Players, teams, and even coaching/front office decisions surprise us weekly in the NFL, for good or bad.
Week 9 certainly proved no different. There were blowouts, convincing victories in matchups between contenders, multiple big performances from unknown players, and shocking decisions made by head coaches involving two of the league's most high profile players.
As the season's second half begins, it is vital that teams take advantage of every opportunity given to them, as each individual game and play will become more and more important. Some thrived in that vein last week, while others fell short, either enhancing or lowering their postseason chances in the process.
Following are power rankings of the NFL's 10 biggest Week 9 surprises, five positive and five negative.
Fighting for their lives this week against a mediocre Jacksonville squad, the Cowboys were dominated in front of a home crowd, falling 35-17 in a game that was even worse than the score indicated.
If Dallas was ever going to get out of their 2010 funk and back into the playoff race, it had to be in Week 8. They failed miserably, committing four turnovers and allowing middling Jaguars QB David Garrard to throw four TD passes and post a perfect QB rating. Perhaps worse, they showed no passion, heart, or fight in a game that needed had to have.
Owner Jerry Jones publicly apologized for his team's dismal play this season in a postgame press conference, telling the fans they "should have better than this". While he may have salvaged some ticket and merchandise sales with his uncharacteristic act of contrition, there's nothing he can do to save the 2010 season for his franchise.
After this devastating performance, it's over for Dallas in 2010.
There's no other way to put it--Sanchez was miserable in his team's 9-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers at the New Meadowlands in Week 8.
In a game in which Green Bay had no success throwing the football to go along with their usually ineffective run game, all Sanchez needed to do was play the role of game-manager, not commit any turnovers and let the powerful Jets rushing attack churn out yards on the ground.
Instead, he passed much more than he's used to against a talented GB secondary, completing only 16 of his 38 attempts and throwing two interceptions. Not coincidentally, the Jets were shut out.
If New York wants to live up to their own lofty expectations of winning the Super Bowl, they'll need much, much better play out of their second-year signal-caller.
In a matchup between two squads trying to keep pace in the playoff picture, the Oakland Raiders decimated the Seattle Seahawks in Week 8, winning by a score of 33-3.
While the Raiders (who will be discussed later) are the NFL's hottest team, there is no excuse for Seattle to lose the way that they did. The Seahawks had no chance in this game from halftime on, as they couldn't stop the Raiders through the air or on the ground and were completely overmatched on offense.
Seahawks' coach Pete Carroll at least recognized how dismal his team's performance was, saying afterward, "We accomplished nothing on any aspect of our ball". As they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step towards solving it.
Seattle must adjust and play significantly better football if they want to continue to surprise and win their division.
With his team trailing a struggling Detroit team as the fourth quarter was coming to a close, coach Mike Shanahan made a shocking decision. He pulled veteran QB Donovan McNabb in favor of career journeyman Rex Grossman to run his offense's two-minute drill.
McNabb had struggled up to that point in the contest, but hardly enough to merit his benching in favor of a player like Grossman. Especially given the Redskins dire circumstances at the time. Perhaps as an omen from the football gods, Grossman coughed up a fumble on his first play that was returned for a score. Just like that, the game was over.
After the game, Shanahan insisted that he went with Grossman because the backup is more comfortable with the team's two-minute offense. Monday though, he changed his tune, opining that McNabb was not well-conditioned enough to run that scheme. Yikes.
For a team that is in the thick of the NFC playoff race, Shanahan unjustly and unnecessarily created a major controversy. It not only cost them a chance to beat the Lions, but it could potentially cost them the season.
After his bizarre performance on the field and on the postgame press conference podium in Week 8, the Vikings and coach Brad Childress decided to part ways with recently acquired wideout Randy Moss.
While news of the story broke Monday, the decision is no doubt based on Moss' uninspiring play on the field and his incendiary comments off of it made on Sunday. He made little difference in Minnesota's passing game despite 13 catches and two TDs, as the Vikings went 1-3 with Moss on the roster.
Sensing that he was becoming more of a headache off the field than a positive force on it, Childress elected to release Moss. This scenario is a disastrous one for Minnesota, as just a month ago they gave up a third round pick to acquire the future Hall of Famer, and he seemed poised to ignite a struggling team.
There have been rumblings of friction between Childress and his players all season long. One wonders if this may be the final straw for the latter group, as the Vikings head coach could lose complete control of the locker room. This decision signals just how poorly 2010 has gone for the Vikings, and is certainly not indicative of a team that is headed in the right direction.
Minnesota, with or without Moss, looks dead in the water for 2010.
In what many considered one of Week 8's most uninspiring matchups, the Chiefs and Bills played an incredibly interesting and action-packed game at Arrowhead Stadium, using every second of the extra period before the home team hit a game-winning FG.
Kansas City continued their amazing success on the ground, as star runner Jamaal Charles rushed 22 times for 177 yards. The Bills, like the opposition, consistently moved the football but were unable to capitalize with a TD until the game's final minutes of regulation.
As the fourth quarter wound down, it appeared that Buffalo was in position for a winning field goal attempt. Instead, Fitzpatrick's pass was intercepted by rookie S Eric Berry, forcing overtime.
In overtime, both the Bills and Chiefs missed a field goal try, and the former was in KC territory on multiple occasions but couldn't come away with points. With less than two minutes on the clock, QB Matt Cassel--who had been ineffective all day--moved his team 60 yards, putting them in position for another game-clinching field goal.
This time, K Ryan Succop split the uprights, and Kansas City came away with a heart-stopping 13-10 win.
What a game.
On this article's negative side in last week, Saints QB Drew Brees redeemed himself with a big performance against a stingy Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
In a contest that lived up to the hype, Brees was stellar, completing 34 of 44 throws for 305 yards and two scores. He put the game out of reach with an eight yard strike to WR Lance Moore in the game's closing minutes.
This was a statement win for New Orleans coming off an embarrassing home loss to the Cleveland Browns. From the beginning, it seemed like Brees wouldn't let his team falter, and the Saints re-established themselves as the contenders we thought they were when the season began.
QB Tom Brady played well against the Vikings in Week 8, but RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the Patriots' best player in a 28-18 win.
Against a normally stout Minnesota run defense, Green-Ellis had his best game as a pro, running for 112 yards and two TDs on only 17 carries.
The New England passing attack--not surprisingly--has developed into one of the league's most potent and reliable. If Green-Ellis and his peers in the backfield can duplicate his success, the Patriots will continue their winning ways and take pressure off of a much-maligned defense.
The Bucs are perhaps the season's biggest surprise, though until Week 8 it certainly had nothing to do with their ineffective run game. That all changed with the emergence of rookie RB LeGarrette Blount on Sunday.
Blount was fantastic for Tampa Bay. He churned out 120 yards and two scores on the ground, and had scintillating 48 yard run that included both a spin and a hurdle that left Arizona defenders in the dust. He has now rushed for 222 yards this season on just 43 attempts, good for a 5.2 average.
If Blount can produce half of the production he had in the Bucs' 38-35 Week 8 win on a game-to-game basis, Tampa Bay will prove to be very dangerous on offense and much more likely to run away with the NFC South crown.
The Raiders were the most dominant team in Week 7, and were even more so in Week 8's 30 point drubbing of the Seattle Seahawks.
Oakland was stellar on both sides of the ball, accumulating an amazing 545 total yards and allowing only 162.
QB Jason Campbell continued his stellar play, throwing for 310 yards and two TDs. On the ground, RB Darren McFadden again proved one of the league's deadliest ball carriers, running for over 100 yards for the fourth time in six games this season. Defensively, the Raiders held Seattle to just 47 yards rushing and frustrated QB Matt Hasselbeck into completing only 13 of 32 passes.
While Oakland has improved immeasurably over the last two weeks, their biggest test of the season thus far comes in Week 9 at home against Kansas City. Suddenly, this matchup is vital in both the AFC West and conference playoff races. If the Raiders play anything like they did against Seattle, the Chiefs will be in for a long day.