Welp, the celebration didn’t last long, did it? While our offense put in one of its better days, we watched our defense get gashed time and again on Sunday. It was a game that we really should have won, and that made it all the more painful when we lost. Is the season over? Some have said so, but some of you may also adhere to my football philosophy: It isn’t over till it’s over. In other words, this season isn’t over until the Bills are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. We’ve seen crazier stuff happen in the NFL. Is it really so far-fetched for our Bills, only a game back in the division, to still make the playoffs? Heck, with the way that the AFC seems to be going, 9 wins could snag a wild card spot this season. With how vulnerable the Patriots are looking this year, it’s feasible we could even contend for the division. I will admit, however, that the odds are highly unlikely unless we see a very different team on the other side of this bye week.
In the rest of the NFL, teams aren’t sliding around the rankings as much anymore. We’ve got a good idea who most of these teams are at this point, but we all know things can change quickly in this league. I gave it my best shot, though, and here are this week’s rankings:
Fastest rise: New Orleans Saints (+6)
Steepest fall: Arizona Cardinals (-5)
- Atlanta Falcons (same): Unsurprisingly, the Falcons remain on top during their bye week. They take on the equally rested Eagles to prove they will continue to dominate the league.
- Houston Texans (same): Cruising into the bye, Texans fans have to feel pretty damn good. After stomping the Ravens, this is definitely the best team in the AFC. If I could, I’d tie them with the Falcons.
- New York Giants (same): Eli does what Eli does. There’s no question that Eli is elite at this point, and the defense was up to the task against the explosive RG3 offense. This week gives the Giants a chance for revenge against the clearly inferior Cowboys.
- San Francisco 49ers (+1): After winning in a primetime defensive battle, the Niners get another one against the Cardinals this week on MNF. That should prove a mere speed bump on the road to the division title.
- Chicago Bears (+2): I don’t care about stats. This is the BEST defense in the league. It may be the best defense I’ve seen in the last 10 years. Even if you can manage to gain some yards, the Bears will just take the ball away before you can score. As long as Cutler isn’t giving any games away, this team will challenge anyone.
- Green Bay Packers (+3): The Packers are starting a nice stretch of easy games to build their confidence back up, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t VERY good. Rodgers is back to form. They just need to avoid the upcoming trap that the Jaguars want to set.
- Baltimore Ravens (-3): Having Suggs back is nice, but this defense isn’t very scary anymore. With the offense having consistency problems, we might see a fall from grace in the coming weeks. Their future depends on what they do with the bye.
- Denver Broncos (same): I doubt the Broncos will fool themselves into believing the Saints are a bad team. With Denver coming off the bye, this game could mean a lot for the future of both teams.
- Seattle Seahawks (-3): That defense is still one of the best units in the NFL, but Seattle won’t be able to stand up to elite teams until they can get the offense on track. Russell Wilson got better on Thursday night. The Niners defense taught him plenty of good lessons. We’ll see what he learned against the Lions this week.
- New England Patriots (same): I refuse to move the Pats up for a game that really should have been a loss. Let’s hope this team continues to backtrack. I actually think their game against the Rams could go either way.
- Minnesota Vikings (same): A good win against the Cardinals kept this team firmly in the playoff picture. With the offense catching up to their aggressive defense, I still consider them a challenger for the division.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (+1): The Steelers have an opening now that the Ravens look vulnerable. Still, Pittsburgh has a lot to prove. Containing RG3 this week would help their case.
- Washington Redskins (-1): They really shouldn’t feel too bad for getting schooled by Eli and the Giants. They put up a much better fight than anticipated. Their season is very much alive, and can be helped by proving they are better than the Steelers.
- New Orleans Saints (+6): Is this too bold a placement for a 2-4 team? The fact is that Drew Brees is back to his old ways, and the Saints continue to improve. With Joe Vitt back, some leadership has been restored to a team in dire need of it. There’s a very real possibility that the Saints could win 8 or 9 more games this year. Beating Denver could turn that into a near-certainty.
- Cincinnati Bengals (same): I like leaving the Bengals right here in the middle of the rankings. They’re an ok team that’s just doing alright. The bye week should be spent finding a way to turn up the volume in Cincy, or they’re just going to be an ok team missing the playoffs.
- Philadelphia Eagles (+1): Philly comes off the bye to face the Falcons. Probably not the best starting point for a new Defensive Coordinator.
- San Diego Chargers (+1): The Chargers, however, return from the bye and get the Browns. Even Philip Rivers shouldn’t be able to screw that up.
- Detroit Lions (-4): What happened to the Detroit offense? Matt Stafford’s 5000+ yard season seems long gone now. It’s as if there’s some sort of curse in Detroit. You know. Some sort of… Madden Curse. Oh right! Now I remember. It’s unlikely they’ll look much better against Seattle’s defense.
- St. Louis Rams (same): It’s hard to consider this team a contender for the playoffs, but they’ve kept themselves fighting in almost every game. Snagging one from the Pats would be phenomenal (for them AND for us).
- Miami Dolphins (+1): The Dolphins managed to move into second place in the AFC East by doing absolutely nothing last Sunday. They get a chance to solidify that spot against the Jets this week. I’m gonna go ahead and hope for a tie game.
- Arizona Cardinals (-5): After starting 4-0, this team is on a 3-game slide and is fading fast. Something tells me that losing streak will likely continue against the Niners.
- Dallas Cowboys (+1): Romo had a good day, but running the ball is proving difficult with DeMarco Murray injured. Sunday’s battle was less about who was better, and more about who was worse. The Panthers won… er, lost. I think we know how the rematch with the Giants will go.
- Indianapolis Colts (+2): Beating the Browns ain’t much, but the Colts have at least improved beyond last year. A big divisional win over Tennessee would help keep hope alive in Indy.
- New York Jets (same): I really thought that game was over. I thought the Jets had it in the bag after the fumble recovery on that kickoff. I underestimated, however, the Jets’ ability to beat themselves. Can they recover enough to challenge Miami? No idea.
- Tennessee Titans (+1): Not my favorite team right now. Our defense managed to make Hasselbeck look like a surgeon. I doubt they’ll be able to maintain their recent success, and I hope they choke against the Colts. I never claimed to be objective.
- Buffalo Bills (-4): So the offense looked mostly awesome, which is good. Our main weakness, however, was exploited to no end on Sunday as the Titans gashed our defense repeatedly. I won’t claim to know how to fix things, but the bye provides this team with the opportunity to do what has to be done… whatever that may be.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (same): In the midst of mediocrity, the Bucs have established that Josh Freeman don’t mess around. The guy has been a juggernaut in fantasy football for the last two weeks. Too bad nobody started him. Too bad for the Bucs, fantasy points don’t always translate to wins either. I doubt they’ll get one against the Vikings.
- Oakland Raiders (+3): Good for the Raiders, snagging a win from the equally terrible Jags! In overtime! Barely! They might even continue their success against Brady Quinn and the Chiefs! Why am I yelling?!
- Cleveland Browns (same): They were actually a dropped pass away from beating the Colts, but they have no game with Trent Richardson nursing a rib injury. If Trent can get healthy before Sunday, they actually have a shot at upsetting the Chargers.
- Carolina Panthers (-2): Ok, I’m sorry, but Cam Newton is one of the least professional players in the league, and the LEAST professional QB. Sure, he’s good, and he’ll probably bounce back from this regression in his third year. As it stands, though, I wouldn’t want someone like that on my team. I can’t imagine how he’ll react to being obliterated by the Bears defense this week.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (-1): It doesn’t get a lot worse than losing a 14-point lead to the Raiders. Is anyone watching these Jaguars games? Is there ANYTHING positive to take away from them? I can’t imagine they can come close to beating the Packers this week, but with this league anything seems possible. Does Chad Henne taking over under center make a difference?
- Kansas City Chiefs (same): Coming off the bye, the Chiefs get a chance to stop the bleeding against the Raiders. At this point, though, that might be like putting a band-aid on a severed arm.
That’s all folks! BIG bye week ahead of us this week. I won’t even pretend to know what needs to happen to get this team back on track by Week 9, but I hope it gets figured out somehow. Think happy thoughts and enjoy a weekend of football without the heart-pounding anxiety and stress that comes with willing your team to victory. Just remember, there is a lot of football left to be played before the Bills are counted out.