After ten weeks, the 2006
NFL season has begun to gel. We know that the top five teams (Indianapolis,
Chicago, Baltimore, Denver and San Diego) are virtually guaranteed of making
the postseason. We know that the 6-3 teams (Seattle, New England, the Giants
and New Orleans) firmly control their own destinies and still have legit home
field aspirations for the playoffs. We know the teams with seven or more losses
(Tennessee, Oakland, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Arizona) are done and the 3-6 teams
(Houston, Buffalo, Miami, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Washington) have to win
out in order to have a shot at playing in January.
From there, however, the waters are extremely muddy. There are 12 teams vying for the 3 remaining playoff spots; two in the NFC and one in the AFC. If the past is any indicator of what to expect, four teams will rise above the rest in next few weeks and one of the teams that seems to be out in front will stumble. Certainly there are a few teams in the twelve that are headed in the wrong direction: St. Louis, Minnesota and Cincinnati have completely fallen apart after strong starts and are one loss away from irrelevance. Green Bay and San Francisco have come on strong lately after very poor starts, and both play 6-3 teams at home this weekend. The Packers and Niners must win those games if they're going to make a run at the postseason. So, that leaves us with 5-4 teams.
In the AFC, the Jaguars and Chiefs have to be disappointed in their production so far, but in New York, the Jets are feeling good about being over .500 after the midpoint of the season ... and that makes them very very dangerous. Only time will tell if they've got the manpower to run with the big dogs, but certainly, to this point, they've demonstrated that they've got the willpower and desire. In the NFC, all four of the remaining teams had Super Bowl dreams heading into the season and all four have lost games due to sloppy play and questionable play calling. Interestingly enough, each of these teams has played or will play each other during the season.
So far, Carolina has been the big loser having lost to both Atlanta and Dallas, followed by Dallas who beat the Panthers but lost to Philly, and the Falcons and Eagles have won against the Panthers and Cowboys respectively. With a minimum of two games each remaining against the other teams, these key battles will determine who gets primetime and who gets tee times come January. Looks like one hell of a race to the finish this year ...
Indianapolis survived a scare to remain the league's only undefeated team.
The Broncos returned to form, which is to say the offense could barely get out of their own way, but their defense saved the day.
Rex Grossman got rattled early in the game, but his confidence was boosted by some solid defense and special teams play, and by the end of the game he was cruising.
The Chargers scored 42 second half points and won one of the season's most thrilling games. Philip Rivers showed why the Chargers got the best of the Manning deal.
The Ravens rallied from a 19-point deficit to win, something that was completely impossible before Steve McNair joined the team.
As goes Eli, so go the Giants, and this week they're headed south in the rankings.
The Pats looked very average against the Jets last Sunday as they lost the second consecutive game for the first time in years.
Seattle has won two in a row with backups Seneca Wallace and Maurice Morris to take a 2 game lead in the division and sit 2nd overall in the NFC.
The Saints were ripped on two big runs last week. Once is a lapse, twice is a trend and New Orleans had better work hard at reversing that trend this week.
Andy Reid gave the reigns of the offense over to Marty Mornhinweg who ran the ball and, surprise, surprise, the Eagles won. Convincingly.
Tony Romo avoided turnovers, making him a marked improvement over Drew Bledsoe.
The Panthers were still shaky last Monday Night, but managed to keep it together enough to get a win.
When your team is arguing with fans and each other on the sidelines during a game, nothing good can come of it.
Kansas City managed just one rushing first down last week, which sums up nicely why they lost.
Gasp! The Golden Boy getting booed in Atlanta? But I thought he was the most dynamic player in football? Mike Vick did, however, show a tremendous amount of class in blaming the loss on a holding penalty when the reason his team lost was because he held the ball like a loaf of bread and fumbled without being touched by a defender.
The Jets pulled to within one game of the Patriots led by a tenacious defense and a patient offense.
The Bengals postseason dreams are all but gone. Now they need to concentrate on getting back to .500 ball.
The Rams have been swept again by the Seahawks, effectively ending any hopes for a divisional crown.
The Packers have resurrected their season by winning 3 of their last 4 games. Somewhere, though, the other shoe is poised to drop.
The Vikings usually wait until the end of the season to implode. Just beating the holiday rush this year, I guess.
San Francisco's defense has appeared to have turned a corner, moving the 49ers up to second place in their division.
The Steelers played like champions last week. Too bad for them their season's already over.
The Dolphins defense was once again stellar, and the offense was once again unacceptably poor.
Another year, another debacle. Guess money can't buy happiness, eh, Mr. Snyder?
Charlie Frye threw no interceptions for the first time this season and, lo and behold, the Browns won.
The Bills played a game without turning over the ball once, and but for a missed FG, could have knocked off the undefeated Colts. Where has this team been all season?
Do you remember Christmas 2004? That was the last time the Texans won a road game. Kudos to Houston who apparently have Jacksonville's number this year.
Don't let the score fool you, Detroit was awful last week.
The Titans let this one get away. Even after blowing the 19 point lead, they still could have won with a late FG, but it was blocked.
Bruce Gradkowski looked like a rookie last week in Carolina.
The Raiders finally scored a touchdown with their offense. Of course, one touchdown is almost never enough for a win.
Eight straight losses and no sign of improvement.