Who Fed It And Who Ate It: 2018 Week 9
With six teams off this week, the slate of games was one of the smallest of the season. But it did not disappoint for the non invested observer. Let us make the rounds...
The New Orleans Saints defeated the Los Angeles Rams in the unanimous Game of the Week in a 45-35 shootout. With two high powered offenses facing off against one another, along with the top two teams in the NFC vying for conference supremacy, this was the epitome of must see TV. And given that scoring came fast and furious, the action was hot from the opening kickoff. After the Saints ended the first half with a 35-17 lead, the Rams would respond by scoring 18 unanswered points to tie the game in the fourth quarter. But Drew Brees, the quietest MVP candidate in NFL history, led his Saints to post the final 10 points (including a 72 yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas for an insurance score) to knock the Rams from the realm of the undefeated and to serve notice to the league that the Saints, winners of 7 straight games, are serious contenders. But this is not a coronation, to be sure. The Carolina Panthers are right on the Saints' heels just one game behind. As good as the Crescent City boys have been, they cannot let up, lest their rivals in Charlotte will gladly capitalize on such an opening.
The Los Angeles Chargers won a tough road game against the Seattle Seahawks 25-17 to stay 1 1/2 games behind the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West race. The Chargers have become a bit of a running joke thanks to their apathetic reception in LA from their move from San Diego. While the fact that the Chargers' temporary home is becoming more of a haven to their opponents, they are also becoming a team that should be taken seriously as a playoff contender. Yes, they have been inconsistent (but hell, how many aren't this year?), and one could make the argument that they only beat the teams they should. But were they supposed to defeat the Seahawks, in the vaunted Hawks Nest of Century Link Field? Chargers QB Philip Rivers has been playing well in this second act of his great career, the defense has been more than a handful, and RB Melvin Gordon is showing his capabilities to balance the offense. Oddly enough, the lack of a true home field advantage could serve to galvanize this roster if they play into January. How can an opposing crowd get into the heads of a team who rarely play in front of a friendly stadium? We'll see what transpires, but don't sleep on the Bolts.
The Ass Kicking of the Week, once again, given to the Buffalo Bills, as they were spanked 41-9 by the Chicago Bears. There was a sense that the Bills would regress from the year prior as the 2018 season approached. However, only the truly cynical would have thought it would have been this bad. But simple examination eludes as to why. First, they are carrying nearly 40% of their roster as rookies or second year players. That is a painfully green group of young twentysomethings taking some serious lumps. The good news is that the defense is better than advertised, but flip side is the offense is atrocious. Offenses need time together to understand each other and find a synergy, and they are doing that on the fly. Which brings up the other big problem: Quarterback. Yes, the Bills drafted Josh Allen as the future franchise cornerstone. But Allen is out with an elbow injury that has cost him 2 games and counting. Behind him is the journeyman Derek Anderson (who was out this game due to injury), who made it crystal clear that he is on his last legs as a pro. And that leaves the second year curiosity Nathan Peterman. Curious because very few can envision the justification for his presence after showing both in 2017 and 2018 that he clearly lacks the ability to play the position at this level, at least on game day. Had head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane not snapped the Bills 18 year playoff drought, both would be in considerable hot water given the team's epic struggles. Only time will tell if not only will their vision be realized, but if owners Terry & Kim Pegula will afford the pair such time to do so.