Highs and Lows is back and NFL Week Nine was certainly a confusing one. Shocking upsets, division beatdowns, shorthanded victories, this week was certainly one for the books. Past the league’s halfway point, this might be the most inconsistent season’s I’ve ever seen. As per usual there is plenty to talk about. I am simply here to narrow your focus a bit.
Following losing their first game of the season in heartbreaking fashion, the Arizona Cardinals bounced back in a major way at Levi Stadium. Facing the division rival San Francisco 49ers, the Cardinals found themselves taking the field without both Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. Despite not having their superstar duo the Cardinals won 31-17 in dominant fashion, and showed the league they are one of the most complete teams in the league.
The Cardinals were firing on all cylinders Sunday. Backup quarterback Colt McCoy continued the trend of reserves playing well. He had a passer rating 119.4 as he completed 22/26 passes for 249 yards and a score. James Conner had his best game as a Cardinals as he tallied 173 total yards and three touchdowns. Defensively the Cardinals turned over San Francisco three times and limited Kyle Shanahan’s notoriously effective running game to just 39 yard. The Cardinals have the best record in the league halfway through the season, and have the inside track on the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
The Real MVP
As the halfway point in the season has passed, Tom Brady is the odds on favorite to win NFL MVP, and I wouldn’t have any problem if he were to win it. That being said, no player in this league is more valuable to their team than Lamar Jackson. The Baltimore Ravens quarterback was brilliant yesterday, leading his team back from a 14-point halftime deficit against the Minnesota Vikings in a 34-31 overtime victory.
Jackson was once again a dual threat monster on Sunday. He threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns, and was also his team’s best runner, racking up 120 yards 21 carries. To put into perspective what Jackson did in the win, he threw for more yards than Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, and outran Vikings star back Dalvin Cook. Lamar is the most unique and dynamic player in the league, and he might just be the best. No player has more on their shoulders and he continues to deliver. As of right now he is my MVP.
No Henry No Problem
The Tennessee Titans are big time. I’ve written about them before but at that point I was still wary about calling them real contenders due to a seemingly suspect defense. After what they did to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football, I am prepared to make some bold claims.
The Titans dismantled Sean McVay’s Rams Sunday night, beating them 28-16 in a dominant defensive effort. The Titans defense was the star of the show. They handed MVP candidate Matt Stafford his worst performance of the season, intercepting him twice, on for a touchdown and one on his own goal line. The defensive line caused havoc in the backfield all day, tallying five sacks and blowing up the Rams offense night long. Offensively the Titans produced a pedestrian effort but they were perfect in the red zone facing a vaunted Los Angeles defense.
The Titans are 7-2, winners of five straight, including 4 straight against last year’s playoff teams. After an inexplicable showing in Jacksonville by the Buffalo Bills, I am prepared to call them favorites in the AFC, even without their superstar running back Derrick Henry. If their defense can keep up this effort, there is not doubt they are the team to beat.
The Dallas Cowboys spent their Sunday getting well acquainted with the nine circles of hell as they were smacked around on their home field by the Denver Broncos. While the final score was 30-16, the Cowboys found themselves getting shut out 30-0 in the fourth by a Broncos team that entering the week had been winless against teams over .500 this season.
Dak Prescott in his return had one of the worst games of his career. Prescott was 19/39, the second worst completion rate of his career and his two touchdowns came in garbage time in the fourth. The Cowboys defense was dominated at the line of scrimmage, allowing 190 yards on the ground, 111 of which was to rookie running back Javonte Williams. Denver quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was also very effective, throwing for 249 yards and two total touchdowns with a passer rating of 107.6. It was an all around bad day for the Cowboys and a letdown following such a big win in the previous week.
Allen on Allen Crime
What in the world were the Bills doing Saturday night in Jacksonville. Against one of the worst in the entire league, the AFC East leading Buffalo Bills failed to score a single touchdown as they lost 9-6 in what might end up as the upset of the year. In a game that surely wrecked parlays and survivor pools across the nation, the Bill put forth one of the worst performances of the entire season, and Josh Allen deserves the blame/praise.
Josh Allen, Jacksonville Jaguar outside linebacker, was the best player on the field Sunday. He had eight tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, a fumble recovery, and an interception. He was the first person to ever sack someone with the same name as him. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills quarterback, was a trainwreck on Sunday. He had two interceptions, a fumble lost, a QBR of 26, was sacked four times, and led his offense to just six points against one of the worst defenses in the league. The Bills can’t drop games like this in a highly contested AFC playoff race.
To Have Loved and Lost
Second year quarterback Jordan Love got his first career start for the Green Bay Packers as Aaron Rodgers missed the game due to having COVID-19 and it was for the most part a forgettable debut. The Packers lost 13-7 to the Kansas City Chiefs and though the Green Bay defense gave Love and the offense ample opportunity to make something happen, Love's first and only touchdown came with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter. The 2020 first round pick out of Utah State had 190 yards, a touchdown and an interception, but was inaccurate all day and only registered a passer rating of 69.5.
Now Love wasn’t the only problem for the Packers on Sunday. The Green Bay special teams unit was arguably the worst unit in all of football on Sunday. Mason Crosby missed his league leading sixth and seventh field goal, with the seventh being and a punt return miscue set the Chiefs up in the red zone in the first half. Of all the days to have such a bad day this was probably the worst, but Love provided no solutions to the Packers’ problems. With Seattle looming, they can only hope Rodgers will be cleared to play for next week.
That’s it for Highs and Lows this week. Another wild slate of NFL games gave me more than enough to discuss and next week should be just as exciting as a potential top tier quarterback matchup in Green Bay and an AFC West showdown on Sunday Night Football headline Week 10.