Good luck trying to figure out who the best team is after the Pats lose by 20; Colts continue to get injured; Cowboys collapse could mean the end of Wade; a rant involving spitting and Anne Frank; hot player of the week.

By Jim Buzinski

How I saw Week 9 in the NFL:

Here we are at the halfway point, with every team having played at least eight games and we still have no idea who the best team is. At various times in recent weeks, the Steelers, Ravens and Jets have been handed that title and each time those teams immediately lost. Add the Patriots to that list.

The Pats came into Cleveland 6-1, with people (including me) saying they looked like New England circa 2003, winning with solid defense, smart coaching and just enough offense. That was before the Browns (3-5) trampled the Patriots defense for 404 yards, including 230 on the ground en route to a 34-14 win. Peyton Hillis had 184 yards rushing and two touchdowns and the Browns used some clever play-calling to stymie the Patriots.

New England gained only 283 yards and it’s obvious their offense has lost the quick-strike option since trading Randy Moss. This means they need a lot of long drives to score and having the ball for only 21 minutes in Cleveland made that strategy useless.

Hot player of the week Stewart Bradley

Cleveland has beaten New Orleans and New England in consecutive games and can complete the “New” trifecta if they beat the Jets next week. Rookie Colt McCoy is playing well for the Browns, so the team might have finally found a quarterback for the future.

As for who the best team is, you tell me. I sense a real scramble the last half of the season for playoff spots and home field. The games are so close each week (three went to OT on Sunday) that dominance this season is just winning a couple in a row.

M*A*S*H unit: I have never seen a team so hit by major injuries to key players as the Colts (5-3), 26-24 losers to the Eagles (5-3). Indy is tied for the lead with Jacksonville in players lost for the season to injured reserve. During the Eagles game, receiver Austin Collie got drilled on a helmet-to-helmet hit and was carted off motionless. Fortunately, the team said Collie suffered “only” a concussion, amazing given how it at first looked.

I was amazed the Colts stayed in the game the way they did given how banged up they were. It helped that the Eagles committed 14 penalties and had to settle three times for field goals when inside the red zone. The Eagles, though, continued a streak – they are 12-0 under Andy Reid when coming off a bye. Michael Vick’s play cemented his status as the Eagles’ starter; he makes them a better team that Kevin Kolb.

I have seen some comments from Eagles fans (and some in the media) whining about a blow to the head of Peyton Manning that kept the Colts’ last touchdown drive alive. These people clearly don’t know the rule. Trent Cole hit Manning in the helmet on a pass rush. Any hit to the head of a quarterback is an automatic 15-yard penalty; intent or the severity of the hit is immaterial. The rule was correctly called.

Fading: If it’s possible to peak in Week 1, then we have seen that with the Texans. They approached Opening Day against the Colts as a mini-Super Bowl/statement game and their domination was impressive. Throw in a comeback from 17 down the following week against Washington and it looked like Houston was finally going to make a breakthrough.

Since then, though, the Texans have generally stunk, going 2-4 and incapable of stopping anyone. In fact, Houston is the first team since at least 1989 to give up 24 or more points in each of its first eight games. I predict that this team will once again watch the playoffs on TV.

%&*&^! You: Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder engaged in an entertaining but expletive filled and historically inaccurate rant after their 26-10 loss to the Ravens, accusing a Baltimore player of spitting at him.

“Y’all can write it down — the [expletive] punk Le’Ron McClain spit in my face. Keep writing — he spit in my face, and that’s why I got mad. The refs told me they didn’t see nothing, they didn’t see the spit hit my face.’ … That’s some real horseshit, so if you talk to him tell him he’s a ho’. If he ever comes to Miami, he’s got to see me. …

“The [refs] said they didn’t see it,” Crowder added. “Then they said something about they let Karlos Dansby get away with a facemask before. Who the f- cares? I just got spit in my face. I don’t give a damn about Karlos pulling somebody’s facemask.

“Like they didn’t see Chad Henne get hit twice when he slid. No, no, they say, “Aaah.” Stevie Wonder and Anne Frank. Who’s the blind girl? Helen Keller, then. I don’t know who the f— Anne Frank is. I’m mad right now. F— it. I’m not as swift as I usually am.”

McClain says that while the two got into it verbally, he did not spit on Crowder. And neither did Stevie Wonder nor Anne Frank.

Hot player of the week: Joe in Philly had turned us on to Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley, who missed last year with an injury. He’s back playing and looking terrific this season, the linebacker who can moonlight as a male model.

Collapse: After the Cowboys’ humiliating 45-7 loss on national TV to the Packers (6-3), look for owner Jerry Jones to finally take action. “A lot of people here will suffer consequences . . . players, coaches. . . . I’ve got lot of work to do, a lot of decisions to make,” he told ESPN. I think Wade Phillips might have just gotten fired.

At 1-7, the Cowboys are the worst team in the league. Record-wise, the 0-8 Bills are worse, but they at least play hard and have lose their last three games each by a field goal. In contrast, the Cowboys have tons more talent and are routinely getting blown out, giving up 41, 35 and 45 points the last three games.

Wild West: Cyd scoffs when I tell him I think the Chargers (4-5) are going to win the AFC West. I based that on San Diego being the most talented team in the division (albeit with incompetent coaching) and Kansas City (5-3) coming back to Earth.
I still feel that way Sunday after the Chargers beat the Texans, and the Raiders (5-4) rallied to beat the Chiefs, 23-20, in overtime. The Raiders have thrust themselves into the conversation with their third straight win, while the Chiefs have lost three of five.

I am not a Phillip Rivers fans (he acts like a punk on the field) but he is having an insane season. Against the Texans, missing his top two receivers, all Rivers did was throw four TD passes to no-names. He is on pace to set the all-time mark for yards passing in a season. Once Antonio Gates gets healthy and Vincent Jackson finally plays after a long holdout, the Chargers will be even scarier on offense.

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