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These days, little qualifies as an upset

NFL coaches and players are fond of saying last week's outcome doesn't affect this week's game. Head-to-head records don't count. Streaks and midseason standings? Largely irrelevant.

If you don't believe them, take a look at last weekend.

On the ninth weekend of the season, seven favorites, including the Bucs, went down. The Packers had lost nine of their past 11 games in Minnesota and came out with a win. The Cardinals, who once looked like they couldn't beat a college team, now have one fewer win than the Bucs. As bad as things are in Oakland, surely the Raiders would whip up on the hapless Lions? Nope. Didn't happen.

Heck, the Panthers lost to the Texans, with Tony Banks at quarterback!

"I'm certainly disappointed, and if you're not angry, then there is something wrong with you," Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "We came in here feeling good about ourselves but didn't get it done. It falls on us. We made our own bed. It's our fault. I don't want to say it's shocking. Teams are too good in this league for it to be shocking."

The reality, Bucs coach Jon Gruden said, is that despite what many observers believe to be a clear talent hierarchy in the league, the landscape of the NFL ensures that anything can happen.

"I think it (does)," Gruden said. "I've tried to say that. It's pro football. I look at the Pittsburgh Steelers, they are 2-6. Oakland's 2-6. The New York Jets (2-6) are struggling to stay alive. It's a great life to live, the NFL. We all have adversity and the league is what it is. Everybody has good players and good coaches and you're in for one hell of a fight every Sunday. We understand that."

Speaking of the Steelers, though not favored, they, too, went down Sunday, albeit to the improved and surprising Seahawks (6-2). Many felt the Steelers were a lock to go deep into the playoffs.

"It's tough, real tough to describe where we're at," tackle Alan Faneca told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Mentally, physically and in the standings. It's a tough one to swallow. Two and six, man. You'd expected it to be the other way around."

And remember how woeful the Cardinals looked at the start of the season? They have more wins than seven teams.

"If we don't turn the football over and just play the game, we've got a chance in every game," Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis told the Arizona Republic. "Does that mean you win every game? No, but you've got a chance."

TONY, TONY, TONY: Speaking of a gutsy effort, big props should go to Banks, who spent last season on the bench behind David Carr. All Banks did was start and play in his first game in more than a year and pilot his team to that win over the Panthers.

Recovering from an ankle sprain, Carr was one of Banks' biggest supporters.

"It's never tough (being a backup), because it's Dave," Banks told the Houston Chronicle. "If it were anybody other than Dave, I'd probably have a tough time with it. I appreciate him letting me know that he watched me in my younger days, and I thank him for saying all week that it would be no surprise if I played well. He knows I can still throw the ball, even though I'm supposedly one of the old guys."

It was the 76th start for Banks, 30, and he completed 13-of-19 for 154 yards and one touchdown.

"The guy has been here for a year and a half, sitting behind me and listening to all my rants and raves and being my friend," Carr said. "(Sunday), I was his earpiece, like he's been for me. I just listened. I tried to be there for him today, and he did a great job."

NOW THAT'S AN AUDIBLE: When 49ers receiver Brandon Lloyd stretched out and grabbed Tim Rattay's 27-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, it proved that big plays can be made through communication.

Rattay approached the line of scrimmage intent on a running play, and that's when Lloyd recognized the Rams were in bump-and-run coverage. He notified Rattay, who made a quick change, then trusted his receiver to make the play deep.

"I told Tim before the game, "I want one. Give me one, just one deep ball,' " Lloyd told the San Francisco Chronicle. "If I make the play, I make the play. And if I don't, I'll shut up."

He made the play.

FINANCIAL INCENTIVE: In a Thursday morning team meeting before the game against the Rams, 49ers controller Debye Welchel suggested that players start to pay into the 401(k) plan early because playoffs no longer were an option.

Welchel received a tongue lashing from the team and was nearly kicked out of the room before coach Dennis Erickson had to intercede so she could continue the presentation.

"Man, even the finance people aren't giving us a chance," cornerback Jimmy Williams said.

The 49ers ripped the Rams 30-10 and are very much alive in the playoff race.

NO REMORSE: After twice slicing up coach Bill Callahan's failing control of the team to the media, Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson isn't backing down. The Pro Bowl corner said no one in upper management has said a word to him since his criticism hit the air. Nor has Callahan, he said.

"Not at all," Woodson said. "Because it's the truth. I don't worry about telling the truth. When (Callahan) wants to talk about it, he'll say something."

TOUGH DAY ON THE JOB: To Dolphins rookie left tackle Wade Smith, looking at the film Monday likely didn't help put away the sting of Sunday's performance against the Colts. Smith gave up three sacks to defensive end Dwight Freeney.

"Sometimes, you have bad days," Smith said. "(Sunday) was a bad day. I can't really put into words what I feel like. It's not a good feeling. You put so much work into winning these games. To have things happen the way they happened, it hurts."

HE SAID IT: "I can't afford to tell you my thoughts." _ Ravens coach Brian Billick on what he thinks about instant replay. Billick was fined $15,000 for his Oct. 19 comments about officiating.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in the report.

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