Tuesday Afternoon Football: Week 9
Week Nine of the NFL season was home to some of the best matchups of the season, those matchups included a battle of top-tier quarterbacks, NFC heavyweights, and even more. It was a great week and it was a week that saw teams separate themselves, players separate themselves, the playoff picture is beginning to become clear. This week was just incredibly fascinating all around, so let’s just jump into it.
NFC Heavyweights Square-Off in High-Scoring Affair:
On Saturday, November 3 the Los Angeles Rams were the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL, and they were preparing to play the New Orleans Saints who were 6-1 heading into the matchup. The two teams featured high-flying explosive offenses, and the game was an incredible one, but the Rams were no longer the only undefeated team in the NFL when the sun set on Sunday.
This game was a perfect showing of what the NFL is today, a whole lot of offense and excitement, so much so that you forget that there wasn’t much defense to speak of. The Saints won the game 45-35, and they were dominant. Scoring 45 points in an NFL game is impressive on its own, but to do so against a team that many (including me) thought was the best team in the NFL and the Super Bowl favorite is just that-much more impressive.
Led by Drew Brees, the 39 (nearly 40) year old quarterback, the Saints offense was firing on all cylinders. Drees completed 25 of 36 passing attempts for 346 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions. While he was great, there is no need to discount how great some of the pieces around him are. He targeted Michael Thomas 15 times and Thomas caught 12 of those balls for 211 yards and a 72-yard touchdown.
On somewhat of a side-note, Thomas has been one of the top-five receivers in the NFL in each of the three seasons he has been in the league. He has mostly flown under the radar until this year, but I knew he was special back in 2016 when I had him on my fantasy team. I knew he was special when I dropped him the week before he broke out for 73 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers in 2016 and started his rise to stardom. He is now getting the recognition he deserves as one of the top receivers in the league as he helps make Drew Brees look even better with each week.
While Thomas is incredible on the outside as a receiver, the Saints also have a top dual-threat running back coming out of the backfield in Alvin Kamara. He has been on a tear this season, but on Sunday he ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns and also caught four passes for 34 yards and a touchdown. He has 490 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns this season, and he also has 427 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. He’s been unreal and is a large reason for the Saints success this year, and is the only reason my fantasy football team has any wins this year, but that’s besides the point.
The trio of Brees, Thomas, and Kamara is as good as any in the league, and probably miles ahead of any trio other than Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell (when he plays). They can run with anyone in the league, and they ran the Rams out of their building this week.
The Rams lost their first game, you know that, but they didn’t even play that poorly from an offensive standpoint. Jared Goff threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Todd Gurley didn’t have his best week, only rushing for 68 yards and a touchdown, but their offense couldn’t make up for the gashing their defense took from the Saints offense.
The Rams haven’t been an elite defensive team in the last month, but their offense has been able to overcome that because they are just simply prolific in a way that we rarely see in the NFL. They are dealing with injuries on the outside as Aqib Talib is injured and Marcus Peters isn’t 100% healthy. Their interior pass rush is elite with Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, but other than that their defense is pretty mediocre, that will have to change if they want to justify their massive offseason and in-season spending and win the Super Bowl.
This game was a great one though, and everything that the NFL could dream of with a matchup of NFC heavyweights. The Saints beat the Rams 45-35, exposed some weaknesses and knocked them off their perch as the lone undefeated NFL team and undisputed favorite to come out of the NFC. Now the real fun begins though.
How will the Rams respond after a tough loss and how will they ramp up their defense by the time the playoff roll around before an inevitable second matchup with the Saints?
How will the Saints build off this impressive win and will they solidify themselves as NFC favorites or leave the door open for a team like the Rams or an NFC North team to emerge as a contender?
This is going to be fun.
Rodgers vs. Brady: A Battle of All-Time Great QB’s
This matchup between the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers was much more than a matchup between a six-win team atop the AFC East and a three-win team struggling to keep pace in the NFC North. This matchup was the second time that Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers were set to face off, and the matchup lived up to the hype.
Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are viewed in somewhat of a similar light as Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Brady, a five-time Super Bowl champion with three MVPs, is almost universally recognized as the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL. Now some people still are holding onto the belief that Joe Montana was better because he went 4-0 in the Super Bowl, but most understand the impact Brady has had on the sport and the quarterback position. Brady is the Michael Jordan of NFL quarterbacks.
Aaron Rodgers is viewed in a similar light to NFL fans that LeBron James is viewed in for NBA fans. Rodgers, with one Super Bowl and two MVP’s, is a player that has a growing following for being the greatest quarterback of all time. It is similar to LeBron James, who has has incredible success in the NBA, but not the same success as Michael Jordan. Rodgers has success, and can do things that no other quarterback has ever been able to do, but Brady is just a more successful quarterback.
While the debate between Jordan and LeBron has to full of hypotheticals in the NBA because the two never played against each other, Brady and Rodgers have now faced off twice, and exist in the same era. That’s why this game was so hyped up, people wanted to see if Rodgers really could be the GOAT or if Brady is just untouchable at this point.
Now does a Week Nine matchup really indicate who is the GOAT? No, but it is still a fun narrative.
The two QBs and their teams squared off on Sunday and, to surprise very few people, the New England Patriots came out on top. The Patriots beat the Packers 31-17.
Brady completed 22/35 passes for 294 yards and one touchdown while Rodgers completed 24/43 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. Neither quarterback threw an interception, but Aaron Rodgers did have a fumble.
These two teams aren’t even close right now, the Patriots outmatch the Packers in nearly every facet of the game. They have a better head coach and coaching staff, they have a better defense, and they have a better quarterback. The Packers do have younger weapons on the outside, but the Patriots use their weapons in a better, more efficient way thanks to their better coaching.
So, while this game was never going to prove that Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers is the GOAT, it was was pretty telling about both teams.
For the Patriots, it proved that they continue to just find diamonds in the rough and players in need of a new start. They do this better than anybody, they traded a fifth-rounder for Josh Gordon which was seen as a pretty big risk, but he has awarded them. He had 130 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, and has 396 yards and two touchdowns for the Patriots. They rescued a WR/KR from the Oakland Raiders in Cordarrelle Patterson and he played some running back for them on Sunday. He had 61 yards and a touchdown on the ground and also had a receiving touchdown. The Patriots just are better at scouting and maximizing their players than anybody else, their excellence in this regard is unparalleled.
The Packers showed that they just don’t have the pieces to realistically compete at the top of the NFL, regardless of how good their quarterback is. Aaron Rodgers has won the Packers dozens of games over the years that they should have had no chance in, but the management still can’t get a good defense to help lessen his workload. They do have good pieces on the outside like Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Jimmy Graham, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but they have never given Rodgers an elite running back. I mean the best rushing weapon they had was Eddie Lacy before he got fat, but he wasn’t someone who could get you 130 yards on the ground every game.
On top of all that, they don’t do Rodgers any favors on defense. They missed out on Khalil Mack in the offseason, and he is now on the rival Bears and will face the Packers twice a year. That not only hurts your chances to win and control the division, but also increases the probability of injury for Aaron Rodgers. They rely heavily on the draft to get any players because they aren’t a free agent destination, but they just traded their best defensive player at the deadline. I think the Packers are successfully wasting the prime of Aaron Rodgers’ career and it is a travesty.
This was a good game though, and the Patriots showed that they are still the team to beat in the AFC East, the AFC as a whole, and the NFL as a whole. They are riding a six-game winning streak and are getting better by the week.
The Packers showed that they can’t compete with the top dogs and that the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears are the two teams that have a realistic shot at the NFC North. Green Bay will be on the outside looking in.
Update from the Jimmy G hype train:
CK Collusion QB of the Week: I’m going to be honest with you here, this feels like bullying at this point. Not just by me, but by the Buffalo Bills, how can you keep sending out Nathan Peterman to start knowing that he has thrown SEVEN TIMES as many interceptions as touchdowns this year. This week he completed 31/49 passes for 189 yards, zero touchdowns, and three interceptions, two of which were pick sixes. Also, Sam Bradford was released this week after signing a $20 million contract with the Cardinals this offseason, so that was notable as well.
Breakout Player of the Week: Nick Mullens completed 16 of 22 passes in his first ever NFL appearance for 262 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. This was the reverse Nathan Peterman.
Loser of the Week: The Oakland Raiders who only managed to score 3 points while allowing 34 to the 49ers who were starting their third-string quarterback. This Jon Gruden coaching experience is a total disaster.
The Good, the Bad, and the Odd:
The Good: Michael Thomas caught 12 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown was a 74-yarder and afterwards he pulled a flip phone from underneath the goalpost to channel his inner Joe Horn. It was a great game and an even better celebration.
The Bad: The Detroit Lions let Matt Stafford get sacked 10 times on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. That’s just an absolutely pitiful game from the Lions offensive line. Sam Darnold threw four interceptions for the Jets this week against the Dolphins so he was just as bad as the Lions’ offensive line.
The Odd: The Los Angeles Chargers kicking woes continued as they released Caleb Sturgis after this week’s game when he missed two extra points and field goal. This now remains one of the two most prominent questions worldwide. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? And how long until the Chargers find a kicker they can hold onto for more than six weeks? The world may never know.