We’re back, people. Your weekly look-around the NFL for the best performances, worst chokes, and most questionable prognostications.
If I didn’t mention your team this week, no worries. Good, bad, or meh, I’ll be getting to everyone in due time.
NFL Week 9
1. We know nothing
In every single NFL season, there’s a week that reminds me why I’m not a gambler. This year, it was week nine. The Cardinals covering the spread against an undefeated Niners team? Yup. The Colts, Packers, Vikings and Patriots all losing outright as favorites. Yup. Heck, even Miami won in week nine. It’s just that crazy out there. Now, I’ll dig into some of the reasons for some of the above surprises, but the point is, just when we think we understand the NFL, things get weird.
2. The Ravens are built for post season success
One thing that wasn’t overly surprising this weekwas the Ravens winning a home game against the favored 8-0 Patriots. Baltimore boasted the second-best scoring offense in the league through week eight, then confused and perplexed the New England defense for 37 points on Sunday night. Baltimore runs the ball downhill, and the threat of Lamar Jackson going rogue had the New England defense tripping over themselves. It was an impressive home win for an elite team in the AFC. I doubt that it will happen a second time if we see this match up come playoff time, but more on that in a moment.
3. The Cowboys aren’t
Yes, the Cowboys eventually pulled away in the second half on Monday night against a wildly outgunned Giants squad. But that doesn’t negate the fact that until a trio of fourth quarter TDs, this was a one-point game. In fact, were it not for three giveaways by Daniel Jones, the Cowboys might well be 4-4 right now. Saquon Barkley was at times the best player on the field, and the Cowboys struggled to separate themselves from a mediocre team with one elite offensive weapon. Even if/when they win the NFC East, I just can’t see Dallas competing with the likes of New Orleans or Green Bay in a winner take all game in January.
4. San Francisco is a bit of a mystery
Yes. They won. Yes. They are still undefeated. Yes, Jimmy G came up huge with four passing touchdowns to keep the season unblemished when that vaunted defense got mangled by Kyler Murray and crew. The question is…why? Why did he have to? I said that this was a trap game for the Niners, and boy did they squeak one out here. Kyler Murray looked equal to the task and the Niners defense looked squirrely for long periods of time. Listen, it’s really easy to spin this as a positive with a four- touchdown game from a young TD. I get that. But this was against a defense that allows, on average, just under thirty PPG. That Arizona offense made the Niners look almost as bad as New England did this week. Like the Patriots, the Niners gave up the most points they have all year. The difference is that Arizona is a bottom ten offense and they just scared the pants off the lone remaining unbeaten in the NFL. Like I said…weird.
5. Miami is on a win streak
O.K. So it’s a one-game streak. But it gets the Dolphins out of the basement and leaves the Bengals as the sole NFL team without a win through week nine. With just a little bit of Fitz-Magic in the second quarter, the Fins scored offensive touchdowns on three consecutive possessions, and the Jets were in a hole that they simply couldn’t dig out of. Le’Veon Bell was again held under four yards per carry, and New York just can’t win that way. In fact, Bell has yet to record a game with one hundred rushing yards since heading to New York. Rumor has it that the Steelers even asked about getting him back after the injury to James Conner. Like I said: weird.
6. Cam Newton is done for the year
Well, if we wanted to see how the Panthers will fare with Kyle Allen under center for a whole year, this is pretty much that opportunity. The mid foot injury that Cam has been nursing simply isn’t getting any better, and the veteran QB will need to go into full-on rehab mode. The question now is: what happens when he is healthy? Cam hasn’t missed many games in his career until late last year. Actually, only three games over seven year prior to that, per Panthers.com. Since then, though, he hasn’t won one, and he hasn’t really been able to get back to 100%. For Carolina, will it be worth trading away a promising young quarterback to keep the face of their franchise? Or will Superman suit up for a new team in 2020? My guess is the latter, if Cam doesn’t just retire. Hey, it could happen. Ask Andrew Luck or the Colts. See, it’s weird.
7. Green Bay can be overwhelmed
In week one, if you had told me that Chargers over Packers would be an upset, I would have laughed you out of the room. The Chargers were one of the most dangerous teams in football last season, and the Packers have been trying to rebuild for years. Well that was then, and this is now. The Pack have looked unstoppable until Sunday’s car crash against L.A. The Pack got pushed around on both sides of the ball as they put up exactly zero points in the first half, en route to Aaron Rodgers’ worst game of the season, where he would throw for only 161 yards and a lone garbage time TD. Aaron Jones was stopped in his tracks, rushing for only thirty yards on eight carries. Does it mean that the Pack aren’t still a favorite in the NFC? No. Because I suspect that the Chargers this week are just closer to what they SHOULD have been this season. Consistency is key, people.
8. The Patriots care little about the regular season
On the surface, the Baltimore loss validates a lot of the Patriot-haters out there. See, they aren’t that good. The Ravens blew them out. True that. New England looked like a shadow of themselves against their first really solid opponent this season. But let’s remember a few things. 1) The Ravens are really good. This isn’t a middle of the pack AFC team. These guys are a legit threat to get to (and win) the AFC title game. 2) We know that athletes like Lamar Jackson can give defensive coordinators fits. The Hoodie is no exception. The Pats defense is designed to both predict plays and force quarterbacks into bad choices, but with a guy like Jackson under center, the Ravens can extend plays and avoid the surprises that fluster other teams. 3) It’s well documented that New England will enter regular season games against potential playoff opponents with altered or abbreviated game plans, and this edition of Sunday Night Football had more than a whiff of that about it. So. Can we put away the undefeated season talk and let New England get back to its regularly scheduled cold weather run to the playoffs? Because until further notice, the AFC playoffs still go through Foxboro. The hoodie counts rings, and nothing else.
9. Nick Foles is back…sorry, Minshew Maniacs
I’m not really sure if I like this play by Doug Marrone. Granted, Nick Foles was brought in to be the starter this season. Granted, Minshew has been up and down after his blazing hot start. Granted, Minshew hasn’t slayed any dragons. He’s beaten the beatable teams and lost to the playoff-bound competition. But here’s the thing. There’s no real future in Nick Foles, and the Jaguars aren’t going to make the playoffs this season, or at least not without a pretty serious winning streak. Foles already retired once, and it’s not like he only missed two games, Minshew has played more than half the season. Let the kid get as much experience as possible at this point. The league is way more fun with him in it. He’s like Baker Mayfield without the arrogance.
10. The league’s Pass Interference Review system is deeply confusing to everyone involved
In Monday’s Giants-Cowboys game we got a really clear picture of exactly how badly the league has painted itself into a corner. Pat Shurmur threw the red flag after Evan Ingram was plowed over from behind by a defender while waiting for the ball to arrive. It was a textbook example of defensive interference. No flag was thrown. Easy call to correct, right? Zero question from me. None from every single expert announcer and commentator. It was pass interference. But we all knew what would happen…No correction was made, and the Giants surrendered a timeout for their troubles. A few plays later, the yellow laundry flew on an extremely questionable pass play that kept a Dallas drive alive. Shurmur, getting the memo that these calls are almost never going to be reversed, stayed his hand. The league has overturned less than ten percent of pass interference challenges thus far this season. That’s a problem. Why? Because more than a handful of the unchanged calls have been 1) obvious, 2) egregious, and 3) impacted game outcomes. The whole point of making these plays reviewable was to get the calls right. For the moment, it seems that the league is comfortable letting the refs get it wrong. All this is doing is calling attention to mistakes, rather than eliminating them.
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Image Source: AP Images