To be honest, the Baltimore Ravens could have ended up in the other category, regardless of their skin-of-the-teeth win over Buffalo. The Ravens mounted a hugely impressive comeback to take the lead, but then proceeded to concede 10 forth quarter points whilst neglecting to score anymore themselves. That total took the game to overtime where the Ravens won on a field goal. They rocked my world simply because they never let themselves get flustered, even in the first and last phases of the game, in both of which they were bossed. People often think that to be a genuine Superbowl contender you have to batter every rubbish opponent on your schedule. But despite records suggesting otherwise, there are no truly awful teams in the NFL and the difference between mediocrity and greatness is always measured in inches, split seconds and pure fortune. The Bills can play football, as one might expect, and this week they proved to an off-form, championship calibre side, that there are no easy games in any season of the National Football League. Being a Superbowl contender is about winning the games you should lose – the Ravens should’ve lost to a Bills unit outperforming their billing, on a day the Ravens were somewhat off colour defensively. Winning close-call contests like that will galvanise this team, and the coaching staff will be heartened by the game-saving potential of an offence that has, until this season, relied on its D to bail them out of trouble. By Billio! The Raiders – the Oakland Raiders, that is, the team that have been dreadful since Rich Gannon threw five interceptions (a record) in their Superbowl loss to Tampa Bay at the end of the 2002 season) – just leathered the Denver Broncos by a score line of 59-14. The record score in an NFL game belongs to the redskins with 72, but remarkably, the Raiders failed to score in the forth quarter, putting-up all their points over the first three in instalments of 24, 14 and 21 respectively. Josh McDaniels’ fanny must be burning up – he has to go at the end of this season unless the Broncos can gel and live up to the hype. The only reason for keeping him on would be as punishment for making such a mess of this once up-and-coming franchise that has been severed from its stud QB(Cutler>Chicago) and primetime Receiver (Marshall>Miami) and left with questions all over the field. McDaniels has brought in some good players, but if they don’t start playing for their coach soon, he won’t be around to reap the rewards of his investment. The Giants continue to impress and now move into an untied position atop the NFC East. Got to love what the G-men are doing right now – Manning just keeps getting better and better.
Whose chances were knocked?
The Cincinnati Bengals are fast falling out of contention in the AFC North. In fairness, the resurgence of the unfancied, but never to be disregard, Steelers has made things awkward. The Ravens are on top form and are possibly the best team in the NFL right now. Their Week 7 loss to Atlanta has further turned the screw- can they bounce back from this? With the division likely out of reach and the two Wild Card spots looking like they’ll be shared between the Colts, Texans, Titans, Patriots, Jets, Ravens and Steelers, I doubt it – I seriously doubt it. No ring for TO – not this year, at least. Well, the Denver Broncos suck. Sigh… San Diego are driving me crazy. At the start of the season I shed a tear for LT (LaDanian Tomlinson – San Diego rushing great jettisoned into free agency after carrying the team of nearly-men for the best part of a decade). I thought that this must be San Diego’s year and I had them to face Green Bay in the Superbowl. As they’ve shown in recent years, it is possible to storm into the playoffs after a stuttering start, but how many times can they pull that Houdini impression off? I’m betting not this year. The annoying thing is, on paper it looks harder not to win their division than to run away with it. The teams they face twice a year are nobodies and yet two of them – the Raiders and Chiefs – are fighting tooth and nail for respect and getting their dues. This week San Diego lost to the Patriots. That in itself is no shameful occurrence – most teams lose to the Patriots. What’s infuriating about the Californian outfit, though, is the fact that they scored 3 points over 3 quarters before rattling off 17 in the fourth, only to finish shy of the tie by a field goal. Slow start – okay, I get it, it takes time to find your rhythm. But in week 7 of the season? Sitting on a 2-5 record? Give me a break! This team is loaded with dynamic playmakers; their roster boasts arguably the best Quarterback in the National Football League. And I mean that – Rivers has never had the stellar supporting cast of Manning and yet consistently blows teams out of the water. Except this year, the only thing he and the Bolts are blowing out of the water is the chance of ruining LT’s February. And meanwhile LT is having a standout season with the Jets. Who knows, he might yet get his ring… The Vikings aren’t great, are they? Four points down on arch-division-rivals, the Green Bay Packers, going into the fourth quarter and no points made their way to the board – very poor show. They’ve been thoroughly disappointing since the season opener. Brett Favre has looked old and it pains me to say that. His throws have been hesitant and non-committal and his team is suffering because of his play. But I say stick with him. Tavaris Jackson might be a better bet down the stretch for his youthful vitality, but come the playoffs Jackson will be ineffective. Win it or lose it with Favre, then let him go. The time has come.