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!