Three teams ended the week still unbeaten. There were also three overtime games played in week 9. As of now, the playoff picture is starting to become more clearer. The AFC looks like there are two or three teams (besides division leaders) still in the race. In the NFC, it’s much more balanced. There are currently 6 teams that are not leading a division, but have a record of .500 or better.
The Bengals turned a 14-10 half-time lead into a 31-10 victory over the Browns. Andy Dalton (21/27, 234, 3 TDs) was highly efficient and the defense completely shut the Browns down during the 2nd half. There were rumors that the Browns had a deal in place to send LT Joe Thomas to Denver, but it fell through because Cleveland’s asking price was too high. It’s a shame because one of the best left tackles in the NFL is being wasted away in Cleveland.
The Patriots kept rolling, after taking care of Washington, 27-10. New England will face their first adversity since “Deflate Gate” as running back Dion Lewis was lost for the year with a torn ACL. Lewis adds another dimension to the Pats run game and New England will definitely need to look elsewhere to replace his production. Right now the prime candidate to step up as their lead tail back is LeGarrette Blount. Blount ran for 129 yards and 1 TD on 29 carries against Washington. His workload should soon increase, and Blount possesses the physical makeup and endurance to handle it.
Indianapolis knocked Denver from the land of the unbeatens, 27-24. In doing so, the Colts moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC South. However, Indy will have to overcome a big blow involving their most critical star. Starting QB Andrew Luck will be out 2-6 weeks with a lacerated kidney. For the Colts sake, backup Matt Hasselbeck will serve in his place. The forty-year old Hasselbeck started in place of Luck twice this season. Throwing for 495 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Denver, who, has been plagued with the lack of a running game as of late, is something that they will need to rectify if the Broncos expect to win the Super Bowl. Tennessee saw the return of QB Marcus Mariota and he delivered in a big way, by knocking off the red-hot Saints 34-28. Mariota threw for 371 yards and 4 TDs; he was also clutch in leading the Titans during a late 4th quarter comeback. A strike to Anthony Fasano for the game winner in OT, capped off the win.
Buffalo moved to .500 after beating the struggling Dolphins. The Bills pounded out 266 yards on the ground against Miami. After back-to-back wins, Miami followed it up with two really bad losses. The Dolphins are now in full “2016-17 draft mode” the rest of the way. Pittsburgh was able to stay in the AFC playoff race by picking up a tough win against Oakland. The Steelers lost Big Ben for another couple of weeks (foot injury), but Landry Jones played well in relief. Hopefully for the Steelers, Jones can hold the fort for the rest of November. Lastly, the Jets stayed within striking distance of the Patriots by beating the Jaguars 28-23. With the win, this bolsters their AFC Wildcard chances immensely.
The Packers offense woke up, but it was too late. As Carolina jumped all over Green Bay en route to a 20 point half time lead. The last gasp win for the Panthers makes them the NFC’s lone unbeaten. Suddenly, Green Bay finds itself tied with the Vikings in the NFC North. If they don’t find some balance in the offense, the tie will be short-lived. Minnesota won a very physical game against the St. Louis Rams 21-18. The Vikings defense did what no team has been able to do recently: hold Todd Gurley to under 100 yards rushing. In fact, the modern-day Vikings held Gurley to 3.6 yards per carry, which is considerable when accounting for how he’s flourished this season. Coming into this week, Gurley was averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
The only downside to the win is that QB Teddy Bridgewater will enter the NFL’s concussion protocol. Early reports are that he suffered no other significant injury. Hopefully this is something that isn’t serious, because Minnesota’s playoff chances are rising rapidly. The New York Giants took over sole possession of the NFC East with a 32-18 win over Tampa Bay. Eli Manning has seen better games, (213 yards and 2 INTs), but the defense forced two turnovers and Josh Brown converted on all four of his field goal attempts.
San Francisco picked up a rare win by beating the struggling Falcons. Blaine Gabbert, the former first round bust, saw his first action in almost two years. While he didn’t play well, he was an upgrade over Colin Kaepernick. The Cowboys have run out of time after it’s loss to the Eagles. Even with Tony Romo set to return, at 2-6, the Cowboys have been all but eliminated from playoff competition.
- Steelers’ WR Antonio Brown – 17 catches (23 targets), 284 yards; 22 rushing yards in a win.
- Titans’ QB Marcus Mariota – 28/39, 371 yards, 4 TDs in a win.
- Eagles’ WR Jordan Matthews – 9 catches, 133 yards, TD (game winning touchdown catch).
- Cowboys’ WR Terrance Williams – 3 catches (7 targets), 27 yards in a loss.
- Broncos running backs – Hillman (7 carries, 1 yard), Anderson (7 carries, 34 yards) in loss.
- Eagles’ QB Nick Foles – 18/33, 168 no TDs in a loss.