The second half of the season has officially begun, and no team -- not the undefeated Titans, not the Super Bowl champion Giants, no one -- has the look of a team that is truly dominant. But history has taught us that winning all the marbles is often the product of getting hot at the right time, and of having your team get healthy for the stretch. The Steelers are not getting hot, and look to be a damned mess on offense, and it's hard to remember a year where they were more beat up. Still, they seem like a team that could put it all together at any time and bowl through the playoffs en route to a sixth ring.
Or, conversely, they could just sputter out and wind up with half the team on Injured Reserve.
In that sense, the Steelers are symbolic of the league as a whole: we know who they are, and what they're capable of, but we have no idea who they are, or what they're capable of. This season seems to be the living embodiment of both parity and unpredictability. But will that unpredictability shake the standings? Does this parity mean there's just a big clump of good-ish teams followed by a big clump of bad-ish teams?
Enjoy the week 9 rankings, as Finny's Power Rankings will be taking a vacation next week, and it is highly unlikely I will take time from Aruba to pull stats and post. I know, it's heartbreaking, but you faithful readers must stay strong. Both of you.1. Tennessee Titans, 7-0 (1).
Beat a very mediocre Colts club. If Packers can solidify against the Titans run game, could spell an upset in Tennessee.
Alchemy: Philadelphia Eagles, 94.0173 pts. (Hi: 1, Lo: 4). 2. NY Giants, 6-1 (3).
The Giants are a nice, balanced, dependable team with a huge HB in Jacobs and a very good pass rush. That said, they remain a very beatable team, and don't thrill me much in the 2 spot. But who else is distinguishing themselves at this point?
Alchemy: Pittsburgh Steelers, 81.2399 pts. (1,9).3. Philadelphia Eagles, 4-3 (6).
Have I been over-valuing the Eagles? Maybe, but they look like the best team to emerge second to the Giants and be a wild card team to deal with.
Alchemy: Baltimore Ravens, 81.0442 pts. (1, 6).4. Carolina Panthers, 6-2 (5).
Edged out Arizona at home, but rounding to form in a heated battle with Tampa Bay for NFCS supremacy.
Alchemy: NY Giants, 77.2288 pts. (1, 10).5. Pittsburgh Steelers, 5-2 (2).
For some reason, the Steelers shooting themselves in the foot against the Giants doesn't piss me off as much as the ongoing issues with playcalling, offensive line play, and special teams issues. It just doesn't appear that any progress gets made from week to week in these areas. And as noted, injuries are just piling up. This team could revert back to playing very solid, even explosive ball, or they could sink into the ignoble pool of teams like Minnesota, that have solid defenses carrying a team that otherwise flounders. So which is it?
Alchemy: Chicago Bears, 66.8414 pts. (3, 16).6. Baltimore Ravens, 4-3 (.
Just like in real life, I have the Ravens on the heels of the Steelers. Predictably, they're getting it done with defense, and if the Steelers aren't careful, they could be deadlocked in the division race that only a couple of weeks ago looked like a cakewalk.
Alchemy: Washington Redskins, 61.3169 pts. (6, 24).7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 5-3 (4).
Yes, they should have beaten the Cowboys, but I still like the Buc defense. And I rank D teams high. If you don't like it, you should make your own damned rankings.
Alchemy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 57.7075 pts. (7, 20).8. Washington Redskins, 6-2 (9).
Redskins, much like the Giants, are a nice (mostly) steady and dependable team, with good balance... but they look very beatable, too. Just escaped the Lions? Color me unimpressed. If the Steelers fail in this game, I think it points more to our weaknesses than any Redskin strengths. Jason Campbell is playing efficient ball, and Clinton Portis leads the league in rushing. The defense is OK, but nothing special.
Alchemy: Buffalo Bills, 51.0290 pts. (1, 10).9. Buffalo Bills, 5-2 (7).
Bills dropped one to a divisional rival, it happens. That foe, Miami, is showing steady improvement, by the way.
Alchemy: San Diego Chargers, 47.7622 pts. (3, 15).10. Chicago Bears, 4-3 (10).
Bears were idle.
Alchemy: Tennessee Titans, 47.6484 pts. (5, 12).11. New England Patriots, 5-2 (14).
This team will fall apart, but for now, they're winning. Probably some Mephistophelean deal at work, Belichick selling some tiny kernel that was left of his soul for a division title. Hard to believe he has any soul left, though.
Alchemy: Arizona Cardinals, 47.4001 pts. (6, 17).12. Arizona Cardinals, 4-3 (12).
Played the Panthers close in Carolina, but allowed 21 in the third quarter. That's about what I'd expect from the 12 spot team, so I'll let them ride this one out.
Alchemy: Miami Dolphins, 43.9675 pts. (12, 26).13. Green Bay Packers, 4-3 (13).
Packers were idle.
Alchemy: Carolina Panthers, 37.6031 pts. (6, 22).14. Miami Dolphins, 3-4 (25).
Have beaten the Chargers, Patriots, and now the Bills. That's not too shabby for a team most thought would need more time to rebuild. Oh, and guess what. Chad Pennington is outplaying Brett Favre this season. There, I said it.
Alchemy: New Orleans Saints, 35.8455 pts. (4, 21).15. Minnesota Vikings, 3-4 (15).
Vikings were idle.
Alchemy: Green Bay Packers, 32.1255 pts. (9, 17).16. Jacksonville Jaguars, 3-4 (11).
Really needed that win against the Browns. Jacksonville's playoff chances may be dimming. So much for them coming back to form.
Alchemy: New York Jets, 16.5358 pts. (8, 21).17. Houston Texans, 3-4 (22).
Houston offense is looking better, and boasts best 3rd down conversion rate in the league. Schaub is looking like the Steelers loss is a distant memory, and Texans by all rights should be 4-3, not 3-4.
Alchemy: Minnesota Vikings, 15.7625 pts, (16, 25).18. Dallas Cowboys, 5-3 (20).
Rallied for win against Bucs, but Johnson is a liability, and defense still has loads to prove. APB out for MIA TO.
Alchemy: Dallas Cowboys, 6.3417 pts. (4, 18).19. Denver Broncos, 4-3 (19).
Broncos were idle.
Alchemy: Indianapolis Colts, -14.3464 pts. (19, 26).20. Cleveland Browns, 3-4 (27).
In fits and starts, Cleveland is getting some wins, beating the Giants and the Jaguars (and, well, the Bungles). Still look like an afterthought in the division race, but the Steelers had better watch their backs.
Alchemy: San Francisco 49ers, -14.5192 pts., (8, 26).21. New Orleans Saints, 4-4 (26).
Won a close game over the Chargers, but still struggling with the same issues on defense. Losing Bush will hurt if McAllister is suspended.
Alchemy: New England Patriots, -14.9101 pts. (9, 25).22. San Diego Chargers, 3-5 (16).
Sticking them right behind the Saints seems to make sense. The cracks are showing, as defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell is shown the door. That's never good.
Alchemy: Houston Texans, -18.2723 pts. (22, 29).23. Atlanta Falcons, 4-3 (17).
Falcons have the groundwork for a nice turnaround, but still struggle against quality opponents. A bit young, and still trying to find their way.
Alchemy: Atlanta Falcons, -27.7084 pts. (3, 24).24. New York Jets, 4-3 (21).
Dropped after a win, because it was all they could do to get past the frickin' Chiefs.
Alchemy: Jacksonville Jaguars, -30.5645 pts. (18, 24).25. Indianapolis Colts, 3-4 (18).
Just not their year. Again, if not for Sage Rosenfels and the miracle win, the Colts would be 2-5.
Alchemy: Denver Broncos, -49.0054 pts. (2, 25). 26. St. Louis Rams, 2-5 (24).
Actually played the Patriots pretty close. Haslett seems to be doing a good job with what he was dealt.
Alchemy: Cleveland Browns, -67.8247 pts. (24, 32).
27. Oakland Raiders, 2-5 (23).
With division leader Denver at 4-3, Oakland is not completely out of the race, somehow. They get a resurgent Falcons team that can't stop the run, so expect a heavy dose of Huggy Jr., Darren McFadden (if he's ready to go), and Michael Bush.
Alchemy: Oakland Raiders, -77.0669 pts. (17, 27).28. Seattle Seahawks, 2-5 (31).
The Walrus beat a Niners team that's in the midst of a coaching change. Woo hoo.
Alchemy: Seattle Seahawks, -80.0552 pts. (20, 29).29. San Francisco 49ers, 2-5 (28).
We like old school Mike Singletary. Maybe he could suit up?
Alchemy: St. Louis Rams, -92.4071 pts. (19, 32).30. Detroit Lions, 0-7 (32).
I dunno, these Lions keep getting close... This week, I expect nothing less than a close loss to the Bears.
Alchemy: Detroit Lions, -113.8520 pts. (29, 32).31. Kansas City Chiefs, 1-5 (29).
Do you really play to win the game, Herm? Really?
Alchemy: Cincinnati Bengals, -132.3463 pts. (27, 31).32. Cincinnati Bengals, 0-7 (30).
The Bengals have an impresive accomplishment. They are now worse than the 0-fer team of a few weaks ago. They could... go... all... the... way... First pick in the draft?
Alchemy: Kansas City Chiefs, -166.2671 pts. (22, 32).