A lot of things came out of this weekend's games other than the Ravens moving to 9-4, the same record they had in 2000 when they went to the Super Bowl from the Wild Card position, including beating other teams in this year's playoff hunt, Denver and Tennessee (sounding familiar?).
The Ravens-Steelers game will be the best game of the next weekend, and we'll talk about it the rest of the week, and probably well beyond that. Unfortunately, even after beating Pittsburgh, we'll still need help to take the AFC North title. Perhaps the Titans can help us, although I doubt we can rely on the Browns to win at Pittsburgh in the final week of the season. The Jets, Pats and Dolphins will slug it out over the next three weeks to have one team emerge as the division champ, since there won't be a Wild Card from there, unless we go 1-2 and the Pats or Jets go 3-0 (doubtful). I don't see the Dolphins hanging in the race, so it looks to be one of the other two. The Colts just keep on winning and I fully expect them to be the first Wild Card and go deep into the playoffs. Denver to me, along with whomever wins the AFC East, figures to be one and done, as I expect both Wild Cards (Indy and perhaps us) to win on the road the first weekend of the playoffs.
Over in the NFC, the Giants stanglehold on the top seed remains, but they are not quite as good as they looked before the Eagles game. The Carolina Panthers are looking real tough, especially at home and should be a tough test for anyone in the NFC. The NFC North is still undecided, although I expect the Bears to win out over the Vikings by year's end. In the west, the Cardinals have locked up the division, but cannot win traveling west to east. Therefore, while they might win the first playoff game in Arizona, they will not win here on the east coast. The Buccaneers will probably lock down the first Wild Card, but the second one is way up in the air. The Cowboys could have secured that and helped out the Ravens at the same time by holding on to beat Pittsburgh, but no, they folded like the other three teams in the NFC East (except the Giants) against our division (yeah, Phiily beat the Steelers earlier this season, but they wouldn't again!). The Falcons, Cowboys, and Eagles will fight for the final Wild Card slot and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Eagles come back from the brink to take it, as the Cowboys and Falscons schedules might knock them out.
The Power Rankings should change considerably after this past weekend's games. I see the following teams ranked above the Ravens, in no specific order: Giants, Titans, Steelers, Panthers, Colts and maybe the Cardinals. However, if the Jets, Pats, Broncos, Bucs, Falcons, Vikings or Bears are above us, I'll go crazy. At the same time, let everyone dismiss us like they did in 2000. It's only the final scores that matter to me. ESPN's Chris Berman's "Swami" picked against us every week of the 200-01 playoffs and I loved it. He's doing the same this year and it'll be great to make him look bad once again.
More to come. Your thoughts?