This Week In: The NFL – Week 9 and Updated Power Poll

Matthew Stafford wins the game for the Lions
Matthew Stafford wins the game for the Lions

Last Sunday, as has been their habit in recent years, the Cowboys contrived to lose a game they had seemed certain to win, as they gave up a late lead against the Lions to lose 31-30 in Detroit.  Matthew Stafford led the home team to victory in the final minute of play, as they trailed 30-24 before getting the ball back on their own twenty, but six plays later the Lions QB called a spike on the one yard line to stop the clock, which was to fake out the Dallas defense as he then dove over the line to break the plane of the end zone and score the winning touchdown.  It was yet another gut wrenching loss for the Cowboys, but Detroit would not have ever been so close if the visitors had covered Calvin Johnson better, as the wide receiver racked up 329 receiving yards – second most ever in a single NFL game – plus a touchdown as the Dallas secondary seemed completely unable to stop him.  All four of the defeats that the Cowboys have suffered thus far have been tough – they gave up ten unanswered fourth quarter points in San Diego to lose to the Chargers; like the Lions, the Chiefs beat them by just a single point; and the Broncos capitalized on a late Tony Romo interceptions in a game he was otherwise brilliant in, to win in Texas.

Despite this relatively bitter start to 2013, Dallas still find themselves, at 4-4, with a one game lead in the NFC East, as the rest of their division has been floundering.  To be fair, for most of their game in Denver last weekend, Washington appeared to be capable of an upset and they led 21-7 late in the third quarter.  However, their offense went missing after that point and Peyton Manning led the Broncos to victory thanks to 38 unanswered points, with the veteran QB overcoming his own mistakes – he threw four interceptions and lost a fumble – to ensure Denver moved to 7-1 on the season.  Even with that strong record, the Broncos remain one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West, who stayed unbeaten and moved to 8-0 on the year with a 23-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns, who started Jason Campbell at quarterback in favor of the struggling Brandon Wheeden.  Back in the NFC East, on Monday of last week, the Giants were sitting at 0-6, but within six days they had moved to within two games of the division lead thanks to victories over the Vikings and Eagles, the latter coming thanks to five field goals in Philadelphia on Sunday, giving them a 15-7 victory.  The Eagles have now lost their last ten games at home dating back to the 2012 campaign and once again had to replace the injured Michael Vick – the opening week praise their high-octane offense received now seems like a long time ago.

The Packers remained top of the NFC North with a 44-31 victory in Minnesota on Sunday night, with the former Green Bay receiver, Greg Jennings, held to one catch for 9 yards against his former club, suggesting all his trash talk about Aaron Rodgers over the summer might be something he could want to re-think.  In the second game to be played in London this season, the Jacksonville Jaguars remained perfectly inept, as they were beaten 42-10 by the San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium; while the Buccaneers kept up their own winless start to 2013, as they lost at home on Thursday night, 32-13 against the Carolina Panthers.  The state of Florida is not having much luck at the moment, as Tampa Bay and Jacksonville are joined on their losing runs by Miami, who have gone from 3-0 to 3-5 with their latest defeat being at the hands of the Patriots, despite the Dolphins having held a 17-3 half-time lead.   Elsewhere, the Saints came off their bye week to beat the Bills, 35-17 in New Orleans; Seattle remained top of the NFC West thanks to a hard-fought 14-9 win in St. Louis on Monday night; the Cardinals all but ended the postseason hopes of the Falcons, with a 27-13 victory in Arizona; Oakland defeated Pittsburgh 21-18 on the back of a 93 yard touchdown run by Terrelle Pryor on the first down after the opening kickoff; and the Bengals thrashed the Jets, 49-9 in Cincinnati.

Power Poll and Pre-Season Predictions Update

This weekend marks the half way point of the regular season, so it is a good time to look back on the playoff predictions I made at the start of the year to check in with how they are going.

NFC Playoff Predictions:

Seeds 1. Falcons; 2. 49ers; 3. Packers; 4. Washington; 5. Saints; 6. Rams

Wild Card Round: Packers over Rams; Saints over Washington

Divisional Round: Falcons over Saints; Packers over 49ers

Championship game: Packers over Falcons

NFC Champions: Green Bay Packers

The Good: Packers look like being NFC North champions – though the Lions have a very easy looking schedule for the rest of the way; the 49ers and Saints both look like making the playoffs, but their positions might be flipped as the Saints could be a two-seed behind Seattle.

The Bad: Atlanta being the top seed in the NFC, St. Louis making the playoffs (which admittedly was a long-shot) and Washington winning the NFC East, something that could still happen in a weak division, but looks increasingly unlikely.

AFC Playoff Predictions:

Seeds 1. Broncos; 2. Texans; 3. Patriots; 4. Bengals; 5. Chiefs; 6. Steelers

Wild Card Round: Patriots over Steelers; Bengals over Chiefs

Divisional Round: Texans over Patriots; Broncos over Bengals

Championship game: Texans over Broncos

The Good: Broncos and Chiefs being 1st and 5th seeds between them (they still meet twice so the current order could flip); Patriots and Bengals winning their divisions.

The Bad: The Texans, not only winning their division and being the two seed, but being the AFC representative in the Super Bowl.  Oh dear.  Also, Pittsburgh being a Wild Card, as they have stumbled to a 2-5 start.

At the half-way point, I am going to re-assess the playoff picture, using the Power Poll that I have been producing for the last few weeks, so here are this week’s standings.  One surprise might be Denver’s lowly position (7th), but this reflects the standard of the opponents they have beaten – the Giants, Cowboys, Eagles, Washington, Ravens, Raiders and Jaguars, who have a combined record of 17-36.

 (You can check back to this original post for the math behind the Poll, but basically every win and loss for a team is given a value based on the opponent’s win/loss record)

Power Poll

(Last week’s position in brackets)

1. (1) Seattle Seahawks

2. (2) Kansas City Chiefs

3. (=5) Indianapolis Colts

4. (3) San Francisco 49ers

5. (4) New Orleans Saints

6. (7) New England Patriots

7. (=5) Denver Broncos

8. (8) Cincinnati Bengals

9. (9) Green Bay Packers

10. (10) Detroit Lions

11. (=15) Arizona Cardinals

12. (13) Chicago Bears

13. (=10) San Diego Chargers

14. (=13) Tennessee Titans

= (12) Dallas Cowboys

16. (=22) Carolina Panthers

17. (=15) New York Jets

18. (24) Oakland Raiders

19. (18) Cleveland Browns

20. (=20) Houston Texans

21. (19) Buffalo Bills

22. (=15) Miami Dolphins

23. (25) Baltimore Ravens

24. (=22) Washington

25. (=25) St. Louis Rams

26. (=20) Philadelphia Eagles

27. (28) Atlanta Falcons

28. (29) New York Giants

29. (27) Pittsburgh Steelers

30. (30) Jacksonville Jaguars

31. (32) Minnesota Vikings

32. (31) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

So using this, the project playoff teams would look as follows (and I’m sticking with my pre-season Super Bowl winner prediction):

NFC 1. Seattle Seahawks; 2. New Orleans Saints; 3. Green Bay Packers; 4. Dallas Cowboys; 5. San Francisco 49ers (forced into Wild Card as Seattle take division); 6. Detroit LIons

AFC 1. Kansas City Chiefs; 2. Indianapolis Colts; 3. New England Patriots; 4. Cincinnati Bengals; 5. Denver Broncos; 6. San Diego Chargers

Plugging that into the playoff picture, my new predictions go as follows:

Wild Card Round

NFC: Lions @ Packers – Green Bay; 49ers @ Cowboys – San Francisco

AFC: Chargers @ Patriots – New England; Broncos @ Bengals – Broncos

Divisional Round

NFC: Packers @ Saints – Green Bay; 49ers @ Seahawks – 49ers

AFC: Broncos @ Chiefs – Kansas City; Patriots @ Colts – Indianapolis

NFC Championship Game: 49ers @ Packers – Green Bay

AFC Championship Game: Colts @ Chiefs – Indianapolis

Super Bowl – Green Bay over Indianapolis

Week 9 Predictions

Last week, 6-7; Season, 67-52

Home teams in bold

Bengals -2.5 over Dolphins

Panthers -7.5 over Falcons

Bills +3.5 over Chiefs

Cowboys -10.5 over Vikings

Titans -2.5 over Rams

Saints -5.5 over Jets

Chargers +0.5 over Washington

Raiders -2.5 over Eagles

Seahawks -16.5 over Buccaneers

Ravens -2.5 over Browns

Steelers +7.5 over Patriots

Colts -2.5 over Texans

Packers -11.5 over Bears

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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