by ANDREW HORN
All pictures courtesy of ESPN
It wasn’t a complete hangover from Week 8. Week 9 showed a number of quality performances from some very unlikely sources. I moved to 7-2 on the season with a comfortable 20-point win, thanks to Antonio Brown and Jeremy Maclin again. There were a couple of injuries that will affect how key players will score the rest of the season. Here are the Week 9 winners and losers.
Winner: Ben Roethlisberger- 60.1 points
For the second straight week, the Steelers’ quarterback threw for six touchdowns against an opponent. Add that this was a very important division game against the division rival Ravens and the game was played in front of a home crowd the night “Mean” Joe Green got his number retired means the Steelers are sitting pretty going into Week 10. Roethlisberger’s 12 touchdowns in the last two games are more than he had the previous seven games. Don’t expect Roethlisberger to continue this pace. Using his previous two games as the standard means Roethlisberger has 42 more passing touchdowns left in him for the remainder of the season. Roethlisberger and the Steelers play a reeling Jets team. Hopefully Roethlisberger gets a number other than 6 for a third straight outing.
Loser: Colin Kaepernick- 16.3 points
Kaepernick and the 49ers are not playing 49ers football this season. The team is 4-4 and Kaepernick has only eclipsed 30 points once this season when he earned 44.9 points against the Rams. What made Sunday worse was that Kaepernick’s poor performance actually lost San Francisco the game. He fumbled at the goal line on fourth down only down three. Kaepernick isn’t the only problem with the 49ers. The play calling toward the end of the game was very questionable. Next week, Kaepernick plays the Saints who possess one of the worst defenses in the league.
Winners: Jeremy Hill (CIN) 32.3 points, Mark Ingram (NO) 26 points
Hill and the Cincinnati Bengals had their hands full with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. The Bengals needed every bit of Hill’s 154 rushing yards and two touchdowns in order to beat one the worst teams in the NFL. Hill, rookie from LSU, was filling in the starting role for the injured Giovani Bernard. While Bernard owners shouldn’t fear Hill supplanting Bernard for the starting role, Hill is a bigger back with the skill to earn massive chunks of yardage on the ground, which might cut into Bernard’s workload. The Bengals have a short week, meeting the Browns on Thursday night.
Ingram is finally starting to look like a starting running back in the NFL. Over the last four or five seasons, the Saints have had running back by busload, having a couple regular running backs, a receiving back, a blocking back and maybe a back who knew how to score touchdowns. Ingram is starting to separate himself from the back as the lead back, something the Saints have not had since the days of Deuce McAllister. The former Heisman Trophy winner ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns. It was Ingram’s second straight game with 100 yards. The next three matchups for Ingram, while all at home, are against traditionally good defenses in San Francisco, Cincinnati and Baltimore. All three are having off-years though against the run. Track his Week 10 stats very close, as this will determine whether you start him for the two games after Week 10.
Losers: The Browns
This isn’t the first time I have put the Browns backfield on notice, and it probably won’t be the last. Ben Tate, who signed a contract with the Browns after being Arian Foster’s backup in Houston, had 10 rushes for three yards. He averaged one yard per three rushes. Towson alum Terrence West had 15 carries for 48 yards. West’s touchdown was a receiving touchdown. Isaiah Crowell had zero carries. The Browns offense needs a spark if they want to be competitive come December. The loss of Pro Bowl center Alex Mack was a huge hit for the run game, which every team needs for outside December and January games. The defense continues to keep the Browns in the games, while Hoyer is doing just enough to win ugly. With an exciting high draft pick behind him and a first-year coach, the situation in Cleveland is very reminiscent to the situation in San Francisco between Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick.
Winners: Jeremy Maclin (PHI) 30.8 points and Julian Edelman (NE) 27.1 points
Maclin is the highest scoring receiver for the second straight week, but his game came at a very high cost. Starting quarterback Nick Foles broke his left (non-throwing) collarbone in the second quarter and will likely miss the rest of the regular season. With Dallas struggling without Tony Romo, the NFC once again is open for three teams to compete for the crown. The Eagles season is now in the hands of the man who brought you such classics as back-to-back AFC Championship appearances and the “Butt Fumble.” I am not saying Maclin’s season is ruined without Foles, but the quarterback situation is another one that should be tracked carefully. Start Maclin against Carolina, even though they are a bad matchup for Maclin.
Julian Edelman, the former college quarterback turned receiver, was Tom Brady’s most effective weapon. Edelman had nine catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. A great performance in any league was bolstered by an 84-yard punt return touchdown. Edelman has stepped up admirable since Wes Welker left for Denver. Edelman is probably second in line on the team for targets behind Rob Gronkowski. Brandon LaFell is emerging as another weapon for Brady, which could help Edelman. The more options for Brady= more single coverage. If a team double covers any one receiver, which will leave somebody open for the pass. The Patriots are close to finding the formula they need in order to accomplish what they haven’t since 2005.
Loser: Dez Bryant (DAL) 8.5 points
Without Tony Romo, the Cowboys showed how easily their offense can be stopped. Dez Bryant was targeted 10 times by backup Brandon Weeden, hauling in only two catches for 15 yards. Bryant owners are fortunate that one of the catches was a three yard touchdown. Weeden and Bryant were teammates at Oklahoma State, but played like they had never seen each other before. The Cardinals are a tremendously talented team and are tops in the NFL with a 7-1 record, but the Cowboys have as many, if not more talent on the offensive side of the ball and failed to utilize without Tony Romo. Next game for the Cowboys is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tony Romo may push to come back from his back injury, showing how little faith there is in Weeden around the organization.
AFC Winners (again), NFC losers
Yet another week where the AFC tight ends dominated the scoring. 8 of the top 10 scoring tight ends were in the AFC, with Jimmy Graham of New Orleans and Chase Ford of Minnesota being the only NFC tight ends to reach double digit points. The NFC has three standout tight ends in Graham, Jason Witten and Vernon Davis. The AFC West has Julius Thomas of Denver and Antonio Gates of San Diego, with emerging talents in Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce and Oakland tight end Mychal Rivera. The NFC needs to find some talent at this position because teams like New England, Denver and Indianapolis are great at using tight ends to create matchup problems.