Week nine stunned with upsets in every timeframe Sunday. From toss-ups to blowouts, the first Sunday of November provided the best and worst. Some teams are closer to the playoffs and others to next year’s draft. Time to break down who or what stood out.
Winners: Matt Ryan
In a game Atlanta lead by 18 points, Ryan did everything possible to secure a win. Anyone running the ball averaged one yard a carry, putting more pressure on the franchise quarterback to play perfect.
Ryan threw for 344 yards, two touchdowns and a 135.8 quarterback rating. He didn’t turn the ball over and led the game winning drive with one minute and one second left. Despite a defensive collapse, Atlanta found a way to win against a division rival in a pivotal point of the season. The Falcons are at .500 and still in the playoff race because their quarterback helped win another close game.
Drama over the release of star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dominated headlines before Sunday. Critics and analysts went off on quarterback Baker Mayfield’s poor play. The Cincinnati Bengals were favored to win the first Battle of Ohio. None of it mattered as the Browns steamrolled their division and state rivals 41-16.
Cleveland scored on the Bengals’ first possession when Denzel Ward intercepted sophomore quarterback Joe Burrow for a 99 yard touchdown return. Despite Tony Romo and Jim Nantz saying on the broadcast the Browns defense possibly playing tired after the score and then runningback Joe Mixon tying the game at seven, Cleveland’s offense did everything right. Runningback Nick Chubb returned for a 100 yard, two touchdown performance and Mayfield threw a 60 yard touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones to give the Browns a double digit lead.
Cleveland’s defense was porous a good part of the season but they didn’t play tired. They forced two fumbles on rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase and intercepted Joe Burrow twice. Every time the Bengals drove down the field, the Browns got a stop or a turnover.
It’s tempting to say this game could be an anomaly and the Browns will return to their previous ways the next two of three weeks (New England and Baltimore are two of their next three opponents), but with Chubb and Peoples-Jones back healthy, coach Kevin Stefanski’s unit has a chance to rise in the standings.
If anyone watching or covering the NFL was told running back James Connor would have the most touchdowns after the first week of November, they’d be ignored.
Connor’s the main reason Arizona didn’t have to fear a San Francisco 49ers defense after an easy first quarter in Santa Clara. In a game with no De’Andre Hopkins nor Kyler Murray, Connor took pressure off veteran backup Colt McCoy. He ran for almost 100 yards, averaging four yards a carry and was the second leading receiver with 77. His three scores give him eleven total touchdowns for a runningback or receiver before week ten.
Both Murray and Hopkins could be back in a home game versus Carolina next Sunday, but they can play looser knowing Connor is the main guy if both aren’t at full health.
The Josh Allen versus Josh Allen matchup
Over 100 years of NFL history there had never been a player sacking, intercepting and tackling another player with the same name. Sunday’s Jacksonville v. Buffalo matchup was a first.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen had an awful day (more on him later), and the Jaguars’ Josh Allen was a big reason why. Allen sacked the Buffalo star once, had his first interception of the season and notched a career high eight tackles. He even deflected a pass in an upset over the highly favored Buffalo Bills.
If that’s not impressive enough, both Allen’s were seventh overall picks in their drafts one year apart. That’s something we may never witness again.
Losers: the Josh Allen MVP conversation
While the Josh Allen on defense had a historically great day, the other Josh Allen played terribly. It’s safe to say the quarterback Josh Allen is the lesser of the two, and it brings worry to the playoff picture for the Bills.
After a Monday night loss in Nashville, Buffalo’s offense hasn’t played well. They’ve lost two out of their last three and in the one win the Bills struggled against a porous Miami Dolphin defense until the fourth quarter.
Since the bye week, Buffalo has ran for less than 150 yards in two games. The offense relies on Allen to create plays downfield and to score every possession. Devin Singletary and Zach Moss are good runningbacks but defenses aren’t threatened by them especially with a shaky offensive line.
After next week’s game against the New York Jets, the Bills face another rough part in their schedule. If Allen and the offense struggle against a hapless Jets defense, the second half of the season could spiral fast.
Las Vegas Raiders Second Half Adjustments
If there’s an argument on why interim coach Rich Bisaccia should’ve coached one game, Sunday was proof. Runningbacks Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake averaged over five yards a carry and the Raiders led by three at halftime. Las Vegas had the ball to start the third quarter and should’ve finished the New York Giants on their first possession.
Instead Giants safety Xavier McKinney intercepted quarterback Derek Carr and ran for a touchdown, swinging the game in New York’s favor. New York didn’t trail the rest of the game. Carr finished the day throwing almost 50 passes for under 300 yards and the Raiders scored three points the second half.
The loss was worse when the Los Angeles Chargers’ won in Philadelphia hours later. The Chargers have the tiebreaker and Las Vegas plays a desperate Kansas City Chiefs team next Sunday night. That game will say more about the Raiders’ playoff chances. It also keeps the Giants alive in the playoff race, something most teams in the NFC aren’t thrilled on.
Green Bay Packers
Some sports analysts wrote this past week could’ve been the most toxic week in sports for 2021. While there’s a good case, it wasn’t a fun week up in Green Bay. Star quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t just placed on the COVID-19 list, he made awful statements on quarantine and not being vaccinated before and during the season. At one point he compared the issue to Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights.
Backup Jordan Love, who’s expected to succeed Rodgers when he leaves the Packers after the season didn’t play well against one of the worst defenses in the league. Love has a lot to learn about playing regular seasons games as a starter just as Rodgers did his first few seasons in Green Bay. Despite the reasoning it’s not a good look especially when Love had the targets to throw to and couldn’t score more than seven points.
Seattle comes off their bye week headed to Green Bay with Russell Wilson and rookie receiver Dee Eskridge returning. If Rodgers doesn’t play because he chose Ivermectin over a vaccine, the Packers have a shot at the conference’s third playoff seed at best.
Washington Football Team
While Seattle received needed help to stay alive in the playoffs, the Football team had the opposite. They’re in last place after the Giants won at home.
Rivera’s team plays the remaining divisional games the last five weeks of the season, but it’s hard to argue they’ll be playoff-bound before that. Three of the remaining four games against teams not in their division are teams which could be a wild-card team at worst. They’ll play Tampa Bay, who also had a bye week and extra time to break down why they lost to New Orleans first. Something says that won’t turn out well.