Michael Lavery looks back at an eventful week nine in the NFL.
At the conclusion of another weird and wonderful week in the NFL, we perhaps find ourselves left with more questions than answers about the state of play across the League. The favourites flopped while the underdogs had their barks heard loud and clear in several games that finished with head scratching score lines.
Alongside that, more off the field stories made their way into the headlines as they so often do in the NFL. Odell Beckham Jr. got his wish and was released from the Cleveland Brown’s and went unclaimed on Waivers to become a valuable free agent asset. At the time of writing, Beckham is yet to sign with a team but the rumours in the media are that he’ll sign with either the Packers, Chiefs or Saints. (Please God don’t let him sign somewhere before this is posted!).
The main focus, however, rightfully remains with the on-field product. As we are now past the halfway point of the season, the race to the playoffs is officially on! As for week nine, well, it did it’s best to be remembered as a talking point when the season is done and here are my five main takeaways from another fantastic week in the National Football League.
Colt McCoy leads Cards to big division win
The sting of losing their first game of the season would have been enough for the Cardinals had their next game not been against a division rival and they would be without: Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Green, Chase Edmonds (left the game in the first quarter) and Justin Pugh.
Turns out that didn’t matter. The Cardinals rebounded from their week eight Thursday Night Football loss to the Green Bay Packers by demolishing the San Francisco 49ers 31-17. And the did it with a banged-up roster. Colt McCoy led the Cardinals and their offence to a commanding victory, throwing for 22/26 for 249 yards and 1TD. Four Incompletions! Now that is the definition of efficiency. Couple that performance with a dominant display on the ground which was spearheaded by James Conner.
Conner took 21 carries for 96 yards and 2 TD’s. The Cardinals usually split game reps between Edmonds and Conner but with the former leaving the game early, it was the former Steeler who ran his team towards victory.
It’s all well and good heaping tons of praise onto the Cardinals but a portion of the blame must lie with the 49ers. Not being able to beat a stricken Cardinals team is a bad, and quite frankly embarrassing look for Kyle Shanahan and his squad. They will lick their wounds and regroup before facing another division opponent in the Rams on Monday Night Football. As for Arizona, they welcome to the desert a Carolina Panthers team lead now by their backup PJ Walker because of Sam Darnold’s injury.
Bears dealt tough loss by the Steelers… and The Refs
Now, we’ve all been there. A tight game and the result doesn’t go your way. We cry foul that the “Refs give us nothing!” Often, these cries are in vain and are nothing but a method of venting our frustration at such a tight loss. This week however, the Chicago Bears fans might actually have a leg to stand on when it comes to their claims of unfair rulings.
Granted, the Bears’ overall performance wasn’t exactly world beating and they had chances to win the game. But it is the nature in which they lost the game that will hurt the most. A fourth quarter taunting penalty against linebacker Casius Marsh, who spent training camp with the Steelers, gave them a fresh set of downs and the ability to close out the game. Now, we all know this new taunting rule has been a bit over the top since its introduction at the beginning of the year, but this call will definitely be marked down as one of the softest given all season.
Marsh spoke to the media after the game and had this to say: “I think that one was just bad timing. It’s pretty clear to everybody who saw it that I wasn’t taunting,” He continued: “I’ve been doing the celebration my whole career. It’s just sad to see stuff like that happen in a close game like that.”
Marsh added that he thought that Referee Tony Corrente had made contact with him. “On my way to the side line, I got hip-checked by the ref. It’s pretty clear,” Marsh said. “If I was to do that to a ref or even touch a ref, we get kicked out of the game and possibly suspended and fined. I just think that that was incredibly inappropriate.”
This is an incredibly poor look for the NFL who, since the introduction of the taunting rules, have come under much criticism for the nature in which they are handed out. The scenes from Monday Night Football are just another chapter in an unfortunately ever-evolving storyline.
It was a good day for the Bookies
I hope you didn’t back too many favourites this weekend! As mentioned at the top of this article, it was a good weekend to be a fan of the underdogs. As it so often does each year, the NFL’s model of parity was on display for all to see. Forgive me for reverting to the cliché but the NFL boils down to “Any Given Sunday”. Simply put, it is a cliché because it is true. It doesn’t matter what your record says, or your superstars or coaches have done in the past. What matters is what happens in those four quarters on a Sunday afternoon.
The Giants, The Falcons, The Jaguars and The Broncos all put another tick in the win column on Sunday in results that many people did not expect. A slate of results which would have had the green thumbed odds makers laughing all the way to the bank.
The Giants win over the Raiders is somewhat justifiable given the current state of turmoil within the Vegas outfit. The Falcons should never be counted out due to the simple fact that Matt Ryan is elite (Yes, elite. I said it and I meant it!). The Jaguars 9-6 victory over the Buffalo Bills was the shocker of the weekend. The Josh Allen Bowl, just in case you hadn’t heard? Well, it was the Jags, Allen, Lawrence and Meyer who came away victors in this one. The Denver Broncos beat the Dallas Cowboys 30-16 and if you had predicted that result earlier in the week I probably would have accused you of being on drugs. Huge upset win for Denver and a statement performance from rookie running back Javonte Williams who took 17 carries for 111 yards.
No Henry? No Problem!
Speaking of running backs – The Tennessee Titans got the job done on Sunday Night Football despite the absence of their main man, Derrick Henry. Carries were split between Jeremy McNichols, Adrian Peterson and D’Onta Foreman with 36-year-old Peterson getting in for a score.
There are a couple of ways to look at this. One: The Titans improvised, adapted, and overcame their adversities to win. Or, two: The Rams beat themselves.
Both are true. Stupid mistakes and lapses in concentration cost the Rams the chance at victory but it was the perseverance of the travelling Titans that got the job done. With all the talk in the build up about this Rams defense and how fierce it can be, Tennessee decided to just ignore it and stick to their gameplan. A primetime game in SoFi stadium against a very good Rams team was never going to be an easy task but thankfully for Tennessee they were able to get the job done.
And, just in case you needed a reminder how good Derrick Henry is – He remains atop the rushing charts despite his absence this week.
Manning-cast Curse is… real?
Okay, this may seem a little trivial but it’s something fun to keep an eye on going forward. The “Manning-cast” has been a welcomed addition to Monday Night Football’s viewing experience. Peyton and Eli, two legends of the game, sharing their knowledge of the game whilst also inviting on guests to joke around with and interview. The only problem is, there is an unwanted trend developing.
Each guest that has appeared on the broadcast has gone on to lose the following week.
— Kelce on Week 1, lost Week 2 — Russ on Week 1, lost Week 2 — Gronk on Week 2, lost Week 3 — Stafford on Week 3, lost Week 4 — Brady on Week 7, lost Week 8 — Allen on Week 8, lost week 9
Whether this will discourage active players from joining the broadcast in the future remains to be seen, but the coincidental nature of results over the first couple of weeks is something fun to track. Regardless, I doubt it will deter Peyton and Eli from being the same, entertaining pair that they always are.
With four divisional games on the slot for week ten, the race for playoff places is well and truly underway. Seeding has never been more important in this, the longest season in NFL history with the extended playoff format. Seasons are to be won or lost in the next few weeks and as we learned so clearly this week, “Any Given Sunday” is when it can happen.