5 Takeaways from Sunday’s Action in NFL Week 9
5 Takeaways Following NFL's Week 9
Just when we thought we knew it all, the NFL served up another weekly dose of revelations in Week 9 to keep us all on our toes.
The Sunday schedule saw 11 games, each with their own unique twist to provide us with some food for thought as we head into the second half of the season.
Some things remained in line with the status quo: The Kansas City Chiefs defense carried them to 9-0 as they overcame the Buffalo Bills without registering an offensive score, whilst the Seattle Seahawks found a way to win at home yet again despite trailing by 21 points against the now 0-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Other things went slightly more against the grain: The Cleveland Browns defeated the Baltimore Ravens at the 12th time of asking, Jason Campbell and Case Keenum proved that they can play quarterback, and Darrel Young emerged as the best-kept red zone secret in the game.
The Baltimore Ravens are living proof of the theory that there is a price to pay for the ultimate success; the reigning world champions are 3-5 in 2013 as they continue to reel from their Super Bowl hangover. In association with this slump, the AFC North picture has been reversed from that they have grown accustomed to, with the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns leading the way whilst the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Sticking with the AFC, it appears the Houston Texans will not be making it three-consecutive postseason appearances as they relinquished a 12-point advantage to the Indianapolis Colts to fall to 2-6 on the season. And with the Chiefs and Denver Broncos setting the bar in the AFC West, it’s all to play for regarding the second wildcard spot with little to choose between the second-placed teams in the three other divisions -- New York Jets are 5-4, Cleveland Browns are 4-5 and the Tennessee Titans continue to harbor playoff aspirations at 4-4.
The NFC was not to be outdone. Philadelphia Eagles’ Nick Foles made us all sit up and take note as he put himself up among the best quarterback performances in history with 406 passing yards and seven touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders. Talk about making a statement, Foles was hounded for his lackluster performance in his last start against the Dallas Cowboys, forcing a u-turn from the Eagles’ fans who had labelled him as their quarterback of the future — perhaps a little humble pie is in order.
As the bigger picture begins to unfold, there are still things to be learned on a week-to-week basis and Week 9 was no exception. The NFL and its 32 combatants have the knack of leading us one way before taking us back in the opposite direction. Read on for the five things that became apparent from the super Sunday action in Week 9 of the NFL regular season.
5. The NFC East Deserves More Respect
The NFC East boasts some of the most egotistical and proud franchises in the entire NFL. This is part and parcel of the reason why everyone has enjoyed reveling in their misery in 2013.
The have been widely coined the 'NFC Least' thanks to the misfortune of their four representatives, and prior to Week 9 none of the four had a record over .500.
The division responded this week going 100 percent in its three games with the New York Giants now under increasing pressure having sat out the action due to their bye. The Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins were all successful in Week 9 which was a stark contrast to the previous week when all three were defeated.
The Cowboys made hard work of the Minnesota Vikings, though for once Tony Romo was an 11th hour savior as the Cowboys advanced to 5-4 to top the division. The Eagles continue to baffle whilst subverting the ideology of home advantage; they are 0-4 this season on home turf but improved to 4-1 on the road in Week 9 after an effortless 49-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders. The Redskins also showed a significant strength of character after surrendering a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter as they regrouped to topple the San Diego Chargers in overtime on the back of three touchdowns from fullback Darrel Young.
The three victors in Week 9 are now 3-2 over their last five contests while the Giants are also showing signs of life having won two consecutive before their bye. Perhaps more poignantly is the fact the NFC East is still in with a shot of sending two teams to the playoffs. The second place Eagles are now just a game behind the wildcard contenders in the North and South.
4. Zac Stacy Was Born To Run
Now we know why the St Louis Rams were willing to part with franchise rusher Steven Jackson during the offseason.
It's taken nine weeks to be set in stone, but their their fifth-round draft pick out of Vanderbilt is looking like the next big running back story in the NFL
The rookie had just four yards on one carry through the opening four games of the season, though he came to fruition in Week 5 with an admirable 78-yard outing against the Jacksonville Jaguars. As is the norm in the NFL, we take anything achieved against the Jags with a grain of salt, so his 79 rushing yards against the Houston Texans the following week served as validation of his emergence.
By now, Stacy was becoming relevant in fantasy football and talk of his addition on the waiver wire was spreading. Those that took the punt were rewarded last week as the rookie carried the Rams offense on his back whilst rushing for 134 yards against the Seattle Seahawks. There could be no gray areas this time around given the strength of the opposing defense.
Stacy's gradual improvement has led him to a Week 9 outing that now has everybody talking. He finished with 127 rushing yards on 27 carries against the Tennessee Titans, whilst registering the first two touchdowns of his professional career.
Stacy leads all running backs in fantasy football so far this week with 29.80 points, and at 5-foot-8 and 224 pounds, Stacy has all the attributes to escalate him to the top of his field.
3. Carolina Panthers' Defense is the Best in the NFC
Most people have the fearsome Seattle Seahawks D as the best in the conference and arguably the best in the entire NFL. The Carolina Panthers beg to differ.
Whilst the Seahawks were being surprisingly exposed, getting run and passed all over by Mike Glennon and his lowly Buccaneers, the Panthers held the Atlanta Falcons to their lowest point total of the season. While conceding just 10 points in Week 9, the Panthers also registered a sack, three interceptions, a forced fumble and a return touchdown en route to 19.00 lucrative points for their fantasy owners.
The Panthers defense ranks 3rd overall in the league, 2nd against the run and they have allowed the fewest points against of any team in the NFL (106), a 40-point advantage over the Seahawks.
Along with Cam Newton's return to the form that made him such a sensation in his rookie season, the Panthers' defense has provided the stellar foundation on which the team has built a four-game winning streak and begun to dream of a first postseason appearance since 2008.
2. New York Jets Are The Ultimate Underdog
The New York Jets are a walking enigma.
At 5-4 they are keeping pace on the wildcard spot in the AFC East but they have failed to string two wins together all season. Every impressive victory in which they have looked like a well-rounded package has been followed by an equally shambolic loss that exposes flaws in all areas.
The Jets are the little dog in the fight that only responds to the biggest and toughest challengers. Only when they are given little hope of success does it bring out the best in them. A significant divisional win against the Buffalo Bills in Week 3 was followed by a 13-38 mauling away at the Tennessee Titans in Week 4.
The Jets responded with a huge upset on Monday Night Football the following week, as Geno Smith outperformed Matt Ryan in the Georgia Dome en route to a 30-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Momentum is not a word commonly found in the Jets' vocabulary as they sought to waste their significant Week 5 victory in a 19-6 home defeat against the one-win Pittsburgh Steelers a week later.
After their lackluster showing against the lowly Steelers in which they troubled the scorers with only two field goals, the Jets were given little hope with the New England Patriots coming to town in Week 7. The Jets' alter ego took to the field once more as the same personnel that looked inept the previous week put up 30 points against the Patriots with rookie quarterback Geno Smith outperforming Tom Brady no less.
So you've just gained a hugely significant victory over a divisional rival and the most successful team in the NFL over the past decade. Spirits are high and there is a collective belief and positivity in the camp; what do you do with it? You get turned over by 40 points in your worst performance of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals, of course.
If the Jets allowed Andy Dalton and the Bengals to put up 49 points in Week 8, heaven help them against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in Week 9. I think you're getting the drift by now; lo and behold the Jets embraced the challenge of the 6-1 Saints, unleashing their former employee Chris Ivory to run for 139 yards and a touchdown whilst kicker Nick Folk continued his stellar season to ensure a 26-20 victory.
There is no logic to the 2013 New York Jets. If they could rally against the lesser teams like they seem to do against the elite, they would be among the leading candidates in the NFL. It's the Bills up next following the bye — and the cycle continues.
1. Form is Temporary, Class is Permanent
Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, with eight Super Bowl appearances and five championships between them, are the two most-decorated NFL quarterbacks of the past decade.
The general consensus was that these two greats were entering the twilight of their careers after a significant drop in production in 2013. These are two future Hall-of-Fame inductees whose age was starting to catch up with them and neither ranked inside the top-10 for passing yardage prior to Week 9, of which they have become so accustomed over the years.
Brady had over 300 passing yards in just one game this season and hadn't thrown more than two touchdown passes in any single game, which by his own high standards was unusual. His latest outing of just 116 passing yards, one touchdown and an interception against the Miami Dolphins even had fantasy owners questioning his relevance; the elite trigger man had as many fantasy outings of under 10 points as he had over in 2013.
Big Ben is a victim of circumstance in Pittsburgh. Over the summer they took away his leading receiver and first-choice running back in a rebuilding process that has seen the Steelers form take a significant fall. Roethlisberger was also missing his insurance policy, tight end Heath Miller, for the opening two games of the season whilst WR Antonio Brown has yet to build on the form of his promising sophomore season. As a result of all this, the Steelers are 2-6 and in last place in the AFC North.
Just as we were ready to write them off, these two old war horses saved their best for a meeting with each other. Brady passed for 432 yards and four touchdowns, creating three 100-plus-yard receivers in the process. Roethlisberger also rolled back the years, going blow-for-blow with his old adversary amassing 400 passing yards and four touchdowns of his own. Jerricho Cotchery was the main beneficiary of the day; his 96 receiving yards and three touchdowns will have most likely gone to waste in many a fantasy league.
What's more, each quarterback achieved this huge outing going up against a top-five NFL pass defense. They continued to defy the projections as two teams that averaged just 39 points-per-game between them, combined for a whopping 86 points total on the day as the Patriots finished on the better side of a 31-55 scoreline.
It appears that they've still got it, folks.