The Baltimore Ravens might not have played this past weekend due to being on their Bye week, but the team still scored huge in the standings, thanks to a trifecta of losses from three of their closest competitors. Going into this week, the Ravens were 5-2, yet behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North. In addition, the defending division champs, the Cincinnati Bengals were still within striking distance. Finally, the team that many people had already representing the AFC in the Super Bowl, the New York Jets, were one of three teams with only one loss, all ahead of Baltimore.
After the dust had settled, the Steelers, Bengals and Jets had lost their games, with only the New Enngland Patriots winning and now the lone team sporting only one loss so far in 2010. This trifecta of losses moves the Ravens into a first place tie with the Steelers at 5-2, but by virtue of their win over Pittsburgh, actually gives us the tiebreaker. The Bengals fall to 2-5, three games behind the division leaders and basically out of the playoff picture already. The Jets also fall to 5-2, a game behind the 6-1 Patriots, who have the best record in the NFL right now.
It's a long season, with more than half of the game remaining to be played. However, the separation between the contenders and pretenders is beginning to clear up. Teams expected to contend for playoff berths, such as Cincinnati, the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, have all fallen into the "pretender" category. On the other hand, there are now some surprising teams that were not expected to be where they currently sit, but must be considered "contenders" at this point. Those teams include Kansas City in the AFC and Tampa Bay in the NFC, both 5-2 and winners in close games yesterday.
Th Pittsburgh Steelers lost in New Orleans last night on national TV. The Saints passed all around Pittsburgh, and fought off challenges late in the game, putting the final nail in the coffin late in the fourth quarter on a Drew Brees TD pass. Imagine passing for the finishing score late in the game instead of running the ball to work the clock? Could you ever see the Ravens doing that with confidence in similar situations that might have either won the game or not permitted the opponents to get back into it?
The Cincinnati Bengals lost their second game of the season at home, this time to the Miami Dolphins and along with their loss to the Cleveland Browns earlier this season, actually puts them at the bottom of the AFC North in fourth place and has their fans standing on ledges of tall buildings all over Ohio.
The New York Jets were hosting the Green Bay Packers in what was looked at being a tough game, but certainly were expected to win at home with a tough defense, an offense that seemed to be clicking and the home field advantage. Despite those factors, not only did the Jets lose their second home game of the season (the Ravens beat them 10-9 to open the 2010 NFL regular season), they were shut out at home for additional embarrassment.
Only the New England Patriots were able to prove they might be the top team in the NFL right now, alone at 6-1 with the best record in the league. The Patriots defeated the soap opera that is the Minnesota Vikings, 28-18, despite a gritty performance by Brett Favre, who was knocked from the game on a hit by a Pats' helmet that opened a gash under Favre's chin. By the look on Brett's face as he was being carted off the field, it looked as if the injury was more than just a cut, perhaps a broken jaw, although Favre already is vowing to play next week.
Thanks go out to the Saints, Dolphins and Packers for helping the Ravens improve their standing without having to even lace them up and hit someone. Next week, the Ravens host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday and then turn right around to head to Atlanta to play the Falcons on Thursday Night Football, for the first NFL Network game of the season.