Winning isn't everything. This is usually where one would complete the Vince Lombardi quote by declaring "it's the only thing," but that's not true.
At the end of the day, a win or loss (and occasionally a tie) is all that appears in the standings, but that eliminates a cavalcade of plays, many of which are altered by an inch or fingernail. In a results-driven world, it's important to stop and take a gander at the process.
So with only one game allotted per week, evaluating a team solely by its win-loss record is risky business. The Houston Texans are nowhere near as bad as their 2-6 mark suggests, but a few catastrophic plays revised their entire season from a potential success story to a horror show.
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Tennessee Titans||TEN 24-10|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Green Bay Packers||PHI 27-23|
|Buffalo Bills||Pittsburgh Steelers||BUF 23-20|
|Oakland Raiders||New York Giants||NYG 27-16|
|St. Louis Rams||Indianapolis Colts||IND 31-13|
|Seattle Seahawks||Atlanta Falcons||SEA 20-10|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Baltimore Ravens||CIN 20-13|
|Detroit Lions||Chicago Bears||DET 31-23|
|Carolina Panthers||San Francisco 49ers||CAR 24-23|
|Houston Texans||Arizona Cardinals||HOU 27-20|
|Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||DEN 40-31|
|Dallas Cowboys||New Orleans Saints||NO 34-24|
|Miami Dolphins||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||TB 16-13|
Houston Texans (at Arizona Cardinals)
Those poor Texans have not won a game since Sept. 15, but that grueling streak will hit a screeching halt this Sunday at Arizona.
While some would argue that the Texans were lucky to win their first two games, they've also encountered a great deal of misfortune to plummet down the AFC ranks. They thoroughly out-gained the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts, only to squander leads at the last second. They also lost to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs by one point during Case Keenum's first career start.
At 2-6, the Texans rate eighth in total offensive yards and first in yards allowed. Only the Cincinnati Bengals and New Orleans Saints, who both have six wins to their credit, reside in the top 10 of both categories.
Before jumping for joy, ESPN's Tania Ganguli reported that Arian Foster is out on Sunday, and potentially much longer, with a back injury.
Arian Foster didn't practice again and is out, Wade Phillips says. #Texans— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) November 8, 2013
It's an unfortunate blow, but Arizona is deadly against the run anyway and exploitable through the air. After looking sharp against two of the league's toughest secondaries (Kansas City and Indianapolis), Keenum should continue to progress while Carson Palmer struggles against the NFL's premier pass-prevention unit.
Prediction: Texans 27, Cardinals 20
Philadelphia Eagles (at Green Bay Packers)
Is this one cheating?
The Packers are 5-4, but all of those triumphs came with Aaron Rodgers leading the brigade. After breaking his collarbone against the Chicago Bears on Monday night, the Packers are a totally different team.
At least rookie Eddie Lacy has laid down the groundwork for a running game in Green Bay. Imagine the disaster that would have unfolded last season without the star quarterback under center.
Will the Green Bay Packers make the playoffs despite losing Aaron Rodgers for at least a few weeks?
Even with Lacy rushing for 150 yards, the Packers could not muster enough offense behind Seneca Wallace, who could not move the ball deep downfield with 6.0 yards per attempt.
Wisconsin natives should not give up yet, as Wallace faces the league's worst passing defense this weekend. Unfortunately, he might need to win a shootout, which favors well for Nick Foles and the Eagles.
Chip Kelly's scheme gets dissected and shredded apart with each setback, but the Eagles boast the league's fourth-best offense with 413.2 yards per game. After his seven-touchdown explosion, Foles has 13 touchdowns and no interceptions in limited action.
Wallace might engineer a little more with a week of practice and plays designed for him rather than Rodgers, but the Eagles will mount points against a defense that could not contain Josh McCown in the Week 9 battle of backup quarterbacks.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Packers 23
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Miami Dolphins)
I originally picked the Dolphins to survive an ugly game in this week's installment of Monday Night Football, but this feels like the perfect time for the Buccaneers to pick up their first win of the season.
Tampa Bay is bad, and Greg Schiano is not helping matters with his strict coaching tactics that are wearing out his befuddled players. On the other hand, the squad isn't Jacksonville Jaguars bad.
The Buccaneers relinquished a 1-0 start by an untimely penalty, then lost to the New Orleans Saints by two points the following week. Last Sunday, they jumped out to a 21-0 lead over the Seattle Seahawks before the Seahawks remembered they were the Seahawks playing in Seattle.
Who will win on Monday night?
Aside from an anemic passing offense that has gradually progressed to passable under Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay is not a terrible team. Once upon a time, a playoff bid felt in reach.
While the Dolphins are just decent enough to steal one from a team like the Cincinnati Bengals, they're also futile enough to drop one on the road against a winless club. This may be falling victim to a pretty narrative of Tampa Bay finally winning in prime time as former coach Jon Gruden provides the commentary, all the while providing Miami with its comeuppance for the Jonathan Martin saga.
Then again, Miami's offensive line has also allowed more sacks (35) than any other team, while Glennon plays better by the week, so an upset is not all that crazy.
Prediction: Buccaneers 16, Dolphins 13