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!