Week 9 has come and gone, which means we're halfway to the playoffs! This week, we’re going to take a look at the games by division to see who’s on top, who’s hopelessly spiraling, and whose fate will be determined in the coming weeks.
New York Giants: 3-4
The NFC East may as well be called the Quarterback Crisis division. Nick Foles broke his collarbone yesterday and is out indefinitely, so while the Eagles still pulled off a win against the Texans, things in Philly could easily take a turn with Mark Sanchez at the helm.
Sanchez played decently, all things considered. He threw two interceptions (of course) but also threw two touchdowns, the second to Jeremy Maclin to push the Eagles to a 10-point lead late in the fourth.
Green Bay: 5-3
The Vikings had an exciting win over Washington yesterday (words I never thought I’d write). After punting on their first four drives and failing to convert on their fifth, the Vikings scored touchdowns on four of their last six drives. The defense also sacked RGIII five times. Welcome back, Bobby!
Oh, and there was a big protest in Minnesota over the Washington team name. Fun times!
Detroit is currently leading the division, but they’re about to play Miami at home and then travel to Arizona and New England. The Packers still have to play the Patriots too, and both teams have to play Chicago before facing off in Week 17. Given their schedules, my money is on Green Bay, but who knows? Maybe Jay Cutler will magically get good at throwing a football.
New Orleans: 4-4
Tampa Bay: 1-7
Jesus Christ. The NFC South has won a combined ten games over the last nine weeks. I don't even have a joke about that. It's too sad. The Saints beat the Panthers on Thursday, which means they’re officially on a "winning streak" (of two games). There are still a bunch of division games going forward, so really, the title is anyone’s for the taking. Except Tampa Bay. You guys are free to start planning your January vacations.
San Francisco: 4-4
St Louis: 3-5
Remember when this division was stupid good last year? Arizona had 10 wins and couldn’t even get a wild card spot! Now the Cardinals are laughing all the way to the bank led by…Carson Palmer? Hey, whatever works.
Seattle squeaked out a win against Oakland, which is embarrassing, considering they are the reigning Super Bowl champs and the Raiders still have ZERO WINS. The Seahawks went into the half up 24-3, but the final score was 30-24, thanks to plays like this.
Meanwhile, the Rams got their third win of the season against the Niners in a game that was just…weird. The final score was 13-10, and the Rams defense sacked Colin Kaepernick eight times in the game. Yes. You read that correctly. EIGHT times. And no, Chris Long isn’t back yet.
San Francisco should have won this game, since a pass interference penalty turned their 3rd and 5 on the Rams 30 to 1st and goal on the Rams 5. But somehow, this was the last play of the game.
If the other teams in this division keep dragging each other down, it’s very possible Arizona will be the only NFC West team in the playoffs. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
New England: 7-2
NY Jets: 1-8
I’ll get to the Broncos/Pats game a little later. Right now, I want to talk about how the Dolphins SHUT OUT the Chargers. Holy shit!! Props to Allen for calling this game with his pick on Friday: "I believe in the Dolphins defense. I do not believe in Rivers on the road." Rivers threw three picks, so I’d say that sums it up quite nicely. Meanwhile, Ryan Tannehill played like a boss. He was 24/34 for 288 yards and three TDs before getting pulled at the end of the third. Here’s my favorite one:
Miami is making a serious play for a wild card playoff spot, though they’ll be tested with a Detroit team fresh off their bye this coming week. The Bills have done well so far, but they’ll return from their bye week to host Kansas City, and it doesn’t get much better.
If you had told me in August to guess which division would have all four teams with winning records after Week 9, I would not have picked the AFC North. The obvious surprise here is Cleveland, who can’t decide what kind of team they want to be. Their Week 10 game against the Bengals should be a good indication – or they’ll lose and then win their next three games (Houston, Atlanta, Buffalo) and go into December at 8-4. Anything could happen.
Meanwhile, the Steelers CRUSHED the Ravens last night, making it the second week in a row Big Ben has thrown six TDs, an NFL record for touchdown passes in consecutive games. Pittsburgh is doing so well right now that this botched extra point somehow turned itself into a successful two-point conversion.
The Bengals and Steelers play each other twice in December with relatively easy schedules outside of that, but my money is on the Bengals for the division title. They love to get into the playoffs and immediately lose. Why mess with tradition?
Man. It must be nice to be an Indy fan. You had Peyton for 14 seasons immediately followed by Andrew Luck, who is currently leading the league in passing yards. Plus, look at the rest of your division. You’re guaranteed a playoff spot in August.
Kansas City: 5-3
San Diego: 5-4
I wish I’d realized Tom Brady is 10-4 (now 11-4) against Peyton Manning before I did my picks on Friday. Even so, Broncos/Patriots should have been an interesting game. Nope. 43-21 Pats. Peyton, who hadn’t thrown an interception since Week 4, threw two against the Pats. Julian Edelman set a franchise record with this 84-yard punt return touchdown.
That said, if you’re going to pick a week to suck, it’s best to do it against a non-division team in the middle of the season where you can shake it off.
Kansas City had an easy win against the Jets because even when the Jets manage to do something right, the other team still scores.
The Chiefs and Broncos play each other in Week 15, and Kansas City ends the season against San Diego. Those two games will be the biggest factors in determining which of these teams will make the playoffs. Or the AFC North could go nuclear on each other and all finish 8-8 or 7-9, clearing the path for all three teams in a repeat of 2013. But I think it’s more likely that San Diego slowly self-destructs over the coming weeks. Sorry not sorry, Chargers.