NFL Week Nine Winners and Losers

We’re officially in the second half of the NFL 2022 regular season. Some teams are rising in draft position while others inch closer to the playoffs. Postseason hopefuls want higher seeding further into November. Without further delay here are the winners and losers after week nine.

Winners: Cole Kmet

Many analysts and viewers are ecstatic and relieved Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is progressing and making the most with the limited talent around him. What many overlook is the elevated play of Cole Kmet when Fields plays better.

The third year tight-end caught two of Justin Fields’ three touchdown passes in a back-and-forth home game against Miami on Sunday. Kmet’s 41 yards gives him 200 after nine games. He’s struggled to find a place in the Bears’ offense because of horrible play-calling and coaching the last two years.

There’s progress with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy making better decisions and adjusting personnel to Fields’ strengths. Chicago needs a stronger redzone offense and Cole Kmet provides that if utilized properly.

The AFC East divisional race

Most people expected the AFC east to be competitive and have at least two teams make the playoffs. Few expected all four teams to have a margin of one game and a half for first place after week nine. Every team has a shot at winning the division and hosting a playoff game.

The Buffalo Bills are heavy favorites to win the division but they’re winless against their rivals. Both the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are a half game behind the Bills and won’t sputter before December. The Jets defense is one of the best against the pass and has a better offensive line than most thought. Miami is well rounded with a top five offense and a solid defense and special teams unit. Last but not least, New England still has the best head coach in the NFL in Bill Belichick. He’s able to get the best out of his players regardless of position.

The AFC East winner won’t get the number one seed unless Kansas City bungles some December games, but it will be the most entertaining race in the conference.

Joe Mixon

Cincinnati’s thrashing of the Carolina Panthers was the most decisive game Sunday. Bengals runningback Joe Mixon had a career day scoring five of the six touchdowns Cincinnati scored.

You read that right. According to NFLStats.com and Sportscenter’s Scott Van Pelt, he’s the sixth player in NFL history to score five touchdowns in one game (the last player to do it was Jonathan Taylor last season). His 30 points in three quarters sealed an easy win after a short week.

Many believe the Bengals offense goes through quarterback Joe Burrow when in reality it’s Mixon. Cincinnati’s had an up-and-down season because of their starting runningback’s mixed success running the ball and reading the field. His presence and taking pressure off Burrow creates opportunities to expand deep-ball plays. If the Bengals get back to the playoffs it’s because Joe Mixon consistently plays well.

Travis Etienne Jr.

Despite Jacksonville trailing 17-0 and 20-7 in the first half Sunday, the Jaguars won an eye-opening game due to new starting runningback Travis Etienne Jr. stepping up.

In his second game as the starter, he ran 28 times for 109 yards and two touchdowns. The first one gave Jacksonville their first points of the game and his second gave them their first and only lead.

While there’s discussion around the disappointing play of quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Etienne Jr.’s become a bright spot on offense and could be the spark that gets Jacksonville back into contention.

Losers: Aaron Rodgers

Every former NFL MVP has bad games. Yet it’s rare when those who won multiple MVP awards fall hard and can’t do almost anything right seasons after.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has played poorly in all but two games half-way through the regular season. Sunday brought new lows for the Packers offense. Rodgers was picked off twice in the redzone and threw three interceptions total in Detroit.

The game wasn’t one sided either. Green Bay’s defense kept the game close but Rodgers couldn’t elongate plays and his top two receivers were Allen Lazard and Josiah Deguara (they combined for 128 of his 291 passing yards).

The Packers did nothing again at the trade deadline, declining to add a star receiver until the offseason. There aren’t many options at wide receiver in the upcoming free agency pool. If Green Bay wants to play better, Rodgers has to meet with the team and management to discuss what’s wrong.

Drake London’s terrible fumble to start the third quarter

The Falcons are masters at losing close games to playoff caliber teams. How they lost to the Chargers at home was classic Atlanta.

The Falcons went downfield on their first possession of the second half and got to the Chargers’ eleven yard line. Down four, quarterback Marcus Mariota completed a pass to receiver Drake London at the five. What happened after summarized why the team is a punchline.

Good news for Atlanta is they’re still tied for first place in the NFC South…whatever that’s worth.

Vance Joseph

Analysts and fans are buzzing about the sideline exchanges between quarterback Kyler Murray, the offensive line, head coach Kliff Kingsbury and receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Despite the problems on Arizona’s offense, the defense played one of their worst games of the season Sunday.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph did a good job holding Seattle’s offense to ten points in the first half. The game almost swung in the Cardinals’ favor when linebacker Zaven Collins intercepted Geno Smith and ran for a touchdown. Instead things went downhill.

Seattle’s offense had two straight 13 play drives over 6 and a half minutes each and scored 14 points. Rookie runningback Kenneth Walker III ran for two touchdowns in the second half, becoming the first Seahawk runningback since Shaun Alexander to have five straight games of 50+ rushing yards and a touchdown. Arizona’s offense might have played better depending on which key third down wasn’t converted against the defense. When veterans such as J.J. Watt jump offsides on third and short, it’s a sign things aren’t well. Seattle was 10-of-15 on third down and averaged six yards per play.

Joseph saw this offense not even a month ago and made no adjustments in either second half. While the defense is tough to demand better play from, second half adjustments make teams more focused, not sloppy. The Cardinals aren’t a good football team and they prove it by not getting off the field nor playing with urgency.

The NFL’s week ten late afternoon scheduling

Last month I gave the NFL credit for a well thought out week six schedule. Someone must hold the league accountable for the ire and negative emotions week ten’s late afternoon games will bring.

Next Sunday there are three late afternoon games starting with the Indianapolis Colts versus the Las Vegas Raiders at 3:05 CT. The Colts just fired their head coach and the Raiders are one of the worst disciplined teams in the NFL. We’re then treated to America’s Slaughterhouse of the Week between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys. The heavy advertising is irritable when one realizes Dallas had week nine off and can run through and end the Packers’ postseason hopes.

The last game is round two of the Arizona Cardinals versus Los Angeles Rams. Neither team has a functioning offense, making this a nightmare for any viewer. If the NFL wanted to contain outrage, they’d flex a better game into the late afternoon spot.

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