With the final whistle of the ninth week of Monday night football, the NFL regular season has officially passed the halfway point. Although we can’t access everything – like Travis Kelce’s favorite barbecue spots in Kansas City – here are four of the NFL’s best Week 9 storylines and whether we’re buying or selling them. (ICYMI, here is what fell last week with a clip of Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins celebrating on the team’s plane after the Vikings won Washington to improve to 7-1 this season.)
Selected No. 11 overall by the Bears in last April’s draft, quarterback Justin Fields has had a disappointing rookie season and hasn’t gotten off to a good start this season as Chicago’s coaching staff kept the practice wheels and limited it to less than 20 passing attempts. in each of the first three games of the season.
After a two-steal game against the putrid Houston Texans in Week 3, the ‘bust’ tag was turning for the 23-year-old as other members of his quarterback draft class looked the part. have exceeded. Now, after a Week 9 performance that saw dual-threat Fields dominate as both rusher and passer in a tough loss to the Dolphins, it looks like the former Ohio State QB has taken the lead. of his class.
Despite being defeated, Fields was masterful against Miami in setting a new NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 178, surpassing the previous record set by former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick (173) in 2002. As good as he was on the ground, Fields was just as deadly in the air as he completed 17 of 28 passes for 123 yards with three touchdowns to finish with the third highest passer rating career high (106.7). Fields also added a rushing touchdown for good measure.
Since Chicago staff eased restrictions on the second-year player against the Patriots on Monday night football two weeks ago, Fields completed 65% of his passes while throwing for 452 yards and just one interception. He also rushed for 320 yards and three touchdowns while posting a 103.9 passer rating. If Fields can continue, the Bears have found their franchise quarterback – after literally decades of research. Outside of the Jacksonville Jaguars with Trevor Lawrence, it’s not something other teams, including the Patriots (Mac Jones), 49ers (Trey Lance) or Jets (Zach Wilson), have taken a quarterback. -back last year, can not claim.
“I think it’s special,” Chicago coach Matt Eberflus said said sunday. “I think we are building our football team. And the centerpiece of that is the quarterback. That’s how it is in the NFL. Talk about tenacity and courage and the ability to persevere through a lot of different things… The last three games he really took off. And we’re excited about that as a group and we’re excited about that for the Chicago Bears and the franchise. »
Sell: Matthew Judon to set new sack record
One of six different Patriots players who were credited with being on a sack on Sunday as New England recorded nine total sacks and 12 QB hits against Indianapolis quarterback Sam Ehlinger during a a Colts beat, Matthew Judon solidified his title as the NFL’s sack leader with 11.5 on the season, while no one else has more than 8.5.
Now just one sack away from matching his tally from last year with eight games left in the regular season, Judon is just seven sacks away from equaling Andre Tippett’s single-season record for the Patriots (18.5) and gearing up to tie the NFL. single-season record of 22.5, shared by Michael Strahan and TJ Watt.
But he won’t.
Last season, Judon got off to an equally hot start for the Patriots and had nine sacks in New England’s first nine games. Then, perhaps due to his conditioning or a change in the way opposing attacks were planned for him, Judon faded and scored just 3.5 sacks in the final eight games of the league. last season. That streak included one sackless game against the Dolphins and two against the Bills, a situation that could potentially repeat itself as the Patriots still have two games against Buffalo and one against Miami on the schedule.
“My teammates go out there, put me in big situations to execute,” Judon said sunday. “My coaches are calling good calls. I’m just ready to do whatever I have to do to make our defense successful. Whatever it is, whatever it looks like and whatever need I have to play, I’m ready to do it. Today was just one of those games.
Don’t expect Judon to catch up with Strahan and TJ Watt.
Sell: Malik Willis is a viable starting QB for the Titans
Facing the difficult task of facing Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night football at Arrowhead Stadium, rookie quarterback Malik Willis did his best to replace injured starter Ryan Tannehill. Unfortunately for Willis, what he was able to accomplish in his second career start wasn’t enough for the Titans to get a win as the Tennessee offense spat and stalled in the second half of the loss. in Sunday night’s overtime against the Chiefs.
While it’s hard to pin the blame on Willis, who completed 5-for-16 for 80 yards and rushed eight times for 40 yards, the Titans (5-3) are going to be in big trouble if they continue. to rely on him. against quality opponents like the Chiefs (6-2) because he is clearly not ready for prime time.
The Titans, who have the Denver Broncos on tap for Week 10 and may be able to make do with Willis for one more week if Tannehill isn’t able to come back thanks to the star running back’s dominance Derrick Henrywere terrible on offense with the game on the line and were basically unable to move the ball against a suspicious Kansas City defense.
Realizing Willis wasn’t much of a threat to run the ball downfield, the Chiefs were able to charge to stop Henry and held him 23 yards rushing on eight carries in the second half and overtime. after allowing King Henry to rush. for 92 yards and two touchdowns in the first two quarters of the game. Thanks in large part to Willis, who was 2 of 9 for minus 2 yards through the air on the stretch, the Titans had 38 total offensive yards and a first down in the final 30 minutes of regulation time in a game that they had a real chance of winning.
Equally ineffective on his first start, when he accounted for 67 total yards on 15 touches with a turnover against the horrible Houston Texans, Willis looked completely overwhelmed in overtime as he took two sacks while trying to make plays with his feet as the Titans went four-and-out to end the game with a whimper.
“I sometimes miss shots. I can’t be angry if someone doesn’t play. We are not perfect. We are human beings,” Willis said. “We all make plays and we all miss plays. It’s just the way the game goes. I can’t be mad at them. We are a team. If I do that, it’s more than disrespectful. It’s just arrogant because I also make mistakes.
The Titans will make one if they stick with Willis because he’s just not an NFL-caliber QB right now.
Sale: Odell Beckham Jr. return to the Rams
Out since tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl after landing two three-target receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown while helping the Los Angeles Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, Odell Beckham Jr. should be completely erased by the end of this week and is free to sign with a team of his choice.
Beckham, who just turned 30, has previously said he wants to sign with a contender, and reports over the weekend have linked him to teams including the Bills, 49ers, Bucs and Cowboys. The Rams, who have held space in their locker room open for Beckham all season, were also mentioned as one of the teams that will be in contention for the services of the Pro Bowler three times. But after Sunday’s performance, it’s probably time to pull the Rams out of the running as the defending Super Bowl champions don’t look in danger of possibly defending their title in February.
Playing on the road at Tampa Bay in a clash of the last two NFL champions, the Rams allowed 45-year-old Tom Brady to parade onto the field with 44 seconds remaining and hit rookie Cade Otton with a one-yard touchdown pass to give the home side a sloppy 16-13 victory that might have saved the Bucs’ season (4-5) and doomed Los Angeles ( 3-5) to a mediocre campaign. Brady’s win, which came after his NFL record 55th comeback, was his first in four tries against LA since joining the Bucs two seasons ago.
The Rams, who scored on a 69-yard reception by Cooper Kupp and rely almost entirely on the 29-year-old receiver on offense even though he’s playing with a sore ankle, could misuse a passer like Beckham on the lineout as their offense ranks near the bottom of the league despite having Matthew Stafford at quarterback and offensive guru Sean McVay on the sidelines. The problem for the Rams is that Beckham will look elsewhere if he really wants to fight in what is shaping up to be a wide-open NFC.
Sunday’s loss was the seventh time in eight games this season the Rams have been limited to 24 points or less and the fifth time they couldn’t even score at least 15 points. A mess on the offensive line with no running game to speak of, the Rams were outscored 71-10 in the fourth quarter in 2022 and have an NFL-worst -61 point differential in the final frame. It might get better for the Rams, but Beckham would have a much better shot at fighting for another ring if he went to a team like the Cowboys, 49ers or maybe even the Buccaneers.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s the panic button, but changes have to be made, adjustments have to be made, we can’t go on like this,” McVay said. said after Sunday’s loss. “We’re going to stay connected through this, but we need to be able to look within and figure out what are some of the solutions, changes, adjustments, different things that we need to do to be able to get different results and different. production of our offence.
Don’t expect Beckham to be one of them.
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