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!