Week Nine was brim full of upsets in the NFL – with many of the incumbent play-off contenders losing out to teams further down the pecking order.
Buffalo lost to Jacksonville, New Orleans fell to Atlanta, Dallas were defeated by Denver and Las Vegas suffered at the hands of the New York Giants. Many accumulators will undoubtedly have failed due to one or more of these matchups.
Elsewhere, there were battles at both ends of the draft order – the Tennessee Titans (without all-star running back Derrick Henry) defeated the Los Angeles Rams 28-16 on Sunday Night Football, while the Miami Dolphins overcame the Houston Texans 17-9 in a contest between two 1-7 teams.
Every game at this stage of this season has huge repercussions – for draft order, the play-off picture or the future job prospects of a head coach.
Here we run down the winners and losers from week nine as the NFL season reaches the halfway stage:
Josh Allen vs Josh Allen
When the 5-2 Buffalo Bills travelled to the 1-6 Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday afternoon, many fans around the world will have added the Bills – who were a 14.5-point favourite on the spread – to their accumulators. The assumption was that the all-powerful Bills offense, led by MVP candidate Josh Allen, would maul the lowly Jaguars.
Unfortunately for Allen and co., they ran into another Josh Allen – the defensive edge rusher for the Jaguars. Jacksonville’s Josh Allen became the first player to sack, intercept and recover a fumble against a quarterback of the exact same name. He also led the Jaguars with eight tackles.
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) November 7, 2021
The similarities do not end there – the two players were taken with the #7 overall pick of consecutive drafts – Buffalo took their Josh in the 2018 NFL Draft while the Jags followed suit in 2019.
Jacksonville went on to win the game 9-6, one of many upsets in Week Nine.
Indianapolis Colts Offensive Line
Indianapolis routed the New York Jets 45-30 on Thursday Night Football thanks to a phenomenal offensive display anchored by the offensive line.
The offense amassed 532 total yards – 272 through the air and a staggering 260 on the ground. The offensive line, led by All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson, opened up space for star running back Jonathan Taylor to rush for 172 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 carries, a mammoth 9.1 yards per carry.
Taylor was ably backed up by Nyheim Hines, who rushed for a further 74 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
In the passing game, Carson Wentz threw for 272 yards and three touchdowns, connecting with wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr and tight end Jack Doyle in the endzone. He also found backup offensive lineman Danny Pinter for a score.
The Colts are unlikely to win their division as they currently sit three games behind the impressive #1 seed Tennessee Titans in the AFC South, but Indy still have a shot at taking one of the three wildcard berths.
Credit must go to the offensive line of Nelson, Eric Fisher, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski and Braden Smith for the success the team has had in recent weeks.
New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney made a huge impact in his team’s 23-16 upset victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday afternoon.
The former Alabama safety, who was selected #36 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, intercepted Derek Carr on two occasions. The first came on the opening drive of the second half – a pick six which gave the Giants a 17-13 lead.
— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2021
His second interception came with 5:14 remaining in the fourth quarter with the Giants leading by four. McKinney anticipated the throw of Carr to undercut a Raiders receiver.
McKinney now has four interceptions on the season – tied for fourth in the NFL and second amongst safeties.
James Conner and Markus Golden
Without MVP candidate Kyler Murray and All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the Arizona Cardinals relied heavily on running back James Conner in Sunday’s 31-17 victory over NFC West rival San Francisco.
With journeyman quarterback Colt McCoy at the helm, the former Pittsburgh Steelers running back was handed the rock 21 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns – adding five receptions for 77 yards through the air and grabbing a third score in the process.
Conner, the #105 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, spent four years in Pittsburgh before signing a one-year contract with the Cardinals. He has proved to be a vital part of a well-rounded offense, but on Sunday he showcased an ability to put the team on his shoulders and carry them to victory.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the ball, EDGE rusher Markus Golden recorded a trio of sacks on Jimmy Garoppolo as the Cards limited Kyle Shanahan’s powerful rushing attack to just 39 yards.
Golden currently sits tied third in the NFL sack race with nine for the season and he is also tied for the league lead in forced fumbles (four) and tied second for fumble recoveries (two).
Now 8-1 on the season, Arizona are prime contenders for the NFC title race – especially with Green Bay, Dallas and New Orleans losing out at the weekend.
What a comeback from the Baltimore Ravens in their home game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Ravens trailed 17-3 in the second quarter and 24-10 midway through the third before winning 34-31 in overtime via the boot of Justin Tucker.
Five-hundred yards of offense, 36 first downs, 253 passing yards and 247 rushing illustrated an exceptional offensive output from Baltimore’s playmakers. Lamar Jackson threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns and added a mammoth 120 yards on 21 carries in the run game.
Able contributions from running backs Devonta Freeman (13 carries for 79 yards) and Le’Veon Bell (11 carries for 48 yards and a touchdown) as well as wide receiver Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown (nine catches for 116 yards) – aided Baltimore’s cause.
In the ultra-competitive AFC North, where all four teams currently have a winning record, the Ravens hold a 1.5-game lead. They also have five in-division games remaining on their schedule which will prove crucial in the final outcome.
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Nobody expected to see the Dallas Cowboys suffering a 30-16 defeat at the hands of the underwhelming Denver Broncos, especially in the manner it happened at ‘Jerry World’ on Sunday lunchtime.
The Cowboys’ six-game winning streak came to an abrupt end as the Denver Broncos led 30-0 in the fourth quarter. Two late Dak Prescott touchdowns to Malik Turner were scant consolation for ‘America’s Team’.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) November 7, 2021
The Dallas defense reverted back to 2020 form, giving up 407 yards of offense and 30 points as the Broncos amassed 190 rushing yards. Rookie Javonte Williams carried the ball 17 times for 111 yards and Melvin Gordon added a further 80 on 21 carries.
Offensively, the Cowboys were uncharacteristically lacklustre. Prescott completed just 48.7% of his passes, Ezekiel Elliott rushed for just 51 yards on 10 carries and the dynamic WR duo of CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper combined for just 60 yards on four receptions.
All in all, a poor week for Dallas. Fear not though Cowboys’ fans, you still lead the division by three-and-a-half games.
Philadelphia Eagles defense
The Philadelphia Eagles defense, masterminded by coordinator Jonathan Gannon, had a putrid afternoon in their 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers at Lincoln Financial Field.
Opposing quarterback Justin Herbert is the fifth signal caller this season to complete 80% of his passes against the Eagles D. To put that into context, between 1950 and 2020 the Eagles only allowed six such performances.
The vaunted Eagles defensive line created little pressure on Herbert all afternoon – zero sacks and zero quarterback hits – with players once again questioning Gannon’s methods in post-game press conferences.
356 passing yards, 28 first downs and 32 completions on 38 attempts – Herbert and the LA offense looked like they were in practice mode at times, with the Eagles unable to cover wide receiver Keenan Allen (12 receptions for 104 yards) or anyone else for that matter.
A lot has been speculated about the Eagles quarterback situation – is Jalen Hurts the future or will they need to spend next year’s draft capital – likely three first-round draft picks – on a quarterback?
After this performance, maybe the Eagles should consider loading up on defense instead.
The Cincinnati Bengals have fallen from divisional leaders to the bottom of the AFC North after two consecutive losses, the latest a 41-16 humbling at the hands of the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) November 8, 2021
Joe Burrow – who came into the game having thrown two touchdowns in each of his eight starts to date this season – threw only one touchdown on the afternoon. And that was a 100-yard pick-six to Browns’ cornerback Denzel Ward.
Defensively, the Bengals were unable to halt the fit-again Nick Chubb who scampered for 137 yards on 14 carries for the Browns and reached the endzone for a pair of touchdowns. Baker Mayfield also threw for two touchdowns to wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and tight end David Njoku.
The encouraging news for the Bengals in the play-off race is they are just one-and-a-half games outside of the division lead and hold a 2-1 record in three divisional games to date. That could yet prove crucial in the tightly packed division.
Jordan Love made his first NFL start for Green Bay Packers in their 13-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium – with his mother Anna and girlfriend Ronika in attendance for the former Utah State quarterback’s big moment.
Comically though, the Kansas City Chiefs gave the pair the worst seats in the house. The broadcast coverage zoomed in on the duo sitting in the back row of the top tier at Arrowhead – the road team’s appointed seats.
Love performed admirably in deputising for Aaron Rodgers, throwing for 190 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The 7-2 Packers though will be keen to see the swift return of #12 after putting up just seven points.
Jordan Love’s family did not get the Rodgers Rate on these tickets pic.twitter.com/4BerVwz9Ni
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) November 7, 2021