Welcome to NFL Week 9

Running back Fred Jackson celebrates the Bills victory with fans at the end of game in Toronto on...

Running back Fred Jackson celebrates the Bills victory with fans at the end of game in Toronto on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:09 PM ET

STATE BRAGGING RIGHTS

It's been a while since the Bills were actually even in the conversation when it came to New York state's best NFL team but the boys from upstate are certainly there this year. The Jets, the darlings of the state since Rex Ryan brought his loud bravado to the Meadowlands, are currently playing second fiddle to both the Giants and the Bills but can reel the Bills back in this weekend with a win. Rex’s boys are coming off a bye week which until this past weekend was considered a bad thing. Going into Week 8 teams coming off the bye were a pathetic 3-9. But a 5-1 record of those rested teams in Week 8 has put a pin in the theory that a week off does a team more harm than good during a lockout year.

THE SYBIL SHOWDOWN

Two teams dealing with duel personality issues do battle as the Saints — who scored 62 on Indy and then turned around and played lame duck to the Rams — host the Buccaneers, who soundly handled New Orleans at home three weeks ago and then followed that up looking like they had never played the game in a loss to Chicago in London. Obviously the Saints will be looking to even the season series on their own turf and there’s no way the wake-up call they got in St Louis on Sunday doesn’t help. The Bucs, meanwhile come off a bye week and as banged up as they have been, that can’t be a bad thing.

MORE TROUBLE FOR PATSIES

Having just been shredded by the Pittsburgh Steelers offence, the Pats woeful secondary now heads home where they host another gunslinger in Eli Manning who has his own arsenal of speedy receivers to play with. As good as Tom Brady and the offence can be, having to make amends week after week for the holes in their own secondary will eventually take its toll. At some point the Pats are going to have to figure out how to cover somebody. If not quarterbacks like Manning will have a hey day with them and force Brady to be perfect ... which the Steelers proved won’t happen every weekend.

THE CAN'T MISS GAME

If you are only allowed limited hours of NFL viewing pleasure on a Sunday, remove yourself from the TV room on Sunday and wait for the Sunday nighter. Steelers versus Ravens is as good as it gets for two teams that really don’t like each other. Throw in the one-sided beating the Ravens put on the Steelers in Week 1 and this really is your can’t-miss game of the weekend. The Ravens are struggling on offence to a degree right now. Anquan Boldin finally showed signs of life on the weekend but at the same time Dick LeBeau’s defence has found its backbone as well. Skip all the others if you have to, but don’t miss this one.

MONDAY NIGHT MAYHEM

The strut is back in the Eagles walk following consecutive wins around a bye week. Michael Vick and company are just starting to live up to all that pre-season hype. LeSean McCoy may be one of the three best backs in the league right now and that porous offensive line that held the Eagles back in the early going now seems to have straightened out. This game could very well come down to how well the Bears own leaky O-line can protect Jay Cutler. With Trent Cole healthy again, that Philadelphia front four is a handful for even the better offensive lines.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Andy Reid was reading my mail,” Ryan said. “He kicked my ass. I’ve just got to go back and work harder. I’ve got to be smarter than this. That’s all it comes down to.”

Not sure how to read this one. Either Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan (it’s his quote) has put himself on a par with a head coach and dismissed Jason Garrett’s superiority in the pecking order or he’s trying to take a bullet for Garrett. If you go with the first option Ryan is on a bit of an ego trip. Take the second and he’s a team player. Either way it was a bad week for the Cowboys who are quickly looking like afterthoughts in the NFC playoff picture.

STOCK RISING: Anquan Boldin finally gave the Baltimore Ravens offence something to crow about. Sure Ray Rice had the three-touchdown day but Terrell Suggs already announced to the world how important he was to the Ravens offence. Boldin, playing his former team, set up all three Rice scores with big pass plays or forcing the Cards into interference penalties. Baltimore’s offence looks very pedestrian these days and a breakout game like Boldin had should at least take some of the attention off Rice allowing him to do a little more as a running back.

STOCK FALLING: Not sure stock can fall any lower than Tim Tebow’s did on Sunday. Nothing is official but word is they have replaced that ‘Let Tebow Start’ billboard with a great big ‘We were wrong’ apology. There were no seven minutes of magic for Tebow in his second start of the season. His quarterback rating of 56.8 for the week was slightly better than three other starters in the NFL on Sunday. But barely bettering John Beck, Curtis Painter and Blaine Gabbert isn’t going to crowd your bandwagon. How bad was it for Tebow on Sunday? Two games into his move to the starting job, head coach John Fox wasn’t willing to commit to another one for Tebow.

HYPE WE'RE BUYING: Christian Ponder is for real. The Vikings quarterback has his team playing for him. Adrian Peterson hasn’t run as hard as he did Sunday for a quarterback since Daunte Culpepper was under centre in Minny. Ponder maximizes Peterson’s abilities which sounds obvious but for whatever reason wasn’t being done before. Buffalo’s Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix were very high on this young quarterback and we’re starting to see why.

HYPE WE'RE NOT: With apologies to Steven Jackson who ran like a man possessed on Sunday, the Rams are still a team full of question marks. And for that matter, the Saints aren’t nearly as bad as they looked either. Whether it was the Rams feeding off the St. Louis Cardinals surprise World Series title or the Saints just hitting a real flat spot, neither team even remotely reflects the outcome of this game. It was a one off. Don’t expect the Rams to be this good again next week and don’t expect the Saints to be this bad.

ON THE HOT SEAT

Pete Carroll is suddenly getting plenty of grief for his poor game management. Folks in Seattle previously looked the other way when Carroll mismanaged the play clock costing his Seahawks guaranteed points but it came to a head on Sunday when Carroll’s Seahawks earned a first down on Cincy’s one yard line only to learn there was no more time left in the first half. That coupled with his indecisiveness on a starting quarterback has left Carroll open to the kind of second-guessing normally reserved for the Andy Reid’s of the world. The honeymoon is over for Carroll in Seattle and he’s hearing about it.

DAN BILICKI'S FANTASY MATCHUPS

DREAM MATCHUP

SAN DIEGO VS GREEN BAY

The Packers may be the lone remaining undefeated team, but that doesn’t mean that their defence is rock solid. We all know what they can do on offence with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, but their defence is among the league’s worst in terms of yardage allowed.

Thanks to their high-scoring ways this game could easily become a shootout, meaning any player involved in this one should be started.

Phillip Rivers and Co. may not have had the best year so far, but they’re still eighth in the league in yardage and pass yards.

There is a crazy amount of fantasy potential here, especially if Antonio Gates can hold it together.

NIGHTMARE TIME

PITTSBURGH VS. BALTIMORE

If you have a receiver on one of these teams or one of the QBs, I’d strongly consider benching them this coming week.

These two teams rank No. 1 and 2 in the league in defending the pass, with Baltimore holding a slight edge. They’re not slouches against the run either, with the Ravens at No. 3 and the Steelers at No. 8.

Back in Week 1 the Ravens crushed the Steelers, but times have changed. Baltimore’s offence has stalled, while their defence is still getting them through games.

The only real viable play out of these two teams is Ray Rice, with Rashard Mendenhall a go only if you’re low on options.

This game should be a slugfest, as per usual when these fierce rivals collide.

RANDALL THE HANDLE'S WEEK 8 RANTS

1. It’s infuriating every time a coach does this and it cost Cleveland backers a cover Sunday. Down 10 points, with approximately 30 seconds to play and no timeouts left, the Browns elected to go on a 4th and 5 at the Niners’ 26-yard line. Time ticking, Cleveland goes for a first down and makes it but time expires. In order to have any chance to win, coach Pat Shurmur is supposed to send out his field-goal unit to try to cut the game to seven points, then onside kick and hope for a small miracle. The way he did it, there was no chance for a victory. None. Why is this concept so difficult to grasp for so many coaches?

2. Seattle’s Pete Carroll is clueless. He proved it yet again, at the end of the first half in the Seahawks game against the Bengals. With Seattle facing a 4th and 2 at the Bengals’ 3-yard line with 14 seconds left, brainy Pete used his final timeout to call a play. The ‘Hawks then ran the ball, got to the 1-yard line and time expired. Maybe you go for the field goal? Maybe you save the timeout for AFTER the play? Maybe some NCAA team with strong recruiting ability has a coaching vacancy?

3. Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy is one the league’s best young running backs. So why is Andy Reid giving him the ball with 3:00 minutes to play, up 34-7?

4. The Giants’ Tom Coughlin has a certain swagger but going for a 4th and 9 on his team’s opening drive against Miami, isn’t smart. The usually tame Dolphins took it as an insult and then drove the field for a touchdown right after before giving the Giants more than they bargained for all afternoon.


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