NFL Week 9: The bye is a boon

The NFL teams coming off a bye week on Sunday amassed a 6-0 record, highlighted by Cleveland's big upset over New England.

What we learned

Colt McCoy rambled for a 16-yard touchdown on this play to help Cleveland come off their bye week with an upset victory over New England. ((Tony Dejak/Associated Press))

Perhaps the most striking thing about Week 9 was the success of the six teams coming off their bye week.

While most of the games were fairly close, the cumulative effect was a perfect 6-0 record after wins by Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, the New York Giants, and Philadelphia.

It hasn't been a season-long trend. There was a perfect 4-0 slate in Week 4 for teams coming off the bye, but in the other weeks rust has been as big a factor as rest.

Eliminating the lone game in which two bye teams faced each other upon resuming activity (Indy over Houston last week), the perfect showing Sunday gives bye teams a 13-7 mark when playing those who were in action the previous week.

It will be interesting to see over the next two weeks as the byes are completed whether the successful trend continues.

As a side note, Philly's win over the Colts gave them a perfect 12-0 mark after a bye under Andy Reid. Indianapolis, meanwhile, lost for the first time in the month of November in 12 games.


Hot seat power rankings

Wade PhillipsDallas
Gary KubiakHouston
John FoxCarolina
Ken WhisenhuntArizona
Chan GaileyBuffalo

It's unlikely Whisenhunt is in jeopardy, but the Cards have coughed up leads in the fourth the last two weeks in part due to questionable, conservative play calling.

There was a temptation to put Brad Childress on the list because the Vikings barely beat Arizona but others were more/less deserving.

The Bills are playing hard under Gailey but it seems like their offensive game plan consists of three plays.

Critical moments

With Baltimore leading 20-10, Miami cornerback Sean Smith has an interception in his hands near midfield, possibly one that can be returned all the way for six points. He drops it, and the Dolphins are never again that close.

After closing the gap in the fourth against the Falcons with Michael Spurlock's kickoff return touchdown, Tampa Bay tries a bold move with an onside kick. It almost works, and it's true the Bucs would drive to near Atlanta's goal line late in the game, but they spent precious minutes in between losing the field position battle.

Take your pick with the Cardinals. With a two-score lead against Minnesota in the fourth, Derek Anderson on successive drives threw third down passes well short of the marker. On the first drive of overtime, Arizona swung to the other extreme, playing as if there was just one minute left on the clock.

Pass happy

The NFL, with its helpful press releases each week, trumpeted the fact prior to Week 9 that 346 passing touchdowns through eight weeks was one of the highest totals in recent years.

It worked out to an average of 2.96 for every game played. On Sunday, there were 35 TD passes in 12 games. You don't have to be a math expert to know that was pretty much to the year's standard.

Admittedly, that average could dip a bit on Monday when the aggressive Pittsburgh defence faces the unpredictable Carson Palmer.

Looking ahead

Here is a look at the some of the more important matchups on the Week 10 schedule. Baltimore against Atlanta is a great one on Thursday night (consider this your NFL clock-adjusting warning), but as an interconference game, will be somewhat less impactful than many others.

New England (6-2) at Pittsburgh (5-2): Both teams are still in the mix for AFC home field advantage in the postseason, and the Pats are smarting after their drubbing in Cleveland. Considering their consistent stature within the conference, they surprisingly haven't met in the playoffs since 2004. Could this be the year?

Philadelphia (5-3) at Washington (4-4): It would be easy to write off the Redskins after their loss in Detroit and the resultant Shanahan-McNabb marriage discord, but if they were to win this game they'd be 3-0 within the NFC East, with two of those victories over the Eagles.

Houston (4-4) at Jacksonville (4-4): There are eight AFC teams as of this writing with at least five wins. These two aren't among them. The loser could then be considered to reside in the mathematical category, numbering the days of the head coach.

Seattle (4-4) at Arizona (3-5): Seattle has been outscored 74-10 over the last two weeks but remarkably could hold the NFC West lead by the end of Week 10. Arizona with a win could be in a tie for top spot despite squandering leads the last two weeks. There is a legitimate possibility this division winner and playoff team could have a sub .500 record.