Through nine weeks, the NFL’s balance of power is really beginning to take shape. The great are beginning to separate themselves from the good and the good from the bad. Additionally, teams that we thought we knew a lot about early in the season have begun to change their narratives. Take the Texans, for example, who started 0-3 and appeared to be one of the league’s cellar dwellers, but have since won six straight and catapulted themselves into a commanding NFC South lead. Conversely, the Ravens are nosediving after a 3-1 start, having lost four of their past five, including their last three to fall to 4-5 and all but out of their division race. With that said, here’s a recap of what you may have missed in week nine of the NFL.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
In a pivotal divisional battle between two teams moving in opposite directions, the Steelers avenged their tough defeat to Baltimore earlier in the season by controlling this road game from start to finish in a 23-16 win. The Ravens were incapable of getting third down stops whenever they needed them, allowing the Steelers to convert 10/16 times on third down. Meanwhile, when the Steelers were scoring touchdowns, the Ravens were getting field goals, which simply was not enough for the reeling Ravens. Most notably, in the first quarter, Joe Flacco completely missed a wide-open Lamar Jackson for an easy touchdown and instead had to resort to the three Justin Tucker field goals. With the Ravens season seemingly in free fall and a number of challenging matchups ahead, a major regime change appears to be on the horizon in Baltimore. Do not be surprised to see Flacco and Head Coach John Harbaugh unemployed at season’s end.
Los Angeles Rams vs. New Orleans Saints
This game was billed as the game of the week, and potential game of the year, and it certainly lived up to all its hype. With the clear-cut two top teams in the NFC squaring off in New Orleans, this game had the makings of a great one. The Saints offense came out firing and jumped out to a commanding 35-17 halftime lead behind Alvin Kamara’s three total touchdowns and another by tight end Ben Watson. The Rams, however, showed great resolve, coming all the way back to tie the game at 35 in the fourth quarter thanks to great play by Jared Goff and their defense. In the game’s closing minutes, though, the Saints showed great resolve after relinquishing an 18-point second-half lead by kicking a field goal and then sealing a 45-35 victory on a remarkable 72-yard strike to Michael Thomas with under four minutes to go. After this exciting matchup, the Rams and Saints have separated themselves from the rest of the NFC moving into the second half of the season.
Green Bay Packers vs. New England Patriots
Week nine’s Sunday Night Football matchup pitted the top two quarterbacks of the past decade — Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady — against each other for just the second time ever in their storied careers. This contest between the two future Hall of Famers went Brady and the Patriots’ way, making it six consecutive wins for the now 7-2 Patriots since their 1-2 start to the season. The game was tied at 17 in the third quarter before the Patriots took over following a costly fumble by the Packers running back Aaron Jones. The Patriots set up a James White touchdown after a trick play 37-yard pass by receiver Julian Edelman to White. On New England’s next possession, Tom Brady hit Josh Gordon for a 55-yard touchdown to essentially seal the 31-17 victory for the Patriots.
With nine weeks in the books, it’s becoming time to look on towards the playoffs and at games with serious postseason implications. For that in week ten, look no further than a matchup between two of the league’s hottest teams, the Panthers and Steelers in Pittsburgh, as well as the Saints and Bengals matchup, and the game in Green Bay between the Dolphins and Packers, two teams hoping to keep their playoff lives away as they hover around .500.