Regardless of what teams have done to prepare for this season, it’s not working, which is where we begin our Week 9 review:
▪ The biggest disappointment is Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. They fell to 3-6 with their fifth straight loss on Sunday, this one a disheartening loss, 15-9 at the hands of the Lions. Rodgers, a two-time reigning MVP, had only his second game with three interceptions since 2009, and all three came inside the red zone.
Rodgers is 3-6 for the first time in his career, and the Packers rank 27th in scoring (17.1 points per game). Rodgers looks like Tom Brady in 2019: frustrated with the receivers management provided him with, but accepting that he probably won’t get any better.
“There are a lot of life lessons for sure this year,” Rodgers said.
▪ Tom Brady and the Bucs finally won on sundaybut it was still ugly. Brady needed 58 pass attempts to get 280 yards from him, and managed only one 16-13 victory because the Rams inexplicably played soft zone coverage on the game’s final drive.
The Bucs snapped their three-game losing streak to improve to 4-5 and inch ahead of the Falcons for first place in the NFC South. But the Bucs were supposed to be the cream of the NFC this year, and instead their offense is broken and their games are boring. Tampa Bay ranks 25th in scoring this year (18.2 points per game) and last in rushing attempts, yards and career average.
▪ The Bucs were lucky to play the only team perhaps more broken than they are. The Rams fell to 3-5 with the loss, becoming the third Super Bowl champion this century to go under .500 after eight games (2006 Steelers and 2013 Ravens).
The Rams have injury issues on the offensive line, Matthew Stafford has been dealing with an elbow injury since the offseason, and the offense seems to be missing Robert Woods and Odell Beckham. But maybe the Rams celebrated too much after their Super Bowl victory.
They are 29th in scoring (16.4 points per game), with just 131 points in eight games, down from 245 last year. In Sunday’s loss, the Rams had nine first downs and gained 206 yards, the second fewest in Sean McVay’s six seasons.
“Changes have to be made,” McVay said after the loss, the Rams’ fourth in five games.
▪ Once again, several supposedly good teams and several supposedly star quarterbacks struggled Sunday.
Kyler Murray, who was supposed to lead the Cardinals to new heights in his fourth season, fell to 3-6 on the year with a 31-21 loss to Seattle. The Cardinals gained just 262 total yards and were only in the game because of a pick-six by Zaven Collins. Murray’s 6.02 yards per attempt this year ranks him 33rd out of 35 quarterbacks.
Josh McDaniels, Derek Carr and the Raiders continue to be one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL, losing 27-20 to Jacksonville to fall to 2-6. Carr’s numbers are down significantly this year, his completion percentage is down 6 full points, and on Sunday, Carr threw for just 36 yards after halftime as the Raiders were shut out.
Justin Herbert and the Chargers beat the Falcons to improve to 5-3, but their offseason fireworks (big contracts for JC Jackson, Khalil Mack and Mike Williams) haven’t translated into fireworks on the field. Herbert’s yards per attempt have dropped from 7.5 to 6.4, and the Chargers are averaging 23 points per game, down from 28 last year.
And, of course, there’s Matt Ryan and the Colts, who were supposed to be a dominant team in the trenches but have completely collapsed instead.
▪ The biggest takeaway is that NFL offenses are so bad this year that you don’t need a great quarterback to be competitive. Watch the Jets 6-3 under Zach Wilson, the Seahawks 6-3 under Geno Smith (he’s actually playing pretty well), Giants 6-2 with Daniel Jones, Patriots 5-4 with Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe, Commanders 4-5 with Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke, and Falcons 4-5 with Marcus Mariota.
I’m not sure if any of these teams are Super Bowl contenders, but the offenses are so unproductive that the old-fashioned formula of playing good defense and safe football is making a comeback in 2022.
▪ The key to the The Jets’ upset over the Bills Sunday was no secret, limiting Zach Wilson’s impact on the game. He completed 18 of 25 passes for 154 yards, with only three pass attempts that traveled more than 10 yards in the air. But he threw a touchdown pass and, more importantly, didn’t throw an interception.
▪ The Bills are allowed one unexplained midseason loss per year. Last year, it was a 9-6 loss to the Jaguars. They better hope Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Jets was just a minor blow. They are still 6-2 and No. 1 in the AFC, but 0-2 in AFC East games.
▪ The Bears’ offense scored 33, 29 and 32 points in back-to-back games because they finally released Justin Fields on designed runs. Fields averaged 8.4 rushes for 38.8 yards in his first five games and 12.3 rushes for 102 yards in his last four games. Fields rushed for 178 yards and a TD in Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, setting a single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback (Mike Vick, 173).
▪ How about this Kevin O’Connell? His Vikings are 7-1, overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Commanders, and Friday night gave birth to his fourth child, a girl.
▪ Race for the No. 1 pick: The 1-6-1 Texans are tied ahead of the 2-7 Panthers, who trailed 35-0 at halftime in their loss to the Bengals and fired two defensive assistants Monday . The Lions’ win improved them to 2-6, a half game ahead of Carolina. Pittsburgh and Vegas sit at 2-6. The Colts have dropped to 3-5-1 and are still the 10th seed in the AFC, but they will drop quickly.
▪ 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Browns QB Jacoby Brissett, Giants coach Brian Daboll: They all had byes this week.
▪ Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson: He returned to the lineup after a four-game injury absence and rushed for 44 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to the Chargers.
▪ Raiders coach Josh McDaniels: A two-week road trip resulted in a shutout loss at New Orleans and a 27-20 loss to the Jaguars in which the Raiders became the first team in NFL history to blow three different 17-game leads. points in a season, and they still have nine games to go. The Raiders were a 10-7 team last year, and frustration runs high over this year’s 2-6 record. It didn’t help that All-Star wide receiver Davante Adams said after the game, “There’s no reason we should lose games like this.” It would be crazy for Raiders owner Mark Davis to consider firing McDaniels after just one season, after allowing him to revamp the entire football operation. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.
▪ Titans coach Mike Vrabel: He led the Chiefs into overtime with his backup rookie QB completing just five passes. The 5-3 Titans may not have the talent to be a top contender this year, but Vrabel has once again built a strong, smart and physical team.
stats of the week
▪ Chargers-Falcons, Jets-Bills, Vikings-Commanders and Chiefs-Titans each went 20-17, only the second time in NFL history that four games had the same score on the same day, according to STATS. On October 5, 1924 there were four games that ended 3-0.
▪ The Eagles improved to 8-0. None of the last 11 teams that started 8-0 won the Super Bowl. The last to do so were the 2009 Saints.
▪ Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era with at least 400 yards passing and 60 yards rushing in the same game.
▪ The Bears became the first team since the 1976 Steelers to rush for at least 225 yards in four straight games.
▪ Tom Brady had 100,000 career passing yards in the win over the Rams, but he also authored his 55th career game-winning drive, breaking a tie with Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history.
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.
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