam smiling.
- Miami Dolphins (-4): They started with a decent defense in the first half, and then all hell broke loose. Reggie Bush is putting on “Meh” performances and Tannehill just needs WAY more experience. I still don’t understand how they let Brandon Marshall go. They finally get a winnable game against the Jags, but I could see them losing this one too.
- Tennessee Titans (-1): Jake Locker didn’t have a great game, and Chris Johnson had an even worse one. They also got handed an interception that shouldn’t have counted, and they still couldn’t when on one of Andrew Luck’s worst days. This team is playing so poorly, I’d pick the Jets to beat them.
- Philadelphia Eagles (+4): Nick Foles somehow became the clutch performer of the week on Sunday. In a game where the Eagles had almost NO run game, Foles carried the team and looked like Peyton Manning in the process. 381 yards, 2 TDs, no picks. Something tells me Vick is done in Philly.
- Kansas City Chiefs (-2): Welp, back to crap go the Chiefs. Besides their very first play (an 80 yard TD for Charles), the Chiefs could barely generate an offense, and they made the Browns look great in the process. Peyton Hillis probably wasn’t happy to be back in Cleveland. This week they get a chance to prove they’re at least better than the Raiders.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (-1): If you’re wondering how bad the Jags are, they’re currently 0-3 against the AFC East, and besides the Pats we don’t exactly have a strong division this year. They could make it 0-4 against the Dolphins.
- Oakland Raiders (-1): Yep. About what you’d expect from the Raiders. I suppose some credit is deserved for hanging with Denver for a bit, but we all knew how it was gonna turn out on Thursday night. Darren McFadden has gone from “Run DMC” to “Calmly-Stroll DMC.”
- Arizona Cardinals (-1): Holy freaking cow that was bad. I mean, where does a team even go from here? Looking at the draft, listing Arizona’s needs, you just list EVERY offensive position, along with several defensive ones too. Oh, and list QB twice. I don’t think you can even fire Ken Whisenhunt this year. It’s hard to blame him for being handed a team with zero QBs.
Have you SEEN the schedule this week? Lot’s of really big games with MASSIVE playoff implications. Broncos-Ravens, Colts-Texans, Giants-Falcons, Packers-Bears, and Niners-Patriots… Hell, even Vikings-Rams could help decide the playoff race in the NFC. Even with the Bills playoff hopes effectively over, there’s a lot of good football to watch this week. When the late games come around, though, my eyes will be squarely on Toronto and our brewing upset of the Seahawks. LET’S GO BUFFALO! SLAP THOSE SEACHICKENS!
Power Rankings! Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they exist.
A dominating win! Finally! Alex Carrington and Jairus Byrd showed up big for our defense, and I think we can stop all the Mario Williams jokes at this point. Ever since the bye, he’s really proven his worth to this football team by making huge plays. Also showing his worth was our man, Freddy Jackson! In all that rain I had a feeling CJ would have problems making cuts like he normally does. Freddy’s downhill running had no troubles. Also it was nice to see Paul Posluszny back at the Ralph. He deserves credit for being a big playmaker on that Jags defense, but it (thankfully) wasn’t enough to beat us on Sunday.
Onward to rankings!
Fastest Risers: Kansas City Chiefs (+5), Green Bay Packers (+4)
Steepest Falls: Chicago Bears (-4), Arizona Cardinals (-4)
- Atlanta Falcons (same): Convincing victory over the only team that managed to beat them this season. They only need two wins to seal the top seed, and this week’s game at Carolina is pretty much a given. Expect well-rested starters when the Falcons hit the playoffs.
- Houston Texans (same): Similar story for the Texans, though they need three wins to guarantee their top seed. Tennessee could do much to stop them, but this week the Texans face the Patriots. That’s one hell of a Monday night game.
- Denver Broncos (same): Von Miller is shaping up to be the league’s next Ray Lewis. There’s really nothing he doesn’t do exceptionally well, and he’s making a VERY strong case for Defensive MVP. With superstars on both sides of the ball and a favorable schedule, it’s easy to predict the Broncos will get a first round bye.
- New England Patriots (+1): They’ve been taking it to lesser teams for most of the year, absolutely embarrassing many of them (our Bills included). Now we get to see if the Patsies are ready for playoff caliber football. It’s very possible that we’ll see this Texans-Patriots matchup again in the near future.
- Green Bay Packers (+4): The Packers move up a lot, but primarily because so many teams above them faltered this week. It’s hard to forget how bad they looked against the Giants last week. When Clay Matthews gets back to the field, however, other teams better watch out. Time for them to show consistency against the Lions on Sunday night.
- Baltimore Ravens (-2): Really? Outgunned by the old man, Charlie Batch? Sure, the Steelers are a stellar defense, but Flacco’s 47% completion rate is a concern. This is a team moving in the wrong direction, and they need to turn around fast if they want a chance against the Redskins. If Charlie Batch was a handful, imagine what RG3 will do to the Ravens.
- San Francisco 49ers (-1): That’s what you get, Jim Harbaugh! That’s what you get for screwing with your QBs! If he’s smart, Harbaugh ends the Kaepernick experiment this week. He couldn’t manage a single win in two games against the Rams, despite the superior team around him. That first round bye is theirs to lose, and they might just lose it at this rate. The Dolphins aren’t great, but the Niners can’t take them lightly at this point.
- Indianapolis Colts (+2): Can you even IMAGINE what Andrew Luck is gonna look like in a few years? Every owner is jealous of Jim Irsay right now. He can sit back and watch for the next decade as his team is almost guaranteed to improve every year. Luck is that guy you build a team around, and they’ve already got a great start.
- New York Giants (-2): When Eli Manning can’t come up with a game-winning drive in December, you know something’s seriously wrong with the Giants. He’s gotta fix things fast, because the Saints still have a lot to prove this week.
- Seattle Seahawks (+2): Another rookie taking his team places with clutch performances (on the road, no less) is Russell Wilson. With the playoffs in sight, despite the temporary loss of their starting corners, the Seahawks get to come home to host the Cardinals. If I had to pick a “Lock of the Week,” this would be it.
- Cincinnati Bengals (same): Another solid win puts the Bengals in great shape for the playoffs, though those final two games against the Steelers and Ravens loom large. Crazy fact: There are only three QBs in the history of the league to throw 20+ touchdowns in their first two NFL seasons. Those QBs are Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, and… Andy Dalton. That ginger is legit.
- Chicago Bears (-4): Here’s another team getting worse as the season moves on. The Bears’ greatest asset, the defense, has looked softer of late. They’ve lost three of their last four, which has all signs pointing to a late-season collapse. They’ve already lost the lead in the division to Green Bay. With Brian Urlacher likely out for the rest of the season, they could feasibly lose their playoff hopes as well in the coming weeks.
- Washington Redskins (+3): Robert Griffin III is the big story in DC, but the truth is that the big win over the Giants on Monday night was largely due to the defense. London Fletcher has quietly led the charge for the Redskins, and his work is really showing. Can the new and improved Redskins take on the Ravens and win?
- Pittsburgh Steelers (+3): I did not see that coming. Tons of credit goes to Charlie Batch and the Steelers coaches for managing to topple the Ravens with the team’s two biggest leaders on the bench. If they can do that without Big Ben, maybe hope is not lost in Pittsburgh.
- Minnesota Vikings (-2): I suppose we knew they were underdogs against the Packers, but 210 rushing yards by Adrian Peterson should result in more than just 2 TDs by the Vikings offense. When the rest of his team steps up, Christian Ponder seems to take a step back. They have a chance to help themselves against the Bears this week, Ponder needs to fight when his team needs him to.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1): Josh Freeman is a great up-and-coming talent in the league, but this week the Broncos showed us that Freeman has a lot more to learn. To get back in the playoff hunt they need to handle the Eagles and get Doug Martin back to making plays.
- New Orleans Saints (-3): Despite the two losses in a row, the Saints aren’t out of the hunt yet, so don’t expect them to lie down for the Giants. Surprisingly it’s Drew Brees, not the Saints defense, making these games hard to win these days.
- Buffalo Bills (+2): FINALLY a convincing win. I think that’s the first win all year where I felt comfortable in the 4th quarter! Freddy came through in the rain and really showed us how important he is when CJ is having a tough game. I wish the Rams didn’t look as scary as they do right now.
- Detroit Lions (-1): Matt Stafford’s face at the end of that game pretty much said it all. After losing two incredibly close games in a row (though this one they actually DESERVED to lose), this team is completely drained. For their sake I hope they can find their motivation again in Sunday night divisional battle against the Packers. You know what a Prime Time game for the Lions means, right? Ndamukong Suh is probably getting fined again.
- St. Louis Rams (+3): Called it! While I was also kind of rooting for another tie, it was nice to see the plucky little Rams get a big win like that. Their playoff hopes are as slim as ours, so expect them to put up a fight against our Bills.
- Dallas Cowboys (same): I don’t care if they’re 6-6 and looking to steal the division from the Giants. The Cowboys are BAD, and beating the much worse Eagles isn’t going to win respect from me. Tony Romo does NOT deserve the accolades he consistently receives. I’d honestly take Fitz over him at this point. Not joking.
- Miami Dolphins (-3): Remember that tough stretch of games we had in the first half of the season? Yeah, the Dolphins are getting that now. After being trounced by the Patriots, they get to visit a Niners team with a lot of aggression to work out.
- New York Jets (-1): That win was so bad, the Jets move down a spot. When you couldn’t imagine the QB drama for the Jets would get any worse, it did. Enter Greg McElroy and his one touchdown. The Jets owner is actually publicly endorsing McElroy for the starting position, which I’m sure Rex Ryan just LOVES. Meanwhile Tim Tebow may have just slipped further down the depth chart and into pop culture memory.
- Cleveland Browns (+1): And just like that Cleveland has a 2-game winning streak! They can even extend it against the Chiefs this week! I still don’t buy Weeden as the answer in Cleveland, but any future Browns QB will be happy to have Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon making his job easier.
- San Diego Chargers (-1): That’ll do it for the Chargers’ playoff aspirations (and Norv Turner’s job) this year. Ryan Mathews was supposed to be the next big thing in San Diego as long as he stayed healthy. This year he’s healthy, but he ran for 26 yards on Sunday. Try again, San Diego.
- Tennessee Titans (same): Jake Locker’s got one more year to learn how to avoid throwing 3 INTs in a game (like he did against the Texans). Otherwise the Titans are probably gonna start looking for new blood. Locker should pay attention to Andrew Luck in this week’s game.
- Kansas City Chiefs (+5): This is probably a little high for the Chiefs but I don’t care. Given the weekend they had, the Chiefs locker room showed that they have plenty of heart left in them. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them upset a few teams from here on out. There was nothing good about the tragedy in Kansas City. It takes an incredible team to turn it into something positive.
- Carolina Panthers (same): On the other side of all that, it had to SUCK to be the Panthers coming into a game like that. They knew, just like the rest of us, that most of the country was pulling for the Chiefs. Hell, a few Panthers fans probably were too. Plenty of people will be rooting for the Panthers to upset the Falcons this week, but I don’t think that will change the outcome much.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (same): Yes, we beat them soundly, but credit is due to Cecil Shorts. That guy threatens to bust the game wide open every time he gets the ball. I’m picking the Jags to beat the Jets this week. I would love to be right.
- Oakland Raiders (same): After making the Browns look good, the Raiders get to face the AFC West champion Broncos at home. What used to be a hotly contested rivalry is turning into a joke. One thing is almost guaranteed at this point: The Raiders coaching carousel will continue.
- Arizona Cardinals (-4): After that ugly loss to the Jets (and a Chiefs win), the Cardinals are co-owners of the worst active losing streak in the league (8 in a row). They play the Seahawks in Seattle this week, so you might as well make that 9 losses.
- Philadelphia Eagles (-1): Also on an 8-game losing streak (and with an even worse record) the Eagles can’t beat anyone these days. Bryce Brown is admittedly impressive, but then his fumbles and Nick Foles and that defense just take ALL the air out of those sails in Philly. They’re hoping to upset the Bucs, but I don’t think even that would silence the booing from their fans.
So the Rams. The Rams who just beat the 49ers. Those Rams. We didn’t get a whole lot of help from other teams in the race for the wild card, so there’s no room for error here. We MUST win out. We CAN win out. Like Picard says, MAKE IT SO.
LET’S GO BUFFALO!
Aaaand crash… back to earth. Credit to Indy and Andrew Luck for the win, but I think it’s clear that we aren’t getting as much out of our talent as we should in Buffalo. Who’s to say what or why, but something’s amiss. The players and the coaches all know it. Changes, they are a-coming. All we can do as a FAMbase is rally behind our players and keep them fighting. What do we do as Bills fans when all seems hopeless? We show up to the games, records be damned. I know our players feel the same way, and they’ll feel it even more so when they come back home to a loud crowd at the Ralph this week.
Fastest Riser: Indianapolis Colts (+6)
Steepest Fall: Pittsburgh Steelers (-8)
- Atlanta Falcons (+1): Matt Ryan completed over 80% of his passes and the defense held off the dangerous Tampa offense to squeeze out yet another win. Winning the next few games is key, because it could mean resting their starters as early as Week 15. Thursday night against the Saints is an opportunity to prove they can win in the spotlight.
- Houston Texans (-1): This drop in the rankings is based on the fact that they really should have lost that game to the Lions. Multiple blown calls (including the ridiculous challenge rule) kept the Texans in the game, despite the way the defense was getting beat. This is still a phenomenal team, but they weren’t good enough to beat the Lions on Thanksgiving, regardless of the final score.
- Denver Broncos (same): Arrowhead stadium is still a difficult place to win a game, even against the now-defunct Chiefs. The Broncos handled business, but they can’t give up plays like that against the Bucs this week.
- Baltimore Ravens (same): RAY. FREAKING. RICE. Few players can will a team to victory like he did. It really shouldn’t have come to making a 4th and 29 conversion against the Chargers, but victory is victory. The upcoming game against the Steelers doesn’t carry much bite without Big Ben to worry about.
- New England Patriots (+2): Welp, I’ve probably kept the Patriots out of the top 5 for long enough. They are frustratingly good, and their margin of victory is by far the best in the league. I despise them, but they seem unstoppable these days. To think we were ONE PLAY from beating them. At least we can rely on them to knock the Dolphins back down to earth… or water, I guess.
- San Francisco 49ers (same): I can’t move the Niners up this week because it’s impossible for me to condone what Jim Harbaugh’s doing with his Quarterbacks. I’d like to see if anyone tracks stats for a QB’s performance prior to being benched. Alex Smith’s last 2 seasons rank in the top of the league… and he’s getting benched in the middle of a playoff run?
- New York Giants (+3): The Giants are clearly done with their midseason slump. The Packers were left in the dust by the second half, which is hard to do to the Packers. Beating the Redskins on Monday night would all but decide the division.
- Chicago Bears (same): Jay Cutler could be one of the most underrated QBs in football. During his time in Chicago he’s dealt with no receivers and no protection, and he still puts them in contention every year. Imagine what this team would be if they had an O-Line and a slot receiver to complement Marshall.
- Green Bay Packers (-4): Mason Crosby may be seeing his last year in Green Bay, or the league for that matter. The Packers in general are under-performing this year, though if Clay Matthews comes back then the defense gets its soul back. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been imposing his will during the last two games, but I don’t doubt he’ll be back to form before the year is over.
- Indianapolis Colts (+6): Our defense did not play Indy soft, and I have a new respect for the phenomenon that is Andrew Luck. The guy just creates plays, and not in the scrambling, “pulling 20 yards out of his butt” way. Whether with his arms or with his feet, Luck appears in perfect control of the game. I don’t think ANYONE picked Indy in the playoffs before the season started. Now they’re poised to cruise into a wild card.
- Cincinnati Bengals (+4): The Bengals have collected two things during the last few weeks: Maturity and wins. This young team is looking stronger every week, and they’ll be hard to unseat from a wild card spot at this point. If they do see the playoffs, however, I don’t think they can stand toe to toe with the big boys.
- Seattle Seahawks (-1): The Seahawks’ road woes continue. While 5-0 at home, they are 1-5 on the road, and their road trip continues against the unforgiving Bears. Winning would significantly help them earn a wild card spot. One note, though: They’re winless in their division, so they don’t win any tiebreakers. They need to solidify that record now.
- Minnesota Vikings (-1): You would expect the Vikings defense would show up against that thin Bears line, but they couldn’t stop Cutler and Marshall. Peterson had over 100 yards but no TD’s to show for it. Compare that to Michael Bush’s 60 yards and 2 scores and you can tell who wins. Can they leapfrog the Packers this week?
- New Orleans Saints (-1): The loss to the Niners was a nasty speed bump, and now the Saints need to prove that beating the Falcons wasn’t a fluke. No better time to do that than prime time.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1): Fortunately for all the NFC wild card contenders, pretty much everyone lost, including the Bucs. They did all they could against Atlanta, execution at the end was the issue. No one expects them to beat the Broncos this week (which is a decent reason to think they might).
- Washington Redskins (+4): That’s how to make progress! RG3 took command of that game early, and the whole team (including London Fletcher) had a hand in putting the Cowboys away. 5-6 and having won 2 of 3 divisional games, there’s still a lot of hope in DC. The Ravens may squash that hope pretty fast though.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (-8): Ben Roethlisberger just earned more money in his next contract and a lot of respect by doing almost nothing. This is a hamstrung team without (dare I say it) an elite QB leading it. How else could you describe a guy player who leaves such a profound effect in his absence? Remember last year’s Colts without Peyton?
- Detroit Lions (same): I won’t drop them a spot for effectively beating the Texans in a loss. Jim Schwarz needs to glue that red flag to his belt so it’ll at least take him some time to make such a terrible decision. A loss like that can gut the spirit of a team. I’m curious if Matt Stafford can maintain his composure and lead his team in the way he has for the last couple weeks.
- Miami Dolphins (+2): Surprise, surprise! It turns out using Reggie Bush is a good idea after all! While the Dolphins set their sights on a wild card spot, I’m eager to see these fish get squished by the Pats this week.
- Buffalo Bills (-1): AAAUGH! If you’d like a bright side, Colin Cowherd gave a good description of our team on SportsNation, saying that our players are significantly better than our record. I agree. Can we at least beat the Jags? Please?
- Dallas Cowboys (-4): And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you choke. It’s difficult to attribute the almost superhuman inconsistency the Cowboys have shown to any one cause. I mean, they are like the football version of bipolar disorder. One day they’re confidently dominating some of the league’s best, and the next day they’ve forgotten how to call plays. Sheesh.
- New York Jets (same): Oh, those Jets got SPANKED. Did you SEE Fireman Ed??? DID YOU SEE HIM? It really reminds you what you’re thankful for.
- St. Louis Rams (+3): Not too shabby, St. Louis. Steven Jackson is a Mack Truck on the field. This week we get a rematch of “THE TIE.” Am I crazy for thinking Kaepernick will choke and the Rams will steal a win at home? Perhaps.
- San Diego Chargers (-1): I would start by praising the Chargers defense for keeping the Ravens under 20 points, but then there’s that 4th and 29 play. How do you let that happen? They have a chance against Cincy this week, but I think Norv Turner may be too busy writing his resume to coach.
- Cleveland Browns (+3): That performance deserves a slow clap. Cleveland moved the ball on the stiff Steelers D, and the Browns defense completely stonewalled the run. The Steelers’ top rusher of the game was Jonathan Dwyer with… wait for it… 19 yards. They could make it 2 wins in a row against the Raiders!
- Tennessee Titans (-2): After being all excited about Jake Locker getting back in the mix, the Titans were stunned by Chad Henne’s gunslinger game. I’m pretty sure they just want to skip the game against the Texans.
- Arizona Cardinals (-2): Remember when we were really proud of beating that undefeated Cardinals team? Yeah. They haven’t won since then. Now they have the same record as us! One thing we know for sure: The starting Cardinals QB for 2013 is not currently on their roster.
- Carolina Panthers (+2): Cam Newton seems to like prime time quite a bit. Granted, pretty much NO ONE watched that whole game. I mean, The Voice was on, and then there was the Daily Show and Colbert later on. Sorry Cam. No one’s watching your game against the Chiefs either.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (+2): Chad Henne? Really? Suddenly this guy is Jacksonville’s savior, and he actually does deserve some credit. He’s getting things done on that field. With two weeks to go on, Dave Wannstedt better have a hell of a game plan for this guy.
- Oakland Raiders (-1): I’m pretty confident Carson Palmer hates Cincinnati. Not just the team or the fans. I think he hates the entire city and every single resident in it and he hopes he never, ever has to go there again. I also think the feeling is mutual.
- Philadelphia Eagles (-4): I just look at Andy Reid on the sidelines and my bottom lip starts trembling. I really think the Eagles should just fire him now for his own good. With what he’s had to deal with this year, he doesn’t deserve to go through the painful process of answering to the city of Philadelphia for the crimes committed by his football team. Get him the hell out of there and let him spend time with his family. Man. Now I’m all depressed.
- Kansas City Chiefs (same): There is not, however, anything more depressing than the Kansas City Chiefs. Now the unquestioning rulers of the league outhouse, the Chiefs are facing serious upheaval in the coming months. I think it’s safe to say that Brady Quinn needs to save his money and dig up whatever degree he got in college. He’s gonna need it because I don’t see any teams picking him up after this season. Nice guy, though.
So what now? Is the season over? I say NO. We are only 2 games back from the #6 seed with five games to play. Our schedule is favorable. Our team won’t quit. 3 of our last 4 losses were by one score or less. The Bills CAN make the playoffs this season (with help). That’s enough reason for me to keep hope alive. GO BILLS! KICK THOSE KITTIES!
OH YEAH! While the offense had its struggles, the defense came up HUGE for Buffalo and its fans. Bills Mafia definitely represented the team well on Thursday night, and I recognized several members in the crowd as I watched from my living room in Connecticut. The season is far from over, but we got some help as the Steelers and Colts (the current wild card contenders) both lost. Those two and the Bengals are the only wild card contenders ahead of us, and we get a chance to gain ground on the Colts this week.
Fastest Riser: Buffalo Bills (+6)
Steepest Falls: Chicago Bears (-5), St. Louis Rams (-5)
- Houston Texans (+1): There is something to be said for trap games, I suppose. In the Texans’ defense, good defenses are usually good because they are well-coached and they have good game plans. They couldn’t game plan much for the unexpected heroics of Chad Henne and Jalen Parmele. When it was on the line, though, Matt Schaub proved he could carry the team.
- Atlanta Falcons (-1): Matt Ryan has thrown 12 interceptions this year, but 8 of them happened across 2 games. He’s having a great year overall, but when he has a bad game it’s BAD. The Falcons just barely avoided dropping two in a row, but now they face the fiery Bucs.
- Denver Broncos (+1): A year ago, losing Willis McGahee would’ve been devastating. Today, it’s merely an inconvenience for the Broncos. It’s absolutely amazing to watch Peyton Manning talk to his teammates on the sideline, and if anyone can get them to a championship, he can.
- Baltimore Ravens (+4): I predicted the Ravens defense would be bad this year, but Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed are making me eat my words. They have the inside track to a first round bye, but they’ll likely have to be perfect from here to keep the Broncos from stealing it.
- Green Bay Packers (same): The Packers looked a little shaky coming off the bye, but they got the job done despite Mason Crosby’s worst game ever. They’re going to need to clean up their game if they want to beat the well-rested Giants.
- San Francisco 49ers (same): Colin Kaepernick may have just earned himself a starting job with another team next year, but I think they should (and will) stick with Alex Smith in San Fran. Frank Gore and the defense helped make Kaepernick look better than he may actually be (see Matt Flynn and Matt Cassel).
- New England Patriots (same): I guess we should have expected Brady and Belichick to clobber a rookie QB and a rookie Head Coach. I’d really love for them to choke against the Jets on Thanksgiving, though.
- Chicago Bears (-5): While Jason Campbell is clearly a big step down from Jay Cutler, that game served to highlight the Bears biggest weakness: That terrible O-Line. They are literally a good left tackle away from being an elite team, but they’ll likely keep falling short until they fix that problem.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (same): If Roethlisberger started on Sunday night, I think the Steelers would’ve won. The defense did everything it could to help Byron Leftwich by holding the Ravens’ explosive offense to 13 points, but it wasn’t enough. They should bounce back quickly against the Browns.
- New York Giants (same): Fresh off the bye, the Giants face the Packers in the most intriguing game of the week. Both teams are eager to make the late season push to the playoffs, and they both have close divisions that won’t give them much room for error. All Eli wants is to remember what throwing a touchdown feels like.
- Seattle Seahawks (same): After a nice rest, the Seahawks get the flailing Dolphins in Miami. This would be a great time for Seattle to show they can win on the road, huh?
- Minnesota Vikings (+1): Also well-rested, the Vikings take on the Bears this week. You can imagine Jared Allen is salivating at the chance to devour the Bears’ O-Line. With a win, they can actually switch places with Chicago in the division standings.
- New Orleans Saints (+2): While their record is hardly the best, the Saints have played some of the best football in the league for the past two weeks. Now they get their chance to prove they’re true playoff contenders against the Niners.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (same): Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson gave the clutch performance of the week as they refused to lose to the Panthers. They should probably work on putting away bad teams early, though. This week they aim to prove they can beat the NFC-leading Falcons.
- Cincinnati Bengals (+1): The Bengals have proven they can beat bad teams. Given their next four games (Raiders, Chargers, Cowboys, and Eagles) they could be in position for a wild card with two games left. Too bad their last two games are against the Steelers and Ravens.
- Indianapolis Colts (-4): Andrew Luck learned a lot on Sunday as he looked like a rookie through all four quarters. I’ll be looking for him to continue his rookie play with the Bills defense in his face this Sunday.
- Dallas Cowboys (+1): Beating the Browns in OT isn’t exactly impressive, but somehow the Cowboys are 5-5 and in the hunt for the playoffs. I’m thinking their dreams may be crushed by the Redskins this week.
- Detroit Lions (-1): The story for the Lions all year has been about failing to execute. They had several chances to get a huge boost by beating the Packers and they just couldn’t do it. If they could just get the passing game AND the running game to succeed in the same game, they could win a few more. As it stands, they seem to only get one or the other.
- Buffalo Bills (+6): I’ll be the first to say that this ranking is very generous for my Bills, but I’ve given it in anticipation of continued success. Suddenly our biggest weakness turned into our biggest strength as the defense played outstanding football on Thursday night. Getting Freddy back will make the offense just as good, and who knows what could happen then? Did you know we are 2-0 against rookie QBs this year?
- Washington Redskins (-1): Yep, they lose a spot in a loss, but the Eagles were so bad on Sunday I think the Chiefs could’ve beat them. A hard-earned win against the Cowboys this week would do wonders for their slim postseason hopes.
- Miami Dolphins (-1): What happened to Reggie Bush? It’s like the best player on the Dolphins has just disappeared for the last two games, and it seems to be largely due to Coach Philbin simply not using him. I mean, there’s making a point, and then there’s sabotaging your own team. This falls into the latter category.
- New York Jets (+5): The Jets finally managed a convincing victory, ending their 3-game slide. Sanchez had a surprisingly effective game, and Bilal Powell has emerged as a great red-zone running back. It’s not often we root for the Jets, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them steal a win over the Pats.
- San Diego Chargers (same): Something tells me Norv Turner’s departure from San Diego will be celebrated with a huge party. What’s even crazier is that Philip Rivers could be replaced next year too. The Chargers season likely continues to slide against the Ravens.
- Tennessee Titans (same): The Titans glide off the bye and into Jacksonville, though the suddenly dangerous Jaguars may be more than the usually-soft Titans defense can handle.
- Arizona Cardinals (-3): Does anyone know why Ken Whisenhunt benched John Skelton? He wasn’t injured, that’s for sure. Yes, he started the game terribly, but so did Matt Ryan and you didn’t see him get benched did you? Some how the Cardinals coaching staff felt an untested rookie was the better choice, and they paid for it. I honestly think the Cards would’ve won it if Skelton was allowed to fight through his difficulties.
- St. Louis Rams (-5): That was just pathetic. It’s understandable to have trouble against a pretty good Jets defense, but to let Mark Sanchez complete 75% of his passes is the sign of a bad team. Their game against the Cardinals looks to be the most boring game to watch in Week 12.
- Philadelphia Eagles (-1): And just like that, fans in Philly are pining for Michael Vick again. What they REALLY need is an O-Line. The current QB protectors are competing with the Bears for worst in the league. Their Monday night game against the Panthers looked intriguing 10 weeks ago. Not so much now.
- Cleveland Browns (same): I’m almost always rooting for the Browns this season. They’re like our cousin just a few hours away. They also know what it’s like to be trampled by the rest of their division year after year. Letting the Cowboys beat them, however, shows they still have a ways to go.
- Oakland Raiders (same): This is a team that knows how to lose convincingly. I mean they don’t just get beat, they get STOMPED. The Carson Palmer deal continues to look less and less beneficial as the season wears on.
- Carolina Panthers (same): Really, how bad do you have to be to give up a two-score lead with about 4 minutes left in the game? If they can’t beat the Eagles in prime time, they might as well start planning their draft picks.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (+1): Where did that come from? Chad Henne is a clear upgrade from Blaine Gabbert, and suddenly Marcedes Lewis and Justin Blackmon are legitimate threats. Jalen Parmele comes out of nowhere as the answer for the Jags ground game. Sure, they lost, but suddenly this team doesn’t look like the pushover we all thought they were.
- Kansas City Chiefs (-1): That didn’t last long, did it? Yes, the Chiefs regain their esteemed position at the bottom of the rankings. A good QB could really make the difference in KC. It looks like they could be in prime position to get a new one in 2013.
Time to show that we can put together a big win on the road! I’m convinced that if we can put enough pressure on Andrew Luck, he’ll make the mistakes we need him to make. With Fred Jackson hopefully returning to the lineup, our offense should be back to its old self.
LET’S GO BILLS! CRUSH THE COLTS!
That was an absolutely gut-wrenching loss, and it was strange that it came with one of the most complete performances by our team this season. I know you can’t get hung up on bad officiating, but I really think those horrible calls in the first half gave the Patriots the edge they needed to beat us, despite the fact that we were simply playing better than them. Look at the yardage and the time of possession in that game! We ran that game, but it just came down to a couple key plays and dumb penalties that kept us from victory. Can we improve? Hell yes. Is the season over? NO. The easy stretch of the schedule is upon us, and while it doesn’t look as easy as it did at the beginning of the season (see the Colts and Seahawks), every one of those games is winnable. Given the way we played the last two weeks against two playoff teams, I don’t see any reason why we can’t go 6-1 or 7-0 to finish the season. Granted, 9-7 or even 10-6 doesn’t guarantee a playoff spot, but it puts us in position to compete for one.
Now on to the rankings!
Fastest Riser: Dallas Cowboys (+6)
Steepest Falls: Miami Dolphins (-4), Detroit Lions (-4)
- Houston Texans (+1): Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new king. In a huge defensive battle, the Texans proved they could hit just a little bit harder. Most impressive was Arian Foster’s ability to put up over 100 yards against that Bears defense. No other team looks more complete at this juncture.
- Atlanta Falcons (-1): The offense is still astoundingly good, and Matt Ryan had a career day. The game could have gone either way, but the Saints proved just too much in the end. The only thing keeping this team out of the top spot is a defense that needs to get a little bit better. Look for them to come back with fire against Arizona.
- Chicago Bears (same): To keep it within one score against the Texans with your backup QB playing is pretty damn good. This is a VERY good team that simply got beat by a better one.
- Denver Broncos (+2): Peyton Manning continues to be superb without fail. The defense and special teams are getting even better. The way the Broncos Train is picking up speed, they could top this list by the end of the season.
- Green Bay Packers (same): The Packers come off the bye to face the Lions, who aren’t exactly a pushover. If Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson can continue their incredible chemistry, they should roll over Detroit.
- San Francisco 49ers (-2): A TIE? Really? Admittedly, they deserve it because they just refused to make any plays. Kaepernick is a serviceable backup, but if Alex Smith remained in that game, I’m positive the Niners would have won.
- New England Patriots (+1): Congrats to the New England Referees for that win. Er… Patriots, I mean. Patriots. Besides a few playmakers, their defense is terrible. They won’t last long in the playoffs if they can’t fix that. They still look much more vulnerable than they have in the past. We can only hope that they just lose from here on out. Please?
- Baltimore Ravens (+2): In a rare game where Ray Rice wasn’t able to get anything going, Joe Flacco put the team on his back. With 4 touchdowns (3 by air, one with his feet), Flacco led the Ravens to a blowout of the Raiders. Now they just need to be consistent and put Pittsburgh away.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (same): Almost losing to the Chiefs is bad. Potentially losing Big Ben for a few weeks is worse. Their season may hinge on how bad Ben’s shoulder is. A loss to the Ravens would be a HUGE setback.
- New York Giants (-3): Eli Manning now has three consecutive games without a touchdown. How does that happen? They must spend the bye figuring out how to get Eli his groove back.
- Seattle Seahawks (same): Thank goodness we aren’t facing these guys in Seattle. They are unstoppable at home. To be elite, however, they need to prove they can win on the road. They get to spend the bye figuring out how.
- Indianapolis Colts (same): Beating Jacksonville is kind of a “gimme” at this stage. The Colts impressive 4-game winning streak is in jeopardy this week against the Patriots.
- Minnesota Vikings (+1): When Adrian Peterson is running well (which is often), Christian Ponder plays his best games. This one was no exception, and Ponder did an amazing job spreading the ball evenly among several receivers with a 75% completion rate. They’ve got to feel great going into the bye like this. Note: The Vikings are 2-0 in divisional games.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1): The offense struggled, but that just meant the defense and special teams got a chance to step up. Carolina likely doesn’t look forward to playing the Bucs, who are looking like a surprisingly complete unit.
- New Orleans Saints (+3): A lot of folks will say that the Saints win over the Falcons was a trap game. I beg to differ. Drew Brees and the offense are firing on all cylinders, and even the defense is making big plays when it needs to. I’m calling it here: The Saints are stealing a wild card spot.
- Cincinnati Bengals (+1): It’s hard to give a ton of credit to the Bengals when the Giants played SO badly. Playoff hopes were kept alive, though, and they’ll likely continue fueling those hopes against the Chiefs.
- Detroit Lions (-4): Given an opportunity to make real progress, the Lions choked. Megatron had 207 yards receiving, but the ground game couldn’t get going. That window to the playoffs is closing fast, and the Packers come to town next.
- Dallas Cowboys (+6): I’ll give the Cowboys some love this week, but it’s for their defense, not their offense. Romo just can’t be consistent enough for this team to succeed, and it blows my mind that people are still picking them to go to the playoffs. If they lose to the Browns I will laugh and laugh.
- Washington Redskins (same): Coming off the bye, the Redskins are looking to place the ailing Eagles firmly in the bottom of the division. They need to grab wins where they can get them to stay in the hunt.
- Miami Dolphins (-4): The Dolphins managed 3 points against one of the worst defenses in the league. That about sums it up. Let’s hope they continue that kind of performance on Thursday night in Buffalo.
- St. Louis Rams (same): For all intents and purposes, the Rams had that game won. The long pass to Danny Amendola would have put them in position to win, and it got called back on a meaningless illegal formation call. Still, the Rams looked pretty good on Sunday. Having Amendola back gives them a chance to surprise teams again.
- Arizona Cardinals (same): A lot of Cardinals players probably wish they could just extend their bye week and skip a matchup with the Falcons that does not lean in their favor. The Falcons will be angry and looking to take out some aggression. I doubt the extra rest will help the Cardinals respond to that.
- San Diego Chargers (-3): Philip Rivers threw one of the worst picks I’ve ever seen on Sunday. The Chargers just keep finding a way to lose, and in a few short weeks they’ve gone from contender to longshot. Beating the Broncos would put them firmly back in contention, but that seems like wishful thinking at this point.
- Tennessee Titans (+3): Since when did Tennessee have a defense? Chris Johnson is officially out of his slump, which actually gives the Titans a chance to be in every game. Jake Locker completed less than half of his passes, but he still managed 2 touchdowns on the day. The bye should be spent on Locker’s accuracy, and trying to reproduce the defense that showed up Sunday.
- Buffalo Bills (same): The thing is, we should have won that game. We were a play away from being a game out of first place. Yes, a loss is a loss, but the Bills looked more complete than they have all year. If we play like that in every game from here on out, and cut down on the penalties, we won’t lose again.
- Philadelphia Eagles (-3): Shame on Andy Reid and the Eagles front office for failing to put together ANY protection for their QB. They focused so much on making big, shiny additions at the highly visible skill positions, they never took the time to get real talent on the O-Line. I’m starting to believe that Vick is better than his stats this year. Tom Brady would even look like Brandon Weeden behind the Eagles line.
- New York Jets (-1): While our Bills have joined the Jets on a 3-game losing streak, the Bills are showing improvement. The Jets, on the other hand, are in free-fall. Get this: People are still making a case for them making the playoffs. If the Jets have a chance, dammit, so do we.
- Cleveland Browns (same): With Trent Richardson rested, the Browns have a legitimate chance to upset the Cowboys this week. They might as well settle in to their role as spoiler now.
- Oakland Raiders (same): The Raiders defense gave Joe Flacco one of the best games of his career on Sunday, proving just how bad they are. The offense is ok, but they continue to suffer from the curse of RB injuries. The Saints won’t go easy on them.
- Carolina Panthers (same): Let’s all look back at that ridiculous newspaper ad Mr. Kalil made. Maybe NFL players will learn their lesson about Super Bowl predictions? Probably not. After Cam Newton got sacked for that safety, I immediately wondered if the Panthers keep a psychiatrist on staff. That guy’s gonna need some serious counseling.
- Kansas City Chiefs (+1): Congratulations to the Chiefs for getting their first lead of the season! Too bad they couldn’t hold on to it. Hidden in the muck, there is a decent defense and a good running back in KC. In a year or two they could contend if they play their cards right. For now, though, they’re the frontrunner to pick the first QB in the 2013 draft.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (-1): NEWS FLASH – Rashad Jennings is NOT Maurice Jones-Drew. Also, you know you’re having problems when your coach is getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. In a laughable game this week, the league-worst Jags are playing the league-best Texans. That one’s gonna be hard to watch.
So chin up, Bills Mafia! Let’s represent the team well in our one and only primetime game during the regular season! The Dolphins represent a chance to turn the season around hard. A tweet I saw earlier today put it best: The playoffs start this week for the Buffalo Bills. Let’s get behind them as they rise to the challenge. GO BILLS! SQUISH THE FISH!
Hello there, friends! How are you on this fine day? Well, I’m just fantastic, thanks for….
Aw, hell. Who am I kidding. A loss is a loss, and I am just as bummed as the rest of Bills Mafia. That said, I think there were some good things we saw on Sunday and this looked like an improved Bills team. That’s not saying much, I realize, but I’ll take what I can get right now. The Texans are arguably the best the AFC has to offer, and we held our own against them. Other teams have done much worse. I’m hoping this all translates into wins down the line.
As for the rest of the NFL, I have to admit it is getting much harder to do these rankings week after week. I don’t know if anyone’s actually reading them, but it is an exercise of willpower to perform a weekly comparison between your own team and all the others, especially when your team isn’t having a great year. Don’t worry, though. I won’t quit. I’ll ride these ridiculous rankings until the season ends.
Fastest Riser: Indianapolis Colts (+8)
Steepest Falls: New York Giants (-4), Philadelphia Eagles (-4)
- Atlanta Falcons (same): People continue to talk about how the Falcons have only beaten one “good” team, but going 8-0 doesn’t just happen. This is a very good team that has all but locked up their division.
- Houston Texans (same): Many will argue that Houston wasn’t playing very well on Sunday, but I say the Bills were the ones keeping themselves in that game. The Texans are no joke, and they have easily the top defense in the AFC.
- Chicago Bears (+3): This team, however, has the top defense in the league without question. I’m not sure if I’ve EVER seen a defense this good. They are poised to break all sorts of defensive records, which is saying a lot in a time of record-breaking offenses. Sunday night’s Bears-Texans game is looking like the matchup of the season.
- San Francisco 49ers (same): The Niners come off the bye to face the Rams at home. That defense will likely steamroll Sam Bradford.
- Green Bay Packers (same): The Packers are floating into the bye feeling great after recovering from the disappointing start to their season. I bet all the other teams are unhappy at the Packers’ chance to get Jordy Nelson healthy again.
- Denver Broncos (+1): Amidst all the talk about Peyton, a lot of people are overlooking a Denver defense that’s doing pretty well for itself. They’re in the top third of the league in almost every defensive category. While not a spectacular group, this defense is a large part of the Broncos’ success.
- New York Giants (-4): Wow. Eli looked very NOT-Eli in the 4th quarter on Sunday. Even with a couple freebie calls from the officials that clearly changed the course of the game, the Giants still couldn’t put the Steelers away. We’ll call it a fluke… for now.
- New England Patriots (same): I’m sure the Patriots are feeling great coming off a bye to face our Bills at Foxboro. Wouldn’t it be nice to do to their fans what they did to us? REVENGE.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (+1): Another team who started out rough, the Steelers are fully restored to contender status. They get a softball of a game on MNF against the Chiefs. How is that a primetime matchup?
- Baltimore Ravens (-1): Beating the Browns almost counts as a bye week, and there are simply other teams looking better at this point. The Ravens seem like they’re on a downward slope, despite the strong record.
- Seattle Seahawks (+1): Did you know Russell Wilson has yet to throw a pick at home? The way the Seahawks play in Seattle, they have a fighting chance to see the postseason. They just need to work on those road games. Fortunately they’re at home against the Jets this week.
- Indianapolis Colts (+8): “Chuckstrong” is a real thing. This team has rallied around Chuck Pagano, and they are now in control of their own destiny. Who expected that at the start of the season? Not I.
- Detroit Lions (+1): True, the Jags didn’t put up much of a fight, but the Lions have put up two convincing victories in a row. The offense is finally starting to click, and this divisional matchup against the Vikings will mean everything for their future.
- Minnesota Vikings (-3): See above regarding their matchup against the Lions. While Adrian Peterson is kicking all sorts of butt, Christian Ponder is starting to show a sophomore slump. Their season started great, but they need to stop their recent slide quickly or they’ll be spectators in January.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (same): Doug Martin for Rookie of the Year? I can dig it. If he keeps playing like he has, he deserves the recognition. While I don’t think this team could challenge any of the elite teams, their schedule gives them a real shot at a wild card. No one wants to face that offense right now.
- Miami Dolphins (-3): Close but no cigar against the Colts. They still have the weapons (and schedule) to fight for their season, but I don’t think it will be enough. They get the Titans this week, giving them an opportunity to keep hope alive.
- Cincinnati Bengals (-1): Remember when the Bengals had a defense? Those days are gone, and the offense is showing uncharacteristic inconsistency. If they had a franchise running back, they could really open things up.
- New Orleans Saints (same): That win on MNF simply proved that the Saints deserve this admittedly generous spot on the rankings. My prediction: They upset the Falcons this week and make a big jump on this list.
- Washington Redskins (-2): Mike Shanahan’s comments have to be a bit disconcerting to the Redskins faithful. Production from their two big rookies (Alfred Morris and RG3) has waned recently, and the defense has been horrendous. They’d rather not have this many problems going into the bye.
- San Diego Chargers (+5): I’ll give the Chargers a healthy amount of credit, not for beating a terrible team but for looking like they usually look around this time of the season. If the Chargers are going to pull one of their late-season comebacks, this is the time to start. They better be ready for the Bucs.
- St. Louis Rams (same): The Rams come off the bye to face their demons against the Niners. They probably have no chance… but stranger things have happened in the NFL.
- Arizona Cardinals (same): Their bye comes on the tail of a 5-game losing streak after they won their first four. I have a hard time believing they will fix their problems in a week.
- Philadelphia Eagles (-4): After watching a full game of the Eagles’ offense, I can now appreciate how much Michael Vick’s job sucks. I don’t care who you put in there, they won’t do much better when they’re getting hit on every play. That O-Line (including D. Bell, a former Bill) is terrible. They can’t keep one of the most nimble QBs from getting sacked, and they can’t open lanes for LeSean McCoy. That’s bad.
- Dallas Cowboys (-1): Some people still think the Cowboys have a season left, and that’s really hard for me to accept at this point. Sure, they get the Eagles this week, and a win would look great, but they’re sure to balance that out with a loss down the line.
- Buffalo Bills (-1): I’m gonna say that we saw an improved Bills team on Sunday. Not improved enough to beat the Texans, unfortunately, but improved nonetheless. I think we have a legitimate chance against the Patriots, though we’re clear underdogs. Even a loss doesn’t eliminate us, but it does put us in a “must-win” situation for the rest of the year.
- New York Jets (same): The Jets fly out of their bye to visit Seattle, which will not be a leisurely trip. That Seahawks defense is sure to embarrass whichever QB the Jets happen to use.
- Tennessee Titans (same): The Titans got absolutely creamed by the Bears. Here’s hoping they have recovered enough to challenge the Dolphins and their stout run defense. Chris Johnson’s return may have only been temporary.
- Cleveland Browns (same): Weeden threw two interceptions to the Ravens and the Browns kicked 5 field goals. That is usually not a formula for victory. They’ll spend the bye licking their wounds and maybe scouting some college talent.
- Oakland Raiders (same): Their top two running backs now have high ankle sprains as they take on a well-rested Ravens defense this week. Their bye week has already passed. No miracle is forthcoming for the lowly Raiders.
- Carolina Panthers (+1): It’s nice to get a break from Cam Newton’s tears for a change, but this team is still quite bad. Their job doesn’t get any easier against the Broncos.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (-1): They were bad with MJD. Without him they don’t seem to stand a chance. They probably aren’t looking forward to showcasing their ineptitude on Thursday night.
- Kansas City Chiefs (same): Philip Rivers, in the middle of one of the worst seasons of his career, managed a 90% completion rate against the Chiefs last Thursday night. I wonder how they expect to slow down Big Ben (in one of his best seasons) on Monday night.
And there you have it. Bring on those diva Patriots! Let’s embarrass them in their own house! If the Cardinals can do it, so can we! LET’S GO BUFFALO!
So the bye week cometh, and the bye week, um… goeth. Now we’re left with nine more games to decide the fate of this Bills team. I can only hope that we become the big story in the second half of the season as we set up a nice winning streak and surprise all the doubters. Mario’s got a fresh new wrist, the focus is back in Buffalo, and maybe… just maybe… we’ll get a little of that Fitzmagic back.
As for the rest of the league, there were a few big shakeups in my rankings. Enjoy!
Fastest Risers: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+12), Miami Dolphins (+7)
Steepest Fall: San Diego Chargers (-8)
- Atlanta Falcons (same): I don’t know how Vegas had the Eagles winning that game. Matt Ryan has significantly matured this year, and the Falcons are now winning big games on the road. They hadn’t won in Philly since 1988. This looks like the year they finally win a playoff game, and maybe more.
- Houston Texans (same): After some rest, the Texans come off the bye to face our Bills. We can only hope for severe overconfidence in Houston. Maybe then our boys can surprise them.
- New York Giants (same): It wasn’t a pretty end to their game against Dallas, but a win is a win and the G-Men firmly hold the crown in the NFC East. Pittsburgh poses a tough challenge this week.
- San Francisco 49ers (same): Last year’s Niners were amazing. While the defense remains dominant, this year’s Niner offense has shown significant improvement over last year. It’s very easy to imagine them in the Super Bowl. They might as well spend the bye going to Disneyworld or something.
- Green Bay Packers (+1): The Packers move up one for the consistent play from Rodgers & Company. The Cardinals likely won’t put up much of a fight.
- Chicago Bears (-1): Sorry Chicago, but you move down one spot in a win because it shouldn’t have been that close against the Panthers. That offense should be dominating lesser teams, but Cutler’s terrible protection continues to make that difficult.
- Denver Broncos (+1): Peyton Manning is officially 100%. If anything, Peyton is even better than he was before his injury. Now that the rest of the Broncos are learning how to play in Peyton’s offense, this team will likely be a contender for the next few years.
- New England Patriots (+2): DANGER! The Patriots actually looked like themselves in London. If they keep playing like that, the rest of the AFC East is getting left in the dust. Let’s hope it was just jetlag for the Rams that caused them to get so handily stomped. Maybe after the bye, the Pats will forget how to play again.
- Baltimore Ravens (-2): The Ravens spent their bye watching other teams look better than them. They probably aren’t sweating their upcoming match against the Browns, though it is a big opportunity to prove they’ve fixed the run defense. Otherwise Trent Richardson is gonna prance all over the field like a gazelle.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (+2): A LOT of people picked the Redskins going into this game. That Steelers defense looked like it had lost some bite, and RG3 seemed like too much for them. Turns out the Steelers swarmed Griffin like angry bees. Get it?
- Minnesota Vikings (same): I’m not willing to condemn the Vikings for losing to a surprisingly good Bucs team. They are 5-3 and they still have a great defense. They’re in the mix for the playoffs after 8 games, which is way more than anyone expected from them.
- Seattle Seahawks (-3): The Seahawks have impressed me much less in recent weeks. That strong defense didn’t look too great against a Detroit team that has had difficulty producing points. This week brings the battle of the surprise teams: MIN@SEA. Time to find out who is for real and who is just pretending.
- Miami Dolphins (+7): Who saw this coming? Miami is 4-3 and has looked like a balanced team over the last few weeks. Tannehill continues to impress. I REALLY hope they take a nose dive in the second half of the season, because they’re looking confident right now.
- Detroit Lions (+4): Matt Stafford has returned! For a while, Stafford was collateral damage in Megatron’s Madden Curse, but on Sunday he proved he has other receivers to throw to. Titus Young may as well start calling himself Starscream. You know, Starscream? One of… the other Decepticons… hangs out with Megatron a lot…. Don’t judge me.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+12): I don’t know what Schiano did, but a few weeks ago the Bucs decided they were done playing like crap. Doug Martin can’t be stopped. Josh Freeman is a fantasy stud. Ronde Barber (who’s like 60 now) is probably going to the Pro Bowl. The NFC is a tough conference these days, but continued play like this could get this team to the postseason.
- Cincinnati Bengals (-1): The Bengals are hoping they found that fire they had last year during their bye week. The Broncos won’t exactly go easy on them.
- Washington Redskins (-4): So much for “explosive offense.” Now everyone’s drawing comparisons between RG3 and Cam Newton in advance of their battle this week. If you want to see how different these guys really are, watch their post-game interviews after a loss. If I had to pick which one has a better future in the NFL, I’d go with RG3 in a heartbeat.
- New Orleans Saints (-4): Welp, there goes the hope in New Orleans. Even if they win out, they’re going to need a lot of help to earn a spot in the playoffs. Joe Vitt can only hope that he does a decent job for the rest of the year. Maybe he can earn a head coaching job elsewhere next year.
- Philadelphia Eagles (-3): Michael Vick managed to protect the football, and yet blame still rains down on him for Sunday’s loss. The real blame lies with that Eagles high-priced secondary that couldn’t do a thing against the Falcons offense. Of course, the blame doesn’t seem to ever land in the right spot in Philly these days.
- Indianapolis Colts (+3): It isn’t an incredible feat to defeat the Titans, but Luck and the Colts did it. A divisional win is a pretty big deal in the tumultuous AFC. The Colts have the chance this week to get an advantage over one of the other AFC wild card hopefuls, the Dolphins. I say, GO COLTS!
- St. Louis Rams (-2): The Rams got the ultimate lame deal this week. London was CLEARLY not a home game in any way for them. Despite the NFL’s best efforts, there were too many Patriots bandwagon fans in London. I’m not saying they would have had a much better chance in St. Louis either, but still… pretty lame deal.
- Arizona Cardinals (-1): The Cardinals defense actually performed well considering the way the Niners offense was clicking. If the Cardinals had ANY offense to speak of, they might have been in that game.
- Dallas Cowboys (-1): It doesn’t matter how good you look in the second half if you open the game with a turnover-festival in Dallas. Romo and the gang still lack the discipline to contend in the NFL.
- Buffalo Bills (+2): At least we’re not the Jets! With Mario’s wrist surgery done and the team refocusing on what it needs to do, I feel comfortable bumping our Bills up a couple spots. We’re going to find out real quick if the right changes have been made.
- San Diego Chargers (-8): What a terrible performance. An interesting result of the disappointing Chargers season may be the release of Philip Rivers. I once would have clamored for the Bills to pick him up in that case. Now, I’m not so sure.
- New York Jets (-2): The Jets were OWNED by the Dolphins on their own turf. You wonder if Tony Sparano will eventually just put in Tebow to shut people up. He’s got the whole bye week to consider it. Everyone, however, is ignoring the fact that the whole Jets team is failing to perform, not just Sanchez.
- Tennessee Titans (-2): After a couple weeks of decent wins, the Titans defense proved it couldn’t keep up. Vick Ballard put them on the wrong side of a SC Top Play, and now the Titans must face a Chicago defense that won’t give them an inch.
- Cleveland Browns (+1): These guys have to be riding high after upsetting the Chargers, but don’t be fooled. They’ve still got a long way to go. Trent Richardson is legit, though. He’s likely salivating at the Ravens defense.
- Oakland Raiders (-1): I don’t care that they won. They beat the worst team in the league. What would you expect? The Browns beat someone better, so they move up and Oakland moves down. If they beat the Bucs, I’ll give them credit. Until then they stay here.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (+1): Word on the street is that the Jags are looking to trade for Tebow. They tried to nab him during the offseason but couldn’t. I honestly think they need to just stick with Gabbert for another year and try to actually give him a team to work with.
- Carolina Panthers (-1): There are no excuses for this. When asked about his sideline behavior, hanging his head on the bench after mistakes, Cam said that’s how he normally responds to those situations and it’s nothing out of the ordinary. THAT’S THE PROBLEM. Look at ANY great QB and tell me what they do after a mistake. No, I’ll tell you what they do. They talk to their coaches, talk to their players, look at the playbook, and focus on the next drive. LEAD YOUR TEAM. Jeez. #RantOver
- Kansas City Chiefs (same): I kind of feel bad for the Chiefs. There is really nothing they can do at this point. I mostly blame coaches and the front office for the atrocious situation this team is in. With Quinn injured, they just have Matt Cassell at QB. That’s it. Their backup against San Diego, assuming Quinn isn’t cleared to play, will be Ricky Stanzi. Good luck.
Here we go, Bills Mafia! Time to forget the last 8 weeks and focus on cheering our Bills on to victory! Nothing is a foregone conclusion in this league. We can steal one from the Texans, and Mario will probably be eager to put on a show for his former team. LET’S GO BUFFALO!