The NFL is increasingly becoming a league of haves and have-nots. The haves possess a good quarterback, a wealth of talent and a good coach, or at least enough talent to overcome their questionable coaching (Houston? Chicago?). The have-nots lack a competent quarterback, talent or the combination of grit/toughness that makes Jon Gruden swoon. The top ten teams remained the same in this week’s rankings, with some shuffling, and combined to go 7-1 on the weekend.
It was a bad week for the NFC East and a good week for the NFC South. The East when winless and the South went undefeated, with three of the South’s four wins came at the expense of East teams (Saints over Eagles, Falcons over Cowboys and Panthers over Redskins).
Coming up: Are the Colts a playoff team? Who is the second-best team in the NFC? And does Andy Reid think I need to do a better job as well?
1. Atlanta (8-0); Last week: 1
Week 9 result: Won vs. Dallas, 19-13
The Falcons are halfway to 16-0, and they very well might get there: only one team left on their schedule currently has a winning record. Against the Cowboys, Matt Ryan passed for 342 yards, Michael Turner ran for 102 and Roddy White and Julio Jones each topped 100 yards receiving.
Next up: at New Orleans
2. Houston (7-1); Last week: 2
Week 9 result: Won vs. Buffalo, 21-9
Welcoming former No. 1 pick Mario Williams back to Houston, the Texans’ defense held the Bills to three field goals and Arian Foster added his league-leading tenth rushing touchdown as Houston improved to 7-1. The Texans face their toughest test of the season with their upcoming game in Chicago.
Next up: at Chicago
3. Chicago (7-1); Last week: 5
Week 9 result: Won at Tennessee, 51-20
Charles Tillman forced four fumbles, Corey Wooten returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and Brian Urlacher added a score off a 46-yard interception return, complementing Jay Cutler’s three touchdown passes to Brandon Marshall as the Bears blew out the Titans. Chicago has now returned seven of their 17 interceptions for touchdowns.
Next up: vs. Houston
4. New York Giants (6-3); Last week: 3
Week 9 result: Lost vs. Pittsburgh, 24-20
Even with the benefit of a few very iffy calls that went their way, the Giants blew a late lead against the Steelers. Conspiracy theories permeated social media that the NFL was trying to hand the Giants the game, but there was no explaining the awful play of Eli Manning: 10/24 for 125 yards and one interception. Except, you know: #eliuminati.
Next up: at Cincinnati
5. San Francisco (6-2); Last week: 4
Week 9 result: Bye
Over the last two weeks, Alex Smith has thrown exactly one incomplete pass.
Next up: vs. St. Louis
6. New England (5-3); Last week: 6
Week 9 result: Bye
The Patriots have scored the most points in the NFL this season (262) and are third in the league in point differential (92).
Next up: vs. Buffalo
7. Green Bay (6-3); Last week: 7
Week 9 result: Won vs. Arizona, 31-17
Green Bay’s win over Arizona marked their fourth straight overall and allowed them to keep pace with the division-leading Bears. Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes to add to his NFL-best total (25), even though he completed less than 50-percent of his passes.
Next up: Bye
8. Denver (5-3); Last week: 8
Week 9 result: Won at Cincinnati, 31-23
Despite two interceptions in the win over the Bengals, Peyton Manning has carried the Broncos to a 4-1 record in their last five. Manning threw three touchdown passes for the fifth straight game, two of them to Eric Decker, and came just shy of throwing for 300 yards for the sixth straight game. The Broncos have a one-game lead in the AFC West.
Next up: at Carolina
9. Pittsburgh (5-3); Last week: 10
Week 9 result: Won at New York Giants, 24-20
Isaac Redman ran for a career-best 147 rushing yards and scored the winning touchdown with 4:02 remaining as the Steelers overcame mistakes and bad calls to beat the Giants. Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes, including one to Mike Wallace for 51 yards, and the Pittsburgh defense held Eli Manning to just 125 yards passing.
Next up: vs. Kansas City
10. Baltimore (6-2); Last week: 9
Week 9 result: Won at Cleveland, 25-15
The Ravens, coming off numerous injuries, a blowout loss to the Texans and their bye week, took an early lead over the Browns but made it difficult on themselves. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce scored rushing touchdowns in the first quarter, but five unanswered Phil Dawson field goals gave the Browns a 15-14 lead in the fourth quarter. Joe Flacco’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith with 4:33 left gave Baltimore the winning score.
Next up: vs. Oakland
11. Seattle (5-4); Last week: 13
Week 9 result: Won vs. Minnesota, 30-20
Marshawn Lynch’s 124 rushing yards were good for only the second-most in this game, but Seattle overcame Adrian Peterson’s huge day by holding Christian Ponder to just 63 yards passing and getting three touchdown passes from Russell Wilson, two of which went to Golden Tate.
Next up: vs. New York Jets
12. Indianapolis (5-3); Last week: 21
Week 9 result: Won vs. Miami, 23-20
Andrew Luck broke Cam Newton’s single-game rookie record by throwing for 422 yards as the Colts won their fifth game of the season, three more than they won in all of 2011. Luck also threw two touchdown passes and led the drive that set up Adam Vinatieri’s winning field goal with 6:03 left. In a season of surprises, the best news yet is that Colts coach Chuck Pagano is in remission after being diagnosed with leukemia and undergoing chemotherapy.
Next up: at Jacksonville
13. Minnesota (5-4); Last week: 12
Week 9 result: Lost at Seattle, 30-20
In today’s pass-happy NFL, it’s not a good sign for your chances of winning a particular game when your running back has almost three times as many rushing yards as your quarterback has passing yards. Adrian Peterson ran for 182 yards to Christian Ponder’s 63 passing yards. It was the second time in three games that Ponder has thrown for less than 65 yards.
Next up: vs. Detroit
14. Miami (4-4); Last week: 11
Week 9 result: Lost at Indianapolis, 23-20
The Dolphins, like the Colts, were one of the teams with a rookie quarterback expected to struggle this season. Instead, they have been competitive in nearly every game, with just one of their losses coming by more than a field goal. Ryan Tannehill has been a big part of that, throwing for 290 yards and a touchdown in the close loss to Indianapolis. Tannehill has gone four games without throwing an interception, though he did lose a fumble against the Colts.
Next up: vs. Tennessee
15. San Diego (4-4); Last week: 19
Week 9 result: Won vs. Kansas City, 31-13
A home game against the Chiefs was just what the Chargers needed to snap a three-game losing streak. Against a team that has not held a lead for a second this season, the Chargers took an early lead and coasted to the win. Philip Rivers only threw two incomplete passes - and only needed 20 passing attempts - while throwing for two touchdowns. The Chargers’ defense held the Chiefs to 289 total yards.
Next up: at Tampa Bay
16. Detroit (4-4); Last week: 20
Week 9 result: Won at Jacksonville, 31-14
Detroit has resurrected itself from a 1-3 start with their third win in four games, two of them due to late-game comebacks. The Lions did not need a late rally against the Jaguars though, with Mikel Leshoure rushing for three second-quarter touchdowns. Calvin Johnson had seven catches for 129 yards.
Next up: at Minnesota
17. Dallas (3-5); Last week: 17
Week 9 result: Lost at Atlanta, 19-13
Matched up with two of the NFC’s best in the past two weeks, Dallas hung close and even threatened to win at times before falling short. Against the Falcons, the Cowboys took an early lead with two field goals in the first quarter, but could not reach the end zone until Tony Romo’s touchdown pass to Kevin Ogletree in the fourth. Romo threw for 325 yards, but the Cowboys could not keep the game within a field goal on a late drive. Postgame, Jerry Jones was locked out of his team’s locker room. Good thing he’s not planning on hiring a general manager.
Next up: at Philadelphia
18. Cincinnati (3-5); Last week: 16
Week 9 result: Lost vs. Denver, 31-23
The Bengals, who started the season 3-1, have now lost four in a row. BenJarvus Green-Ellis gave Cincinnati the lead with a touchdown run early in the fourth quarter after Terrence Newman intercepted Peyton Manning for the second time. Two Denver touchdowns quickly erased that lead, however, and put the game out of reach. A.J. Green bounced back from a one-catch performance against the Steelers with seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Next up: vs. New York Giants
19. Washington (3-6); Last week: 14
Week 9 result: Lost at Pittsburgh, 27-12
Robert Griffin III lost his battle with Cam Newton as the Redskins lost their third game in a row. Washington was held out of the end zone until after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, when Evan Royster punched in a short touchdown run. Griffin threw for 215 yards but was sacked four times, and Mike Shanahan basically gave up on the season in his postgame press conference before walking his comments back. Of course.
Next up: Bye
20. New Orleans (3-5); Last week: 22
Week 9 result: Won vs. Philadelphia, 28-13
The Saints only needed to run into the Eagles to stop their streak of allowing more than 20 points in a game. Drew Brees extended his streak of touchdown passes by throwing two and Patrick Robinson returned a Michael Vick interception 99 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. New Orleans got their first win under interim head coach Joe Vitt.
Next up: vs. Atlanta
21. Tampa Bay (4-4); Last week: 23
Week 9 result: Won at Oakland, 42-32
Tampa Bay’s offense has exploded in recent weeks, with the game against Oakland marking the fourth straight game in which they had scored at least 28 points. Doug Martin scored four touchdowns and rushed for a franchise-record 251 yards and Josh Freeman added two touchdown passes. The Buccaneers’ defense picked off Carson Palmer three times.
Next up: vs. San Diego
22. Arizona (4-5); Last week: 15
Week 9 result: Lost at Green Bay
Five losses in a row for the Cardinals with the offense - under John Skelton in the latest one - unable to get much going. The lack of a running game and a weak offensive line have been problems for Arizona, but after falling behind 21-3 at halftime, they were forced to throw. Skelton threw for 306 yards and a touchdown but completed only 50-percent of his passes and threw an interception. The bye week rest is much needed, though it probably won’t mean the return of Kevin Kolb. For whatever that is worth.
Next up: Bye
23. PHILADELPHIA (3-5); Last week: 18
Week 9 result: Lost at New Orleans, 28-13
Zero: the number of games the Eagles have won in their last four. One: the number of contract extensions Howie Roseman has received this season. Philadelphia scored a whopping 13 points against the NFL’s worst defense and scored zero touchdowns on five red-zone trips. That kick return trickery was fun for a couple seconds, though.
Next up: vs. Dallas
24. St. Louis (3-5); Last week: 23
Week 9 result: Bye
There is no truth to the rumor that the Rams were not allowed back in the country after getting waxed by the Patriots in London.
Next up: at San Francisco
25. Buffalo (3-5); Last week: 26
Week 9 result: Lost at Houston, 21-9
Mario Williams sure showed the Texans that they would regret letting him walk as a free agent, registering five tackles and a sack. Somehow the Texans still shut down the Bills’ offense without Williams, holding them to just three field goals. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson were held to 60 combined rushing yards.
Next up: at New England
26. New York Jets (3-5); Last week: 25
Week 9 result: Bye
Tim Tebow is still not starting for the Jets, but Rex Ryan was voted the most overrated coach in the league. Overall, a pretty good week off.
Next up: at Seattle
27. Tennessee (3-6); Last week: 27
Week 9 result: Lost vs. Chicago, 51-20
The Titans turned the ball over five times - one interception and four fumbles - and had a punt blocked at the hands of a defense that tends to force those things to happen. Chris Johnson did break off an 80-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter, so there’s something.
Next up: at Miami
28. Cleveland (2-7); Last week: 29
Week 9 result: Lost vs. Baltimore, 25-15
The Browns just cannot beat the Ravens. For the 10th consecutive time, it was a loss for Cleveland against their division rival. This time, they could not even muster a touchdown, relying on five Phil Dawson field goals to stay in the game. The lone time the Browns got into the end zone, on a Brandon Weeden pass to Josh Gordon and which would have given the Browns a lead, the score was brought back by an illegal formation penalty. But the Browns are getting close!
Next up: Bye
29. Oakland (3-5); Last week: 28
Week 9 result: Lost vs. Tampa Bay, 42-32
Carson Palmer was in position to lead his team on a drive to, at the very least, tie a game. He then threw an interception. I know, I could not believe it either. Palmer threw for 414 yards and four touchdowns as he nearly brought the Raiders back, but also threw three interceptions, the second of which killed their chances. Doug Martin also ran for 251 yards and four touchdowns against the Oakland defense, so that did not exactly help either.
Next up: at Baltimore
30. Carolina (2-6); Last week: 31
Week 9 result: Won at Washington, 21-13
A win! A sweet, sweet win for the Panthers, who came so close in beating Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and Atlanta in recent weeks. All it took was a trip to the nation’s capital and some motivation from playing the Redskins in their “homecoming” game. DeAngelo Williams ran for a touchdown and Steve Smith caught another, his first of the season.
Next up: vs. Denver
31. Jacksonville (1-7); Last week: 30
Week 9 result: Lost vs. Detroit, 31-14
The Jaguars let the Lions, not exactly well known for running the football since, I dunno, Barry Sanders retired, rush for four touchdowns. Blaine Gabbert threw two late touchdown passes, including Justin Blackmon’s first career touchdown catch, but the two third-quarter interceptions he threw prevented any thoughts of a comeback.
Next up: vs. Indianapolis
32. Kansas City (1-7); Last week: 32
Week 9 result: Lost at San Diego, 31-13
The Chiefs have played eight games and not led in one of them. Can’t wait to watch them play Pittsburgh on Monday night.
Next up: at Pittsburgh