We are halfway through the NFL season, and every week seems to get better and better. Although this week was light on games, as 6 teams were on a bye, there was still plenty of action around the league.
In New Orleans, the red hot Saints hosted the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a NFC South battle. This game was no contest from the start, and the booming Saints offense ran all over the Bucs defense. The two-headed monster backfield of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara has boosted the Saints to 2nd in total yards on offense, and their once awful secondary has held their own, ranking 12th in the league. As for the Bucs, to say this season has been a disappointment is an understatement. Something about being featured on Hard Knocks gets a team a lot of hype. Following this team in the preseason showed a lot of people that they were ready for the spotlight, but they are far from it. Boasting a 2-6 record at this point, the Bucs are looking like they will be the 8th team out of the 12 featured on Hard Knocks to fail to reach the playoffs.
The best team in the NFL right now are the Philadelphia Eagles, and although they have had for the most part an easy schedule, they are firing on all cylinders of the game, and that showed on Sunday. Facing what many believe to be the best defense in football in the Denver Broncos, the Eagles offense torched the Broncos for 51 points and 419 total yards. Sophomore quarterback Carson Wentz continues his MVP caliber year with 4 touchdown passes, 2 to star receiver Alshon Jeffery, who needed a game like this to breakout. With the addition of pro bowl running back Jay Ajayi, and the emergence of undrafted rookie Corey Clement, who had 3 scores on Sunday, the Eagles’ running game has become one of the best in the league. A bye week this week could hurt the Eagles, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they lost to the Cowboys next Sunday night, but Philly is primed for a deep run in the playoffs and have reason to be excited with their quarterback of the future.
A pair of AFC South teams are primed for a race to the finish, as the Titans and Jaguars both grabbed key victories to improve to 5-3. Tennessee grabbed its 3rd straight victory coming off their bye, as they held off Joe Flacco and the Ravens en route to a 23-20 victory. The Jaguars had an interesting Sunday to say the least. Just hours before the game, Jacksonville announced that star rookie running back Leonard Fournette was inactive on Sunday due to violating team policies. Then, during their 23-7 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, star cornerback Jalen Ramsey was ejected alongside Bengals wide receiver AJ Green following a fight between the two of them. Late in the first half, Ramsey shoved Green to the ground for no apparent reason. Green popped right back up and put Ramsey in a headlock not once, but twice before both teams ran over to join the brawl. It sucks to see two great players get into it like that, and they will surely be fined and may get a game or two on the bench. Here’s the fight:
No scoreline on Sunday was as brutal as the one at the Meadowlands, as the miserable Giants hosted the surprise Los Angeles Rams. Jared Goff and the Rams put up 51 on the sinking Giants defense, and Ben McAdoo’s days could be numbered. Following a 4-12 campaign, the Rams now sit at 6-2, and have sole possession of first place in the NFC West. A bold prediction I have for the Giants in the offseason is that they trade future hall of fame quarterback Eli Manning to the Jaguars. Manning still has 2-3 solid seasons left despite his struggles this year, and the Jags need a veteran quarterback to take them to an elite level. Manning could be just that.
Another key divisional battle took place in Carolina, as the Panthers hosted the disappointing Falcons. Despite Cam Newton’s struggles in the passing game, he was the Panthers’ leading rusher on Sunday in Carolina’s 20-17 victory. The struggles continue for the defending NFC champions, as they now sit at 4-4 and are on the outside looking in on the NFC playoff picture. Matt Ryan has not played up to his MVP season of a year ago, and the defensive struggles continue. I would’ve been shocked if you told me the Falcons were going to miss the playoffs this year before the season started, but now it may become reality.
Although they could end up being meaningless, the Colts and Cardinals each grabbed a divisional victory on Sunday. Arizona easily handled the 0-9 49ers in their first game without quarterback Carson Palmer. Adrian Peterson ran for 159 yards on 37 carries, and the Cardinals were able to grab a 20-10 win. The Colts nearly gave one away to the Texans, as Houston drove all the way down to the Colts’ 7-yard line on the final drive of the game before Tom Savage was sacked and fumbled. The decisive touchdown actually came in the 3rd quarter, when Jacoby Brissett hooked up with TY Hilton for this 80-yard score.
The Cowboys hosted the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, and Dallas showed they are still one of the top teams in the league. The Cowboys’ defense has impoved significantly, and Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott continue to assert their dominance in Dallas. Following a date with the Falcons this week, the Cowboys will host the 8-1 Eagles on Sunday night next week. What a game that will be. After their hot start, the Chiefs now find themselves at 6-3 after losing 3 of their last 4 games. Although still holding a 2 game lead in the AFC West, there is still a lot to play for in the final 8 weeks of the season.
Sadly, the Sunday night game this week did not have a lot of drama, as the Raiders grabbed a victory in Miami. Jay Cutler had his best game of the year statistically, but it wasn’t enough to outduel Derek Carr. Marshawn Lynch found the endzone twice, and Carr threw for 300 yards and a score to give the Raiders a 27-24 victory. A possible catch of the year candidate came in garbage time, when DeVante Parker made this spectacular grab.
The ending of the week came in Seattle, where the Washington Redskins stunned the Seahawks on the road. Following a boring first three quarters, the score stood at 10-2 in favor of the Redskins. The Seahawks then found the endzone twice, the 2nd coming on this 30-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin.
Seattle failed to score the two-point conversion, then Kirk Cousins drove the Redskins 70 yards in just 4 plays, and Rob Kelley busted into the endzone for the winning score. With this victory, Washington stays in the playoff hunt. Seattle now sees themselves a game back of the Rams with 8 games to go. It should be fun to see who comes out on top in the NFC West.
Week 9 Awards:
MVP: Jared Goff – 14/22, 311 yards, 4 touchdowns, 146.8 passer rating
Offensive Player of the Week: TY Hilton – 5 catches for 175 yards, 2 touchdowns
Defensive Player of the Week: Cameron Jordan – 7 total tackles, 1.5 sacks
Week 9 Scores:
NYJ 34 – BUF 21
NO 30 – TB 10
PHI 51 – DEN 23
LAR 51 – NYG 17
TEN 23 – BAL 20
CAR 20 – ATL 17
JAX 23 – CIN 7
IND 20 – HOU 14
ARZ 20 – SF 10
WSH 17 – SEA 14
DAL 28 – KC 17
OAK 27 – MIA 24
Monday Night Prediction:
DET over GB 23-14
As for the winning streaks, an incredible 8 teams currently have winning streaks of 3 games or more. Even if this weeks games did not live up to past weeks expectations, the amount of contending teams right now has to make fans excited for more football.