NFL

NFL Week 9 takeaways: New York Jets good, Los Angeles Rams bad, Green Bay Packers UGLY

The Dolphins’ offense rocked. The Falcons’ defense literally dropped the ball. And the Panthers’ defense just gave up another Joe Mixon score.

That’s just the appetizer. Let’s get to the main course of the good, the bad and the ugly from Week 9, Schein Nine style.

Related Links

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THE GOOD

J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS! In a wild Week 9, New York’s 20-17 win over Buffalo was the most stunning result of all. What a win for second-year coach Robert Saleh, who continues to get the most of his team despite the injury bug’s cruel bite. Saleh’s defense flummoxed the seemingly unflappable Josh Allen, who had his worst game of the year. Just ask the MVP candidate himself.

“It’s tough to win in this league when you’re playing a good team and your quarterback plays like s—,” Allen said postgame.

Allen’s right — on both counts. He played poorly, and these Jets are a good team, especially on defense. No one’s more representative of Gang Green’s rise than rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner, who nabbed another pick on Sunday. Stefon Diggs got off to a fast start on Sunday, but Gardner and D.J. Reed — who very well could be the best cornerback duo in the NFL — erased Buffalo’s Pro Bowl pass catcher in the second half. Meanwhile, second-year QB Zach Wilson bounced back from the Patriots debacle by rocking steady, forming a great bond with rookie WR Garrett Wilson.

Buffalo’s still my Super Bowl pick, which tells you how impressed I was by this effort from New York. It was the most striking Jets statement in a long, long time.

I love this kid. I love how Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has used him the last three weeks, too, when Fields has posted a 6:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 104.7 passer rating while rushing for 320 yards and three scores.

Yeah, the Bears lost to Dolphins, 35-32, but don’t blame Fields. His 178 rushing yards are the most EVER by an NFL quarterback in a regular-season game. His electric, 61-yard scoring scamper was the longest TD run by a Bears QB in franchise history. Fields is the first player since at least 1950 with three-plus TD passes and 150-plus rushing yards in a game.

The numbers are amazing. The feel is even better. This Bears season is not about wins and losses; it’s about Fields’ growth, something that could put Chicago right back in the playoff picture in 2023. So far, Fields has enjoyed the best season of any quarterback from the 2021 class.

You like that? You like that?! Kirk Cousins returned to his old stomping grounds in D.C. and took out Washington, 20-17. The hard-fought victory improved the Vikings to a sparkling 7-1, with six straight wins coming by a single score. Cousins didn’t play his best game of the season, but he led Minnesota on three fourth-quarter scoring drives to turn a 10-point deficit into a three-point W. Of course, the QB got a little help from his friends …

Justin Jefferson was his usual dominant self, racking up seven catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, but how about the new guy?! In his Viking debut, T.J. Hockenson posted a game-high nine catches for 70 yards. This will prove to be a sensational, difference-making deadline deal, an inspired move that could put this Minnesota offense over the top.

And while I’d still rank the Eagles, 49ers and Cowboys above the Vikings in terms of ultimate NFC upside, Minnesota’s legit. The Vikes are already running away with the NFC North. Kevin O’Connell has predictably done a fabulous job in his first season in the big chair.

Seattle is the story of the year in the NFL. Pete Carroll is a gem — and a future Hall of Famer. His stamp of toughness and overachievement is omnipresent on these Seahawks. Halfway through the regular season, Carroll is a legit Coach of the Year candidate, while Geno Smith could easily end up with Comeback Player of the Year honors. Smith continues to prove the skeptics — like me! — wrong.

And I can’t talk about this Seahawks team without mentioning the force of nature in the backfield. I’m obsessed with the power and speed of rookie running back Kenneth Walker III, who is the ultimate closer in the fourth quarter for the Seahawks. This team is no fluke or cute story. Seattle is for real.

By the smallest of margins, Mahomes has officially moved to the top spot for NFL MVP. It’s fluid. It was Josh Allen. But now I’d rank the top five in this order: Mahomes, Allen, Jalen Hurts, Geno Smith, Tua Tagovailoa.

Mahomes and the Chiefs were getting stymied by Tennessee’s brilliantly coached, extremely phsyical defense. Derrick Henry was the best player on the field. But with the game on the line, and the ball at the Kansas City 7-yard line, Mahomes had one of those “get on my back” drives, including a 20-yard scramble to convert a 3rd-and-17. Mahomes eventually scored, executed the game-tying two-point conversion, and notched the 20-17 win in overtime. This was on a night when the Chiefs couldn’t run — and just stopped trying. It was awesome to watch.

THE BAD

It’s quite strange to say, given that Sunday’s Rams-Buccaneers game was a showdown between the NFL’s last two Super Bowl champions, but Los Angeles’ 16-13 defeat was a bad loss to a bad team. In fact, it felt like an eliminator for the defending champs.

The Rams’ offense could be the most disappointing unit in the league this season, ranking 29th in points and 31st in yards. It’s the same story every week: awful line play, no run game and a quarterback who’s incapable of connecting with anyone not named Cooper Kupp. According to NFL Research, Matthew Stafford completed eight of his nine throws to Kupp for 127 yards and a touchdown, producing a 155.8 passer rating. To everyone else, Stafford completed just five of his 18 throws for 38 yards, equaling a 39.6 passer rating. This offense is completely broken, and Sean McVay knows it. Look no further than the third-and-5 play with 1:39 remaining in the game. Clinging to a 13-9 lead, the Rams could’ve iced the game with a first down. With no confidence in his attack, though, McVay called a simple run up the middle that was stuffed, giving Tampa Bay life. And I know Jalen Ramsey doesn’t want to hear it, but this is where the vaunted Rams defense gets some blame. Tom Brady got the ball back with 44 seconds remaining and zero timeouts. Seven snaps later, he had his NFL-record 55th career game-winning drive. What a gut punch.

The Rams have now been outscored 71-10 in the fourth quarter this season, unsurprisingly the worst deficit in the league. It feels like that Super Bowl parade happened eons ago.

THE UGLY

Yikes! In a 26-3 embarrassment at New England, Indianapolis’ highly disappointing offensive line allowed poor Sam Ehlinger to get sacked nine times. The Colts couldn’t block, couldn’t throw and couldn’t run, finishing the game with 121 yards of offense — the fewest yards for any team in a game this season and fewest for Indy since September of 1997, the year before the Colts drafted Peyton Manning. Indianapolis was 0-for-14 on third down — and 0-for-2 on fourth down, for good measure.

So, in the wake of a third straight loss, Indianapolis fired head coach Frank Reich on Monday, oddly replacing him on an interim basis with former Colts center Jeff Saturday, he of zero coaching experience. Clearly, this is a franchise frantically spinning its wheels, as this move comes two weeks after Indianapolis surprisingly scrapped its latest veteran-quarterback gambit by abandoning the Matt Ryan experience.

Indy has the longest division-title drought in the AFC South, and it certainly appears that dry spell will extend to eight seasons. This is general manager Chris Ballard’s sixth year on the job. When will Colts owner Jim Irsay reach for that lever of blame?

Just last week in this space, I called Las Vegas “the most disappointing team in the NFL.” Well, apparently, the Raiders hadn’t even hit bottom.

Seven days after the staggering no-show in NOLA, the Raiders appeared to take the final 40 game minutes off in Jacksonville. After jumping out to a 17-0 lead over the Jaguars, Vegas completely turtled over its final five drives (SEE: punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs, fumble), allowing Jacksonville to steal a 27-20 win. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is — depressingly so. In Week 2, the Raiders led the Cardinals 20-0 before losing 29-23 in overtime. In Week 5, the Raiders led the Chiefs 17-0 before losing 30-29. Check out this note, courtesy of NFL Research: The Raiders have blown a lead of 17-plus points in three losses this season; they had five such losses in the first 62 seasons of the franchise combined (1960-2021).

A dozen years removed from his unceremonious firing by the Broncos, Josh McDaniels is picking up right where he left off as a head coach. After losing seven of his final eight games in Denver, McDaniels has dropped six of his first eight games in Vegas. This looks like another flop. My guy Derek Carr is having the worst season of his career. Las Vegas’ offensive line is a sieve — same with the defense. This team’s inner fortitude is nonexistent. Just totally grotesque all around.

Color me stunned. And stick a fork in Green Bay. After a 15-9 loss to the lowly Lions — THE LIONS! — these Packers are done. It’s early November, and Green Bay already trails Minnesota by a whopping five games in the loss column. The Vikings could have this division wrapped up before Thanksgiving.

Green Bay’s in the midst of its first five-game losing streak since 2008, which was Aaron Rodgers’ first season as the starter. Related news that I’m sure you haven’t heard: During this span of time, the Packers have spent a grand total of three first-round draft picks on offensive players and zero on wide receivers. This is the gross residue of awful design.

That said, Rodgers was terrible on Sunday, throwing three ghastly picks, including two in the red zone. Entering Week 9, Detroit’s defense ranked dead last in a whole host of statistics, including yards per play, total D and scoring D. And yet, Green Bay couldn’t even reach double digits. With the back-to-back reigning MVP under center, the Packers rank 27th in scoring, right below the Taylor Heinicke-led Commanders. This is an unmitigated disaster.

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