Let's take our minds off the misery that is the Steelers season thus far, and take a look around the league.
Stock Up: Kansas City Chiefs
After an embarassing 45-7 loss to the Steelers a few weeks back, the Chiefs have bounced back to knock off the explosive San Diego Chargers and the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks. Kansas City now stands at 4-3, just one game behind both the Chargers (who've they beaten) and the Broncos (who've they lost to). The Chiefs get Miami, Oakland, and Cleveland mixed in their next five games, so don't be surprised to see the Chiefs at 7-5 or 8-4 and right in the thick of things at the start of the month of December.
Stock Down: Philadelphia
When the Eagles started the season 4-1, many were convinced that they and the Bears were the cream of the crop in the NFC. That's still the case with Chicago. With Philly? Doesn't look like it. Granted, the Eagles had lost two heartbreakers at New Orleans, and at Tampa Bay. Both ended in game winning FGs, with Matt Bryant connecting on a 62 yard game winner in the Tampa Bay game. This week they lost to a Jaguars team desperate for a win. The Jaguars outmuscled and outpunched the Eagles. That shouldn't happen when you're playing at home. The good news for the Eagles is they have a BYE week to rest their weary bones, and consecutive home games against the woeful Redskins and the resurgent, but still undermatched Titans. For now though, the Eagles must be frustrated that they've given away their fast start to the season.
Stock Up: Dallas
This one's obvious. Dallas was left for dead just last Monday night. This week, they're the talk of the NFL, with just about everybody ready to once again categorize them as legitimate contenders in the NFC. They did look impressive last night on both sides of the ball. There's no denying that. I tip my cap to Bill Parcells, Tony Romo, and the offensive line of the Cowboys for keeping him off the ground in his first career start in the NFL.
Now, despite how well Romo played last night, I still think he's going to have a couple of off-games this year. The problem is, the Cowboys don't have much margin for error. They're not in the kind of hole the Steelers are in, but they probably can only afford to lose 2 or 3 more ballgames this year if they're going to make the playoffs. I see Romo struggling in at least one, maybe two of their remaining games (and really, I'm being generous), and obviously the Cowboys still have a number of games against some quality opponents. I'd still consider it a mini-miracle if Romo could lead the Cowboys to the playoffs this year. I think they'll fall just short. For now though, props to them for a bigtime, potentially season saving win.
Stock Down: Carolina
Carolina has been a streaky team this year. Now that I think about it, Carolina's been a streaky team for quite some time now. Every year on paper, they look as if they're primed for a Super Bowl run. Every year it seems they stumbled out of the gates, make a charge, and either squeak in, or barely miss out on the playoffs.
This year has been no different. The Panthers lost their first two before proceeding to win their next four. Carolina then lost a close contest to the Bengals on the road, and got whooped by the Cowboys at home. The Cowboys were hungry for a W last night; that much was evident. But still, you've got to protect your home field in the NFL. You've got to find a way to rattle a QB who's never started a game in the NFL. Carolina did neither. This is a talented football team that's not catching any breaks while losing to some quality opponents. There's no such thing as good losses though, and the Panthers better find a way to string together some consistent play out of Jake Delhomme before they dig too deep a hole in the NFC South and NFC Wild Card pictures.
Stock Up: Tennessee and Green Bay
Neither of these teams are worth talking about extensively, so I'll lump them together. Out of nowhere, the Packers are 3-4. Not great, hell, not even good, but also not as bad as we all thought after their 1-4 start. The Packers have taken care of the Dolphins and the Cards the past two weeks. Nothing to get overly worked up about, but nevertheless, the wins are a credit to Brett Favre and the leadership he brings to that team. Favre has thrown 3 TDs to 0 INTs the past two weeks while the running game has taken center stage.
The Titans have new life after their painful-to-watch 0-5 start. Vince Young has energized this team. There's something about that kid that's hard to quantify. He's a born leader and has the type of competitive streak only found in athletes like MJ, Kobe, Jeter, and Brady. If you watched the last two Rose Bowls, you probably have an idea of what I'm talking about. He too will go through extraordinary growing pains this year but he's found a way to cut out the mistakes and let the rest of the team do it's role to compete for victories. The results have been good so far. Had his receiver Bobby Wade not dropped a TD pass against the Colts, Vince Young would be 3-1 as a starter.
Stock Down: Seattle
Injuries crush dreams and aspirations in this league. The Seahawks have been hit awfully hard by the injury bug this year. QB Matt Hasselback, T Sean Locklear, RB Shaun Alexander, all missed Sunday's game. The injury list goes even deeper than that. Still, you have to find a way to adjust and win games. The Seahawks have not. The Seahawks lost at home to Minnesota, who was exposed tonight against the Patriots as just an average team, and on the road against a surging Chiefs team. The loss against the Vikings hurt, but we shouldn't forget that Seneca Wallace was asked to step in and save the day.
Bottom line is both Super Bowl representatives are in trouble through Week 8 of the 2006 season. Obviously Seattle is in better shape than the Steelers, and their schedule looks fairly conducive to getting back on track. The Seahawks have back-to-back home games against the Raiders and Rams. Then they travel to San Francisco to take on a sad 49ers team before returning home to face the Packers. Keep an eye on the Seahawks though. Could both SB teams from 2005 miss this year's playoffs?