NFL Report Cards: Team-by-Team Grades for Week 9

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistNovember 10, 2015

NFL Report Cards: Team-by-Team Grades for Week 9

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    It's just another cold, mundane school day in the middle of November. You may or may not have finished yesterday's homework, but you've smartly resisted using up familial social capital by faking sick. You roll out of bed, put yourself together, grab a Pop-Tart and catch the bus. 

    But when you arrive and take your seat for your first-period class, something wonderful becomes apparent. Today, you have a substitute teacher. 

    That's me, kids. In for Mr. Tanier for one day and one day only. But just because I'm not your regular teacher doesn't mean you'll get off easy. Report cards are still being issued, and if any of the 26 teams that took to the field in Week 9 of the NFL season have slacked off, their fans are still going to be informed. 

    As Mr. Tanier always notes, don't mistake these for power rankings (you start each week with a clean slate), but do consider that these grades will be factored into your year-to-date GPAs. 

    Do I have your attention now? OK great, let's—oh man, it already looks like Kirk Cousins is constructing paper airplanes at the back of the room.

    Kirk, move up to this seat next to my desk immediately.

Cincinnati Bengals: A

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    Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    This Week's Result: Bengals 31, Browns 10

    Offense (A+): They scored in every quarter of a turnover-free performance against a half-decent defense. On short rest and in prime time (that's a scary term in Cincinnati), that'll do

    Defense (A): Figured they'd force backup Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel to make some monumental mistakes. That didn't happen, which gave the Browns a chance to hang around a little longer than many expected. But the Bengals put the clamps down in the second half, allowing Manziel to complete just four of 15 passes while sacking him three times after halftime. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (B+): No big plays either way, which is just fine in a game against a clearly inferior opponent. And they were penalized just twice.  

    Looking Ahead: The Bengals will have no excuse for falling back into bad prime-time habits next Monday night. They'll be coming off 10 days' rest at home against the Houston Texans.

Indianapolis Colts: A

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    This Week's ResultColts 27, Broncos 24

    Offense (A+): Andrew Luck is back!...at least for two weeks. The jury might still be out on the supposedly rattled and quite probably injured fourth-year quarterback's tumultuous season, but Luck at least enters Indy's bye week coming off his best performance thus far in 2015. His numbers were actually very similar to opponent Peyton Manning's, except Manning threw two picks while Luck and the Colts had only their third turnover-free performance of the season. Throw in a gritty effort from the hobbled T.Y. Hilton, and it's hard not to be extremely impressed by what the Colts were able to do to a top-five defense on Sunday. 

    Defense (A): The Indy defense also made a statement, putting Manning back in his place after a breakout game one week earlier against Green Bay. Mike Adams and Darius Butler had interceptions in big spots, and they limited C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman to just 35 yards on 14 carries, surrendering just 17 points. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (C+): There were some leaks in kick coverage, especially when Omar Bolden took a punt return the distance at the conclusion of the first half, but Adam Vinatieri was 2-of-2 with a 55-yarder, and it's hard to find any issues with how Chuck Pagano's staff approached this one. 

    Looking Ahead: After the bye, the schedule gets crazy easy. Their only two remaining games against teams with winning records come against slumping Atlanta (Week 11) and depleted Pittsburgh (Week 13). 

Minnesota Vikings: A

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    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    This Week's Result: Vikings 21, Rams 18

    Offense (A-): The oft-maligned Minnesota offensive line surrendered just a single sack against one of the best pass-rushes in football while paving the way for Adrian Peterson (125 yards on 29 carries) in order to grind out a tough victory despite the loss of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a concussion. 

    Defense (A): They limited the hottest back in football, Todd Gurley, to just 89 yards on 24 carries while allowing Nick Foles to complete just 18 of 33 passes. Most importantly, St. Louis was unable to find the end zone after the first quarter and went 0-of-8 on third down in the second half and overtime. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (A+): Blair Walsh made both of his field goals, Cordarrelle Patterson returned the second-half kickoff to midfield, and Marcus Sherels had a 26-yard punt return to set up the game-winning field goal in overtime. 

    Looking Ahead: They'll try to make it five straight wins with a road victory over the no-longer-lowly Raiders. 

New England Patriots: A

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Patriots 27, Redskins 10

    Offense (A-): This wasn't quite as surgical as we've become accustomed to from New England. Tom Brady threw a rare interception, Julian Edelman fumbled early, and they struggled in the red zone, thus "settling" for "only" 27 points. Still, Brady posted a 96.0 passer rating, and LeGarrette Blount and Brandon LaFell each went for more than 100 yards in a game that was never in doubt. 

    Defense (A-): They benefited from a ridiculous seven Redskins drops, but a stellar performance from the front seven forced the Redskins to use a one-dimensional attack and they registered a pair of takeaways while surrendering just 10 points. Can't ask for much more than that.  

    Special Teams/Coaching (A): Bill Belichick gets extra credit (like he needs it) for that successful surprise onside kick in the first quarter. 

    Looking Ahead: The New York Giants robbed the Patriots of a perfect season in 2007 and robbed them of a dynasty-clinching Super Bowl victory in 2011-12. Now, they can prevent them from starting 9-0 for the second time in team history. 

New York Giants: A-

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    This Week's Result: Giants 32, Buccaneers 18

    Offense (B): At the end of the day, 26 points on offense is 26 points. So even though Eli Manning threw two interceptions and the Giants couldn't get much going with Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams on the ground, a somewhat depleted offense that was 9-of-16 on third downs against a Bucs D that has been a little tougher to crack of late deserves some credit. 

    Defense (B): It helped that Tampa Bay dropped six passes, but New York still gets credit for shutting down Doug Martin (31 yards on 11 carries) and keeping Tampa Bay out of the end zone until the fourth quarter. The Bucs made some big plays but scored just one touchdown on four red-zone possessions. In fact, Jameis Winston was just 1-of-6 and Martin rushed for just eight yards on four carries inside the Giants' 20-yard line. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (A): Josh Brown made all four of his kicks, including a 53-yarder, and Brad Wing's only punt sailed 64 yards. And on the other end, the coverage team completely shut down Tampa Bay's Bobby Rainey.

    Looking Ahead: In a completely unoriginal story, the Giants will face a New England team putting a perfect season on the line. An upset there would be a hell of a way to enter the bye. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: A-

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Steelers 38, Raiders 35

    Offense (A): They had a league-high four 40-yard plays, three of which went to Antonio Brown, and only two of which involved quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Even at home against a rather weak pass defense, that's a big deal. Landry Jones was a solid 4-of-6 late in relief of the injured Roethlisberger, completing the game-clinching deep ball to Brown, and Le'Veon Bell replacement DeAngelo Williams continued to stun with 170 yards and two touchdowns. I don't know if they can keep this up, and they lose some points for two turnovers, but this was a special performance. 

    Defense (B-): It ain't easy slowing down that young offensive core for the Raiders, and Pittsburgh's bend-but-don't break defense definitely broke a fair bit, but they also had two key second-half takeaways.  

    Special Teams/Coaching (B+): Jacoby Jones was no better returning punts in a new setting, and Chris Boswell missed a 41-yard field goal, but they did force a huge fourth-quarter turnover on a Taiwan Jones kick return. 

    Looking Ahead: One week after life without Le'Veon Bell began, life without Roethlisberger kicks off with a matchup with the Browns, whom they've defeated in 11 consecutive home games.

Tennessee Titans: A-

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    This Week's Result: Titans 34, Saints 28

    Offense (A): Regardless of how bad the New Orleans defense is (really bad, by the way) and how lucky they got on that first Delanie Walker touchdown (really lucky, by the way), Mike Mularkey and Marcus Mariota deserve a lot of credit for their efficient approach to Sunday's game. Per Pro Football Focus, 74.4 percent of Mariota's passes were thrown in 2.5 seconds or less, which was the third-highest rate in football this weekend. With short routes and a well-devised game plan, he had a field day against the Saints, going 28-of-39 for 371 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Combine that with a solid performance from the running game, and it's no wonder Tennessee scored 34 points in the victory. 

    Defense (B-): Brees had nearly an identical day (also 28-of-39 but for 387 yards, three touchdowns and a pick), but the Titans held Saints running back Mark Ingram in check all day, and they intercepted Brees in the end zone in the second half. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (B-): On one hand, they recorded a key early takeaway on a New Orleans punt return. On the other hand, Mularkey nearly cost them the win by going super-conservative and running three straight times outside of the New Orleans 30-yard line in the final minutes of a tied game, leading to a 55-yard crossbar doink from kicker Ryan Succop.  

    Looking Ahead: If it's customary for every interim head coach this season to start 2-0, the Titans will have to beat the perfect Carolina Panthers in Mularkey's home head-coaching debut Sunday. 

Buffalo Bills: B+

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    This Week's ResultBills 33, Dolphins 17

    Offense (A+): With backs LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams going off for 222 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, Tyrod Taylor's right arm essentially enjoyed its second consecutive week off. Taylor threw only 12 passes, completing 11 of them in what was a turnover-free performance for the revitalized, healthy Bills. 

    Defense (B-): A lot of it came in garbage time, but Buffalo's vaunted defense still allowed Miami to compile 397 yards from scrimmage. They also had just two sacks and failed to consistently pressure Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but they redeemed themselves by keeping the Dolphins out of the end zone on two of four red-zone opportunities. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (C-): No big plays on either side, but the least disciplined team in football had 13 more penalties. 

    Looking Ahead: Taylor's arm might actually have to do some work in another divisional matchup Thursday night against the New York Jets. The winner will at least be tied for a wild-card spot entering the home stretch. 

New York Jets: B+

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    This Week's Result: Jets 28, Jaguars 23

    Offense (B): Chris Ivory had just 26 yards on 23 carries, but the Jaguars have a much better run defense than most people realize, and a solid, turnover-free effort from Ryan Fitzpatrick enabled the Jets to score 28 points.  

    Defense (B+): They may have allowed a league-high 11 20-yard plays, but the Jets D had six sacks and four takeaways (three of which came in the fourth quarter), which was the difference in a five-point victory. All-or-nothing paid off. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (A): Kudos to Chan Gailey for not completely ditching the run, especially inside the red zone. That helped Fitzpatrick do his thing. Gang Green also got a 54-yard kickoff return from Antonio Cromartie and a nice 16-yard punt return from Jeremy Kerley. 

    Looking Ahead: A lot of people say the Jets still haven't beaten anybody. That'll start to change if they upend the division-rival Bills Thursday at MetLife. 

Philadelphia Eagles: B+

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    This Week's Result: Eagles 33, Cowboys 27

    Offense (A): As usual, it took Sam Bradford a little bit of time to find a groove that he sometimes doesn't discover at all. But Bradford completed a solid 25 of 36 passes for 295 yards and was 10-of-13 with an 11.3 yards-per-attempt average in the fourth quarter and overtime. Of course, it helped that Bradford was well supported by a running game that saw the two-headed monster of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews go for 150 yards on 29 carries. The Eagles offense, which scored 26 points Sunday night against a quality D, is starting to look the way many expected it to back in September.  

    Defense (C+): Jordan Hicks' pick-six was gift-wrapped, but you still need to make the play. The Eagles are better than anyone else in football at scoring on defense and special teams, and they did it yet again Sunday. That might have been the difference in a less-than-pristine game from a defense that had trouble with Matt Cassel, Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant and Darren McFadden

    Special Teams/Coaching (A): Caleb Sturgis made both of his field-goal attempts, including a 53-yarder, and punter Donnie Jones had a tremendous night. They did, however, allow Dallas' Lucky Whitehead to return a kick 79 yards in the fourth quarter, setting up a Dallas touchdown.

    Looking Ahead: They're getting a double dose of the Sunshine State (Dolphins and Bucs in Weeks 10 and 11), which in pro football in 2015 is almost always a good omen. 

Chicago Bears: B

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    This Week's Result: Bears 22, Chargers 19

    Offense (B+): No Matt Forte, no problem. At least when you're facing the shell of the former San Diego Chargers. Forte's injury replacements, Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey, had exactly 100 yards on 25 carries in support of the suddenly quasi-steady Jay Cutler (27-of-40, 345 yards, two touchdowns and a pick). The Bears converted nine of 15 third-down opportunities in a game that wouldn't have been close if not for two Cutler turnovers. 

    Defense (B+): The Chargers might not be healthy, but Philip Rivers still entered Monday night on pace to break the single-season yardage record. And yet Chicago's defense allowed San Diego to gain more than 16 yards on just one play all night. Rivers and Melvin Gordon were held in check, and the Bolts were kept out of the end zone for the final three-and-a-half quarters. Not too shabby for a D that ranked 27th in points allowed entering Monday's game. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (D-): It was an uncharacteristic night for veteran kicker Robbie Gould, who missed two kicks from inside 50 yards. 

    Looking Ahead: It's about to get a lot tougher. Their next three games are against St. Louis, Denver and Green Bay, all of whom could be playoff teams. 

San Francisco 49ers: B-

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: 49ers 17, Falcons 16

    Offense (C): To be clear, Blaine Gabbert did not play well, nor did Shaun Draughn or San Francisco's No. 1 receiver, Torrey Smith. But the fact that an NFL team's offensive core is made up of Gabbert, Draughn, Smith and some guy named Quinton Patton just goes to show what poor pieces Geep Chryst is currently working with. The fact is, San Francisco found a way to win this game thanks in part to an offensive performance that included six third-down conversions and two red-zone scores on as many opportunities. It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't a failure. And lately, that's saying something. 

    Defense (A-): The 49ers knew Matt Ryan would get his yards and Julio Jones would make his catches, but they did a decent job limiting the damage and really became stout on their half of the field. Atlanta scored just one touchdown on three red-zone possessions and put up points just four times despite crossing midfield on seven occasions. Kudos to Eric Mangini and his stellar front seven, which held Devonta Freeman to just 12 yards rushing. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (B+): Again, Mangini did a hell of a job, and Jim Tomsula out-coached Dan Quinn. Throw in some nice returns from Bruce Ellington, and it was a solid all-around victory for a depleted team. 

    Looking Ahead: This was nice, especially headed into the bye week. But after that, it's back to a painful reality with a road game against the rival Seahawks. Seattle will be less generous than Atlanta. 

Carolina Panthers: B-

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    This Week's Result: Panthers 37, Packers 29

    Offense (A-): Cam Newton might not have world-class weapons, but Jerricho Cotchery, Devin Funchess and Philly Brown came up big. Newton and Jonathan Stewart again carried the offense to a 30-plus-point performance, this time against a defense that hadn't given up 30 all season. Their grade takes a hit only because of Newton's ugly late interception to Damarious Randall, which jeopardized the game. 

    Defense (C+): They did a phenomenal job for three quarters, holding the highest-rated passer in NFL history to just 14 completions on 27 attempts and shutting down the Green Bay running game. But everything changed when leaks sprang in the fourth quarter. Had Aaron Rodgers seen a wide-open Randall Cobb on the game-deciding fourth-down play, Carolina might have actually blown this game. Not cool. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (B-): Punter Brad Nortman was a stud, but Graham Gano missed a 43-yard field goal, and they couldn't get much going despite many return opportunities. 

    Looking Ahead: They're 8-0 thanks to consecutive wins over Seattle, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Green Bay, all of whom won 10-plus games last season. Now they get a presumed break with Tennessee and Washington, neither of whom has won 10 games in the last two seasons combined. 

Dallas Cowboys: C+

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    This Week's Result: Eagles 33, Cowboys 27

    Offense (B): The Cowboys finally got a decent performance from a Tony Romo replacement, with Matt Cassel throwing three touchdown passes on a 299-yard night. But alas, a Cassel pick-six in the second half was probably still the difference between a win and a loss, which is a shame, because Darren McFadden (117 yards on 27 carries), Cole Beasley (112 yards on nine catches) and Dez Bryant (104 on five) were all tremendous for Dallas. 

    Defense (D): They were stout early and still allowed Philly to convert on just three of 13 total third downs, but they slipped up down the stretch and were beaten continually by Sam Bradford in the fourth quarter and overtime. Losing Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens was certainly a factor, but what's Rolando McClain's excuse? Ultimately, Dallas allowed Philly to run wild in order to set up success through the air in crunch time, and the defense's inability to force turnovers and register sacks did them in. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (B+): It's hard to pin any of this on the staff. And in defense of the special teams, Lucky Whitehead had a huge 79-yard kick return to set up a score, while Dan Bailey nailed both of his kicks.   

    Looking Ahead: November vacation to Florida! The Cowboys are in Tampa for Week 10 and in Miami for Week 11. Usually, trips to the Sunshine State can be quite rewarding in this league. But considering the many injuries Dallas is nursing, who knows...

Jacksonville Jaguars: C+

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Jets 28, Jaguars 23

    Offense (C): Well, 436 yards of total offense (and a league-high 11 20-yard plays) is good, but the Jaguars were ultimately done in by their four turnovers, three of which came in the fourth quarter of a game Jacksonville lost by one score. 

    Defense (B-): Meanwhile, the Jacksonville defense had zero takeaways while allowing Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to put together a stellar day despite having no support from his running game. The Jags do get some credit, though, for limiting Ivory to just 26 yards on 23 carries. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (C+): Small thing, but what was Gus Bradley thinking not using his last timeout with the Jets possessing the ball on second down and 2:12 to play in a game Jacksonville trailed by five? Instead, he let the clock run to the two-minute warning, essentially robbing his team of 12 valuable seconds on its last drive. 

    Looking Ahead: They stay on the road to battle a Baltimore Ravens team that even when struggling is very tough to beat at M&T Bank Stadium and is coming off its bye. So good luck.

Oakland Raiders: C+

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    This Week's Result: Steelers 38, Raiders 35

    Offense (A): Don't blame these guys! Quarterback Derek Carr had a 300-yard, four-touchdown game, and Latavius Murray, Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper accounted for 290 yards from scrimmage as Oakland scored 35 points while committing just one offensive penalty in a losing effort. They lose points for committing a pair of turnovers, but Murray was concussed on his fumble, and neither that nor Carr's quasi-desperate fourth-quarter interception led to Pittsburgh points. 

    Defense (D): Even with two takeaways and Ben Roethlisberger leaving with an injury in the fourth quarter, Oakland just couldn't slow Pittsburgh down. The Steelers had a league-high four 40-yard plays, three of which went to Antonio Brown, who caught a ridiculous 17 passes for an even more ridiculous 284 yards. David Amerson, D.J. Hayden and the rest of the Oakland secondary was exposed, especially on the 57-yard hookup between backup Landry Jones and Brown that set up the game-winning field goal. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (D): Taiwan Jones fumbled a punt inside his own red zone in the fourth quarter, a miscue that led to a Steelers touchdown two plays later.  

    Looking Ahead: They take on Minnesota in Week 10. First time a matchup between those two teams has been relevant since Super Bowl XI, or so. 

Denver Broncos: C

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Colts 27, Broncos 24

    Offense (C-): Peyton Manning is back!...to being kind of average. One week after many of us declared that one solid performance from Manning was enough to make a year's worth of pedestrian performances moot, No. 18 completed just 58 percent of his 36 passes, threw two interceptions and completed only two throws beyond 20 yards in an unimpressive 17-point effort from the Denver offense. 

    Defense (D+): Meanwhile, the heavily hyped Broncos defense surrendered a season-high 27 points and registered zero takeaways for only the second time all year. That's especially surprising when you consider that only one offense has turned the ball over more than Indy this season. Denver also let the Colts convert 12 third downs and control the ball for nearly 39 minutes. Maybe this was just an off day for a very talented unit, but it wasn't pretty. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (A+): Omar Bolden scored on an 83-yard punt return and also had a 41-yard kick return, the coverage teams were solid, and they got quality performances from kicker Brandon McManus and punter Britton Colquitt. This loss is on the 22 position players (and some of their backups).

    Looking Ahead: Manning needs just three yards to break Brett Favre's career passing yardage record. He should do it by the end of the first half in extremely unceremonious fashion Sunday against Kansas City.

St. Louis Rams: C

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    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    This Week's Result: Vikings 21, Rams 18

    Offense (C): Nick Foles was good, not great. Todd Gurley was good, not great. Just what you'd expect against a strong Minnesota defense. Except for the fact that St. Louis converted just two of 16 third-down opportunities. That's just unacceptable in a winnable game on a turnover-free day. 

    Defense (B-): Teddy Bridgewater was kept at bay before leaving the game with a concussion, but Adrian Peterson's 143-scrimmage-yard day was probably the difference. They held Minnesota in check on third down and gave up only 21 points, but Peterson was steady, and that strong Rams defensive front had just a single sack.

    Special Teams/Coaching (D-): Greg Zuerlein missed a 48-yard kick with the game on the line, but only after Jeff Fisher inexplicably ran to set that field goal up. That overly conservative approach is something that often victimizes coaches once they've entered "field-goal range." St. Louis also took 12 penalties. 

    Looking Ahead: They stay in the NFC North but return home for a Midwest showdown with the very beatable Bears in Week 10. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C

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    This Week's Result: Giants 32, Buccaneers 18

    Offense (C-): The opportunities were there, but Jameis Winston and Co. couldn't deliver. Winston completed four passes to Mike Evans for 18-plus yards, and they had two 50-yard plays (including a 59-yard run from Charles Sims), but Evans also dropped a ridiculous six passes and the Bucs scored just one touchdown on four red-zone possessions. Throw in fumbles from Sims and Doug Martin (who struggled besides that), and it was an ugly day. 

    Defense (C+): They were good in the red zone and registered a couple of takeaways, but they couldn't sack Manning and allowed the Giants to cement the game with two time-consuming drives in the fourth quarter. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (C+): Return man Bobby Rainey couldn't get anything going, and while Connor Barth was 4-of-5, he shouldn't have missed a 43-yarder. 

    Looking Ahead: Congratulations to the Bucs for being the final team Dallas has to face without Tony Romo. With their quarterback, the Cowboys are 2-0. Without him, they're 0-6. 

Washington Redskins: C

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    This Week's Result: Patriots 27, Redskins 10

    Offense (D): Nobody can commit two turnovers and drop seven passes against the mighty Patriots and live to tell about it. Quarterback Kirk Cousins had some nice throws, many of them in big spots (he was 9-of-11 on third down), but too many of his big passes were dropped, and the offense couldn't get into a flow with backs Matt Jones and Alfred Morris rushing for just 37 yards on 15 carries. 

    Defense (B+): Surrendering 27 points to New England isn't criminal, especially when a successful surprise onside kick and a Cousins interception puts you in a huge first-quarter hole. They even had a rare pick of Tom Brady and forced a fumble in the first quarter, so this loss isn't on the D. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (B-): They still should have recovered that surprise onside kick, but it was a pretty clean performance save for that. 

    Looking Ahead: They return home to battle the New Orleans Saints in a matchup that could contain 700 fourth-quarter points. 

Atlanta Falcons: D+

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    This Week's Result: 49ers 17, Falcons 16

    Offense (D): The always-enigmatic Falcons offense lived up to its reputation with yet another weird performance against a beatable defense. No turnovers, 303 passing yards from Matt Ryan, only two sacks allowed...and only 16 points scored. The culprit this time? A red-zone offense that found paydirt just once on three trips inside the San Francisco 20-yard line. In fact, the Falcons crossed midfield seven times Sunday and—despite not turning it over—wound up with points on only four of those seven possessions. It didn't help that everybody's favorite breakout back, Devonta Freeman, had just 12 yards on as many carries. 

    Defense (B): San Francisco, on the other hand, scored on both of its trips inside the Atlanta red zone. The Falcons defense does deserve credit for giving up just 17 points and picking off Blaine Gabbert twice, but the offense was able to generate only three points off of those turnovers. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (D): The Falcons still should have won this game, but rookie head coach Dan Quinn got in his own head and lowered their chances by kicking a field goal from the 1-yard line with three minutes left in a four-point game. Statistically, that was without a doubt the wrong move, and Atlanta never got the ball back. The only reason they don't get a complete failing grade in this section is because key special-teamers Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher and Eric Weems were great. 

    Looking Ahead: The Falcons, who have lost three of four entering their bye week, get the momentum-riding Colts and Vikings in Weeks 11 and 12. Sorry. 

Green Bay Packers: D+

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    This Week's Result: Panthers 37, Packers 29

    Offense (C+): Too little, too late. Sure, they were facing a high-quality defense, but Aaron Rodgers can't complete just 14 of 27 passes and take four sacks during the first three quarters. They put up points in panic-mode late, but it was an extremely uneven performance from a unit that appeared lost in its conservative, quick-pass approach in the first half. Of course, the running game isn't doing Rodgers any favors. A struggling Eddie Lacy had just 10 yards on five carries, and Lacy and James Starks averaged just 3.3 yards per attempt.

    Defense (F): Zero sacks and their only takeaway came on a gift-wrapped interception from Cam Newton. An experienced D made Jerricho Cotchery, Devin Funchess and Philly Brown look like Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad and Ricky Proehl. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (C): Nothing great or horrible in the return game, and they didn't attempt any field goals. But they did take 87 yards' worth of penalties, and that short-route strategy sure didn't pay off. 

    Looking Ahead: Rodgers hasn't lost three consecutive games as a starter since 2008, and the Lions haven't won in Green Bay since 1991. So it's a good thing the Packers host Detroit in Week 10. 

Miami Dolphins: D+

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    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Bills 33, Dolphins 17

    Offense (C): A botched snap led to a Buffalo safety on Miami's first offensive play from scrimmage, and this Dolphins offense just wasn't made to play catch-up. Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills put up nice numbers in the one-sided loss, but they still managed just 17 points as a team. 

    Defense (D-): Yes, he had a sack, but Ndamukong Suh belongs on a milk carton. How does a defense with Suh and strong supporting cast members Koa Misi and Derrick Shelby allow Karlos Williams and LeSean McCoy to run for 222 yards on 25 carries? Tyrod Taylor didn't have to show up. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (C-): Dan Campbell might not make the script, but he and his staff deserve heat for that abysmal start. Miami was also penalized eight times.

    Looking Ahead: A three-game road trip concludes mercifully in Philadelphia, where Campbell may lose any shine left over from that "two-game winning streak" that launched his interim head-coaching career.

Cleveland Browns: D

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    This Week's Result: Bengals 31, Browns 10

    Offense (D+): The good news is the Johnny Manziel-led Cleveland offense didn't turn the ball over against the unbeaten Bengals. The bad news is it failed to score in the second half and finished with just 213 yards of offense. In that respect, it was the worst offensive performance of the week. 

    Defense (D-): They failed to register a takeaway and couldn't keep the Cincinnati offense off the field, allowing the Bengals to pick up 23 first downs and control the ball for over 36 minutes thanks to eight third-down conversions. It's never a good sign when 34-year-old Karlos Dansby is far and away your best player. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (C+): Nothing of note in terms of kickoffs, punts and field goals, but they were penalized only four times, and two of those were on the boneheaded Randy Starks.  

    Looking Ahead: They're forced to travel to Pittsburgh, where they haven't won since like 1846, or 2003 or something. On the bright side, they're well rested, and the Steelers are without Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell. 

San Diego Chargers: D

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Bears 22, Chargers 19

    Offense (D-): The Chargers entered Monday's game with the league's fourth-ranked offense, and Philip Rivers was on pace to break the single-season passing-yardage record, yet against the Bears they had just one play for more than 16 yards. They couldn't get the running game going despite an early 14-0 lead, and the offense wasn't able to find the end zone for the final three-and-a-half quarters, settling for two field goals inside 35 yards. 

    Defense (C): It was such a promising start. In the first 20 minutes, they had a strip-sack of Jay Cutler inside the red zone and a pick-six from Jason Verrett. But Cutler was nearly unstoppable from that point forward, completing 22 of 31 passes for 269 yards, two touchdowns and no picks from about the midway point of the second quarter on. Ten of those completions went to Alshon Jeffery, who had a field day against a depleted San Diego defense that lacked talent to begin with. Oh, and the Chargers' pitiful run defense allowed backups Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey to combine for 100 yards on the ground, giving Chicago the ability to maintain balance. San Diego stopped Chicago on just six of 15 third downs and registered a single sack. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (C-): Josh Lambo made two short field goals, but the Chargers were penalized eight times. 

    Looking Ahead: Can they avoid losing a sixth straight game in Week 10? Probably, but only because they're on their bye. San Diego hosts Kansas City in Week 11. 

New Orleans Saints: D-

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    This Week's Result: Titans 34, Saints 28

    Offense (D+): Drew Brees was outplayed by rookie Marcus Mariota, throwing a costly end-zone interception and taking three second-half sacks. And he got no help from Mark Ingram, who averaged just 2.5 yards on 22 carries. 

    Defense (D-): It took a rookie quarterback and a mediocre offense nine plays to put the game away in overtime. Mariota had been struggling and isn't 100 percent healthy, and yet against Rob Ryan's unit this week, he was the best quarterback in football. The Saints had zero sacks and—according to Pro Football Focus—only two quarterback hits. 

    Special Teams/Coaching (D-): The Saints also lost a fumble on a punt return and had a field goal blocked. Just an all-around horrible performance against a team that had lost 20 of its last 22 games and had just fired its head coach. 

    Looking Ahead: Sean Payton's squad will look to get back to .500 before its bye with a road victory over Washington. Unfortunately, the Redskins are better than they were last year. And that applies to the NFC South, too.