NFL Team Grades for Week 9

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystNovember 6, 2017

NFL Team Grades for Week 9

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    Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images

    Week 9 was filled with close games and down-to-the-wire finishes.  

    Just kidding. There was a wild finish in Seattle (again), but the early slate of games was all about the blowout.

    In New York, the Giants allowed the most points at home in over 50 years.

    In Philly, the Eagles scored the most points the Denver Broncos have allowed since 2010.

    In New Orleans, nothing came (Big) Easy for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    And in Jacksonville, the struggles of the Cincinnati Bengals sent wide receiver A.J. Green off the deep end.

    Given all the beatings that were administered in Week 9, this week's grades are filled with A's and F's. The extremes ruled the day.

    Did your beloved whoever they are check in at the top? The bottom? Somewhere in between? And how did Week 9 affect your team's grade for the season. If you want to know, you know what to do.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: at San Francisco 49ers

    Score: Won 20-10

    On some level, the Arizona Cardinals deserve praise for getting back to .500 with a 10-point win over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday.

    After all, this was a team that lost its best offensive player (tailback David Johnson) back in Week 1. It lost its starting quarterback (Carson Palmer) to a broken arm in a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams in London.

    Its replacements starred against the 49ers. Veteran running back Adrian Peterson rolled for 159 yards on a career-high 37 carries, and Drew Stanton was effective throwing the ball, tossing two touchdown strikes.

    Yay, Redbirds!

    But Sunday's win comes with asterisks galore, if only because it came against a 49ers team that now has the worst record in the NFL at 0-9.

    And Arizona's second-half schedule is brutal. Starting with a home tilt against the Seattle Seahawks next Thursday, six of Arizona's eight remaining games are against teams that are at least .500—although four are at University of Phoenix Stadium.

    That's likely to leave the Cardinals fighting just to stay what they are right now: a .500 team.

    Week 9 Grade: B

    Season Grade: C

Atlanta Falcons

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: at Carolina Panthers

    Score: Lost 20-17

    Any hopes that the Atlanta Falcons had that last week's win over the New York Jets righted the ship after three straight losses have been dashed.

    At first glance, the numbers from Sunday's three-point loss in Carolina don't look awful. The Falcons couldn't get much going on the ground, but Matt Ryan had over 300 yards on the day with a pair of touchdown passes.

    The Falcons outgained Carolina 355 to 330.

    But Atlanta just couldn't make plays when it needed to down the stretch. It couldn't shut down Carolina's ground game. It couldn't convert third downs, and missed on two-thirds of its attempts. And the Falcons couldn't get out of their own way, piling up eight penalties for 70 yards.

    It's not panic time for the reigning NFC champs. At 4-4, they're two games back of the Saints but not that far off the wild-card pace.

    But the Falcons don't look like last year's Super Bowl team.

    As a matter of fact, they haven't looked super at all in some time.

    Week 9 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: C

Baltimore Ravens

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: at Tennessee Titans

    Score: Lost 23-20

    The Baltimore Ravens have been a hard team to get a beat on in 2017.

    One week, they look unstoppable, as they did in blasting the Miami Dolphins 40-0 in Week 8. On another, they look awful, as they did in getting slobber-knocked 44-7 by the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.

    The truth, as it often does, probably lies somewhere in the middle.

    Sunday in Tennessee, the Ravens were able to stay with the AFC South-leading Titans. And Joe Flacco had one of his better efforts of the season, with 261 passing yards and two scores.

    But that better effort came with a pair of interceptions and a passer rating of 74.3, and Ravens running backs Alex Collins and Javorius Allen combined to gain just 64 yards on 20 carries.

    At 4-5, the Ravens look to be heading toward a third straight season without making the postseason—a feat that hasn't happened since their first four years in Baltimore in the late 90s.

    The Ravens aren't a bad team, per se.

    But they also aren't a good one.

    Week 9 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: C-

Buffalo Bills

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Week 9 Opponent: at New York Jets

    Score: Lost 34-21

    The Buffalo Bills entered Week 9 looking to make a statement. With a win over their AFC East rivals in New York, the Bills would move to 6-2 on the season. There would be no denying that the Bills were legitimate contenders to end the NFL's longest postseason drought.

    Buffalo made a statement, all right. It just wasn't the one they wanted.

    The Bills were destroyed on Thursday night in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score. Their offensive line was absolutely dominated by the Jets. It allowed seven sacks and managing just 63 yards on 22 carries.

    The Buffalo defense was pushed around just as much as the offense. The Bills entered the game with a top-five run defense. They came out having given up a whopping 194 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

    One blowout loss doesn't ruin Buffalo's season any more than their five wins in seven games before it make the Bills a threat to the Patriots iron-fisted rule of the division.

    But if Buffalo wanted to truly be taken seriously as a playoff contender, it should have shown up at MetLife Stadium ready to play.

    Week 9 Grade: F

    Season Grade: B-

Carolina Panthers

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: vs. Atlanta Falcons

    Score: Won 20-17

    The Carolina Panthers are not exactly piling up the style points.

    They are, however, piling up wins.

    Against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton managed just 137 passing yards without a touchdown. The Panthers also allowed 313 yards through the air and two scores to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

    And it didn’t matter.

    Newton also rushed for 86 yards and a score—part of 201 rushing yards on the day for the team. Conversely, the Carolina defense put the clamps on the Falcons ground game by permitting just 53 yards.

    That Panthers defense allowed yardage through the air, but it got timely stops, sacked Ryan twice and intercepted him once.

    It wasn’t an especially pretty win. But it was a win—one that elevates the Panthers to 6-3 and keeps them just half a game back of the NFC South-leading Saints.

    And at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.

    Week 9 Grade: B

    Season Grade: B

Chicago Bears

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Week 9 Opponent: Bye Week

    Score: N/A

    In many respects, the 2017 season is going as expected for the Chicago Bears—unfortunately.

    The Bears weren’t regarded as any sort of playoff contender heading into 2017, and at 3-5, the team isn’t proving anyone wrong. The offense (outside of tailback Jordan Howard) has struggled in a big way, ranking 29th in total offense and 31st in passing offense.

    Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has struggled as well, failing to hit on even half his passes and posting a passer rating of just 66.2.

    However, it hasn’t all been depressing in the Windy City. The Chicago defense has been better than most thought it would be. Led by linebacker Danny Trevathan and defensive end Akiem Hicks, the Bears are 12th against the run and 10th against the pass after eight weeks.

    That defense is keeping the Bears in a lot of games, and Chicago has home upsets of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers to their credit.

    The Bears aren’t going anywhere in the present, but they’ve at least offered their fans a measure of hope for the future.

    Week 9 Grade: N/A

    Season Grade: D

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Logan Bowles/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: at Jacksonville Jaguars

    Score: Lost 23-7

    If there was any question that the Cincinnati Bengals were toast this year, that was answered in Jacksonville Sunday.

    The Bengals did nothing well against the Jaguars. Their offense was nonexistent, posting 148 total yards against the Jags' stout defense.

    The defense did no better. The Jaguars have struggled offensively and didn’t have their best player (tailback Leonard Fournette), yet the Bengals allowed 408 total yards—including 148 on the ground.

    This game—and with it the entire Bengals season—went about like A.J. Green’s day.

    The star wide receiver, who has been a forgotten man of late in the Bengals offense, had one catch for six yards before being ejected for going absolutely bonkers on Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

    The punches Green threw (and the chokehold he put Ramsey in) will probably earn him a vacation courtesy of the league offices.

    Most of Green's teammates would probably just as soon join him.

    Week 9 Grade: F

    Season Grade: D

Cleveland Browns

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Week 9 Opponent: Bye Week

    Score: Lost, 27-13

    That score is sarcasm, of course. It’s impossible to lose a bye week.

    Although the Browns did all they could to be the first team in the NFL to accomplish that dubious feat.

    How do you lose a bye week, you ask?

    It’s easy if you’re Cleveland. First you negotiate a trade where you massively overpay for a backup quarterback. The Browns did that when, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported, they offered a pair of Day 2 picks to the Cincinnati Bengals for A.J. McCarron.

    Then, you forget to notify the NFL that said trade has been agreed to by the 4 p.m. deadline on October 31, effectively scuttling the deal.

    La Canfora wrote that the front office intentionally sabotaged a deal they didn’t want but head coach Hue Jackson did. ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi (per colleague Aaron Goldhammer) reported that the Browns missed the deadline because they were congratulating themselves for being such shrewd traders and lost track of time.

    The best part of this clown show? It was a horrible deal—the Browns were saved from complete disaster by their staggering incompetence.

    The franchise is a laughing stock—to everyone but their long-suffering fans.

    Week 9 Grade: F (yes, F—on their bye)

    Season Grade: Ultra Omega Infinite Extra F-

Dallas Cowboys

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: vs. Kansas City Chiefs

    Score: Won 28-17

    It's been quite the ride for Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys of late, as the second-year tailback's suspension saga continues to twist and turn.

    In Week 9 at least, Elliott was on the field for the Cowboys. But while Elliott's 93 yards on 27 yards with a touchdown certainly contributed to the Cowboys' 11-point win, it was Dak Prescott's big day that really spurred Dallas on to victory.

    Prescott passed for 249 yards and a pair of touchdowns and added another 27 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He also made excellent use of the team's secondary receivers, with Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley combining for 13 catches, 165 yards and two touchdowns.

    It was the sort of effort that has to please head coach Jason Garrett, who can now rest assured (at least somewhat) that if Elliott's suspension does take effect, Prescott can keep the train on the tracks.

    Since their bye, the Cowboys are 3-0, and they are playing more like the team we saw win 13 games a season ago.

    Week 9 Grade: B

    Season Grade: B

Denver Broncos

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: at Philadelphia Eagles

    Score: Lost 51-23

    Per Kevin Patra of NFL.com, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning that second-year pro Paxton Lynch could take over at quarterback for the Denver Broncos once he's healthy.

    If Sunday's blowout loss in Philly is any indication, Lynch can't get healthy soon enough.

    No one really expected Brock Osweiler to shine for the Broncos in his first start for the team since 2015. Sure enough, he didn't—Osweiler barely cracked 200 yards, was intercepted twice and had a passer rating of under 55 for the game.

    Add in 35 rushing yards for the entire team, and you have the ingredients for another miserable offensive performance by the Broncos.

    That total lack of offense is wearing on Denver's defense. It allowed 419 total yards Sunday and gave up a staggering 51 points—the most the Broncos have allowed since 2010.

    It was Denver's fourth straight loss, and whether it's Osweiler or Trevor Siemian under center, the Broncos have been terrible offensively most of the year.

    They might as well see what they have in Lynch—because the 2017 season looks lost at this point.

    Week 9 Grade: F

    Season Grade: D

Detroit Lions

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Week 9 Opponent: at Green Bay Packers

    Score: Won 30-17

    The mandate for the Lions in their Week 9 matchup with the rival Packers was simple—win at Green Bay for only the second time in the past 26 years to end a three-game skid, or effectively kiss any chance of winning the NFC North goodbye.

    The Lions did more than just beat the Packers. They dominated Green Bay in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score.

    Granted, it was a Packers team missing Aaron Rodgers—a loss the scope of which is becoming more and more evident by the week. But Rodgers doesn’t play defense for the Packers.

    In fact, on Monday night no one played defense for the Packers.

    This wasn’t a win that fixed all that ails the Lions. The team once again struggled to run the ball, with Ameer Abdullah gaining just 48 yards on 21 carries and fumbling twice. And Detroit’s red-zone woes continued, with a pair of drives stalling inside the 5-yard line.

    But behind 361 passing yards from Matthew Stafford, the Lions offense didn’t punt once at Lambeau Field.

    As it’s been throughout his career, it appears the Lions will go as far in 2017 as Stafford’s right arm carries them.

    Week 9 Grade: B

    Season Grade: C

Green Bay Packers

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Week 9 Opponent: vs. Detroit Lions

    Score: Lost 30-17

    Without quarterback Aaron Rodgers under center, it’s hardly a secret that the Green Bay Packers script for winning football games has changed dramatically.

    The Packers aren’t going to win any shootouts with Brett Hundley at quarterback. The key to success against the Detroit Lions lied in running the ball, playing defense and keeping the pressure off the young signal-caller.

    Approximately none of those things happened Monday night at Lambeau Field.

    Outside of a 14-play drive to open the game (that resulted in a missed field goal) the Green Bay offense was non-existent for the first three quarters of the game. By the time Hundley and Co. got it together with a touchdown drive early in the fourth, they were down 17 and the game was all but out of reach.

    The defense was even more disappointing. After that touchdown drive got Green Bay back into the game, said defense promptly gave up a long screen to Theo Riddick and a touchdown pass to Marvin Jones. They didn’t force a punt all night long.

    Not one.

    With Rodgers out, the Packers need everyone to step up—to circle the wagons around Hundley.

    They haven’t come close, and don’t let the final score fool you.

    This game wasn’t either.

    Week 9 Grade: D-

    Season Grade: C-

Houston Texans

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Week 9 Opponent: vs. Indianapolis Colts

    Score: Lost 20-14

    It's been an up-and-down week for Houston sports fans.

    The Houston Astros won the team's first-ever World Series title over the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games.

    Then came the devastating news that rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson's first season with the Texans came to an abrupt end via a torn ACL in practice Thursday.

    That injury forced Tom Savage back into the starting lineup for the Texans against the Indianapolis Colts—and that went about how you'd expect.

    In his defense, Savage did lead the Texans in a fourth-quarter comeback that almost ended in a thrilling win.

    But Savage couldn't seal the deal, with the game ending on a strip-sack. He also didn't play well overall. He connected on just 19 of 44 pass attempts for 219 yards.

    The Texans have been brutalized by injuries this season. First it was defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus. Now it's Watson, who had taken the entire NFL by storm.

    It's more than any team could be expected to absorb.

    And the Texans' season is all but over halfway in.

    Week 9 Grade: D+

    Season Grade: C-

Indianapolis Colts

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: at Houston Texans

    Score: Won 20-14

    Given the run of bad luck the Indianapolis Colts have had this year, the team will no doubt gladly take Sunday's six-point win in Houston. There were a few positives for Indy in the game, whether it's a huge day by wideout T.Y. Hilton or 300-plus passing yards from Jacoby Brissett.

    But the cold reality is this: One win doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot.

    The minute that the Colts shut Andrew Luck down for the season, they punted on the 2017 season. Granted, they didn't have a choice, but this season's incarnation of the Colts isn't scaring anyone.

    There's also the matter of the Colts nearly letting this game slip away. The Texans, led by Tom Savage, were knocking on the door of a potential game-winning touchdown when pass-rusher Jabaal Sheard ended the comeback attempt with a strip-sack on the game's final play.

    If you're the jaded sort, the argument can be made that in winning the Colts actually lost…draft spots, that is.

    Week 9 Grade: C+

    Season Grade: D

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Logan Bowles/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: vs. Cincinnati Bengals

    Score: Won 23-7

    It's time to do something that sounds odd when you first say it: Seriously consider the Jacksonville Jaguars a playoff contender.

    The team's Teal Curtain defense has been among the best in the NFL all season long—and that defense was large and in charge in the Week 9 drubbing of the Cincinnati Bengals.

    The NFL's stingiest pass defense gave up just 136 passing yards to quarterback Andy Dalton. The Bengals rushed for a measly 29 yards on 17 carries for the game. And star wide receiver A.J. Green had just a single catch before getting tossed (along with Jags cornerback Jalen Ramsey) after a first-half donnybrook.

    The Jaguars rushed for nearly 150 yards without tailback Leonard Fournette, and quarterback Blake Bortles had one of his best games of the season—259 passing yards, a touchdown throw and a QB rating of over 90.

    It's that offense that has been the team's weakness this season. But on days like this—when they are both moving the ball and completely stopping opponents from doing so—the Jaguars are more than just a contender in the AFC South.

    They can beat anyone. And I do mean anyone.

    Week 9 Grade: A-

    Season Grade: B

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: at Dallas Cowboys

    Score: Lost 28-17

    It's hardly time to start freaking out about the Kansas City Chiefs. At 6-3, they still have a sizable lead in the AFC West, even after falling in Dallas on Sunday.

    But this was also the same Chiefs team that was hailed as possibly the NFL's best after it started the 2017 season 5-0.

    With a little math, it isn't hard to figure out that over their last four games, the Chiefs are 1-3.

    It's also not especially hard to figure out why the Chiefs are struggling a bit. They've gotten away from the run game that was so successful earlier in the year. Rookie Kareem Hunt carried the ball just nine times against the Cowboys, and Hunt hasn't hit the 100-yard mark since the last week of their win streak.

    The Chiefs also aren't stopping the run. They are allowing 133.1 yards per game (third-worst in the NFL) and they nearly hit that average dead-on in giving up 131 to the Cowboys.

    The loss knocks Kansas City into the No. 3 seed in the AFC, and while that may not seem like a big deal, perhaps it should, given that it would cost the Chiefs a first-round bye.

    Week 9 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: B

Los Angeles Chargers

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Week 9 Opponent: Bye Week

    Score: N/A

    It's awfully hard to bounce back after losing the first four games of the season.

    The Los Angeles Chargers tried to give it a go by peeling off three straight wins after that losing streak. Had the Bolts managed to upset the New England Patriots a week ago, they'd have hit their Week 9 bye a rejuvenated .500 team.

    This isn't to say that the Chargers' season is over. They all but certainly aren't going to catch the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West, but a hot start to their second half could get them back into the wild-card conversation.

    That hot start's going to be a tall order. Beginning next week in Jacksonville, the Chargers play three straight games against teams that entered Week 9 above .500. Two of those games are on the road—the Chargers will visit Dallas in Week 12 after hosting the Buffalo Bills.

    That's a tough stretch for a team with no margin for error moving forward.

    Week 9 Grade: N/A

    Season Grade: C-

Los Angeles Rams

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: at New York Giants

    Score: Won 51-17

    The Los Angeles Rams were one of the surprise stories of the first two months of the 2017 season—a team no one expected to contend that piled up the points en route to winning five of its first seven games.

    Well, coming out of their bye, the NFL's highest-scoring team was back at it and then some in Week 9's biggest walloping.

    You name it, and the Rams did it against the hapless Giants.

    Three-hundred passing yards? Yep. Over 300 for Jared Goff. And four touchdowns.

    A big day for tailback Todd Gurley? Oh yeah—over 100 total yards and a pair of touchdowns.

    Long touchdowns? Sure—Robert Woods scored from 52 yards out, and then Sammy Watkins one-upped him by finding the end zone from 67.

    It was among the most dominant and complete efforts that any team in the NFL has put up this season.

    These are most assuredly not Jeff Fisher's Rams.

    Week 9 Grade: A+

    Season Grade: A-

Miami Dolphins

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    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: vs. Oakland Raiders

    Score: Lost 27-24

    Had you said before Sunday night's matchup between the Dolphins and Oakland Raiders that Jay Cutler would outperform Derek Carr statistically, someone probably would have suggested you go ahead and stop drinking for the day.

    By someone, I mean me.

    Cutler did just that. He threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. His passer rating was 122.3. The Dolphins also gained 4.8 yards per carry on the ground in their first game without Jay Ajayi.

    It wasn't enough to get the win, though. While the offense had easily its best performance of the season, the defense got beaten up pretty badly for the second game in a row.

    Oakland only rushed for 84 yards, but Marshawn Lynch rumbled for a pair of touchdowns. Tight end Jared Cook abused Miami for 126 receiving yards. And the 'Fins gave up a long score to Johnny Holton as part of 300 yards on the dot from Carr.

    It wasn't a bad loss, necessarily. The signs of life from Cutler and the offense were desperately needed.

    But an L is an L, and Miami's second straight drops the team to .500 in advance of a Week 10 trip to Carolina.

    Week 9 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: C-

Minnesota Vikings

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: Bye Week

    Score: N/A

    Raise your hand if you predicted that a Minnesota Vikings team on its third-string quarterback and second-string tailback would head into its off week at 6-2 and in command of the NFC North.

    Put your hand down. Lying's wrong, you know.

    The Vikes have won six of their first eight games by playing the sort of football that makes head coach Mike Zimmer proud.

    Minnesota's defense is among the best in the league, with talent at all three levels—whether it's Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter up front, Eric Kendricks at linebacker or Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes in the secondary.

    Quarterback Case Keenum hasn't been lights-out, but he's been decent. And most importantly, Keenum isn't turning the ball over—he's thrown just three interceptions on the season.

    And the combination of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon has helped make up for the loss of rookie Dalvin Cook, keying a ground game that ranked eighth in the NFL entering play on Sunday.

    There's a lot of football still to be played, but halfway in, the Vikings are clearly the class of their division.

    Week 9 Grade: N/A

    Season Grade: B+

New England Patriots

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Week 9 Opponent: Bye Week

    Score: N/A

    The New England Patriots are arguably the best team in the National Football League.

    There is no argument that they are the most annoying team to everyone except their fans.

    It's annoying that for the 53rd straight season, the Patriots are in first place in AFC East and tied for the best record in the AFC. They'll probably be one of the top two seeds in the conference and earn a week off and home field in the playoffs.

    It's annoying that Tom Brady is having yet another stellar season, with 16 touchdown passes against just two picks and a passer rating of over 105.

    The most annoying thing of all is that despite losing linebacker Dont'a Hightower to a season-ending injury, the Pats appear to be figuring out the defensive issues that plagued them earlier in the year.

    Those defensive issues made the Patriots vulnerable. It made them human.

    But if they get that fixed, it's not going to be easy to prevent them from representing the AFC in the Super Bowl—again.

    Like I said, they're annoying.

    Week 9 Grade: N/A

    Season Grade: B+

New Orleans Saints

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Score: Won 30-10

    The New Orleans Saints are hotter than an extra-spicy bowl of gumbo with whole bottle of Tabasco dumped in it.

    Not only did the Saints win their sixth straight game Sunday to remain in first place in the NFC South, but they did so in emphatic fashion.

    The most remarkable thing about the Saints' streak isn't that they are winning—it's how they are winning.

    Drew Brees had a good game. He passed for 263 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But it was the ground game that spurred the offense again. Tailbacks Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for 145 rushing yards, and Kamara had another huge game.

    Sixteen touches for 152 total yards and two touchdowns seems pretty huge.

    The defense shined as well. It surrendered just 200 total yards and held Tampa to 4-of-13 on third downs. The special teams even blocked a punt for a score.

    At the beginning of this season, some questioned whether 2017 might be the end of the line for Brees and Sean Payton in New Orleans.

    Now the question is whether that line runs through Minneapolis.

    Week 9 Grade: A

    Season Grade: B+

New York Giants

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: vs. Los Angeles Rams

    Score: Lost 51-17

    Given that a New York Giants team that entered 2017 with Super Bowl aspirations had all of one win over the first eight weeks of the 2017 season, conventional wisdom held that Big Blue had hit rock bottom in 2017.

    As it turns out, they had not. But they sure did Sunday at home against the Rams.

    The Giants were absolutely annihilated by the Rams. They were dominated in every way a team can be dominated. A Giants defense that was among the NFL’s best a year ago gave up nearly 500 yards of total offense and allowed a knee-buckling 51 points—the most the team has allowed at home in over half a century.

    The game (and the Giants, for that matter) can be summed up by one play in the second quarter. The Giants, on 3rd-and-33, allowed a 52-yard catch-and-run by Robert Woods for a Rams touchdown.

    It was that kind of day. It’s been that kind of season. An embarrassment.

    And the Ben McAdoo death watch just ratcheted up about seven more notches.

    Week 9 Grade: F-

    Season Grade: F

New York Jets

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Week 9 Opponent: vs. Buffalo Bills

    Score: Won 34-21

    The New York Jets aren’t a playoff contender. They aren’t going to make a run to Super Bowl LII. Nor are they about to unseat the New England Patriots as the kings of the AFC East.

    What the Jets are, however, is vastly better than anyone expected in 2017. Even in their three-game skid heading into Week 9, the team was in every game late—including matchups with both Super Bowl participants from a year ago.

    Take the Jets lightly, and they will punch you right in the mouth.

    And Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills, the Jets scored a TKO.

    The Jets dominated the first three quarters of a 34-21 win over the Bills, racing to a 34-7 lead on the heels of absolute control over the line of scrimmage. On offense, they rolled up nearly 200 yards on the ground. On defense, they shut down LeSean McCoy and made Tyrod Taylor miserable all night long.

    It wasn’t a flawless performance—a couple of late touchdowns by Buffalo and some bad onside kick coverage cost the team an “A.”

    But it was close.

    Week 9 Grade: A-

    Season Grade: C

Oakland Raiders

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: at Miami Dolphins

    Score: Won 27-24

    The Oakland Raiders' mandate on Sunday night was clear: Win, and the team could claw its way into second place in the AFC West. Lose, and it was all essentially over but the crying.

    The Raiders got that win they so badly needed, and did so with a rather unlikely hero.

    There was a Beast Mode sighting, and Jared was Cook-ing.

    Returning to action after serving a one-game suspension, tailback Marshawn Lynch carried the ball 14 times for 57 yards for the Raiders. Tight end Jared Cook was unstoppable for most of the night, catching eight passes for 126 yards.

    Throw in a 300-yard night from Derek Carr and a long touchdown throw to Johnny "Who?" Holton, and the Silver and Black held on for a close win over a game Dolphins squad.

    The victory offers Oakland hope for the second half and a measure of momentum headed into its bye week.

    But the Raiders won't get to enjoy it for long.

    Week 11 brings a trip to Mexico City and a "home" game with the New England Patriots.

    Week 9 Grade: B

    Season Grade: C-

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: vs. Denver Broncos

    Score: Won 51-23

    If Sunday’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos was a prizefight, it would have been stopped in the third round.

    Because from the opening bell to the end of the game, the Eagles pounded the snot out of Denver.

    Against one of the better defenses in the National Football League, the Eagles offense moved at will on the ground and through the air. The Eagles pounded out an eye-popping 197 yards on the ground, including a 46-yard touchdown rumble from newcomer Jay Ajayi.

    Carson Wentz threw for just 199 yards, but he made the most of those passes, continuing his march toward a possible MVP award with four touchdown throws.

    Not to be undone, the Philadelphia defense also had a big day (at least until garbage time), sacking Brock Osweiler three times and picking him off twice.

    It was a statement game—an emphatic beatdown that sent a clear message to both the other teams in the NFC East and the rest of the NFL.

    The 8-1 Eagles are the best team in their division. They are white-hot. And they show no signs of cooling off anytime soon.

    Week 9 Grade: A

    Season Grade: A

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Week 9 Opponent: Bye Week

    Score: N/A

    It’s a safe bet that if you asked NFL teams when the perfect time is for the bye week, the majority would say Week 9—smack in the middle of the season.

    That bye week is all the sweeter when you head into it at 6-2 and with a firm grasp on first place in your division—as is the case with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.

    That Pittsburgh has moved the football is no surprise. The trio of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown is probably the best QB-RB-WR trio in the league, and the Steelers have discovered an emerging young star in rookie wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster.

    What has been surprising is the play of Pittsburgh’s defense, which has been the team’s weak link the past few years. Eight games into the 2017 campaign, only the Jacksonville Jaguars have given up fewer passing yards per game than Pittsburgh—and that’s after allowing over 400 yards through the air a week ago in a win at Detroit.

    Barring an epic (and unforeseen) collapse, the Steelers are going to be a tough out when the playoffs roll around.

    Week 9 Grade: N/A

    Season Grade: B+

San Francisco 49ers

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: vs. Arizona Cardinals

    Score: Lost 20-10

    The good news is that the San Francisco 49ers made a splash in Week 9.

    The bad news is that splash came on Monday, when the team acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots.

    Garoppolo didn't play Sunday against Arizona, and the result was familiar to fans of the 49ers.

    The only Sunday splashing was the flailing around the Niners did en route to another loss.

    It was the latest edition of a story we've seen unfold weekly for the Niners. The San Francisco offense, under rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard, was offensive. Beathard threw for nearly 300 yards but failed to complete half his passes, averaged under six yards per attempt and threw a pick.

    The run defense, as it's been most of the season, was horrible. It gave up over 150 yards on the ground to Adrian Peterson.

    The 49ers are just a bad football team. The worst west of Cleveland.

    And about the only redeeming thing that came from Sunday's performance is that after 60 minutes, it ended.

    Week 9 Grade: F

    Season Grade: F

Seattle Seahawks

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: vs. Washington Redskins

    Score: Lost 17-14

    Blair Walsh might want to stay off social media for a little while. And the radio. And maybe just stay in his house.

    Don't answer the phone, either.

    While Walsh's three missed field goals in the first half certainly contributed to Seattle's three-point loss, it's unfair to pin the whole thing on one person.

    Walsh wasn't in pass coverage on the game's deciding drive—where the Seahawks bizarrely played man coverage and let Washington complete not one, but two deep passes.

    Walsh wasn't one of the offensive linemen who allowed Russell Wilson to be sacked twice.

    Walsh also wasn't the bright bulb who committed Seattle's staggering 16 penalties (for 138 yards)—penalties that time and again stalled drives and put Seattle behind the eight ball offensively.

    There's plenty of blame to go around in a sloppy loss that allowed the Los Angeles Rams to take sole possession of first place in the NFC West.

    And while there's no need to panic about a Seattle team that's as battle-tested as any in the league, Sunday's flat performance does merit a measure of concern.

    Week 9 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: B-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: at New Orleans Saints

    Score: Lost 30-10

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into 2017 a trendy pick as a dark-horse playoff contender.

    As it turns out, the horse wasn’t actually dark.

    It was dead.

    Yes, the Buccaneers spent much of Sunday’s blowout loss in New Orleans with Jameis Winston on the shelf with a bad shoulder. But the Buccaneers were still beaten like a drum even when Winston was on the field—Winston threw for all of 67 yards.

    Nothing worked for the Buccaneers in the Big Easy. Doug Martin carried the ball eight times for seven yards. Mike Evans had as many personal fouls as he did receptions. And the Tampa defense was gashed for 407 yards of offense and 30 points by the Saints.

    We’ve sailed right past the fact that the Buccaneers aren’t as good as we thought.

    They aren’t good, period. They are one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL in 2017.

    And it’s fair to wonder if Dirk Koetter is going to be held accountable for that at the end of the year.

    Week 9 Grade: F

    Season Grade: D-

Tennessee Titans

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: vs. Baltimore Ravens

    Score: Won 23-20

    The Tennessee Titans are a nicked-up football team. Quarterback Marcus Mariota, tailback DeMarco Murray and wide receiver Corey Davis have either missed time or toughed it out this season with hamstring pulls.

    None of those players are exactly 100 percent—which makes it all the more impressive that Sunday’s win over the Baltimore Ravens was Tennessee’s third straight.

    Granted, they’ve hardly been runaway wins—the last two have been by a combined six points, and the combined record of the three teams they’ve beaten is 7-19.

    But despite rushing for just 71 yards as a team and Mariota passing for a so-so 218 yards, the Titans found a way to squeak by the Ravens at home—just as they did at Cleveland the week before.

    The win keeps the Titans ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars and atop the AFC South (by virtue of a head-to-head victory in Week 2), and while it didn’t have much sizzle the Titans did what good football teams do…

    They found a way to get the job done despite the fact they aren’t firing on all cylinders.

    Week 9 Grade: B

    Season Grade: B-

Washington Redskins

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Week 9 Opponent: at Seattle Seahawks

    Score: Won 17-14

    After dropping two straight games inside the division, the 3-4 Washington Redskins desperately needed a win in Week 9.

    All they had to do to get it was go to Seattle and beat the Seahawks.

    Piece of cake.

    Despite leading for most of the afternoon, it looked like Washington was going to choke away the game late when Russell Wilson found Doug Baldwin for a touchdown that gave the Seahawks a four-point lead late.

    But Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins reached down deep. As in deep passes. Cousins threw a pair on the final drive before a Rob Kelley run gave Washington back the lead.

    The Washington defense, which had pressured Wilson all day, then sealed the deal with a sack.

    The win marked Washington's second impressive West Coast win of the season. The Redskins also downed the Rams in Los Angeles back in Week 2, a win that looks better with every team the Rams blow out.

    They should try to schedule more games out there. The travel seems to bring out the best in them.

    Week 9 Grade: B

    Season Grade: C

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