Disruption in the MVP conversation, the new sheriff(s) in town and another heartbreaking Chargers loss.
Welcome to the midway point of the season and DKC’s first edition of Wild Wednesday. Strange outcomes are commonplace in the NFL. One talented team’s (or single player’s) season could be flushed away, week after week, by devastating injuries. A contender could stumble through three quarters before piecing together a lead and a nerve-racking final stand. Following the week’s slate of games, we’ll walk through the major outcomes that ultimately put the league on notice and shift conversations.
With any wild week in the NFL, our story begins after the sun has gone down and the Sunday Scaries have all but consumed America’s collective consciousness. That’s right ladies and gentlemen. It was almost time for the Los Angeles Chargers to surgically remove the hearts of their fans without any anesthetic. Slowly. Painfully. Facing the Las Vegas Raiders (5-3), neither team gained any sort of edge in the first half. With only a 17-14 lead going into the half, LA’s lead felt much like their 2-6 record. The calm before the storm. The defeat was lurking in the bushes.
Derek Carr was kept in check (13-23 165 yds 2TD), as the Raiders went run-heavy to control the clock and keep the ball out of Justin Herbert’s hands. Despite that effort, and a 28-17 lead, Herbert continued his fantastic rookie campaign, going 28-42 with 326 yards and two touchdowns. After being knocked down on a touchdown pass early in the fourth to make it 28-26, the medical staff needed to come out and look at Herbert. Thankfully, he was able to get back up and stay in the game, and for a moment, it seemed like everything would turn out alright. Instead, after holding Las Vegas to a field goal and putting together a drive using the remaining four and a half minutes, the Chargers had the ball at the Las Vegas four-yard line, down 31-26 with one play left to run. Herbert threw a beautiful ball to Donald Parham Jr in the back right corner of the endzone. As Chargers nation celebrated, the touchdown was under review (as all scoring plays are subject to a replay review). Sadly, Parham Jr. was unable to maintain possession as he went to the ground. Anthony Lynn stared up at the jumbotron devastated and defeated. Game over. LV: 31 LA: 26. The Raiders will continue their second of a tough three-game stretch of divisional games, going home for a pesky Denver team.
Buffalo (7-2) coming off three poor performances (I suppose a pass is given in the case of Kansas City) that called their defense, and Josh Allen’s MVP candidacy, into question, was at home for a hot Russell Wilson and the Seahawks (6-2). Buffalo wasted no time in answering both concerns. Allen shredded Seattle’s abysmal pass defense (31-38 415 yds 3TD 4 TOT), running eight straight pass plays before even attempting a run play. Allen was sacked seven times and with their run game, virtually, nonexistent and injuries to starting interior lineman, Buffalo will need to redirect its concerns. The defense answered the call turning the tables on the MVP conversation by forcing Wilson (28-41 390 yds 2TD 2INT) to turn the ball over four times. Buffalo thrashed Seattle 44-34. Both Buffalo and Seattle have major tests of their team’s integrity in Week 10: Seattle traveling back to the West coast at the Rams (5-3), while Buffalo will make the same west coast trip and visit the Cardinals (5-3).
Speaking of Arizona, Kyler Murray continued his tremendous growth and spectacular sophomore season (21-26 283 yds 3 TD/11 carries 106 yds 1 TD). He has stood out as one of the top offensive threats. His outstanding play was forced to share the spotlight with the likes of Tua Tagovailoa’s excellent performance (20-28 248 yds 2TD) in his second game as a rookie, and the (my) Miami Dolphins collective effort. When Miami’s second option at receiver, Preston Williams, went down with a foot injury early in the 2nd quarter, Tua faced a strong cocktail of heavy pressure and Devante Parker facing Patrick Peterson all game. Despite his excellent decision making, he seemed hesitant to extend plays beyond the pocket: at one point almost throwing himself down to err on the side of caution and take a sack.
Tua began the 4th quarter using his legs for a crucial conversion on 3rd down. He made De’Vondre Campbell miss in the pocket for his second sack and juked Budda Baker, while diving for the 1st down. It seemed to give him the confidence he needed as he ripped off a seventeen-yard run with the pocket collapsing, later in the drive: setting himself up to throw a beautiful (demonic) goal-line fade where only Mack Hollins could get it for a game-tying touchdown. Miami struggled to contain Kyler’s uncanny ability to scramble, or, in some cases, flat out run the ball run around everyone for crucial 3rd & 4th down conversions. Miami was bailed out when Zane Gonzalez’s 49-yard game-tying field goal came up short of the goal post. Miami secured enough first downs and drained Arizona’s timeouts and the clock. 34-31. With Buffalo coming to town, and Miami going back home to face an electric and heartbreaking Chargers team, both teams have heavy plates to munch on this week.
Finally, we check in on the crumbling empire in the Northeast. The New…York Jets. Oh, well, I suppose the New…England Patriots fit this category as well. Yes, it was almost as if tanking for Trevor Lawrence was going to take a back seat to let the league know, once and for all: The New England Patriots dynasty would, definitively, be no more. Alas, football fans bumped into an, oddly, exciting Monday Night game that, otherwise, was meaningless other than the aforementioned storylines. Jets fans sweat through three quarters: anxious about sealing the number one overall pick. Pats fans probably felt like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, as they suffered through three-quarters of Joe Flacco going back in time: finishing the game 18-25 for 262 yards with three touchdowns, and one key interception that seemed to be his way of letting Jets fans know he did have their back this year. (as mentioned, I am a Miami Dolphins fan and experienced nothing but joy through all four quarters) All of this misery finally dissipated for both fan bases. New England managed an impressive (at least for this team’s standards) 20-0 run of points after being down 28-17, strictly running the ball as much as possible. Nick Folk kicked the winning 51-yard field goal with no time remaining. 30-27. Despite New England’s obvious weaknesses up and down the roster and Belichick’s poor draft history, I cannot in good faith, say anything’s over for this team. Dynasty Demolition: Temporarily postponed. Subject to an independent review from a team in Baltimore.
WW Honorable Mentions:
KC: 33 CAR: 31 (Teddy Two-Gloves maintains his 75%+ winning percentage against the spread)
PIT: 24 DAL: 19 (Garrett Gilbert riding into town to play his own game of Red Dead Redemption)
NO: 38 TB: 3 (I mean…WTF?)
Week 10’s WW Predictions:
BUF: 24 ARZ: 31
PHI: 8 NYG: 6
LAC: 24 MIA: 27
TB: 27 CAR: 31
CIN: 26 PIT: 24