NFL Week Nine Observations

NFL Week Nine: Good, bad & ugly

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This week, 8 of 14 games were decided by one score or less. To clarify, I'm talking about a touchdown and two-point conversion or less. We even saw a couple top dogs take it on the chin, as well as toothless dog show some bite. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Panthers' running back Christian McCaffrey is a bad man! McCaffrey on pace to break the yards from scrimmage record and has 13 touchdowns. Sure Kyle Allen is playing as good as one could expect in the year of the backup quarterback, but McCaffrey is the straw that stirs the drink in Carolina. I have him as a 1a or 1b in the MVP race after his 27 touch 166 yard three touchdown performance in a 30-20 win over the Titans.

-Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson broke the Patriots' 21 game win streak over rookie or second year quarterbacks in a 37-20 win. Jackson went 17/23 for 163 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 16 times for 61 yards and two more touchdowns. Better yet, he didn't turn the ball over and was only sacked once. So much for "he can't play quarterback" or "he should convert to wide receiver" talk.

-Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is the other half of McCaffrey's 1a or 1b in the MVP race. Wilson threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-34 overtime win over the Bucs. On the season, he has 22 touchdowns and only one interception. He's doing this without the help of a star running back or receiver. Not poopoo-ing his teammates, but none of those guys have been named to an All Pro team previously except Tyler Lockett.

The Bad

-The Dolphins were able to beat the Jets 26-18. This is a bad thing several reasons. One: the Dolphins were supposed to be "Tanking for Tua" so a win hurts their chances of landing the first overall pick. Second: the Jets have enough talent to be a more competitive team, but are coached by the same guy the Dolphins fired last season. Third: Sam Darnold threw a ridiculous red zone interception. No wonder the Patriots make the playoffs every year.

-Bucs' quarterback Jameis Winston replicated his 2015 Rose Bowl fumble return for a touchdown in thier loss to the Seahawks. If you don't know what I'm talking about, Google it. But Jameis, again, evaded pressure and fumbled the ball backwards only for the opposition to return it for a touchdown. This, amongst other reasons, are why he most likely won't or shouldn't be back with the Bucs next season.

-The Browns are the biggest dumpster fire in the NFL right now. After losing 24-19 to the Broncos, they're now 2-6 on the season and have no hope of making the playoffs after some picked them to win the AFC North. They were a sexy Super Bowl pick. Now, they're more talked about for what Baker Mayfield says in press conferences, or what Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry's pregame gear is about.

The Ugly

-Former Browns safety Jermaine Whitehead became former Browns safety when he decided to go Twitter thug on some reporters following their loss to the Broncos. He tweeted some profane language, racist remarks and even threw in a death threat as well as a standing invitation to fight. Players are given a cool off period after games before media obligations. Someone should take their phones as well because he reportedly did this while still in uniform!

-Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett sprained his MCL in his left knee. While they're optimistic he will be able to play against the Dolphins Sunday, they're not sure. If Brissett misses the game or isn't fully healthy against the Texans in a couple weeks, it could cost them the AFC South division title. All of this comes on the heels of him taking over for Andrew Luck after his abrupt retirement.

-The Bears are 3-5 and look like they're going nowhere fast. Despite having one of the better defenses in the league, their quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is dumpster juice. The 49ers hoodwinked them into trading up for what is the worst of the three quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2017 draft. They took him over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Yikes!

I remember watching Rocky IV over and over as a kid. We had it on VHS and I'm pretty sure I wore it out. The scene when Rocky finally cuts Drago and Duke tells him he's not a machine, he's a man is iconic. Well the Ravens did that to the Patriots, and to a lesser extent, the Chargers did that to the Packers. Meanwhile, there are teams barely treading water (Lions, Jags, and Eagles), and others sinking fast (Browns, Bears, and Titans). We're over the hump of the midpoint and the light at the end of the regular season tunnel is now visible. It's still a ways off, but we can see what's ahead. Some of these teams are hoping not to get tripped up along the way. Others are hoping to just make it to the end in one piece.

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Nick Caserio's history of drafting injury prone players has become a problem. Composite Getty Image.

Nick Caserio was hired to serve as the general manager (GM) of the Texans on January 7, 2021. Some saw it as another nod to the organization's obsession with the Patriots. Others saw it as the team finally getting their guy after pursuing him previously. They were even hit with a tampering charge while trying to talk to him about the job. Since he's been on the job, there have been highs and lows.

Recently, the news about Kenyon Green and Derek Stingley Jr put a stain on his tenure. Green was placed on season-ending injured reserve (IR) and Stingley Jr is expected to be placed on IR, likely missing six to eight weeks, per Aaron Wilson. Both guys were Caserio's 2022 first rounders. Both guys are starting to look like busts and have fans a little more than just upset.

Green's case was curious because he was said to have needed surgery before he tore his labrum during the Saints preseason game. He had knee surgery this past offseason. There were knee injury concerns when he was coming out of A&M. Adding to his injuries, Green has played poorly. To make matters worse, the Chargers drafted fellow guard Zion Johnson two picks later. Johnson played all 17 games last season as a rookie at right guard and has moved to left guard this season. The pick used to draft Green was part of a trade back with the Eagles. They used the 13th overall pick to take Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis, a guy at a position this team could desperately use.

Stingley Jr was a highly touted recruit coming into LSU as a freshman. He played as well as any corner in the country that year. Oh, and they won a national title with arguably one of the best teams in college football history. His net two years in Baton Rouge were marred with injuries. Some believed his junior year was more him holding back to stay healthy for the draft. It worked because he was taken third overall, one spot ahead of Sauce Gardner. Gardner went on to be an All Pro as a rookie. While he's surrounded by more talent on the Jets' defense, people will forever link them because Stingley Jr hasn't lived up to expectations. He missed six games last season and is set to miss at least that many this season. When he has played, he's looked okay. “Okay” isn't what you want from a guy drafted third overall ahead of the other guy who was widely considered better than him.

For the 2021 draft, Caserio was handcuffed. He had no first or second rounders, and made a few trades that lessened his draft pool from eight to five picks. Of the five guys drafted that year, only Nico Collins seems to be a player. The 2022 draft was more productive. Although Green and Stingley Jr were the headliners and haven't played up to the hype, the others are carrying the load. Jalen Pitre and Dameon PIerce alone make that draft class dope. This past draft was seen as the one to save the franchise so to speak. Getting C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr got the team a franchise quarterback and edge rusher with picks two and three overall. The price paid to move back up to three was hefty and puts more scrutiny on Anderson Jr. They appear, so far, to have also found a couple other nice players. Tank Dell being the hidden gem of this class.

While people can't, and shouldn't, base Caserio's performance strictly off of the guys he's drafted, one must call it into question. The '21 draft was a wash. The '22 draft looks suspect, but has some redeeming qualities. The '23 draft will most likely be his saving grace. But should it? Former Texans GM Rick Smith nailed almost every first rounder he drafted. Even he was almost run out of town because folks didn't like what he did. Why should Caserio be any different? So what if he cleaned up the mess by the previous regime! That's what he was hired to do!

“Keep that same energy!” That phrase is used when people try to hold others to different standards. Where's that energy everyone had for Bill O'Brien, Jack Easterby, Rick Smith, Gary Kubiak, David Culley, and Lovie Smith? When others weren't performing well, their heads were called for. I see some people holding Caserio accountable. For the most part, it appears as if he's getting a bit of a pass. I'll be interested to see if this continues should the team has another subpar season. If that pick they traded to the Cardinals is another top 10 pick and the Browns pick the Texans own isn't...if Green can't come back and/or Stingley Jr doesn't show any signs of being a lockdown corner...then what? Let's hope none of this comes to fruition. If it does, we'll have to revisit this conversation.

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