This past weekend we had Favre Bowl II, the Broncos vs the Ravens, the Giants vs the Eagles, the Colts in a close call, and the Saints on Monday Night; yet I still felt a little empty.
Then I realized... it's because the Chiefs and Bucs had bye weeks.
Or maybe it was the Patriots and Steelers I was thinking about. That sounds more accurate.
This decade has been AFC dominant, and since 2001 the Steelers and the Pats have been the flagship teams in the National Football League. The two franchises met in the 01 and 04 AFC Championship games, and combined they've played in seven of the nine AFC championships this decade. They've also appeared in six of the nine Super Bowls this decade, winning a combined five.
So even with the Colts, Favre, the Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, and Saints playing in important games this past week, the NFL just didn't feel right. After all, odds are at least one team playing championship weekend was on bye this past week.
Here are your Week 9 Power Rankings:
01. New Orleans Saints - 273 points for versus 154 points against. Enough said. If this team hasn't peaked yet, I don't want to see what they're going to look like when they do. This is the best team in the NFL right now, and I can't see them falling to far down these power rankings the remainder of the season.
02. Indianapolis Colts - They could barely beat the 49ers, how good could this team really be? It's games like that against desperate middle-of-the-road opponents that define the greatness of a team in season. The Colts shouldn't have won this game but they did. When Peyton didn't bring his A game (it was more like an A-/B+) Bob Sanders, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and Joseph Addai stepped up. This team has a lot of weapons, but they know better than anyone that nothing they do matters until January. Don't they look hungry though?
03. Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers have a formula that gets them to 11 to 12 wins regularly. They'll absolutely reach that number this year, the only question is what seed they'll be in the playoffs. 1 or 2 and they'll probably return to the Super Bowl. 3 or 4 and they still have a great shot of getting there. 5 or 6 and the rest of the league still worries. They're the scariest team in the NFL.
04. Minnesota Vikings - Favre Bowl II is out of the way and the Vikings are entering their bye week 7-1. Do you still think bringing in Brett Favre was a bad idea? They come of the bye with a three game home stand against Detroit, Seattle, and Chicago. It's not a question of if this team makes the playoffs, it's how deep do they go?
05. Denver Broncos - The Broncos finally got that one loss we were all waiting for. Now it's time to prove that they're for real Monday at home against the Steelers. The Broncos defense are going to have to play better of third down if they want to stop Roethlisberger/Mendenhall.
06. New England Patriots - The Pats are coming off of their bye week and are hoping to be ready to duplicate their 2003 season. Remember that season? The one where the Patriots started slow with two early season losses before they'd finish 17-2 and hoist the Lombardi Trophy?
The Very Good
07. Philadelphia Eagles - If this team didn't have that embarrassing road loss at Oakland there'd be a strong argument for them to be #1. After all, they lost to the Saints without McNabb. The next three games for this team are huge; vs Dallas, @ San Diego, @ Chicago. If they can go 3-0 there we may be talking first round bye, something the Eagles will need to get back to the Super Bowl.
08. Dallas Cowboys - Since their loss to the Broncos all the Cowboys have done is win. I still feel as though this team is the most Jekyll and Hyde in the league. They have a tough road trip @ Philadelphia and @ Green Bay. If they can come out of that alive, I'll believe they're for real.
09. Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals are healthy coming off a bye and they'll need to be to beat the Ravens this week. Cedric Benson is having a great season, but to put up over 100 yards on the Ravens twice in one season would be MVP-esque.
10. Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens needed a big win to get right back in the middle of the playoff hunt; what they got was a huge win. They still have two to go with Pittsburgh so the division is still in play; it has to begin this week @ Cincinnati.
11. Arizona Cardinals - I think we give the Cardinals too much credit based on reputation. Just because they turned it on in the playoffs last year, does it mean they'll do that again this year? This team had an incredible shot at getting a first round bye, but they can't win at home. Their next three games will define them as a team.
Hanging In There
12. Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons defense struggled against the Saints offense, but who doesn't? The game was decided on Ryan's uncharacteristic "pick-six" at the end of the first half. The schedule is about to cool down, but to get to the playoffs the Falcons are going to have to start beating good teams.
13. Houston Texans - The Texans are good, and their playoff hopes look even better. They'll have to beat Indianapolis once to guarantee they get there, and their best chance may be this week. If they can go on the road and beat Indianapolis, then watch out. Losing Owen Daniels hurts, though.
14. Green Bay Packers - Is it time to question Aaron Rodgers? I mean, I know everyone in the media loves him, but to me this guy has proven to be nothing more than a great fantasy football player. He's still young and has plenty of time, but he hasn't won one big game in his career so far. He's in the same age group as Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, but playing wise he's with them in numbers alone. He's not a winner.
15. San Diego Chargers - A lot of people are saying their close win over a bad Oakland team exposed the Chargers. That remains to be seen, but I'm one of the people who believes winning close games makes a team playoff ready. And if this team makes the playoffs, chances are they won't be one-and-done.
16. Miami Dolphins - Man does this team love playing the Jets? They're still the best team with a losing record int he NFL, and a win this week @ New England could actually put them in the front of the AFC East race.
17. New York Giants - The defense looks bad. Maybe Eli's foot is bothering him. Do we give him the same excuse we gave Brady and Peyton when they were hurting? Unfortunately for Eli we can't, and this weeks grudge match with the San Diego Chargers has an enhanced urgency. The loser of this game will likely be watching the playoffs from home.
18. Chicago Bears - As it stands, the Bears are still only half a game out of the playoffs, but they have to prove they belong this week against the Cardinals. The Bears have the schedule that can permit them to get to ten wins, but win number five needs to come this week.
19. New York Jets - The Jets are at .500 right now entering their bye. Had they been able to split the season series with Miami they'd be in great shape for a playoff run; now they need to make a huge push. With games @ New England, and @ Indianapolis on their schedule, the Jets are going to have to put up an otherwise flawless 2009 to enter the playoffs. No matter what happens it's been a productive 2009.
20. San Francisco 49ers - Some people are saying that this team can't beat good teams. That may be true considering their four losses are to the Vikings, Falcons, Texans, and Colts; but please note that three of those losses are by a combined 10 points. The division is not yet out of reach, and the toughest game on their schedule is out of the way.
21. Carolina Panthers - I suppose I may have buried this team too early. If they can go to New Orleans and win this week, then they'll be back to life. Chances are the season is over though. Week 14-17 is brutal (@ NE, Min, @ NYG, NO).
22. Seattle Seahawks - They're finally dead. There is absolutely no mistaking this team with the 2003-2007 version of this team; the only similarity is the QB Matt Hasslebeck, and he looks shot. That offensive line has been cruel to Hasslebeck, and it's time for this franchise to begin rebuilding.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars - Just as we expected, this team is a pretender. The NFL handed them the schedule to get back to the playoffs, but it looks as if they'll finish amidst mediocrity. I think it's time for a coaching change. David Garrard's stock has fallen, too.
24. Buffalo Bills - There was a time Sunday when I thought the Bills were for real. After a 31-10 loss though, it's hard to think this team will regroup. With all the injuries they've had in 2009, it's hard to really judge the future of this team.
25. Tennessee Titans - For one week at least, Jeff Fisher looks incredibly dumb, while every idiot who knows the NFL only by playing Madden thinks he has the tools to make important decisions at the pro level. Long story shot: Vince Young should've been starting since week 4. Sorry Kerry, I loved you from 1995 to 2008. You were Vinny Testaverde without the character, and with an alcohol problem.
26. Kansas City Chiefs - This is a one win team going on a road trip that most other teams would salivate over (@ Jacksonville, @ Oakland). Unfortunately the Chiefs will probably lose both of those. Larry Johnson won't be on the team this week at Jacksonville. He won't be missed.
27. Oakland Raiders - The Raiders yet again made it competitive with the Chargers, giving them all they could handle. If this team had a quarterback they might actually be contending right now. The talent is on this roster to compete.
28. Washington Redskins - I'm one of those people who believes that coach hiring's are overrated; but man does this franchise prove me wrong time and time again. It looks like Snyder is going to give someone a lot of money to coach this team, and chances are whatever he pays it probably won't be enough. This team needs to be rebuilt from scratch.
29. Cleveland Browns - I said it once, I'll probably say it a dozen more times this season; Give Eric Mangini a second season. He's trying to clean up a huge mess. Odds are I'll be saying this in an article titled "Why the Browns Shouldn't Have Fired Eric Mangini" in a few months.
30. St. Louis Rams - It was good to see the Rams finally get a win this season. It doesn't matter how much you hated this franchise in 2001, no one wanted to see them go winless in 2009. They have the week off to prepare for the first place New Orleans Saints. Steven Jackson will need a career game to even make it competitive. Seriously.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The winless Bucs had the week off to digest the fact that they've scored only 96 points in 7 games this season; by comparison they've let up 203. This is obviously a franchise that cares deeply about its rich tradition of epic losing.
32. Detroit Lions - The Lions lost at home to the St. Louis Rams. That's bad. To make things worse they had the future of their franchise Matthew Stafford starting for it. If that doesn't leave a scar for Stafford there will be plenty of more opportunities to dement to number one overall picks psyche.