NFL Week Nine After Action Report (AAR)

This week in the NFL brought inevitable disappointment and agonizing lows for some of us, while others enjoyed newfound success. Translation: My Packers were awful, the Texans can’t escape Tom Savage, and the Seahawks are just confusing. Meanwhile, the Rams continue their ascent, the Eagles solidify their position atop the league, and the Lions win in Lambeau.

Take a look at what we got right and what we got wrong, and don’t forget to let us hear about it in the comments.

Brad’s Picks

Brad was right, but it took some self-convincing. Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants.

Thanks for bearing with me while I talked myself through correctly assuming that the Rams would blowout the Giants. Sean McVay’s offense used tremendous balance to eviscerate the bumbling Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Jared Goff was incredibly efficient throwing four TD passes on just 22 attempts and was aided greatly by his running game, handing the ball off 38 times. The Rams lead the league in scoring at 32.9 points per game and have already scored more points this season than they did all of last year. The Rams offense is no fluke! As for Big Blue, this beating was so thorough that head coach Ben McAdoo talked in the post-game presser about getting more reps for other players (essentially promising to start benching poor performers). He even implied that even Eli was in danger of losing his starting spot, but walked those comments back on Monday after some boisterous backlash from the media. Yup, the 2017 Giants are officially looking at next season. Let’s end this recap with a silver lining for the G-Men though. Rookie TE Evan Engram looks like the real deal. The Ole Miss product has elite athleticism and seems to be figuring things out as a pro despite the grease fire that surrounds him. Hotty Toddy Gosh Almighty!

Brad was just plain wrong. Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s 5 Things I Think, this result was a stunner. Apparently I overlooked the fact that Seattle can only defeat the Redskins at CenturyLink field if the game takes place in the playoffs. It’s pretty easy to stare at this boxscore and wonder how the Seahawks came away with just 14 points and a home loss to the injury-plagued ‘Skins. Typically out gaining an opponent by nearly 200 yards and recording six sacks are harbingers of victory, but Seattle was unable to turn the yards advantage into points as usually-steady Blair Walsh missed all three of his kicks on the day (all field goals from makeable distances). Other miscues included going 0 for 2 on 2-point conversions, piling up 138 penalty yards on 16 accepted penalties, and turning the ball over twice compared to just one turnover for the visitors. In a one possession game these are the kinds of details that can add up to a narrow loss and that was precisely the case on Sunday. Things don’t get any easier for Seattle as they travel to Arizona for a game that is already just two days away. Washington, meanwhile, heads home for another test against a rugged defense as they take on the NFC North-leading Vikings on Sunday.

Brad was right about the outcome, but wrong about the game being a snooze. Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins.

Jay Cutler did indeed play and he actually looked great in posting a 121.3 QB rating with 311 yards and 3 TD passes while completing 81 percent of his 42 attempts. His stat line is even more remarkable when you take into account the fact that Miami was not able to run the ball with any kind of consistency to slow down the pass rush. If it weren’t for the inability to convert on third down and sustain drives, one could actually compose a compelling argument that the ‘Phins outplayed the Raiders in this one. The Oakland offense was efficient, but not explosive and methodically took control of a game that featured 21 accepted penalties and the funniest fumble recovery of the year (god bless you, Marshall Newhouse). I have never liked Marshawn Lynch, but it is undeniably entertaining to watch him run the football. Running backs seldom have much explosiveness beyond their 30th birthday—and Lynch is certainly a step slower at 31—but the man runs like he is trying with every carry to remind us where “Beast Mode” came from. The Raiders coast into their bye week with a much-needed victory, but a trip to Mexico City to take on the Patriots looms. Meanwhile, a Monday Nighter in Charlotte is up next for the Dolphins as the season with no bye week drags on.

Week Nine Accuracy: 2-1
Overall Accuracy: 14-5

 

Danny’s Picks

Danny was right. Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos.

I was half right on this one.  I would have been a fool to expect that to see Brock Oswieler lead a Denver team in turmoil to a victory over an Eagles team that is arguably the best in the league. I do however think that the Denver defense is good and I thought they would give Carson Wentz some problems particularly with Jason Peters out. I’ve been pretty obstinate about admitting how good the Eagles are and I still won’t be surprised if they have a less than stellar final seven games, but they currently are the most complete team in the NFC and if they had a little more playoff experience they would be easy favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Jay Ajayi is a great addition and the Eagles defense continues to play solid complementary football.

Danny was right. Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers.

At this point in the season I don’t trust either of these teams. I think they are both capable of beating anyone when they are able to play their game. However neither team has really been able to put a solid string of wins this season. I’m about ready to put a fork in the Falcons. They are clearly not the team they were from a year ago and show no signs regaining their 2016 form anytime soon. I am still a strong believer in defense and that is why I picked Carolina in this game. When healthy, Carolina is still a top five unit and can keep them in just about any game. If Luke Kuechly can stay on the field, the Panthers will contend for a wild card spot.

Kansas City Chiefs at Dallas Cowboys.

This was my lone blemish this week. I did not see the Cowboys defense slowing down the Chiefs offense as effectively as they did. Holding the Chiefs to only 325 yards and forcing a turnover. In the crowded  NFC, the Cowboys had to have this game. This could be one of those rare years that 10 wins won’t be enough to guarantee a wild card spot and with a likely suspension for Ezekiel Elliott at some point, the Cowboys don’t have much room for error. The Chiefs meanwhile have regressed losing 3 of their past 4. The offense is going to have to regain its form if they are going to make any type of run in the playoffs.

Week Nine Accuracy: 2-1
Overall Accuracy: 11-7

 

Chris’s Picks

Chris was right about Andy Dalton, and wrong about Leonard Fournette. Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars.

If you haven’t already heard, A.J. Green ran afoul of the league when a brief tussle broke out between him and Jalen Ramsey. Brad already pointed this altercation out in his ‘5 Things I Think’ post from Monday, so I’ll just say while much was made of where Green took it, Ramsey’s almost juvenile instigation left me rolling my eyes. A shove followed by an it wasn’t me, he did it walk left me remembering contentious moments between me and my older brother for which I was frequently found to be the culprit, and which even more frequently drew the ire of our mother. On the football field though, it reads even more silly than between two feuding brothers. But it’s also emblematic of the Bengals season thus far.

The Jaguars came into this match-up showing a willingness to bench a high-caliber key player to reinforce disciplinary expectations and they won the game. I thought this week was going to be about Leonard Fournette shouldering the workload and carrying this offense to victory, but Blake Bortles and company stepped up to the plate and hit a home run without their leading rusher. It sounds weird saying it, but Bortles completed 63 percent of his passes for 259 yards, and tallied his third best QB Rating of the year with a 91.9. It’s certainly not a Pro Bowl performance, but he continued to limit his turnovers this week, and he gave his team a chance to win despite the added pressure of not having Fournette in the game.

The Bengals on the other hand, were unable to exploit Fournette’s absence and apply pressure to Bortles, and they were also unable to limit the Jaguar’s Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon from making up that production on the ground. Defensively, the Bengals missed tackles, and failed to stop the Jaguars from converting on third down all afternoon on Sunday. The Red Rifle continued to be a non-factor this week with less than 20 pass attempts and a measly 136 yards through the air. He didn’t throw a pick this week, a small consolation against this tough Jaguars secondary, but he also didn’t have a significant impact on the game and it was apparent. As their struggles continue, and they will, I’ll be surprised if Marvin Lewis survives the season as the head coach.

Chris was right about Drew Stanton and his winning ways. Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers.

He made the claim, and on Sunday, Adrian Peterson backed up the talk with a heavy workload and lots of yards. On 37 carries, AP finished the day with 159 yards and allowed Drew Stanton the room to operate. Stanton wasn’t stellar, I’m still not feeling warm and fuzzy about him, but he put up 200 yards and a couple of touchdowns. With the backup QB standards across the league being pretty low, he’s immediately provided value in Palmer’s absence, and improved his starting record to 7-3. That’s weird to me, but let’s not read too much into it, they played the 49ers.

The trade for Garoppolo was a good pickup in my opinion, and the additional time Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan now have to become acquainted with one another is only going to prove beneficial for this team, but I still think they have a long way to go before they’re worth anything more than a passing glance. 2018 should be an improvement on what’s going to end up being an abysmal record, but I’m not convinced their a .500 team based on the personnel filling this roster. But Chris, why are we talking about 2018 and not their performance on the field this weekend?

I think we both know the answer to that. Ugh.

Chris was wrong about the win, but his heart was in the right place, until Brett Hundley and a lack of defense broke it. Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers.

This one hurt.

As my colleagues can attest, I was beside myself watching Brett Hundley’s struggles continue. Mostly because I wasn’t surprised. I picked the Packers to win this game, because I’m an optimist and because the Lions just don’t win in Lambeau. Well, not if Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers are at the helm. I knew the Lions were favored in this game because of the QB change, but I thought we might see some life from the former Bruin, but Brett Hundley seemed to lack confidence throwing the long ball. The dink and dunk style of play only works if you have a quarterback who can read the defense and get rid of the football quickly against pressure, and we just didn’t see that Monday night. Hundley was notorious for holding onto the ball too long in college, and that continued to be an issue in his second full NFL start. I’ll give him credit for not turning the football over this game, but he also took too many sacks and didn’t seem to have great situational awareness. For example, just before the half, with no timeouts remaining and just a few seconds on the clock, he threw a ball directly over the middle for a completion forcing his field goal unit to rush the field, get set, and kick with the seconds winding down.

I hate to say it, to be that guy, but Hundley looks like the player he was in college. I’m not seeing the growth necessary out of him as a third year player. True, he’s sat behind Aaron Rodgers and hasn’t had much of an opportunity to gain experience, but we’re now through 11 full quarters of play, and he’s showing the same flaws he was known for in college, holding the football too long, taking too many sacks, too many turnovers, and he doesn’t seem know how to make the necessary adjustments over the course of a game. Admittedly, he looked slightly better when the Packers moved to a no huddle offense, probably because it gives him more time to read the defense and understand where to go with the football post-snap, but it didn’t improve his decision making and I’m skeptical of his ability to correct these issues. We hear he’s a preparation guy, but he’s had more time than most, and it’s not translating. You don’t get many shots in this league, and this one will go fast if he doesn’t get it together.

Matthew Stafford looked great. His passes were on point, his reads fantastic. This was one of his best games this season, and his team needed this win. It was next to effortless, as they steamrolled a Packers defense that just didn’t get any pressure on the quarterback. In fact, this Packers defense played so poorly, this is the first time the Lions haven’t had to punt since 1971. At least, that’s what Brad told me this morning and after a quick check, he’s correct. Their last no punt game was against Kansas City on Thanksgiving day in 1971. Still, the Lions had some missed opportunities in the red zone they’ll need to address before next week’s match up with the Browns. The Browns are the Browns, but they’ve shown some life on defense. At this point, the Lions want to keep winning and avoid any embarrassing performances against the bottom of the pack.

I don’t know if Joe Callahan is the answer for the Packers… but I know he’s not afraid to chuck it. A teaser for when that moment comes…

 

Week Nine Accuracy: 2-1
Overall Accuracy: 12-7
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