Reality

Week 9 Review

We are now officially into the second half of the regular season.  Following the Rams loss we have no unbeaten teams, we’ve lost one head coach, we’ve had trades aplenty and the Texans have managed to keep Watt and Clowney fit for a good run of games.  Some things never change though – namely Cam Newton’s dress sense, Nate Peterman throwing multiple interceptions and Aaron Rodgers being let down by the rest of his team. Anyway, here’s a look at all the games from Week 9.

49ers 34 – 9 Raiders

The ‘Battle of the Bay’ or the ‘Bosa Bowl’, depending on your preferences kicked off things on Thursday night.  The 49ers forced to go with their third string back up Nick Mullens following news that CJ Beathard wouldn’t be fit.  Not that it mattered as Mullens had a dream debut. The second year, undrafted quarterback threw for 262 yards, three touchdowns and no picks with a rating of 151.9, second in all time debut games to Mariota.  Truth be told, he was playing against a below par defense but when he had the ball he looked calm and assured like he belonged there. More questions arise about the Raiders who again weren’t able to generate any sacks.  At least this week Derek Carr was much better but the rest of this team needs a lot of work. The 49ers defense recorded seven sacks, 2.5 going to defensive end Cassius March.

Panthers 42 – 28 Buccaneers

Ryan Fitzpatrick made his return to the starting lineup this week but wasn’t able to weave his magic wand and conjure up a win for the hapless Buccaneers.  The Panthers got off to a fast start, up 35-7 at one point they went into cruise control before the Bucs started to claw back to within a score. No issue for Cam and co as the Panthers gently applied the throttle a bit more to see out the game.  McCaffrey was the offensive star for the Panthers this week, notching up 157 yards from scrimmage and two rushing touchdowns. Newton was able to connect well with tight end Greg Olsen throughout the game, the latter making a wonderful one handed catch in the end zone to record a touchdown.  As it stands, Cam is playing at a higher level than he was the season that Carolina went to the Superbowl. Eric Reid is having a great start to his career in Carolina with another haul of tackles as well as an interception.

Bills 9 – 41 Bears

This wasn’t really a contest at all.  The Bears were missing star pass rusher Kahlil Mack but it didn’t matter.  I wouldn’t be surprised if was actually just given an extra week off. The Bills offense is just bad.  Peterman, back in as starting QB, was forced to pass 49 times and was his teams leading rusher with 46 yards.  It’s inevitable that he would throw a slew of picks – three this week. The Bears defense scored twice to flatter the scoreline and more or less give the offense a week off who were effective, if not spectacular, against a decent Bills defense.

Browns 21 – 37 Chiefs

A new head coach at the helm but the same old story for the Browns.  They were up against a very strong team, one that was built primarily by current Browns GM John Dorsey before he and Kansas parted ways.  Hopefully that bodes well for the future of the Browns, providing they can get an Andy Reid type figure in place to lead a talented roster.  The roster this week was a bit depleted with injuries to Denzel Ward and Damarious Randall meaning that a good defense was short handed going up against the leagues highest scoring offense.  Mahomes carried on his MVP campaign with 375 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. Kareem Hunt also continues to impress with 91 yards on the ground and two touchdowns to go along with a 50 yard receiving touchdown.  On the other side, Mayfield had one of his better games after a few weeks of mediocrity and Nick Chubb looks to have claimed the starting running back job with 22 carries for 85 yards.

Dolphins 13 – 6 Jets

The less said about this game the better.  Darnold threw four interceptions and looked every inch the rookie at quarterback.  Osweiler wasn’t much more productive but at least he didn’t throw the ball away. The kickers (both place kicker and punters) were busy and the Dolphins won when one of those Darnold intercepts was run back for a touchdown.

Vikings 24 – 9 Lions

As I sit contemplating this game I’m left wondering as to whether Matt Stafford said something to upset his offensive line?  It was a truly horrible performance from the unit which led the Vikings hitting Stafford a massive 17 times, sacking him 10 times – a franchise record.  Everson Griffen was back in the starting line up which would have been a boost to this Vikings D-Line, but still, 10 times!! All that really meant that the Vikings offense didn’t really have to do all that much.  Dalvin Cook was back in the game and got 89 yards on the ground in an encouraging comeback performance. Kirk Cousins had a very mediocre game – throwing for just 164 yards, a touchdown and a pick. But all the pressure was on that Lions offense which wasn’t really able to do anything.  To cap the day, Matt Stafford ran out of the pocket and before getting sacked (again) tried to flip the ball off to a running back that just wasn’t there. The Vikings defense picked the ball up and Danielle Hunter (who had a really good game overall) strolled in for a touchdown. I would not want to be in the O-Line meeting room reviewing this tape…

Redskins 14 – 38 Falcons

The Redskins don’t win when they ask Alex Smith to do too much for them – and that’s exactly what happened on Sunday.  Smith had to throw 46 times (306 yards, a touchdown and an interception) and was also the teams leading rusher with 22 yards.  That’s not how you win games when he’s your QB. On the other hand, Matt Ryan showed again why he’s one of the better QBs in the game, 350 yards, four touchdowns and a pick with a rating over 120.  If the Falcons defense could match their quarterbacks performance this would be a scary good team. Helping out though is a good running back, and Tevin Coleman has stepped up in the absence of usual number one, Davonta Freeman.  His night included two receiving touchdowns and 88 yards on the ground. One last note on this game, Julio Jones finally scored a touchdown. Of course he had to run it in from near midfield on a short pass but at least he got there to get that monkey off his back and force pundits and commentators alike to find something and someone else to talk about.

Ravens 16 – 23 Steelers

The top rated Ravens defense wasn’t enough to stop Big Ben and the Steelers carrying on their winning streak and putting them in prime position in the AFC North.  Roethlisberger threw for two touchdowns and barrelled his way in for another to seal a win. As well as that, he even had a go at punting. The Ravens offense failed to match their division rivals and, aside from one rushing TD for Alex Collins, were reduced to field goals.  James Conner continued to look like one of the better young backs in the league and will give his team further confidence when heading in to a week where big decisions need to be made about Le’Veon Bell.

Broncos 17 – 19 Texans

Speaking of winning streaks, the Texans have now won six on the bounce after starting out the year with three losses.  The Broncos had a chance to win this at the end with a field goal which kicker Brandon McManus missed from 53 yards. Much has been said about Vance Joseph’s conservative tactics in the run up to that kick and the loss will do his job security no favours at all.  This is a coach who’ll be extremely lucky to make it past “Black Monday” with his job in tact. This was also a game with four of the league’s premier pass rushers on display and all four got a sack. JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Von Miller and the rookie Bradley Chubb all made life difficult for the opposing quarterback.

Seahawks 17 – 25 Chargers

The Chargers have a decent record so far this year but still some argue that they’ve only beaten teams that “they should beat”.  Well, playing the Seahawks in Seattle, one could argue this shouldn’t be one of those games and yet the Chargers overcame a team that is vastly better than what we all thought it would be at the start of the year.  Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was effective, if not brilliant, with 228 yards and two touchdowns. His completion rate though was only 50%. But as I’ve said before, having a good running game can wipe away doubts about the quarterback and Melvin Gordon is having probably his best season to date.  On Sunday he racked up 113 yards with an average of 7.1 yards per carry. Keenan Allen, who’s been quiet so far this year, turned up with 124 receiving yards as well as a further 28 on the ground.

Saints 45 – 35 Rams

And so we come to the first of the “big” games of the weekend and it was the Saints who gave the Rams their first loss of the season.  The first four drives of this game resulted in four touchdowns making the score 14-14 and the promised shootout was looking good. Both Brees and Goff were looking imperial with some amazing passes and their running back partners, Kamara and Gurley were looking equally destructive.  In the second quarter though, due to some aggressive play calling and dodgy ball placement the Rams struggled to add to the score and the Saints continued to keep their foot on the gas, heading in to the half up 35-17. The Rams came roaring back though and in the fourth quarter the game was tied up 35-35.  A Will Lutz field goal and a Michael Thomas touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter sealed the win. Thomas finished the day with 211 yards and a touchdown and has caught 70 of the 79 passes thrown to him this season – amazing performance. There will be a lot of pro-bowlers coming from these two teams this year and I hope we see a repeat of this game in the playoffs.

Patriots 31 – 17 Packers

Only the second (and possibly last, in regular season football at least) time the two quarterback greats of these teams had met.  Always annoys me that it’s a battle of the two quarterbacks seeing as they’re never actually in direct competition on the field. But anyway, apparently Tom Brady won the battle as the Patriot machine rolls on and we’re all left wondering when or if Aaron Rodgers will ever get a team around him good enough to go back to the Superbowl.  Neither quarterback was magnificent, they were both effective though – Brady with 294 yards and a touchdown and Rodgers with 259 and two touchdowns. Rodgers had the lower completion rate though much of that is as likely down to his passers vs those in Patriot colours. For the Patriots, aside from Brady, two players stood out – Cordarrelle Patterson and Josh Gordon.  The Packers had a wide receiver turn running back in Ty Montgomery but he rarely produced a performance that would equal Patterson’s on Sunday night. FIlling in for the injured Sony Michel, Patterson rushed for 61 yards off 11 carries and made it into the end zone. Gordon is fast becoming a go to guy for Brady, on Sunday racking up 130 receiving yards from five receptions and a touchdown.  The more these two play together the more we can see the potential from Gordon that’s always been there but rarely recognised.

Cowboys 14 – 28 Titans

And so to Monday night football and a result which will have surprised many.  The Cowboys have got a good defense and there were many question marks over the Titans offense.  Being in Dallas I fully expected a close win for Dallas but it seems that during the bye week the Titans have found a game plan to win games.  The Titans did try and throw it away in the first quarter though, turning the ball over twice but Dallas were unable to fully capitalise and Mariota was able to keep the scoreline level at half time and then orchestrate two touchdown drives in the second half whilst a strong Titans defense kept out the Cowboys.  What was really impressive for the Titans was their third down efficiency where they converted 11 of 14 chances, a good few of them being throws to wideout Corey Davis who is continually to develop nicely. Dion Lewis was also a key factor in the Titans offense notching up 62 yards on the ground and a further 60 in the air including a touchdown.  Amari Cooper was making his first start as a Cowboy and quickly became the top wide receiver hauling in five receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown but all too often, Dak was overthrowing him.

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