What Did I Learn from Week 9?


I don't know what you learned, but I learned many things Sunday. First, the AFC South is the most competitive division in the NFL. Come on, you knew that in August, right? Secondly, unlike most other leagues, the so-called "Best Team" in the NFL changes virtually every Sunday. As of this First Monday in November, the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals are clearly playing the best. Go back a month ago on Monday Night Football when those same Pats looked slow, old and pretty much shot as Tom Brady was a sitting duck in a 41-14 beat down in KC. They were 2-2 having already lost by 13 at Miami. Now, Tom Brady looks like the best QB in football again as they have rolled to 7 and 2. Don't take my word for it, let's go to what the "experts" were saying about New England: http://thebiglead.com/2014/11/03/trent-dilfer-one-month-ago-the-patriots-theyre-not-good-anymore/

Another example of rising from the dead is Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yes, they are 6-3, but Big Ben is back on the beam; 3 straight wins, 124 pts in the last 3 games and it all started in the MNF game where the Steelers were down 13-0 and lifeless in the final 2 minutes of the half. Fans were booing and then, the spark! 3 td's in 73 seconds and Pittsburgh is rolling! 16 tds and 1 int during that stretch and a historic 12 in his last 2 games. They've hung 51 on the Colts and now 43 on the Ravens in back to back blowouts. 22 touchdowns and 3 ints all season for Ben and barring injuries, are the Steelers not the team to beat in that division right now?

As for the rest of the league. Arizona quietly is 7 and 1 and via a combination of solid play by Carson Palmer, great coaching by Bruce Arians and taking advantage of up and down teams like the Eagles at home and the banged up Cowboys in Dallas. Injuries to Tony Romo and other key guys has suddenly turned Dallas from SB locks to scrambling to put that train wreck back together again. Amazingly, Arizona still doesn't seem to get any kind of "fear factor" love from the rest of the league or even the NFC. Just look at the so-called 2 "teams to beat" coming into the season. The 49'ers are a mess at 4-4. Colin Kaepernick looks lost behind a shaky O line and despite his amazing skills to run, went down 8 times to the Rams on Sunday and fumbled away the game trying a keeper from the one. Seattle is up and down as well, but don't all teams who win the SB go through this the following season?

Now, on to the Eagles. 6 and 2 is 6 and 2 despite the weekly belly-aching and quantifying whether it's a legit record or not. Last time I checked there isn't a column in the standings for "style pts" or margin of victory. This isn't the BCS or even the new college football system where a bunch of yahoos vote on who makes the playoffs. Nick Foles regression under duress now can be put to rest as Chip Kelly made sure he got himself a solid, veteran backup in the offseason in Mark Sanchez. Remember when many laughed at this pickup? Remember when the signings of Darren Sproules and Malcolm Jenkins were viewed as not sexy enough because they weren't the "sizzle" names out there? Sanchez may not be the savior, but unlike Dallas, San Francisco and other teams who put all of their eggs in one guys basket, Kelly has displayed a good grasp of getting the right guys to fit his program, rather than load up the roster with bodies who can't play or fan favorites like DeSean Jackson who obviously benefitted last season without Jeremy Maclin on the field. I rooted for DeJax when he was an Eagle, but Maclin is proving to be a more well rounded weapon who not only can go deep, but does what DeSean has never been able to do - BLOCK - when he's not running his fly patterns.

Chip's biggest challenge at the half way point? Finding someone to assume the leadership role of LB DeMeco Ryans. The Eagles have quality depth at so many positions, but this void may be impossible to fill.

Finally, is Mark Sanchez good enough to lead this team deep into the post-season?  I have no idea. I do know he is a smart, hard working guy who was obviously ready to play when Foles went down, and a guy who led the NY Jets into 2 AFC title games when they Jets were a real football team, not the toxic cesspool that franchise has become over the last 3 years.