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NFL Week 9 winners and losers: It’s an upside down world

Jaguars over Bills is the season’s biggest upset

NFL: NOV 07 Bills at Jaguars Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Giants defeat the Raiders 23-16 at home, earning their third win of the season. They are one of the many winners on the week. Several of those winners were underdogs as the Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, and Atlanta Falcons all pulled off upset victories. The Titans also pulled off another upset victory - a 28-16 win in Los Angeles against the Rams. Tennessee continues to be huge winners, despite missing running back Derrick Henry.

The halfway point of the season will be reached once Monday Night Football is finished. If the season ended today, this would be the playoff picture:

NFC West: Arizona Cardinals
NFC North: Green Bay Packers
NFC East: Dallas Cowboys
NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Wild Card 1: Los Angeles Rams
Wild Card 2: New Orleans Saints
Wild Card 3: Atlanta Falcons

AFC West: Los Angeles Chargers
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens
AFC East: Buffalo Bills
AFC South: Tennessee Titans
Wild Card 1: Los Vegas Raiders
Wild Card 2: Pittsburgh Steelers (need to win on MNF)
Wild Card 3: New England Patriots

All three wildcard teams have a record of 5-4, if the Steelers win on Monday Night Football. However, there are four other teams with a 5-4 record as well: the Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, and Cincinnati Bengals. The AFC is much more competitive than the NFC. Here are the Week 9 winners and losers.

Winners

Patrick Graham

The Giants’ defense has played much better football the last three weeks. Patrick Graham garnered head coaching buzz during the off-season, due to a budding scheme that bent and rarely broke. Graham extracted career years from CB James Bradberry, MLB Blake Martinez, DL Leonard Williams, and S Jabrill Peppers.

Expectations were high for Graham and the Giants defense, but the unit seemed to regress through the first six weeks of the 2021 NFL season. The defense had apparent cohesion issues in the secondary, and a variety of problems persisted week in, and week out. However, in Week 6, the Giants defense took advantage of a weak matchup in Sam Darnold and the Panthers offense.

Two weeks have passed since that 25-3 Giants’ victory and the defense is still playing at a high level. The Giants harassed Patrick Mahomes and held the Chiefs offense to 20 points. Graham’s unit forced three Derek Carr turnovers on Sunday. They were opportunistic, getting contributions from a lot of young assets; safety Xavier McKinney had two interceptions, one was a pick six, Quincy Roche had the strip-sack fumble to end the game, and Azeez Ojulari also made several plays throughout the game.

The defense allowed more than 400 yards of total offense, but didn’t break when it mattered most. A 23-16 victory over the Raiders as the Giants head into the bye week has the team at 3-6. The likelihood of the Giants making a miraculous playoff run isn’t exactly probable, but if the Giants defense can continue to play with confidence under Graham, then they have a much better chance of making noise in the second half of the season.

Josh Allen (no, not that one)

A name synonymous with the New York Giants during the 2019 NFL Draft was EDGE rusher Josh Allen out of the University of Kentucky. The Giants selected Daniel Jones - the hopeful quarterback of the future - and Allen was selected one pick later at seven by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Let’s rewind one year to the 2018 NFL Draft where Josh Allen, quarterback out of Wyoming, was also the seventh pick in the draft.

Well, both Josh Allens faced each other on Sunday, and it was the defensive Josh Allen of the Jaguars who harassed the potential MVP Josh Allen of the Bills. In the history of the NFL, there has never been a sack recorded by a defensive player who shared the same name as the quarterback he was sacking.

The Jaguars’ Allen recorded the sack above, and decided to raise his achievement.

Josh Allen to Josh Allen! The Jaguars defender intercepts the star quarterback. But, Allen wasn’t done with his counterpart quite yet.

The third-year pass rusher fell on a Josh Allen fumble, completing the trifecta of dominance - a sack, an interception, and a fumble recovery. The young defensive captain of the Jaguars also had eight tackles in the game. Allen had five sacks and 25 pressures heading into this game against the Bills, according to Pro Football Focus. The 24-year-old pass rusher played a great game against the Bills, and he was a major reason for the upset.

The Browns

I have the Bengals as “losers” in this article as well, but the Browns winning in a commanding fashion shouldn’t be overlooked. Kevin Stefanski’s team was able to be efficient through the air with Baker Mayfield while pounding the rock with Nick Chubb who finished with 137 yards on the ground to go with two touchdowns.

Cleveland’s defense harassed Joe Burrow at home and didn’t allow the Bengal’s to play mistake free football. The Browns were able to dominate, and their leading receiver, Jarvis Landry, and only three catches. This, of course, comes off the heels of the Odell Beckham Jr. situation. There is a ton of speculation on Mayfield’s ability to be a franchise quarterback. He connected on the throws he had to hit.

Here’s the 60-yard bomb to Donovan Peoples-Jones, a second-year player who’s opportunity just expanded with the departure of Beckham Jr. Mayfield needed to calm the critics and win this football game. He was able to do so, but there’s still a lot of work for this Browns team to do if they want to make noise in the AFC.

The Broncos’ rushing attack

The Dallas Cowboys were a top six rushing defense heading into Week 9. They were only allowing 88-rushing yards per game. After defeating the Minnesota Vikings in primetime without star quarterback Dak Prescott, they looked to impose their apparent well-rounded team against a struggling Denver Broncos’ squad. However, Vic Fangio’s team won the physical battle in the trenches.

The Broncos had a 30-0 lead well into the second-half. Dallas couldn’t slow down the rushing attack of Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams. The tandem had 191 yards on the ground with Williams averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He had a total of 111 yards rushing - his first 100-yard game of his career. Gordon III had a rushing touchdown and added 80-yards on the ground.

Dallas’ defense resembled the 2020 Mike Nolan days.

Williams used his strength to move piles while combining vision and quickness to gain chunk pieces of yardage. The Broncos are now 5-4 in a division that is much more competitive than many imagined heading into the season. Winning on the road in this manner, against a team like Dallas, is incredibly difficult to pull off. That’s a tough earned victory by the Broncos.

Younghoe Koo, Justin Tucker, Dustin Hopkins

Some specialist love! Both Koo and Tucker kicked game winning field goals for their respective teams in Week 9. A five-play, 64-yard drive that was sparked by Cordarrelle Patterson’s 64-yard catch in the final minute of the game left to Koo’s game winning 29-yard field goal attempt. Honestly, Patterson and Ryan deserve more praise than Koo, but it was the foot of Koo that ensured the inner divisional victory at a score of 27-25.

Tucker kicked the game winning field goal in overtime as the Ravens completed the come from behind victory against the Vikings. Tucker’s field goal was a 36-yarder to earn the 34-31 victory.

The Ravens now sit atop of the AFC North, just above the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens are 6-2 with the Steelers at 4-3 with a date against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Dustin Hopkins kicked a 29-yard field goal with :02 left on the clock to give the Chargers an important 27-24 road victory over the Eagles. The Chargers now lead the AFC West with a 5-3 record since they defeated the Raiders in week 4 28-14.

Losers

First place teams

Sunday wasn’t the best day to be leading a division. The Raiders, Bills, Cowboys, and Rams were all upset in week 9. The Giants’ defense propelled New York past the Raiders. Josh Allen and the Bills couldn’t handle the pressure of Jacksonville’s defense, and Dallas looked all out of sorts against the Denver Broncos. The Rams were surprised by a Tennessee Titans team that lacked Derrick Henry. Baltimore almost made this list but Lamar Jackson stole the victory from the jaws of defeat (I’m rolling with it).

The Vikings found themselves in their third overtime game after leading the Ravens 24-10 after rookie Kene Ngangwu returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown.

Ngangwu also had a hand in a fake punt ran successfully by the Vikings. As the Ravens tend to do, they were able to scratch and claw their way back into the game. The Ravens had an 18-play drive that went for 82 yards, and a 7-play drive that went for 61 yards - both ending in a second-half touchdown to make the come-back a reality.

The Giants’ defense forced three Derek Carr turnovers, including one on the final offensive play of the game for the Raiders, a turnover forced by rookie pass rusher Quincy Roche.

Josh Allen was sacked four times and turned the football over three times in the Bills’ 9-6 defeat in Jacksonville. Dallas was outplayed and outcoached by Denver in Jerry World.

The Rams played an undisciplined football game against the Tennessee Titans and lost at home, 28-16. Matthew Stafford threw an interception akin to Carson Wentz’s Week 8 interception against these same Titans, and then he followed that pick up with another interception that was returned for a touchdown. The Titans jumped out to an early lead, and their defense was all over the Matt Stafford and the Rams.

Green Bay, another first place team, also lost 13-7 at Arrowhead stadium. Jordan Love couldn’t rise to the occasion and the Packers’ offense struggled against the Chiefs defense.

The 49ers

Consequently, the Cardinals are just as much winners as the 49ers are losers here. San Francisco allowed the Cardinals - without star quarterback Kyler Murray, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and, for much of the game, running back Chase Edmonds - to just embarrass them at home. Colt McCoy nickel-and-dimed his way down the field while both James Connor and Eno Benjamin virtually did whatever they wanted against this 49ers defense.

The Cardinals won this game 31-17. James Connor finished with 96 yards on 21-carries for two rushing touchdowns. He also added 77-yards and a touchdown as a receiver. Colt McCoy threw for 249 yards and a touchdown as well. Before the season, Kliff Kingsbury struggled to defeat the Rams and 49ers; he now has two wins against Kyle Shanahan and one against Sean McVay on the year.

The Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals were first in the AFC North just two weeks ago with a matchup against the Jets, and a home game against the Browns as their upcoming games. The Jets pulled off the upset, setting up a crucial week 9 home game against the Browns. Sadly for Cincinnati, the Browns beat the Bengals, 41-16.

Allowing a divisional rival to come into your house and defeat you in such a commanding fashion is a deflating experience for Cincinnati. Cleveland’s defense was all over Joe Burrow and the Bengals, forcing three turnovers - two Burrow interceptions, and a Ja’Marr Chase fumble. The Bengals now sit at the bottom of the AFC North with a 5-4 record.

This was a bad loss for the Bengals, but a great win for the Browns who dealt with Odell Beckham Jr. distractions all week. The former Giant was released by the Browns on Friday. Baker Mayfield finished the game 14 of 21 for 218 yards and two touchdowns. Mayfield found Donovan Peoples-Jones on a 60-yard touchdown bomb in the first-half of the game.

Beckham Jr. will pass through waivers on Tuesday - if he clears - and he’s looking to join a contending team. The Browns aren’t fully out of the playoff picture, especially after this upset victory against a bitter inner-state rival. They have two back-to-back games against the Ravens that are split by their bye week in Week 13. Those games may prove to be crucial if the Bengals hope to make the playoffs this season.

Sam Darnold

Yikes...Darnold has been playing very poorly since Christian McCaffrey’s injury in Week 3. Many speculated Darnold, who spent much of the week in concussion protocol, would settle down with McCaffrey returning, but the opposite happened. Darnold threw three interceptions in his unfortunate reuniting bout against a Bill Belicheck coached defense. Halloween was last week, but ghosts may have lingered. The Panthers were defeated 24-6 at home, despite Phil Snow’s defense forcing two Mac Jones turnovers.

I have Darnold on the list because of the gravity of his mistakes. An overthrown pick-six to J.C. Jackson when it was a one score game. He followed that mistake up with a terrible high throw that led to star receiver D.J. Moore taking a vicious shot to the ribs. Luckily, Moore was able to return after a brief respite. He then threw two interceptions on two consecutive drives.

The Sam Darnold experience in Carolina started well, but it has spiraled almost into oblivion as the Panthers fall to 4-5. Carolina may certainly be in the quarterback market during the off-season.