The good, bad and ugly

NFL Week 9 observations: Eagles emerge in NFC

Don't sleep on the Saints. Michael C Hebert, New Orleans Saints

The picture is becoming clearer as the season progresses. There’s now a clear cut favorite in the NFC (Philadelphia Eagles). However, we still don’t know who the class of the AFC is yet. There are also teams that appear destined for a top 5 draft pick.

The Good

-Travis Kelce scored a touchdown for the Kansas City Chiefs against the Dallas Cowboys. He proceeded to celebrate with teammates Tyreek Hill and Demarcus Robinson by having a potato sack race. As a fan of touchdown celebrations, I’m happy to see them back.

-The aforementioned Eagles are now 8-1 and seem like a freight train barreling downhill sans brakes. Carson Wentz is now the best quarterback in the NFC East, and making his case for being considered a top tier quarterback in the league period. Add to that the fact that they just got Jay Ajayi for peanuts, this team is going to be a tough out come playoff time.

-Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is proving he’s worth being the highest paid player in the league. After Calvin Johnson retired, a lot of people thought Stafford would struggle to put points on the board. Stafford has not only survived losing his best weapon, but he has thrived. A 30-10 on Monday Night Football at Lambeau vs. the Packers is a good way to show people. So is going 26/33 for 361 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions.

-The New Orleans Saints won. Again. This is their sixth in a row after starting 0-2. Drew Brees has been himself, but it’s the commitment to the run and much improved defense that have led to this win streak. Starting to think they are for real.

The Bad

-Lions running back Ameer Abdullah stated that he wants to be the Lions’ every down back. With two fumbles inside the red zone, the score could’ve been worse. Abdullah was promptly replaced by Theo Riddick. He will be lucky to see more than 8-10 touches over the next few weeks.

-The Atlanta Falcons lost 20-17 to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. They fall to 4-4 on the season and are two games behind the Saints for the division lead. The Super Bowl swoon is in full effect. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the loss of Kyle Shanahan as the play caller is hurting them more than they care to tell.

-The New York Giants were put out to pasture 51-17 by the up and coming Los Angeles Rams. The young Rams were led by former number one overall pick, quarterback Jared Goff. While the Rams are helmed by a young quarterback, the 1-7 Giants are considering hitting the reset button by sitting long time quarterback Eli Manning.

The Ugly

-Speaking of the Giants…perhaps it the 3rd and 33 play was a window into their 2017 season. They had the Rams dead to rights on the play. Goff threw an innocent wide receiver screen to Robert Woods, who promptly made a house call. Giving up a ton of yards on a 3rd and 33 is one thing. Letting the other team get a first down is another. But letting them score?!? Totally unacceptable!

-Tampa Bay Buccaneers went down at the hands of the Saints 30-10 Sunday. Adding salt to their 2-6 wound, quarterback Jameis Winston will be shut down “for a few weeks” to help him recover from worsening a shoulder injury, wide receiver Mike Evans will be suspended vs the New York Jets next week for delivering a behind the back cheapshot to Saints’ cornerback Marshon Lattimore, and defensive end Willaim Gholston appeared to have sustained some sort of neck injury. Huge disappointment considering some picked them as Super Bowl contenders.

-During the Cincinnati Bengals/Jacksonville Jaguars game, Bengals wide receiver AJ Green managed to let Jags Cornerback Jalen Ramsey get under his skin. Green was pushed by Ramsey after a play. Green took it upon himself to apply a terrible rear naked choke to Ramsey, then throw several punches. Both ended up ejected from the games. Although Ramsey was caught instigating the scuffle, it was Green who escalated things very quickly.

Behind the Eagles is a cluster of teams who could be contenders, or pretenders depending on which of their multiple personalities decides to show up on any given Sunday. There’s also a crop of young quarterbacks (Wentz, Goff, Mariota, and Deshaun Watson) who appear ready to take the mantle from the older, more established guard (Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Brees). However, a special shout out to Arizona Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson. He sat unsigned more a large portion of the offseason, ultimately, deciding to sign with the Saints. After being traded to the Cardinals, Peterson became their featured running back. Sunday, he toted the rock 37 times! That’s one for every year he’s been alive, plus 5 more for good luck! If the NFL is a drug, I don’t want to go to rehab for my addiction!

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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