Photo By: Adrian Curiel from Unsplash
Monday night’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears will be discussed in next week’s edition of this column.
A week defined by its heavy upsets, this week’s NFL action only furthered the notion that this really could be anyone’s year.
Any given Sunday
Week nine’s action saw some of the season’s biggest upsets, but none bigger than the presumed AFC title favourite Buffalo Bills being completely shut down in Duval County against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bills, who are the highest scoring offense in the conference, failed to find the end zone on Sunday afternoon against the pitiful Jaguars.
Neither quarterback looked good in this one, although Josh Allen’s performance was especially dreadful. The Bills QB had four of his very own turnovers, two interceptions and two fumbles, including one fumble in the final minute to ice the win for the Jags.
The headline from this one was the heroics from the other Josh Allen, the Jaguars’ DE who not only sacked his name-twin, but also forced a fumble, and picked it off from him as well. Needless to say, that was the first time in NFL history that someone has done all that to someone with the same name as him. The Jaguars won the slugfest 9-6.
The other big upset of the week came from Texas, as the Denver Broncos travelled to Dallas and picked up a massive road win against the Cowboys. After trading their franchise icon Von Miller last week, it appeared as though the Broncos were waving the white flag on what has been an unremarkable season to this point. Instead, the Broncos marched into Dallas’ stadium and unleashed a full beatdown on the NFC East leaders.
The Broncos dominated from the outset, and were leading 30-0 at one point before the Cowboys tacked on 16 garbage time points. The Broncos are in the thick of a surprisingly competitive, albeit unimpressive division title race in the AFC North. Denver sits at 5-4, tied with the Chiefs, while the Raiders and Chargers at 5-3 both looked shaky in their games this week as well. The Chargers squeaked out a win against the frisky Eagles, while the Raiders dropped a rough game to the New York Giants.
Browns finding their form
After the somewhat unceremonious jettisoning of former star WR Odell Beckham Jr. late last week, the Browns appeared to have more questions than answers based on their recent play. That would not be the case this week though, as Cleveland travelled to Cincinnati for the Battle of Ohio against the Bengals.
The return of Nick Chubb appeared to be a big one for the Browns, as the running back rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-17 thrashing of the young Bengals. The 98-yard pick-six early in the game from Browns CB Denzel Ward helped set the tone in this one as well. The recipe for success on offense is the same as it was last year for the Browns: lean heavily on the rushing game, and keep Baker Mayfield out of situations where he needs to air it out for long yardage.
If the Browns can continue to play that brand of football that was so successful for them last year, they could go on a run as AFC contenders here in the second half of the season.
Sleeper playoff teams of the week
It seems as though every week there emerges a team from both conferences that everyone is quick to announce as the newest sleeper contender. This week’s choices are the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.
The Patriots are finally starting to string together some quality wins, and while the Carolina Panthers aren’t exactly blowing anyone away lately, New England’s win over them was pretty convincing. Holding the Panthers offense to just six points is as much an indictment on the play of Sam Darnold as it is a testament to the impressive Pats defense.
Even after trading Stefon Gilmore to Carolina, there is still plenty of talent for New England’s defense to shut down opposing offenses. While the pash rush isn’t a finished product, the pass coverage is outstanding. This game saw CB J.C. Jackson pick up two interceptions (including a pick-six), and one from LB Jamie Collins as well.
On offense, Mac Jones has been stringing together performances that look pretty similar to the aforementioned Baker Mayfield’s best. While Jones won’t necessarily air it out for any home run balls often, his steadiness has been a big surprise from the rookie quarterback. The Patriots won it 24-6 over Carolina, and have cemented themselves as a contender in the back end of the AFC playoff race.
Meanwhile, the Falcons have somehow managed to find ways to win despite fielding a roster that, between injuries, trades, and other factors, doesn’t have many household names around these days. Matt Ryan bounced back from a rough performance last week to explode for 343 passing yards and two touchdowns this week in a 27-26 win over the Trevor Siemian-led New Orleans Saints.
The run game has not been much of a factor for the Falcons (their leading rusher this week was Mike Davis with just 13 yards), but the passing game has been headlined by super-utility-guy Cordarelle Patterson, and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts. The Falcons are now 4-4 and sit at third place in the NFC South.
In reality, they appear to be a pretty mediocre team, but there will likely be a few of those in the back end of the NFC playoffs this season. If the season ended today, both the Falcons and Saints would make the playoffs. Yikes.