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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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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